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.
Author’s Note: If you have ignored certain parts of the story’s warnings, let me say this much: in this chapter, there shall be a major character death. Do not kill me for it. Read if you dare.
“)…(” = Sindarin
They descended down chipped, broken stone steps. Each took them closer to the swarming masses of the Dark army, and Legolas could not stop the nervous twinge in his stomach. Their darkness did not touch him – or then it was nothing compared to the darkness now harboured within him, slithering across his mind.
Daroth had a hold of his arm, either to prevent him from slipping and falling, or from attempting some kind of escape. Not that there was anywhere to go. When they finally stepped to even ground, the stone and ash unpleasant against Legolas’ bare feet, the other still maintained his hold.
The Orcs and Men parted before them, yet an excited roar filled the air, welcoming Annatar. Legolas could feel Sauron’s distaste at this, but the Dark Lord waited, content so far; he was not willing to share his power, but perhaps Annatar being his flesh and blood…
Legolas had no desire to dwell on those thoughts, and there was no need to: just a moment later Legolas felt Rafél’s presence like a beacon he could not see, but knew it waited somewhere in this darkness. Closer and closer they went, and although Legolas knew that being caught was a great failure on their part, he could not deny that he was looking forward to meeting his friends again.
Just as they were about to stop, Legolas’ eyes spotting a familiar group of faces, Daroth slid his hand off Legolas’ arm while his other one thrust something between the Elf’s fingers. Legolas did not move or indicate his shock, but he could feel the familiar edges of the little jewel bird.
“For hope,” Daroth muttered, then moved back, apparently not planning to meet the prisoners.
Legolas looked after him until he was pushed forward by an Orc tailing him, and his sharp blue eyes turned to meet those of his friends. He wished they had not come, but maybe there was still hope…
He tightened his grip around the jewel and waited since there was nothing else for him to do; Sauron was already pushing to the surface, and all Legolas could do was fight to stay in control – which he knew to be a losing battle.
Gimli looked around as they were escorted closer to the broken remnants of Barad-dûr. The Dark creatures swarming around them cast suspicious glances at their direction, but it was no different from the loathsome stares that the Elves gave them in return. Right this moment, Gimli felt proud to be walking in such company; they were not scurrying in fear, but brave even when facing an enemy much more powerful than themselves.
“Do not look so smug, Master Dwarf,” Haldir warned him. “We are in a tight situation here.”
“Then we should make the best of it,” Gimli retorted.
A cold smile twisted the otherwise emotionless face of the Galadhrim, and Gimli felt that they had come a long way since they first met on the border of Lothlórien.
They were ordered to stop, and since none of them had any desire to be any closer to Barad-dûr than they had to, there were no disagreements. The continuous clang of metal against metal went on around them, restless pacing of the Orcs making it hard to say how many there were. Then suddenly the masses parted, and a small company came towards them. An evil so deep approached that even Gimli could feel it, all the way to his bones. Beside him he could feel Haldir flinch, and he briefly grasped the Elf’s arm, making him look down in shock.
“Easy, lad. We have to be strong,” Gimli needlessly told him.
Annoyance disappeared from Haldir’s noble features as he nodded and then looked up again, standing tall beside the Dwarf. Gimli shifted his feet further apart, preparing himself, letting go of the Elf. He may have handed his weapons to his enemies, but if there was a fight to be had…
Suddenly he felt warmth like the spring rays of the Sun upon his chest, and he gazed down in wonderment. In the darkness of Mordor the bird jewel shone like a lost star when he revealed it. Gimli looked up with a shocked gasp, and true enough, amidst the group that had just stopped before them stood his friend, his pale fingers clutching onto his own necklace with pained desperation.
“Legolas,” Gimli whispered. He could barely recognise his friend! He looked sick and tired, even worse than when the Balrog had wounded him. Robed in black, his eyes shadowed with exhaustion, he was a mere ghost of himself. Yet in his grasp the little stone bird shone.
The Elves around him shifted, and Gimli knew they were prepared to fight each of these Orcs and foul beasts if that meant getting their Prince back. Gandalf stood before them, but his attention was on Rafél, as if waiting for his sign.
