39. Jaws of Steel
Disclaimer: as usual. Not mine, just playing.
Beta: The amazing and gorgeous Anarithilien. Thank you so much for the huge amounts of time you are so generously giving to this. So much more than a beta.
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MIENEPIES HAS DONE A NEW PICTURE. So beautiful. I will post it on the LOTR fanfiction site as it allows full images so you can see it properly. There are about five pictures on there now and posted at the end of the relelvant chapter.
Chapter 39: Jaws of Steel
Legolas walked down the slope towards Arod. He felt a frisson of fear at the thought that they would be riding to the Black Gate and even though he would have Gimli at his back, he could not help but fear the proximity of the Nazgul upon his fragile and shattered nerves. He could not bear the thought of showing his weakness so publicly and although he could not remember screaming in the Houses of Healing, he remembered his throat feeling raw and his voice being hoarser than any Elf's should ever be. But Aragorn had asked it of him and he could not refuse the Man anything.
No one else seemed to share his fear, for Gimli was declaring loudly how he expected the Enemy to surrender and sue for was actually strolling with his thumbs in his belt, looking for all the world like a battle-hardened veteran instead of the terrified Hobbit he had been only moments before Aragorn had made his request. But Gimli's fierce delight at facing the Enemy at his own gates buoyed him up, and he thought how like a Woodelf Gimli was! The Dwarf stroked his axe, and rolled his shoulders and planted his feet squarely on the earth and was all fire and confidence. He could see too, the great wisdom Gimli had; as much as Legolas had about all things living, Gimli had wisdom about stone...so when Gimli turned his head slightly, listening, Legolas paid attention.
'I am not happy about this, Legolas,' he confided quietly and Legolas leaned towards him. 'The stone slides and moves, a pebble falls when it should not, there is a slight rockfall...' Gimli shook his head slowly. 'And yet, everything is silent and still. The Enemy is within his gates and seems to sleep...'
Legolas turned his head towards the mountains and his sharp eyes scanned the crags and cliffs. He thought he saw movement high up and narrowed his eyes, searching intently.
The beloved voice called from higher up the hill and he turned, distracted, to see Elrohir striding after Aragorn, calling to him. The Man turned and Elrohir caught his arm, a hurried, urgent conversation. Legolas frowned and he saw how Aragorn paused, considered and looked again at Elrohir speculatively. Even Legolas could not hear and he shifted forwards lightly. Then Eomer joined them, gesturing angrily and Legolas felt a creeping alarm at the ferocity in Eomer's stance, his wild gestures, his face. At Legolas' elbow, Gimli was speaking, his voice careful and tense, but Legolas did not attend. Instead he took a step forward, unaware of how his hand drifted to the wound in his chest. The cold seeped into his veins slowly, slowing him, slowing his movements, stilling his thoughts...dulling him and blunting the keen senses.
'Legolas, do you not feel anything?' Gimli pulled insistently at Legolas' arm until the Elf tore his attention away from Aragorn and back to Gimli. 'The stone moves but not the shifts and settling of quiet stone. It moves and sings as if it bore a great weight, a mass. I cannot account for it. It surely is not yon black rider that circles like some great carrion crow,' he said, nodding upwards at the silent bat-like creature that swooped across the sky. Legolas stared, feeling all the hair on his body slowly rise. How could he have not noticed it so close? His skin shuddered like something cold and damp had crawled across him.
'Should you not shoot it out of the sky?' Gimli asked.
Legolas shook his head slowly, following the great beast as it wheeled slowly overhead. 'Aragorn said to let them look, let them see us. After all, we here to distract the Eye, so let us do this... Gandalf seemed to agree.'
'Hm. I am not sure I do,' grumbled the Dwarf and he tugged the ends of his beard anxiously. 'The more you bring down the easier it will be.'
'I think Aragorn would rather play for time, make us appear more confident of our strength, encourage the Enemy to believe we have a secret weapon perhaps?' Legolas let his gaze drift around the rugged peaks and crags, lingered on the hidden valleys and passes. He thought there was a glint of silver and narrowed his eyes to see more clearly, leaned slightly toward the crags to hear if that was a slide of rockfall or the scuffle of iron-shod feet.
The shadow of the Nazgul swooped lower and fell over him...
