1. The Council of Elrond
Cognates of Heaven
Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Age, LOTR, the Silmarillions, the Unfinished Tales, and other published and un-published works of Tolkien. Also, many thanks to the essays of the Silmarillion Writer's Guild and the essay Warm Beds Are Good for giving me a better understanding of Tolkien's works.
A note to the canatics/purists among us. Respect. Not Worship.
A/N: Default female Hawke using blood magic, force magic, and arcane magic. Also, Hawke comes in diplomatic flavor with healthy sprinkles of troll!Hawke and fisticuff!Hawke.
Chapter 1: In Which Strange Things Happen in the Council of Elrond
On the first day of arrival in this new world, there was little time to make heads or tails of what was happening to Hawke and her brood of runaway apostates. There was the chaos. Expected, for one did not tear open the fabric of the universe, hop into a new one, and expect to wake up smelling the same old Antivan coffee.
The orcs, on the other hand, weren't. Ugly as the blighted creatures, yet thankfully of a far smaller kind than then strain they had in Thedas. Her brood of apostates made quick work of them, raining fireballs and blizzards and tearing open the head of the tower in which they stood as Hawke's barrier stood between them and the creature's brute force.
This was a new land, a strange land, of this she knew without doubt as she stared up at the open and unfamiliar skyscape. And the magic in this world… there was no word for it. It was everywhere, inundating almost to the point of choking with its abundance.
There was no veil here. She could feel the spirits walk the land freely. There was magic in the earth, in the air, in the water, in the very breaths they took. Even the language that oozed forth from the orc's mouth rang with innate magic.
"By the Maker, we are in the promised land!" One of her brethren screamed joyously as he ran beside her down the stairs and towards freedom. They all ran, tearing down dank stone halls and stairs, squealing like little children, spurred on by the flood of magic bursting though their bodies and the inviting sweetness of freedom… freedom at last… from the oppressive rule of the chantry and her templars, freedom from the stigma of simply being born a mage.
Then the dragons came, swooping down from a blood red sky. Then the Nazgul, though at the time Hawke knew not of them by that name. Then more orcs, armies of orcs, legions of orcs… seas… far more than her little band of apostates and their suddenly super magic can handle.
And at last and above them all, a voice within their heads introducing itself as…
… and informed them, with the inanity of Orleasian nobles discussing cheeses made from elf tears, feather boas and the weather, that they were in its home, illegally. That the name of its home was Barad Dur of Mordor, the land of Shadows, and that it would require payment from this transgression.
They put up a fight, calling up fire, ice and storms to their defense, calling forth the forbidden power of the blood in their veins, and still, at the end of the first day there was only darkness for them.
On the second day, they were clasped in chains. Freedom. So close. So sweet. So unattainable.
On the third day, Sauron, curious of their magic, opened one of them and what it found put a smile in its voice and terror in their hearts.
On the fourth day, Hawke broke free of her chains, fought Sauron almost to a standstill and was recaptured.
On the fifth day, Sauron took away the pregnant women among them.
On the sixth day, they can hear the screams.
On the seventh day, Sauron brought one back. She was no longer mage, no longer woman, no longer human.
On the eighth day, Hawke broke free again but her recapture this time was far swifter.
On the ninth, Sauron chained her on the height of Barad Dur below where its eye once was and had its chiefs of Nazgul patrol her prison. In the night, it stayed with her until she slept. From then, she could no longer count. Time passed without meaning, counted only in the nights where they, her and it, coupled violently in her mindscape. Sometimes, it showed her visions of what it was… would… create from her fellow mages. Sometimes, it sang to her in the language that it called the Black Speech and the song that only she could hear was one of storms and fire and worlds rendered undone. And sometimes, it crooned to her with the voice of a lover of wonders that they could create together if she would just…
The days after were unimportant. Hawke spent more time asleep than awake, locked in the shadows of the dark land and in battle with its dark lord… until the day she discovered a secret within Barad-dur.
There was a spy among Sauron's ranks.
A mere fly that hid in her hair before whispering his introduction. "I am called Morinehtar, the blue wizard, and I am here to help you."
