40. The Mouth of Sauron
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warnings as before
Chapter 40: The Mouth of Sauron
Legolas felt the Nazgul leave. Silent, they faded, melted and left him hunched forward, on his knees in the dirt and his fists clenched against his heart. The burning agony faded and left him panting and breathless. They were destroying him slowly from within. It had begun with Saruman's cruel vision, and then in Minas Tirith, the Nazgul had speared him with its cold lance, and thrust him into Elrohir's waiting arms, for it seemed all too convenient now that the Nazgul had spared them both.
Legolas felt his hand drift to his throat for he remembered now...he and Elrohir had come so close to love that night. Eomer had burst in and he, fool! had pursued Eomer. A true elven memory opened up now and he saw the cold morning that followed, he stood beneath the abandoned washing strung above him on iron balconies, streaked with ash and strangely poignant, felt Elrohir's hands around his throat, his fumbling cruelty, heard the word scorch itself onto his skin. Whore. Ai, how could he have forgotten? Everything had seemed lost then, with Elrohir so full of rage and hate at his seeming betrayal.
Legolas let his hair fall around him now, screening him alike from anxious or curious eyes. How willingly he had gone to his supposed fate on the Mindolluin! He had followed Elrohir trustingly, though he had been scorned and dismissed. Elrohir, whom he had called beloved, had led him onto the Mountain, knowing he would not deliver the milui-criss, had instead summoned the Nazgul, had stood and watched as he was cut by the morgul blade. He had wanted to torture Legolas and had imagined, desired to violently rape him! Legolas squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head as though he could loosen and rid himself of the vile images shown him by the Nazgul. But tenderness had been there when he awoke in the Houses of Healing to find Elrohir with him, he remembered such gentle and passionate love. He had found the same tenderness when he pulled Elrohir from the ledge above Osgiliath...He paused and found himself pulling at a loose thread of the sleeve of his tunic. Before they had plummeted over the ledge though, Elrohir had spoken of rape ... said he would destroy Legolas, called him Yôzáira...
None of it made sense. First dark hate and scorching cruelty, but then at the brush of Elrohir's fingers, such tenderness and love filled him he found himself breathless, melting...His thoughts circled and doubled back and lingered over one idea or another, bewildered and confused.
It had been Gimli however, who brought him back down; he remembered the Dwarf being suddenly present, his deep Earth Song calling, reassuring, soothing him...
And here again was that same Earth Song, the deep chanting voices low, like the mountain's heart, the regular beat of a hammer and slowly, gradually, Gimli's voice penetrated his awareness. He could not distinguish words, for his blood still roared in his ears, and he could not speak for he felt the bruise of Elrohir's hand against his throat, or the mail-clad fist of the Nazgul, he could no longer tell. Gentler hands lifted him and liquid poured into his mouth. A familiar presence nearby and a blue calm poured over him like balm, like moonlight on still pools and he felt a healing peace wash through him as if it might cleanse him and he could suddenly breathe. Faces became distinct and he discerned the voices...
Gimli and Elladan leaned over him, and Legolas stared at the latter for a moment, his grey eyes, long black hair and pale, noble face so like Elrohir's. He lifted a pale hand and covered his eyes for he did not want to see...
'What happened?' Someone asked.
'The Nazgul dived at him over and over. Did you see?' Another voice murmured nearby and Legolas knew he was not intended to hear but he could not help it. Suddenly it was too hard to be amongst so many Men. He felt overwhelmed, with too many people crowding in and he pushed back, away.
He felt a strong arm behind his shoulders and he leaned against someone familiar. 'Give him some air, for Béma's sake!' A hand lifted his hair to one side and held a cup to his lips that he might drink.
Cold, pure water soothed his throat and cleared his head and he struggled to alertness for he felt there was still more to come. There was a promise lingering in the Nazgul's fading presence.
We are not done with you, Thranduillion.
He knew then that something worse for him than Orcs lurked behind the Black Gate, and he found himself hoping that if it came to it, at the end, the Orcs would get to him first and finish him off before the Nazgul...before Elrohir.
Legolas bowed his head and surreptitiously wiped his eyes, whether it was sweat or tears he did not know now, nor much care. He thought again that the Enemy was slowly destroying him from within...
He leaned back gratefully against the comforting body behind him, which was strong and familiar and let the warmth seep into him. He tried to make sense of what had happened; he had been convinced it was Elrohir the Enemy was luring to the Gate. But Elrohir had summoned the Nazgul to the Mindolluin...
'I thought it was a trap...' he murmured. 'There is a trap but...' He shook his head, confused.
'A trap?' It was Elladan who spoke, leaned over him again, and Legolas felt the calm blue presence wash through his own terror and soothe him. 'What did you see?'
Legolas squeezed his eyes shut and his hand flew to his chest but it was not the morgul wound that hurt, but his bruised heart. That image of himself tortured for Elrohir's depraved lust was still burning in his memory. Yôzáira. The Gift of Longing. He was the Nazguls' promise, the reward for Elrohir if he delivered the Ring, the lure into darkness. He was Elrohir's downfall.
'They want Elrohir,' he said in a low voice to Elladan and it was a struggle to speak. 'An iron crown. A cold ring...'
He felt Elladan freeze.