And it felt like the spear of ice plunged into his chest. He cried out. It struck again, ripped a little at the thinning silver-blue veil, the gentle protection that Gandalf had put between him and the horror of the Nazgul, of the Eye. The dreadful blade pierced him again, freezing his blood and tearing his flesh. Suddenly what had been hidden from him was revealed and all thoughts of glints of silver in the crags was gone...
...A flat reptilian head slick and wet in the rain...…he, breathless with fear, heart pounding, stumbling backwards…and tall shadows moving, sliding, coalescing into one tall shape. A blade was drawn from its sheath with an unearthly ring. In the lightning that struck all around them now, the sword gleamed like mercury.
The ice blade pierced him through and tore at the veil. Dread bubbled in his chest and gripped his heart, and memory after memory unfurled inexorably.
Arod nickered anxiously and turned his head to regard Legolas with his brown eyes. Gimli plucked at his sleeve and called to him, but Legolas bowed his head, oblivious to everything, and squeezed his eyes closed against the fear and dread…Everything else, Eomer, Elrohir, Gimli, the unnatural silence and stillness, the glint of steel amongst the crags, all were lost in the agony of ice-cold seeping into his veins, the heavy press of the Nazguls' iron will and the promised agony to come, blinding him to all else but this...
...A cold blade sliced across his cheek and another burned along his arm. Three blades pierced and cut and tore his arms, thighs, his chest, his belly... felt his shirt flutter and knew it had been rent and tattered...one dark blade pointed at his breast…
Legolas almost crumbled, doubled over, but Gimli caught him now, clutched at him, his warm earth-brown steadfastness enveloping him. The drifting remnants of the silver-blue veil fluttered and parted a little more
...the Dwarf lying on the hard cold ground and a shadow standing over him, blade pointed at him, and Legolas himself...where was he? Standing nearby, poised to flee. He could have run but had not...he could not find his blades...and the wraith had forced him back...plunged its cold, cold fist like steel, like talons into his chest and gripped his heart...
No! This is not real!
The shadow passed overhead and flew high over the gathered Men. He took a gasping breath that seemed to burn its way into his throat, chest, lungs, and then gasped another and caught at Gimli's square, clever hand that was warm, like a forge, an iron-strong will that kept him anchored, kept him from falling. He managed to stand upright, leaning hard on his friend's shoulder, and his hand trembled as he covered his eyes. Gimli was speaking, calling to him anxiously, but he could not focus on that now. All he hoped was that he had moved beyond the dreadful screaming that had undone him and diminished him in his own eyes, but he knew, deep down, there was more...and then the Nazgul would return. Already the winged lizard had sliced a great arc in the grey sky and was wheeling back towards them. He felt drained, fragile and he knew his hands trembled as they should not but he forced down the bubble of terror in his throat, tore his fear away from the Nazgul for he knew it merely fed their hunger. Instead he looked across to where Elrohir spoke with Aragorn, forcing his attention on that, desperately seeking the strength he had had all those years fighting in the Forest.
He bowed his head, trying to think, to focus on something other than the dread that approached. There had been something... a glint of silver amongst the crags, a scuffle of iron-shod feet...
All light was suddenly obliterated. Great serrated wings spread across the sky. A cold thin shriek had the men covering their ears and looking up in fear.
…A slow burning along his nerves, a cold that burned and was terrible...he braced himself as they drew back their swords as one, poised, he thought, at last for the final thrust, eyes closed and teeth clenched waiting for the pain that would signify his last breath…
He gasped and clutched at his chest, and the shadows thronged, clung to him now, tangled him in darkness.
…A thin spear of ice sliced into him, piercing his heart. He felt the world tremble and shimmer and then the burning, ice cold of the Nazgul's blade in his heart...and beyond that, a red fire threatened, a greater evil that would boil his blood and melt his bones...
I see you...
...A radiant shadow appeared at the edge of the circle of fire...
'Aícanaro, you have come for him'...
And suddenly there was a different voice. A song that rose about him like it had been submerged, the cry of eagles and the smell of snow on the clear, frost-laden air...and he could breathe. The cool snow-struck air soothed his raw and burning skin, his throat...
'You will not have him! He is mine!'
He felt the stroke of Elrohir's gaze, felt the sea-grey eyes fall upon him with a softness that was not gentle but demanding. It drove out the cold and he lifted his own eyes to meet them.
