Disclaimer: As always, only playing. Never happened. Wish it had!
Beta: The truly incomparable Anarithilien.
Warnings: (OK- hope you are ready for this.) Graphic violence of a sexual nature. But if you've come this far, you are expecting this.
Chapter 31: Confession
A small, perfectly carved wooden horse had been placed on the granite window sill and Gandalf wondered briefly where it had come from. It had a semblance of Shadowfax, he thought, watching the long shadows of the running horse cast by the evening sun. The carving had appeared inexplicably after the Fellowship had last sat together for supper, the night before Legolas had ridden up into the mountain. He stared at it, its tiny hoofs running, tail flowing as though it were real not some solid substance. He wondered who had carved it...left it as a remembrance...and slowly he let himself become lost in thought, in the Song, that flowed and swelled and caressed him, soothed him.
He was tired. As tired as he had been after fighting the Balrog. As tired as he had been when he defeated Saruman. He felt that slow, mental fatigue that dulled the mind...and so he had retired to think. He wondered if it was enough...had he done enough to distract Sauron from Mordor, to convince the Enemy that the Ring was not clutched in the small hand of a wide-eyed Frodo, that the unfortunate Ranger captured by the Nazgul had seen Merry, who had killed Angmar, and who now lay in Minas Tirith?
Gandalf half closed his eyes, let Narya lightly cast a glow over his own memories, enhancing, clarifying, sharpening what he saw. Unflinching he pulled out what he had seen in Legolas' mind the first time, the night the elf had been half carried, half dragged by Elrohir to his rooms. Legolas had been lost in cuivëar after being touched by the Nazgul. The Wizard focused on that image, of something seen by the Nazgul who had let Legolas see it when it entered the elf's mind in his search for the Ring...
...There was a Man's face, a Ranger, tortured and screaming and a touch only from the Nazgul brought him to screaming anguish. The Nazgul ripped into the Man and then… ahhhhh…. yesssss….
…A small, pale face stared up at him with eyes that had faded under its too-heavy burden…Frodo… Frodo on his journey through Ithilien… and another small shape crouched nearby, muttering and whispering… Gollum… Gollum… With terrible slowness, the Eye of Fire turned away from the White City and seared Ithilien with its burning gaze.
Was it enough? Had the Eye turned back to Gondor? Did it even now rake the city with its gaze, probing, searching feeling for its Precious...Gandalf pulled on his pipe, eyes wide and lost in reverie. Legolas had not given them away, he knew, for he had checked, had searched and probed Legolas's mind when he returned, even as the Eye had... Even as the Nazgul had.
Gandalf suddenly blinked. He felt a surge of shame for what he had done to Legolas; he had been intrusive and inflicted pain on this youngest son of Thranduil, had sent him a willing sacrifice to the Nazgul. But it was certainly still less than he had asked of Frodo. The wizard blinked slowly. What had he become?
He had not seen Sam, Gandalf remembered. He had not seen Sam and somehow, the thought of that hurt him the most.
A long stream of pipe smoke escaped from his lips.
Ah, he sighed. Nothing he could do now. Both Sam and Frodo had gone beyond his sight. And Legolas...Entrapped by the Nazgul and cut by a Morgul Blade....Not good. Not good at all...
He felt suddenly old, in the way that men did. Bones ache and blood becomes sluggish. Memories fade and dull. He was not Olórin, just Gandalf, an old man who was tired in his bones.
Gandalf looked down at his hands as he did now and again when mortal flesh felt heavy upon him. His blood beat slowly in the corded, knotted veins. He saw the bones of his hands through his translucent skin, and the knuckles bony and gnarled like an old tree's roots. He stared for his hands were suddenly unfamiliar. The flesh felt strange, like a new robe that felt too tight, that had not settled on his skin and Narya sat loosely on his finger. He breathed in deeply, as if to reassure himself that the air was still clean and would feed his lungs. And as he did so, he caught the scent of the breeze coming off the Anduin, its brackish scent reminiscent of the sea, and he was seized with such a longing for home that it almost hurt. He wanted to go home.
The wind from the Sea caressed his cheek like a hand, teased his beard and hair and he thought he heard a voice lingering in the edges of the breeze, pure sound, no words, just Song... Surely it was part of his yearning? he thought. But he, who was so used to putting hope in the hearts of others, felt suddenly renewed.
Gandalf stilled and let the great chords and sweeping harmonies wrap him in their music and let himself drift for a while. What was a whisper of song in the breeze built into huge notes and blended into the symphony and the crescendo that was building, and even the most insignificant notes were needed to make it whole. A single green-gold thread of melody danced through the music. It lightly touched the great harmonies, one thread in the great music, barely noticeable, lightly twining between others heavier, greater than himself. Olórin noted the lofty blazing song of Elrohir, and puzzled that it wound itself greedily, despairingly about the green-gold thread of song, coiled about it almost crushing, but not quite, just drawing sensuously tight about the light gold-green harmony that ran playfully through it. Almost the songs merged into something terrible and beautiful. Olórin caught his breath... and then it dissipated and that green-gold thread came loose and unravelled, and the lofty blazing song faded out of the harmony completely. But like some masterpiece that has you listening more intently for the dissharmony, it was part of the Great Music.
He sighed and sank back into his flesh and bones. His was not the gift of song. There were those who could unravel the complex intricacies of individual notes and songs, to understand their stories and harmonies and move them to greater harmony. Radagast was such a one. He could listen and move a single thread, a single harmony that reverberated amongst the Great Music. It was a greater gift than wisdom, thought Gandalf.