“Defiant to the end, I see, Mithrandir,” spoke one of the arrivals, and it was not a rough voice of some Dark servant, but that of a woman. Gimli frowned, and looked upon her, feeling the darkness she carried. She let out a chuckle, but suddenly stopped and her eyes fell upon the shining jewel upon Gimli’s chest. Her dark gaze moved onto Legolas, and she ripped the necklace from his hands. “A worthless trinket!” she snapped, throwing it away. Aragorn barely caught it before it hit the stones, and handed it over to Gimli before directing his eyes to the woman once again.
She was seething, looking at her companions, but then seemed to forget about the incident and turned back to them. “Welcome to Mordor, great commanders of the West. I see few of you are missing, but I assure you: they shall meet me soon enough. As for you…” She looked at them, one after another. Merry and Pippin shrunk away beneath her stare, and that seemed to please her immensely. “Ah, the great Halflings that brought down the Dark Lord,” she stated with venom in her words. “With cowardice they carried out their mission, I believe.”
“Careful,” Gandalf muttered, “or you shall meet the end same as He.”
She laughed. “Do you not know who I am, Mithrandir? I think you do; why else would they have bothered to send you back over the sea that protects the sacred lands of the Elves?” Once again she looked upon them, her dark eyes stopping as they returned to Gandalf’s. “It seems you have left your friends uninformed. Do you not trust them? So much for the divine bond between Istari and the lesser races.”
Gimli sputtered and gripped at air where his axe usually would have been. A hand stopped him from moving, and he looked up at Haldir whose face was tense yet surprisingly calm. Gimli knew the Elf’s temper was tested such as his, but the Eldar were blessed with patience greater than his. Either way, he waited.
“Let there be no secrets between us,” the woman went on. “I am Annatar, daughter of Sauron, and very soon you shall feel my father’s wrath first hand.”
The look of dismay that passed the crowd was almost identical. Gandalf was the only one who seemed that this was no news to him – and Rafél; Gimli wondered if the Guardian had heard anything at all because he just kept his eyes fixed on the ground at his feet, his face impassive.
“Is this some jest?” Asthaldo muttered.
“I fear she is being quite honest with us,” Gandalf spoke at last.
Annatar’s face was smug.
“What have you done with Prince Legolas?” Shannai demanded loudly, uncaring of the looks cast his way. The Elf was standing with restlessness written all over his face, and Gimli silently applauded to his impatience; he also wanted to hear an answer to that question.
“Ah, your friend here as proven himself most valuable,” Annatar smiled, glancing at Legolas who shivered at her words, closing his eyes. “He is repaying for his deeds against Sauron with the noblest of deeds: he is carrying the weight of the Dark Lord’s powers.”
The air stirred momentarily, and the sky seemed to darken even more. A whisper circled around them in words of a language Gimli recognised to be that of the Dark Land.
Legolas gasped and sank to his knees, fists clenched and his pale skin almost as white as the snow on the great peaks of Caradhras. Annatar glanced at him and looked almost disappointed. “One would have expected more from the royal blood of the Sindar. But it would seem even that line has weakened.”
“Then let him go if he is of no use to you!” Merry shouted, his voice shaking.
“Only the Dark Lord shall decide when his services are no longer needed,” Annatar hissed. She slid a hand over to Legolas’ head and gripped the golden hair, wrenching his head up. “The chain around his neck cannot be cut, and as long as it remains intact, so do my father’s strength that I have long worked to collect. Unless you plan beheading your dear Prince, I believe we have nothing further to discuss on this matter.”
“Wretch,” someone stated, loud and clear, and Gimli half expected it to be one of the Men, but his amazement had no limits when he watched Rafél stand up straight, his inner light unaffected by the darkness around him. Annatar’s eyes flashed, but beside her Legolas lifted his head, and for a moment his eyes were clear again, looking upon his Guardian.
“You think you have power?” Annatar demanded.
“I have withstood the long darkness of Angband. What you create here is nothing but a cloud passing the sky filled with sunshine,” Rafél stated coldly. “Let my Prince go.”
“I think you heard my terms on the subject.”
“Indeed I did,” the Guardian replied, but it seemed it was of no interest to him what she had said. He moved in a flash, grasping at the Orc closest to him, and wrenched the filthy creature’s blade from it. He sliced the Orc almost in two and moved onto the next. Gimli blinked and roared, the Elves around him moving to attack. The Orcs were too slow to react, and this was not what they had expected to happen with their commander present. Not that Gimli cared: the pleasure of seeing their blood flow was just as great nonetheless.
