Rating: R/NC-17
Pairings: Aragorn/Legolas, Boromir/Legolas
Category: Semi-AU, Slave-fic, First-Time, Romance, Angst, Drama
Warnings: (see individual chapter headings)

Summary: An Elvish slave learns much about the ways of Men — who, above all else, desire power.

Story Notes:
(also appears at the beginning of Chapter One)

This is a multi-chaptered, semi-AU slave-fic.

The One Ring remains lost, perhaps, even forever; Sauron lies dormant, unable to return whilst his Ring of Power is hidden from him, although the whisper of his formless malice creeps across Middle-earth like an insidious shadow. There is discord and suspicion among the different folk of the land, and they have grown apart instead of being united. The races of Elves and Men have long been sundered, and have had no dealings with each other for many years.

Minas Tirith is the capital of the lands of Anórien, of the former realm of Gondor; it is a flourishing city, wealthy and of much profitable yield; but the people have fallen into greed and selfishness, forsaking the nobler ways in which their forefathers once lived. Men are much more like the ancient Romans that we now know of: sexuality is about rough passions and obsessive power plays. But yet, amidst corrupting desire there still lives in some the rare spirit of the nobility and love of the elder days.

Central Characters:
- Boromir has claimed the title of King of Anórien, since the kingdom of Gondor had disintegrated into several smaller states due to internal strife and civil conflict; Faramir is the prince of the city.
- Aragorn, who is born of true yet forsaken royalty, has returned to Minas Tirith after his wanderings in the wild, and now serves as chief steward of Boromir’s household.
- Gandalf is his trusted friend and counsellor; he is the only other who knows that Aragorn is the true royal heir, biding his time to reclaim his birthright and reunite the scattered peoples of Gondor to their former glory.
- Legolas is an Elf who had been captured by hunters; a prize of great value, as this story shall tell.

And due to popular demand, the hobbits will make a cameo appearance in a later chapter.

Many thanks to Megan and Tyellas, my beta readers.

Through Bitter Chains

Chapter One

By Rhysenn


Once a year, the hunters would stop along their route at Minas Tirith, and this was a much-anticipated arrival; they would often bring exotic and strange wares pillaged from far lands: from curiously-fragrant pipe-weed to silver-gold leaves that never wither, and made perfect adornment upon the finest of garments — and, on occasion, live goods they would also bear. As indeed on this occasion.

Though the peoples of Minas Tirith transacted with these hunters from afar, they never quite welcomed them. Perhaps an old suspicion still lived in the subconscious of their minds, their better senses warning them against frequent dealings with such rough, uncultured folk. For although these strangers fashioned themselves as 'hunters', in truth they were not of the revered Dúnedain of the North, whose rare kind seemed to have disappeared, percolated into the very land that they knew so well — no, these swarthy men were kin to the Easterlings, dangerous and treacherous. Even though Men now conducted business with them for reasons of profitable trade, they still far from trusted them; thus the hunters would not linger long, and in the brief period they stayed, both parties would gain some form of commercial benefit.

For Minas Tirith was rich, yet secluded from the other realms of Middle-earth; journeys from place to place were avoided, since along the high roads often lurked marauding bands, and it was no longer possible to traverse the lands and hope for a hospitable reception in foreign parts. Middle-earth was divided, fragmented into many different states and territories: each distrustful of the other, and content to roam within its own boundaries and venture little further; thus, missing out on the wonder and beauty that lived in distant corners of the land.

However, today, there was no need for the people of Minas Tirith to look far beyond their borders for hints of wonder and beauty from the distant horizon; the hunters brought these right to their gates, in their full splendour, great revealed and even greater, yet concealed. For this year, amidst the colourful and amazing array of other goods that they had gleaned on their travels, the hunters had a prized possession that they wished to sell, for a very high price: and just not to any bidder on the street. They wanted audience with King Boromir himself, to present their offer.

Boromir was mildly suspicious when his court messengers conveyed this to him; he rarely had dealings with these hunters, although he interfered not with his people's choosing to do business with them. It was not to be denied that these hunters often peddled that which was much to be desired in Minas Tirith; trade in such varied and valuable items increased the status of Anórien among the other independent states in the realm of Gondor.

