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The Last Journey; Chapter 41: Many Shades of Evil

Story Info

Title: The Last Journey
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Fourth Age of the Sun
Genre: AU, Action/Adventure
Rating: M / FRM
Main characters: Aragorn, Celeborn, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, Éomer, Erestor, Faramir, Gandalf, Gimli, Glorfindel, Haldir, Legolas, Meriadoc, Nazgûl, Pippin, Thranduil (, OCs).
Pairings: Legolas/OMC (brief Aragorn/Arwen, Éowyn/Faramir)
Summary: After many peaceful years that have followed the war against Sauron, everything changes. Evil returns, striking without warning, and it is stronger than ever before. It is time for the final fight, but who shall achieve victory?
Work in Process.
Warnings: Characters’ death (major, OC), violence, torture, slash, mild sexual content (het and slash), plenty of evil, etc.

~ ~ ~

Chapter 41: Many Shades of Evil

The shadows kept stretching uncomfortably close to Legolas. What unsettled him more, though, was that he was not as bothered by them as he should have been. It was as if he had gotten so used to their presence that he no longer got alarmed by their proximity.

Two nights had passed since they had left Anduin behind. The Sun was about to start its journey through the sky; he could sense it, but the dark army kept on going. He knew why, though: they had crossed over to Mordor, and it seemed that the Sun had no power here.

Legolas’ eyes kept following Annatar, his mind still undecided on if he believed her claimed heritage or not. She had power, there was no denying that. A daughter of Sauron, though… He could not help but wonder who her mother must be, then.

He hoped for Gandalf’s counsel on this problem. The Maiar would no doubt have something to say.

To be honest, Legolas would have liked to see any one of his friends. Most of all, though, he found himself craving for Rafél’s presence; ever since he had deemed it was safe, he had tried to reach out for his Guardian. He had failed in each attempt, but refused to think of the worst. Rafél was safe and alive somewhere, no doubt worried of Legolas’ fate to no end. That did not humour him like it usually would have, since Legolas knew his situation was grave indeed. Every time he reached out and tried to imagine there was still hope left for him, the shadows came crushing down on him, leaving him shuddering and cold to the bone.

His spirit was low, and with each step that his horse took deeper into Mordor, it felt as if one more thread of hope was taken away from him.

The day went on. Black clouds covered the sky, unmoved by the wind. Occasionally a small ray of light would fight its way through them, and Legolas turned his face towards them each time, yet even in his small delight he could not fail to notice how cold the touch of the Sun was. And each time he turned his face back down, dispirited, he could feel the gaze of the Dark one riding beside him. He was quite certain the other did not smile at his failures to lift his mood, but the eyes within the shadows of his hood kept a rapt attention on him. Legolas hoped he would grow tired of looking at him eventually.

They stopped in the afternoon. Orcs were whining, as usual, but that was what they always did, whatever the situation. Legolas ignored them and the rest of the army to the best of his ability, trying to find a place to sit in peace. Everywhere around them spread a rocky, desolate terrain; nothing lived there. The few birds he had seen floating in the air above them never lingered. There was no grass or plants; not even a dead tree to give him hope that perhaps once something had lived here.

The Elf found himself a rock to sit on, his senses alert as he once again went through his situation. He was bound, vigilantly watched, and far from a friendly face. Yes, he might manage to slip away, but the ever watchful Dark Riders and the hooded man on his side made his hopes of escape fade into nothing.

“Do not brood so darkly,” the hooded figure came closer. He offered Legolas a water skin, but the Elf merely turned his head to the side, declining. The other took a sip from it before putting it aside. The dark eyes scanned the land around them and Legolas tried to keep his own from following. “Such wasteland…” the dark one said at length, and Legolas knew that only his ears caught the words.

The Elf frowned, looking around. Certainly he would have preferred any other place to this, but… “It could still be revived,” he said tentatively. He buried the tips of his boots into the loose soil. Nothing but more dead earth came into his view. Years of darkness and evil had done their task, but Legolas knew that given the right amount of time… “Maybe one day,” he finished.

“Perhaps,” the Dark man said, though it did not sound as if he was agreeing – not that it was a surprise.

They remained silent after that.

- - -

Legolas had never had the pleasure of seeing the great fortress of Barad-dûr up close, and truth to be told, he would have preferred it to stay that way.

The army had taken a winding road to their destination, but once they had passed recently-built black gates and crossed open, rocky plateau, it was clear where they were headed. Legolas could still recall the moment when the terrible fortress of the Dark Lord collapsed to the ground. It had been a pleasing sight in all its destruction. Now, though, he could see thousands of Dark servants buzzing and working around something that still looked like a piece of a disfigured structure, but which he could identify.