He wrestled an Orc of his own size that was carrying a suitable looking axe, then began to look for his own weapons. Gimli did not trust that Orc steel could withstand the work he intended to put it in. Perhaps it was luck, but two of Aragorn’s Rangers took down a group of Orcs that had been holding their weapons, and Gimli collected his axes from the corpses with a pleased smile. The wood and steel felt good in his hands, and with a roar he charged the next Dark creature he found coming his way.
When he once halted to see what the rest of their group was doing, he saw that Gandalf had regained his staff and was now facing Annatar. Around them Men were fighting, and the Hobbits stood side by side with Shannai and the Three Cousins of Hithsîr. It was a marvellous, heartfelt moment, and Gimli would have liked to cherish it longer – only there was axe work to be done.
An Orc jumped at his back, but before Gimli could grab at it, an arrow hit the creature, the sharp end protruding from its body just beside Gimli’s ear. The Dwarf spun around, finding that Haldir had got his hands on a bow.
With a curt nod to the Galadhrim, Gimli returned to the battle, trusting his friends to handle themselves.
“You cannot possibly think you can win,” Annatar snarled.
“I was sent here for a reason,” Gandalf replied. “I will see to your and Sauron’s ultimate destruction even if it was the last thing I did on this earth!”
“I hope you believe it, old man, because I will take a great amount of pleasure seeing you fall,” the woman stated with glee.
Gandalf waited no more. He raised his staff, voice booming over the noise of the battle, and a flash of light surrounded him. The woman screeched, then retaliated; it seemed she was indeed in possession of power herself.
Aragorn watched them as long as he dared, but eventually Elladan tapped his shoulder, signalling that he was needed in the battle. They spun around and Aragorn slid Andúril smoothly through the head of an advancing enemy. He pulled his weapon free when the dead Orc began to sag to the ground, then whirled to meet his next opponent.
“We are slightly outnumbered,” Elrohir commented.
“Glad you noticed,” Elladan shot back.
“Just fight you two,” Aragorn gasped, then dodged a blow from a Troll’s club. Something rattled, and he could see one of his Men falling before the blow, armour rattling as he crashed to the ground. Seconds later several feet trampled him, but the Man did not move. Aragorn felt rage swell in his chest, and with a roar he moved at the Troll. He got only few good slashes at the creature before suddenly there was a flash of gold, and someone grabbed at him. He swung, but a strong hand caught his sword arm. “Hold it,” Haldir’s familiar voice told him.
As the Elf spoke, the Troll was approached by his brothers. Rúmil and Orophin circled the creature, then attacked simultaneously from opposite sides, slashing at the slower, bigger enemy. Orcs were hovering nearby, but they kept a wary eye on the Troll and the swinging club, afraid to come closer. At the same time Khai and Ithika shot their arrows, making the Troll stumble. One more arrow, and the creature came down, Orophin’s sword finishing the job.
Aragorn grinned, and even Haldir looked pleased.
“Useless Orc crap,” the Galadhrim swore as he tried to yank his sword free of the Troll.
“Worry not, Orophin; we shall get you another,” Haldir told him, and moved against the next onslaught of enemies. Three strikes, and he threw his brother a new weapon so that he too could join the battle.
Aragorn felt like joining them, but took a look around first. It seemed that most of the army was still waiting to attack. Perhaps their orders were not to kill them, or then they believed in their superior numbers. Either way, it seemed that Aragorn and his friends still stood a chance.
Several dozen feet away from him there was a flash of light, and a ring of fighting warriors flew off their feet as something like a ripple of air left Gandalf’s staff. Annatar barely swayed on her feet, though, and Aragorn wished his old friend would find a way to bring her down, soon; their luck would not hold forever.
Thaíly had fought more battles in his life than he could remember – not that he cared for the exact number – but this had to be among the first when he was actually fighting with someone. Naturally he would have preferred to take off before they even got caught, but for some reason he had stayed with the group, and now he had to act accordingly.
