The Dragons, cursed by the Valar in the First Age and living apart from the world, have decided that one of their own shall fight against Sauron the deceiver in the dark days ahead. The progeny of the two greatest Dragons to have ever lived, seeks to remove the Valar's Curse by helping to destroy both the One Ring and the Dark Lord. If she fails, if the Deceiver's gaze is cast upon her, she may become the weapon used to end all hope of peace upon the world.
Categories: Fiction Characters:
Aragorn, Boromir, Frodo, Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas, Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck, OFC, Peregrin "Pippin" Took, Samwise "Sam" Gamgee
Action/Adventure, Drama, Gen, Romance
August 05, 2012 Updated:
December 11, 2012
1. Gathering and Council by TiB0n3s
2. Faith by TiB0n3s
3. Silence and Words by TiB0n3s
4. The Mountain and the Watcher by TiB0n3s
5. Strength by TiB0n3s
6. Chapter 6 - Bones and Ash by TiB0n3s
Gathering and Council by TiB0n3s
This chapter has now been edited so hopefully it's a little better than the previous version. I will endeavor to try to edit the next chapter with the posting of chapter 3 at the latest.
Chapter 1 – Gathering and Council
The oldest and wisest of them had called for a gathering. It was nearly unheard of for their kind to gather for most remained in the dark solitude of their mountains, forests and ruins with only their treasures to rouse them. None protested, however; when the Eldest called to them, they answered; there was no choice, no opportunity to protest. For the call was to them a Siren’s song and they were compelled to obey, even those Still-Cursed heeded the call. And so it was, within a fortnight, in the caverns beneath the White Mountains, the Great Gathering of the Dragons.
There were a great menagerie of color and splendor, wings and eyes, tails and claws. Their scales and fangs glimmered with the light from the liquid fire all around them within the depths of the caverns; the breathed it in, the comfort of the heat from the heart of the world. A large circle they made before He Who Had Summoned Them; twenty with scaled and fangs and only three of the Cursed that walked upon two legs as the Children of the Valar did.
The Eldest, a great scarred dragon with greyed scales, slammed his tail upon the stone and rock of the ground, calling those gathered to attend.
“I have called upon you all with information and will learn what decision those gathered would make of the Fate of the Age of the earth.” He spoke without opening his powerful jaws, in a voice that enthralled the others; it was deep and rumbled like thunder through them, vibrating the bones of the three Still-Cursed ones.
“We have all heard whispering of the Evil One’s power once more growing in the land closest to where the sun rises. You have gathered from the Mountains of Angmar to the Ash Mountains and beyond so we may decide if our kind is to keep this world from the grasp of the Second Deceiver.”
As the Eldest spoke many of those gathered ruffled their wings and bristled while others huffed in huge breaths of heated air, growls building in their chests. It had been nearly two Ages of the earth since their kind had dealt with the Children of the Valar extensively, not many among them were keen with the thought of suffering their presence.
A wingless white dragon narrowed ice blue eyes and spoke, her voice commanding and shrewd. “We dragons have weathered this storm before, Eldest. There is no reason for any of us to interfere with the goings on of the land-dwellers.” Many growled and rumbled in their agreement. “Our cousins, hidden in the depths of the world fear no concern for them, why should our kind do so in their stead?”
“Rerir-dweller, that I cannot argue,” the Eldest of the Dragons said admittedly for a moment. “Our cousins, the great demons without form that they are, do not concern themselves with what occurs on the surface of the world. The Second Deceiver is cleverer than he was before, however. The great Ring of power has been awakened and it searches for its master.” His frosty white gaze slid over to a dragon that appeared almost as if made from the razor sharp rock of the mountain from which he came.
“The Second Deceiver has committed a great atrocity,” the great Dragon of the Mountains of Shadow informed them, “greater than any ever committed before. Nine of our Still-Cursed kin have been caught in his web of deception.”
Roars of outrage were bellowed from the throats of the great Dragons gathered; their saliva dripping from their jaws as the snarled, pooled to the stone beneath them, melting it and making it glow as the liquid fire all around them. The Still-Cursed, much smaller than the Dragons, moved just enough away from the enraged ones as to avoid tails and claws as they expelled their anger and fury.
“The progeny of the First Winged of our kind has not yet been caught in his gaze,” he continued after the others had finally settled around them, ready to hear his words once again. “But it was with the promise of lifting the Curse of the Valar that the nine were ensnared by the Second. He gave them form and wings, but they are enslaved and bare his wraiths to do his bidding. They are not true Dragons, merely shadows of what they should be as the riders they bear.
“I fear that if the Great Black One’s progeny is enslaved to him, there will be nothing to stop him from destroying all of our kind.”
“Then this Still-Cursed must be protected!” came the demand of a wingless blue Dragon from the Grey Mountains. “This one must be kept from his gaze at all costs.”
“No,” the Eldest spoke, disbanding the shouts that followed in agreement with the Grey Mountain dweller. “The answer cannot be to hide ourselves and the Still-Cursed ones away as we have always done. Too often have our kind been hunted within our mountains, killed for our scales and fangs in the name of vengeance or glory. No, some other way must be found.”
There were several moments of silence save for the smoldering travel of the liquid fire as it moved about them in the great cavern and the Dragons, both released and Still-Cursed, within its depths. A green Dragon, that had scaled that appeared more to be moss-covered stone than actual scales, raised his head, dark eyes sharp with intelligence.
“The trees of the great forest tell of the One Ring’s movement to a house of the Firstborn. The Lord of that House has failed once before to destroy the Ring, he will not be so foolish a second time.”
“Arrive to your meaning, Forest-dweller,” commanded a smaller, orange dragon, wings folded neatly along her back.
“The forests speak of peoples traveling to a secret council, one that may perhaps find a way to destroy the Ring of power and the Second Deceiver, thereby undoing his works.” His words, spoken with a voice that was more of a grumbled whisper, took form in the thoughts of those gathered.
“Then that will be the decision of this gathering,” the Eldest of them declared, “We know what must be done. Send out our kin and find the last of the Great Black One’s line; that Still-Cursed shall go to the House of the Firstborn with two still able to Change. With luck, this calamity shall soon be done with.”
With that said the Gathering dispersed, the Great Dragons returning to the lands of their mountains to find the progeny of the First Winged of their kind. Only a few of them remained, seeking the Eldest’s council.
“The last of the unbroken line will be difficult to find,” the Forest-dweller said. “Long ago that one had given up hope of lifting the Curse of the Valar.
The Great ancient Dragon shook out his wings, walking with thunderous steps to the entrance of his cavernous home, the Forest-dweller following closely behind. “That one will not fall prey to the Second Deceiver’s lies; the last of the unbroken line to the Sire of us all and the Mightiest of our kind, the Great Black One. No, with this journey, that one may yet find a way to earn their wings and breath.”
In the days that followed, the free peoples began to arrive at the House of Elrond, Lord of Imladris. Elves of Mirkwood, where the Forest-dweller resided, Men of Gondor and the Dwarves of the Deep rode in and greeted their host in preparation for the Council Meeting. In his study, Elrond Half-Elven and the Mithrandir sat together and spoke in hushed voices of the latest word to reach their ears.
“Word of the Dragons has reached my ears, Lord Elrond,” the Grey Wizard spoke softly.
“Indeed, two of their kind and one that yet bears the Curse of the Valar shall attend the Council Meeting on the morrow.” The Lord of the Last Homely House seemed to consider this information once more, still having not come to terms with the new development. “I do not think this wise, Mithrandir, to have the Dragons, much less one Still-Cursed, near the One Ring.”
The old wizard stroked his long beard, “I once met the last of the unbroken line to Glaurung and the Black Dragon, many years ago. Though bearing the Valar’s curse, that one hates, more than anything, the Deceiver and his kind, and has spent many years on the path to destroying them. The Dragons will be a great ally to our cause, I think.”
A knock came from the doors and a young ellon announced from the other side, “My lords, the Nords have arrived. They await your council in the Hall of Fire.”
Lord Elrond and the Mithrandir shared a look before standing. “I hope, for all our sakes, you are right, Mithrandir, for there is no greater foe than a dragon that sets its will against you.”
Once they had made their way to the Hall of Fire and the doors swung open, the three of the Dragon kind stood from where they had been seated before the roaring fire. Two met their gaze as if measuring them, keeping the third almost from their sight.
“Welcome to my House,” Elrond said with a polite nod in their direction. “I am Elrond, Lord of Imladris, and am glad to see of your safe arrival.”
The two Dragons nodded their thanks to the Firstborn Lord. Though they no longer bore the Curse of the Valar, they stood before the Firstborn and the Wizard in the form of the Nords they and their kind had been cursed to wear. They wore thick leather breeches, fur boots and bracers tightened with strips of leather that wound up and down them. They had heavy iron armor over their chests and great swords at their backs. Both males had pale non-descript faces, long unkempt blonde hair and blue eyes, and their bare arms were thick and well-muscled though scarred from battle.
“We thank you for your hospitality, Lord Elrond,” one said, glancing between their host and the old grey one. “The Eldest and the others fear for the world in the days to come. It is his wish, and ours as well, that peace returns to these lands.”
Lord Elrond and the two Dragons shared further greetings, offerings of rooms in which to rest were made and thanks given as the Mithrandir looked to the figure the still stood with its face to the fire.
“Are you so old now that you have forgotten even older friends?” he asked with a laugh, a smile at the corner of his mouth and a glimmer in his eye. The figure turned and the face that met with his gaze was exactly as he remembered it to be from so many centuries ago.
The woman was of slender build and fair skin that glowed in the light of the flames. The black leather armor she was adorned with showed all of her arms, dipping low at her chest, and had straps that were secured around her midsection. Upon her left shoulder only was a guard, the mark of the “Nordic” peoples intricately engraved into its surface, the strap reaching across her chest and under her right arm. Her bracers, breeches and boots were much like those of the Dragon males, though more fitting to her slighter form. Thick belts wound about her hips, holding the raggedly cut leather in place as it fell around the back of her legs like a split skirt. Two swords hung in their sheaths at her waist, curved and wickedly dangerous, the smooth black metal gleaming in the firelight.
“Greybeard, it is good to see you again,” the Still-Cursed proclaimed with a slight smile.
“Leiawen, you look well.”
“As do you.” Her voice was like smoke and water as she spoke, it flowed as subtly as music against his ears.
“Come, surely you must be tired from your journey. Rooms have been prepared so you might take rest before the Council Meeting in the morning,” Elrond told the three, motioning to the great doors leading from the Hall of Fire.
The Council was gathered the next morning, many of its members casting glances at the Nords, but most especially at the dark-haired female the two males stood behind. Their kind was not knows to come down from the snow laden mountains that they called their home, and yet three were before them now. Leiawen’s long hair was pulled back, braids hanging randomly throughout the locks down to her lower back. Her face was painted now in the way of their people, a dark grey band ranging from one side to the other across her eyes, making their strange amber color stand out against it.
“Strangers from distant lands, friends of old,” Elrond began, drawing their attention from the three. “You have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle-Earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom.” As he spoke, his words drifting over each of them, his gaze eventually settled upon the two Dragons and the Still-Cursed that sat across form the Mithrandir.
He motioned towards the dais in the center of the gathered peoples, “Bring forth the Ring, Frodo.”
A hobbit, a creature Leiawen had not seen in many years, stood from where he sat at Greybeard’s side and walked to the pedestal, placing an unassuming gold band upon it. The hobbit, Frodo, took his seat once more, sinking into the chair with a sigh of resignation.
The Still-Cursed One gazed upon the Ring and could all but feel the presence of the Second Deceiver within it. Her fingers grasped the arms of the chair so firmly that her knuckles turned white and the wood began to give way. Then, one of the Dragons put a hand to her shoulder just before the arms cracked and splintered under her grasp. She released the chair and settled her hands into her lap, waiting.
“So it is true,” a voice from beside her said in a whispered tone. She saw a Gondorian crest upon the hilt of his sword as he stood. “In a dream, I saw the Eastern side grow dark but in the West a pale light lingered. A voice was crying, ‘Your doom is near at hand. Isildur's Bane is found.’”
“Stop him,” Leiawen told the two behind her in a voice barely heard by the others present. The man began to reach for the Ring just as the Dragons stepped from behind her chair.
“Boromir!” Elrond called out.
Greybeard stood and the sky darkened as he spoke, the power of the dark speech making the air around them thick and difficult to breathe. The wizard’s voice was layered with power and magick, the might of the words in the language that were spoken caused her blood to course hot through her. Leiawen shielded her eyes from the members of the Council lest they see the unearthly glow to them that the black speech had caused within.
Then suddenly, it was gone and she could feel herself return to normal, the two Dragon males with their hands on her shoulders and arms to steady her. Leiawen waved them off with a motion of her hand and looked back up to see the Firstborn Lord all but glaring at Greybeard.
“Never before has any voice uttered the words of that tongue here in Imladris.”
“I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond, for the Black Speech of Mordor may yet be heard in every corner of the West! The Ring is altogether evil.” Greybeard was right, if the Second Deceiver achieved his goal, there would be no corner of the world untouched by his plight.
“It is a gift! A gift to the foes of Mordor! Why not use this Ring?” the Gondorian man, Boromir, proclaimed from where he stood, looking to each member of the Council. “Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe! Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy. Let us use it against him!”
The boy was a fool, the Ring would twist his mind and use his good intentions, and Leiawen knew that to be true. The Sons of Men were so easy to deceive with promises of power, especially when they had something to use. The Still-Cursed could see it in the boy’s eyes already, the Ring was taking hold of him through his fears and would eventually kill him in his desperation to keep those he loved safe. Such was the fate of all who were enticed by the ring if they had something to gain.
The dark haired man in poor cloth spoke against him, “You cannot wield it! None of us can. The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master.”
“And what would a ranger know of this matter?” the Gondorian asked haughtily.
One of the Firstborn who sat next to the dark haired man stood quickly to defend the Son of Man, “This is no mere ranger. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance.”
Leiawen’s eyebrows rose almost imperceptibly, this ranger was the heir of Isildur, the last King of Men. Isildur had had the chance to destroy the Ring and did not.
“Aragorn?” Boromir asked incredulously. “This… is Isildur's heir?”
“And heir to the throne of Gondor.”
“Havo dad, Legolas,” the ranger, Aragorn, said to the blonde haired Firstborn.
Boromir’s face darkened as he went back to his seat. “Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king.”
“Aragorn is right,” Greybeard proclaimed to the members of the Council. “We cannot use it.”
“We have but one choice,” Elrond told them. “The Ring must be destroyed.”
One of the dwarves stood, “Then what are we waiting for?” He said gruffly and slammed his axe upon the Ring.
All save the Dragons, the Firstborn Lord, and the Still-Cursed moved to inspect the Ring. The axe exploded upon contact and the dwarf was thrown backwards, pieces of the shattered weapon strewn about around him.