For Gandalf, he needed to hear it spoken, see the faces of those involved, hear their heartbeat. He pulled on his pipe and sent out a thought into the fading evening, a thought that would bring Elrohir to him because Gandalf needed to understand what he had done. Sent out with Legolas to make sure he gave away no more than was necessary, to deliver the milui-criss, he had instead returned, bringing Legolas with him tenderly…and utterly bewitched.
Gandalf frowned. He sent a smoke ring up and it hung for a moment near the ceiling. It drifted.
That sword too, he recognized. He had not known that Elrohir had reforged it. It drank of its holder's strength, his power, saturated itself in his fury and guilt and used him to drench itself in hatred and blood. Gandalf could not regret the defeat of Khamul, but he did not trust that dreadful dark blade, and therefore he could not trust the hand that wielded it.
A thin stream of smoke escaped his lips and the wizard gazed into the distance.
Stories within stories within stories.
For a long while, Gandalf continued staring into the middle distance, remembering the night Elrohir had brought Legolas to him, drifting in and out of cuivëar. Elrohir had gazed at Legolas like he was starved, feeding off the sight of him. Legolas had called him Rávëyon, Son of Thunder.
Gandalf sank again into reverie, let his physical self melt away and focused on pure thought...When Legolas and Elrohir had left him that night, Gandalf had conceived of the plan that would send Legolas to his certain death, assured by the assassin who would go with him. And perhaps it was not coincidence that he had met Elrohir and not Elladan the following day after he had seen Legolas and the Wood elf had agreed to his request. Perhaps Elrohir had an ulterior motive for wishing to accompany Legolas. And what might that be?
Gandalf frowned and chewed the end of his pipe. Elrohir was proud. Proud and strong. He had driven the Nazgul off from Legolas on the city wall, and again on the mountainside. Was that really possible, the wizard wondered. Or were the Nazgul not driven off at all? But had instead chosen to leave the city wall, to leave both elves. And again on the mountain, why use the morgul blade and not simply take Legolas or kill him as Gandalf had anticipated?
It puzzled him why the Nazgul had taken such risks. Why did they make such sport of Legolas, with Elrohir looking on? It was a spectacle. Intended for Elrohir perhaps?
Ah. It came out of the breath of night on the mountains, an echo lingering still. Gandalf stilled. Yes, that was what had happened. Elrohir had never driven off the Nazgul. It had seen its chance, tempted him with the one thing Elrohir wanted and desired. And what was it that was so irresistible to Elrohir that he might forget all he was sworn to do? What might be so tempting to him that he could not resist?
Gandalf's eyes went wide. Suddenly he knew. He knew what they offered. He knew why they had used the blade, and he knew what they had intended. And because of that, he knew also what the Nazgul had wanted. Oh, they wanted the knowledge Legolas had, wanted too to feed off his purity, his light and elven vigour. And it probably pleased them that it was the one who kept shooting their beasts, that it was Thranduillion they feasted upon. But there was more. There was Elrohir. They wanted Elrohir himself.
The brethren that are Eight can be Nine once more.
And he had gone with Legolas to...to... what? To treat with them? Had he intended that and backed out, realising the enormity of his betrayal? Or had he never intended to betray, but had some other secret plan of his own?
Whatever Elrohir's intent, Gandalf knew Legolas had succeeded in his task. He had clung desperately to the tiny sliver of thought during that dreadful torment he had endured... Merry. The Ring. In a Hobbit's hand. Merry slew Angmar. Merry was in Minas Tirith.
And because of that, War came. Olórin saw how it would be; legion upon legion upon legion of orcs approaching across the plains like a great tide rolling onwards. Clouds of bats and crows, like the Battle of the Five Armies, like heavy storm clouds over the mountains, descending upon the army of the West like they were already carrion.
They were too late. Too late leaving the city. Too late marching upon the Black Gate. Olórin knew in his soul that he needed to be elsewhere, should already be on the road. He saw how it should be: a great army… the host of the West… helms and spears flashing in the sun and they rode out ... across the great silver-shining river to the Tower of the Moon. He saw a colossal statue of the King obscenely defiled by orcs, restored, and a crown of white flowers...he saw Aragorn standing nearby, Anduril unsheathed in his hand and he looked West. He saw too Legolas and Gimli astride the Rohan horse, Legolas strong and well, long hair flashing gold, wide smile teasing...
But that was how it should be, but was not. Instead Legolas lay in the Houses of Healing yonder, kept from the horror of what he had endured at Olórin's behest by magic. And that magic would gradually dissipate and Legolas would have to confront the horror of what had been done to him.
He did not know or fully understand the impact of Elrohir's deceit and treachery, but it had pulled the threads of Vairë's tapestry askew and nothing was as it should be. The white wizard drew his robes about him, for suddenly he felt cold. Settling himself against the sudden chill, he waited. Elrohir would come. And when he did, Gandalf had every intention of challenging him for his treachery and unnatural desire.
It was not long. Unlike his father, Elrohir was not known for his circumspection and Gandalf felt his coming before he heard him. He felt the energy and power, impervious to command, the purposeful footsteps. Grandchild of Galadriel indeed. Elrohir shared blood with Feanor and it beat in those veins with the passion of his ancestor. It gave him sinews of iron, a will of steel. Elrohir was a force, power leashed...and Gandalf saw how Sauron would want to use that power, would attempt the seduction. He saw too how Elrohir would not be used but needed seduction. Sauron knew him well.