He stayed close to Rafél, knowing it gave him a tactical advantage; the Elf was aware of Legolas’ whereabouts on the battlefield, and he was old enough to know how to fight without foolishness although his thoughts no doubt were conflicted. Legolas would not be released if they lost this battle, though, so it motivated them both to try just a bit harder.
The Wizard was definitely putting up a good show, but Thaíly hoped he would make some sort of decisive move soon. The enemy seemed reluctant to engage in the battle, but eventually that would change, and not all of them had a magic staff to protect themselves.
Sword in one hand and knife in the other – his own weapons, which he had fought back from an Orc that had made the mistake of taking them – he slashed at one enemy after another. It seemed he was the least attractive prey, and so he had time to watch Rafél’s back whenever the other got attacked from too many sides at once.
Steadily the Orcs kept coming, as if realising they were supposed to fight after all. Either there was some confusion in the ranks, or then they had been ordered to stand back and watch until it looked like the captives were winning. It made no sense – until there was a screech of the Nazgûl in the distance, and Thaíly raised his head long enough to see a tenth robed figure approaching the Nine.
“Ah, our mysterious friend reappears,” Thaíly said out loud.
Rafél looked up, taking in the scene. “He stood with the group earlier.”
“And it seems he is quite comfortable watching from the distance – with the Wraiths. They would be much more useful battling us,” Thaíly observed.
“You can go and ask them if they would care to join us,” Rafél suggested tightly, dodging a sword aimed at him, then returned the blow with much more precision. When Thaíly watched him fight, he could see whom Legolas had learned some of his moves from.
Then suddenly Rafél stopped, staring across the Dark army at his Prince. Legolas had been moved aside when the battle began. Thaíly did not know why the Elf had stopped fighting, but he assumed it was something important; Legolas was staring back at his Guardian with an expression of determination and desperate sorrow.
“Get him,” Rafél finally hissed through his teeth.
Thaíly wondered if it was an order or a suggestion.
“Legolas!” Rafél shouted the next instant, and dropping all caution the Elf dashed towards his protégé, swinging and pushing at the Orcs on his way.
Behind him, Thaíly could hear Gimli’s voice rising into a similar shout, and after a moment the Dwarf and the King of Gondor dashed past him.
A hundred yards away from them, Legolas was on the move, and finally Thaíly understood the distress of the three warriors. He knew they could not make it in time, though, so instead he looked over at the tenth rider, and he was not completely sure, but perhaps it was a smile the other wore on his surprisingly fair face.
The roar of Sauron’s thoughts in his head was deafening. Focusing on his own existence was hard now that Rafél no longer showed him the way; the fight was stealing his Guardian’s focus, and Legolas knew he was on his own. He wished nothing more than to join his friends in the battle, but instead he was dragged away from them, and there was not enough strength left in him to battle both the Dark Lord and his minions at the same time.
The longer he watched the battle unfold, the worse it twisted his heart. They could not win. There was no way. They were ridiculously outnumbered, and Gandalf seemed to be in trouble matching his powers against Annatar’s. Sauron seethed with satisfaction, and Legolas may have become physically ill had he possessed enough control over his body.
As it was, he merely watched, flinching whenever one of the Men or his friends fell to the ground. Most of them got back up to their feet, but not everyone.
Legolas’ desperation grew, but he did not dare to reach out for Rafél; the other needed his wits to survive. He needed to overcome this on his own… Legolas halted in mid-thought, shocked. He had barely noticed, but all of a sudden he was able to focus again. It was as if Sauron had left… But no, he recognised the feeling. Looking up, he gazed across the field, and standing in the shadow of Barad-dûr he could find Daroth. The Dark Elf’s eyes were on him, their cool weight undeniable, but that was not among Legolas’ concerns: for the time being Sauron was pushed to the back, and his mind was free.
Part of Legolas urged him to break free and join the fight, but it would not make a difference. Sooner or later Sauron would return from the edge of his consciousness, and it would be all for nothing.
Think. Why is he doing this? Why now? Legolas looked at Daroth, then at his friends fighting for their lives. The clash of metal, the smell of blood and pain… it all seemed oddly distant to him, as if he was not part of that world. His eyes found Gimli, and in the burst of light coming from Gandalf’s staff he saw the jewel bird flicker.
