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.
Nice, even breaths, Aragorn. It is so easy. No need to scare your men. Taking a long, steady breath, Aragorn shifted upon Roheryn and then let the air out again. It didn’t help, though. His mind was still a flaming inferno of rage. Even the nagging fear on the back of his mind did nothing to ease his anger. He knew he should have been worrying – and by the holy grace of Valar he was! – but his worry turned into hatred swifter than the armies of Mordor fell after Sauron’s destruction.
When Gimli had raced into his study to tell this latest news, Aragorn had first thought it as a joke made by the Dwarf’s poor sense of humour. But one look to Gimli’s eyes had convinced him that the other was indeed not joking. Legolas was in mortal danger.
Around their King, the Men of Gondor rode towards south with all their speed. No man dared to approach Aragorn, and so King Elessar was able to dwell in his own thoughts. Gimli, who was seated behind him was quiet, no doubt sorting out his own thoughts. The restless movement upon the shaft of the Dwarf’s axe told something of the course of his mind.
Cursing again the bitter fate that had brought them here, Aragorn urged Roheryn forward, praying with all his heart that they would not be late. He would never forgive himself if something happened to Legolas. He had already lost so much...
Legolas had never liked of the feeling of being restrained. He loathed being unable to do anything. But at the moment, he felt like a small leaf in the wind, being tossed to a direction and then to another, unable to choose his course.
Shifting, Legolas tried to find a more comfortable position on the hard floor of the room. At least he suspected it was a room. As he was blindfolded, he couldn’t see. But his senses had scanned the area since he had regained consciousness, and he was now somewhat aware of his surroundings. A faint sound of voices came from the outside, but he couldn’t make out most of them.
Shifting again, Legolas tested his bonds, sighing in frustration as they did not give in. His only option would be to wait. And he didn’t like to wait, either. Yes, he had an ever-dying patience of Elves, but when being imprisoned and unable to control the things that happened around him…
Groaning in frustration, Legolas rolled to his side almost violently, his body fighting against its restrains. But whoever had bound him had known well the stamina of Elves, and finally Legolas collapsed to the floor, panting softly.
Oh yes, he would wait. He had no other choice.
After a moment – which Legolas counted to be a few hours – a sound of opening door came to Legolas’ sensitive ears. A breath of fresh air flowed to the room and a light of the sun reached Legolas’ bound eyes. He was now able to hear many voices, smelling the familiar scent of Men’s village.
Rough hands pulled Legolas up, yanking him along ruthlessly. The Elf was able to tell exactly when he was taken out from wherever he had been held in: not because he felt the warmth of the sun upon his skin, or because of the touch of the wind, but because the voices of the people around him turned from spoken words into excited shouts.
Legolas frowned, not actually liking the feeling of not knowing what was happening around him. And being carried along like a broken toy... Oh well, I have an eternity to heal my wounded pride. If I live that long, that is, he added somewhat sarcastically.
With a final jerk at his bound hands, Legolas was heaved up onto some kind of a mound and pushed back against something hard. Several pairs of hands held him in place as the ropes were cut. That did not stop Legolas from trying to pry himself loose, but soon his hands were forced back and tied again, and his legs were also fastened into the same object. A pole of some kind, Legolas thoughts, running his fingers over the wood that he was now bound into. There was still movement around him, and a moment later he felt a hand yank the blindfold down to his neck - none too gently to Legolas’ liking.
The Elf blinked, the late rays of the sun blinding him momentarily. But his Elven senses adapted quickly and he looked around, shock swiftly filling his mind. He was in some kind of a village, surrounded by tens of people, most of them men wearing rather unpleasant expressions. Glancing down, Legolas noticed that his “mound” was actually a pile of dry wood.
Legolas felt like laughing, the insanity of this all taking its toll. If he wouldn’t have known better, he would have thought that these people were going to burn him alive like the witches of old time. Which proved to be exactly what they were planning to do. Many Men were already lighting torches, looking at the pyre eagerly.