'Come,' he called a moment before a determined knock sounded and the door opened slowly. 'Don't dither. Come in properly and account for yourself,' he grumbled and scowled as if all he did was receive the wayward son of his old friend, and he did not rise from the comfortable chair in which he sat.
Elrohir entered the room hesitantly but not humbly. Defiant almost, thought Gandalf. He nodded cursorily to the low chair opposite his own, but Elrohir remained standing, shoulders back, head up, not in the least like a penitent. Gandalf said nothing, just peered at the Peredhel knowingly.
...The Brethren of the Eight who were once Nine search for the Halfling. He has It. It is precious to Him…it seeks to return to its Master…
And we were once Nine...
Gandalf sucked on his pipe thoughtfully and peered at Elrohir, looking through the flesh to the crimson red power beneath. So much guilt. So much love. So much passion. The blood of Beren washed in his veins and Elros called him, Gandalf thought. Yes...he knew the ways of Men better than the Elves.
'I must speak of what happened.' Elrohir said tensely, unaware of his companion's mood or understanding. He walked stiffly to the window and looked out over the city, the streets that in the evening before they marched, were full of men at arms and horses. The city prepared for war.
'I have to tell you what happened,' Elrohir repeated, more awkwardly. Reluctantly, thought Gandalf. He waited, sitting, not entirely patient, but this time he knew it would do him no good to press this one's mind, imprevious as it was. And strong.
'It began on the night of the battle of Pelennor,' Elrohir began suddenly. Elrohir's head was bowed and Gandalf could not see his face. 'It...the Nazgul... tempted me.'
'That is no news, Elrondion.' Gandalf scrutinised the Peredhel. Elrohir's shoulders were slumped as if in shame. As he should be, thought Gandalf. But all he said was, 'They tempt all of us. The Ring itself whispers.'
Elrohir glanced up suddenly. 'Even to you?' he asked as if there were still hope.
Gandalf peered at him with bright blue eyes. Yes... hope. 'Of course I know what They whisper,' he said matter of factly. And then as if it were no more than an impulse, he looked up at Elrohir and smiled gently. 'What did They offer you?'
Elrohir reared back in horror and Gandalf pinned him with his gaze that went through flesh and saw the spirit beneath. Guilt and love indeed. And more, a darkness fed by shame. Gandalf released him as quickly as he pierced him. Elrohir still stood like a stag at bay, breathing quickly through his nose, eyes wide.
'That is not yours to know!' Elrohir cried defiantly.
Gandalf did not reveal that he already knew and he continued gently, 'Then to whom will you truly confess? Who will absolve you?'
Elrohir breathed deeply and it seemed all the defiance and pride was exhaled with his breath, leaving only guilt and shame. He looked away from Gandalf. 'Those I have wronged the most. I will tell them all.'
Gandalf looked at him and thought what a formidable enemy he would be, how powerful he was, for his energy thrummed and tingled in the air, and he knew this elf warrior could be dangerous. He had a darkness in him that shadows flocked to.
'You did not tell me this when I asked you to go with Legolas to encounter the Nazgul. It would have changed things had I known,' he pointed out mildly.
'I did not think it your business,' Elrohir replied with asperity.
Gandalf merely struck a match, for his pipe had gone out. He tuttted as he lit it once more. The flames cast an orange glow on the limestone walls for a moment. The light reflected brielfy in Elrohir's eyes.
He is not a man, Gandalf reminded himself. No, he is still an elf.
'But it was my business,' he reminded Elrohir quietly and drew on his pipe. The bitter pipeweed lingered in his mouth and he sighed. Compensations indeed to mortal flesh. 'Now - let us not indulge in recriminations,' he said more briskly. 'All is well that ends well and we have you to thank for Legolas's return. So tell me what happened so I may know how we might use it.'
'I wish now I had told you before, Mithrandir,' Elrohir turned away and took a deep breath. 'We only escaped because you and my brother were there to meet us,' he admitted and there was humilty in that admission, thought Gandalf. 'I took too great a risk, but I thought to avoid all this. I thought they would leave him if they had me.'
'You never had any intention of doing as I asked.' Gandalf said drily. 'Instead you thought to trick Sauron. I would call you a fool but I think you have called yourself much worse. I suppose you were surprised that they did not do exactly as you thought?' He could not help a little irritation in his voice, for Elrohir had risked too much and he remembered the strange charge in the air coming down from the mountain, had known the words thrown up into the sky like inky black threads tangling in the wind. 'And you thought they came at your summons. But they were waiting for you. They went after Legolas instead of meeting you.' He allowed himself a thin smile which Elrohir could not return.
'If you had confided in me we could have planned this together,' Gandalf continued. He pulled his pipe from his mouth and glanced at it in irritation for it had gone out once again. 'There was never any need for Legolas to be there. You would have been sufficient,' he said conversationally, lighting the pipe again. 'Why did you not tell me? And why did you put Legolas at risk in such a way?' He pulled on his pipe and looked at it with a frown as it did not draw straightaway. 'If we had not come upon you, he would be unhoused at the very least. And at worst, a thrall.'
He glanced at Elrohir's face to judge the truth of his own surmise and saw how Elrohir was steeped in tremulous horror, and something else... longing. And perhaps Elrohir knew that for he stepped closer to Gandalf now and stared down at him. His mouth opened as if he wished to speak but no words came. It was eerie seeing the face of his old friend, Elrond, looking down on him with such self-hatred and anger.