They were about to re-build Barad-dûr.

As they crossed the distance to the currently disorderly construction of rock and steel, Legolas could feel the dread growing in the pit of his stomach. His heart clenched in agony, but he fought to not let go of the hope. Not yet.

The ground beneath the hooves of their horses was rough, and every now and then they passed a decaying body of a Man or an Orc – or some other heinous beast Legolas could not recognise. He tried to avoid looking at the display of darkness, death, and gore that surrounded him. The sky rumbled above them, though he could not smell rain or a storm; just smoke and something he had from his very youth thought of as ‘evil’.

Bit by bit the army he had been travelling with broke apart, moving to various directions. For a moment Legolas was hopeful that it would be the case with him as well, but apparently that was not about to happen. The dark hooded man beside him guided his own horse alongside Legolas’, following the Nazgûl and Annatar towards the fortress. The dark servants bowed before the woman, stepping aside to make way. Legolas expected taunts to be thrown into his direction, but none came. It left him stunned, but he did not provoke the situation.

They only dismounted at the root of the rise created by black stone. It looked like some of Sauron’s old fortress had survived; its very foundations deep in the earth. It still beheld the stink of old evil and Legolas felt his stomach twisting at the nearness of it. He withstood it, though; the longer he stood there in the shadow of a tower that was still far from finished, the more at ease he felt. That made him suspicious – and afraid.

His unease was noticed by his hooded escort, who merely responded with an icy, secretive smile; thin lips could faintly be seen from the shadow of his hood. Legolas blinked at that, then turned his gaze aside. The other was no doubt enjoying his discomfort. Maybe he even had something to do with the lack of discomfort, which unnerved the Sindar more than feeling ill would have. He did not dismiss the absurd possibility, since Legolas knew that the strange man had been interfering with his life lately – not to mention trying to get him burned alive, or forcing him to look into the palantír. In his heart, Legolas knew this was the one responsible for all that.

He was so distracted by his thoughts that he almost failed to notice that Annatar had moved on. The Nine had already disappeared somewhere – not that he mourned their lack of presence. Legolas hoped they were parting ways now, but as if reading his mind, the hooded man took his arm into a solid hold and began to guide him after the female. Their destination was soon clear to the Elf, and with all his might he tried to pull back.

The grip on his bound arms tightened, but an Elf, however restrained, is always a considerable adversary. Legolas had been a warrior most his life, raised to believe that giving up was the last of all failures; it should never come first. Digging his feet to the ground like a stubborn mule, body tense and rigid, he made it clear he would not enter the darkness of the Dark Lord’s lair, however broken and in ruins it was after His downfall.

“There is no use to be stubborn,” the hooded man said into his ear. He was still managing to keep his cool by the sound of it, and his hold on Legolas was strong. “Either you follow on your free will –”

“Never!” Legolas stated clearly.

“Or I will make you,” the other finished, his voice still cool and almost passive. He did not sound overly concerned, as if he was convinced he would have his way.

Legolas thought of some kind of reply, but decided he had said all he needed to. Now all he had to do was get free… The Dark one met his movement when Legolas tried to push to the side, moving along rather than trying to pull back. One arm reached across his chest, yanking him more onto the side with strength that almost made Legolas lose his footing. His bound hands were no help, so he tried moving lower. For a moment he thought he had the other caught by surprise since he could only feel the one hand on his chest, but then the other appeared onto his face, palm pressing over his eyes.

“Shh,” the Dark one crooned, as if to calm him.

Legolas pulled, struggled, and pushed, but each passing second with his vision cut off he could feel his body succumbing to the other’s will. It was as if the darkness crawled a little closer, the light shut away from him. What annoyed and terrified him even more was that he had no control over it! And in the end Legolas just did not care. He felt numb. He did not know why, but it no longer mattered, and the warm, tired feeling in his body took the fight out of him.

“Good boy,” the hooded man said in the end, sounding pleased. “Now come. There is someone waiting to meet you, and it is important you are aware of it.”

Legolas blinked and frowned while the other pulled him upright and guided him into the dark building of collapsed stone before them. They headed down, a broken staircase taking them deeper into the darkness, leading down into the depths of the earth. There were only few torches on the walls, placed far away from each other. Had Legolas not been led firmly down the steps, he was certain he would have stumbled: his inner light was weak and his sight offered him no help in this darkness that seemed unnatural. He could feel something crawling up and down his back, like invisible touch of spidery fingers.