'Yes...they assailed me also,' he said quietly for only Legolas to hear, 'but I was not sure I understood.' Briefly he laid his hand on Legolas' shoulder and a cool healing soothed his nerves, a touch of peace, and then Elladan's calm presence altered, and Legolas felt his attention shifted elsewhere. Treacherously, he wondered what would have been had he fallen for Elladan, and when Elladan glanced back down to Legolas, there was an ocean of kindness in his eyes. 'Rest. I will bring him back.'
A strong, hand gently pulled him back against the warm hard body that supported him, and reassuring words murmured in a familiar, deep voice comforted and unsettled him in equal parts. 'Peace Legolas. Elladan has gone. He will deal with it, you have done enough.'
It was not Gimli's voice. His hand rubbed his chest and he wished the sensation of being cut would go away and he looked down. A long, copper-bronze hair lay on his tunic, not his but as familiar as the broad chest against which he leaned and he suddenly realised who it was. Eomer.
He felt Eomer's breath on his skin, and slowly, almost timidly a hand stroked his hair. Legolas sighed and kept his eyes low for he felt his face burning. He had damaged Eomer enough.
He chanced a quick glance up at Eomer and winced at the breathless hope in the tender brown eyes. Eomer stilled his hand and then pulled it slowly back.
'I should have known,' he said miserably, quietly. 'He has bewitched you.'
Legolas tried a small smile but Eomer stared at him as if he were starving.
He lifted his hand then and touched Eomer lightly on his cheek. 'I told you it was only what it was and no more.' Legolas glanced up to see the hopeless misery in Eomer's eyes and could not bear it. 'Forgive me,' he begged and he almost caught the Man's hand but he knew he should not.
'I would do anything you asked of me,' Eomer declared in quiet passion. 'But I will not give up hope. You will see him for what he is. I have heard that he attacked you at Linhir.' He clasped Legolas' shoulder tightly. 'I would have killed him had I been there and he raised a hand against you.'
Legolas pushed himself away. 'No. It is not how you believe. That was a moment of...' He groped for the words to describe that moment of furious anger but lapsed instead into his own tongue for the silvan tongue knew this furious lust and passion that burst into violence. 'It was annan-breitho.' He struggled to stand, his head spun and he swayed unsteadily.
Eomer scrambled to his feet, reaching out to hold Legolas but Gimli was already there, a steadying arm around Legolas' waist and Legolas clung to him.
'What have you been saying to upset him like this?' the Dwarf demanded of Eomer. Eomer's eyes flashed at the challenge and he glared down at Gimli.
But Legolas shook his head and put his hand out to Eomer though he appealed to Gimli. 'He did not mean anything...' he said and cast a quick glance at Eomer and as he caught the hurt on the Man's young face, he looked away. 'Let us fall not to fighting between ourselves - it would give the Enemy comfort.'
Gimli gave him a long hard look and Legolas steeled himself to meet the Dwarf's searching gaze, drew down the stoic mask of the woodelves. 'I am recovered and the Nazgul withdrawn.' He rested his hand on Gimli's muscular arm but he hated his weakness, the way his hands shook and made him useless.
Gimli sighed and looked away. 'Well I can see you are going to be stubborn about this,' he said. 'But you can hardly stand on your own two feet,' he said. 'Elladan has already gone to Aragorn. They will warn Elrohir.'
Eomer gave a pained, contemptuous laugh but Legolas ignored him, followed the Dwarf's gaze and saw that Elladan was running towards Aragorn, shouting, gesturing urgently. He stared, oblivious to all else for a while, until he became aware of Gimli's insistent pressure of his arm and the Dwarf's anxious voice.
'Are you able to stand on your own?' Gimli was asking him.
He looked down blankly for a moment for he felt like he had been wounded, and fear still crept around the edges of his heart though the Nazgul had withdrawn. 'I am,' he answered as steadily as he could, although his head spun and he swayed a moment. Gimli caught his arm and again, the Dwarf's Earth-Song chimed deeply through him, its resonance like a bell striking deeply in the heart of the mountain. It steadied him a little, let him catch the echoes in his heart and he felt the scald of tears prick his eyes.
'You need to retire behind the lines, Legolas,' Gimli said soberly. 'You are not fit to stand, let alone fight.'
Legolas blinked the tears away. The suggestion that he could run and cower while his friends fought the final battle was more than he could bear.
'You think there is anywhere safe? Do not send me away,' he said and hated the pleading in his voice when he could see Elladan and Aragorn running towards the remaining horses, shouting to others. I should be there, he thought. Imrahil was already mounted and some of his knights rode with him and they milled about waiting for the rescue party to assemble.
He was aware too that whilst Eomer had been drawn away by one of his men, the young king glanced over in his direction more than once and he turned his head slightly away from the burning reproachful gaze for he could not bear it.
Looking carefully at Legolas, Gimli sighed and said softly. 'Aye, he still carries a torch for you, my friend. Be careful...'
'Legolas.' He was startled out of his misery by Pippin, who had drifted back towards them and stared out over the plains in the direction of the Morannon. 'I can see something... Gandalf has got something...'
Legolas slowly lifted his gaze to the Gate, for it felt heavy and weighted down somehow as if he fought against a will stronger than his own. He narrowed his eyes and saw that Gandalf was holding something in his hands and bent over it. Legolas' sharp elven eyes could see the unmistakable glimmer of mithril and he wondered what it could be...something in the way Gandalf had hunched over it and bowed his head made him think of great sorrow...
'What is it? I can see something shining. But I cannot see what,' Pippin asked and Legolas had forgotten how sharp were Hobbit's eyes. 'It looks like...' Pippin whispered.