Gandalf himself, who had seen much, who had walked the dark passages of Dol Guldur, nodded. 'Ah. So that was what they offered. Legolas in thrall to you.' He drew on his pipe deeply, to anchor himself in the here and now. Not wanting to see more.. for he could if he chose. But he did not wish to see what Elrohir had been tempted with. And Elrohir had stepped back, his face crumpled and he turned away in shame.
'I know what I have done, Mithrandir,' he said softly. He took a deep breath. 'It is but one of many terrible deeds. And I do know that in the end, had you not come, they would have devoured him... and I would have trembled useless and in the end, succumbed to save him. I know that now. He stopped me from using Angmar's Ring. Legolas knew and beseeched me to stop...so I did. But sooner or later, when they came...I would have.'
Elrohir stood staring out of the window. He did not see the stars, Gandalf was sure, for though his shoulders were square and his spine straight, every line of him spoke of misery. His long hair was bound severely in a long tail down his back and Gandalf, with a sudden shock of recognition, saw the likeness to his father, Elrond. So had Elrond stood on hearing that Sauron had risen again in Dol Guldur. Sauron, whom they believed defeated in the Last Alliance where so many, many lives had been lost...Gandalf shook himself slightly.
'So in short, you dealt with the Nazgul and they broke your trust?' he said relentlessly, his voice a little harder. 'Surely not unexpected? But you have still convinced them the One Ring is here.' Gandalf drew on his pipe and contemplated what he had also seen in Legolas' mind. He too had held fast to the illusion. A hobbit had the ring. A hobbit slew Angmar. A hobbit lay under the Black Breath in Minas Tirith. Aragorn.
He chewed the end of his pipe and felt around the edges of the song, how the many different melodies twined and loosed and drifted and soared one in to the the other. There above the great syphonies, the lofty soaring song that was Elrohir still wound about the green-gold thread that danced playfully, lightly through those greater melodies...and then it faded, and the green-gold unravelled, lost...
Gandalf paused for a moment to think, and then he said, 'I do not know whether to curse you or thank you, Elrondion. We have Legolas safe. But not sound by any means. He will remember of course, some time.' He looked up in time to see the devastation on Elrohir's face. 'I cannot keep that wall up forever between him and what happened. Eventually he will remember.'
Gandalf paused for a moment and met Elrohir's wide, frightened grey eyes. 'You cannot run from everything, Elrohir,' he said gently, for he saw the shame
that suffocated him, followed him, clawed at him and he could not escape. With sudden foresight, Gandalf understood the meaning in the Song and its fading. 'The Way of Men is not the escape that you think it is.'
He paused, kindly, for he was prompted by his beloved Nienna and her compassion too. 'Legolas has a loving and a generous heart. More than most,' he added wryly. 'As an immortal you will have time to atone, for he may not forgive you straightaway. But in time...'
Elrohir turned suddenly and stared at him in shock or horror or, Gandalf peered more closely. There was something else. Something deeper. Something...Suddenly he saw a confused mix of images; Legolas bound, twisting, long hair falling down his back...and then an orc, mouth gaping in its orgiastic release… and Elrohir...and then suddenly he felt a surge of power slam him back and he fell against the wall. He gasped for breath that had been driven from his lungs and stared.
Elrohir too stumbled back, clutching at the wall for balance, driven back by his own unexpected power. His terrified eyes met Gandalf's briefly and he fled.
Gandalf slowly pushed himself upright, groping for his staff. His fingers curled around its strong stem and he let warm energy seep into his bones. He breathed slowly, for the shock of being repulsed so strongly left him weak. He had no idea the sons of Elrond had such power. And those other images...the orc, and beneath that, others... He knew too well his old friend's source of sorrow, and his deeper sorrow that his sons were so often far from home, pursuing orcs that caused their mother's torment...but that furious storm of guilt and hatred that flooded Elrohir was not for orcs. It was for himself.
Elladan walked purposefully down the marble floored corridor of the city's sterile palace, leaving Imrahil and Eomer in the council chamber. He did not know where Aragorn was right now but he had left him earlier in Denethor's old study and Elladan hoped his foster brother was resting and not staring into the Palantir. There was the touch of darkness about that globe. It seemed that Sauron reached out from within and stroked even Elladan's mind with promises, visions.
No, he was hard with himself. It was not just the Palantir. It was the touch of the cold iron ring left behind on the Mountain. Angmar's ring. That was what had put things in Elladan's mind; it was the old power of iron that lured him. And he had rejected it absolutely, dropped the ring where the Nazgul would find it. It was not for him. He did not want it.
Nor did they want him, he told himself wryly. It was Elrohir they had wanted. He shuddered and pushed away the thought. He did not want to think about that for the moment.
His footsteps echoed through the empty, dark palace and the moonlight slanted over white marble, making it cold, washing everything in a pallor too like death for his comfort. He shuddered again. He had a sudden vision of Elrohir's face, still and cold and pale. Too cold. Too pale. He stopped suddenly and reached out to steady himself against the wall. It seemed he could not escape his brother, even here, alone in the empty night. Elrohir...awash with blood and fury and guilt, drawing Elladan himself into collusion and his own guilty secrets. For Elladan admitted he had colluded with Elrohir, covered up his brother's lustful obsession with Legolas... It was not the first time he had hidden his brother's crimes. Did that not make him just as guilty?