They came into a wide hall supported by huge pillars made of stone. Most of the huge space seemed like it had been carved right out of the mountain, which probably had ensured its survival through the destruction of the tower above. Somehow, it reminded Legolas of Moria – which at the moment was not a welcoming thought. He knew nothing was there, but it did not take the sensation away.

Annatar was waiting for them, her form illuminated by several torches set onto the surrounding pillars. It seemed the light did not quite reach her, but rather left a layer of darkness between them, as if too afraid to touch her. Or then it was her inner darkness, pushing the dancing light away. Legolas tried to avoid looking directly at her, convinced he would do better without.

“It is time,” Annatar said. “I hope you understand, Elf, that this is a great honour for you to fulfil.”

Legolas tried to push his mind to work. He still felt a little frozen inside, and he had no idea what the woman was talking about. He was not certain if he wanted to know, either. Over his shoulder, Annatar’s and the hooded man’s eyes met. He did not have to turn to look; he could feel their minds clashing, planning, and agreeing; right there but still out of his reach. Legolas did not dare to try and spy their plans, either, because this deep into Mordor he could not afford to fall into the dark.

“Long I have worked to gather my father’s strength,” Annatar went on, turning away from them and walking deeper into the darkness. Legolas could hear something being moved. “You and your allies made it difficult for me to succeed, but in the end I managed to great extent.”

Legolas was not certain if he understood what she meant, but kept silent. He was quite certain it all would be explained to him in time – which seemed to arrive sooner rather than later.

In the darkness she turned, and something glimmered darkly in her hands – though Legolas was quite certain dark things did not glimmer in any way. Once she came closer, he could make out a delicate chain, attached to something that looked like a small round stone. Frowning, the Elf waited, hearing her clothes rustle softly as she moved, her feet creating a shuffle against the floor. It was as if Annatar’s step was heavy all of a sudden

The necklace caught Legolas’ attention once it came closer to him. He had a natural disdain towards anything dark creatures had ever created, but in the case of this very piece of jewellery, he knew it was not just that. The closer to him it came, the clearer was the intense, dark malice within it. Inside the stone he could see swirling, like dark smoke. It looked restless to him; captured and desiring release.

Annatar walked to him, pointedly choosing a direct path. There was no mistake what she was about to do, and Legolas jolted back, not wanting to be any closer to that object of Dark than he already was. The hooded man’s hands tightened around his arms, preventing his attempted escape.

“Upon your shoulders you shall carry my father’s might and power. Do not disappoint us, Elf. Be as strong and fierce as the family whose name you bear, and you will… survive.” The way she said it, with the ever-present dark flame in her eyes, Annatar did not manage to convince Legolas of the fact that he would outlive this ordeal.

With the last of his strength, Legolas moved back, fighting against the hold of his single captor, cursing his own weakness and the hidden strength of the other. It was not the first time that his mind fluttered over the nervous question: who and what was the man holding him, who so easily stripped away his defences and managed to bring him under his control? Legolas was a Prince, grown to resist darkness and evil, but this stranger did not care about that.

“Do not fear, little one,” the dark man said, one of his hands fisting Legolas’ hair and keeping his head still.

For a moment Legolas’ thoughts faltered. Why am I afraid? Calmness washed through him, colliding with the dread and growing fear he had previously experienced. The two totally different emotions left him confused, which gave Annatar enough time to slip the chain around his neck. A second later Legolas felt something burn his skin, but it was not what left him paralyzed; the very moment the necklace touched his skin and the stone settled upon his chest, a radiating burn spread all over him. He could not breathe, or think, and his heart seemed ready to burst from the amount of blood that surged through it. His fëa twisted and shook in agony. As a familiar undertone, the old scars made by the Balrog ached on his back.

Legolas smelled blood when Annatar drew back from him, his eyes finding her bleeding hand. The skin of her palm looked burned for an instant before it began to heal with rapid speed. A whiff of his own blood reached Legolas’ nose right after, and he could feel it running down the back of his neck, but he knew it would heal – even if not as fast as the dark woman’s was. The metal of the chain around his neck was hot against his skin, and he could only guess that she had somehow sealed the two ends together.

Taking a heaving breath, she took a step away from him, almost stumbling. A moment passed, and the burn in Legolas’ body began to fade slightly, leaving him hopeful that maybe whatever she had done was over.

A small breath later it all began anew, though this time the pain and darkness burrowed deeper. And as surely as he had felt the Dark Lord’s presence the day in front of the Black Gates, as surely he felt him now, though so much closer and deeper that it rendered him numb. Legolas blinked, gasped, and the hooded man let him go as he sank to his knees on the stone floor. Shaking his head, the Elf gasped in pain, refusing to cry out in pain in front of his enemies but being very close to doing so.