Pippin looked up at Legolas and there was the same despair in his face that Legolas felt in his own heart, knew was in his own eyes and masked it quickly. 'It's the mithril shirt, isn't it? It's Frodo's...Does that mean...Is he dead?' Pippin seemed frozen with horror and Legolas wanted to comfort him, but he himself could barely stand.
Gandalf had become very still and Legolas could see he was intent and listening... The world was still, quiet and the Song ran beneath but was muted, watchful; it had not faltered, it had not distorted. Yet.
'If the Shadow had It, we would know,' his voice sounded cracked and rough. 'The Dark One would not be so patient but would have destroyed us before now.'
Pippin managed a small smile then and Legolas glanced anxiously towards Aragorn, where a small group gathered.
Why were they so slow? he thought weakly. Did they not realise the Nazgul were preparing to pounce upon Elrohir and take him for their lord? But immediately, he thought perhaps this had been the Enemy's plan all along...and another, even more treacherous thought rose unbidden; perhaps Elrohir had been planning this? Perhaps it was his intent to bring them all here and to betray them, even as he had betrayed Legolas on the Mindolluin...His heart surged with despair and he found his hand clutching at the suede fabric of his tunic.
Elrohir cantered after Gandalf, the black horse he had taken from Aragorn blowing and pulling. It was a good beast, he thought, for he felt it was afraid but it was keen and willing to trust its rider.
You should be called Kathuphazgân, conqueror, he thought, for it had conquered its fear at his asking, and he could not simply keep calling it "the horse"! He felt it lift its head in pride, and steel its heart at the proud name. Smiling to himself, he stroked its neck soothingly and Kathuphazgân it was. Even when one of the Nazgul flew overhead, wheeling in a great arc above them, Kathuphazgân did not falter but cantered easily alongside Shadowfax. Elrohir glanced back once over his shoulder and saw that the Lords of the West were gathered at the foot of the hills but he could no longer see Legolas and he did not have time to search for him. He turned again to face the Black Gate and thought how he followed his father, for he too had stood before the Morannon long years before, with Isildur, and now his son stood with Isildur's heir. And Oropher's grandson too.
Gandalf cast a sideways glance at Elrohir as they rode together into jaws of steel, half-knowing, with echoes from the past all about them.
Ahead of them, the Gate towered. Like a mountain in its solid purpose. Above, clasping the pinnacles of the towers on either side of the Gate, the Nazgul were gathered, their winged steeds like gargoyles. He counted six. One slowly stretched its sinuous neck and the cold reptile eye regarded them. There was no wind now, no sound. It seemed utterly still, utterly silent. Waiting. Watching.
There was such heaviness in the sky now and what little light there was seemed to fall upon Gandalf then and Elrohir saw he truly was Olórin. The Wizard's white robes seemed insubstantial, more light itself than cloth. Elrohir lifted his eyes to gaze upon the Wizard's noble, ancient face...and he glimpsed fleetingly, a silver-blue presence of such great age and wisdom and love...and Elrohir thought he understood how it must have been to stand in the light of the Trees in those ancient times before the world was spoiled, felt it shine on his face. This warrior wizard, come from Valinor.
'This is my task,' Olórin spoke gently to Elrohir. 'To defeat Him. Ever have we two been entwined, and I must defeat his darkness else all the light will be quenched.' It was so practical, so softly done and full of an ancient sorrow, that Elrohir wondered what more there was here, but it was the briefest of moments, and the light dimmed and there was only Gandalf, his great power and wisdom cloaked once more in flesh and blood and robes.
Elrohir was still staring when Gandalf inclined his head and said a little gruffly and more like the Gandalf the Grey that he knew, 'Well, what are you waiting for? Summon their envoys.'
Elrohir hesitated for only a moment before he urged Kathuphazgân to the Gate. He made his voice resonant and deep so it reached up to the ramparts, rolled around the empty valley, crying loudly, 'Come forth! Let the Lord of the Black Land come forth!' He knew his cry would be heard by the watching Nazgul on their winged reptiles, high on the Towers of the Gate, and heard too by those he loved standing far back amongst the army that challenged the might of Sauron at the very gates of Mordor. 'Let Justice be done upon him. For wrongfully has he made war upon Gondor and wrested its lands.' He paused and licked his lips and then he took another breath and cried aloud, 'Therefore the King of Gondor demands that he should atone for his evils, and depart then forever. Come forth!'*
There was a long silence and from the wall or gate no cry or sound was heard in answer. Only one of the Nazguls' steeds lashed its tail but nothing more.
Elrohir stared up at the ramparts on the Gate but there was no other movement, no sound. Not even the wind stirred He looked at Gandalf who sat astride Shadowfax, stock still and listening. Still nothing.
Elrohir was about to suggest that they turn away when the silence was suddenly broken. There came a long rolling of great drums like thunder in the mountains and then a braying of horns that shook the very stones and stunned men's ears.*
Elrohir looked up alarmed and then at Gandalf but the Wizard held his ground and merely lifted his head. It seemed like a breath of wind drifted over the Gate, a darkness and Elrohir almost thought he heard a whisper, Olórin... But his nerves were jangling and he thought he must have imagined it for Gandalf gave no sign, just looked steadily ahead of him, piercing blue eyes focused on the Gate.