One of the Men stepped forward, seemingly the speaking man of the group. He stared at the bound Elf with no hint of pity, his raised hand making the people around him fall silent. “Today, we shall judge one of those who are guilty of our Queen’s murder. Do we say he is guilty?”
The shouts that rose from the Men around made Legolas cringe in pain. He didn’t understand this, and yet he knew all too well what was going on: it had been proven when Aragorn’s guards had tried to shoot him in Ithilien. Elves were blamed of Arwen’t death, guilty or not. But as far as he remembered, he couldn’t tell how he had ended up into hands of these Men...
Shadowy memories ran through Legolas’ mind as he ordered his thoughts, desperate to find the answer. Then he finally caught an image of dark riders hunting him. Nazgûls. But what shocked him most was not one of the Ringhwrights. The rider that had joined the others later on the hunt... He puzzled Legolas. It had been too easy for him to bring Legolas down. Too easy for him to catch him. And yet he had done it.
“Do you have something to say for yourself before the punishment will be set? If yes, speak now!” the speaking man yelled, and Legolas pushed back his erratic thoughts.
“If something must be indeed said, I tell you, great Men of Gondor, that this is foolishness, and that you do this against your King’s will!” Legolas almost shouted, frustration rising in him.
There were murmurs among the Men, but the speaker only shook his head and then took a torch from one of his fellows, taking a step towards the pyre.
Rafél cursed bitterly yet again, his eyes searching the ground. It seemed that his senses were completely failing him, for he had not been able to find Legolas after a whole night’s search. It was as if the Prince had completely vanished from the face of Arda. After Morchaint’s rather wild return to their makeshift camp, Rafél had deemed that something was wrong, and he was getting more sure about it with each passing moment.
Turning Lúmen around again he let out another string of Sindarin curses. Morchaint neighed some distance away from him, ears flattened. It seemed that both horses understood something was seriously wrong.
Suddenly Lúmen halted, Morchaint letting out another neigh only a second later. Rafél turned to look at the same direction with the horses, and to his surprise, he saw a group of Men riding towards him. Considering his options, Rafél loosened his bow from his back, settling down to wait. Why not. Sometimes desperate tasks need desperate actions. Letting his eyes roam over the group of riders, Rafél pointed out that they were in haste. Well, I am sure they will stop for a little chat...
The riders indeed came to a sudden halt when they noticed Rafél standing on their road where the Elf had placed himself to wait. One of the riders came forward, and Rafél couldn’t help but look skywards, sending a quick thanks to Manwë. Then he looked at the arrivals again, bowing his head slightly. “King Elessar,” he saluted.
The look upon the King’s face was both surprised and puzzled, but suddenly his horse was forced to move sideways, a low voice cursing behind him, and a moment later Gimli came into a view as Roheryn turned to the side unhappily. “Master Rafél,” the Dwarf said. “I truly wish you know where Legolas is.”
“To be honest, I do not,” Rafél answered between gritted teeth. It did not do much good to his pride to admit his fault to another – especially to a Dwarf that happened to be his Prince’s closest friend.
“Well, we can help you in that,” Aragorn finally got his voice back, a dry smile flitting across his face. “Let us be on our way: we can speak while riding, Guardian.”
Rafél nodded, guiding his horse alongside with Aragorn’s as they rode on again. Morchaint snorted, sprinting forward to run on the side of the group.
“Now, would you tell me what you know of Legolas,” Rafél questioned, and Gimli sighed deeply, glancing at Rafél carefully.
“You will not like this,” the Dwarf finally murmured.
Legolas couldn’t help but to flinch back when the torch came nearer. He was running out of both time and ideas, but he was not willing to die just yet. But these Men seemed to be adamant of their decision, and it left Legolas with very few chances.
