Chapter 29 – The struggle
Legolas couldn't stop thinking of the argument between Seraphina and himself as they rode to the Black Gate. He was furious with her. How dare she think he wouldn't come back to her? She was carrying his children, not to mention his heart. Her stubbornness had reared its ugly head, and he had had to fight the impulse to grab her by the shoulders and shake her until some sense managed to find its way in to her head.
"Do not dwell on it, mellon. What is done is done. Seraphina will stay safe."
Legolas simply shook his head, not meeting Aragorn's eyes. He knew his partner, sometimes better than he knew himself. He knew that she would do…something. Something reckless. Something stupid. He sighed in frustration, shifting on his horse. Gimli grumbled as he knocked him slightly off balance and the Elf absent-mindedly righted him, blue eyes focusing on the distance.
Aragorn studied the man he considered his brother, worry creasing his brow. Legolas was distracted, and that was the difference between life and death. He couldn't go back to Minis Tirith to tell Seraphina she had lost him. It would destroy her. Although she had not admitted it, Aragorn knew she was exhausted, physically and mentally. The raven-haired Ranger wished he had said something, anything, to help his two closest friends but, like always, he had stayed out of it, telling himself it was not his business. As if sensing eyes upon him, Legolas turned and gave Aragorn a wan smile.
"I am sorry for making you worry. I will be fine. Let us finish this."
Aragorn nodded, and spurred his mount on, watching as the Black Gate loomed before them.
Frustrated, I paced in the courtyard at the splintered front gate to Minis Tirith. Legolas had long gone, marching out with the others. Even Merry and Pippin had joined the ranks, while I cowered behind broken walls and crumbling structures. It had been three days since they had left, and they would be arriving there soon enough. The waiting had made my already shredded nerves even worse; the only way to get there faster would be to fly there.
I let out a small scream, lashing out at a bit of broken gate. Closing my eyes, I searched my jumbled thoughts, trying to find a semblance of normality in there somewhere, but all I found was a blazing Eye, staring me down. I snapped my eyes open, forcing myself to breathe. I stared out at the open plains that were visible through the gate. Swollen black clouds roiled in the sky above Mordor, lava shooting in to the sky from Mount Doom. I walked forwards, feet seemingly acting of their own accord, until the Tower of Barad-Dûr was visible. As I stared at it, a pressure started in my mind. Subtle at first, and then stronger. I tried to tear my gaze away, but my eyes refused to obey my mind. Panicked, I tried to turn around, but a silky voice slithered through my mind, stilling all objections.
"Join us. Join once again."
I cried out, and closed my eyes, hands flying to my face, as if to blot the thoughts out, but it was no use. I could still hear Him; He was inside my head.
"You know it is the only way to keep them safe. Do you want them to die? Or do you want to save them?"
Slowly, I dropped my hands. A part of my mind screamed out, hanging on to the thread of sanity I had left. He was right. How could I keep Legolas and my children safe if I waited behind, idly fretting while he put his life in danger? What about Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli, the Hobbits, Éomer? I could protect them better if I was in the ranks of Orcs. I could take down any that got too close. I could save them! NO! I dropped to my knees, retching and trembling, as I tried to put mental barriers up…but I was so tired.
So very tired.
Inky shadows swirled behind my eyelids as I curled in to a ball, trying to fight them off. His laugh echoed in my head, cold yet comforting; a stranger but so familiar at the same time.
"Let me in. I can make the pain go away. No more fighting. No more struggle. No more pain. Just let me in."
My head was spinning and I felt like I would vomit at any moment. Fire tingled through my veins and I feebly struggled back against the hold He had on my mind, but He was too strong. I had exhausted myself. Wouldn't it be better to let Him think for me? No-one else would die because of me. I had lost Boromir, and then Haldir. I had killed my beautiful Fëa. My own shriek rang through my head before I gave in, my mental walls collapsing. I opened my eyes, vision blurred, to see a Nazgûl bearing down on me.
"Let the Lord of the Black Land come forth. Let justice be done upon him!"
Aragorn addressed the Gates, his clear voice ringing out. They had arrived an hour ago, and had waited, in case an ambush had been set. When none had been sprung, Aragorn had decided to act first – Frodo was running out of time. An atmosphere of anticipation hung over his little group, and tension radiated from the rest of the army, a way behind him, as they all watched the Gates. Suddenly, a creak rolled across the plain, as loud as any dragon's roar, and they slowly began to open.
"Fall back! Fall back!"
Aragorn and his group turned and galloped back to their army, the Eye (for it had turned to see who dared challenge Him) fixed on them, bathing them in a red light. Waves of nervousness emanated from the men as they surveyed the hordes of Orcs, stretching as far as the eye could see, that were currently marching from the Black Gates, ready to face the Army of the West.