A slow creaking sound began then, of wheels turning, cogs grinding and the huge Gate began to move. A grim red light slowly seeped at first and then flooded out through the crack of the Gates, like bloody fire it spread its heat upon the earth. Elrohir stared through the gaping red mouth into Mordor itself and as his eyes adjusted, he saw through the fiery haze, hordes and hordes of glittering spears and pikes and helms and shields glinting, thousands upon thousands...and a dark tower rising above the hellish glow, like a colossus poised above them or a mountain it seemed so immense, impossible that it could have been built. Barad-dûr. It reached high, high above, vanished into the heavy clouds that clung dark and gloomy about its pinnacle and Elrohir was glad they shielded him from what he had heard of only in tales. The great lidless Eye of Sauron. Even though it was yet hidden, he felt its horror so great that he wanted to turn and flee. Poor Kathuphazgân trembled beneath him and it was for the horse's sake as much as his own that he stilled his pounding heart and caught his breath.
Thunder rolled from the Gate, a heavy beat and from the demonic red glow emerged a hideous parody of a horse, as much a parody of a horse as an Orc is of an Elf. It was huge, bigger than the great black cart horses Elrohir had seen in the Northern Kingdom long ago. Its skull-like head was a mask and its eyes rolled in the sockets, red-rimmed and unearthly. A man, if it could truly be called a man, was mounted upon it, robed all in black like the Nazgul, but this was no wraith. This was the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr whose name no man knew for he had once walked in Numenor before it drowned. Upon his head was a black helm but the visor was slightly raised and Elrohir could see his mouth was lipless, more like a slash across the snarling, cadaverous face.
The horse-creature stamped heavily and the dust beat the air as it advanced, accompanied by braying trumpets and heavy drums. Behind it was a small company of armoured men and one bore the banner of the Eye.
Elrohir glanced again at Gandalf, but the Wizard met the hideous envoy's eye and did not look away. When the envoy spoke, his voice was like grinding bone.
'I am the Mouth of Sauron.' The words seemed to echo for all they were not spoken loudly, as if a hidden power lay beneath them, a sorcery so the voice was inside Elrohir's own skull. 'Is there anyone here with authority to treat with me? Or indeed with wit to understand me?' he mocked, turning to Gandalf with scorn. 'Not thou, old Greybeard. Have we not heard thy whiles and wanderings, ever hatching plots and mischief at a safe distance? But in this thee hast stuck thy nose too far, Master Gandalf... Olórin...' and he said the name with absolute contempt. 'Thou shalt see what comes to him who sets his foolish webs before the feet of Sauron the Great, who has always been so much more than thee... I have tokens that I was bid to show if thou shouldst dare come.'*
He signed to one of his guards who came forwards bearing a bundle swathed in black cloths which he handed up to the Mouth, bowing low and avoiding looking at the hideous face as he did so. The Mouth took the bundle with a wicked and gleeful glance at Gandalf as he shoved apart the black cloths. Elrohir caught a glimpse of gleaming silver, but the light slid over it and around it so he knew it was mithril. A cloak which he knew to be the cloak from Lorien was there too. Pinned to it was a small silver wrought leaf such as the Marchwardens wore and Legolas too had one pinned to his cloak. Elrohir realised that these tokens must be from Frodo and his heart pushed its way into his mouth.
'Elf-cloak, Dwarf-coat, blade of the downfallen West and spy from the little rat-land of the Shire - nay! do not start! We know it well. All the marks of conspiracy.'*
Elrohir saw Gandalf from the corner of his eye, absolutely still, and it seemed a blackness had descended on him and his face was turned away. He himself felt suddenly sick and a crushing despair descended on him; the Quest had failed. Frodo and Sam must be dead. Strangely his first thought was how Legolas would mourn their loss and then he realised what it truly meant and he wanted to put his hand over his mouth to stop himself from screaming. Sauron must have the Ring. It was the End of the world.
The Mouth sneered. 'Now maybe he that bore these things was a creature that you would not grieve to lose, and maybe otherwise: one dear to you perhaps? If so, take swift counsel with what little wit is left to you. For Sauron does not love spies and what his fate shall be depends now on your choice.'*
Gandalf raised his eyes to stare at the small bundle and in them was absolute despair. Elrohir bowed his head. All this was for naught. They would fight to the bitter end of course, but it would merely hold Sauron for a moment before he swept away the world. Their despair was not lost on the Mouth for his lipless mouth stretched in a grisly smile.
'Ah- I see he was dear to you. Or else his errand was one that you did not wish to fail? It has. And now he shall endure the slow torment of the years as long and as slow as our arts in the Great Tower can contrive, and never be released, unless maybe he is changed and broken so that he may come to you and you shall see what you have done. This shall surely be - unless you accept my Lord's terms.'*
'Name the terms,' said Gandalf steadily but Elrohir saw the anguish in his face.