He bowed his head and felt the pressure ease and lift. He could breathe and the cold did not burn anymore. Instead he felt a soft warmth, a crimson warmth, envelope him. Love enveloped him. His heart pounded but with a different beat, excitement not panic, and the warmth that flushed his skin was not burning but was instead a glow of desire and tenderness. Elrohir.
With the strength that came to him then, he shoved away the agony that threatened, that lurked just beyond. He would not look beyond, would not part the fragments of the torn silver-blue veil that floated before him. There was worse beyond them and he was too fragile. Instead he forced his gaze to lock onto the beloved sea-grey eyes. His lips parted slightly as he breathed not quite a sigh. Elrohir held his gaze, cradled it in his with tenderness and Legolas felt the terror ebb and the stillness surge slowly back. The Nazgul were gone and he was himself again. It was over.
'Legolas?' Gimli's concerned voice finally penetrated and although he felt brittle with fear and the threat of pain, he forced himself to attend; there had been something...something important. 'Legolas? Are you well? Sit down for a moment. ' He remembered that it was Gimli who had brought him back from the Mountain... but he already knew this.
'Legolas? You don't look so good,' Pippin reached up and patted Legolas' arm, sympathetic and concerned. He tried to smile at Pippin but it must have looked ghastly for the Hobbit looked even more concerned and patted his arm again. 'It's all right, Legolas,' Pippin said soothingly, almost knowingly, 'you're safe now.'
Legolas almost laughed. Here they were, sitting on the doorstep of Mordor, right at the Morannon where thousands of his kin had been slaughtered and Pippin said he was safe. But he recognised the bitter hysteria that was bubbling up in him and ruthlessly he quashed it, seeking the iron control that should have come so easily to him and yet now eluded him. His father and brothers would be ashamed, he told himself sternly and he glanced across again at Elrohir, hoping that his beloved would not see him so undone.
But Elrohir looked straight at him, his grey eyes focused on Legolas, lingered on him with possessive desire, and standing beside him like a reproach, was Eomer, full of loss and yearning that Legolas knew too well. It struck him anew with tender guilt and he closed his eyes, wishing with all his fragile heart he could undo that moment in Aragorn's tent.
Suddenly Elladan stepped between the two and at the same time, Legolas felt Gimli tug on his arm. And so he glanced away from the hurried conversation, the angry exchange that continued between Eomer and Elrohir, and he was only partly aware of the lingering gaze.
'Legolas, what did you see up there?' Gimli pulled his arm insistently and Legolas frowned. 'Before... A moment ago. You were looking up in the crags. You saw something.'
Yes, he had been thinking, realising something... the glint of metal, silver, steel... the sound of a rockslide, small stones sliding... And it was all too quiet, too still...
A thought resurfaced now but he felt a choking cry fill his throat, as if a mail-clad fist had closed around him. A shadow swooped over him, plunged him into darkness and he knew the dreadful wraith was above him again, scything another great arc across the sky. And then he turned and stared at Gimli. He felt such horror, but the words would not come and he choked on the silence. Suddenly the shadow passed and he was aware again of Elrohir, for Elladan had pulled him into a tight embrace as if Elladan were afraid and full of doubt. Elrohir swung astride Aragorn's horse and the black stallion shook its head and turned in a tight circle. Gandalf too was astride Shadowfax and yet Aragorn, Eomer and Elladan all remained standing and looking up at Elrohir and Gandalf.
Jaws of steel...
The thought slid easily between his own, but he knew it was not his. And he read the Nazgul's intent. This was a trap!
THe great serrated wings swooped overhead again, and around him Men looked up panicked, but Legolas' hand flew to his throat as the breath was squeezed from him.
Seven who were Nine. We will be Nine again. An iron crown lies empty. A ring of power awaits.
The shadow plunged him again into darkness and Legolas felt the solid ice freeze in his chest and pressed his hands over the wound, struggling to stay on his own feet. His hands were sweaty, clenched into fists above his chest and he felt so cold…he thought his blood would freeze. Breath died in his mouth and the words faded. He forced himself to open his eyes, to reach Elrohir, to pull him back...He opened his mouth...But the cold mailed fingers strangled the cry in his throat.
Shadowfax cantered slowly along the dusty barren field towards them, the white horse and rider seemed to shimmer in the half-light. A little way behind him, Aragorn's black horse pranced once and settled into a trot, easing into a slow canter.
