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 Notes: It has been a horribly long time since I committed myself long enough to write a chapter to this story. But as you see, here it stands: a new chapter for “The Last Journey”! I hope that some people are still following this journey, and I will try to update a little more frequently in the future!
In the previous chapter, we had this battle in Helm’s Deep. And to everyone’s great shock (or not…) Legolas was taken, his companions left unconscious to the battlefield. It is time to go on from there.
What happened, and who was that dark rider who managed to frighten the Orcs as well?
Where is Legolas?
Will Rafél survive?
And moreover: what will Thaíly say of all this?
Welcome aboard, and enjoy…
“I found them!”
A clear voice rang out in the silence that hovered over the land like an unnatural, invisible veil. The ground was covered with bodies, black and red blood spilled around them. The earth was trampled by thousands of feet, a cruel reminder of an army that was now vanishing on the horizon.
“Did anyone see what happened here?” The Man’s voice was full of frustration and hardly suppressed anger, his clear eyes blazing when he looked at the group of fallen Elves, then at the direction of the distancing army. Aragorn was hardly in a good mood, even if they had victory in their hands.
“Personally, I am glad they are gone,” Éomer muttered beside his friend, absently rubbing blood from his face.
“They are all alive,” Shannai piped up again, crouching beside Rafél’s unconscious form. “Only Rafél is seriously hurt, and the others merely have minor wounds here and there.” His voice was shaking, his mind no doubt retelling the horrific moments when he had to watch his kinsman being tortured. “But it does not explain why they are unconscious – or why the Orcs left them alone.” Confused green eyes directed themselves onto an Istari that stepped to his side.
Gandalf’s face was worn, and the frown upon his face bode well to no one. He was preparing to deliver bad news. “Evil,” he finally stated, as if the mere word explained what had happened here. “Rafél needs a healer now. Let us take them all back to the Deep, and hope they will survive this encounter without further injuries.” Many mouths opened to question his words further, but he silenced them all with a stern look and a wave of his staff.
Gimli, however, was beyond caring. “Legolas is not here.”
Aragorn cursed, kicking a dead Orc near his feet, sending its helmet rolling. “Valar! If he is not here, then where is he?!” He looked at the Elves, then at the Wizard – and went completely still. “You are not going to tell me they took him…” he whispered. Gandalf held his gaze, then sadly shook his head.
“We do not know. It seems that none were looking at this part of the battlefield when this all happened. Not any of the Elves, anyway. We must wait for these warriors to wake and tell us what passed here.”
Aragorn nodded, his shoulders slumping. The victory had seemed so easy, and he began to feel as if they were now paying the price of it.
“We will find him,” Gimli stated, shifting his axe in his hands, his eyes remaining on the fresh tracks of the enemy army.
“Of course we will,” Gandalf confirmed, then nudged Shannai with the end of his staff. “Come now, let us help our comrades. Rafél, for one, will appreciate it when we set out to find our missing Elf. Knowing him, he will not miss a heartbeat when he realises what has happened, whether or not he is half dead and in no condition to travel…”
“My apologies,” Aragorn said patiently when Rafél hissed softly and moved away enough to make the Man stop again. The Elf had woken an hour ago, and since then Aragorn had furiously worked on his injuries. The rest of the Elves were awake, too, yet most of them sat hunched and held their heads like Men tended to after a long night of drinking. It was no ale, though, that caused them pain at the moment.
“Could someone just hit me unconscious again, and wake me when the world is back in order,” Asthaldo begged, his face pale when he looked at the other occupants of the room.
“You unconscious will not bring Legolas back,” Dínnor snapped, his voice irritated. He had said not a word of compliment to anyone since he had awoken and realised the Prince was gone. Thalión just sat silent, his eyes resting on his hands, or upon Rafél, who in turn did not meet anyone’s gaze.
“Calm down, the whole lot of you,” Celeborn sighed, his hand resting on Haldir’s shoulder. “We need to form an idea of what happened out there, and then plan how exactly we are going to find Legolas.”
“And protect our lands from the possibility of another attack,” Éomer added.
“Both are equally important,” Faramir said from his place near the door. “Yet our hearts, at the moment, ache for news about Legolas’ fate.” He received an approving look from his King.