Broken passages of some ancient language filled his head, and he was certain that if he tried to look, he would see the burning eye looming in front of him. The stone felt cold and heavy against the bottom of his throat, and desperately Legolas tried to hold onto the memory of the sweet burn the bird jewel he and Gimli carried used to cause there. He had no recollection of what had become of that necklace, but he was convinced his enemies could answer that…

The pressure in his head increased. Legolas knew he was going to break, no matter what; the searing pain was everywhere, and the will of the other was too strong. As the final act of desperation, Legolas tried to shove aside the being he knew was far mightier than he or his family could ever be. His body shook as if he was physically fighting the entity invading his mind.

“It is pointless to resist, Elf,” the voice hissed at him, silent yet booming. It reminded him of the voices of the Nazgûl.

“I will not…” Legolas replied between clenched teeth. He opened his eyes to get rid of the darkness that was filling everything around him; perhaps regaining his sight would make him remember there was something outside the vicious struggle in his mind and body.

The torches on the walls were almost extinguished. They flared and moved as if there was a wind blowing, even if the air was stiflingly still. Annatar must have moved further from him after his struggle began as she was now leaning against one of the stone pillars for support. Her eyes remained on Legolas, though the Elf was not certain if they actually saw anything.

Once their eyes met, Legolas felt the final plunge against his mind. Vaguely he could feel a hand on the back of his head, as if supporting him. The touch of fingers seeped through his skull into his mind, a cool soothing breeze where everything was overcome by burning pain. Legolas could not focus on either of them, especially when he again heard the dark, deep voice chanting words he could not and had no desire to understand. A presence pressed against and into his own; he could feel Sauron as if they were one.

“It is done. My father’s power is now bound to you, Firstborn,” Annatar said in a hushed, strained voice.

Legolas blinked, his vision darkening with each moment, sending him deeper into the abyss that was now his mind. His fëa drew back in defeat, whimpering in pain, and for a moment Legolas felt like drowning into the darkness before his consciousness failed.

- - -

Legolas woke up expecting pain and flames, but it was surprisingly calm. He blinked, and though he felt the stone heavy against the nape of his neck, it seemed the former Dark Lord was done torturing him for a moment. ‘Former’ is no longer the word to describe him, Legolas mused, and immediately felt a brush against his thoughts. Oh yes, Sauron was awake and listening.

Carefully Legolas tested his body, curling his fingers and toes. He still had power over them, which was a relief, of course. Perhaps Sauron was not that strong after all…

A steady, cool breeze washed over him, inside and out, and in amazement he realized that for a moment at least, he was alone again. He could tell the difference, though he was not sure how exactly. It just felt like a weight had been removed from his thoughts and his mind wandered free.

“He is an intruder in your body,” came a voice from beside him, and Legolas moved his head, amazed that he had not noticed the man in the room. He no longer wore the hood, and even in the dimness of the room, Legolas could see the fair features, keen eyes, and… The dark man smiled. “Do not look so shocked, little Prince.”

Legolas sat up a little, completely ignoring his surroundings as he for the first time took in the looks of his long-time enemy. “Who are you?” he asked at length.

“As I have told you, that really does not matter,” the stranger went on.

Legolas frowned, though he tried not to make his confusion obvious.

The other actually laughed, his tone not as light as any of Legolas’ kinsmen’s, but there was an eerie, familiar sound into it he had not marked before. And now that he had seen the dark one’s face… There was no question about it: a creature so fair could only be an Elf. It answered many of Legolas’ questions as well; the other was strong and fast. Since he was an Eldar, it finally made sense.

“What are you?” the Sindar amended his question.

Again, he was rewarded with a smile. “So many questions. And as I have told you before: in due time you will know all. But as for now, I will tell you what you need to know to survive the upcoming events,” the Dark one stated, then narrowed his dark eyes. They were such a rich shade of brown that Legolas had always mistaken them for black. Even now they seemed to darken, and Legolas could feel the other’s power shift against him. A cool touch entered his mind, pushing Sauron’s presence further away. This amazed Legolas, but for now he held onto his reactions, unwilling to give away anything. “There,” the other stated, apparently satisfied with his actions. Light from a candle placed onto the far side of the room caught the icy pale hair of the other; it was flawless and beautiful like any Elf’s Legolas had met in his life, but on this particular Elf it seemed to shrink in comparison to his inner darkness.

“You wish to know my name,” the other went on, leaning back in his chair. “You were eager to know that when you were younger, but I think you realized back then that having a name for someone means nothing compared to real knowledge.”