'These are the terms,' said the Mouth with gloating triumph. 'The rabble of Gondor with its deluded allies shall withdraw at once beyond the Anduin first taking oaths to never again to assail Sauron the Great in arms, open or secret. All lands east of the Anduin shall be Sauron's forever, solely. West of the Anduin as far as the Misty Mountains and the Gap of Rohan shall be tributaries to Mordor and men there shall bear no weapons, but shall have leave to govern their own affairs. But they shall have help to rebuild Isengard which they have wantonly destroyed, and that shall be Sauron's, and there shall his lieutenant dwell; not Saruman, but one more worthy of trust.'*
Gandalf said, 'This is much to demand for the delivery of one servant: that your Master should receive in exchange what he else must fight many a war to gain!' Elrohir looked up for Gandalf's voice was strong, ringing and unbowed. 'Or has the field of Gondor destroyed his hope in war so that he falls to haggling? And if indeed we rated this prisoner so high what surety have we that Sauron, the Base Master of Treachery, will keep his part? Where is this prisoner? Let him be brought forth and yielded to us and then we will consider these demands.'*
The Mouth opened his lips in a horrible sneer. 'Thou shalt regret this, old man. For that is all thou art. Take these for what little comfort they will give you,' He threw the small bundle towards Gandalf who caught it and pulled it tightly to himself, hunched over it slightly and his head bowed. 'Think on his torture due to your folly!'
Elrohir gazed at the Wizard and saw that he was not as distraught as he looked. Indeed there was a gleam in his blue eyes that pierced a small sliver of hope in the darkness of Elrohir's despair and he narrowed his eyes. Surely these tokens had been taken forcibly from Frodo? Or from his small cold body? This one leaf of Lorien...He paused. One cloak...one servant?... Sam was still alive? He clenched his teeth against the thought that he could be wrong, and sent all his hope winging upwards on the West wind.
The Mouth had not finished though. He leaned forward, resting his hand on the pommel of his saddle. 'But thou, Rávëyon, for what purpose dost thou debase thyself crawling here amongst these creatures, craven and weak?' The hideous steed upon which the Mouth was seated raised a heavy hoof and pounded upon the dry and barren earth. It moved its dreadful skull-like head and the tangled knots in its mane swung so that Kathuphazgân shied briefly and snorted in fear and loathing. Gandalf was very still and leaned forwards slightly as if listening.
'Thou knowest what thou art.' The Mouth seemed to smile but it was a grimace, a leer. 'They await thee. They would put upon thy head an iron crown, on thy hand an iron ring. They would make thee their Lord...' He lifted his crooked, claw-like hand as if to dismiss the Nazgul. 'They are nothing without thee. They need thee in the way dogs need a master. My Lord would make thee their Master as he would be thine.'
Elrohir felt a cold squeeze round his heart, a scream crawled its way into his throat and closed his mouth, fighting it.
Gandalf moved and Elrohir felt a calm descend upon him, the panic ebbed and left him clear-sighted. He thought he heard a voice, far away, a Song that lifted him, it came from the West and it was full of hope. 'This will not happen,' he found his voice and surprisingly, it was strong and steady. 'I am Elrohir Elrondion,' he said, gathering all the contempt he could muster, 'I serve no master!'
The great monstrosity that was the Mouth's steed, stepped forwards and tossed its grotesque head, lifting its lip to reveal yellow incisors and stringy saliva drooling from its lips. The Mouth raised his fist as if he would strike Elrohir and there was an edge of fear in his voice. ' Not mastery, fealty then. Thou hast brought Ash Nazg to him. We can feel it...it is close. He is pleased with thee. He will raise thee above all others, make thee a King.'
Elrohir did not move but he saw Gandalf from the corner of his eye, the Wizard had closed his eyes and bowed his head at the news that the Mouth had given them; Sauron believed the One Ring was close, and Elrohir let Pippin's image drift a little in his mind and he felt the quickening of interest from the wraiths above. He gave thin smile. 'I do not want to be King. That is for others. But give me the spy from the Shire and I will think upon it.'
At this the Mouth pulled back suddenly and declared, 'Thinkest thou to bargain with Sauron the Great? It is a gift he offers. He will not give this troublemaker and pestilence any comfort!' He gestured at Gandalf who had lifted his head now and regarded the Mouth with his clear blue eyes, and though Gandalf said nothing the Mouth snarled suddenly and glared at Elrohir. 'Thou wilt march at the head of my Lord's great army with thine iron crown, thine iron helm and crush those whom thou loved. Thou wilt have no choice then. Thou wilt break them, every one, thy cowardly father, thy beloved brother. Thou belongst to us! Thou art one of us.' The Mouth leaned closer and the slash of his mouth stretched wide like he would devour Elrohir. 'Son of Elrond...Thy father will never understand how thee stood and watched!'
Above them, on the spires of the Towers that flanked the Gate, a slight movement caught his eye. A slither of a wing, a thin serpentine neck stretched downwards, a thin black shroud fluttered. And was still.
Elrohir recoiled then as Gandalf turned his head to stare at Elrohir, but he steeled his heart for he had done this dreadful thing, this terrible sin. He did not bow his head; it was not Gandalf to whom he owed any confession. It was to his brother he had owned his sin, but he knew he owed this to his father too. But he could not speak of this to Elrond. He had hidden his crime too well and if Elrond believed he and Elladan rode out on errantry to revenge themselves on the Orcs who tormented their mother, he had thought nothing more than to let it be. It had been so easy to convince him, and the greatest healer in Middle Earth had been so lost in his own pain, he had not thought to seek the truth. Never had anyone questioned Elrohir's honour, would not have believed perhaps that Elrohir, at least in part, sought to bury his savage guilt in bloody violence .
But he had admitted it to Elladan who had chosen to forgive him. It gave him the strength to speak now. 'You say nothing. My brother has forgiven me my crime and I have owned it.'