“You are making a huge mistake! Your Lord does not permit this!” he shouted in despair, but to deaf ears it seemed. The cheers from the crowd grew louder, drowning out his voice. Cursing bitterly under his breath, Legolas watched helplessly as the flame came to touch with the first branches, a faint smell of burning tree assaulting his nostrils.
Just as the Man prepared to drop the torch, a whistle of an arrow reached Legolas’ ears and the torch flew from the Man’s hand, an Elven arrow embedded both itself and the torch deeply to the pole, only an inch from Legolas’ skin.
Snatching his hand back startled, the Man whirled around, the rage on his face soon vanishing and making way for fear. The other men also turned to look at the direction of their leader’s gaze, a dead silence falling upon the clearing.
Legolas let out a relieved sigh, relaxing in his bonds. His eyes met Rafél’s when the other Elf lowered his bow, but all attention was soon given to Aragorn as the King of Gondor raged forward, Roheryn shifting nervously under the furious motions on his back.
“Release the Elf!” Aragorn barked out, making even his own warriors flinch back. “On all my years on this earth I have seen nothing that could compare with this... this... stupidity!” the King exclaimed, his eyes shifting from a Man to another. “I am disappointed beyond words: my own people treat an ally and a race far more older than us like filthy Orcs! Such disgrace leaves me praying that Valar may forgive us someday.”
For once, none of the Gondorians shouted anything of murderers. All listened in striken silence, looking as if they expected their King to draw his mighty sword and send them all to the world beyond life.
No Man stepped to stop Rafél as the Elf rode forward, dismounting when he reached Legolas. The Prince welcomed his guardian with a vain smile, his ears partially listening Aragorn as the Man continued to lecture his people, anger and frustration plain in his voice.
“What on Arda were you thinking?” Rafél began his own account, and Legolas couldn’t suppress a sigh that escaped his lips.
“You think I did this on purpose?” the Prince asked, glancing at Rafél as the other drew a small knife from his belt and cut the ropes binding Legolas’ hands.
“I cannot imagine as to how otherwise you got yourself into this situation,” Rafél muttered, his tone telling that it was not only Legolas he was lecturing: the guardian himself had made a mistake while letting Legolas go riding alone. It was not a mistake he was about to repeat.
Legolas blinked, wondering how he had been able to forget the reason of his current situation. As if drawn by an unseen force, his eyes moved over the crowd, stopping when they reached a cloaked figure on the other side of the clearing. Time seemed to stop as Legolas’ eyes met those of the other, though the stranger’s eyes were hidden in the shadows of his hood.
“Legolas?” Rafél asked with a frown, his hand firmly upon Legolas’ shoulder. Legolas shook his head, glancing swiftly at Rafél and then back to the crowd – only to find that the figure was gone. On his side, Rafél was getting nervous, and Legolas calmed the older Elf with a small pat.
“I am well. I just thought I... saw something.”
Rafél’s frown didn’t lessen a slightest as his eyes also scanned the people milling around them, but he saw nothing alarming.
The moment of uneasy silence was broken when a short, stout form pushed itself through the crowd, muttered curses filling the air. “Ah, here you are, finally,” Gimli exclaimed when he spotted Legolas. “Such a trouble you have caused us – again.” Even if there was a remark in the Dwarf’s words, the harshness in them was softened by the look in his eyes.
Legolas smiled, nodding at Gimli politely. “My forgiveness, master Dwarf, but I assure you that this is little of my doing. You see –”
“Please, you two,” Rafél muttered, rolling his eyes. “We are all glad that you are well, Legolas, and that is it.”
Gimli looked ready to argue but a sharp look from Rafél was enough to silence him. With a shrug, Gimli turned back to the Men with a strange expression. “Aragorn is really... savouring the moment.”
Legolas also looked at the King, noticing that the Man was still speaking. Or shouting. Not that it made much difference: the Men of Gondor listened for the first time in long months, and Aragorn took his chances while it lasted. “I believe this is not the most pleasing task he was waiting for...”
