By Any Means Necessary
Erestor woke to a terrible throbbing in his head, which instantly made him nauseous. His vision was blurred, his hearing impaired and his stomach was doing sickening somersaults. Unable to hold back, he threw up this morning’s breakfast. Shaking like a leaf, he wiped his lips, and then raised his eyes, trying to identify his surroundings. It was dark and due to his headache it proved impossible to locate the doorway. He focused on touch instead, and realized he was lying on a cold stone floor. /Underground. Someone took me underground./
Thranduil’s thoughts crashed into his mind, making him tremble vehemently. Hearing his lover’s voice in his head added to his pain and he whimpered softly. He crawled into a corner and wrapped his arms around his head, hoping the pounding would stop.
/Erestor! Answer me!/
Thranduil sounded distressed and Erestor wanted to reply, but the throbbing pain made it hard for him to think rationally. /I am here./
/Where is *here*?/
There was an urgency in the Sinda’s voice that finally registered with Erestor, and he tried harder to get the pain under control. /I don’t know. It’s dark and cold in here./ Huddling in the corner, he tried to slow down his ragged breathing. /I don’t feel well./
/Hold on, nîn-cuil. I will come for you myself. It is only a matter of minutes./
/Don’t know if I can… Hurts…/ The surrounding darkness disorientated him and he closed his eyes in an effort to focus himself. Because he was that concentrated, he picked up on the approaching footfalls. /Someone is coming… Hurry!/
Thranduil’s voice faded from his mind, but his lover’s presence remained, which gave him the courage he needed to face his kidnapper. Trying to identify the figure that now appeared in the darkness, the first thing he noticed was the golden hair, which shone radiantly. “Belldoron?” Why would Thranduil’s seneschal strike him down?
A growl escaped Belldoron’s throat. “You will control my King no longer.”
“Control?” What was Belldoron talking about? “I don’t control your King!” If anything, Thranduil controlled him!
“I saw you. Saw how you manipulated my King by flaunting your body and getting up on all fours. I know your plans, but Elrond and you won’t succeed in taking Mirkwood away from us.”
Erestor tasted blood on his lips and realized he had to act quickly, but his thoughts tumbled over each other, making it impossible for him to come up with a plan. He had to trust in Thranduil. He had to believe that the Sinda would find and free him. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I will leave you here. No one will find you and you will slowly rot away.” Belldoron moved back toward the doorway. “It wants me to ravage you and thus kill you, but I cannot do that. Closing this door behind me already weighs heavily on my mind.”
“It?” Erestor frowned and then wished he hadn’t. Groaning in pain, he curled up in a fetal position. Thinking hurt! All he wanted were Thranduil’s arms around him so he would know he was safe.
“You should have stayed in Imladris. Coming here was a mistake.” Belldoron’s fingers curled around the door handle and then pulled it shut.
Whimpering at the loud, metallic sound, Erestor failed to stop the tears that flowed down his cheeks. The pain was too much! /Thranduil, where are you?/
Pethnathron was at Thranduil’s side when the King led the guards into the caves. In his hand he carried the keys that gave him access to the dungeons deep within, where he expected to find his lover. “I want Belldoron apprehended.” It was clear now that his seneschal was responsible for Erestor’s abduction, as only the King and his seneschal possessed the keys to this underground complex.
“It will be done,” said the commanding officer, who directed the guards to the corridors, making sure Belldoron wouldn’t escape them.
Briefly stopping in his tracks, Thranduil closed his eyes and reached within. He caught Pethnathron’s surprised gasp and realized he wouldn’t be able to keep this a secret much longer. “Aye, we are bound to each other. His mind and mine are linked.”
The intelligent advisor deduced the truth. “Thus stopping you from fading.”
“Aye, and now be quiet. I need to concentrate.” Hopefully the link would pull him into the right direction. Erestor was in pain and he needed to locate his mate now! Drawing in a deep breath, the connection between them stirred, pulling him to the right. “He is in the old dungeons.” Eager to be reunited with his lover, he marched into the corridor. Sudden tumult caught his attention and he walked toward the guards, who were holding someone down. “Belldoron.”
Subdued, the seneschal stared at this King, realizing the golden glow had returned to the mane and the emerald eyes sparkled again. “You are already improving, Sire.” He nodded determinedly, certain it were his actions that were helping Thranduil recover. The one thing however, that he couldn’t figure out, was how Thranduil knew where to look for the Noldo. His ruler was still under Erestor’s influence, why else would the King rush down here?
“Where is he? What did you do to him?” Enraged, Thranduil towered above Belldoron, who had been forced to his knees by the guards.
