Rating: R

Pairings: Aragorn/Legolas, Boromir/Legolas
Category: AU, First-Time, Romance, Angst, Drama
Warnings: mild BDSM

Summary: The grand dinner feast takes place, and Legolas is brought before King Boromir -- will pride beget a fall?

Story Notes: Please refer to the headings in Chapter One, or read the notes at http://rhysenn.morethanart.org/lotr/tbc-notes.htm for more detailed exposition of the situation and characters in this AU.

Through Bitter Chains

Chapter Three

By Rhysenn


The Spring Feast was a grand and elaborate event, which the kitchen servants began preparations for several days in advance. It was held annually in Merethrond, the Great Hall of Feasting: a large sprawling floor built upon a pavilion, edged by white carved pillars that upheld the cavernous ceilings above. Today, it was bedecked in colours of verdant green and sparkling silver for the occasion.

The high officials of the palace had their place at the exclusive Velvet Table, situated upon a broad elevated dais laid with a fine purple carpet, where the king himself would dine. The other grandees at the feast were prominent guild masters and merchants of Minas Tirith; almost all in attendance were male. Apart from the wine and fine food, there would also be live entertainment -- some of the performances tended to be very sensual, and as the evening passed, excesses in drink would also loosen inhibitions; for most of the guests, the night would usually culminate in sexual gratification of some kind.

Legolas was brought into Merethrond unshackled, for he was a slave, not a prisoner. Everyone present watched Legolas with avid eyes -- most had not seen elves in a long time, and murmured comments were made about the beauty of King Boromir’s new slave. But no one dared lay a hand on Legolas, as he belonged to the king.

Faramir was already there. Aragorn had a seat at the Velvet Table; after instructing Legolas to stand aside by a pillar to await the king’s arrival, he settled down next to the prince, for they were great friends. Faramir regarded the elf with troubled interest; he spoke to Aragorn in a low voice.

"My brother has set his heart on that elf," Faramir said. "I am sure you have heard about the leasing of Ithilien for seven years, as the acquisition price of the elf. Truth be told I counselled against it -- but to no avail, for Boromir desires him greatly."

There was something in Faramir’s remarks and tone that struck a cold nerve within Aragorn; he liked not the sound of them, and the foreboding he had from the start grew deeper. Gandalf’s ominous words echoed in his mind: //My heart misgives that King Boromir’s interest in the elf goes beyond what meets the eye.//

"The reason for the king’s delight in the elf is plain to see," Aragorn said, although he was careful not to reveal his suspicion. "For he is beautiful; and being an Elf, likely very talented and skilled in many ways."

"Well, perhaps he will also be adept in what the king desires him for," Faramir replied, casting another glance at Legolas; the elf was gazing off into the distance, not seeming to notice the intense scrutiny he was under, from almost every eye in the hall. Faramir turned back to Aragorn, and resumed, "I would not be so uneasy, had he not been an Elf. But... well, I suppose every effort must still be made to fulfil the king’s wishes. So I shall hold my peace. My brother has laboured hard for Minas Tirith; he deserves some reprieve."

"Do you imply," Aragorn could no longer withhold his burning question, "that the king wishes the elf to be his -- *personal* slave? And to -- serve him, in any manner he might ask?"

Faramir nodded. "Have you not heard the rumour that has been spreading like wildfire among all the court officials? They have talked of naught else all afternoon, and even now the entire city must be aroused in curiosity. But -- oh, little wonder that you have not heaard -- you have been tending to the elf since he arrived, preparing him for the feast. You have done well, and I am sure my brother will be greatly pleased -- the elf looks splendid."

"Legolas." Aragorn said shortly. "His name is Legolas."

"A fair name for one of his kindred," Faramir said; Aragorn silently agreed with him as he gazed at the elf, who stood quietly where he had been instructed. Legolas looked like a living statue of marble, carved and kindled by the hands of the gods themselves. "It is regrettable that he cannot dwell here as a resident of Minas Tirith; but my brother has made it eminently clear that he sought the prized possession solely as his own to enjoy."