The next important thing to happen was many nights after, on a day when she know the first friend she had made in this nightmarish world would die. Her signal was the explosion that rocked the foundation of Barad-dur itself. At once, she felt the iron grip of Sauron and his Nazgul slipped from her and her magic was free once more. The chains binding her to the wall of her prison disintegrated with a single thought. She dropped to the floor and lay there panting.
The realities of the world returned to her like a river bursting from a broken dam. The floor was cold, her body hard, the air putrid. She tried to stand only to fall on her face. She did the next best thing she could. She crawled on the floor, slowly, painfully, inch by inch forcing her long abandoned body to answer its master once more.
She could hear the shouts of Morinehtar the Blue somewhere down below, answered by the roars of the Nazgul. He would die, very soon, to buy her time. Hawke brought up her fist and smashed it down the floor. Her body had been rendered nearly invalid under Sauron's eye but her magic had never been stronger, not even when she stood, in her physical prime, to challenge the Arishok or Corypheus.
The ground blew up in hundreds of pieces under her fist. Some hit her hands and drew blood. Good. She licked her cracking dry lips and summoned the darkest art she had ever mastered. Her blood slid from the wounds on her hands, trickling down her fingers like red vines growing until she was lying in a pool of her own blood.
She knew almost nothing about this world. Even Morinehtar who had been with her constantly for a while now hadn't told her more than a handful of facts of this land for he himself was hiding from Sauron's eye. But here was the one fact that mattered.
The enemies of Sauron walked this land, freely, and it was to these people that she must send a plea. For help.
But what a plea it must be. It was clear from the little Morinehtar told her, these people, whoever they were, did not speak her language. And Hawke, in turn, did not speak theirs. The message she must send, then, must be of such power that it would go beyond the language barrier, just as Morinehtar and Sauron had done when they spoke into her mind itself. She must somehow ask help from these people without a word from her mouth.
Mind-speak was out of her ability, but, there was something else she could do.
She held up a small piece of rock, the very one that had come out of the floor. She squeezed it with both hands, concentrating all her magic into this delicate task. More than ever, she understood that this was the single most important thing she had ever done in her life. If she failed here, they would all bow to Sauron's will, becoming things worse than abominations. She, Marian Hawke, and her flock of runaway apostates.
Little by little, the blood pool stilled, then grew smaller as thin tendrils of blood made their way into the rock in her hands, bringing with them Hawke's memories.
A message for her people, spoken in a language that would go beyond mortal barriers. Hawke poured herself into the little rock, delicately arranging each memory. Who they were. Who she was. Why they were here, in this forsaken land, and the folly that cursed their journey.
She sent the rock flying out of Barad-dur with the last of her strength just in time to hear Morinehtar the Blue's death rending in her mind.
"Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."
Elrond rolled his fingers over the slope of his temples, trying to chase away the headache that came with every uttering of the foul thing that was called the Black Speech.
"Never before has any voice utter the words of that tongue here in Imladris." He bit out none too gently at the particular Maia who insisted on giving him the worst of headaches at times.
"I do not ask for pardon, master Elrond, for the Black Speech of Mordor may yet be heard in every corner of the West."
The worst of headaches of all times. But it seemed not even that could deter Boromir of Gondor. Before the last of the thunders summoned by the ring spell had rolled off the hills of Hilthaeglir, the Gondorian warrior had shot up from his seat once more.
"That is a gift… a gift to the foes of Mordor." He paced a circle around the stand on which Frodo Baggins had placed the One Ring, eyes dancing wildly on the faces of the council attendees. "Why not use this ring? Long has my father, the steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people, are your lands kept safe. Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy. Let us use it against him."
And before Elrond could utilize the intimidating power of his eyebrows, he had already had a situation on hand. One by one, Aragorn, followed by the son of Thranduil rose to argue against Boromir's demand. Elrond shot Gandalf a look. There. You see what you have done? Dark spells of Mordor and easy-to-rile human younglings do not constitute a peaceful council.
Across from him, Boromir pelted out words like he was hurling stones at Aragorn. "Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king." Just to make sure he got the message across, he threw in a glare to make his point.
"Aragorn is right, we cannot use it." Gandalf contributed.
"You have only one choice." Elrond rose from his seat, fully intending on steering the council back to its original purpose. "The ring must be destroyed…"
Much to Elrond's surprise. Boromir stirred in his seat.