“I have met you before,” Legolas repeated the obvious, trying to remember. There was something on the back of his mind, but he did not dare to try and dig it up, or else he might attract Sauron’s attention, and since the other had pushed the Dark Lord aside, he had no desire to test that hold. After all, it could be that what he thought was there was not what he was looking for…

“You do not remember yet, but you will. Your mind is a labyrinth of information, full of hidden doors you were not meant to find too early.”

“But now is the hour for that?” the Sindar questioned.

“Almost,” the Dark Elf replied. “Our first priority is Annatar’s plan, though.”

“Ours?” Legolas had to ask. “I cannot believe our goals or intentions are in any way alike.”

“You would be surprised,” the Dark one noted. “Besides, I am the only thing between you and the Dark Lord taking completely over your body and soul.” That rendered Legolas silent. Maybe the other was lying – perhaps not. So, instead of arguing, he sat silent on the crudely made bed. The other Elf – even if Legolas had trouble calling him that – nodded, accepting his silence as an encouragement to go on. “Annatar has worked years to gather his father’s strength together. The destruction of the Ring did great damage to Sauron, but being of same blood, she managed in her task.”

“So you really think she is Sauron’s heir?” Legolas voiced his suspicion.

“I know as much,” the other went on, dismissing him. “Her own power, though not as fierce as her sire’s, was enough to raise the Dark army and piece together Sauron’s strength. That stone around your neck is, ironically, a piece of a Palantír; the one that resided in Barad-dûr and broke apart with it. She has used much of her own strength to keep Sauron’s existence together, and that is why she was so exhausted after placing it all upon you. And even now, she is still tied to it.”

Legolas wondered if he was supposed to understand something in the other’s words. It sounded as if the other Elf was almost pleased with the situation. It made no sense. “Why do you tell me this?”

Again, there was a shift in his mind, and the Dark Elf leaned closer. “Because it is your mission to destroy them both. Your friends cannot help you now; Sauron is bound to you and your life. But you…” He left it hanging as he leaned back.

The Sindar blinked, honestly taken aback. “You were planning Sauron’s demise all along?” And for a briefest moment he had a blurry flash of himself and this same stranger standing in the forest, the shadow of Dol Guldur resting heavily upon them. He could not recall words, but he remembered the other’s obvious disdain towards the one who lingered in the dark fortress… Looking at the other, he tried to piece this information together with everything else. “I have met you before. I know I have. I just cannot remember it.”

Legolas halted for a moment to think about it. The other had pushed Sauron aside inside him without effort. He was a servant of Dark who had power, and still Legolas felt like he knew him. And now that the other had admitted it, he was positive they had indeed crossed paths in the past as well. Perhaps the other had some sort of hold over his mind and had made him forget. That conclusion unsettled him, but with his current situation, it was not much to be said.

“Twice I have shown myself to you in the past. Twice I have made you forget about it. Do not feel defeated by that, though: you have never been prepared to face me, then or now.”

Legolas was not certain if he was supposed to be insulted by that. He was a warrior born and bred, and did not like to hear he was not able to take care of himself, or protect his own life and mind. “And why go through all this trouble over the years?” he asked defensively. He needed something to grasp and gain ground with, because he felt as though he was losing. He had no knowledge of the things taking place around him, and for all he knew, his life was now bound to their greatest enemy’s – if he could believe this Dark Elf. At this point, it seemed the other was telling him nothing but the truth, which in itself was unnerving.

“It is not the time for you to know, yet,” the other noted, standing up.

Legolas knew he was about to leave and he knew he had to act quickly if he wanted to gain even a small piece of information from the other. “Who are you? Whom do you serve?” He guessed the other would not answer, but to his surprise the other halted in the middle of drawing the hood onto his head and turned back.

“They call me Daroth, and I serve the Dark Lord.”

Legolas frowned. It made no sense. “But you just said –”

“I serve the Dark Lord. The one Manwë named the Black Foe of the World.” And with that the other turned and left, the sound of a bolt being slid into place on the other side of the door echoing in the silence. The candle flared on the opposite wall, shaken by the draught. Legolas merely stared into the shadows, mind temporarily frozen. Then, while he tried to wrap his head around it and failed, he could feel pain increasing in his head.

Slowly and steadily Sauron awoke, furious for being cast aside in such a manner. Legolas emptied his thoughts, knowing he could not stop the other from taking over, but he could still harbour this new information so deep within himself that the Dark Lord could not find it.

For now, he was not certain if he was supposed to be more frightened by the fact that evil was within him, or by Daroth’s words and confession of whom he supposedly served. After all, the Dark Elf had not lied to him before as far as he could tell.

to be continued…

Story Info