"With the payment of the lands of our people?" Aragorn said obliquely; even as he spoke a painful twinge awoke inside him, twisting deeply.

"I did not wish this to come to pass," Faramir answered. "You know, better than anyone else, how I was grieved when the law permitting slavery in our realm was enacted. But then, as now, I remain powerless to overrule the king’s decision. My brother is stubborn and strong-willed -- he knows what he wants, and he will stop at naught to get it."

As they were speaking, King Boromir entered the hall. He was dressed in the finest royal robes, and he looked magnificent. The gathered guests rose, and with a gesture of his hand Boromir bade them all join him; everyone settled down into their places.

Boromir’s eyes swept across the hall; but he missed Legolas, who was standing partially concealed behind the pillar. He turned to Aragorn and asked, "Where is the elf-slave of mine?"

Aragorn gritted his teeth as he stood. "He is waiting by the pillar, lord." He surmised that Boromir meant no real malice by referring to Legolas as ‘slave’, but only spoke with careless insensitivity; however Aragorn could see the dark fire in Legolas’s eyes, and knew that the elf greatly resented it.

"Bring him forth to me," came the command.

Aragorn went over to Legolas, and escorted him towards Boromir; Legolas walked with graceful strides, his unwillingness imperceptible in his light steps as he drew closer to stand before the king. Then Aragorn left his side, and Legolas stood alone.

Boromir regarded Legolas with languid satisfaction; he let his gaze slide up and down the slender body before him, a prelude to what was his to touch and bend to his will as he pleased. The entire assembly watched in fascination.

Finally Boromir rose to his feet, and addressed the guests; as he spoke, he laid his hand possessively on Legolas’s shoulder, drawing him near.

"Here I present before you a jewel from lands afar," he said, his voice proud and sonorous, "brought to our gates as a prize to be held within the realm of Anórien, aye, even kept within the palaces of Minas Tirith. He is an Elf from the distant forests of Mirkwood, where he must have been among the fairest of creation that walked there under moon and starlight.

"For a price worthy of his exquisiteness he was bought, and henceforth I alone will he be obliged to serve. By day he shall work as I please, and he will dwell in my chambers at night. He will feast by my side, and not as one of the servants."

Boromir let his hand slide down Legolas’s body to rest on the small of his back; the elf stiffened, yet mustered enough self-control not to react. Boromir did not sense the tenseness in the body next to him, and he continued, "Let it be known in all the city that this elf is my possession! I am now his master, and exclusive and faithful he shall be; and his name shall be called --"

"My lord," Aragorn said as he stood up abruptly, interrupting the king’s speech; Boromir turned to look at him questioningly. "Pardon me; but the elf’s rightful name is Legolas. And perhaps it would please you to name him such -- it is a beautiful name, meaning ‘green leaf’ in the Elvish tongue. For he is indeed slender and rare as a mallorn leaf, and evergreen in his youth."

Aragorn sat down; he felt an odd heat burning on his cheeks, and when he looked up again, he saw that Legolas’s eyes were fixed on him, filled with a new light of wonder.

Boromir was greatly pleased with Aragorn’s suggestion. "Very well! He shall be called Legolas by all in this realm. Perhaps he will be comforted by the use of his familiar name."

There was applause from the guests as Boromir sat down, and Legolas was given a lower seat by his side; the food was served without further ado. Legolas was given a portion of whatever dishes his master partook. He ate swiftly, yet seemed preoccupied, caught in a deep thought that only he knew. Boromir barely spoke to him, engaging instead in conversation with his officials; Aragorn joined in the talk at occasional points, although he was on the whole distracted.

The soup for the evening was brought: it was a delicacy, rich and fragrant, and was served only to the king and those dining at the Velvet Table, while the other guests received another variety of stew. Legolas watched with a deepening frown as the servant ladled out the soup; when he was given his portion, he examined it closely, and for the first time that evening he spoke.

"May I inquire what soup this is?" he said quietly, looking across the table to Aragorn; he spoke so softly that no one else noticed him.

