Destiny is like a path
Winding with many turns and twists
By every crossroad you must choose what road to take
One less choice left, one less possible future
Like climbing the branches of the great tree of life
You have to search for the top, never back down
Chose the wrong branch and death will be your fate
Chose the right one and to glory it may lead
The mountains of the north, first age.
He was staring at the insolent being, anger seething within and dark flames blazing within his gaze. So this creature, his own creation dared defy him? Dared to question his authority? Dared to take their side against his own master? He snarled and turned around himself just to move and not explode with anger, stared at the creature that lay tied down upon the ground, chains of steel held it and it was helpless now. His captive, his to do whatever he pleased with. He smiled, a slow and very terrible grin that showed that there would be no mercy for this traitor. It was still fighting, still not broken but he would change that for sure. How dared this thing, among his most terrifying creations, oppose him? How could it have done what it had, gone against its own kin? It was stubborn, and proud. He liked to crush such souls and minds, they were so more rewarding to break.
He would have wanted to torment the thing for a long time, to hang its head on the gates of his great fortress as a reminder to all that none, not even his own should dare to question him but he did not have the time. He growled, there was little joy in being quick about it but he had no other choice. They were so terribly close these creatures, even if this one had broken free from the will of his master and fought the others they would perhaps try to save him, and he could not risk a rebellion. No, it had to be dealt with there and then.
He looked at the creature, so powerful, so massive and so devastating, and such a disappointment. He had been too good at what he was doing, made something too strong to be controlled. He would not do that mistake again. "You, you were among my most trusted servants, among my finest weapons. You were blessed and feared but now, now you are nothing but a piece of rotting meat, an enemy to be disposed of."
The creature hissed, claws like steel dug into the very rock itself, steam rose from the massive body. "You were Rhutarion, the terrifying, now I name you Huna, cursed. Condemned you are and forgotten you will be."
He saw that the creature stared at him, no fear was in those wild golden eyes, just rage, just defiance. He summoned his magic, roared with anger as he threw a massive wave of it towards the bound creature, once among his most priced creations. It should have consumed it within the blink of an eye, burned even the body of an armored beast like that to ashes but a strange blue shimmer seemed to embrace the entire body for a few seconds and a very violent flash of light could be seen. He had to turn his head, shield his eyes. What was this? Had his enemies, his kindred managed to put some sort of protection upon this traitor? He looked at where it had been and naught but the chains were left there. The huge creature was gone, as if it never was there in the first place. He hissed and turned around, killed a few unsuspecting orcs on the way just to vent his rage. But if the cursed one reappeared he would have his vengeance for sure. The next time he would have the head of that goddam traitorous scum.
Above the misty mountains. Third age.
The great eagle was floating on a rapid stream of air, his keen eyes staring at the ground below looking for possible prey or even perhaps some orcs to torment. Swooping down and screaming always made them jump around in panic like tiny rabbits and it was so much fun seeing this. He took some wide turns around the high peaks, enjoyed the warm summer sun and the blue skies. Far in the distance he could see that his bond mate had found an unsuspecting goat and was bringing it back home to their nest. They had two hatchlings this year and they were always hungry and growing rapidly.
He though he saw some orcs by a river when he suddenly felt a change in the air current, something was coming, something massive? Instinct took over, the eagle rolled and fell sideways, just in time to avoid getting hit by something very huge falling very fast. The eagle sent out a warning scream and dove after the enormous thing that fell like a rock from only Eru knew where. It appeared to be dead, it didn't move at all and the eagle saw how it approached the ground at a frightening speed. It was probably going to land in a small meadow by a bend in the river and the huge raptor cringed inward, it would be quite an impact for the falling creature was enormous.