"Such an easy thing to say…"
Eru! Was he too forced to recite the spell of the One Ring so that this Gondorian would listen? Elrond allowed himself a split second of annoyance but the second passed and he was his own master once more. He had lived far too many years to let himself be pulled into arguments with young hotheaded warriors. He let the Gondorian assume the stage, calmly waiting to listen to what he had to say.
"… I beg your pardon, master Elrond, for I bring dark tidings from Gondor. Osgiliath has fallen."
"The ruined city?"
Boromir nodded. "Osgiliath, once the capital of Gondor. Now it lies in ruins, the result of too many raids of Sauron's forces. For years, the Gondorian army has used it as an outpost for our patrols. Ogsiliath is the closest Gondor structure to the Black Gate and the land behind it."
"Well… surely an in between fort such as it must have changed hands many times. This is hardly the age of the Watchful Peace anymore."
"You are right, master Dwarf. But Osgiliath will change hands no more, for Osgiliath is gone… razed to the ground. The land where it once stood is barren. Not even insects live there. Not even grass. It is as though the life itself was sucked from the land. And the men stationed there…" A shadow passed Boromir's face and he was suddenly void of the bravado he had earlier. His shoulders drooped and he seemed smaller than he was. "Mordor has given birth to a new terror, one far more powerful than the Nazgul, and this thing… it stalked the shadows of Minas Morgul."
Boromir had the council's attention at 'Nazgul', but Elrond could see the reactions veering wildly to different directions. Glorfindel eyed him worriedly while Gloin of Dain said disbelievingly.
"Surely you jest. The Ringwraiths are Sauron's generals. What else could be above them but Sauron himself?"
"Have you ever seen a man sucked dry of his blood before, master Dwarf?"
The King under the mountain went quite.
"I have known the Nazguls to be unkillable, unliving, untiring creatures that can inflict incurable wounds. Yet even they were men once and only as dangerous as the reach of their Mordor-forged swords. But in all my years I have never seen things that could command the dead to take up the swords and fight for them. I have seen with my eyes the bodies of my kinsman forced back to the battleground against their own brothers. If it is of Sauron's power, then it is one never witnessed by Minas Tirith before…" Boromir's gaze rested heavily on Gandalf. "… or have Mandos forsaken us?"
An air of disquiet enveloped the garden where the council was held. Elrond glanced at Gandalf and saw not surprise on the wizard's face but… recognition. Interesting… and worrying. Gandalf knew something, but he had not yet breathed a word to him? Why? The Lord of Rivendell resolved to have a long word in private with the Maia the minute this council was over. For now, the son of Gondor had his full attention.
Boromir stood in the center of the council, facing him. He had his hand in his breast pocket. "The truth is, master Elrond, I have come here to ask for help…" From the corner of his eyes, Elrond saw a flash of surprise naked on the face of his chief advisor.
Proud Gondor, asking for help?
"… I have come to ask for help, and for the answer to a riddle. Orcs, trolls, and Nazguls we could fend off with our swords and our walls, but Minas Tirith has no hope of combating these black sorcery. Minas Tirith is hard pressed for allies and for counsels in these times." He paused for a second, struggling to put together words to describe an even he could barely understand. "Two years ago, something happened in Mordor. We observed it from the heights of Minas Tirith. We called it the nine days of Calamity."
"Nine days of Calamity?"
Nine? Elrond echoed in his head. A magical number. Nine Rings. Nine Nazgul. He leaned forward, curious to hear what came next.
"On the first day of Calamity, we saw the tower of Barad-dur torn into two…" Gasp broke out from various members of the council, accompanied by a few breathy 'impossible'. Barad-dur was wrought from Sauron himself. Even the might of the combined army of elves, men and dwarves in the Last Alliance couldn't tear it down three thousand years ago. Elrond held out a hand, keeping the disbelievers in check. This he had to hear. "… we could scarcely believe our eyes, yet every soldier upon the top of Minas Tirith would swear in his father and his grandfather's names that they saw a battle such as we had never seen waged within the heart of Mordor. Fire rained from the skies, followed by blizzards. The earth split itself. Lightning danced on the ground. We saw orcs by the thousands lifted up to the skies and torn to smithereens, bathing the land with their black blood."