“The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin by any craft that we here possess.” The Firstborn Lord glanced at the Dwarf, “The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came,” he glanced to the peoples of the Council as if inspecting each of them. “One of you must do this.”
Leiawen breathed a deep sigh. The Eldest was right; they were to destroy the One Ring. She would not be the one to take the token into Mordor, that much she knew to be true. Through the Ring, the Second Deceiver would attempt to wield her to his designs, something she could not allow to happen under any circumstance. She could not touch the Ring without him casting his gaze upon her, and once his gaze was cast, he would know what it was that she wanted more than anything. He would know of her desire for the wings and breath of her Sires. To go into Mordor, she knew, was no easy task, not even for the Great Dragons that claimed those mountains and dwelt within the caverns beneath them.
“One does not simply walk into Mordor,” the Gondorian man, Boromir, said interrupting her thoughts. “Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. And the great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly!”
“Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said? The Ring must be destroyed,” the Firstborn, Legolas claimed, standing once more from his seat at the ranger’s side.
As the people of the Council continued to the point of raising their voices and fighting amongst themselves, she gazed over the dais to the hobbit, Frodo, who had already carried the Ring. It was whispering to him in the confusion, she could feel it. He looked up as if seeking guidance and his eyes met with hers. He was afraid, possibly of her, but more of the Ring and its power.
The Still-Cursed stood and made her way around the bickering folk until she was but a few steps from him. “It is a difficult thing,” she told him, “to do what you know in your heart to be right. But you must do it, for if you do not, no one else will.”
Frodo paused for a moment, taking the time to understand the meaning of her words. Leiawen smiled lightly to him and nodded, and he cried out to the others, “I will take it!”
When none heard, he spoke louder, standing to make his presence and intentions known, “I will take it.”
The group fell silent before him as they all looked at the young hobbit, Greybeard casting a forlorn look upon him.
“I will take the Ring to Mordor. Though…I do not know the way.”
Greybeard walked over to Frodo and put a gentle hand upon his shoulder. “I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, so long as it is yours to bear.”
The ranger, heir the throne of Gondor, stood and approached Frodo. “If by my life or death, I can protect you, I will.” He knelt before the young hobbit, “You have my sword.”
"And you have my bow," the blonde Firstborn, Legolas, said joined the ranger at Frodo’s side.
The dwarf stood next, "And my axe!" he declared. Gimli cast a dark glare at the Firstborn before he, too settled at the hobbit’s side.
Leiawen stood before Frodo and the four gathered already around him. “It is as I said; you must do what you hold in your heart to be right. You have my help and that of my people,” she glanced back to the two Dragon males, ensuring they had understood her meaning. She then bowed lightly before joining Greybeard.
The Son of Gondor stood and walked up to the young hobbit, “You carry the fates of us all little one. If this is indeed the will of the council, then Gondor will see it done.” He glanced between those gathered to assist Frodo on his quest before he, too joined their ranks.
“Hey!” came a shout as another hobbit emerged from the bushes outside the ring of the Council. “Mr. Frodo is not going anywhere without me!”
The Firstborn Lord was trying not to smile as the second hobbit crossed his arms over his chest proudly. “No indeed, it is hardly possible to separate you even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.”
“Wait! We're coming too!” two more hobbits called out, rushing from behind the pillars to stand beside Frodo and the sandy haired hobbit.
“You'd have to send us home tied up in a sack to stop us!” the first proclaimed.
“Anyways you need people of intelligence on this sort of mission, quest... thing…” the other said, sounding for all intents and purposes to be completely serious.
“Well that rules you out, Pip,” the second retorted.
“Ten companions,” Elrond examined them. “So be it! You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!”
“Great!” the first hobbit, Pip, exclaimed. “Where are we going?”
Later that day, as the Fellowship prepared for their journey, Leiawen found herself on a stone bridge before the waterfalls. The two Dragon males approached with Greybeard following; they stopped just short of the rise, motioning for the wizard to move on ahead.
The Still-Cursed glanced over her shoulder as he drew near, “I have heard that we are to set out with the new day’s light.”
“You do not have to accompany us on this quest, Leiawen. Whether you are to reveal to them what you are or not, either path shall be difficult to bear.”
She almost laughed. “Never before have I travelled with the Firstborn, the Deep-dwellers or the Sons of Man, Greybeard. All of my life I have been overshadowed by the deeds of my Sires and my kin,” she sighed heavily, closing her eyes for just a moment. “Too long have we lived apart from this world. That the acts of a Deceiver should enlighten them to otherwise…well.”
Greybeard placed a cool hand upon her shoulder. “Come, there is a banquet being held in Lord Elrond’s hall for the Fellowship. You know what must be done.” Together the two turned and made their way back to the House, the Dragons falling into step behind her.
“Is this wise?” one questioned, not certain of her decision to reveal her heritage to those she had sworn her services and those of their kin to.
“It is the only way,” she replied firmly.
“Very well; do you wish us to remain?” the other inquired.
“No, the Eldest must be informed of the events of this day and of my decision. You cannot linger in this place any longer.”
“As you wish,” then the two were both gone.
Greybeard and the Still-Cursed continued on through the vast gardens of Imladris. “The Eldest Dragon is aware of the happenings in Mordor?” he asked finally.
“The dweller of the Mountains of Shadow and his kin have been watching over those lands. Though my kind do not care for the troubles of the land-dwellers, something…unprecedented has forced the Eldest of my kind to call the others to him.”
The grey wizard brought her to a halt, “It affects the Dragons?”
Leiawen grit her teeth and clenched her hands into fists. “The Second Deceiver has enslaved nine of those Still-Cursed with lies, promises of true form and wings…”
“They bear the Nazgul,” he said, understanding her meaning. “They fear he means to ensnare you as well. Ancalalei, you must tell me the moment the Ring calls to you. I know you would not betray us, but the moment his gaze is upon you…I fear what will happen.”
That Sauron had not already seen the Still-Cursed progeny of the two greatest Dragons of the History of Middle Earth was strangely fortunate. The grey wizard knew it would not be too long before the Dark Lord found the last of the unbroken line with all of his spies and sent out his minions to being her to him. Should he gain control of her… He preferred not to think of such dire consequences should Sauron twist the Still-Cursed to his will.
“Perhaps it is wise that you reveal yourself to the others; tell them of the curse but not of Sauron’s plan should he find you.”
“I will do as you say, my friend. You have never led me astray before.”
This will eventually be Legolas/OFC, but it's going to be a long journey before any romantic-type feelings begin to grow between the two. 10th walker, of course.
I would first like to thank Alaeryel so very much for sending me such an encouraging review. I hope that future chapters keep your interest in this story. Secondly, I have changed a bit of the original story in regards to the First Age and the time before, hopefully my tweaks aren't too far right field and are still believable.
Chapter 2 - Faith
Just as the two, the Grey Wizard and the Still-Cursed Dragon, were met with the doors to Lord Elrond’s banquet hall, Leiawen halted altogether, facing her old friend. The fire light from the torches upon the walls reflected in her eyes, making them glow as they had upon the Wizard’s utterance of the Black Speech. It was a sign of what she truly was, something not easily disguised that gave others pause upon noticing such a sight.
“Tell me truthfully, Greybeard,” she said, her voice all but a whisper. “Is this folly? A Dragon amongst a fellowship to unmake the Ring of the Second Deceiver? Should his gaze fall upon me, should he know of his predecessor’s dark magick against my kind; I do not know that long should my will be my own in this task.”
Greybeard smiled and for a moment she saw beneath the guise he wore to his true self, something that left her breathless in the few times she had witnessed such a thing. It was not something that she could accurately put into words, for she felt what he was more than saw him. He seemed to be made from the warm magick of life, the lines of his own life flowing through his form like the mountain ranges and raging rivers of the earth. She felt something akin to wisdom and peace as he once again placed his hands upon her shoulders. The magic he seemed to be made from slipped into her skin, making her glow for a moment until she could see him no more.
“I feel you have a great part to play in this Age; I would ask for your trust in me once again, my friend.”
The glow in her eyes from the fire subsided, his magic helping to conceal her until she was ready, “You need not ask for my trust, Greybeard, you shall have it always.”
He knew the words she had spoken meant more than simply her trust in his wisdom and judgment in regards to the quest they were to set out upon in the morning. The Still-Cursed Dragon had Faith in him; which was no small thing amongst her kind. Most Dragons, upon the ending of the First Age, had become exceptionally bitter towards any but their own kin, all but disappearing into the mountains they claimed until they were driven out. But she was entrusting to him the care of her very soul; he, who could simply utter words of the Black Speech and take her will from her. Sauron’s predecessor had twisted and tortured her kind so completely to heed the call of the darkness; it shamed the Wizard to know that he could affect her in such a way.
“Come along,” he told her, leaning heavily upon his staff. “Let us cast away such doubts. The hobbits, I know, have been most inquisitive of you and your kin since the meeting of the Council earlier this day.”
Lord Elrond’s banquet hall was full of light and music; the Firstborn Lord had done much to ensure that the Fellowship would spend this last night in his realm with full stomachs and light hearts with memories of laughter. He knew however, of the decision both the Mithrandir and the Still-Cursed had made and in spite all of his doubts concerning her, he would not let her bear her burden alone. The sins of her Sires were not of her doing, there was no reason to hold her accountable for them. As the Grey Wizard and the ‘Nord woman’ came to sit at the end of his table, many dubious glances were cast towards her. The Firstborn gathered, he knew, could feel that she was not all that she seemed to be and, of course, the men of Gondor all had their doubts as well.
“How is it that the Nord, people of the mountains far to the North, have come to know of the One Ring?” Boromir asked her after many long moments of silence and speculation. “Why would they send a woman to complete this task? Have they none better suited for war?”
The Still-Cursed had narrowed her gaze upon hearing the tone in the man’s inquiry and the outright insult towards her and her kin. The entire hall fell into silence, each of those gathered sitting at the edge of their chair, then air between the two sparking with malcontent. Elrond saw the Mithrandir catch her gaze and whatever it was that she saw in his eyes made her take in a deep breath to calm herself.
“Take care in the way you speak of my people, Son of Gondor. I shall not warn you again.” With that she stood from her chair, “Forgive me, Greybeard, Lord Firstborn, I shall take my leave now. I fear I no longer have the appetite for food,” and then she walked from the hall with silent, measured strides.
“How like a woman to run off,” one of the Gondorian men uttered to himself, though the entire hall heard the words.
Frodo sprung from his seat before either Lord Elrond or the Grey Wizard could speak. “Who are you to judge her and her people that way?!” he demanded, his deep blue eyes not angry, but sparking with justified indignation all the same. “Though she had no reason to, Leiawen is supporting myself and has taken up a cause not her own. How-“
Mithrandir had moved from his place at the end of the table to stand at Frodo’s side next to the Lord of Imladris. He placed his hand upon the young hobbit’s shoulder to settle him, “That’s enough, Frodo.”
“No, that’s enough,” he said and glanced at the Lord of the House. “I believe, Lord Elrond, that no longer can we withhold this information.”
Elrond nodded at the Wizard in agreement, they would need to know, before any further insult was made upon Leiawen or her kin. “I would ask now to speak to the Fellowship, for what I have to say is for their ears and theirs alone.”
When none of the others in the hall made any motion to leave, the Grey Wizard slammed his staff upon the smooth stone of the floor, “Out!”
At once they were propelled into motion, nearly falling over themselves in their hurry to heed the Wizard’s order. In no short order, the doors to the banquet hall were shut firmly at their parting and the Mithrandir stood with the Lord of the House at the head of the table. He took a few moments, leaning heavily upon his staff before he spoke.
“The only way to tell this tale, I suppose, is to start with the beginning.” A kind of haze covered the Wizard’s eyes as he began the telling.
During the Song of Creation, it is said that through one being’s strange thoughts, he produced Discord, and he fell through shame, then pride then desire of domination and into a lust of destruction. He became the first Dark Lord and was named Morgoth Bauglir in Beleriand and Middle Earth.
Not satisfied with the marring he had brought in the Discord, he infected it with decay and spread a purely material empire upon the earth. He corrupted many peoples, among them the Noldor of Eldamar.
This began the War of Great Jewels, where Morgoth stole the Silmarils, the most prized of all the wonders crafted by the elves, from Fëanor.
Fëanor, who created the Silmarils, declared war upon Morgoth, vowing that he would not rest until they were recovered; using the name of Iluvatar, the Father of All, in his foul and foolish oath. He convinced many of the Noldor to leave Valinor behind and journey to Beleriand. And while the Noldor toiled through Araman, Morgoth set the Silmarils into his crown, awaiting them in Middle Earth in his fortress of Angband deep in the Iron Mountains. There lie his greatest Commanders breeding an army of orcs; Gothrog, Lord of the Balrogs, and Sauron, his greatest student.
Fëanor’s flight had begun the First Age of Middle Earth and led to an unending grief for the Elves and, eventually, the Men of Middle Earth. Five Great Battles were fought in Beleriand to recover the Silmarils from Morgoth, but ultimately, the Noldor failed for Morgoth’s forces were too many.
When Fëanor landed in Middle-earth, Morgoth sent hosts of Orcs to destroy him. Only a handful returned, but Fëanor had also fallen. As he lay dying Fëanor cursed Morgoth thrice.
Morgoth sent an embassy offering terms of surrender, even promising a Silmaril. Maedhros, one of Fëanor's two sons, came to the parley, but both sides came with greater force than was agreed. Morgoth's force was greater, and he captured Maedhros and chained him by the right hand to a cliff of Thangorodrim.
Fingon, High King of the Noldor, rescued Maedhros and united the Noldor, setting a siege upon Angband; and Morgoth bided his time.
When he had waited many years, he made trial of his foes, causing the Iron Mountains to erupt and sending an army of Orcs down through the passes but they were swiftly defeated by the Noldor.
From then on the Noldor pressed Angband harder. Morgoth captured some of the Elves, and so daunted them with his eyes they became his spies among the Noldor.
One hundred years later, Morgoth sent an army into the north to approach Hithlum from the side. Fingon slew them. Yet another century later was the first summoning of Glaurung, whom Morgoth had watched grow beyond the Door of Night.
The Great Dragon who was only half-grown easily turned from the battle and went back into the Door. Morgoth was displeased with him and using the Silmarils upon his crown, twisted and tortured the dragon using his dark and powerful magick. The Great Enemy poured his malice and his hate into Glaurung, corrupting the Dragon’s soul until it began to eat the flesh of its own kind, multiplying the Dragon’s power a thousand fold.
Then Men came into Beleriand, and it was revealed that at some time in the distant past Morgoth had left his mountains in person and walked among the fathers of Men, casting a darkness within them and a shadow in their hearts, so that ever their deeds turned ill, and they were easy to corrupt. By lies and deceits Morgoth attempted to divide and set to quarrelling Men, but the Edain resisted him.