There was a thud and the ground shook violently, the trees swayed like hit by a hurricane and dust and debris flew sky high. The eagle had to dodge a few flying rocks and a piece of wood, he got closer, stilled in the air like a hawk staring down at the crater that emerged as the dust settled. It was a hole in the ground at least twenty feet deep and very wide but the massive creature was gone. It could not have survived such an impact, what possibly could, but there was something there. By his grandmother's tailfeathers, what was this? A tiny creature lay at the bottom of the crater, fragile and curled up in a ball and it appeared to be alive too. The eagle felt a strong sensation of confusion but also awe. This was the work of the Valar, and he did not interfere with such serious business. No, he would remember this but this was none of his business, others had to deal with this thing. He let the warm air lift him once more and joined his mate but he didn't forget about the strange incident. Somehow he just knew that he might meet this strange creature once more.
The misty mountains, months later.
The riders who approached the small village all wore heavy cloaks and their faces were covered and hidden in darkness underneath the hoods. The day was grey and cloudy and rain had been pouring down for days, the roads covered with mud and the horses were covered with the stuff. All riders were heavily armed and they carried their weapons for everybody to see, as if they tried to warn everybody of their capability to retaliate any threat with immediate death. The riders stopped in front of the small tavern and dismounted, a stable boy came to take care of the animals and stopped, stunned by the large and beautiful horses. These were no ordinary village ponies but elven steeds and the boy just stood there a bit uncertain as to what he ought to do. One of the riders helped another down off the horse, the person seemed to be wounded and the rider who had been in front of the group bowed his head. "Do not worry boy, these horses are very well trained, fear not."
The boy nodded and the man pulled his hood down and revealed a handsome face surrounded by thick black locks of shoulder long hair. He was probably at the height of his strength but there was something in his eyes that told the boy that this man was far older than the age his appearance spoke off. "Tell me boy, is there a healer in this village? Or someone who collects and knows herbs?"
The boy nodded. "Yes, the tavern owners wife, she is very skilled too. She saved my sister last year when she almost cut her hand off with an axe."
The man smiled. "That is good, we need some help with one of our friends here."
The boy saw that many of the riders kept their hoods on and the leader walked into the tavern and the others followed him.
A short while after the wounded man was being looked after by the tavern owners wife, a very gentle and motherly woman who immediately knew what to do with the warriors broken elbow and cut forearm. Aragorn knew that this was a peaceful place, he had been there before years ago and it hadn't changed that much. They had sat down by some tables at the back of the small common room, his ranger friends had pulled their cloaks down but the elves in the group had been reluctant to do so. Some humans were unused to the sight of elves and could react with hostility. Aragorn saw that Elladan and Elrohir sat with a cup of mead each and stared at the liquid with suspicion, he had to grin. The two warriors were curious about the world of men and at the same time a bit nervous around humans. He was trying to make them more used to his race and this mission had brought them into contact with humans on several occasions. There were five elves on this mission, the twins, two very skilled veterans from several wars and a young warrior who just had come of age and watched everything with the wide eyed wonderment of youth.
They had been chasing some orcs and avenged the attack on a small settlement to the north of Imladris, Aragorn knew that the orcs probably didn't care if many of their own got massacred, the filthy creatures were breeding like crazy these days and the hills were crawling with them. There was no end to the problem. The tavern owner was a bit shocked by his visitors, he had never seen elves in his life and now he had five there and he was bowing and trying to appear polite and used to seeing even such creatures. Some food was being served and although it could have tasted better it did fill their stomachs and Aragorn had eaten worse food on many an occasion. Elladan and Elrohir was just stirring their stew with the spoons they had been given and the expressions on the fair faces told everybody that they had their doubts of whether or not this was edible at all. The rangers on the other hand had already cleaned their plates with obvious joy and now they were sitting there emptying the mugs of ale and mead with even greater glee. They had been out for weeks and a night under a roof with food and drink was most welcome.