'But thy father will not forgive thee as easily as thy brother,' the Mouth observed cruelly, and it was clear he enjoyed this sadistic taunting. 'Thy brother is all strength and goodness it seems...And thou art all darkness and shadow.' The Mouth leaned towards him, the ugly mouth turned upwards and Elrohir saw the sharp yellow teeth, like a wolf's teeth, bared in a horrible grin. 'Thou art so sure of him...but he watches thy yôzáira too. He desires him...' The Mouth leaned closer and Elrohir felt his foul warm breath, and the stench made him gag.
It was true, he had seen it. And Elladan who had never before desired a man, looked at Legolas. It was not the hunger he felt himself- no, that was different. Elladan was pure. There was nothing in him but love, and he wondered briefly, should he step aside and let Elladan be with Legolas.
'There has to be light to cast the shadow. He is my light,' Elrohir countered, and he lifted his head defiantly. He had conquered his dark lust after all, had he not?
The Mouth laughed then as if he could read all Elrohir's secret thoughts. 'Art thou afraid to test him more? Does he know the whole truth of it?' The Mouth tilted his head in horrible parody of Legolas, as if it knew what he did. 'Does he know what thou imagines?'
Elrohir felt hot shame but he would not look away, he held the man's eye and struggled for mastery. 'I do not answer to you, slave of Sauron, and I do not answer to him either. I will answer to those against whom I have sinned. But it is not for you to call me to account!'
'Noble sentiments!' the Mouth leaned forwards again and there was the wash of foul breath. 'But thou knowest how to hate, and to desire power over another...Thou wishest to have the whelp of Azgarâzir serve thee? He is thine.' The Mouth showed his sharp unnatural teeth. 'Thou hast such power and hunger. Thou wilt have dominion.' And though the smile was terrible and horrific, it seemed the voice had changed, was no longer the voice of the Mouth but another voice that caressed him, would love him, would set him above all others...Elrohir found himself leaning towards the Mouth a little, listening as he believe. It was easy to imagine...
'Elrondion!' a sharp voice cut through the miasma that tried to wind about him. 'You are assailed.'
But he was already aware, was already pulling himself back for he did not want that. There was nothing he wanted from Sauron. 'No,' he said with steady certainty. 'We are done here.'
The Mouth urged his steed closer to them and Kathuphazgân snorted and bunched up beneath Elrohir, but he willed the horse to stillness and the valiant steed held his ground though the abomination was close enough for him to feel its hot breath. 'Thou art more kin to us than them. Thy mannish blood, even thy weak Noldor blood... How thou wilt fret in that sterile Valar-ridden land where there is nothing but the boredom and petty politics of the elvish houses vying to sit at Manwë's right hand and pass his wine and salt, bickering amongst yourselves as to who is most favoured!'
'And it is different of course, amongst the servants of the darkness,' an acerbic voice cut through the malice. Gandalf.
'So thou hast not forgotten how to speak, old man. But of course, thou art a servant thyself of the self-styled Valar. A lesser being, one who has not aspired to greatness. I have wondered long about thee, for my Master speaks of thee...often.'
There was something strange in the way the Mouth said this but there was nothing in the Wizard's face but implacable sternness.
'Of old have I known your master,' said Gandalf and his voice was steady now, certain and it was a pronouncement of doom. 'I have sought always to bring him back to the Light. But he is far beyond that now. Ever did he seek to serve Melkor merely to overthrow him. He learned all he could and then abandoned his defeated master to raise himself to 'greatness'. Such 'greatness' as he seeks is a betrayal of all he is, he should be. A worm in the world, he eats away at it slowly, but he will never be more than that. A worm. Cast into darkness he shall be. And forgotten even at the end of time. And you, his servants now, you seek the same. To grow fat upon his malice and then to overthrow him, set yourself up in his place. Tyrants, and us your mere slaves!'
'Tell thy yôzáira then,' the Mouth ignored Gandalf, and let his lecherous gaze linger on Elrohir, 'tell him thou couldst have saved them all. Tell him. His father, Azgarâzir has fallen beneath the eaves of Agannâlo. His body,' the Mouth pulled back from yellow teeth, sharpened like fangs, 'His body was a trophy for the Orcs. I have been told how he hangs still on the spire and is picked by crows...Elves can last a very long time... his father did...but when he saw what we did with the children his heart broke... He no longer howls.' The Mouth sat back, tilted his head again as if in parody of Legolas, self-consciously mocking by its repetition, and his lipless mouth split in a leering grimace. 'Tell him; when we have taken you, and your brothers and kin lie dead and bleeding, I will have thy yôzáira.' He sketched a mocking bow. ' I will break him in front of thee. Racked and broken, I will have him. And when I have tired of him, I will turn him over to the Orcs as a plaything. Elves can last a very long time. As his father did.'
'Enough!' said Gandalf suddenly. He cast aside his cloak and a white light shone forth like a sword in that black place. Before his upraised hand the foul messenger recoiled and Gandalf held up the tokens, cloak, coat and sword. 'These we will take in memory of our friend, but as for your terms we reject them utterly. Get you gone, for your embassy is over and death is near to you. We did not come here to waste word in treating with Sauron, faithless and accursed; still less with one of this slaves. Begone!'
The Messenger's face suddenly twisted in amazement and anger to the likeness of some wild beast that crouches on its prey, is smitten on the muzzle with a stinging rod. Rage filled him and his mouth slavered and shapeless sounds of fury came strangling from his throat.* But a sudden wind swept Elrohir's hair streaming out behind him and Gandalf's white robes were flattened against his hard old body. The Nazgul came.