The Ruin of Beleriand came, 455 years after Fingolfin came to Middle-earth, and Morgoth initiated the Battle of Sudden Flame. Great Fire consumed the Guarded Plain, making it the Gasping Dust. Glaurung, now fully grown, was summoned once more from beyond the Door of Night, and with Balrogs and multitudes of Orcs issued forth, and the Noldor were driven back.
When news came to Fingolfin that Hithlum was fallen, and the sons of Finarfin overthrown, a madness came upon him, giving him tremendous power, and he came like a thunderbolt from the west and smote upon the gates of Angband, challenging Morgoth in such insulting terms that to keep his face Morgoth had no choice but to issue forth in single combat. That was his last personal foray, and he went not willingly, for so much power had gone out of him that he could be wounded, or even killed.
So Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his throne like thunder underground. And he issued forth in black armor, like a tower iron-crowned, and his shield was like a black cloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath him as a star. Then Morgoth smashed down Grond, rending a great pit in the earth from which fire leaped; but Fingolfin sprang aside like lightning. Seven times he wounded Morgoth, and seven mighty shouts of pain went up from him; but at the last the pits of Grond were too many, and Fingolfin was overborne.
Morgoth set his foot upon Fingolfin's neck, but Fingolfin hewed his foot and the blood gushed forth black and smoking and filled the pits of Grond. Then Thorondor stooped upon Morgoth, marring his face with his talons, and rescued the body of the Elf-king. Ever halt of one foot went Morgoth after that day, and the pain of those wounds could not be healed, nor the scars erased.
After the Battle Morgoth sent out many spies, he feigned pity to Men, and when the Edain refused him he summoned the Easterlings over the Blue Mountains. Worried by the unanticipated valor of Elves and Men, he withdrew his forces for seven years.
During this time, one of the Silmarils was recovered by Beren and Lúthien through great peril and loss. This stone was later taken by Eärendil to the Valar in the West as a token of repentance. The Valar then set this Silmaril as a star, the first element of this world, the sky.
The servants of Morgoth captured Maeglin, sister-son of Turgon, and brought him to Angband. Morgoth daunted him with his eyes, until Maeglin offered to reveal the location of Gondolin.
Then Morgoth laughed, and said ‘Stale news will buy nothing; I know this already, I am not easily blinded!’
Maeglin thus was forced to offer more: the secrets of Gondolin's defenses, and a promise to kill Tuor himself. Then Morgoth cast a great fear on him and sent him back.
In the pits of Angband he prepared tremendous engines of demonic technology: serpents of lava in energy bonds, and metal serpents that flowed and coiled by themselves. There were enormous copper and bronze serpents with great feet for trampling and beating, and many true Dragons of the brood of Glaurung, whom had grown to hate the Valar, Elves and Men.
Then, on a night of festival, they mounted the hills in the North, causing a dawn to rise in the wrong place, and fire burst against Gondolin, and it fell.
It is said that Morgoth expected no assault from the West, deeming that the Valar had forsaken Middle-earth and the rebellious Elves.
Then like thunder in the West, the sky was lit with flame; and Valinor came against him. Morgoth emptied Angband, and his devices and engines and armies of slaves were so various and powerful the fighting spilled across all Beleriand. But it availed him not. The last Balrogs were destroyed, save for one, and the Orcs withered like leaves in a fire, and his engines were consumed. The Great Dragon Glaurung abandoned him to his fate and fled, as did the last Balrog and Morgoth’s student, Sauron.
Then Morgoth quailed, and dared not come forth himself, for he had very little power in him, and walked stooped and feeble.
But out of Angband issued the Winged Dragons, the offspring of Glaurung which he had changed with his magick, gigantic shapes like flying mountains. Their coming was with great power, and thunder, and tempests of lightning; and they drove back the very Valar themselves. Eärendil came in the last hour, and the Silmaril slew Ancalagon the Black, the greatest of them, who smashed three mountains in his fall: Thangorodrim was broken.
Morgoth stood at bay and yet unvaliant. He fled into the deepest mines and sued for pardon, but his feet were hewn from under him, and he was cast on his face. Chained, his Iron Crown was beaten into a collar, and he was led back to Valinor, where the Valar executed him and cast his spirit, still wearing the Chain Angainor, past the Doors of Night, beyond the Walls of the World and out into the Void.
The remaining Silmarils were stolen from the depths of Angband by Fëanor's two sons Maedhros and Maglor. The jewels burned their hands, in refusal of their rights of possession, as they had burned Morgoth's hands many years before. In agony, Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into a fiery pit, and Maglor threw his into the sea. Thus they became the last two elements of the world, fire and water.
With the casting of the Silmarils, the Dragons, being touched by the Dark Lord’s power as the jewels rested upon his brow, they were bound to the jewels. Only in the three elements could the Dragons draw their power, whether in the depths of the earth where fire flows like water, in the highest mountains where the air is clear and pure, or in the water of streams or rivers.
Later, it is said, that though the Dragons abandoned Morgoth, they could still release him from his prison should they hear his call. The winged Dragons had been so powerful that the Valar fell before them and the Valar feared that their guard before the Void of the World would fall before them as well. And so, they placed a great curse upon the creatures that had once been slaves to Morgoth.
It was so that any Dragon born upon Middle Earth henceforth would walk upon the world without the great power and form of those that came before them. Those Cursed could not pass through the Doors of Night without the thick scales of their Sires nor pierce the Walls of the World without the great fire in their breath. They could not assume their birthright until they had proven themselves in the eyes of the Valar and the curse was lifted from them.
A tinge of sorrow was heard in the Mithrandir’s voice as he spoke of the Curse of the Valar upon the Dragons and his eyes cleared as the last words passed from his lips.
“I don’t understand,” Frodo told him. “What does that have anything to do with-“
“Because, young Frodo Baggins,” the Grey Wizard said quickly, “Of our Company there is one who bears the Curse of the Valar.”
The silence that came after was deafening and the Fellowship was suitably shocked at the revelation. All of the races gathered at the table had heard stories told by their kin of Dragons, how they were long-lived, power and cunning, that they were quick to anger and had an overwhelming greed for treasure. By their very nature they were not to be trusted, but one of their kind had pledged herself to their cause, something that seemed to be exactly against every notion that defined them.
Gimli, having heard from his own kin of their love of treasure, was on his guard immediately. He had heard of the feuds and battles that frequently followed upon the slaying of a Dragon; Fram’s slaying of Scatha, whose treasure was stolen from the dwarves, came to mind. Creatures that had such a keen sense of value in the hoard they had collected but never themselves crafted so much as a brass ring, he detested them. It was strange to think that one of those creatures was now acting so very out of place from what he had known to be true.
Lord Elrond stood from his chair and addressed them all, “Though the woman bears the Curse of the First Age, she is here because the Dragons have offered an alliance in the dark days to come.”
Legolas stood suddenly, “There must be something more. Never before has any of their kind offered such an alliance, instead they dwell deep in their mountains, away from the world until they see such an opportunity to increase their hoard. Not willingly would they offer up one of their own to any cause that did not affect them.”
The Mithrandir and the Lord of Imladris shared another look in the face of Legolas’ accusation. Should they reveal the Dragons’ plight, the Dark Lord’s plans for the Still-Cursed that would travel with them? Before either of them was able to make that decision, Frodo stood in Leiawen’s defense once more.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said more to himself. “She is here to see that the task is done and if Gandalf trusts her, then so will I.”
The Grey Wizard smiled, silently thanking the boy without words for what he had said.
“Excuse me, Gandalf, I think I’m going to go for a walk before bed.”
“Of course, go ahead, Frodo, but do not wander far.”
Frodo wandered the winding paths of Rivendell and he began to feel the pit in his stomach eat away at him. Though he had always longed for an adventure like the one of his Uncle Bilbo, this was not what he had ever imagined. All he had ever wanted was the possibility of perchance coming across a troll or meeting an elf, but now… Now he was going to face a greater danger than he could fathom, and he was dragging his dear friends into his troubles as well.
As he neared the bridge that stood before the great waterfalls of Rivendell, he noticed a figure stood there in the moonlight. It was her, Leiawen. He stopped for a moment and simply looked at her. There was something strangely majestic in the way she looked now, the cool fall breeze flowing around her and the moonlight illuminating her figure. He was drawn to her in some way and more than just because she had pledged herself to his cause; it was something deeper, like magic that had wound around him as she had spoken those first words to him when he faced so much doubt.
“I can smell you, Frodo,” came her voice, strangely flowing on the wind like wood smoke. “I will not bite you.” And before he knew it, he was standing beside her on the bridge, watching the flow of the water with her.
“Are you truly a Dragon? Like the one my Uncle told me stories about, Smaug of the Lonely Mountain,” he finally asked.
She sighed and turned to sit on the stones, her back against the intricately carved railing. “So he has told you then, of the Curse and what I truly am?”
For a moment Frodo wasn’t sure if he should answer her, but he saw something in her eyes and couldn’t help the answer that spilled from his mouth. “Yes. He said that you would stay like this until the Valar lifted the Curse from you.” Which brought another question into mind, “Why haven’t they? Gandalf makes it sound like you’re very old-”
Frodo immediately covered his mouth with his hands and Leiawen laughed out loud. He had just called her old; he had just insulted a Dragon by calling her old! Oh, how could he? After a moment though, he noticed that she was laughing and he couldn’t help but join in, relieved that he had not been struck down for saying such a thing.
“It is true,” she said finally, hints of laughter still in her voice. “I am very old, older than most of the Firstborn, even.”
To this information Frodo could not help his jaw dropping, “Older than Gandalf?!”
The Still-Cursed laughed, shaking her head, “No, no. Greybeard is far older than I. Though we are very different now, we both came from similar beginnings.”
Frodo sat down beside her and looked on fondly. It was one thing to hear stories of Dragons from Gandalf, it was quite another to hear of them from a Dragon herself. “Go on,” he urged.
She laughed and smiled in the face of his enthusiasm. “It has been said that my Sires grew beyond the Door of Night as Maiar, spirits which descended to Arda to help the Valar to shape the World. Many supposed them to be numerous. Their chiefs were Eönwë, banner-bearer and herald of Manwë, and Ilmarë, the handmaid of Varda.
“The Istari, the Wizards, were Maiar specially chosen by the Valar to help aid the people of Middle-earth in the fight against evil. Though the Istari took the form of Men they possess much greater physical and mental power.”
The young hobbit considered this information for a moment. “So…you and Gandalf are almost related?”
“Not quite,” she replied with a small laugh. “Because of the Deceiver’s actions against my Sires, we Dragons are no longer the Maiar we once were. Much of the original bloodline from the True Dragons has thinned with the Curse of the First Age upon us. Very little of who we are now remains in true keeping with our origins.
“It is only when the Curse is lifted from us that Dragons become closer to that which we were meant to be.” At this she got a far off look in her strange amber eyes, “To have the wings and the fire of our great Sires…”
For long moments they sat together in silence enjoying the warm fall breeze as it moved around them. It was strange to Frodo, that here in Rivendell the breeze was warm in the fall if the air was cool, but if the air was warm the breeze suddenly became cool. It was as if the land maintained a constant late summer environment no matter what time of year it was. He was not looking forward to the days ahead, where the land would be in subject to the seasons. It was likely to be very cold now, he would have to remember to dress warmly.
The Still-Cursed put her hand upon his shoulder. “What is it that frightens you so?” she asked, her eyes seeking his.
He could feel the strange heat of her touch through the cloth of his shirt and it warmed him almost to his heart. With a sigh, he tried to find the words to express what he felt of the upcoming journey.
“I’m afraid of what we face,” he told her. “I know my part in this and though it scares me, I know I must do it. It’s my friends though. I know they love me and that’s why they are coming along, but I don’t want them to be hurt. I wish they weren’t coming.”
Frodo was ashamed to admit it, that he doubted even though they had not yet set out on their journey. He was not strong like the Aragorn, he didn’t have any skills with a weapon the way Legolas, Gimli and Boromir did, and he surely didn’t have the wisdom that Gandalf possessed. He was a hobbit, who until just two months past had never left the safety of the Shire. What could he possibly do in a world so big and fearsome against such a horrible foe?
Leiawen moved to kneel before him and lifted his chin up with her fingers. “I know something of the fear you face, Frodo.”
“But you’re a Dragon, I couldn’t imagine that you would be afraid of anything.”
The look in her eyes told a different tale as she gave him a sad smile and shook her head. “There is much that I fear, but it is because we fear that we become brave and I think that you are very brave to do this.”
Frodo was instantly curious at her statement; though he blushed at the compliment, he couldn’t imagine what would make a Dragon afraid. “What is it that you’re scared of, Leiawen?”
There was something about how he asked her that question, the need for an answer that shone through in his deep blue eyes. “I fear being seen, Frodo.”
She sat back on her heels, facing the question and confusion that lingered in his eyes.
“ I did not lie when I said that the bloodlines of my kind have been diluted by the Curse of the Valar, but I am the last of the Unbroken line to my Sires who came before the First Age. What Greybeard says is true, I am very old. I have walked the earth since the Elder Days, before the time of Isildur even. The reason the Valar have not lifted the Curse from me, the reason I fear being seen, is because I am the only one from both Glaurung and Ancalagon the Black that remains alive to see the days of the Second Deceiver.
By right I am to be the most powerful of my kind should I assume my birthright. But that is also the reason I shall never see that day; the Valar fear that I shall go through the Door of Night, shatter the Walls of the World and release the Deceiver from his prison in the Void. I fear that if I am seen by the Deceiver’s favored student, he shall take my will from me and force me to do this thing.
“And I am afraid that because of what I am, I will never be what I should be; I am afraid that I will live out the rest of my days as a shadow, never to become a True Dragon.”
Frodo was stunned to silence, uncertain if he should say anything in the light of her confession. He didn’t want to offer her false comfort, he knew she would somehow see through it to the truth, that he was just trying to make her feel better. So he said the only thing he knew in his heart that he had to say:
“I have faith in you.”
Leiawen gave him half a smile and stood, pulling him to his feet as well. “Yes, have faith, Frodo. Hope and faith shall see you through the days ahead. Your friends, though you do not wish to see them hurt, they love you and will help you with this task.” She ruffled his dark shaggy curls, “Come, the hour grows late. We set off at first light, you must rest if you are to go on this journey.”
She was holding out her hand to him and it was more than just an offering of seeing him to Lord Elrond’s House, he knew. This woman, this Dragon, was offering her faith in him as well. For some reason, she trusted him and he didn’t know if it was because he was to bear the Ring into Mordor or if she had seen something more this night. Whatever it was…
He took her hand.
This chapter has NOT yet been edited so if you see anything that doesn't look quite right, please let me know and I'll fix it as soon as possible. Thank you so much for reading.
Silence and Words by TiB0n3s
Wow...it's been a while since I've updated, I really do apologize for that. Hopefully this next chapter is worth the wait, enjoy!