Aragorn placed himself by the hearth and smoked his pipe as he watched how the others relaxed and enjoyed an evening in safety. A couple of the taverns regular customers had appeared too and they were staring at the elves with eyes like tea cups and awe written all over their faces. The night fell and the rangers had started singing and telling stories and the elves had gathered in a small group silently speaking in their own language. Aragorn put out his pipe and thought of retiring for the night when a man entered the tavern, he looked like a hunter, a tall broad shouldered man with long russet hair and grey eyes that probably could be both gentle and as hard as flint. He saw the rangers and the elves and something about his body language changed, he tensed up and Aragorn got a bit nervous. Could this man be an enemy? Someone hostile towards elves? Not all humans liked elves, some even thought that elves were some sort of vampires and fed their immortal lives by drawing out the energy of humans.
The man hung his cloak by the door and nodded to the tavern owner with friendly look upon his face, the owner of the place obviously knew the man well and Aragorn relaxed a bit. The hunter sat down by a table and got a glass of wine and some bread and cheese, he ate with obvious appetite and then he paid and got up, went over to where Aragorn sat and nodded. "May I join you?"
Aragorn nodded, the man had a strange expression on his face but he was obviously very interested in a small chat with the ranger. The man sat down and bowed his head. "I am known as Hakon, I am a hunter and a traveler and this village is my home these days. You are of the Dunedain?"
Aragorn nodded and Hakon smiled, a swift smile that transformed the face . "I guessed so, and some elves too. It is rare to see any of the fair folk here these days."
Something in Hakon's voice told Aragorn that he made contact for a specific reason, not just to socialize. "You are right about that. We have been out chasing some orcs and one of my men were wounded and needed some more help than what we could give him."
Hakon nodded. "I understand, Mina is a very good healer, she was taught by her father and he was famous believe me. There were very few things that man couldn't cure except the plague and death itself."
Aragorn grinned. "Then I know that Iben is in good hands."
The hunter bit his lower lip, lowered his voice. "I wished to speak to you for a specific reason, and it has to do with the elves. Do you know of the village that lies up river from here?"
Aragorn cocked an eyebrow. "Yes? I was there ten years ago, a mining community?"
Hakon made a nasty grimace. "It was a small place but it has grown the last few years and now it is a rats nest of thieves, murderers and corruption. It is a hell hole, no sane person goes there and I happen to know many who have disappeared from the place without a trace."
Aragorn just stared at the man and Hakon swallowed. "The thing is, there is a house in that village if you know what I mean?"
Aragorn frowned. "You mean a brothel right?"
Hakon made a nasty grimace to answer that. "If you could use such a civilized word for that place. I happen to know that the owner of that place offered some very special services some years ago, apparently he had managed to get his hands on an elf"
Aragorn tensed up, his eyes were blazing and he waved his hands at the twins who immediately came over and sat down. Hakon greeted them with great respect and repeated what he just had said. Elladan looked horrified. "That is impossible. No elf would survive being treated thus."
Hakon looked sad. "Yes, and she, for it was an elleth died after just a couple of weeks but the rumors said that the owner of the place earned a small fortune on her in just that short amount of time."
Elladan and Elrohir looked absolutely disgusted and Aragorn felt anger burning in his heart. "Do you know anything about who she was?"
Hakon leaned over the table. "A little, I was never there, I do not even wish to set my foot in that village anymore but I heard from others who had been there that she was a blonde with a scar across her forehead above her right eye and she had lost her left little finger."
Elrohir made a whimper and Aragorn sighed and closed his eyes. That could only be one person, one of their fellow warriors who got lost during a hunting trip six years ago. They had been looking for her for months but no trace was ever found and she had been a friend of the twins. Elladan sobbed and hid his face behind his hands and Elrohir made a keening noise and turned around. "Oh Ranya, that your fate should be thus."
Hakon looked down."I see that you knew her, my condolences. No creature should have to perish in such a horrible place under such monstrous circumstances but I wanted to speak to you because I fear that it is going to happen once more."
Aragorn whipped his head around, stared at the man. "What?!"
Hakon nodded. "Yes, rumors tell that that son of a bitch has gotten yet another elf for his customers to play with, a male this time. They say he is beautiful beyond compare but very wild, they keep him chained folks say, and only the most wealthy can afford him."
Elladan was ashen grey and Elrohir just stared with huge eyes. "Is this true?"