“I did not think anything else, yet my people – as well as yours – might be in great danger,” Éomer returned. He sounded just as tired as everyone else, and the long battle and worry were catching up with him.
“Why did they take him in the first place? I mean, he is just an Elf… And evil ones… Well, they usually kill Elves,” Pippin tried to reason.
“Leave the thinking for those who can do it properly,” Merry whispered from his seat next to his cousin; he was on a bad mood as well. Being left out of the battle, and then hear one of their friends had been taken… It did not sit well with the Hobbit.
“It is a good logic, though,” Aragorn noted, bandaging one more wound that he had just sewed together. Once he got the loose ends tied up, he moved to another place, releasing a weary sigh. Rafél looked briefly back at him, giving him a brave smile. The Man answered to it and set back to work, knowing his part was easy: Rafél was the one who had to bear the pain. Rafél had also refused to take anything that would help for the pain – and in the same time wear him down even more. The Guardian was very silent, which was also understandable, as he was probably trying to get his own mind and thoughts into some proper order. With his protégé gone, taken by the Enemy nonetheless, it was not a task Aragorn envied; he felt worried enough about his friend’s fate. He could only try and imagine how Rafél felt.
“Whatever the reason is, we have to find Legolas as quickly as possible. And we do not manage that by sitting here,” Dínnor went on again, his ire burning bright. If someone had not witnessed his ill mood before, they had a perfect opportunity for it now.
“You actually think you could remain on top of a horse in this condition, and not fall onto your head before you reach the gates of the Deep?” Ithika offered back, his sister merely shaking her head where she sat beside him.
“Now, now,” Gandalf spoke, as if chastising children who acted silly. “If no one has something intelligent to say, let us all sit in silence. We win nothing while bickering with each other. The Enemy is up to something, and Legolas is gone. Both matters worry me greatly. We do not know who or what leads our enemies, and what they are up to. Especially when it comes to Legolas…” He fell silent again, staring out of the single window of the room, his eyes distant. After a while he began pacing, muttering to himself, his words muffled by his beard so no one could catch the actual words.
“We must follow him,” Rafél said at length.
“Follow whom?” Thalión lifted his head, looking at the elder Elf with weary eyes.
“Legolas,” Rafél said softly, as if the name would shatter and vanish if he said it too loud.
“How? We do not know who took him, or why, or where they are taking him,” Shannai snorted, kicking a leg of a stool that stood before him.
Asthaldo, who happened to sit atop of it, looked at him warningly. “There are harder things to track than an army of thousands,” the Cousin noted.
“But what about the Nazgûl!?” Shannai exclaimed. “We all saw how they hunted Legolas at the Shire. What if they took him? You mentioned a dark rider approaching you, before he did… something,” he ended a bit hesitantly.
“The rider was not a Wraith,” Asthaldo shook his head. “Yet I have no idea what he was. He had more power than any of the Nazgûl can muster.” His eyes rested on Rafél for a while, then slid to the floor again. “But if he rides with the Nazgûl…”
“We can keep guessing until our tongues are worn out and minds numb,” Gimli spoke up, for the first time since he had sworn to find Legolas out on the battlefield. “I say Rafél is more than right: we have to follow Legolas, and rescue him.”
“How do we know that Legolas is kept with the main force of the army?” Faramir asked, looking thoughtful. “If the one who took him takes a different route, we end up following the wrong trail.”
“We can always split up,” Pippin suggested.
“Not if we see only one trail,” Asthaldo groaned, bowing his head again, grimacing in pain. It was clear none of the Elves that had been with Legolas were ready to travel, much less track down their friend, and fight him free.
“Can you find Legolas?” Aragorn asked at length, his hands working as tenderly as possible on an arrow-wound on Rafél’s arm. Rafél said nothing, nor did he move. Still he looked liked one who knew more than he revealed, and the question was answered.
“I can aid him, if luck is with us,” Gimli said tentatively, slowly dragging out a jewel that hung around his neck, hidden beneath his clothes. He fingered the bird gently, but the usually bright glow in the green stone remained weak. A worried frown appeared on the Dwarf’s face, and he looked up at the Guardian. “Can you… reach him? Is he alright?”
Rafél merely closed his eyes and shook his head gently. His fingers were tightly laced together, as if holding onto something no one else could see.