Cold statues stared down at him. The moonlight, brighter than it should be, cast long shadows over the black and white marble floor. Cold it was. Again, Elladan shuddered, for it felt like a tomb, and he saw again in his minds' eye Elrohir, now wrapped in his sable cloak, with Aícanaro placed on his breast, lying in this very place on a stone slab.
He burst outside onto the wide marble steps and where the green sward ran from the palace to the fountain and the dead tree. The water splashed softly in the pool, and the moonlight was still. Above them the stars were hard and cold and bright, like jewels and he looked up to see their kinsman sailing across the clear sky. Too high to overhear, too far away to help, thought Elladan, and he wondered if Eärendil was really up there, physically, or if it was just a children's bedtime story.
He paused at the edge of the fountain and looked into the water at the stars reflected above.
He pressed his hand against his forehead and stilled.
Elrohir...had watched. He had watched their gentle mother's rape by orcs.
It was stark and brutal.
Elrohir had not let anyone else touch her when he carried her screaming, out of the den. He had stopped everyone even from seeing her and knelt by her, drenching her with his power, his desperation... his guilt, thought Elladan bitterly. At what point did he realise it was her? Did he think it was some half-orc female, or did he know? Celebrián had been utterly destroyed. They had all seen it, how she pushed their father away, pushed little Arwen away and then pulled her close. She had been frightening.
Only Elrohir would she tolerate. Yes... when first they emerged from the orc dens she had struggled and torn at his face and it was Elladan who had finally calmed her. But it was Elrohir who had always been her favourite. It was Elrohir she leaned on during that last, tormented journey to the Havens. It was Elrohir whose face she caressed finally before she hurried away to the waiting ship as if her feet might fly over the ocean, might spread her cloak and it catch beneath the wind like Elwing and fly off.
And her last words to Elladan had been of Elrohir. Look after him, Elladan. Your brother needs you more than you can know. Forgive him. Keep forgiving him for he cannot forgive himself. He had not understood. But now...horribly... he thought he did. And he realised she must have known that Elrohir had seen, hesitated at least.
It had never bothered him unduly that Elrohir was the favoured son, for she tried to hide it. But she could not stop the softness in her eyes when Elrohir leaned over to kiss her or to ruffle her hair playfully, though she had spent time dressing it. There was a playfulness between them that was not between her and Elladan. He had never been as passionate, as playful, as angry as Elrohir. He was...
Moonlight on still pools.
He breathed in deeply. Legolas. Still he wanted Legolas, even after the woodelf had so clearly pursued Elrohir. And it was as it always was; Elladan would give way. As he already had. Legolas belonged now to Elrohir and Elladan had stepped aside to allow his brother whatever he wanted. As always.
Elladan felt like running. It was too complicated. His emotions strung and wound together like some knot in the thread of his life and Elrohir the knot, pulled too tight and he could not unpick it. In the moment of weakness and doubt it seemed his fingertips prickled, sent his nerves jangling through his fingers.
He leaped to his feet and slammed his fist against the stone wall. The sudden pain exploded, made him angrier and instantly he was standing back on the mountain, with the smell of blood and power surging through him.
Do you know what he sees? He stood and watched...he watched and he dreams of it... But he does not want to only watch this time...look...'
And the mist seemed to whirl about the ghost and merge with it, to pool and form an image... he saw a figure bound before him, long golden hair, yellow like sunshine. It swept down against the lean form and a darkness stood behind it…hands roaming over the bound form so it cried out in fear...
'You watched! You stood and watched!' he had shouted, his own pure sword raised high. Metal against metal shuddered and scraped. And then suddenly he was above Elrohir and he did not care that he sliced his blade against the dark sword, driving past his brother's guard, wrestling him to thrust his blade into his brother's treacherous heart. He stood astride his brother and holding with one hand his throat and in the other his sword poised to pierce his brother through.
And now, here in the cold clear night in the city, Elladan wished he had. For it was worse than he thought possible. He remembered again that time, long ago, Elrohir returning in the deeps of winter, ashamed, torn, guilt-ridden. What had happened that time? What dreadful secrets had he yet to uncover? He knew that Elrohir had not shared a bed with anyone since their mother was found in the orcs' den. Now, perhaps he knew why. But it wasn't clear. Did Elrohir find himself reminded of the horror and lose his desire? Elladan had always trusted it was this that stopped his brother from finding release. But now, he wondered. Was his desire so unholy, so perverted, that he hid from it?
Elladan lost track of how long he sat at the edge of the fountain, lost track of when he stumbled to his feet and lurched to his own chamber, collapsing on the bed and chest heaving with emotion that felt like it would burst from him. He knew he fell into uneasy sleep because he woke suddenly.
It was late when he felt the disturbance.
He felt his coming before he heard him and he tensed. It was the tremor in the air around him, a tide of energy, a crimson flood of fury and guilt seething around him, coloring the air and drawing energy towards him. Elrohir approached.
Elladan tensed. He did not want this. He was not ready to face his brother with all that guilt and anger and...and yet...he loved him still.
It was a quiet knock on the pale wooden door and the iron handle turned. Slowly the door opened, hesitant as if Elrohir were afraid to come in.
'Elladan? May I come in?'
Yes, that hesitant, nervousness. Elrohir was always like this after he had been discovered. And he was always forgiven, by his father, mother, himself. Mother especially; it had never rankled as much before. But this time was different. He didn't trust himself. His hands needed something to do, he did not want to have to turn to Elrohir when he came in, so he clumsily groped for a candle, lit the single flame and watched it flare briefly and settle.