A hint of hesitation crawled across Boromir's face and he struggled for a second. "… then we saw… we saw the eye of Sauron disappear… fizzle out… as if extinguished by a great invisible hand."
If there had been murmurs of disbelief in the mention of a battered Barad-dur, then the council was now in uproars. Elrond fought to keep the calm in the garden and the shock off his face.
"Why have we not heard of this? News of this magnitude should have spread like wild-fire." Aragorn pressed.
"… because we could scarcely believe it ourselves." Boromir defended. "We thought we had dreamed, or that the enemy had put us under their foul sorcery. We waited, petrified with uncertainty. Many of us thought the Dark Age had passed and true peace had come at last. Yet many more was certain that the enemies were nigh at our doors, lying in wait for the moment we let down our guard." His eyes grew dark. "Perhaps we still are under Sauron's sorcery."
"Perhaps you are indeed…" A quick look from Elrond stopped Galdor of the Grey Havens right there.
"Do continue, Boromir."
"Of course… of course…" Boromir murmured absentmindedly. "Well… we waited. There was a great silence on the second and third day. From the tower, we saw orc corpses litter the soil of Mordor, and the eye of Sauron still absent. The land of shadows was quiet as death. Many spoke of hope in those two days. Perhaps Sauron was really dead after all. But on the fourth day, the battle resumed, this one no smaller than the first. Silence again on the fifth day. On the sixth and seventh days, we could hear terrible screams and some could see the eye of Sauron fizzling on the ruins of Barad-dur. On the eighth day, yet another battle took place. By then, there were words among the learned folk of Minas Tirith. It was clear, they said, that what we had witnessed was the clash of two powerful forces. One was obviously Sauron, but who was the other?"
Who was the other indeed? A force powerful enough to openly contest with Sauron, powerful enough to render the physical manifestation of Sauron's military might undone. Not even the Istari could boast of such feat. Not that Elrond knew of anyway. The council waited on bated breaths for what came next. This was proving to be an eventful meeting.
"There were many speculations. Some said the Valar was finally done with waiting and had brought their heavenly wrath upon Sauron. Some said the Istari. News had trickled in from Rhovanion and Dagorlad that the Blue Wizards had built up rebellions against Sauron deep in the East. These are the most popular theories. Then… the ninth day came." Boromir's voice, usually a booming baritone, suddenly dropped to a tired mutter. "We saw the tower of Barad-dur rebuilt within a single day and the fire of Sauron's eye alit once more. And afterward, silence. We could all feel a new darkness creep the land. And we talked no more of our previous speculations for we all fear the truth."
For a few heart beats, silence reigned in the Council. A uniform expression of grimness descended on the faces of those who sat in the garden of Imladris as the depth of the situation sank in. When it passed, Boromir brought out his hand from his breast pocket and held up a velvet pouch for all to see.
"But that is not all. A year ago, this was sent to us from the Black Gate."
"You would bring an artifact of Mordor to our household? You have obviously done a fool's errand." Erestor hissed the second these words left the Gondorian's mouth. It was easy to see he was not alone in his reaction. Many in the Council shared his opinion, their expressions varying wildly from merely alarmed to downright furious. It was one thing to bring the One Ring to Imladris, the Ring at least was a known entity. Elrond, at least, knew to guard his heart and those of his households against its seduction. This dark artifact, on the other hand, was a complete unknown, and if half the things Boromir said was true, twice as dangerous.
"The very same artifact that has stayed in Minas Tirith for half a year without incidence. Yes. Yes, I would." Boromir parried, completely unfazed. "Beg your pardon, sir, but if Minas Tirith could house it for months and still standing, then you will excuse me if I thought Imladris would be fine with only a few weeks." Then he bent down in front of the stand where they put the One Ring and with a swift move, released the bind on the velvet pouch. Out rolled a black thing.
A small rock the size of a toe. A pebble of ebony. As dark and uncouth as the most ordinary mine coal with only a few streaks of red to signify the possibility that it was, indeed, not a thing to be thrown away with nary a thought. It was laughable, almost offensive, to see such a thing put beside the One Ring. Yet even when Elrond contemplated this, he felt a pull, tiny, almost insignificant but a pull nonetheless, on his mind. His ring, Vilya, warmed around his finger in acknowledgement of its magical brethren.