However, his curiosity was piqued; he saw no harm in conferring with the hunters, and so sent word that he would meet them, as requested. Shortly after noon he left his palace to descend to the gates of the White City, where the hunters would be waiting.

Faramir, his younger brother and prince of the city, accompanied him; as they strode through the streets the crowds hurriedly parted to let them pass, for they were both fair of face and grand of stature, and the people beheld them with great respect. Boromir was strong, skilled of weapon and equally swift of resolve; he took no wife, and delighted in the art of war; from that love of his also sprang his chief weakness: a tendency toward rash violence. Faramir, who was more learned in lore and music, often had to tactfully restrain his older brother, who could be vicious when provoked and would never suffer even the slightest affront to his pride.

There was already a large throng of people at the gates, engaged in negotiations and haggling over prices with the traders; however, all activity ceased the moment they saw that King Boromir and Prince Faramir had arrived, and the transactions in progress were put on hold as the hunters gathered forward to speak with the king. There were four of them in all; their leader was a stout man with bushy beard, and an unyielding look about him.

Unseen by all, a wizened old man materialised as if from nowhere, and stood at a distance, his wide-brimmed hat shading his eyes as he observed the proceedings; his keen, obscured gaze missed nothing. Few knew or saw much of him, save the occasional glimpse; for this elusive, bent figure dwelt usually in the palace, where he was on close terms with the steward of the household.

Presently, the leader of the hunters stepped forward, and bowed low before the king and prince.

"Good afternoon, my noble lords," he said with exaggerated politeness; the crooked smile on his lips betrayed his true devious nature, and Boromir was not deceived.

"What would you desire to speak to me about?" he asked, his tone clipped and formal. "It is the middle of the day, and other matters of import also beckon."

"Gracious you are, lord, for finding the time to speak with us lowly travelling traders," the leader continued, although the glint in his eye remained. "I'm sure you will discover that your precious time spent here is far from wasted... indeed, you will find much pleasure ere our leave be taken."

"That I will judge, when I have heard the matter," Boromir said in a non-committal way.

"Is it not true, as rumours say," the leader said slyly, "that in Minas Tirith and its surrounding country, slavery has been legalised and made a way of life amongst you?"

"Yes," Boromir replied stiffly, after a brief hesitation. "Yet it is also the manner of the other states in the realm of Gondor, and this is a local statute that has little to do with the trade you deal in." He allowed a tone of impatience to slip into his voice. "Now, what have you to say about your own matter? Speak swiftly, and I will give reply as I deem fit."

"Very well; I will be brief and direct." The leader turned and signalled to his companions, two of whom went at once to their caravan. They disappeared inside, drawing the flaps closed behind them; there followed some muffled noises from within.

The crowd waited in anticipation; a few minutes later their heads reappeared and they climbed out, although with some difficulty, as if they were dragging something heavy or reluctant. People craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the load that the two hunters were hauling out of the caravan — perhaps a treasure chest, full of jewels and lost wonders? — but they gasped when they finally saw what it was. It was more exquisite and beautiful than jewels, for it was living, and beyond wonders that many of them had ever imagined. Few had beheld another of its kind before; yet to all it was unmistakable what this creature was.

An Elf.

They all stared, fascinated by the elf's wild, undefined beauty — natural as the stars, and captivating as the Sea. It was clear that great effort had been taken by the hunters to preserve this prized possession in its prime condition; yet the elf had not escaped unscathed, perhaps having had to be subdued by force on several occasions prior. There was a fresh bruise flowering on his cheekbone, yet still it did not mar the delicate features set in the pale face; the elf's eyes shone with a defiant light, a silver fire, as he twisted against the leather bands that held his arms behind his back, although to no avail. His blond hair fell in fine, slightly tousled locks upon his slim shoulders.