'Legolas?' Gimli pulled at the Elf's arm now hearing his distress but Legolas shook him off roughly and lunged forwards, lifting his own hands to his head as if he could ward off the dark magic that assailed him... He tried to cry out but all sound froze in his throat as he stumbled forwards. The dark shadow crossed him briefly and he felt the thump of his heart, racing, the pound of blood in his veins, the thundering in his ears and he could not hear anything else. His skin felt the sudden heat and when he breathed it seared and burned in his lungs... The Nazgul circled high above him, the thin shriek pierced the air and Legolas clenched his fists even tighter to stop himself from covering his ears. He struggled forwards.
Elrohir did not pause, but barely turned and dipped his head as he cantered past. A sudden glance of sunshine caught on Elrohir's cuirass, turning the mithril runes molten, and his long black hair streamed behind him. Legolas stared, desperate, adoring, reaching out as he passed. The black horse shook his head, tossed his long mane, straining to overtake Shadowfax.
He could not speak, no cry, not a sound could he force from his throat.
'Legolas?' Gimli, huffed beside the Elf and caught his sleeve. 'Let them go. Gandalf knows what he is about and you cannot do everything yourself. Aragorn must have decided we should stay.' He tugged on his beard and fidgeted slightly, then said, 'I for one am glad you are not going. The Nazgul are never far from your thoughts and after what happened...' He trailed off but Legolas barely heard him. He gripped himself enough to gaze after the two horses as they cantered slowly beyond the ranked Host. The Dwarf's voice seemed distant, like he was underwater or caught in a storm.
'Legolas?' the warm earth-brown voice persisted and he felt himself pulled back. 'Come back, Pippin is worried about you.' He barely heard Gimli's words; they were drowned out by a slow spreading of wings.
The Úlairi were watching. Breathless with anticipation. Silent. Waiting. An iron crown lay empty. A cold iron ring waited. They wanted him.
This was a trap. Elrohir and Gandalf walked blindly into it and there was nothing he could do.
A shadow passed over Gandalf, then over Elrohir where he galloped way out from the waiting host, far beyond them, beyond any help. The Nazgul wheeled high above, and its shadow skimmed over the grass towards Legolas. There was the swoosh of thin wings, a high scream from above and he followed it shakily as it came for him again
No more, he thought to himself. No more.
He pulled an arrow from his quiver and trembling fingers fumbled with his bow. He always seemed to be fumbling now. All his elven grace and speed seemed fled. There was shouting somewhere over to his left but he shut it out, focused on his clumsy hands, his thick fingers, his pounding heart.
They are coming. They are coming!
Fear and dread and he could not move quickly enough. It was like he had been on the cold mountain. He had not been able to stop them then. And now it was Elrohir they wanted.
Time itself seemed to have slowed, and every moment took an age. His heart beat slowly, thumped loudly. He turned and lifted his eyes upwards, arrow fitted, trembling at his bow, and he sighted along it.
Distantly a voice cried out, 'Legolas! Shoot it! Shoot it now!' It seemed to come from faraway, another battle. Above, the huge outstretched wings, thin and leathery, pounded the air, sped towards him. The Nazgul moved its shrouded head, looked down and opened an iron-clad fist, turned the palm downwards upon Legolas ...And it felt like the sky rained fire. His arrow clattered to the ground.
I see you.
A clever square hand sought his and anchored him a little but it was too far, too much and the cold morgul blade twisted, cut his feä and he gasped and clutched his chest. The cold seeped through him and he wanted to sink to the stony ground. He could not speak, could not breathe.
A morgul blade…
And then he remembered. Everything.
The cold blade that sliced. And the Eye...the Eye that opened on him...and it burned his skin, boiled his blood, melted his bones and he had screamed until his throat was raw and his voice broken. A radiant shadow stood apart on the edge of the clearing, fought for him.
He felt himself sway and a voice of velvet warmth spoke and a hand on his arm steadied him. Elvellon. They had sneered at him. But it was Gimli he had stayed for on the mountain when his spirit had almost fled. Yes. It was Gimli. The warmth of the Dwarf was close and his hand fumbled and groped for the hand on his arm and gripped it tightly for a moment.
He sank to his knees and buried his head in his hands. He could not withstand them another moment. And so they entered, silently paced, thin black shrouds falling about them, their broadswords held before them and they surrounded him as they had in That Place, swords were leveled against his breast and their cold blades ripped apart the melting, fluttering remnants of the silver-blue veil. And he saw everything.