Gandalf halted his pacing then, looking at the old Sindar, and smiled soothingly. “Have faith, Guardian. He is stronger than most of your kin. You taught him like that.” Rafél nodded, yet none in the room seemed overly convinced by the Istari’s words. Perhaps it was so because the Wizard himself was not comforted by the statement, and yet again he set to pace the room, strange words falling from his lips.
Just then Glorfindel and Erestor entered the room, bringing more bandages, herbs, and clear water they had set out to fetch earlier. “There is something happening out on the gates,” Glorfindel noted, setting his own load of items to a table next to Aragorn. His clear eyes met Éomer’s, who looked back in surprise.
“What kind of something?” the King of Mark asked.
“I have no idea, but perhaps we shall know soon enough.”
The sight of Helm’s Deep was quite mournful. Dead covered the ground, corpses of Eastern Men and Orcs. On the walls of the fortress that lay ahead, Men of Rohan could be seen moving, probably tending their own dead. Not that Thaíly cared much. He just urged Morisûl forward without attempt to try and avoid the bodies lying on his path.
Few Men checking the bodies lifted their heads as he passed, their eyes following him as he made his way toward the causeway and the main gate of the Deep. He half expected them to shout after him, but all he met was dead silence. “Some are so easily frightened by battle – and its aftermath,” the darkly clad half-vampire muttered. The horse pricked his ears and neighed approvingly.
The hooves of the horse created a loud sound as they rode up the causeway. The gates were slightly ajar, to allow people pass to and fro in their tasks. The guards, who had been engaged into a discussion with a local woman, turned in alarm when Thaíly neared them. Long spears shifted, eyes below iron helmets watching warily. Yet none of them dared to speak – or approach – this stranger, and with a satisfied smile, Thaíly directed his steed inside.
“Who are you, to enter Helm’s Deep?” bellowed one of the guards, yet his voice shook more with every word he uttered. “State your business!”
“My business is none of your business, Man of Rohan,” Thaíly stated coolly, gifting the guard with a dark glance.
The Man blinked, then nodded slightly. He did not move any closer to the rider than he already was. Rather, he backed off when Morisûl passed him and his companions. Several pairs of eyes followed Thaíly as he rode up the walkway. “Someone go and get the King,” the Man finally spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.
“What should we tell him?” his companion asked.
“Just go already!” the first Man barked, giving his fellow guard a mighty shove into the direction of Hornburg.
Barely a moment had passed after Glorfindel’s entrance when a gasping Man knocked and entered the room. “My King,” he bowed at Éomer, “a strange…. stranger has entered the Deep. He has not by far presented his reason of being here. What should be done with him?” The Man’s eyes seemed to beg that his lord would not tell them to arrest this arrival.
Yet before Éomer managed to open his mouth, Rafél let out an annoyed groan and lifted himself from the chair he had sat on. Aragorn tried to hold him down, but the Elf was determined to have his way. “I am well, Aragorn. You have tended me well, and I shall rest after this… nuisance has been taken care of,” he said with a scowl.
“You know who it is?” Éomer asked with a raised eyebrow.
Rafél nodded, looking greatly displeased. Yet something akin to surrender and remorse held his eyes captive. “I know. I can feel – and recognise – his presence.”
Shannai shifted on his place, looking at the Guardian. They traded glances, no spoken words seemingly needed between them. “He will not be happy,” the younger Elf finally stated.
Rafél laughed dryly, then took a cloak that Aragorn’s offered to him. “I can only imagine how happy he is about all this,” the old Sindar noted, a slight shudder passing through his abused body. His face was pale, the on-going healing process taking the last of his strength, but anyone could see the clear message on his face: he would not rest before this stranger had been taken care of.
Without further ceremonies, Rafél set out, followed by the other occupants of the room. The guard hurried to lead them, though everyone could find the way outside on their own. When they arrived at the doors leading outside, Éomer told the guard to return to his post with a brief smile. The Man saluted and made a retreat hasty enough for it to be almost an insult.
“Now that lad was in a hurry,” Gimli muttered, then turned to look at Rafél’s direction. The Elf walked down the stairs that led to the end of the walkway, where a dark horse and even darker rider waited. All of the Elves went silent, their eyes locked to the events before them. Slowly, more than one blade was drawn, demonstrating that something unexpected – and threatening – was going on. The Men looked at their companions in confusion, then back at the stranger who had just dismounted his horse.