One of the hunters started to shove the elf forward, impatiently; but the other quickly hissed at him, and they both made a concerted effort to treat their prisoner less roughly. The elf's ankles were shackled with chains that chafed his smooth skin raw. He wore a tunic of dark green, the raiment of folk who dwell in forests; it hid but flattered the slim body that lay beneath, and was torn in places to reveal pale bare skin. The elf wrenched violently away from the touch of the hunters each time they tried to urge him along; he rebuked them in his own tongue, which sounded melancholic and melodious like a lament of nature.

Boromir could not take his eyes away from the elf; he was entranced by his beauty, simple yet divine. He was suddenly overcome with the intense desire to have this prize for his own, whatever the cost. The sheer untamed appeal of the elf excited him, much like the thrill of embarking on war: a conquest that lay before him, which he had bent all his thought towards conquering and possessing. It was an instinctive emotion that arose within him: primal yet truthful, and singularly focused.

The leader of the hunters noticed Boromir's unabashed hunger, and smiled; the king was not known for his subtlety or power in restraint. This boded well for the hunters; perhaps half the battle was already won.

"Behold!" the leader indicated the elf with a proud sweep of his hand. "This is a prize beyond the reckoning of gold and silver; one of the rarest and most beautiful species that walk the earth, a gem from the forests of Mirkwood in the vast lands beyond. We went forth and brought him hence, since we knew that he would bring you much pleasure, O king. A slave such as this you would likely never see again."

"You chose well," Boromir acknowledged curtly. "What would you ask for his price?"

"Only a trifle, my lord," the leader said, his voice placating. "It is but a small thing, a token for a possession as priceless as this; the rest of its value consider a gift of goodwill from our peoples to yours. We ask only for the dwelling places that lie beyond the Anduin, on the farther shore that your city looks upon: the land of Ithilien."

"You ask for Ithilien!" Boromir laughed sharply, and shook his head. "Then you do belittle the worth of the land, if you think that its length and breadth is worth an exchange for a single slave, even though he be an elf of Mirkwood. Much of the land is not populated, no doubt; yet it has rich resources of game for hunting and fishing, and we will not cast it aside so lightly. It is ours by territorial right, and its value is far greater than what you offer."

Faramir, standing by Boromir's side, nodded approvingly; however he cast a searching glance at his brother, as if sensing the urgent desire that raged within him, to have this elf as his own.

"Pardon I beg if I spoke contrary to my intention," the leader said, still glib and smooth of tongue. "Rather we hold Ithilien in high regard. As a travelling folk we have wandered many leagues, homeless; above all, we wish to have a land to call our own. We greatly desire Ithilien, and it would be an honour to dwell at such proximity to your fine city. We have searched far and wide to find this gift to present to you, O King Boromir, and we wish it to find delight in your eyes — for the elf is immortal, and his beauty will never fade. He would be a fine heirloom of your house for generations to come."

Boromir looked thoughtful; he was silent for a moment, and the stillness settled without a ripple over the entire assembly as they waited for him to make up his mind. Boromir's restless eyes strayed towards the elf once more, and remained there; the elf looked back at him, and a fiery will burned in his eyes, unbroken still. But rather than being deterred, this aroused a sense of challenge in Boromir; he took a step forward.

"I shall inspect the gift, ere I give you my reply," he said, not taking his eyes off the elf.

Faramir looked ill at ease, and he gave the hunters a dark look; he trusted them not, and had never been happy allowing them access to trade at the gates. But he could do nothing except watch Boromir walk towards the elf, who stood his ground.

Boromir neared the elf, who did not flinch even as he drew to a halt merely inches away; there was still a great fire that blazed in those silver-grey eyes, a fierce resentment at being called a 'slave' and traded casually for a plot of land. Even as he looked into the elf's eyes Boromir hesitated to touch him, seeing clearly the explosiveness within this lithe being. However, courage and need bettered his wariness, and he reached forward to brush his hand lightly against the elf's dirt-stained cheek. It was a tender movement, seemingly; although beneath it was a yearning insistence, which the elf evidently detected; he moved a step backwards, breaking contact.