Hakon shrugged. "I am not sure, but the rumors usually have a core of truth in them, and if this man has an elf on his hand the poor ellon must be rescued right?"
Aragorn struggled to think straight, an elf in the hands of a brothel owner? The mere idea made him cringe and he nodded. "Most certainly, we thank you for this information Hakon, how far away is this village?"
The hunter tilted his head. "Two hours hard ride, but I must warn you. A huge group of men arriving will be noticed immediately. Two or three are more recommendable."
Aragorn was already working on a plan. "Would you join us? We will reward you most generously I swear."
Hakon made a narrow smile. "No reward needed, I would love to help you."
Aragorn nodded. "Good man, then it will be you, me and my second in command. The rest of the group can wait in the forest."
Hakon looked very determined. "Yes, I will show you the way and I know that the sight of two or three somewhat shaggy looking men will arise little suspicion."
Aragorn grinned and let his hand slide across his chin, he hadn't shaved for a week and did indeed look shaggy and so did his attire too. Yes, they would be convincing. Elladan and Elrohir looked a bit restless. Elladan sighed. "We would love to go with you but I guess that the people there would notice that we are elves too rather easily."
Aragorn nodded. "Yes, so you will have to wait."
The two elves nodded and returned to the other three to tell them of what they had learned and Aragorn saw that the two veterans looked absolutely furious and the young warrior was wide eyed and in obvious disbelief. Hakon got up and his eyes were sad but hard. "I will meet you here by dawns first light, be ready and be prepared."
Aragorn just nodded and watched the man leave the room, this was not what they had planned to do but by the gods, it had to be checked out.
The next day the group camped in a narrow canyon not far from the village, they had ridden hard for a few hours and followed hidden paths so that none would see the tracks and know that a huge group had been on the move. Hakon Aragorn and a man who was Aragorn's second in command named Grimurd was to enter the village and they got onto the most anonymous looking horses they had, Hakon had a very plain little gelding of questionable heritage but Aragorn and Grimurd had to use the groups pack horses. The huge elven steeds would arise suspicion right away. They had changed into their most ragged clothes and Grimurd smeared some mud onto his face just to look as if he had been out on the road for a long time. The three men rode towards the gate slowly and since it still was raining they could keep their cloaks on. The village had changed a lot, from just a few shacks and wooden houses to a real village but it didn't look inviting. Most buildings were built in a hurry and looked as if they were ready to crumble down at any moment. The streets were filled with mud and horse droppings and stank to high heavens. Some people were out walking around and they stared at the riders with narrow eyes but as soon as they saw that these three probably had nothing of value they ignored them.
Hakon did lead them towards the house in question, it was among the best ones there and had a sort of forlorn elegance that told Aragorn that it probably had been the mayor's lodgings. Hakon nodded to the other two and dismounted, he tied the horse up and stared at the door, spat in the mud and whispered. "Let me do the speaking, ok? "
Aragorn and Grimurd nodded and they walked up the short stairs and entered. The room they came into stank of both perfume and incense and some very scantily clad women sat on some couches and tried to look seductive but their eyes told just of despair and boredom. Hakon stared at them as if he was considering buying their services, Aragorn had to admit that the hunter was a good actor. A servant dressed in a set of clothes in a ghastly color came running, he looked very subservient and bowed to them as if they were noblemen. "How may we be of service m'gentlemen?"
Hakon swallowed and let his gaze slide around as if to check that nobody was listening. "I hear that your house can offer something different? Exotic?"
The servant stared at them, they looked like vagabonds but looks can be deceitful and he tilted his head. "Yes, but it will cost you, and three? Then you'll have to show us the money first"
Hakon had gotten some coins from Aragorn, he lifted the pouch from his belt and the servant saw that it was heavy and a grin appeared on his sleazy face. He did look a bit like a weasel. Hakon took four gold coins from the pouch. "What we want is first and foremost to watch, we have never seen such a creature before and want to see for our self if the words of others are true."