The Gates opened and I saw them.
The Army of the West.
A sneer curled my lip and I called the Orcs forward, my Warg growling softly as we paced forward. I studied the group carefully. They were broken; wisps of men. They had lost their best in the Pelennor Fields. A soft laugh escaped my mouth as I imagined the lives of the men my blades would take.
After Sauron had taken me, it had not taken long to get me initiated once again. The darkness had been creeping up on me since escaping Isengard and I had been too tired, or too foolish, to have noticed. It had weakened my mind, allowing Sauron's influence in. I had fought it at first, but I had seen the error of my ways. I belonged at Sauron's side, and at His side I would stay.
A flash of blonde hair caught my attention and I zoned in on it. The achingly familiar face cleared the blackness in my mind just for a moment and I had to bite my lip to stop from crying out. Legolas. He looked so stern, so grave. He was tired of this. I should have never let him leave without apologising. I had to protect him. I had to! Before the shadows moved in again, reclaiming my mind, I sent a cry out, hoping he would hear me.
Aragorn did not miss the waver of fear that ran through his army as the Mordor Orcs came to a halt, chanting and banging their shields.
"Hold your ground! Hold your ground!"
He shouted the order, suddenly cantering out in front, steering his mount to face the men. He quickly ran his eyes over his friends in front, trying to send them any confidence he himself had left. Sparing one glance over his shoulder, he turned back, finding all eyes upon him.
"Sons of Gondor, of Rohan. My brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day…we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!"
A great cheer rose from the men, every one of them holding their swords high. They had no doubt this man, no, this King, in front of them, would lead them to victory. Aragorn turned to face the Orcs, slowly drawing Anduril. The sun glinted off the blade, light refracting in all directions, causing rainbows to spark all around him. He felt the warmth rush through his hand, and he knew that, finally, he had stepped up and become King.
"Surround them! Intimidate them!"
I called out orders and the Orcs complied, quickly creating a circle around the army. They were hopelessly outnumbered. I hung back, steering my Warg to pace the circle. The Eye cast a malevolent light over them, highlighting the grim determination each and every man had on his face. I spotted Pippin, standing side by side with Merry, preparing themselves.
They were so small, so fragile, and for a brief second, my sanity returned, but it was pushed back by Him. He would not allow me to be lost to Him a second time. My eyes honed in on Aragorn. He had changed – there was a majesty about him I had not seen before. He had grown strong, so much stronger, the iron will he had always possessed now fortified by the blade he held in his hand. The blade that he had been destined to have.
Suddenly, our eyes locked, and the shock sent a charge of electricity through me. I shook my head, a snarl already pulling my lips back. I watched as he raised Anduril high, his voice ringing out as he charged.
It was all around me and I revelled in it. I had buried the memories of the last time I had been with Sauron but now they had come flooding back. This was where I belonged. This was my rightful place.
I kicked out at a soldier, knocking him down. I placed my boot on his chest, my shin guards shining dully. A feral smile curled my lips up as I pressed down, watching him choke as his chest plate moved up to cut off his air supply. My blades vibrated in my hands, itching for more slaughter. Finally, the soldier stopped struggling and I removed my boot, turning to face another. A keening shriek ripped through the air, and I grinned, knowing what it meant.
The Nazgûl had arrived.
Laughing, I darted through the heaving masses, dodging blades, as the Fell Beasts swooped, picking off their prey. I was running for a higher place, to mount one of the Beasts, when a prickling sensation crept up my neck. I whirled around, scanning the battlefield for the source. Gandalf was fixated on a moth that fluttered just in front of his face. It flapped away, and I only had a moment to be confused before a cry went up.
"Eagles! The Eagles are coming!"
I snapped my head up, just in time to see a giant Eagle collide with a Fell Beast, its talons ripping out its eyes before it had a chance to defend itself. The Eagle's beak tore in to the Beast, showing it no mercy.
I screamed out, not wanting to believe what I was seeing. This could not be happening. Furious, I launched myself off the rock I had found, landing in a crouch. I quickly located my target, and sprinted forwards, blades held tightly. How dare he? Snarling, I swung my blades up and over my head, intending to strike his head from his shoulders when he spun, deflecting my blades. Shock registered in his eyes, before an intense sadness replaced it. Shrieking with rage, I attacked again, my movements fast and furious. We were locked in a heated battle, neither of us gaining any ground. I was getting more and more frustrated, a buzzing filling my head. Without warning, a light flashed from his staff, sending me flying back.