A shadow of anger flitted across Boromir's face; but a possessive determination triumphed, and he drew back calmly, a grim smile on his face as he turned to the leader, who was waiting eagerly for an answer.

"I will lease you the land of Ithilien for five years," Boromir finally judged; and Faramir despaired, for he knew his brother had yielded to the temptation to barter their country's land for what was clearly a personal pursuit. "For five years you may dwell there, you and your people; that shall be the price for this elf-slave." He spoke the last word deliberately, and darkly relished the helpless rage in the elf's eyes.

"Twelve years," countered the leader, driving a hard bargain, playing on the controlled lust he sensed burning in the depths of the king.

"Seven years and that is my final offer," Boromir said flatly; he may have yearned deeply for the prize offered, but he would not be taken advantage of by reason of weakness. He gave the elf a careless look that disguised the intensity of his true feelings, and turned to face the leader of the hunters. "This which you offer, though of high quality, cannot justify such an exorbitant price. Seven years, and no more."

The leader consulted briefly with his companions; finally, they acquiesced, and the matter was sealed. The terms were swiftly agreed upon: the captured elf would be promptly handed over to Boromir (for the king did not trust the hunters to treat their captive decently any longer, once his usefulness in negotiating a deal was served); in return, they would receive the written deed giving them leave to roam and live in the deserted realm of Ithilien for seven years.

Boromir briskly gave instructions with regard to his new elf-slave.

"Take him back to the palace," he told the guards, who stood by awaiting his word. "And there hand him over to the care of Aragorn, chief steward of my household. He will know what to do; just tell him that I want to see the new slave at the dinner feast tonight, and he will handle the rest of the arrangements."

The elf gave his new master a long, measured look, as if trying to gauge the person that would rule his life henceforth; and if one wondered that the elf did not feel misery at his capture and sale into a bleak existence in servitude, one only had to look into his eyes to see the volumes of sadness that ached within his soul, which loved nature and beauty and freedom.

Boromir's manner showed his complacent attitude, now that he had obtained what he wanted; he barely spared the elf a glance as he turned on his heel and departed, with Faramir by his side. The guards came near, and escorted the king's new slave back to the palace; the elf shrugged away their restraining hands on his shoulder, his head still held high. Through it all he said not a word.

A distance down the road, Faramir fell into stride with Boromir.

"This is not altogether well, my brother," Faramir advised. "It is a decision too rashly made; we should have taken counsel ere we gave the hunters any reply."

"There was no need," Boromir replied; he felt pleased with his afternoon's acquisition. "For my mind was already made up; and now, the deal has already been sealed. I cannot go back on my word."

"But do you really think it wise?" Faramir was troubled; he could not remain silent any longer. "Permitting slavery in our kingdom is one thing, but — Elves are the Firstborn, and Men are the Followers. That is the way it has been decreed, ere the world begun. Are we not overstepping our boundaries by making an elf a slave of our household? It is contrary to the original purpose of the fair Kindred."

"He is not a slave of the household," Boromir answered. "He will be my personal slave, and will serve me alone. For I see it purposed that he was offered to me, and — I do not conceal my heart from you, brother — I deny not that I desired him, from when I first laid eyes on him."

Faramir did not think it extraordinary that the elf was offered to Boromir, since he was the king; and, being kinder of heart, Faramir felt pity for the elf. Also, something about the feral desire that his brother had professed alarmed him, although he did not speak of it.

Instead he asked, "Could we not find some work suitable for him in the palace?"

Boromir looked at his brother with great surprise. "Faramir, would I have leased out the use of Ithilien to those barbarians, just to recruit another officer in the palace? I think not. Nay, it is the elf — and his physical beauty — that I have found great pleasure in."

"You did not even ask his name," Faramir pointed out.

"It does not matter," Boromir said brazenly. "He is mine."

As the two brothers headed back towards the citadel, the wizened old man drew his grey cloak about him, and turned away; then he was gone. Moments later he was seen quickly slipping into the palace by the back doors; news of what he had witnessed he brought to Aragorn, steward of the household, whose duty it had been to remain behind in the palace whilst the king and prince were both absent.

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