Chapter 3 – Silence and Words
It had been a fortnight since the Fellowship had set out from Rivendell, fourteen days and the Dragon had said not one word even in passing to any of them save for Gandalf and, occasionally, Frodo. Sam wasn’t entirely certain as to why the others shied away from her, she’d been nothing but helpful; she found wood to start the fire each night and looked to work very hard at not scaring anyone. Maybe it was because she was a Dragon that everyone was so very distrustful of her. Well, as far as the stout little hobbit was concerned, that was no reason at all to exclude her so; she was, after all, a member of their Fellowship as well.
“Hey, Merry,” Pippin touched his friend on the shoulder and Sam noticed that he was following Leiawen with his eyes. “Do you think she might breathe fire? You know, since she’s a Dragon.”
Even though the Dragon in question was well ahead of them, walking alongside Gandalf at the head of their group, Sam saw her shoulders jerk back at his kinsman’s thoughtless question. He knew Pippin hadn’t meant to, but his words had obviously struck a nerve in the woman; something about her not being a “True Dragon”. He remembered it from what both Gandalf and Lord Elrond had told them of her kind that night at the banquet, before they had left Rivendell.
“Pippin…”Sam started, but then Gimli was beside them.
“No, she cannae breathe fire,” he told them gruffly. “And if I were you, I would no’ mention such a thing where she can hear you.”
“I was just asking…” Pippin insisted stopping for a moment as the dwarf walked away swiftly.
Merry shrugged and gave him a look that said, “Well…oh well” before hurrying to catch up.
With a small sigh Sam look back at Strider, Aragorn, as he walked alongside Frodo. He knew Pippin’s infamous curiosity had once again simply gotten the better of him and that he really hadn’t meant anything by it, but all the same. He wished the other hobbit would at least try to mind the words that came out of his mouth. It wasn’t in his nature to be mean or cruel or to wish the same upon others and despite what the woman was, he simply couldn’t find it in his heart to feel any malice towards her.
“Take care of your thoughts, Sam,” Legolas said softly, suddenly right beside him. “Though she doesn’t look it, she is still a Dragon; there is good reason for the way she is. The Valar do not lightly place curses upon creatures.” Sam looked up at him as he walked on. “Those of her kind are cruel and care naught for anything or anyone. It would be best you remember such.”
The silence of the next month from Leiawen truly bothered Frodo; she spoke sparingly to him due to Aragorn’s constant presence at his side. Though, whenever he heard the voice from the Ring or felt its darkness begin to grow, she was there with a comforting hand upon his shoulder. There was something in her eyes, something that seemed to go all the way through flesh and bone down to her soul that told him she would always be there in such a way. The warmth of her touch chased away the voice and the darkness; it brought him back when his thoughts took an ill turn. He was beginning to wish the others could see that in her; that she wasn’t just a Dragon, but she was good, too.
He’d had just about enough of the dark looks that were sent her way and the silence that followed. “Leiawen.”
The Still-Cursed Dragon looked back at him and stopped walking beside Gandalf all in one motion. It was strangely beautiful, the way she moved. It wasn’t anything like the graceful way the elves moved, but it reminded him of a dance. Every movement she made had some purpose behind it and one motion always kind of flowed into the next. As she waited for him to reach her where she had stopped, he could all but feel her looking for some sign that the Ring was weighing him down or whispering to him.
“I’m fine,” he assured her as he moved from Aragorn’s side to her own. “I wanted to know how you were doing.”
Aragorn was looking at her warily, he knew, the ranger always did so whenever she came close to him. Frodo was beginning to hate it, that they always treated her so unfairly. She seemed to be taking it in stride though, as if none of the looks or the softly spoken whispers bothered her. Such a thing would be admirable if he could stand to stomach even one more moment of it.
“I am well, Frodo,” she said and her voice reminded him once again of smoke and mist.
“Well, we haven’t spoken much, at least not since the night before we left Rivendell; I wanted to know a little more about you.”
He reached up and lightly tugged on one of the braids in her hair, a habit he had formed in the days past, something that drug her mind from its depths and kept her from unpleasant thoughts. Without even a glance down, she plucked his fingers from where they began to tangle in her locks and gently squeezed them reassuringly. As he gazed up at her he saw the light of the sun catch in her eyes, it made them glow like dying embers; they had an odd habit of reflecting light in that way and he couldn’t help but notice the comparison to a cat’s eyes when they did so.
“About me?” she asked, her voice wrapping around him like an embrace.
Then before Frodo saw him, Pippin was suddenly at her other side, Merry just beside him as always. “Where’re you from?” he chimed in, obviously curious about her as well.
“Pippin! You can’t ask her that,” Merry insisted, mortified that his friend had asked such a thing.
“Well why not? Isn’t everyone from somewhere?” and together their gazes turned towards her expectantly.
The Dragon thought about the question for a moment, the hobbits all waiting with baited breath, hoping for something, anything to make her even slightly more personable. She was such a mystery to all of them and despite the fact the others didn’t entirely trust her, they wanted more to be her friend than to question her every action.
“The Iron Mountains, I suppose, would be my land of origin.”
“Where’s that?” Sam asked, Bill trailing behind him as he followed closely to Frodo’s side.
Leiawen didn’t quite understand how it had happened, but all four of the hobbits had quite suddenly shaken her from the careful silence she had managed to keep. Over the next hours the four of them spoke to her as if they had been friend to her for years and nothing of what she was would deter them from wholeheartedly including her in their group. These small creatures who had never so much as seen a Dragon before embraced her presence more than any other person had before them. It astonished her that they were so very accepting despite the warnings of the Firstborn and the Gondorian.
They told her of their Shire, the fields and the farms, the party tree and “Gandalf’s” fireworks on the night of Bilbo’s birthday party. Pippin and Merry spoke fondly of a place called the Green Dragon, a tavern she learned later, and how it was a funny thing that she was a Dragon and should come with them to visit when they all went home. Sam spoke fondly of a girl he had taken a liking to named Rosie Cotton and she saw a very genuine smile light up his face when he said that he wanted to marry her. Pippin told her of Farmer Maggot and how he always grew the best vegetables, but that he was a very old cantankerous hobbit with little patience for others.
She, in turn, told them of the places she had traveled, the creatures she had seen, and the Dragons she knew. It surprised them to learn that not all Dragons dwelt in the mountains of the world, guarding treasure hoards in ancient dwarven strongholds. They were even more surprised to learn of the cold drakes of her kind, that breathed no fire and of others that had no wings. She told them of the forest-dwellers she knew of and how some Dragons were so old and spent so many centuries in the places they had claimed, that they actually began to look like the land itself. Then she told them of the other creatures she had seen on her travels, friendly ones, dangerous ones and some that they had never before heard of.
She caught Greybeard’s gaze and he smiled at her. She had quite unintentionally charmed the four young hobbits and she doubted that she would have many moments of peace while they were awake from there on out. When Merry and Pippin asked if she danced and liked ale she could have sworn she heard the Grey Wizard laugh. There was, in fact, quite the debate over her dancing; Pippin declared that he wouldn’t believe it until he saw her dance and Merry then claimed that if she indeed could not dance, he would be the one to teach her. She saw Frodo smile at their antics as they argued back and forth and she couldn’t help but to smile as well.
That night, just as the sun had completed its decent beyond the horizon, the Fellowship stopped to make camp at the roots of the Caradhras. Gandalf and Aragorn both agreed that they had made good time thus far and could afford to take the next day and rest, allowing everyone to recover their strength before continuing South through Hollin, towards the Gap of Rohan. Boromir, Gimli, and Aragorn went about setting up the camp as the hobbits settled down, Sam beginning the preparations for supper. Leiawen set out to find wood for a fire, unknowing of the elf that followed soundlessly behind her.
Over the rocks and crags she went, Legolas silent as a specter downwind so that she would remain unaware of his presence. He did not trust her, or any other of her kind for that matter; the havoc that was wrought from the presence of Dragons was legendary, even amongst his kin. They were volatile and violent creatures, their greed and fury endless, dangerous amongst even their own kind. No, he would not be swayed by whatever charms she had placed upon the hobbits, he would keep his gaze steady, intent to learn of what the Dragons truly intended to gain from her presence within the Fellowship.
For a few moments the Still-Cursed held true to her task, gathering a good sized bundle of dry sticks, until an eerie call came from a few meters off in the distance. Two pairs of strangely glowing eyes appeared from within the growing darkness and Legolas ducked down to keep from being spotted by them. The Dragons drew closer until he saw that the two newcomers were the same ones that has accompanied Leiawen to Rivendell, had stood behind her at the council, and had disappeared the night before their departure. Their presence now only helped to further his suspicions of the Still-Cursed and her kind.
To his great surprise, once the two newcomers were but a few strides from her, they knelt to the female, lowered themselves to one knee and touched their brows in what he could only suppose was either respect or reverence. The two were a great deal larger than she, they were likely larger than Aragorn and Boromir as well; but most of the Nords were built so, evidence of difficult lives in the unforgiving lands to the North.
“Great Lady,” the spoke in unison, their eyes lowered to the rocks beneath their feet.
Leiawen, her bundle of sticks still in hand, gave a sigh and told them to rise. “What have you learned?”
Once the both of them stood once more, Legolas watched on as one walked a few strides from the Still-Cursed and his companion, keeping his back turned to them and looking out over the scape of the land. Legolas knew he was well hidden from the Dragon’s sight; he had nothing to fear of being caught save for if the wind changed direction, but he could do nothing to prevent that. This was his opportunity to have his suspicions confirmed; he would need to risk something, perhaps even the possibility of being found out, if he wanted to outsmart them.
“It is as you feared; he has sent them to raise the fallen.” The Dragon’s voice was tinged with something between fear and despair; if Dragons felt such emotions as fear and despair.
Legolas saw the Still-Cursed go rigid, the line of her shoulders jerking back sharply, suddenly tense at her kin’s words. He didn’t know what they meant or what significance they would hold in the days to come, but he intended to learn of what importance they were to the creatures before him.
“So he means to lay siege to the Door?”
“We believe so,” he said, lowering his gaze once more.
The Still-Cursed shifted, a movement she made that kept her focused, or so he had noticed over the weeks past. It was an odd thing to see, the movement seemed to direct the stress from her shoulders and back until it all but flowed from her like streams of water.
“How many thus far?”
“We heard mention they had risen three, that was some nights ago.”
“There are four more of the fallen near to the North in the Misty Mountains…” she drifted off, thinking of something and he wished that she did not have her back turned so he might be able to see her face. “What of the Iron Mountains?”
“They are well guarded, Great Lady, they shall not find him.”
“The Eldest must be informed; preparations need be made to guard the Door should the time come.”
The Dragon gave a nod, “Of course, though…not many of us remain. We have not the numbers that such an endeavor might require.”
“There are enough. I will not risk the Door, much less the Walls. If we are to keep such a thing from coming to pass, we must be prepared to fight once more.”
“Great Lady, many have already become rooted to their mountains and forests.”
She was silent for a moment, almost as if she was considering a possibility, weighing it in her mind. “Call through the Door if they do not come; there are many of our kin in the Night that may yet come to our aid should the need arise.”
Relief flooded the male’s face at the Still-Cursed’s words. “As you wish, Great Lady.” The second Dragon, who had until then been standing vigil, made his way back to them and touched the other male’s shoulder, “We shall take our leave now.”
Leiawen stepped back with a nod and then the group dispersed, the males drifting back into the darkness as she turned and made her way back towards the Fellowship. Legolas hurried ahead of her so his presence wouldn’t be noticed or his scent caught as she drew closer. He could only begin to guess at what the Dragon’s words meant, but from what he understood they seemed to be preparing for a war. If they were gathering in any number, be it great or small, he felt no matter the outcome, such a thing would not bode well for the world, especially if they were calling for more of their kin to heighten their numbers. Whatever the hidden meaning behind their words though, he would have answers, one way or another.
When he had reached an area just outside of hearing range from the campsite, he stopped and waited for the sound of her footsteps. She came up over the rise only a moment later and walked past him without a word. Before she could make it another step he was pressed up against her back, one hand with a knife at her throat and the other holding tightly to her wrist to restrict her movement. He could feel her back go completely straight and her shoulders tense almost imperceptibly.
“Conspirator,” he accused, his breath brushing against the left side of her face as he spoke softly into her ear. “You may fool the others with your deception and that fair guise to disguise what you truly are; you shan’t ensnare me. I know who you keep council with in the darkness, Lady.”
“You do not know anything, Firstborn, you remain ignorant for your prejudice; it blinds you more completely than any guise or deception.”
“Be silent!” he snapped, pressing the blade in further against her skin. “I would slit your throat here and now if such a thing would not rain down fire and death upon my people.”
The Still-Cursed let out a short, sharp laugh and the sound of it was wrong against his ears, “Would that you could, Firstborn.”
Then she moved, and in a flicker that both was and was not motion, she suddenly wasn’t in front of him anymore but a few strides to his right. The knife that had been so firmly pressed up against her delicate neck now lie buried hilt up in the dirt and a thin line of red ran from one side of her neck to the other; the deep and vibrant color stood out in stark contrast against her moonlit skin.
“You cannot kill me, Firstborn,” she told him, a grim look upon her face as she held her bundle under one arm. Then she wiped away the thin line of blood and beneath was not so much as a blemish. “See to your knife should you hope to salvage its usefulness; you may need use of it in the days ahead,” she said as she turned and continued on to where the others of their Fellowship waited.
Legolas stood silently, watching as the Dragon disappeared behind the sparse trees, his flaxen hair swaying lightly with the breeze. He did not understand how she had moved the way she had, as if he had been frozen still and she had been free to move. What she had done was simply not possible and he could not help but berate himself for not having seen it. He had her trapped against his body, she should have had nowhere to go in his grasp; his body pressed against her back and his arms wound tight around her.
When he knelt down to pull his knife from the ground he noticed that it was strangely hot to the touch. His eyes widened suddenly when he found that it was not buried in the dirt, but it had in fact been so very hot that it had sunken into a rock as if the stone had been made of churned butter. The fine crafting of the blade was surely ruined; no wonder she had said such a thing before she left him standing there without a care. With some effort he managed to pull the knife from where it had buried itself and examined it critically.
There, where the steel had been pressed against the Dragon’s throat, the metal was slightly melted; disfigured and pulled back from its original shape at the touch of the unnatural heat of her blood.
Greybeard was the first to wake the next morning; the land was grey and covered in thick fog in the waking hours of the world, the sun had not yet even risen above the tips of the Misty Mountains. The other members of the Fellowship slept still, the hobbits and dwarf snoring merrily as they lie around the dying fire. The Still-Cursed found this to be her favorite hour of the day, when all the world was waking from the slumber of night. It was a sign of hope if ever she had seen one, the world, for all the evil upon it, moved on and so would she.
“So, you still do not find rest amongst others?” Greybeard asked, his voice low from sleep, as he worked the stiffness from sleeping on the hard ground from his back.
“Until this task is done, I fear I shall find no rest, not even by myself.”