Dazed, I tried to get up, but was forced to roll to the side as an Orc stampeded past. I struggled to my feet, eyes already searching for Gandalf, but he had gone, disappeared in to the fray. I was so absorbed in searching for my escaped wizard, that I didn't see the blur heading for me until it was too late.
Legolas couldn't believe it as he knocked Seraphina to the ground. He had seen her earlier, sitting astride a Warg, but refused to believe it, thinking Sauron had conjured up an image to play with his mind. Now, though, he knew it to be her. Who else fought with the stealthy yet intricate style that she did?
He stepped back as she sprung up, a glare full of hatred aimed his way. He held back a cry as he took her in. Her normally gleaming hair was dull, scraped back in to a tight braid, strips of leather weaving through it. Black armour covered her body, stained with red. Her face was the same…except her eyes. They were black, ringed with red fire, that pulsed as they locked gazes. She had fallen. She had given in.
"Do not think that because I felt something for you, I will spare your life."
Her voice was odd. It did not have the musical, lilting tone he had become so accustomed to. It was flat, cold, hard. He fought down the pain, and tried to reach out to the real her that he knew was fighting to take control. He ignored the stinging accusation to her words; Legolas knew she felt something for him still – it was Sauron that was talking.
"Seraphina, look at me. You do not want to do this."
He took a cautious step forward, and she lashed out, blades narrowly missing his face. They circled each other, all reason apparently lost on Seraphina. She charged forward, and Legolas managed to roll out the way. He didn't want to fight her. He couldn't. Yet when she attacked again, forcing him to defend himself, he knew that this was the only way he could help her. He had to engage her. As he drew his seldom used curved sword, a dawning realisation fell on him, just as he parried her blow. He had to be the one to stop her – if anyone else did, they would kill her.
The battle raged around us, but I was too focused on the person in front of me. We engaged again, my frustration rising with every failed attempt to gain an advantage over him. It seemed as if he knew all my techniques, all my styles. Every time I thought I had an opening, he would knock me back, wearing me down just a little more.
The pounding in my head had got worse, the staccato beat of it increasing in tempo. I staggered slightly as I blocked a blow, grinding my teeth together. I would not let him beat me. I had to survive, to endure. For Sauron, I had to win.
Snarling, I leapt forwards, furiously attacking with both blades, the weapons singing in harmony. He fought back just as hard, forcing me to adopt a defensive position. I paid no attention to any other being on the plains – just him in front of me. A sick feeling rose in me as we continued to fight, our swords clashing again and again with a clang. I had felt something for him, when I had been lost from Sauron, but my Master had cleansed me of that. Hadn't he?
As the Elf swung his sword above his head, ready to bring it down on me, Sauron's hold slipped just a fraction as he was distracted by something else. I felt His confusion, and then His anger. We had been deceived! I barely managed to block the Elf's strike, glancing up to see the Nazgûl wheeling round to head for Mount Doom. Master! He must be in trouble. I had to reach him.
As I returned my attention to the troublesome Elf, I let my guard down just slightly – but it was enough. My legs were swept out from underneath me, and I landed on my back, staring up at him. I tried to free myself, but a foot to my chest held me down. I glared at him, continuing to struggle. I would not give in!
Suddenly, the Great Eye of my Master flashed through my mind, a terrible keening sound filling me. I screamed in agony, hands relinquishing their hold on my blades. They flew to my head, trying to block the sounds but it was no use. It filled every fibre of my being with such intense pain. Fire blazed through me, and His hold started breaking. My stomach cramped, and I felt shock wash through me as sanity started returning. My children. I stared up at the Elf…no, MY Elf, my Legolas, standing over me, blade poised. I could feel myself burning up, the fire consuming me and I had only the strength to utter one word.
Legolas heard the single, broken word, and knew Seraphina had come back. Her eyes were the icy blue he knew, but she was wasting before his eyes; Sauron had destroyed her from the inside.
He locked gazes, fighting an internal battle. The blade shook slightly as he stared at his other half. Her word reverberated in his head, seeming to simultaneously break his heart and give him strength. He was so wrapped up in his own bubble, he did not notice the Eye's tower slowly collapsing in the distance. He did not see the Tower hit the plain, a giant explosion of dust and debris flying outwards. As he breathed in deeply, he did not notice the plain falling away in a huge chasm, swallowing up Mordor's armies, yet leaving the Army of the West untouched.
He did not realise they had won as he plunged his sword down.
Not the last chapter, my beautiful readers, so don't despair. Feedback would be appreciated, and once again, thank you all for sticking with it!
Mellon – My friend
Len iallon – I beg of you