See. Rávëyon betrayed you.
Thin black shrouds wrapped them but he could see them beneath the shroud...they were terrible. They stood silently and one raised its skeletal hand and showed him...On the mountain...He saw Elrohir, standing on the high ridge, the storm around him flattening his cloak against him and the lightning and rain...Words like black threads caught in the wind and trembled there, caught around Elrohir. Wet in the rain, they stuck to him like a web, a spider's web and burned his skin...
...Aícanaro gleamed in Elrohir's hand, the mithril runes that swirled and leapt along the blade, an invocation. Legolas saw how that long black hair fell over Elrohir's face, and he looked up and closed his eyes, a thrill of power thrumming in the wind, a long, soundless call into the night. And Legolas saw, as if it were held in front of him, the One Ring, hot with power, the strange lurid runes melted on that liquid surface as it burned, burned and molten. He saw the words appear on the Ring as he had seen once before…and Elrohir opened his eyes, seeing them too, and his lips moved as if he had no power to stop them …
'Ash nazg durbatuluk,'
The world stopped. Legolas held his breath. No! It could not be! Elrohir was there to protect him! He was the milui-criss!
'Ash nazg gimbatul.'
Like a long sigh, the wind suddenly stirred and brushed through the treetops in the valley and on the slopes below, whirled around the mountain peaks. The thunder rumbled threateningly. Legolas turned as Elrohir opened his mouth and called into the wind once more...
'Ash nag thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.'
The words kindled and Legolas saw them become like flames, hot, then burning in the air, like cinders. But Elrohir did not stop. The wind howled about Elrohir, flattening his cloak against his body, storming the treetops so they waved and tossed like grass on the plains. He raised his head to the skies, threw his head back in the wind that pulled his hair into a long streaming black mane. He fixed his gaze to the dark heavens that lowered and roiled overhead, and lightning shot in his eyes.
Elrohir stood firm against the wind and Legolas thought he looked inwards, let the darkness wind around his soul, and he thought that Elrohir had let the shadow slither and coil about his limbs, enveloping him in its velvet darkness… Elrohir spoke again, more strongly, more loudly, summoning them…
'Ash nazg durbatuluk,
Ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nag thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.'
And it seemed to Legolas that part of Elrohir was screaming, part of him was howling. But he would not stop though the wind swirled and buffeted him on the cold mountainside, as if it sought to tear the words from his mouth before he could speak again…
Elrohir shouted against the wind a third time…
'Ash nazg durbatuluk,
Ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nag thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.'
Legolas thought he was screaming but his mouth was tightly closed and his throat sealed. He could not speak, knew there was someone pulling at him but he could not move. No. Not true, he cried. The black shades did not move. He was still in the place of fire and burning. You lie. You deceive as does your Lord. Why would he summon you? Why would he betray me?
But their laugh was like grating iron, rusted with blood. Their amusement cruel and interested. Fool! You are his yôzâira. You are his prize!
He saw something, and at first he did not know what he saw...And then slowly he realised...it was himself. In the darkness he was bound, his arms held high above him and he struggled...
...Fire and flames rimmed the darkness, and in the hellish glow his skin felt on fire. There was wet trickling down his skin, his thighs, his wrists, his mouth... he was bound, struggling, half-naked with his breeches pulled down over his hips, helpless. A radiant shadow stood on the edge of his sight and flames reflected in those grey eyes. A hand drifted over his naked skin, lower and stroked across the burning welts already there. There was more blood on the hand that stroked him, trailing fingers through the blood, through the swirling painted yára-carmë, following the lines of the runes and swirls. Suddenly he was gripped hard around his lean hips and dragged forwards. And then with a sudden thrust, he was impaled helplessly on the spear of flesh so it tore and he thought he was screaming but his mouth was closed, sealed. Fingers tangled in his long hair and dragged his head back, muffling the silent cries with a mouth he had once wanted on his. Elrohir raped him.
Legolas stared at nothing. He knew it was true. He had seen it. It had been shown him on the Mindolluin when he had been in thrall to the Nazgul. Elrohir had been standing outside the triangle when he had been cut with the Morgul Blade, and they had showed Elrohir their promise, his own body, blood-streaked, writhing in pain and desire, raped, abused, betrayed.
He tasted salt and thought of the Sea. His face was wet and he felt himself break a little more.
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.