“For hope,” had Daroth muttered to him when he handed him the necklace. “It is your mission to destroy them both. Your friends cannot help you now; Sauron is bound to you and your life. But you…” The Dark Elf’s words returned to him, clear and more significant than before. He had given the jewel to him as a sign; to not lose hope, to not lose his aim…
Legolas looked at Daroth one more time, then to the opposite direction: beyond the swarming mass of Orcs stood an emptiness where the ground fell into a gorge that had formed when Sauron’s power was broken. It had swallowed most of the tarnished, poisoned land before the Dark Tower, all the way to where the Black Gate had once stood before falling to its ruin.
It would be a long fall…
Legolas swallowed, then looked at the battle again. His guards were lax next to him, much more interested in the ongoing activities, and the Elf suspected they presumed he would be too weak to fight them. On the far side of the battlefield, Legolas could see Tzórag gathering his forces. When they charged, the battle would be over once and for all. They would kill Legolas’ friends or capture most of them, but either way there was no escape for any of them. They had come all this way to rescue him, only to realise that they could not, even if they freed him…
“Sauron is bound to you and your life.”
Legolas knew what he must do, and although the decision pained him, it was the right one. For the freedom of Middle-earth, and the future of his friends, he had to do this. It was an honourable decision. He only wished he could have said goodbye to all of them, Rafél especially. It felt like he was sneaking out in the dead of a night, leaving him behind…
At that moment, the Guardian raised his head and looked straight at Legolas. It felt as if he was standing right next to him, the warmth of his presence pushing away the coldness in Legolas’ heart.
“What are you doing?” Rafél asked, his words soft in Legolas’ mind. They soothed the pain Sauron had caused – and would cause if Legolas failed.
“I am doing the right thing. The only thing…”
Rafél said something out loud to Thaíly who was hovering next to him, then turned back, but Legolas knew he could not listen, or his resolve would fail and ruin would befall them all. For he could feel that Annatar’s words were true, and as long as he lived, no one could touch Sauron’s power hiding deep within his immortal body and soul.
Legolas sprang to the side, dislocating the hold of the Orcs around him. They tried to grab at him, but their nails failed to more than scratch his skin. Weapons were drawn, but they were too afraid to attack him.
The stones were sharp beneath his feet, but the pain was something he could withstand. It gave him speed and determination, and made him push aside Dark creatures that stood in his way.
He could not stop. It had to be done this way, for he could already feel Sauron surfacing and he had to be quick. He could not allow the Dark Lord to take over.
He almost stumbled at Rafél’s voice, so near, so soft. Afraid. Rafél was never afraid. Not even when he had been facing his own death before the walls of Helm’s Deep. But now, it was there, in his heart and soul and Legolas knew he was to blame for it.
The edge was so close now. He broke thought the final rank of enemies and pushed towards it. “)Goheno nin(,” he whispered in his mind, holding onto their bond for one last time. It gave him strength and speed, and even while Sauron clawed at his mind, aware of his impending demise, Legolas did not give in. For all my friends, with whom I fought such great battles. To never feel Aragorn’s strong grip upon his arm, or Gimli’s rough voice giving him comfort no other could match…
“Las, daro!” Rafél still reached out for him, despair filling his mind. The knowledge that he was going to fail.
But Legolas was too close now, and he knew he was doing the only right thing. This was what Daroth had been preparing him for. Twisted as it was, the Dark One had believed in him; that he would destroy Annatar’s carefully laid plans. Legolas would finish what he had sworn to do since he was a child: to destroy Dark Lord.
“Legolas!” Gimli’s voice boomed over all else.
Legolas counted the final steps, seeing the edge, and the darkness below. Rock and stone. Before the final leap, his thoughts turned to Rafél, knowing he would understand. He had fought enough wars to know that sometimes, victory did not come without sacrifice. “)Gerich veleth nín(,” Legolas whispered in his mind, remembering the warmth of his beloved’s embrace, the trust, the strength, the love.
Ground fell away beneath him and he flung himself into the air, like a squirrel bracing itself to a flight from one branch to another. But there was no branch to reach for, and the air whipped past him. He could feel Rafél’s scream, then Sauron’s, and a wave of heat rushed through his body.
Then came the darkness.
to be continued…
)Sindarin(: - Westron:
Goheno nin – Forgive me
Gerich veleth nín – You have my love