Belldoron glared at his ruler. “He is manipulating you! You cannot see it, but I do! I took him here so he could no longer control you!”
Thranduil growled angrily. The dungeons below were a maze and it would take precious time to locate Erestor, and judging by the pain his lover was in, he might not have that much time left! “Where did you take him?”
Belldoron shook his head. “It is right. It told me that this Noldo controls you. What we did was right!”
Thranduil’s suspicions were finally confirmed. “It? You hear whispers in your mind?”
Belldoron glared at him. “I acted in your best interest!”
Realizing he was wasting time, Thranduil stepped up to Belldoron and then placed Vilya against his seneschal’s throat. The flesh exploded with flames, as Vilya burned the Sinda’s skin. Belldoron whimpered pitifully.
“Now, tell me, where is Erestor?” Thranduil carefully observed his seneschal and could see the exact moment complete awareness returned to his old friend.
Confused, Belldoron’s eyes widened, staring at his King. “What? Where?” He shook his head, trying to clear it, and then swallowed hard, realizing what he had done. “I don’t understand…” What had possessed him to kidnap Erestor?
“Sauron’s Shadow took possession of your mind, but it couldn’t bear Vilya’s presence.” Getting impatient, Thranduil pulled his seneschal onto his feet after signaling for his men to back down. “Where is Erestor? And how badly injured is he?”
“I struck him,” whispered Belldoron guiltily. “I cannot believe I did that.” Looking Thranduil in the eyes, he realized his King wouldn’t easily forgive him. He would be fortunate if he wasn’t banished from Mirkwood for the rest of his life. “I had no idea what I was doing,” he offered apologetically.
“We don’t have time for this,” said Thranduil firmly. “You will take me to Erestor, now!”
Belldoron nodded. “Follow me, Sire.”
Thranduil signaled for his men to keep an eye on Belldoron and then followed his seneschal into the deeper parts of the caves.
How could this have happened? Belldoron didn’t understand how he could have let the Shadow control him in that way. It had twisted his perception, making Erestor the evil one, whilst it was becoming clear to him that the Noldo meant a great deal to Thranduil. When he had looked at his King earlier, he had seen love in his ruler’s eyes. /I never wanted to hurt anyone./ His entire life had been dedicated to honor and to serving his King and now *this* had happened. He wanted to apologize again, but his ruler’s violent expression told him not to bother. The only thing Thranduil wanted was to be reunited with Erestor. /Thranduil loves him./
Finally he saw the truth. /They were making love and I thought Erestor was using his body to control Thranduil, but I was wrong./ Hanging his head in shame, he sped up and so did Thranduil.
Thranduil flung the door open and stormed inside. His Elven sight allowed him to make out Erestor’s huddled form and within seconds, he was at his lover’s side, wrapping strong arms around the dark-haired Elf. He didn’t stop to consider if he was strong enough yet to lift Erestor, he just did, and carried his lover out of the dungeon.
“Send for a healer!” Attending to Elrond was one thing, but having to tend for his lover was different. He wasn’t sure how he would react when more pain had to be inflicted in order for his lover to heal.
“Sire, what do we do with Belldoron?” Pethnathron knew his old friend had been under the influence of evil, but he also realized that there was the danger of the Shadow taking possession of the seneschal again.
“Confide him to his rooms and posts guards. I will deal with him later!” Thranduil marched out of the underground complex and began to climb the talan to his private rooms. Suddenly Lindir appeared at his side and he signaled for the white-haired Elf to follow him.
“Is he…?” Lindir was worried for Erestor and wanted to help.
“He is unconscious. Belldoron knocked him down.” Warm blood dripped onto his hands and he knew he had to attend to Erestor quickly. As they reached his private rooms, they found two healers already present. Both carried bowls filled with water and pouches with healing herbs.
Thranduil lay Erestor down on his bed and then stepped aside, allowing the healers to attend to his lover’s needs. His hands shook and he felt confused, but he still watched every move the healers made.
“We are hoping to stop the bleeding,” said one of the healers, who was cleaning the wound, pushing dark hair out of the way. “And he will need to rest for some time. He might be concussed.”
Thranduil nodded, distrusting his voice. He listened closely when the healer continued.
“We will clean and bandage the wound. I suggest you make sure someone sits with him for the next few hours.”
Thranduil nodded again and now exchanged a glance with Lindir. “One of us will be here at all times.”
The white-haired Elf wrung his hands, worried now that Erestor remained unconscious. “It was fortunate you knew where to search for him.”