“Thaíly…” Shannai began very haltingly, taking a few steps closer to the two still warriors who stood opposite to one another.
A sound of sword sliding out of its scabbard followed, and faster then the Elves could react, Thaíly had his sword pointed right at Rafél’s heart. The Guardian stood still, his eyes locked to the half-vampire. His hands remained on his sides, and he seemed to be waiting for something.
Thaíly’s eyes flickered to the nearing people. The Elves were all ready to attack, but something seemed to hold them back. The Men did not dare to move either, as their immortal companions did not seem willing to interfere. Slowly, the cool eyes returned to regard Rafél, and the blade pressed hard enough to draw blood. “I think I made quite clear, early on, what would happen if you failed, Guardian,” he practically spat out the last word. “Now where is the Prince, the one you were supposed to look after, hmm?” Another sharp push from the blade, digging it deeper to the skin. “I should kill you for your failure.”
Rafél said nothing, but his eyes slowly slid down to the ground. The other Elves were shifting uneasily around them, clearly witnessing something they did not like, but still could not stop it from happening, either.
Thaíly stared at the defeated Elf for a moment, then pulled his blade back with an annoyed growl. “To your fortune, Legolas happens to love you. And everyone knows what happens to Elves whose other half is taken from them.” He cleaned his blade and put it back to its scabbard, then took his time to have a long look at the other warrior. A long sigh escaped his lips, and he shook his head. “It seems things did not go well with you.”
At that, Rafél lifted his face again, a mocking smile on his lips. “I wonder how you can tell.”
A sniff from Thaíly followed, and a small sneer. “You smell of blood like a bleeding pig. Get cleaned, get some rest, and we ride out. We have an Elf that we have to find.”
“Thanks to me, I suppose.”
Thaíly grew silent at that. “Perhaps,” he said, with a tone that left a lot to guess.
Evening was fast approaching when a small force rode out from the Helm’s Deep. Éomer rode in the head of the group, clearly unhappy to leave this soon, yet he had been the one organising their departure as well. He had left a few of his trusted Men to take care of Helm’s Deep – with the help of the Dwarves. They would ride swiftly as possible to Edoras, from where their journey would continue to Gondor; that was the direction pointed both by Rafél and Thaíly.
They were hoping to travel a few hours before camping for the night, even if the Elves had said they would guide the group through the night if need be. Yet when most of the Elves were still recovering from their battle, and the darkness they had faced, it had been a silent agreement that tonight they would camp and rest.
Aragorn allowed his gaze to slide to an Elf that rode quite near him. He was not happy to see Rafél up and about this soon, but there was nothing he could do about it. Firstly, he could not be held back either when he knew Legolas’ life was most likely in a mortal danger. Secondly, there was no way to actually hold Rafél back once he decided to do something; Aragorn, or even Legolas, could possibly be held back in such a situation as this, but none in this group had the true authority over Rafél. Gandalf, perhaps, but the Wizard had not tried his luck.
“He will make it,” Shannai noted from his other side, and Aragorn turned to look at the all too familiar sight: an Elf, with a Dwarf sitting behind him on a horse. For some reason, Fundal and Adír had insisted on coming along onto this journey. “Rafél is stronger than he seems,” the Mirkwood Elf added.
“I know,” Aragorn sighed. “But the healer in me does not wish to see that. Nor the friend…” he added silently.
“But the friend in you knows it would be cruel not to let him come, with Legolas in danger,” Thalión noted from behind them. “His heart is torn right now, by guilt, self-hatred, and worry. And Valar know he has already been trough enough torment for the next lifetime…”
“May this be the last hurt he has to endure,” Aragorn made his wish, looking at the darkening sky above them. “And I wholeheartedly wish that for the all of us.”
to be continued…
Author’s Notes: Aah, here we are, in the end. I hope this chapter was worthy of your while – it has been a long time since I worked on this story, so I think the atmosphere in it might be a bit different…
I make no promises, either, about the date of the next chapter’s release! But I will try and deliver it faster than it took to bring you this one.
Then, some synopsis of the upcoming chapter, Revelations: We will join Legolas, and as the title of the chapter says, it is time to learn some long awaited answers. It will also start a new, darker era in this story, so be prepared.
Until then, I hope you all will be well!