"It is a speciality of the culinary masters of Minas Tirith," Aragorn answered. "It has been double-boiled with the swallow’s nest and eggs, which are known to do much for one’s physical health."

"Among other things!" Another official quipped; laughter rippled through the company.

Legolas’s jaw dropped, and he looked utterly shocked. He stared at the soup, revolted, and seemed on the verge of pushing the bowl away from him, a clear symbol of rejection of a dish so highly valued; but he looked up, and caught Aragorn’s eye again. The steward was watching him intently, and his warning gaze spoke volumes; it stayed Legolas’s hand.

"This is *our* way of life, Legolas," Aragorn said meaningfully, in a low but intense voice that could barely be discerned above the din; but he knew that Legolas heard him. "Down your pride, together with that soup."

Aragorn saw that the elf was undergoing a great internal struggle -- the turmoil of his natural instincts against his better judgement. Finally, Legolas bowed his head, and spoon by spoon choked the entire bowl of agonising soup down his throat, clearly forcing himself not to gag each time he gulped; when he finally set down the empty bowl, Legolas looked like he was going to be sick.

Following the meal, Boromir beckoned Legolas to his side on the couch as the performances started; there was enthusiastic applause and catcalls at the dancers. Wine glasses were drained, and refilled; as the night grew deeper, the laughter from the grandees at the feast grew louder, more raucous, and their faces became flushed with the heat of intoxication in their veins.

Aroused by the sensual movements of the performers and the wine he had consumed, Boromir leaned in; with one strong hand he turned Legolas’s face towards him, and kissed the elf’s lips, gently at first, then more insistently. Legolas did not move; he let Boromir kiss him, although he did not return the affection. However, he was forced to concede when Boromir’s tongue pried his lips apart and slid into his mouth. Now both of Boromir’s hands were holding his head still so that he could not turn aside; the kiss was firm and dominant, as if marking a territory.

But all the while that Boromir kissed him Legolas’s eyes were on Aragorn; their eyes met briefly, before Aragorn quickly looked away. Legolas dropped his gaze sorrowfully; then he became aware that the king had begun to undo the fastenings on his tunic.

Legolas froze, his entire body going rigid as a detached horror flooded through him. Boromir’s mouth was still upon his, and the kisses grew fiercer, more passionate. But when Boromir slid his hand inside his parted tunic and began to caress the bare skin that lay beneath, Legolas could not endure any longer -- with a soft gasp he jerked back, his eyes wild with fear and a trapped desperation.

"Please, lord," Legolas whispered, shaking his head pleadingly. "Do not use me in this manner. It is not the way with my people."

There was a shocked murmur from the officials around the table, who had been watching the king’s advances upon his slave with great interest; Aragorn’s head snapped up in horrified disbelief. Boromir looked startled beyond words as he stared at the elf, who edged away from him -- rage quickly flooded in to replace incredulity.

"Please," Legolas repeated fervently; and if Boromir were not so enraged, maddened by his hurt pride and dark lust, he would have been moved by some inherent sympathy. But now, his dark eyes were aflame with wrath as he regarded Legolas. The king was keenly aware that all his court officials were observing his every move, and it angered him greatly that they witnessed the elf’s defiance towards him -- for the sake of his own dignity, it could not go unpunished.

Boromir drew back his right hand and struck Legolas hard across his face. The impact sent the elf reeling, as he slipped from the edge of the couch and fell to the floor. Everyone at the Velvet Table stared, too stunned to react; word of the king’s fury rippled quickly through the rest of the guests, and all eyes turned expectantly toward the elevated dais.

Aragorn clenched his teeth, forcing himself to hold his silence. He gripped the sides of his chair tightly with both hands as he watched Legolas struggle into an upright position. Blood flowed from a cut on the elf’s lower lip, and flecks of red stained the white collar of his tunic, which was half-unfastened down the front.

Now Boromir seized Legolas by his arm, and dragged him to his feet; he turned and flung the elf down onto the couch again. Legolas put up little resistance; he still looked dazed from the blow, and the strength sapped from him through his long journey from the North had probably not been recovered.