“Our bond told me. Never before was I so happy to be connected to him.” The bond that had accidentally formed between them, had now saved Erestor’s life. “Belldoron won’t cause any more problems, I will see to that.” He gritted his teeth and assisted the healers when they carefully bandaged their patient’s head.
“We will return in one hour to check on him,” said one healer, inclining his head in respect. “Don’t worry too much, Sire. We are confident that he will recover.”
Thranduil thanked them and after they had left, he slipped into place next to Erestor, pulling his mate into his arms. “Lindir? I will take the first watch. Return here in four hours.”
Lindir nodded and left as well, giving Thranduil the privacy the Sinda craved.
“I almost lost you. I wasn’t alert enough. I should have known the Shadow would find another to torment. I will be more careful in future.” Carefully, he pulled Erestor toward him, hoping his lover felt his closeness, even in his sleep. “You are safe now.”
“You wanted to talk to me?” Elladan entered his father’s room and was relieved to see that Elrond was doing better. A good night’s sleep had taken care of the dark circles beneath his father’s eyes, which were gone now. Elrond was finally recovering.
“Aye. Please sit down, ion-nîn.” Elrond, seated in a comfortable chair in front of the window, smiled warmly at his son.
After seating himself, Elladan returned the smile and waited for his father to explain.
Elrond opened his right hand and revealed his brother’s silver hair clip. “You now know its history.”
“Aye, Elros gave it to you.” Elladan’s eyes narrowed slightly, wondering what his father was up to.
“I want you to have it, Elladan.” Elrond bend forward and pressed the hair clip into his oldest son’s hand. “You kept your brother from fading. You succeeded where I failed.”
“You didn’t fail!” objected Elladan in a strong tone. “Elros never gave you a choice.”
“And Elrohir wasn’t planning on giving you one either,” said Elrond, sighing distressed. “I wouldn’t have survived losing Elrohir. Or the both of you. The past is very vivid right now and the pain is very real once more, but I find comfort in the fact that Elrohir accepted you.”
Elladan stared at the hair clip. “Elrohir should have this.” Seeing his father’s puzzled expression, he explained. “Elrohir is the brave one to accept me. He was scared, ashamed and felt guilty. It would have been easy for him to reject me, but he didn’t.”
“Then you may give it to him,” said Elrond, smiling. “I am so proud of the two of you.” Then his smile faded and a sad expression colored his eyes. “I just wish Elros had—“
Unable to watch the pain in his father’s eyes, Elladan jumped to his feet and crossed the distance between them. Leaning in closer, he buried his father in a tight hug. “We cannot change the past and we cannot live in it. You have built a life here, in the present, Ada, your future lies with Glorfindel. Allow Elros to find his peace and forgive him. Focus on Glorfindel and your children, your loved ones.”
Elrond chuckled. “I might make you my new chief advisor, ion-nîn. I need one now Erestor won’t return to us.”
Elladan’s eyes widened and he pulled away to make eye contact with Elrond. “He is not coming back?”
Elrond chuckled again, realizing Elladan didn’t know about Thranduil and Erestor yet. “You had better sit down, pen-neth.”
Elladan listened, stunned, whilst his father told him about Thranduil and Erestor.
“Elrohir?” Elladan walked up to his twin, who had for some reason returned to their mother’s favorite bower. Seating himself behind Elrohir, he pulled his brother’s back toward his chest and folded his arms around him.
Elrohir smiled, feeling Elladan this close. “Don’t worry, êl, I am fine. Just remembering Nana.”
Elladan rested his chin on his brother’s shoulder. “Still feeling melancholy?”
“Not really. I am happy, actually.” Elrohir moved in the embrace until he was face to face with his twin and then wrapped his arms around Elladan’s waist. He studied Elladan’s eyes for a long time. “You want to tell me something.”
Elladan revealed the hair clip to his younger twin. “Ada gave it to me. He is still hurting because of Elros, but he might be able to move on, now that he has Glorfindel’s love and knows we won’t repeat Elros’ mistake.”
“I almost did,” admitted Elrohir in a choked tone. “Like Elros, I didn’t want to give you that choice. I wanted to protect you.”
“Let us not talk about that. We should look toward the future instead.” Agile and trained fingers moved through Elrohir’s long hair, fastening the hair clip. “Please wear it. You would make Ada and me very happy if you did.”
Elrohir nodded once. “I will wear it then.” A thoughtful expression appeared on his face. “Will you return here with me after Ithil has risen?”
Elladan arched an eyebrow questioningly.
“I want to… to complete the circle tonight,” whispered Elrohir shyly.
Elladan’s eyes glowed with pleasure, realizing what his twin was trying to tell him. “You will claim me in turn?”