The Grey Wizard laughed a gleam in his eye. “Would this have anything to do with Master Green Leaf’s knife having melted at some point in the night?”
“No,” she said frankly, her gaze lingering upon the range of the Misty Mountains as they stood majestically before their camp. “And yes. I have received word, and a confirmation of my fears last night; there is a greater evil at work now than even you could have imagined, my friend.”
As a steady cloud of smoke drifted from the Wizard’s pipe he let out a deep breath, aware of the men and the elf as they began to awaken from their slumber. “Another time then,” he said to her.
He would not risk the others learning of a greater danger than the one they now faced; he knew that if Ancalalei felt they should remain in the dark, it was likely for the best. She had spent many more years upon the earth than he, though he was far older; she was not a child. Of one thing he was certain, however, she would not fail to tell him of what darkened her thoughts, and she never had.
It was not long after the men and Legolas awoke that the hobbits and Gimli woke from their slumber as well, the dwarf puffing away on his pipe as Sam began to make breakfast. Merry and Pippin had managed to convince Boromir to teach them to wield the blades they carried. “You know, just in case,” had been Pippin’s reasoning and the Gondorian had seen no harm in teaching them. Aragorn looked on, giving them pointers every now and again as Boromir first went over the basics before lightly sparring with them. Frodo sat up on a higher rock to watch as Sam handed him the first plate of food. Leiawen sat near Gandalf looking on as the Wizard continued to smoke, Legolas scouting the area; the two, since the night before, staying as far from the other as possible.
“If anyone asked my opinion, which I note they’re not,” Gimli began, watching Merry and Pippin as Boromir traded swings with Merry. “I’d say we were taking the long way ‘round. Gandalf, we could pass through the Mines of Moria, my cousin Balin would give us a royal welcome.”
A grave look crossed the Grey Wizard’s face and he stopped smoking for a moment. “No, Gimli, I would not take the road to Moria unless I had no other choice.” His tone was just as grave and unrelenting as his expression and it left no room for argument.
It was then that Legolas jumped onto a boulder before where Gandalf sat and looked up into the sky. Leiawen glanced at the elf for a moment before following his gaze; a dark splotch against the clouds was moving steadily towards them. She heard a shriek come from Pippin and her gaze snapped over to him in worry only to see him drop his blade and shake him hand in pain.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Boromir apologized quickly, trying to see if he had truly hurt the hobbit, but Pippin kicked him swiftly in the leg.
Merry laughed and knocked him in the other leg and together they forced the man to the ground. “For the Shire,” they proclaimed and egged each other on; tickling the Gondorian mercilessly until Aragorn stood and made his was to them to intervene. He came up behind them with a smile and a laugh.
“Gentlemen, that’s enough,” but they hooked their arms behind his knees and forced him onto his back as well.
They were alright; then she shifted her gaze back to the sky and the darkness of the spot upon it. “What is that?” she heard Sam ask.
“Nothing, it’s just a wisp of cloud,” Gimli assured him, content to wave it off.
“It’s moving fast,” Boromir said, back on his feet once more, Aragorn and the hobbits beside him. “Against the wind.
The Still-Cursed moved quickly from where she had been sitting, gathered together her swords and noticed that the “cloud” was breaking apart into distinguishable shapes. “That is not a cloud.”
“Crebain from Dunland,” Legolas affirmed.
Aragorn went to gather his things and get everyone moving as he yelled out. “Hide!”
Within seconds they had put out the fire, collected their possessions and food and were well enough hidden as the creatures flew overhead, screaming and squalling as they went. They circled around once as all the members of the Fellowship stayed completely still so as not to be seen, then they continued on; given the direction, both the Dragon and the Wizard knew where it was that they were headed.
“Spies of Saruman,” Gandalf said with a grumble as he came out from where he had hidden, the others followed shortly thereafter. “The passage South is being watched. We much take the Pass of Caradhras.”
As they all looked up to the foreboding mountain, Leiawen could not help the feeling of unease that descended upon her. Mountains and snow were not things she usually feared, but should Saruman know that was the path they were to take… Water in its most volatile form alone would be dangerous for the others, but with a maddened Wizard who held the power to direct its intent, there was no telling just how deadly a turn their journey would take.
Thanks for reading.
The Mountain and the Watcher by TiB0n3s
This chapter was kind of written rather hastily; I was going to include Moria but then I realized it was really late and I have to work in the morning.
Chapter 4 – The Mountain and the Watcher
In the first days of their trek toward the Red Horn Pass the weather turned from tolerable and mildly warm to bitterly cold. On the third day, the hobbits wrapped themselves in extra layers, pulling their cloaks in tightly to keep the chill away. Even Boromir and Aragorn pulled their own cloaks from the packs that Bill carried, wrapping themselves in the thick cloth and pulling the hobbits in close to their sides to share their warmth. Gimli, acclimated to such weather, paid no mind to the cold at first, but after the fifth day, when the frozen wind began to bite at his face and hands, he to sought the warmth of extra layers. Only Gandalf, Legolas, and Leiawen seemed completely unaffected by the chill air; the air around the Dragon turned almost instantly to steam from her massive heat and the Elf…not once did his feet so much as sink into the snow that grew ever deeper by the hour.
A week went past and their progress was slow, but they had finally made their way from the roots of the mountain to the foot of the Red Horn Pass. Pippin and Merry were huddled close to Leiawen beneath her cloak; she kept her arms about their shoulders, preventing them from falling as the rocks of the mountain pass were slick from the wet of the snow. Her warmth, insulated by the thick cloak she had donned only a day before, heated their hands and faces, making the bite of the wind less harsh.
“H-h-how d-d-do you d-do it-t-t?” Pippin asked, the chattering of his teeth lessened enough for him to finally speak.
Leiawen looked down at him, an expression of confusion marring her brow. “Do what?”
The poor, miserable hobbit buried his face against the soft, warm leather of her armor that wrapped around her middle. “S-s-stay s-so warm?”
She gave him a sad smile and shook her head, leading them on behind the Grey Wizard. Merry looked at his friend from around her, his face losing the red color from the wind’s chill. “It’s p-probably just a D-Dragon thing, Pip.”
Behind them, she heard the sound of someone falling and turned; it was Frodo, he’d lost his footing and was tumbling back down towards the Ranger. Aragorn caught the boy thankfully and helped him to his feet, but a look of dismay cut across Frodo’s features and he started patting himself down. The Ring, it must have come off in his tumble down the path.
“Stay here,” she told the two hobbits at her sides, quickly making her way towards the Rind bearer.
He looked up after searching his shirt, his gaze sweeping over the snow, and then his expression changed completely. Leiawen saw the Gondorian kneel down and pick something up, she heard the tinkle of metal on metal and halted several strides from him. The man stood with the chain in his hand, the Ring hanging from it, and he gazed at the gold metal trinket with a look somewhere between awe and despair.
“Boromir,” came the Ranger’s voice as he, too saw that the other man had possession of the Ring.
Dread flowed through the Still-Cursed and the urge to either fight or run took hold of her. As the man continued to stare into the Ring and listen to its whispered lies, she fought against the urge to run as her instincts all but screamed at her to get away. Though she did not want to fall under the Ring’s sight or that of its Master, did not want to be a slave to the Deceiver, she could not, would not, allow the Gondorian to have it. So her hands strayed to the hilts of her swords, tightened around them, and she waited.
“It is a strange fate,” the Gondorian said in a voice that was almost a whisper, “that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing...” With his other hand he made to grasp the Ring and her grip upon her weapons tightened further.
“Boromir!” Aragorn said again, more firmly this time and it jostled the Gondorian from his trance. “Give the Ring to Frodo.”
The man swayed back for a moment before starting forward, walking to the hobbit with the Ring in hand. “As you wish,” he complied, lowering the item.
Frodo snatched it away from him by the silver chain, leaning back into Aragorn’s form with a look of distrust and uncertainty upon his face. Leiawen’s grip upon the hilts of her swords lessened but she did not release them fully.
“I care not,” the man brushed off and Aragorn gave him a look she could not completely see before the other man ruffled Frodo’s hair and turned away. He slung his shield over his shoulder, high on his back, and headed back up the Pass.
Leiawen watched him carefully, her eyes following the man as he walked past her without so much as a glance in her direction. Then she looked back toward Frodo and Aragorn and saw the man release his sword with a breath of relief before he looked up at her. The two of them shared a glance for a moment before both came to a silent understanding; the Ranger gave her a nod and she released her swords before going back to Merry and Pippin.
As she looked to Greybeard she saw the question in his eyes. She shook her head once as she gathered the two shivering hobbits back beneath her cloak. The Son of Gondor was falling under the Ring’s hold.
Wind and snow whipped around them as they made way on the side of the mountain. Sam was bitterly cold as Leiawen all but carried him through the trench Gandalf cut through the snow just ahead of them. He was sure that he had never been more greatful for anything in his life as he was for the Still-Cursed Dragon’s warmth. He was wrapped tight in his cloak, his face buried against the heat of her neck even as snow and ice gathered in the long dark strands of her hair.
The stout hobbit just barely saw Legolas walk past them through the white flurries. He was walking on the snow as if he didn’t weigh anything! Elves sure were strange folk, but then, of course, so was the woman carrying him because the snow was melting away from her just as quickly as it fell.
“There is a fell voice on the air,” he heard the Elf remark.
Sam felt the Dragon stop walking and adjust her grip on him, wrapping her arms more securely around his waist. He listened closely, trying to hear what Legolas had; and a moment later, over the roar of the wind all around them, a voice spoke in a strange tongue. The words were strange to him, dark and full of power.
“It’s Saruman!” Gandalf yelled out, warning them all.
Leiawen let out a curse and just as she did Sam heard the break and rumble of the rocks overhead. He looked swiftly upwards, careful not to knock his head against the Dragon’s as he searched for the source of the sound.
“Quick! Against the rock face!” she commanded, seeing the falling rock and snow before he did.
Then she turned and set him against the wall of stone and covered his body with her own. “It will be all right, Sam,” she assured against his growing fear. And then everything crashed around them, the voice still chanting.
“He’s trying to bring down the mountain!” he heard Strider yell. “Gandalf! We must turn back!”
Leiawen moved, picking him up once more. “Hold on tight, Sam, this is not yet over.”
Sam gripped onto her with every bit of strength he possessed, but he was cold and scared. Then he saw Gandalf standing on the edge of the outcropping, his staff raised high above him, speaking words, shouting them, into the air. The words were different, not dark like the ones Saruman spoke, but powerful all the same.
“He’s fighting back,” the Dragon explained, trying to calm his fears as he felt her cutting a trench through the snow in Gandalf’s stead, “trying to persuade the mountain to sleep.”
There was a spark and clap of lightning that struck the mountain in a great flash, then rocks were falling again. Sam felt the Dragon turn again, caging him against the wall once more as a second avalanche of snow and rocks fell upon them. This time, though, they were buried in it.
Even though it was dark and cold he could make out the lines of Leiawen’s face as she crouched around and over him. He could barely believe it but because she had shielded him the way she did, the snow all around them was more like a cave than the all-consuming way he had feared being buried in it.
“Sam?” he heard her call out weakly.
“I’m all right,” he told her truthfully, overwhelmingly grateful to her once more. “Thank you, milady.”
Now he knew for certain that no matter what anyone else could ever say Leiawen was good. She had saved his life, was still saving his life, and bore the weight of he-couldn’t-guess-how-much snow all while making sure he didn’t freeze to death. He was in awe of her selflessness as she was bent over him, the white both melting from her heat and trapping it at the same time. For a moment he wondered if she was hurt but then he saw the strange light of her eyes as they opened and she spoke.
“Gather as much of the heat as you can, it will get very cold soon.”
He gave her a nod and then she pushed herself up, her legs extending and her arms pushing outwards simultaneously. She was trying to keep the mounds of snow from caving in on him, he realized. And once the top opened up, a breath of frigid air dropped down; he was glad she had warned him. If she hadn’t, he would have stood up with her and caught the blast full in the face. Instead he remained huddled against the wall until she picked him up and tucked him back underneath her cloak again.
The wind continued to roar and whip all around as Sam looked around for the others. They were cold and covered in snow but thankfully, blessedly alive. Gimli was shaking snow from around him with a growl and blew clumps of it from his face and beard. Strider has a hold of Frodo and though he was shaking with cold Sam was just grateful his friend was safe.
“We must get off the mountain,” he heard Boromir call up to Gandalf. “Make for the Gap of Rohan and take the West Road to my city!”
“The Gap of Rohan takes up too close to Isengard!” Strider countered.
“If we cannot pass over the mountain let us go under it,” Gimli said. Sam saw the grim look on Gandalf’s face as Leiawen turned to the Dwarf; whatever Gimli was suggesting, the Wizard wasn’t likely to agree with. “Let us go through the Mines of Moria.”
“We can pass over the mountain; with Saruman silent it sleeps now!” the Still-Cursed insisted before she turned and Sam could no longer see Gandalf’s face.
Sam didn’t want to stay on the mountain anymore. No matter how warm she tried to keep him, the wind still bit at his feet and the Dragon couldn’t ward off all the other dangers of the mountain. The avalanche had taken a great toll on her and she was exhausted; when he managed a glimpse of her eyes he could see the wariness there and he felt it as her arms shook from exertion. Slowly but surely, she was wearing down and he didn’t know how much longer she would be able to hold out going the way they were.
“Let the Ring bearer decide,” he heard Gandalf proclaim.
Frodo looked like he didn’t know what to do; but then, he wouldn’t want to make this decision either. Everyone was cold, miserable, and tired, but there had to be a reason why Gandalf had lead them to the Red Horn Pass.
“We cannot stay here!” Boromir urged, holding Merry and Pippin close as they shook and shivered. “This will be the death of the hobbits and the Dragon cannot save them all!”
“Frodo,” Gandalf said, bringing him from within his thoughts and back to the situation at hand.
“We will go through the Mines,” he said with a certainty that was not present on his face.
“So be it.”
It had taken the Fellowship a fortnight to get as far as they had up the mountain and to the Red Horn Pass, but the trip back down had been considerably quicker. They took the road to Moria and as they descended the air became much warmer until the Dragon no longer had the hobbits huddled against her and she packed the cloak away. The cold of the mountain had, in truth, not disturbed her, she had only worn the cloth to keep the chill from the hobbits as they sought the warmth her body let off.
Now they drew ever closer to the Gates of Moria and Leiawen could feel the power of the Ring growing. Whatever dark creatures came near would surely be drawn to it and she hoped that no matter what happened in the days ahead, she would not become one of them, She felt it, something she could not put into words, and she dreaded what may come of the Road through the Mines.
“Frodo,” Greybeard called from before her. “Come and help an old man.” He gathered the young hobbit to his side and they walked together. “How’s your shoulder?”
The boy looked up at the Grey Wizard, “Better than it was.”
She had heard tell the boy had been stabbed by a Morgul blade wielded by the Witch King; he was very lucky to be alive to speak of such a thing.