It was then that a strange thing happened.
There was silence in the garden, and not the kind that came with tense anticipation or thoughtfulness either but something else, something… unnatural. With a building sense of unease, Elrond noted the suddenly glazed expressions on the Council member's faces. Distantly, he heard Boromir drone on.
"It was brought to us by orcs of all things. I saw with my very own eyes, a band of orcs running straight for the gates of Minas Tirith, leaving a trail of black blood behind them. We shot them down from the tower, but… alas… here is a riddle. Once we examined their corpses, we realized they had long been dead by the time they reached our fair city…"
"You should… pick it up, Gandalf." Frodo Baggins of the Shire suddenly cut in, interrupting Boromir in the middle of his babbling. Elrond blinked, for a second not believing he'd heard correctly. He had not thought the Hobbits lacking an acceptable amount of rational thinking. Then he noticed the dazed look on the young Hobbit's face. Anxiety spiked for a second time in his chest. The wizard was sure to put aside the Hobbit's urging but it was quickly becoming apparent that the One Ring wasn't alone in its power of seduction. He made to put a stop to this collective madness but before he could so much as open his mouth, something impossible happened.
Gandalf stirred where he sat, his gaze intent on … not the Ring… but the black stone from Mordor. "Yes… It obviously bears a message from its maker. And I should…" Before Elrond's incredulous eyes, he rose with speed unexpected for his age and made to pick up the rock of Mordor.
If there were doubts in Elrond's mind of the rock's black sorcery, they were all gone in an instant. He jumped from his seat. "Gandalf!" His hands shot out, the left one seizing Gandalf's hand before it could reach its destination, the right striking the stone, fully intending on knocking it off the stand and away from the bewitched wizard.
Pain flared from his hand where he made contact with the black rock, bone deep and burning from his ring finger. Elrond had only seconds to realize he'd made a terrible mistake. The pain from his hand deepened, blooming white flowers in his vision. In the next second, three things happened at once.
With a keening whine, Vilya flew off his finger, unable to bear the full brunt of a magical attack of such magnitude.
He heard a cry from his chief advisor, Erestor, and dimly realized that whatever hold the black rock had on the council was gone.
A white light pierced his mental barrier, flooding his mind with foreign images.
A land with blood red skies. A burning tower. A woman stood in front of the fire, a blonde man next to her. The dancing flame casted shadows and light in stark contrast on their entwined hands. The image passed, replaced by a different one. The same woman leading a group of humans. They ran, through deep forest and high mountains, chased by other men in armors. No, not human, sorcerers. Elrond corrected as the images warped in his mind, showing men and women performing deeds he had thought only performed by the Valar. The earth moved for them. Fire and ice bent to their will. The trees trembled and danced to their tunes. And more… much more as one by one the images showed him an alien magic he had not thought possible.
He was wrong, he realized, for the things these humans could do was nothing at all like the Valar. Whereas the magic of Valinor was a gentle and patient hand guiding them to the right direction, theirs was a thing of total utilitarian. There was no beauty in this alien magic, no elegance. This was a magic that asked total obedience and brooked no defiance from its subjects. A tyranny of all things magical, it obeyed no rules of nature.
Elrond's heart chilled at the thought. It was no wonder then, that even Vilya, the strongest of the three, was forced to kneel before this foreign tyrant.
More images came, locking Elrond's mind in temporary limbo. Distantly he could hear the panic rising in his Council but as long as this magic had hold of him, there was nothing he could do.
He saw the woman again, saw her blue gray eyes lock into his as she led her people onward, running from their ever-present armored pursuers. He could see their goal, a mirror abandoned in a nameless wasteland deep in a nameless black wood.
Eluvian. A voice whispered in his head.
He saw the woman and her flock of wizards circling the mirror, twittering in their alien languages. There was hope in their faces, but also fear. They knew the mirror was their hope, but it could also be their doom. A ritual, interrupted. Enchantations cut in the middle. The armored pursuers had caught up to their quarry at last.