'It is unlike you to wait, brother,' he said and wondered that this voice was so steady. There was a flask of wine, so he poured it into two cups with a steadier hand than he expected. He handed one to Elrohir and drank the other himself. The flavour exploded on the sides of his tongue, lingered in his mouth. He looked at it without appreciation. 'They have raided Denethor's cellars it seems,' he said coldly.
Elrohir sipped his cup. He could not even be tasting it, Elladan thought.
He breathed in and tried to still himself, as he had been taught. Still pools, dark under the forest eaves, cool water, the sense of himself swimming, the water sliding over his skin...
'You have spoken with Mithrandir?'
Elrohir nodded, looking away, ashamed. 'Yes'
'And what did you tell him?'
'I told him what concerned him.' Elrohir turned away, as if to leave. There was such bitterness in his voice. 'But he took what he should not have.'
'What do you mean?'
'He looked too deep. He should not have. It is not his to know!'
Elladan reached out then and clasped his brother's shoulder, but it was not affectionate. He gripped him to prevent him from running, as he wanted to do himself. He did not want to hear what he was going to force from his brother's lips, but he would do it all the same.
'Perhaps you will not tell Mithrandir everything,' he said soberly. 'But you will tell me. And this time, you will tell me the whole truth. You will not lie or conceal. Tell me about her.'
Elrohir bowed his head and his long, raven-blue hair fell around his face. He did not look up but was very still, as if collecting himself. When he spoke, it was in a quiet voice, hushed, confessional, as if he did not want to hear it himself.
'How can I tell you? How can I?' He sat heavily on the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands, hiding his face from the one whose own features were his, but unblemished, unsullied by what they had seen. 'I cannot forget a single detail. It haunts me...day and night. I cannot forget...'
'Nor can I,' Elladan said bitterly.
It seemed forever before Elrohir spread his hands and spoke again, quietly, ashamed. 'Elladan, our Adan blood is strong in my veins. I have always felt that you were close to the way of the elves, and I to men. I know when they fight and the blood is up, it is not so far from lust ...it is power over another. I feel it in my blood - and I know that you do not. And I ...I have laid with other warriors in the aftermath - the rough coupling and the passion and fire that is both a relief that we are alive and ... something more.'
Elladan stifled a cry that tore from his lips. He had known Elrohir was different from him, full of a different fire, different passion. He remembered with unwanted clarity that cold November day when Elrohir's horse had picked its way down the mountain pass, out of the wilds and into the valley. He remembered those strange markings on his body that looked like deliberate wounds...He pushed himself to his feet, not wanting to sit so close now, and strode to the window. A gulp of wine washed down the lump in his throat, but he barely tasted it, barely knew what he was doing. He vaguely thought the wine might make what was to come easier to bear.
'Do you know what stops men from doing as they will?' Elrohir asked, more to himself than Elladan. 'It is the fear of judgment, corporeal or other-worldy. That is what stops them. Mostly. But I have ridden with men who are not rangers...Wolfsheads. Outlaws. I have seen what they can do to the vanquished... and I have not always stopped it. Sometimes I have turned away, and sometimes... I have not.'
For a long time, he did not speak, and Elladan half turned towards him in the darkness. The single candle he had lit guttered in a breeze.
'Then..after...after we found her...' He paused, swallowing. 'After we found her, I could not... could not forget, and whenever I tried to...whenever I became aroused... it reminds me...and I can not...can not push away the thought of what I have done, what I ... So I have not...'
Elladan could not hear any more. He whirled away, wished the room were larger so he could at least pace. Instead he found the cup of wine and drained it, poured another and drained that. He felt Elrohir watching him.
'Tell me!' he demanded brutally, relentlessly.
'I will tell you, Elladan, I will tell you all.' Elrohir's voice seemed elsewhere, far beyond Elladan for Elladan felt like he was falling, was plunging back into his own dreadful memories.
'We were too late.' Elrohir's voice dropped to a whisper, his voice full of anguish and despair. 'We were too late and then when we found her...those caves, the stench, the hot putrid air...'
Elladan did not care about his brother's anguish, he remembered how they had stood together on the high ridge of the Misty Mountains. They had looked down onto that hidden valley and seen the devastation, the dead horses, and crows feeding on the mutilated bodies of Gilmir and Curopher. Their arms and feet had been hacked off, their torsos, horribly, sickeningly, gnawed at and torn apart, as if they had been fought over. Elladan was not the only one who had been violently sick at the sight. But not Elrohir. The missing members of the attacked party, Calanon, Arandur, and Celebrián, of course, were nowhere to be found.
Elladan closed his eyes. He wished he could forget. But no, he could not. The suffocating, airless stench was all around him. The heat stole his breath. He remembered it- step for step, breath for breath... they had crept into the caves, the whole group spread out, searching, fighting and killing anything they found.
He had followed Elrohir into the dens. There was dried blood and old bones, picked clean in the caves, ashes of fires. Elrohir had picked up a brooch and showed it to Elladan. The last time Elladan had seen it, it had been pinned upon Arandur's cloak and he had been laughing, for it was given him by a sweetheart. They stepped more carefully over the bones then and searched for only two. It was not the first time they had searched orc caves, but it was the first time they had done so for someone they knew, someone they loved… for someone they should have protected.