Elrohir bit his bottom lip and nodded again. “If you will let me.”
“It is my greatest desire,” replied Elladan sincerely. Smiling warmly, he kissed Elrohir, wishing night had already arrived. /At last, we will truly be whole./
Haldir’s heart was heavy, leading Imladris finest guards into the Hornburg. Théoden, Aragon and Legolas came to greet him and he gave in, feeling Aragorn’s relief at having his support and allowed the possessive hug. After speaking formal words with Théoden, Haldir allowed Aragorn and Legolas to walk with him. It would only be a few hours until the expected attack and they talked about past, present and a future they were scared to think of.
Legolas seemed unbalanced and inquired if there was any news of Mirkwood and its ruler and Haldir regretted having to disappoint his friend. The only thing he could tell Legolas was that Elrond and Glorfindel had returned, whilst Erestor had remained in Mirkwood. Troubled, Legolas had then excused himself and Aragorn had done the same, following Legolas in case his friend needed comforting.
Alone, Haldir ventured onto the defense wall and stared into the distance. Many of his men would die tonight, and only a small percentage would live to see another sunrise. Would he die as well?
Until now he had stopped himself from exploring that option, but now that he had arrived, he had to consider this possibility. Looking out over Rohan, he wished he’d had a chance to say goodbye to his brothers. Rumil and Orophin would mourn his passing, but he hoped they would find the strength to continue without him.
And then there was Celeborn, who had remained behind in Imladris. In one of his pockets, he carried a letter, written during the one break he had allowed himself and his men on their way here. It contained a declaration of love for Celeborn, but he knew very well that his Lord would never read it. If he died, the letter would be either buried of burned with him.
He had lived long and had been relatively happy. Seeing his brothers grow up had been his life’s joy, and now he had to let go of them. /Rumil, Orophin, I already miss you. And Celeborn, nîn
Sighing, saddened, he closed his eyes in order to hold back tears of sorrow. Composing himself, he pulled his cloak close and waited for Saruman’s army to appear.
Celeborn studied his march warden’s lone silhouette as Haldir’s eyes searched the valley. He had mingled with his men, and the few that had recognized him, had sworn they wouldn’t betray his secret. It was important to cover Haldir’s back in the heat of the battle and he was afraid that if his march warden knew he was here, Haldir would be distracted, trying to keep him safe.
/This time I will watch over you./ In the past, Haldir had kept him safe. It was time to return the favor.
When the attack finally came, Celeborn wondered if anyone of them would survive. Ten thousand of Saruman’s creatures were invading the Hornburg after breeching the defense wall. He constantly kept a close eye on Haldir and managed to remain in his march warden’s proximity.
His heart ached, realizing one Elf after another was dying at the hands of the Uruk-Hai. Everywhere he looked, he saw fallen Elves, their eyes glazed over in death.
He sucked in his breath, seeing the lost and sad expression in Haldir’s eyes now that his men were dying all around him and Celeborn instinctively moved even closer to him.
Celeborn was also the first to see an Uruk-Hai sneaking up behind Haldir. /This must be it!/ Galadriel hadn’t told him how and when Haldir would die, but his instincts were warning him to be extremely careful.
Rushing forward, he blocked the attack that was aimed at Haldir’s back.
The march warden, finally realizing the danger, turned around and instinctively knew he would have been dead, had this Elf not covered his back. He didn’t have the time to whisper a thank you, as more Uruk-Hai attacked. Fighting back to back, Haldir and Celeborn took out several Uruk-Hai, including the one who had attacked him in the back.
“Come with me!” Celeborn, realizing they were fighting a lost battle, took charge and pulled Haldir inside the main hall. Shouting his orders, he told his men to reassemble and take positions deep within the Hornburg, as their prime objective had become protecting the women and children.
Pushing a wooden door close, Celeborn rested his back against it and tried to slow down his breathing. Haldir was staring at him in shock; apparently he had been discovered.
Haldir shook his head in disbelief. “Celeborn?” Never before had he addressed his Lord in that way, but surprise and confusion had gotten the better of him.
Now that they faced death, Celeborn’s courage increased and he boldly reached for Haldir’s waist, pulling him close. He brutally claimed the other’s lips, bruising them in a passionate kiss, and then released the silver-haired Elf. His eyes twinkled mischievously, seeing the disbelief in Haldir’s hazel eyes. “I will explain later,” he said quickly and then reestablished his hold on the younger Elf’s body. Pulling him along, he was determined to keep Haldir safe. Losing him was one price Celeborn wasn’t willing to pay.
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