“And the Ring?” the two stopped and looked at each other. “You feel its power growing, don’t you? I’ve felt it, too. You must be careful now, evil will be drawn to you from outside the Fellowship and I fear from within.”
They watched suspiciously as Boromir passed them. “Who then do I trust?”
“You must trust yourself,” she heard Greybeard say to the boy as she drew closer. “Trust your own strengths.”
“What do you mean?”
It was what her old friend said next that confirmed the Still-Cursed’s fears.
“There are many powers in this world, for good or for evil, some are greater than I am.” She caught the barest glimpse of the Grey Wizard’s face as she walked past the two as well. “And against some I have not yet been tested.”
Leiawen could feel that he knew what was coming and as the Dwarf remarked upon the sighting of the Walls of Moria, the sinking feeling at the pit of her stomach grew. Whatever awaited them within the Mines, it would not bode well for their Fellowship.
“Dwarf walls are invisible when closed,” Gimli told them, knocking his axe against the stone face.
“Yes, Gimli. Even their own masters cannot find them if their secrets are forgotten,” Greybeard said, searching the stone for something.
Leiawen had seen many Dwarf walls over her lifetime but regrettable knew very few of their secrets. Some revealed themselves in fire, others in moonlight, though there were few remaining that required the blood of their own masters in order to be found. They were made with great magic and skill, complicated and tricky devices, oftentimes temperamental if not the right word said at the right time or if the weather was ill. As she walked along the great stone wall behind Greybeard something thudded within her and she went completely still. She waited for a moment after the thud subsided and took a breath to calm her nerves. It was probably nothing.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” the Firstborn commented harshly.
The Still-Cursed went to say something over her shoulder but stopped as the thud came back, pounding through her in time with the beating of her own heart. The blood in her veins coursed faster, like a flood in her ears. There was something here, something close, it was watching them. Her senses flared out, searching for something, anything that might be out of place, but all she saw was the water. For some, strange, reason, she felt a surge of strength not her own flow through her…something was coming.
The Dragon was standing at the edge of the water as if she was looking for something, but even with the sharpness of his eyes, Legolas did not see anything. Nearby, Aragorn and Dam were taking the packs from Bill’s back, setting them on the ground as the hobbit gazed sorrowfully at the small pack animal. The Mithrandir was still uttering spells to the Doors of Durin and he couldn’t help but shake his head at the Dwarf whom had lead them here.
“The mines are no place for a pony,” Aragorn comforted the stout hobbit, “even one so brave as Bill.”
“Bye-bye, Bill,” Sam said in farewell the pony, removing the lead rope and bridle.
The man sent the pony off and looked down at the hobbit, “Don’t worry, Sam, he knows the way home.”
A splash came from the water and from the corner of his eye he saw the Dragon’s shoulders jerk back, startled. Merry and Pippin were throwing stones into the pond before them. As Pippin reached back to throw another the Elf saw Aragorn grab his arm to keep the rock from flying. The man and hobbit’s eyes met for a moment. “Do not disturb the water,” he warned before looking out over it again.
Something was in the water, he knew. Though he could not see it, it was there, like a splinter against his mind. He should have sensed it earlier and he was almost ashamed that the Dragon had felt it first, for that must have been why she could not take her eyes off of it. Perhaps, though, two creatures of the darkness could feel one another and that was how she had come to know of it first, in which case he was not ashamed.
Aragorn walked over to her and stood at her side, “Are you all right?” Concern tinged his voice and Legolas could not imagine what might compel his friend to feel even the slightest bit of worry for the Still-Cursed. She did not answer though, and the man put a hand upon her shoulder as the Mithrandir threw his staff down in frustration.
“Milady? What is it?”
Legolas watched on as she turned to him with her strangely glowing eyes. “”It’s watching us.”
Boromir walked up behind the two and together the three looked out over the water. When he followed their gazes, he saw it too; small waves of movement upon the surface. They were forceful, purposeful movements, not remnants of ripples from the hobbits throwing rocks, but of something beneath the water.
“It’s a riddle,” he heard Frodo say and the waves changed direction suddenly, growing stronger, more forceful.
“Get ready,” the Dragon warned, her hands straying to the black swords at her hips.
“Speak friend and enter. What’s the elvish word for friend?”
“Mellon,” Gandalf told the hobbit as the waves started coming from other directions as well. There might be more than one of them…
Then the doors creaked with the protest of stone against stone and swung open; thank the Valar. Legolas, Aragorn, and Boromir all turned from the water and helped to usher the others through the doors. The Elf watched from the corner of his eye as the Dragon backed away slowly, her hands still upon her weapons; she did not turn away until she was past the entrance.
“Soon, Master Elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the Dwarves!” the Dwarf proclaimed, a proud smirk upon his face. “Roaring fires, malt beer, red meat right off the bone.”
Legolas was not much impressed as he chanced a look around; this was not right. Something about this place was of, it carried a heady scent, one he could not place.
“This, my friend, is the home of my cousin Balin,” the Dwarf continued on, explaining as Gandalf blew a light into his staff. There were corpses everywhere. “And they call it a mine. A mine!”
He knelt to examine one of the corpses that littered the floor and stairs. It was a Dwarf! “This is no mine,” he heard Boromir say, “It’s a tomb.”
“No. No!” Gimli cried out, finally seeing the carnage and death all around them.
Legolas pulled an arrow from the dead Dwarf and examined the nock and point. It was there, just where the head split off and curved outwards. “Goblins!” He pulled an arrow from the quiver on his back and made ready his bow as Aragorn, Gandalf, and Boromir all drew their swords from beside him.
“We make for the Gap of Rohan,” Boromir urged. “We should never have come here. Now get out of here. Get out!”
They all backed out of the mines, but Legolas had forgotten two very important things. The first being whatever manner of creature or beast that lie in wait beneath the surface of the water, the second being that all four hobbits were the closest to the entrance out of the entire group of them.
Leiawen had been a more than a few strides from the entrance when Frodo cried out, the other three hobbits grabbing him as something tried to pull him into the water. She turned around to see them grabbing his arms and pulling them back towards the entrance of the Mines, trying to keep him out of the water.
“Strider! Leiawen!” Sam call and Aragorn’s head snapped towards them. He was running back through the doors with the Still-Cursed as Sam attacked whatever had grabbed ahold of Frodo and then both he and the Dragon were beside Frodo as it retreated into the water.
“Here it comes,” she said, both of her wickedly curved, black swords drawn and at the ready; the muscles in her arms coiled and awaiting the first swing.
All at once several tentacles speared their way from the water and knocked the hobbits away from Frodo, then one picked him up and hung him upside down over the water. Aragorn, Leiawen, and Boromir charged in after the terrified, screaming hobbit, slashing their way through the tentacles to get to him as Legolas let loose one arrow after another. When one tentacle would drop the hobbit, though, another snatched him up and then the creature’s face came up, out of the depths.
It opened its gaping maw just as he cut down another tentacle, but again it grabbed Frodo with another. The Ranger chanced a glance at Leiawen, wet and furious as she fought alongside him; and then she did something completely unprecedented. She lept, a distance which should have been impossible, and landed upon the creature’s face. With a yell that held an echo of a roar, she stabbed down and thrust the blade of one sword deep into the beast’s mouth. Just as it let out a pain-filled cry, it both released Frodo from its grasp and bit down upon the Dragon’s arm.
Aragorn saw Boromir catch Frodo as Leiawen hollered in pain and anger. He went to help her after pushing Boromir to the shore, but she leveled him with a furious glance from her glowing eyes.
He didn’t understand. She was trapped, trapped by her right arm which the creature bit down upon with all its strength. Why would she not want his assistance?
And then the beast screamed. Writhing about, it tossed her from where she had stood upon its face and she landed in the water with a splash and a curse. In the confusion of the beast’s pain and struggle, Aragorn pulled her up and they made their way out of the water. Then it started coming after them.
“Into the Mines!” Gandalf shouted, helping him with Leiawen as they reached the shore.
Legolas let loose another arrow, the projectile sinking deep into the creature’s eye.
They ran into the darkness of the Mines just as the maddened creature hauled itself from the water. The entrance and first hall crashed behind them in a deafening rumble of shattered rock and stone. The way back was gone, he realized, holding on to the Dragon as she struggled to walk; they couldn’t get out the way they had come in. That could mean only one thing…
“We now have but one choice,” Aragorn heard the Grey Wizard say as he knocked his staff against the ground and a light steadily grew from it. “We must face the long dark of Moria. Be on your guard, there are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world.”
Thanks for reading!
I had promised to have this chapter written before the weekend, so if it seems a bit rushed...it probably was. As I don't have a Beta, if you see an error or have an idea, shoot me a review and let me know. Character names denote changes in points of view, hopefully this makes things less confusing.
Chapter 5 – Strength
He didn't know if it was the corpses or the blood of the beast from the water that lingered on his arms and shoulders, but something in the Mines smelled horribly. The stench assaulted his nose making his nostrils burn and his head swim. Leiawen was still trying to regain proper use of her legs, pulling away from him to stand on her own. Aragorn eyed her carefully, a hand upon her shoulder to ensure she didn't lose her balance, but she kept ducking away from his touch. It was as if she didn't want him to touch her for some reason.
Something was wrong with her. He had never seen her so unsteady, not even on the Red Horn Pass in the Caradhras after she had shielded Sam from the avalanche in the wake of Saruman's attack. The hobbit had told him how she had taken the massive weight of the snow and rock that had fallen upon them. He had, in fact, spoken very fondly of her as the little hobbit had walked at his side towards the Road to Moria.
Sam had told him that she had saved his life, by both keeping him warm and protecting him from the snow and ice. He spoke of how she was uncommonly patient with Pippin's endless questions, doing her best to answer what inquiries she could and even asked the hobbit questions of her own. She was never rude, never snapped at him, she simply smiled that sad smile and did what she could. Sam also told him how she always kept an eye on Frodo, watching those around the Ring bearer for any sign of intent to take the token he carried from him.
The Ranger had been reminded of that moment up in the mountains after Boromir had given the Ring back to Frodo. She had stood there, the darkness of her clothing and hair like a shadow upon the white of the snow, watching the Steward's son carefully. He had seen her eyes as she looked over Frodo, making certain that he had not been harmed in the exchange, all the while her hands upon the hilts of the two black swords that hung low at her hips. The look they had shared afterward, a mutual trust that had passed between them as he knew she had seen his own hand upon his weapon.
"She's a good person, Strider," the hobbit had insisted as they made their way down the path.
After the fight at the Gates of Moria and from everything she had shown him since the beginning of their journey, he had no reason to doubt her.
The Dragon looked terrible. The dark locks of her wet hair clung to her face and chest; dirt, dust, and blood streaked across her fair skin. She was weary and wounded and he could nearly feel her exhaustion as it leaked through her bones and flesh. Even the braids strewn through her hair, which she had great care to maintain, were coming loose at the ends, unraveling at every movement she made.
Then she stumbled and he was brought out of his musings; he grabbed ahold of her arm, his fingers sinking unintentionally into the wounds of her arm. Suddenly he felt a sharp, quick pain in his hand and it burned. Despite the pain in his hand though, and the way she cried out in agony, he did not let her go.
"Drop me," she gasped, her breath catching in her throat.
"No, milady, I will not risk injuring you further," he insisted and felt her knees finally buckle. His hands at her arms were all that kept her from falling forward into the corpses that littered the floor.
By the Valar how it burned, though. If he did not know better the Ranger could have sworn that he had just placed his hand into the burning coals of a blacksmith's forge. He gritted his teeth, searching for the source of the agonizing pain but all his eyes found was the dark red of her blood as it all but streamed from the deep gashes in her arm. What was happening to him?
He felt her chest expand slowly and then release as she called out, "Greybeard!"
The Grey Wizard turned instantly at the sound of her voice and Aragorn saw him searching her form for the source of her despair. He knew when the old man had found it because his eyes widened as they landed on her arm and his hand upon it. Gandalf was suddenly at his side, the Wizard had pulled him from Leiawen and had his burning hand held carefully between his own. Strange, almost elvish, words flowed from Gandalf and the Ranger could feel the painful burn all but disappear.
What had just happened? Wasn't the woman the one he had been moving so quickly to help?
Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli soot just behind the Wizard as he continued to utter the strange healing words. Another wave of the cooling sensation crashed around him and he saw Leiawen some distance from him clutching her wounded and ragged right arm. In the light of Gandalf's staff he finally saw it. As the hobbits gathered around her asking after her, careful to keep away from the gashes and blood; the stream of the dark red substance ran down her arm to the stone floor and he understood.
"Ah, yes," he heard Gandalf say and he glanced up to see that the Wizard had followed the direction of his gaze. "Now you understand."
The old Grey Wizard stood with protest, clutching his staff and leaning upon it heavily once he was upright. "Listen to her," he warned. "I may not have the ability to save the use of you hand again." He walked over to her, completely losing interest in Aragorn once he had been sure that his hand would be all right.
Legolas helped the Ranger to his feet as he held his hand before his face, examining it carefully. Though it was slightly red from the agitation he had suffered, it was whole and no longer burned at all. Her blood had done that to him...
It wasn't possible; nothing of this earth had the flesh to stand whole against such heat. He had heard songs and stories of Dragons: Smaug, Scatha, Ancalagon, and Glaurung... Never had he heard of their blood holding such a terrible ability to do thus to someone.
Aragorn found himself standing next to her, the hobbits on her other side and Gandalf at her front. He stared at the smoldering hole of glowing melted stone where her blood had destroyed the floor.
"Are you alright?" she asked, her eyes reflecting the light of the Grey Wizard's staff in the darkness.
"Is that why it screamed?" he asked her, his mind going back to the agonized howls of the creature in the water.
A look of confusion flitted across her face, "Why what screamed?"
“The creature; the one in the water. When it bit down upon your arm it went mad with pain.” Aragorn motioned to her arm as blood gushed from the wounds and dripped down onto the stone. “Is that why?”
“Yes,” she admitted with a tone in her voice that Aragorn swore he had heard before, but not from her. “This is why the Watcher went mad.”
So she had done it on purpose; the Dragon had known that her blood would wound the “Watcher”, as she called it, just as she had likely known that it would wound her as well in the process. The Ranger could not help but be astonished at her resolve. She could have easily lost her arm with the reckless action she had taken, but her thought had been only of saving Frodo. This did not answer the foremost question on his mind, however.
“How is it possible that you can do this?”
Her response was simply to look over to Merry and Pippin as they pulled on the upper portion of her good arm and pushed up against her lower back, helping her to stand. Aragorn looked to the hobbits as well and saw that they were smiling at some shared secret jest they had all made together. As they got her to her feet from where she had sat upon the ruined floor, Gandalf steadied her, placing a hand upon her collar.
“It’s a Dragon thing,” Pippin told him proudly, patting Leiawen on the back as one would a dear friend.