Elladan had always had a horror of caves, of being closed in, of being stuck. It was close, suffocating. The stench closed over his nose and mouth like a decaying hand, stinking of excrement and urine. He tried not to touch anything, more fastidious than his brother who did not care, who was just desperately searching, easing himself round the corners and bends of the tunnels ahead of Elladan... Elladan had struggled with his own breathing, feeling the panic welling up but forcing it away... This was his mother down here somewhere. His mother, gentle, sweet, who smelled of lavender and roses... somewhere in this hell hole. Courage surged and he pushed himself after Elrohir who had vanished in the twists and turns of the cavern halls. Elladan found himself at a junction of two tunnels- he could hear nothing but the roaring of blood in his ears...his terror of being lost...But he held still and listened.
And then there was a sudden shuffling and grunt and a searing pain in his arm. He swept around, his sword slicing the viscous air and heard a jeering curse. He crouched and forced himself still. Then he heard it, another shuffling lunge, and he drove his sword upwards into the belly of the orc. It gurgled clutching its throat as it fell heavily, wretchedly onto Elladan. He pushed it away in disgust and clambered to his feet. He felt warm stickiness on his arm and a tearing pain. He cursed himself for his stupidity... And then he heard it.
A stifled scream down one tunnel. He ran, uncaring of his own horror. He knew that beloved voice. His held his sword two handed before him as the torches flickered on the walls, his own shadow looming hugely ahead and then beside and then fell behind him until another ran ahead of him. A screaming tore the air apart then and he knew. He ran…Mother...Mother...Mother
Elladan wanted to cover his ears and block out what Elrohir was saying in his low halting voice, so unlike himself. Elrohir's story was different from Elladan's and he told Elladan how he had found their mother, how he had heard the same grunts as Elladan but had run on ahead. He had seen the orc shoving itself against a thin huddle of rags...and he had paused and watched...
'No.' Elrohir stopped himself and closed his eyes. There was a long silence and Elladan thought he would scream, felt it building in his chest and wanted to tear at his brother's anguished face.
Then Elrohir said, 'I did not only watch.'
No! No! Elladan felt his throat close and he pushed himself to his feet and paced, hand to his head. He wished he could block this out, Elrohir's confession. He had heard the stifled screams, breathed the suffocating darkness that seemed to seep into his flesh and soul. The stench had made him retch and he had lost Elrohir, let him go on alone while he struggled with his horror of the caves. And he did not want to remember...he did not want to see what Elrohir made him see...
The screaming tore through the dark and finally released him from the suffocating panic. He ran down the hot tunnel after Elrohir, sword gleaming in his hand. A cell door stood open and he heard a gurgling. He recognised the sound of blood filling up a throat that had been cut. An orc lay twitching and gagging. Its throat bubbled with blood and its eyes stared at something else Elladan could not see...
Suddenly Elrohir had burst past him, clutching a thin huddle of rags and matted, bloody hair. It had been shrieking and clawing at his face but he merely turned his face away from the thin claws and pushed past Elladan...
'I..I think... I stood for a moment... I have a memory of...my hand in her hair.'
And Elladan could see in his mind then, what the orc had been staring at before Elrohir had barged past Elladan. His fists clenched in fury. The images ran in his head and he would never be rid of them now!
Elrohir stood rampant over a pile of rags and filthy matted hair, a shapeless huddle that whimpered and cried. He pulled her head back, fist in the long cornsilk hair. A pale breast showed through the torn fabric. Elrohir stood, hard and erect, straining through his breeches, looking down, sword in his hand. Blood soaked the shining blade...And then he heard the broken voice, saw the hand reaching out to the orc's short blade...and he cried out in horror and shame.
Elladan barely listened to Elrohir's hushed, ashamed, broken words... sometimes weeping, sometimes long pauses of silence that seemed to string out, long thin silences that emptied into the night. Elladan listened in shocked despair, in the spiraling downward whirlpool of his own guilt and memory.
'No! Enough! Enough!' he cried suddenly. He sank onto a stone bench and buried his head in his hands. He could not listen anymore. He could not forgive his brother. 'What would you have done if you had not recognised her? Would you have...?'
He dug his nails into the palms of his own hands and clenched his teeth.
'Forgive him,' she had said as she left, holding his gaze with her broken pain. And he never understood until now what she wanted him to forgive... but she had known. She had known he had stood there, hand fisted in her hair, pulling her head back and thinking about it... 'Forgive your brother everything. Promise me my strong one. He cannot forgive himself.'
'How can I forgive you?' He shoved Elrohir hard in the chest, pushing him away while hot tears spilled down his face. He wanted Elrohir gone so he did not have to think about him. And he thought he could never, never forgive him though he saw Elrohir's face crumple.
'No. Do not forgive me.' Elrohir tore at his own hair and moaned. 'I cannot forgive myself. Tell me what to do?' He grasped at Elladan's tunic and stared at him with wild, desperate eyes. 'I will kill myself if you wish it! I will throw myself into battle! I will storm the gates themselves if it will undo what I have done!'
Elladan stood staring at him, blood pounding in his veins, hating Elrohir. Hating that he himself had not been there sooner, for if he had he could have stopped Elrohir. If he hadn't stopped in the suffocating tunnels, perhaps she would still be here. Perhaps the reason she could not recover was because Elrohir, her son, her precious son, had stood over her, sword in hand and had thought about raping her. He covered his face with his hands, unable to bear it any longer. 'Get out!' he cried. 'Get out before I kill you myself!'