'Fly!' shouted Gandalf and Elrohir paused only seconds to glance upwards, saw the outstretched wings swoop and the wind caught him and threw him flat against his horse's neck as the Nazgul plummeted into him.
It was too much for Kathuphazgân and he broke, whinnying in terror and tearing off into a flat gallop across the plains. Elrohir leaned low and whispered to him that he should fly as he had never done before. He was aware too of a blinding white light around and above him and thought it must be Gandalf, but suddenly something hit the horse with the force of an explosion. He saw the ground rising to meet him and he was tumbling head over heels into the dust, grit and stones tore along his face and hands and the earth knocked his breath from his lungs. He stopped. No breath in him, lungs heaving, winded and above him a huge shadow, serrated leathery wings outstretched and a mouth of thin sharp fangs snapped.
Suddenly the blunt flat head pulled back, squealing. It thrashed its wings and keeled to one side, its reptilian head weaving and snapping, an arrow was sticking out its pale throat and all was chaos. Intense blue, almost indigo, enveloped him, wrapping him in its protective song. A roar sounded from behind, in front of him and a pounding of thousands of feet charging forwards but his sight was filled with a deadly shadow, a thin black shroud fluttered, the Nazgul rose up before him from the cloud of red-rimmed dust.
We have come for you, Lord. Rávëyon. You are ours.
Cold, cold iron awaited him, would burn his hand, be forced upon him, and he shook his head, dizzy with sudden cold and a thrust of power through his mind. All shapes and definition faded and it was as though he looked though coloured glass. He knew that. It had happened before. The iron would burn, and the dark lust within him that he had conquered would raise its head and he would become what he feared. It made his head clearer and he groped for dark Aícanaro and pulled him ringing from the sheath.
I am Rávëyon.
Aícanaro hissed with power and pleasure.
Suddenly there was chaos.
Elladan's borrowed horse whinnied and pawed the ground, catching his rider's impatience to be off. He hefted his frost-white sword in his right hand, seeing how light seemed to shimmer along the blade. Unpinning his sable cloak, he dropped it carelessly on the ground for it would slow him down, and a boy ran out from the milling ranks to scoop it up. His heart pounded with anxiety, with the need to be moving, and he looked towards the Black Gate where he could clearly see Elrohir urging Aragorn's restless, frightened horse closer to the envoy of Sauron. His brother was leaning towards the grotesque figure, shouting or arguing he could not tell, but his danger was unbearably clear. A flutter of a thin black shroud high above, on the Towers of the Gate and the intense focus of cold malice upon Elrohir was enough. One Nazgul flew overhead, had been weaving back and forth, cutting a scything arc in the sky above the assembled Host.
A hand laid on his leg and he tore his eyes away from the Nazgul and looked down. It was Aragorn, dread and fear in his eyes. 'Bring him back to us, Elladan,' said Aragorn earnestly, 'but you must come back too.'
Elladan nodded curtly but his impatience was growing. 'I can wait no longer!' he cried to Imrahil, and urged his grey horse forwards.
The horse pulled at the bit and tossed his head, Elladan did not hold him back and the horse leapt forward into a gallop, streamed out from the ranks of the Host towards the Black Gate. The wind pulled back Elladan's long raven-black hair and his mithril armour gleamed in the half-light. He galloped down the sloping hill and onto the plains, dust kicked up behind him and he heard the thunder of hooves as the knights of Dol Amroth fled after him. He knew Imrahil would be nearby and he felt a strange comfort in that, for they had become close. But he had no time to think on that for Elrohir was in danger.
An iron crown. An iron ring.
He will be raised above all others. Seven that will be Nine.
And you will serve.
He knew the lure of power, of the seductive call of the rings, but he was guarded against them now.
I will not serve!
Elladan, leading the charge of white and grey horses like foam on the sea, plunged ahead, his gallant, borrowed horse stretched out, flattened into a gallop, charged towards the Gate. Ahead, he could see where Gandalf was still hunched over the gleaming shirt and he saw too how Elrohir turned his head and looked up. On the Towers of the Teeth, the remaining Nazgul were absolutely still and silent. Only a flutter of a black robe, a bat-wing lifted and rested on the slight wind and a serpentine head stretched on sinuous neck. Cold eyes searched and he felt the malevolence heavy against his own thoughts...
Elladan kept his eyes trained on the Tower, saw the first winged beast stretch out its thin leathery wings and push off from the pinnacle. The huge lizard raised its talons and dived towards the black horse that carried Elrohir. Instantly another and another and another until all seven Nazgul were plummeting from the Tower and swooping down. Without thought, without hesitation, Elladan pulled his bow and fitted an arrow and sent it screaming towards the foremost lizard as it drove into the black horse, sent it somersaulting into the dust and Elrohir was thrown wide. Suddenly a breath of wind from the West seemed to lift Elladan's arrow and drive it forwards. The Nazgul's steed reared back sharply, its talons lifted to paw and scrape at its neck where the arrow had pierced its throat. Without pause for breath, Elladan reached back for another arrow and fitted it, and let it fly, for one after another now, the Nazgul plunged from the skies towards the fallen Elrohir, like cinders. Elladan knew the last arrow had been a gift, reaching for arrow after arrow, aware that the Black Gate was opening and a crimson fiery light streamed forth and amongst it was the glitter of thousands and thousands of spears.