Leiawen smiled and shrugged her shoulders, “I do not pretend to have all the answers, Aragorn. It is best to accept things you have no hope of changing.” She turned as the Wizard took her good arm in his and lead them up the stair. “Accept what you are, Son of Numenor, you will find that you are better for it.”
Gandalf lead them up the stair and down the first passage with the Still-Cursed at his side. They did not speak of anything, simply walked together at an almost leisurely pace; the only sound between them was a steady drip from her fingertips to the stone floor every three paces or so. The rest of them were all careful to avoid it, unsure of whether or not it would harm them should they accidently step upon it. They had all seen the agony upon Aragorn’s face before Gandalf had healed his hand; the phantom of such pain dwelt within his mind still for he clenched his fingers into a fist every time he heard the fall of her blood.
Within a few minutes of their journey her saw her skin pale to a deathly white and she stopped walking altogether. Worry bloomed within his heart and though he did not want to, he quickly grew concerned for the Dragon.
“Keep going,” she told Gandalf when he met her eyes, the expression upon his face echoed the feeling in the Elf’s heart.
Her hair, which had begun to dry before, hung wet and limp around her; he braids having long since unwound, falling with the rest of her dark locks down her back and around her face. The bare skin of both her arms to the greaves upon her forearms was streaked with filth and blood, both her own and the Watcher’s. The Dragon looked like death as the strange glow of her eyes dimmed to a faint reflection of the light before her, as if they were clouded of bore a film of the dust that was layered upon her.
The Still-Cursed had taken upon herself a great wound in the fight against the Watcher, a wound which was not healing. Legolas remembered the cut he had given her with the blade of a knife; it had been healed just as soon as the metal was gone from her skin. Something was wrong with her and he felt an urge to say something to the Wizard, but Gandalf simply smiled at her and moved on. One by one they quickly passed her by until she was at the tail end of their trail, just behind himself and Gimli.
Legolas listened closely as she began moving once again. Her heartbeat was erratic, not the strong steady tattoo that it always was, and her chest made a strange shaking sound with each breath she took. There was a long splatter of thick, heavy liquid against the rock and a slight hiss which started to follow her every step. Gimli must have heard it as well for the Dwarf met his gaze, worry etched into the frown upon his face.
Just as he turned to ensure the Still-Cursed would be alright, she stumbled and her legs gave out completely. Before even he could understand what had happened he found himself holding the unconscious Dragon in his arms, her wounded arm draped over his shoulder at an odd angle to keep her blood from damaging him. He heard Gimli call for Gandalf and as the Wizard hurried to where he knelt with the Still-Cursed in his grasp, he noticed that she was quickly going cold.
“What’s happened?” the Wizard demanded fiercely, urgency and deep worry in his voice and on his face.
“She began to falter, when I looked back, she was falling.”
“She hasn’t been sleepin’,” Sam supplied as Gandalf took her from Legolas’ hold and laid her flat upon the ground.
“No, Samwise, Still-Cursed Dragons do not require sleep; this is something I should have seen earlier.” The Wizard was frustrated with himself, pressing his hands against her face, wiping both fresh and drying blood from the ragged gashes on her arm. “Fool Dragon,” he said in a voice so low Legolas almost missed it. “You should have said something, should have told me.”
“What is it?” Frodo asked, kneeling at her side. “What’s wrong with her?”
Legolas looked on as the Wizard placed a hand upon the boy’s shoulder. “Leiawen will be quite all right. Such a thing as this is normal, I’m afraid. One of you shall have to carry her until she recovers. Fear not, her blood is of no danger now.”
Boromir began to step forward but before the Gondorian could so much as touch her, Legolas was pulling her onto his back. He gripped her thighs firmly to keep her from falling, her arms draped over his shoulders. “What is this? How is this normal, Gandalf?” he asked as they began to walk once more. “One would think her near death in this state.”
“No, Master Green Leaf, Dragons do not die as the people of the earth. Their souls are what keep their bodies together and I fear there lies her problem.
All of the creatures touched by Morgoth’s power feel the presence of one another; the Watcher was one of his own creations. To make them stronger in battle, he laid a Curse upon them with his dark magick, that their power might grow as more of them gathered together. The creature in the Water was created to draw its power from the darkness within the lake and though its power was not great, both it and Leiawen grew stronger with the other’s presence.”
“The way she jumped,” Aragorn said from behind Legolas. “That strength allowed her to do such a thing?”
“Yes,” Gandalf told the Ranger.
“Then why has she fainted?” the Son of Gondor asked, a strange urgency and concern in his tone. “Should she not be healed and…doing whatever it is that she does?”
“There is a drawback to such power in numbers, a part of the Curse that, at the end of the First Age, the Valar were able to unravel. The Dragons began to call what happened to them afterwards ‘The Great Loss’; after those gathered are separated, the strength they gained leaves them, but it also takes a great deal of their natural strength and power as well. It takes them to a very low point and they often do not recover; so they stayed away from other creatures altogether.”
“Divide and conquer,” Aragorn remarked, a grim expression upon his face.
“What you see now is the result of her using such dangerous strength and being wounded in the process. Had her foe been greater…” the Wizard shook his head, leading them on.
Legolas understood though, the more powerful those that gathered were, the greater the gain; but the recoil, the loss afterwards, was larger. It was a great price for her to pay in order to save Frodo from the Watcher; what spy or conspirator would make such a sacrifice, risk so much? Either she was uncommonly devoted to a cause or…he might have been wrong.
Leiawen woke finally on the third day of their journey through Moria. Thankfully the Road had been quiet and they had not been attacked by any of the creatures that were surely hiding in the Deep. As she had lain unconscious each night, the hobbits had taken it upon themselves to wash the dirt and grime from her skin, fussing and worrying each hour that she did not awaken. On the second day, Aragorn had woken to see Gimli talking to her as she lie on the stone ground, his fingers deftly working braids throughout her hair only to brush them out once more, berating himself for doing such a thing. Just that morning, when Legolas had her securely on his back, he noticed braids were weaved in her hair again only they were far more intricate than the Dwarf’s fingers would have been able to manage. Once he looked more closely, he saw they were Elvin Warrior’s braids tied at the ends in knots worn only by those that carried Ancient blood. The woven strands suited her.
They had been settling down for the night when he heard a moan from between himself and Legolas. He looked over as all four hobbits jumped up to be at her side.
She touched a hand to her brow and one eye slid open, glowing in the darkness, and they all let out a sigh of relief. No lingering effect of when she had suffered The Loss seemed to remain; her breathing was good and her heart beat had settled to its usual strong steady pace. The ragged gashes on her arm had healed over only a few hours ago, the wounds would likely re-open if she stressed them overmuch. Hopefully their luck would hold and she would not have to overuse her arm.
“Mister Gandalf, sir,” Sam called, “she’s awake!”
In the dim light Aragorn saw a strange slit through the black of her eye that gave it an odd, almost cat-like shape, but as he looked harder it rounded until nothing was amiss with it anymore. Could it be that as she recovered from Bottoming Out certain aspects of her heritage took over her physical self? But before he could consider it further he was suddenly and rather harshly pushed out of the Wizard’s way as Gandalf settled before her.
“Ancalalei,” he said softly, taking her face between his hands.
There was that name again, why did he call her that?
“My soul has not yet flown away, Greybeard,” she assured him.
What happened next Aragorn could not hope to describe with words. Something passed between the two of them, the Wizard and the Dragon, it charged the air like heat lightning on the plains. A feeling that went far deeper than devotion or even love overtook his heart as it flowed over them and Gandalf all save lifted her up to pull her tightly to him in a fierce embrace. They stayed that way for several long moments before Aragorn saw it. It was small, barely noticeable, but in every pass Leiawen’s hand made as she stroked the Wizard’s back to comfort him, there were sparks of what he could only assume was magic.
Aragorn looked to the others to see if any of them had noticed it as well, but all save Legolas had turned from them to go about laying out blankets and such, leaving the two in peace. The way the Elf was staring though, he knew he saw what flickered between them as well. It shimmered like a light rainfall in the sunlight on midsummer’s eve and sparked as lightning across the clouds; it was truly a beautiful thing to behold.
They pulled apart and a look that could only be described as righteous indignation settled on Gandalf’s face. “You fool Dragon. Why did you say nothing?”
Leiawen gave him a wry smile and glanced around. “Where are we now?”
“We are deep in the heart of Moria,” came Gimli’s voice suddenly.
“It is night on our third day of travel,” Aragorn answered and her gaze shifted to him, her eyes widening slightly in surprise. “Legolas and I carried you while you recovered your strength, Milady.”
Perhaps it was his choice of words but he saw her eyes narrow almost imperceptibly. The woman gave him a nod, voiced her gratitude, and went to sit with the hobbits who eagerly awaited her and the Dwarf who, perhaps, was growing to favor her presence as well.
(Third Person Normal)
After what felt like hours of speaking with Gimli and the hobbits of what they had seen thus far within the Mines, Leiawen finally made her way to Greybeard who was speaking quietly with Frodo. The poor boy looked lost and indecisive as she sat before the three doorways with them. When they finally came to the conclusion of their conversation Greybeard smiled at the young hobbit.
“May I speak with Leiawen alone?” he asked the boy’s pardon.
Frodo nodded and gazed at her with a smile, “I’m glad you’re all right.”
“As I am glad you are as well.” When he had finally made his way down the stair to sit with Merry, Pippin, and Sam she turned to the Wizard, concerned, “What is it that troubles you so?”
There was a moment in which her friend struggled to find the words he meant to say, to not worry her, but then his shoulders sagged and he spoke frankly.
“I fear I may not have the strength to overcome what lies ahead.”
His admittance shocked her, “Strength?”
The Still-Cursed hated that word, hated that a pit opened up in her gut with its utterance as it weighted down her heart with fingers of ice. That single word had seemingly defined every year of her very long life. Was she strong enough? The last of the Unbroken Line would have strength without measure once the Curse was lifted. To be their Great Lady she would have to… She was fairly sick of that word and all of its meanings.
“Do you know that Saruman has always hated you thus?” she asked her friend.
Confusion crossed his face and when he opened his mouth to speak she lifted a hand to stop his words.
“He has always been jealous of you for you are the favored of you kin among the Valar. That is why he was sent so easily into madness by the Second Deceiver, because he always knew that when you were ready, you would surpass him. Your strength is his weakness and when you become what you are meant to be, you shall have found all the strength you need only to discover that you held it within yourself all along.”
After a moment of taking in the meaning of her words, the Wizard smiled at her and laughed heartily, “When did you become wiser than I?”
“You may be older, my Grey friend,” she told him with a haughty expression, “but I have walked this earth far longer.”
“Yes, yes, that’s true-” he stopped and looked to the doorway closest to them. “It’s that way.”
“He’s remembered,” she heard Merry tell the others, glad to be moving along.
“No,” Greybeard told the young hobbit as they descended the stairs in the path leading further down. “But the air doesn’t smell so foul down there. If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose!”
To Sam it felt as if the dark stair would never end, they had been walking for so long. The stairs going down were just as steep, if not more so, than the ones they had climbed up and his legs were getting tired. Just as he stepped down, his foot slipped on a loose rock and he pitched forward. He heard Leiawen snap out a curse and then he suddenly wasn’t falling anymore; the back of his shirt had been pulled tight to keep him from taking the long dangerous tumble down.
As he was set back down upon his own two feet he saw that it had been Strider who had grabbed the back of his shirt to keep him from the fall. “Thank you,” he murmured, feeling like a fool. Any one of the others could have been hurt just because he couldn’t walk down a simple flight of stairs.
He did not have the time to dwell upon what had happened though for it was then that the stairs emptied out and a dark cavern lie ominously before them. As he looked back he could see the glow from Leiawen’s eyes, they were like two twin candles flickering brightly. He wondered just how well she could see in the darkness; as her eyes flickered up and around, piercing the black before them. What was it that stood before them in the looming darkness?
“Let me risk a little more light,” came Gandalf’s voice at the head of their group. The Wizard tapped his staff against the stone ground and with a wave of his hand a great light blazed like a flash of lightning; shadows rose up and fled from the oncoming light. “Behold! The great realm and Dwarf city of Dwarrowdelf.”
Sam looked up to see a vast ceiling far above his head upheld by great pillars hewn of stone; there were endless rows upon rows of them and he couldn’t imagine just how large the cavern must have been. Before them stretched an enormous hall with black walls that were polished and smooth, they gleamed like glass against the light from the Wizard’s staff.
“Well there’s an eye opener and no mistake,” he marveled in awe of the sight before his eyes.
Not far off there was a door and streams of light pierced through the darkness past them. As they drew closer to it Sam saw that the wooden door had been smashed open, sinister black arrows embedded in the hard, thick wood and more corpses lie all around it. Gimli let out a shout and rushed past them, running as quickly as he was able into the room full of light.
“Gimli!” Gandalf shouted after him, but he didn’t stop.
They ran after the Dwarf, determined not to let him get too far ahead of them. The vast chamber beyond the door was lit with a narrow shaft of sunlight, beaming in from a small hole situated at the top of one wall; it fell upon a large stone monument that lie in the center of the room. Corpses of both Goblins and Dwarves were piled high in every corner, rusted axes, swords, and arrows strewn about in the same careless manner as those that had wielded them. The great white stone of the monument glowed in the light and Gimli fell to his knees, a look of despair settling upon him.
“No…no…oh, no,” he sobbed.
“Here lies Balin, son of Fudin, Lord of Moria,” Gandalf read from the inscription of Dwarven runes carved into the white slab. “He is dead, then. It’s as I had feared.”
For some reason, the news of the death of Gimli’s cousin made Sam uncommonly sad, and as he watched the great Dwarf lie his brow against the stone of the grave, he knew he could never wish such a thing upon someone else. He looked away, trying to give Gimli what small amount of peace he could to mourn his cousin’s passing, and he saw Gandalf hand his pointed hat and his staff to Pippin. The Grey Wizard knelt down to carefully lift up the rotting remains of a book from the skeletal fingers of a Dwarf’s corpse; it had been slashed and stabbed and by the look of it, was covered in dried blood as well. The pages cracked and broke in protest as he opened it.
“We must move on,” Sam heard Legolas whisper urgently from somewhere behind him, “we cannot linger.”
“They have taken the Bridge and the second hall,” Gandalf read, drawing the attention of the entire Fellowship. “We have barred the gates, but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes…drums…drums in the deep. We cannot get out, will no one help us? A shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out…they are coming.”
A loud clink and clatter of a heave chain startled Sam so badly that he jumped, his eyes whipping over to where the sound had come from as something crashed all around them. There Pippin stood with his hand reached out near the bones of a now headless corpse that sat rather precariously on the edge of a well. The corpse tottered as the other hobbit turned away before it followed its head into the hole of the well. The crashing grew louder, deeper and after a moment it faded away into silence once more.