Elrohir took a step towards him, hands outstretched. 'Then do it! I cannot live with myself, Elladan! I cannot live with it any longer. Please. Give me some penance that I may atone. I will take the way of Men so I never come to Valinor. You can go in peace, and Mother will never have to see me. I will die and go the way of Men, I swear this, Elladan. My fea is no longer Elvish, it is mortal. I will die and you can be in peace!'
He turned away from Elladan and strode to the door, throwing it open. The wind swirled around him for a moment and Elladan stared frozen in horror. Then the door closed and the night quiet slid slowly back.
Elrohir threw open the door and fled from the room into the cool night. Stars netted the sky and a cool breeze drifted scents of the spring night but he was oblivious.
He found himself standing beneath the White Tree, its dead branches hollow as his heart felt. This had all come about because of his unnatural, violent lust.. And the one time he had sought penance, that cold winter he had returned to Imladris bowed and defeated, his own violent nature and innate power had spilled out, beyond any bounds of decency and it would have been a violation had the one upon whom it was visited not welcomed it.
He was indeed cursed, beyond all hope of redemption. He was not worthy of love, not worthy of forgiveness, not worthy of Legolas certainly who had so willingly offered himself up for the sake of the Quest.
Bitterness filled his heart then and his thumbs prickled slightly. But he was attuned now to the Nazguls' thoughts and sensed them high above, wheeling over the city. The cold that crept down his spine didn't intimidate him. The faint shriek that spiraled down into the city and set men's teeth on edge as they slept or whetted their swords and made them look upwards or stir restlessly in a sleep filled with nightmares did nothing to him. Elrohir stood and lifted his face to the stars.
He knew then he would not return from the Morannon. He would ride out and seek death. It was not the first time he had thought this, but this time it was no mere thought. It was his resolve. He would become mortal and fade and die. He would escape into the way of Men.
And then he heard a breath and turned.
Legolas. As if conjured by his own desire, the elf was there. Starlight caught in his hair, on his skin, turned him silver, mithril, precious beyond all else. Elrohir's heart leaped and thumped and plummeted all at once.
Elrohir eased himself back into the shadows and hid in the darkness as he watched. Legolas stood for a moment and looked around, straight into the shadows where Elrohir stood but Elrohir let his own power surge quietly around him, hiding him and it fell over him like a cloak. He watched Legolas peer into the shadows with his head tilted in that way he had. It made his long hair fall and Elrohir wanted to push his hands through it and catch his mouth in a kiss...Almost he gave in, almost he strode forwards and caught Legolas in his arms, wrapped those strong archer's arms around his own waist. Almost. But he did not. He was so unworthy. He had betrayed everyone. Elrohir stepped further back into the shadows and hid further in the darkness.
Legolas stood motionless, staring straight at him but Elrohir knew he would not see him. Then abruptly Legolas blinked and looked away. He leaned heavily against the wall as if he needed the support. His head bowed and his chest heaved a little. He looked suddenly vulnerable, weakened and injured. But then a strong, short figure emerged immediately behind him and stopped in front of the elf. There was a quiet exchange where Elrohir thought the dwarf would scold Legolas, but instead, with utmost tenderness, Gimli put his arm about Legolas' waist and held him. Legolas bent his head slightly to hear the dwarf's words and the long sheet of gleaming hair fell and hid his face from Elrohir. Then he straightened, and leaning on Gimli, he made his way out of the garden and back into the House.
Elrohir waited. He remembered that kiss, the first below decks on the SeaSong where he had been mistaken for Elladan, and then the second in Aragorn's tent, where he had not.
But he could still remember and savour the song, the moment, the kiss. It would hurt no one. He brought out that perfect elven memory of the kiss, like it was a jewel, the sensation of the sharing of his song with Legolas, the brilliance of his own song and the sense that he was soaring over a green place, a forest filled with light...amongst the new pale green leaves as they unfurled, filtering the sunlight so he was bathed in a pale green light. He remembered the stillness of deep forests, clear water pooled amongst the ferns and mossy boulders and bubbling over granite and slate…
He remembered how he had taken hold of his heart and leaned closer until he was pressed against Legolas, between his thighs, his face against Legolas' flat belly breathing in his scent, beneath his heart, his hand over the wound that he himself had inflicted, like a precursor to the morgul blade. He remembered how he had wanted to cover that body with his own, not in a violent frenzied lust that wanted to hurt, but in desperate tenderness, lavishing long languid strokes on his skin, his flesh. He had wanted to sink into the scent and Song and flesh. He took out the memory of Legolas sprawled lewdly in the chair, head thrown back and his long, wintergrass hair sweeping behind him, lips parted as though he were ravished...and Legolas had kissed him, pushing his mouth against his, tongue forcing its way into his mouth, against his own tongue with a passion and desire that shook him to his bones. With his free hand he had clasped the back of Legolas' head and pulled him closer, deeper.
But when the long green eyes that were half closed in ecstasy, had flown open and looked up towards the tent opening in horror, Elrohir had fallen back. He had felt the tide of fury and despair overtake him and proved himself unworthy over and over and over. He could never touch Legolas again, never let the Elf listen to his song again. He had to cut this tender new love away before it was too late.
He had squandered that chance. He had thought once he could be safe there, with Legolas, and that those horrific memories that had spoiled him, ruined his innocence and love, might even dissipate under the pale green light. Even the long wheat-pale hair that was tangled in his fingers would not take him to that dark place. He had fooled himself into believing that he was perhaps not that twisted, depraved thing he feared. But he was.
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.