Elrond watched the fight that ensued, then the subsequent plummet. The woman erected a barrier around the mirror and pushed her flock through one by one. The blond man stood guard before the barrier until the last moment.
If the very first image that was forced into his mind had not convinced him, then here was the moment that wiped out all doubt. The gaze that transpired between them burned with an intensity that only existed in life-long lovers. There were no tears shed, nor words exchanged. The woman jumped through the mirror and left the man behind where he fought to protect his lady to the death.
Elrond had little time, and little incentive, to feel pity for them because the very next sequence of images opened up with a burning Mordor. The images were in chaos now, as though the mind behind them was forced under duress or was not sure of the events themselves. He witnessed the fights that came to be called 'The Nine Days' by Gondorians in jumbles of flashes and pictures. Lights and shadows danced in his vision and coalesced into the terror he knew as the one Dark Lord of Middle Earth…
… then they stopped, as suddenly as they had come. He found himself lying face down on the cold floor of his own garden.
The real world, no longer held back by magic, exploded around him. While Elrond spent hours in a world of lights and shadows, only a few seconds had passed in the real world.
"My lord…" He was helped up by a shaking Erestor, whose face was pale and bloodless. His hand was bleeding and there was a ring of burned skin where Vilya once sat. He followed the trail of blood to the black rock. His ring was harder to find and it took him a few minutes to discover it under a pot of lilies. It was warm to his touch when he picked it up. Little tendrils of smoke clung to it.
"It is diminished." Glorfindel observed. Two lifetimes and a Balrog slain, and he could not keep the shock off his voice. Elrond nodded wordlessly. One of the Elven three and it took only seconds of contact with a mere rock to weaken it. If that was not worthy testament to the power of this new… race of man, these magi… then he could find no others. He allowed himself a few seconds in quiet rumination before turning back to the waiting faces of his Council… only to find himself looking at Gandalf bending down to pick up the accursed rock of Mordor.
"Mithrandir!" In his anger and shock, he reverted back to Sindarin. Was one time a fool not enough? Or was the wizard still under the hold of foul magic? Was Elrond forced to give him a good kick in his backyard as he sometimes did to his rascal sons to knock him off this foolishness? But much to his surprise, Gandalf looked him in the eyes, and he could find no trace of either senility or magical possession there.
"Peace, Elrond." The wizard held out his hands in a placating gesture, showing the rock lying harmlessly in his palm. "It was intended to be used one time only. It has lost much of its power now."
Elrond's earlier suspicion came back full force at the wizard's statement. Gandalf knew something, and what he knew he had decided not to share with Elrond. Not until now. Elrond had a million questions in his head that he wanted to throw at the wizard, but he had more tact than that. This was neither the place nor time and discussing unknown magic out in the open was bound to be folly no matter how serious the cause was.
Yet, it seemed, however, that not all of his Council held this tact.
"You know of it, Gandalf?" A certain Hobbit had voiced his question before Elrond could call an end to the meeting. Well, at least he would get some answer now. Gandalf would not hide from this one hobbit.
"I… I wouldn't call it know. But I have heard of its maker. Yes." The wizard addressed the whole of the Council with his eyes. "It is wrought of blood and despair."
"You should never have brought it here." Said Erestor to Boromir, who cringed under the elf's glare.
"Boromir is not to blame, Erestor." The wizard admonished gently. "This is magic in its most primal and powerful form. Its maker ensured that whoever had hold of it would deliver it to the hands of a Maia. I daresay not even the mightiest of elf lords could ignore its invocation."
Gandalf's gaze was on him now. "It is called a shard of memory and is meant for a full-blooded Maia. Not even the eldest elf-born descendant of Melian could bear the full brunt of its message. You put yourself in harm needlessly Elrond."
Elf-born descendant of Melian. A fine-way to say half-blooded Maia. But half-blooded or no, Elrond had a bit more pride than to allow himself to be dressed down by Gandalf of all people in front of his own Council.
"Pick up your ring, Frodo. We end today. This meeting will continue tomorrow." He announced succinctly in a voice that allowed no arguments, then left Erestor tending to the other Council members. He headed straight for the gray wizard, eyes fully voicing what he did not say aloud.
You, me, and your secrets Gandalf. Now.
End chapter one.
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