“Oh trust me, my Prince Legolas, it is,” another voice added and Faramir rode in.
Legolas smiled at the Steward, giving him a graceful bow. “I cannot truly believe that, but if you say so, I will concede.”
Gimli snorted, muttering something about fair words with less meaning than an oath of an Orc. The other three gave the Dwarf a sceptical look, but Gimli merely waved his hand, looking up at Legolas again. “Well, if you are finished here, we could return at Aragorn’s side. I am sure that laddie will calm down when he sees you are safe and sound.”
Legolas raised one graceful eyebrow but didn’t comment, looking instead back at Rafél who nodded. With a light movement, Legolas mounted Lúmen, waiting Rafél to do likewise, seating himself before Legolas. Faramir pulled Gimli to the back of his own horse, and together they rode back through the crowd, reaching Aragorn a few moments later.
Aragorn’s words halted momentarily when he spotted Legolas next to him, his grey eyes loosing some of their stormy look. “I am extremely glad that you are well. I apology –”
“Save your breath, my friend,” Legolas said back, his voice low enough so it would not reach the Men around them. “I am well, and you have given your opinion to your Men. Now let us be on our way, if you are done here. I at least have little interest to stay here.” Rafél let out a delicate snort at that comment, but he said nothing.
Aragorn looked at his companions around him and then reluctantly nodded. With a final, hard look at the villagers, the King said his final words. “I hope that no news of actions like this reach my ears from now on.” With that, Aragorn turned his horse, riding out of the village with his company close behind. The other Men stood silent, not daring to move before they were sure that King Elessar was indeed gone.
Once they were outside the small town, Aragorn lessened his pace a slightest, waiting the others to catch up with him. He felt better now when he had finally been able to somehow get rid of his anger. There was still bitterness and hatred in him, yes, but now that Legolas was safe and with them, he felt as if the world was actually beginning to smile at him again.
A soft neigh welcomed the party and Legolas dismounted swiftly, meeting his black horse as the stallion came trotting to him. There were whispered words from the Prince, Morchaint moving his ears eagerly to whatever words. Then Legolas mounted, turning the horse so that he faced Gimli and Faramir. “Shall we ride together, master Dwarf?”
Gimli looked horrified, glaring at the black, great horse with such doubt that it would have rivaled even Sam’s loathe towards the boats. “On that beast? I very much doubt it, master Elf. We would both end up to a river head first – if lucky.”
“He is very tame...” Legolas muttered, though he looked very amused.
“Tame?!” Gimli exclaimed. “Have you even looked at that animal you ride upon? Compared to him, Arod was as tame as a kitten.”
A shadow darkened Legolas’ face and he looked away, Morchaint shifting under him carefully, feeling his rider’s distress. Gimli also halted his assault, realising that he actually hadn’t heard yet what had befallen to the loyal Rohan horse. Most likely something because Legolas was now riding this new beast.
“Maybe we will ride together when you... learn to know Morchaint better?” Legolas turned back, asking with a tentative, careful voice.
Gimli merely muttered something, indicating clearly that he was going to stay where he was. Faramir glanced at Legolas, answering to the Elf’s sudden, bright smile.
“Well, let us be on our way, then,” Aragorn cleared his throat. “We have road before us to travel, and I am more than eager to speak with you, Legolas.”
Giving out a soft sigh, Legolas guided his mount next to the King’s, his mind sorting out things he would tell – and which he would not. He could not tell everything, he knew – not before he was sure of all the facts himself. Aragorn would be furious when he would finally hear he had not been told everything, but it could not be helped. The King of Gondor had currently enough trouble on his own.
Rafél and Faramir also guided their horses nearer, wishing to hear what would be said. With a quick look at Rafél, Legolas decided to begin at their depart from Rivendell: if he would be lucky, he would not have to speak of his own capture before reaching Minas Tirith...
to be continued…