The servant nodded. "I can assure you m'gentlemen, he is every bit as stunning as the rumors tell you he is."
Hakon grinned, a grin that told of expectations and it made him look rather unscrupulous. The servant waved his hand and Aragorn did notice that there were three guards at this place, very discretely placed but armed and ready to strike if anybody started making problems. They went down a corridor and passed yet another guard and a metal door. They went down a stair and another guard was placed at the end of it. Aragorn did notice everything there, they needed to see and remember every obstacle. They entered a long corridor with what had to be prison cells and at the end was a heavy steel door with bars in front of it. They obviously guarded this elf if that was what he was as if he was made from pure gold. A guard let them through and they entered a small room without windows, it was lighted by some torches and lamps and it was rather naked with only a couple of benches and a sort of bed. At the back of the room on a pile of old straw sat a naked person on his knees, his head hung forward and he had chains across his back to his wrists and then up to the ceiling. The creature was shivering and the fair skin was covered with cuts and bruises, the wrists swollen and dark and it looked skinny. Aragorn just stared, long copper red hair hung around the pale figure and it was thick and shiny but unkempt and filthy. Pointy ears did protrude from it and the ranger let out a small sigh, it was true. It was an elf, or was it?
The figure just sat there, held up by the chains and just the movements of the chest told them he was alive, the face was covered by the hair and the servant grinned widely. "See? Isn't he lovely? I can assure you, he is better than any female and far more beautiful than any of our whores but of course a bit hard to handle. We need the chains unfortunately, he bit one customer and tried to break the neck of another one, but look at that skin and that body."
Hakon licked his lips as if the sight of the chained elf did arouse him. "You are right, he is stunning, such beauty."
Aragorn had to agree with Hakon's words, the elf was stunning. Even among the fair folk this male was exceptional and the long limbs were muscular and elegant. He looked like a chained panther and Aragorn felt a bit puzzled by the red hair, few elves had that color. The servant felt very sure of these clients and misunderstood their silence for awe and lust. "If he was but a little tamer we would of course expand the possibilities but as it is now a good fuck is all we can offer. You don't want that thing near your cock with his teeth, believe me."
Hakon nodded and tried to act as if he found the sight very tempting. "I bet you have a lot of customers for this treasure?"
The servant grinned. "Oh yes, the master has people asking about him every day, but only those who can pay are allowed near him. But of course, there has been some since we got our hands on him and what a lucky day that was for our little business."
Hakon cocked his head. "Now, how on earth did you manage that? To get an elf? I am impressed to say the least."
Grimurd had put his hand down his pants as if he was playing with himself but he had turned his back to the others and he was trying to see if the door could be unlocked easily and without too much noise. Aragorn was leaning a little forward too, as if he was bothered by a raging hard on but he was trying to see if the chains could be removed without a key or if it was needed. The servant looked very important. "We got him from a group of shall we say tradesmen from the north, they had caught him somewhere in the mountains a few weeks ago. He has been here two weeks now and is still going strong, my master will make a fortune on him."
Hakon rearranged his pants a bit, tried to breathe a little faster and it wasn't that hard at all since he was pissed off. Aragorn was even more enrages, two weeks? That had to be two weeks in hell and he just knew that they had to get this unfortunate ellon out of there as fast as possible. Then the prisoner raised his head, a moaning sound could be heard and Aragorn had to kneel down to take a look at this person. The curtain of long thick hair slid aside as the ellon pulled at the chains and Aragorn had to stifle a gasp. Eyes were staring at him, filled with agony and fear and yet they burned with pride, with defiance. This was one person who hadn't given up, who never would give in. This was a soul ready to fight for his dignity and freedom and Aragorn had a hard time believing what he did see. The elf had the strangest eyes he ever had seen, deep golden with a dark ring around the irises and the pupil was like that of a cat. And the face so beautiful it could have been sculpted with an angel as model. The ranger stared at the strange eyes and he whispered to himself so low nobody could hear it. "By Eru, who and what are you?"