"Perhaps you have not yet sufficiently learned the meaning of being my slave, Legolas," Boromir said harshly, advancing towards him; the elf recoiled instinctively. "Well listen now, and remember once and for all -- it means that you will do *exactly* as I wish, without question or protest. Do you understand?"

"I will carry out your bidding," Legolas said, his voice surprisingly strong and clear. "But I petition you to take no more from me than my service for your city."

Boromir gave a mirthless smile. "You insult the officials of my court who are reclining around this table, foolish elf," he said coldly. "They are talented and shrewd men who serve me and the peoples of Minas Tirith with their wisdom and skill -- how dare a slave request the same as the honoured members of my council?"

Boromir leaned in, and Legolas flinched in anticipation of another blow; but it never fell. He slowly raised his gaze to look at Boromir -- uncertainty and helplessness blazed in his bright elven eyes, which still did not yield.

"You, Legolas, are my *personal* slave," Boromir continued; his voice was pierced with steel. "And your place is to serve me *personally*, in any manner that I demand."

"My lord," Legolas whispered, desperately, "It is not--"

"And you will call me Master." Boromir’s voice was merciless, filled with thinly controlled anger.

Legolas saw that it was hopeless; he bowed his head in silent defeat. Boromir looked satisfied, and took the elf by the wrist and pulled him to his feet. With his fingers he wiped the drying blood away from Legolas’s lip in an oddly tender gesture, and then he bent forward and kissed Legolas hard on the mouth. The elf did not move; but as Boromir’s hands began to ease the tunic off his shoulders, Legolas shuddered and broke the lip-lock. He turned his face away from the king -- he could not bear to look at anyone now, least of all Aragorn.

"Please... master," Legolas said softly, hoping in a last attempt to avert what was to come. "Please do not do this -- I beg of you."

Boromir took a step backwards; his face was flushed with wine and fury and lust, and he regarded Legolas with an intense and terrible expression in his eyes.

"This slave still needs to be trained, it seems -- perhaps he should be taught to beg for other things." Boromir looked grim as he nodded at his guards, who stood by awaiting orders. "Take him to my chambers without delay; I shall deal with him privately, and spare our guests the tediousness of his defiance."

Aragorn saw the look of utter desolation on Legolas’s face as the guards took hold of him, and escorted him from Merethrond. He also saw the way Boromir’s hard eyes followed the slender elf, coldly calculating the punishment for his slave’s disgraceful behaviour in front of his guests.

Faramir, seated beside him, said nothing; but a sidelong glance at the prince told Aragorn that the king’s younger brother did not approve of what he had witnessed. Nevertheless, with Boromir in such a dangerous, volatile mood, even Faramir did not dare contradict him -- for they all knew that the king could be swiftly provoked, and in the heat of his anger he was fearsome indeed.

After lingering briefly, Boromir took leave to attend to ‘other matters’; he assured the guests that he would return soon, and encouraged them to continue their merrymaking without him. It was customary for such feasts to last even until dawn; the celebrations would still be in full swing several hours later.

Aragorn watched the king depart, and a feeling of distinct unease churned in his stomach, like a knife being slowly twisted. Shortly thereafter he too excused himself, and exited the hall.

He went outside alone, into the open courtyard. As he looked up at the stars in the heavens, they reminded him of the silver brightness of Legolas’s eyes, filled a light that radiated from within: living beauty blazing strong yet remote, as if out of great depths of time, fathomless and eternal.

He knew that he bore part of the blame. He had not helped Legolas get accustomed to life as a slave in Minas Tirith; he had only succeeded in making the elf forget, for a little while, the stark truth of who he now was. And although it had been gentle and comforting for Legolas in those moments, like the sweet intoxication of wine -- now it would be twice as bitter to swallow, as the brutal truth sank doubly deep.

Aragorn felt a hollow ache within him. He lowered his eyes, and gazed upon the stars no more; for they brought him a sadness that gnawed deep in his heart, and troubled his soul.


[[ In the next chapter: Boromir asserts his authority, and Aragorn struggles with feelings that he cannot ignore. ]]

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