There was a white light ahead of him and it seemed to shield Elrohir from the Nazgul and horribly, Elladan saw that how they changed their course and lifted, swooped towards himself...and Imrahil. He felt his breath tear in his throat and he thought slowly that he had not realised how much it would matter to him if Imrahil should fall. But he had no time to think for the grey horse swerved sharply and he shot arrow after arrow and the Nazgul steeds veered and lifted higher, circling. He heard the whine of arrows from Imrahil's men but he held off for a moment and breathed, not fooled. The Nazgul could wait, they knew what was coming and they would feast upon them all sooner or later.
Ahead of him, he saw the fallen Nazgul's wounded beast limping and shaking its head from side to side. But nearby its dread rider stood regardless of its mount's anguish, the thin black shroud fluttered in the wind and lifted it so it streamed behind the Nazgul like black smoke. Elladan's heart suddenly clenched for a dark shape lay unmoving before the Nazgul, whose great broadsword was in its mail-clad fist. Slowly the Nazgul raised its arms high, the light gleamed on the blade like mercury and Elladan felt a dark power slide off it. A thin high scream pinched the air, pierced his ears like blades and he cried aloud to his horse so he drowned out the scream. Suddenly the Nazgul raised itself up like a serpent about to strike and plunged its blade downwards. Elladan threw himself from his horse and lunged towards it and the dark blade slid off his own frost-bright sword. Elladan's horse half-reared behind him and squealed in fear but he paid no heed.
'You will not take him!' he shouted. 'You will not have him for your lord. And I will not serve!'
You are nothing. Go.
Suddenly he was aware of the thunder of hooves behind him and drawing close, closer, beside him. Imrahil galloped up between the Nazgul and Elladan, hefting a great lance. The Nazgul raised its mail-clad fist and a darkness curled around Imrahil. His horse snorted in fear and tossed its head but did not retreat and Imrahil suddenly hurled the lance into the Nazgul. Elladan brandished his frost-white sword, as the heavy lance thudded into the Nazgul, so it staggered, but it did not fall.
'You are not Angmar!' Elladan shouted, and the Nazgul raised itself, stood taller and taller and shrieked so the horses flattened their ears and turned and turned, but the valiant beasts did not run. 'You are not invincible!'
He brought his sword down with a mighty clang onto the Nazgul's own great blade. He whirled and swung again to find the Nazgul's empty hood close to his own face and it shrieked in his face so he felt the horror of its unearthly immortality.
He lifted his sword and plunged it into the wraith's black robes so it grated against old iron armour so he wondered, as he had once before, why it wore armour. As he whirled around, lifting his sword two handed above him, he thought where the weaknesses would be and suddenly twisted his body slightly so the blade would fall on its neck but it had stepped back itself and the Nazgul drew itself up and then suddenly crouched, screaming in his face. A rich and heavy stench of foul pestilence and rotting meat blasted him and Elladan could not help but recoil and then abruptly, inexplicably, the Nazgul fell back, stood aside and Elladan saw the dust rise up behind it.
A red-limned cloud of it. Churned up by the horses' hooves and the twitching and flapping of the Nazgul's great wounded lizard-beast. The dust turned red, a fiery glow lit the sky above the Gate as opened and the armies of Sauron poured forth. Fiery red light caught on the spears and pikes and standards of thousands and thousands of Orcs. Tens of thousands, and the ground quaked beneath their iron-shod feet. He knew the same was behind them. They were caught. There was no hope left. And then above the red glowing dust, he saw something rise...colossal, huge, beyond the imagining of any Elf. It rose, wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant. Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron. As it had seemed to his brother, it was like a colossus, a gigantic black-armoured warrior whose head was yet shrouded in clouds.
'Elladan! Fly!' Imrahil cried and Elladan turned to find Elrohir struggling to his feet, dark Aícanaro in his hand.
On the ground nearby lay the black horse Aragorn had brought from Gondor, it lifted its head and struggled but could not rise, a gaping gash in its side and thick crimson blood clotted on its glossy black coat. Elrohir was lurching to his feet and reaching out to the horse. Elladan looked down at him, held out his arm to pull him up behind him. Elrohir did not look up at first, eyes fixed on the horse which nickered to him painfully and terrified, and then he lifted his sword and with a swift and deadly blow, he ended the black horse's misery.
Elladan pulled the reins of his grey horse gently so it stepped towards him, nostrils wide and eyes and throwing its head up in fear for the Nazgul had only fallen back, not retreated and it had raised its mail-clad fist and behind it poured the armies of Sauron.
'Trust me,' he said and it stepped towards him so he swung himself astride in haste and held out his hand to his brother. With a backward glance, Elrohir bowed his head towards the dead horse and flung himself behind Elladan. Instantly the company wheeled and turned, flattened into a gallop. Shadowfax at the rear and Gandalf held aloft his white staff. A white light was around them and Elladan charged ahead, with Elrohir safe behind him and Imrahil alongside. Behind them, the roar of Orcish voices raised a battle cry and ahead of them the Men of the West prepared their last defence.
These passages are taken from ROTK "The Black Gate Opens." In some cases they have been modified slightly to better fit the altered universe created here.
The thees and thous are based on Tolkien's own use. When the Mouth uses 'you' it is in the plural sense of the word. Thanks to Anar for taking a turn at this outdated means of speaking.
annan-breitho; a moment of madness ( lit. a time of breaking)
Next chapter: The Battle of the Morannon.
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.