“Fool of a Took,” Gandalf said angrily, snapping the book shut and all but slamming it down onto the white stone monument. He strode over to Pippin and snatched his hat and staff from his hands. “Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity.”
Silence loomed over them in the aftermath of Pippin’s folly, but then he heard it. A low, rolling sound rose from the depths below, growing louder and faster with each tattoo. It was a single drum that drew all of the creatures that were hidden in the deep that surrounded them, until all the caverns of Moria were turned into a vast drum. A horn blasted nearby and others answered shortly thereafter; the sound of running feet and harsh cries sounded beyond the door.
“Mister Frodo!” Sam cried and as the Ring bearer drew his weapon they all took notice of the blue glow upon the blade.
“Orcs,” Legolas warned Gimli and Boromir, who didn’t know of the magic in the weapon.
As the two men rushed to the door Aragorn yelled back to the hobbits. “Get back! Stay close to Gandalf!” They slammed the door, leaned up against it as both he and the Still-Cursed retrieved a pair of axes; they threw the weapons to the men and they wedged the door shut as best they could. Boromir’s eyes went wide as he caught sight of something through a gap in the door, he turned to Aragorn with a strange look upon his face.
“They have a Cave Troll,” the Gondorian remarked.
Legolas made ready his bow as the men fell back, his eyes trained upon the door. He heard the sound of heavy, booted feet leap up onto the tomb and metal being drawn across leather. They were as ready as ever they would be for whatever passed through that door.
“Let them come!” Gimli hollered viciously. “There is yet one Dwarf in Moria who still draws breath!”
With an enormous boom the door burst open, reduced to splinters and a shower of wood fragments as a hoard of Goblins rushed headlong into the tomb. Legolas drew and released arrows over and over again as Boromir, Aragorn, and the Dragon waded into the mass of creatures, swords drawn. He fired each deadly projectile into the Goblins, piercing throats, hearts, livers, whatever vital places he could to keep them from the hobbits. Then came the Cave Troll.
From behind him Gimli threw two axes, burying them deep into the Goblins’ skulls; the Dwarf let out a mighty bellow and Legolas ducked out of the way as the Cave Troll swung its club down from above him. Nearby he could hear Gandalf shouting, striking down the creatures with both his sword and heavy wooden staff, but he was steadily moving further from the hobbits and into the frey. Just as Legolas had loosed another arrow, a Goblin came rushing up from behind the Wizard and he knew he couldn’t stop it in time.
He heard the sound of something flying through the air in that moment and then a black sword sank almost to the hilt into the creature; it was the Still-Cursed’s sword, or one of them. The Elf drew his bow once more and as the Cave Troll loomed before him again, he fired two more arrows into it. It let out a guttural growl and swung its club down at him again; the weapon crashing into the stone floor. Then the Dragon was there, both swords in hand once more and he couldn’t help but to marvel at the way she looked when she fought.
It was as if she had been made for battle. She exuded such ferocity as she swung a sword, turned and brought down the other, all but cutting the Goblins in half. The blades turned and flashed in her hands for she was never still; she was a flurry of movement and intensity. It was like a storm was dancing through the Goblins; with each foe that fell she simply moved on to another, leaving their deaths in her wake.
“Aragorn! Leiawen!” Legolas heard Frodo call out in fear and both he and the Dragon cut a path to the hobbit.
The Cave Troll was almost on top of Frodo, a great spear in its hands as it stabbed at the boy. He looked away for barely a moment and then Sam was screaming. Frodo was lifted off his feet by the spear tip and slammed against the wall. He slid down the stone, crashed to his knees, and fell forward, the spear coming loose form his body as he fell.
The Ring bearer was dead.
(Third Person Normal)
The breath was gone from her lings and she felt as though she had just received a blow to the chest; he was dead. She had given her word that she would not let him fail, would not leave his side, and now he lay dead before her. Here. In the depths of Moria. By the hand of a wretched Cave Troll. Red coated her vision like a film of tangible anger and she trembled with seething, ill-contained rage; the Troll…
The Still-Cursed went after the Troll ferociously, moving more swiftly than before as she laid blow upon blow into its scaly hide. Leiawen barely registered the sight of the other hobbits attacking it as well; Sam slashed at the creature’s knees, Merry and Pippin crawled atop it to beat it about the head until it threw them from its back. The Firstborn and Greybeard were piercing its thick skin with arrow and sword, but it was not enough to bring it down. Aragorn, who had retrieved the spear from Frodo’s body attempted to run it through. Nothing seemed to avail them.
Leiawen, now at the far side of the vaulted chamber from the Troll, knew what it was that she had to do. She took two steps back, flipping her swords in her hands before she hurtled forward with an infuriated scream. With a slight jump, she stepped up onto Balin’s tomb and from there leapt for the creature’s throat as it turned. The two black swords sang in the air as she swung them with every bit of strength she possessed, and then she and the Troll were falling together. As they fell to the floor, a mess of blood gushing from the large creature, she quickly tucked her legs in and rolled to her feet. The foul Cave Troll’s head landed at her feet and she kicked it away.
“Frodo,” she gasped, sheathing her weapons and hurrying to where the boy lay.
Aragorn was at his side and as she drew closer he looked up and met her eyes; the despair upon his face plain for everyone to see. They had failed the Ring bearer, and as he lie upon the cold stone floor, they could not decide what it was they should do next. Then, the small dark haired hobbit let out a wheezing gasp and took in a deep breath; his sudden movement shocking all of them into motion.
“He’s alive!” Sam exclaimed with no small amount of relief; relief that they all felt in that moment.
“I’m all right. I’m not hurt,” Frodo assured them as he sat up, a hand upon his chest as he took deep, gasping breaths.
It was one of the few moments in all of her long life that Leiawen had a reason to thank the Valar for whatever foresight he had been given. The Ring bearer was alive and she had reason to hope once more.
Gandalf was leading them further into Dwarrowdelf and they ran through the massive chamber with only the light at the end of the Wizard’s staff to guide them. As they rushed headlong to a distant door, masses of Goblins and Orcs came scuttling down the great stone pillars and through chasms in the floor. The shrieking, snarling creatures soon surrounded them entirely and every member of the Fellowship had drawn their weapons. They were hopelessly outnumbered in the battle to come; despite how many of them they had defeated within the chamber of Balin’s tomb, they no longer had the advantage of an enclosed space or a funnel to thin their numbers.
Legolas caught a glimpse of the Still-Cursed as she stood at the ready beside him, legs braced shoulder width apart, weight perfectly balanced, muscles coiled and ready for whatever movement her mind might command. She had indeed been bred for battle, the fearsome look about her came too naturally to be the product of anything else. Frodo stood behind her, shielded by both her form and Aragorn’s, and as he glanced to his other side he noticed they were all gathered around the hobbits, protecting the small creatures. However, no matter how fearsome the Still-Cursed appeared, the dark creatures before them did not recoil or retreat.
Suddenly, a deafening roar filled the air of the great chamber. A fiery light grew and danced, flowing down a row of massive pillars, making ominously foreboding shadows rise up from out of the darkness. The Goblins and Orcs froze at the sound of the roar and the growls that followed; they backed away fearfully from the thing that approached. And just as quickly as they had surrounded the Fellowship, they melted back into their caves and holes.
Legolas gazed down to the end of the chamber as the creature approached, attempting to catch a glimpse of what now came for them from the bowels of the Deep.
“What is this new devilry?” he heard Boromir ask in a hushed voice.
An enormous shadow, surrounded by flame, fell across the chamber and the ground quaked. A sound not of this world rumbled and as he looked over to the Wizard he saw the Dragon had gone deathly still. The Elf couldn’t describe it but there was a kind of glow surrounding her, she looked more alive somehow; and as he took that singular moment to truly gaze upon her, he knew what it was.
“A Balrog,” Gandalf told them, his voice low and serious, “a demon of the Ancient World. This foe is beyond any of you. Run!”
Aragorn lead them to the top of a dizzying, the Dragon ran at Gandalf’s side following shortly behind. As they began their descent of the stair Legolas saw the Ranger stop, waiting for the Wizard and the Still-Cursed.
“Lead them on, Aragorn,” Gandalf told him, leaning heavily against his staff. “The Bridge is near.” Aragorn hesitated, looking to the old Wizard but Gandalf propelled the man into movement. “Do as I say; swords are no more use here.”
(Third Person Normal)
Fire and strength pulsed within her flesh as they made for the Bridge of Kazad-dum; the great fires of the heart of the world and her kin empowering her. She knew though, that despite the great swelling of power she now felt, she had little hope of defeating the cousin to her kind as she was. So as the Fellowship raced across the narrow stone Bridge, Leiawen allowed the Grey Wizard to push her ahead of him. The sheer magnitude of just how far the fall downwards would be made her head spin; she continued onward though, listening for her friend’s footsteps. It was once she had reached the other side that she realized he had stopped following.
The Still-Cursed skidded to a stop and spun around to see Greybeard facing the Balrog, staff in one hand and sword in the other. Her kin was massive, his horned form reminiscent to those of her sires though he was made of both dark shadow and blazing flame. In one hand was a blade of his own essence that burned as menacingly as he did; in the other, like a stabbing tongue of fire, was a whip of many thongs. The sight before her made her heart skip; what was the Wizard doing?
“You cannot pass!” Greybeard yelled.
“Gandalf!” she heard Frodo cry out.
“I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The Dark Fire will not avail you, flame of Udun!” he raised his staff and it let out a brilliant, pure light that shone against the darkness.
Leiawen felt as though she were trapped, suspended between two impossible paths, neither of which would lead to pleasant ends. To get away, take what strength her kin had gained from their Gathering and leave Greybeard to his own devices, in which case only the Wizard would die; or to go and do that which she could to help her oldest and dearest friend, in which case, both of them might die. As the cousin to her kind raised up his sword to strike the Grey Wizard down, she moved and was suddenly behind him, the strength in her flesh rising higher as she funneled her power into the Wizard. The sword came down and she pushed against it, a growl coming from her throat at the effort; a growl like that of her sires.
The blade shattered around them, falling harmlessly as a shower of sparks. Greybeard’s body trembled beneath her hands as they lay atop his shoulders; she knew he was furious with her for not staying with the others, but how could she leave him to face this foe alone? The Balrog looked right at her, its burning eyes seeing through her flesh; it knew what she was, knew the guise of her flesh to be the Curse of the Valar and it let out a loud bellow in its fury.
Leiawen could feel Greybeard’s magic wrapping around his form, preparing for the next assault; so she did the only thing she could. With a great breath, a thunderous roar forced its way from her chest, up her throat, and past her lips, he teeth bared viciously as she challenged her kin in their manner. It stumbled back a few steps, the fire that wreathed its form dying out slightly before returning in full.
“Go back to the Shadow,” Greybeard said to the demon.
It took a step forward and was on the narrow Bridge, whip in hand cracking like lightning and its wings extended full out touching reaching from one wall to the other. The smoke, thick and black, flowed towards the Wizard and herself and she gathered into her another wave of strength. Greybeard lifted both his sword and his staff above his head as she pressed her power into him once more.
“You shall not pass!” he commanded and the echoes of his power sounded out against the stone walls of the cavern. He slammed the end of his staff against the Bridge and she could feel it. Their power, both hers and his, formed a kind of barrier before the Wizard.
The cousin to Leiawen’s kind snorted and rushed forward, whip held high and for a moment she doubted; would it be enough? But then the stone beneath the Balrog’s feet crumbled and broke apart. In a mass of smoke, shadow, and fire it fell with a roar, furious of having been denied its prize. It was a slow fall but after a moment and one last, resounding bellow, her cousin was gone and they remained.
Greybeard turned to her and placed his own hand upon her shoulder, his staff between them, and with an exhausted wince, he gave her a smile. They had done it, they were-
There was a snap of the Balrog’s fiery whip and it wrapped around the Wizard’s ankle, pulling him back. All at once he had lost hold of his weapons and her right hand slid from where it was on his shoulder to his wrist. She grabbed ahold of him as his weight and the force of her kin pulled her forward to the broken edge of the Bridge. She barely heard Boromir’s protests and another desperate scream from Frodo as she lie upon her stomach, trying to pull Greybeard up despite her waning strength.
“No!” Leiawen growled through gritted teeth in desperation. “Come on!”
Her unhealed arm was giving out, failing her just as she was, in turn, failing the Wizard whose fate rested in a strength that was leaving her. She knew the Loss for what it was and as she met Greybeard’s eyes she saw the acceptance there. A sickening snap rang out against her ear and old wounds reopened; she tried, fought, to brace herself in some way, the Loss was already in full effect.
“Leiawen,” she heard him say. “You must let go.”
“No, I will not let you fall. I will not lose you!”
“Ancalalei. It’ll be all right,” he insisted. “Take care of them.”
And as her deadly, burning blood ran down her arm to her wrist, the Dragon let the Wizard fall.
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 6 - Bones and Ash by TiB0n3s
I'm so very sorry for the wait...I thought I had written myself into a corner with the last chapter.
Chapter 6 – Bones and Ash
Something had roused the Dragon in the Forest scant few nights ago from his long sleep; something that had brushed against his scales intently. Though there had been no sign of the disturbance or of the passing of a body when his great head lifted from the ground, he had without doubt felt something, something that should not have been there. The trees of his domain whispered of a great disturbance on the far side of the mountains. As their branches swayed and their leaves rustled, they spoke softly of all the earth’s happenings since he had laid his head upon the land in slumber.
The world had changed in his many centuries of rest; what once was a land of peace had slowly become tumultuous until the Dragon was now the only creature that remained within the confines of his once lively domain within the borders of the trees at the roots of the mountains. Much was wrong with the world now before him. Many things that should have long since come to pass had not changed and the earth was no better for it. And now the same darkness of the Second Age had been allowed to rise in power once more, crawling across the land with its minions and foul intentions like a plague.
The Dragon in the Forest was not an old creature among his kin, though even he had known that the power should not have been allowed to endure. Many of his much older kin had not allowed themselves to be concerned to be concerned with the creatures beyond the walls of their caverns; he wondered if they now held the same views in the face of a second darkness. The souls of nine had already been pierced with that evil. How many more of his kin would be lost to this storm if they did not act?
Then he felt it again, the sensation of something brushing against his scales; it was growing steadily stronger, though. For a moment he wondered at the feeling and it was only when the taste and smell of the wave of power swelled over him that he remembered. It swept out far and wide from the depths where it had risen out of the mountain and two distinct signatures of the power sang to his soul. It was like a pull that he heard calling to his very being and what was once a simple brush against his scales quickly became a monumental force that tore the very breath and fire from his throat.
Then, very suddenly, he felt something snap and shatter beneath the wave of power; the wave crashed all around him and the backlash ripped at the trees. A great storm blew and the trees cried out, for both they and the Dragon knew what had occurred, what would certainly happen if something was not done with all haste. She was in the Realm Beneath the Mountains. She was soon to be suffering, if the Loss had not yet begun within her. None of their kind, including those who were free of the Curse of the Valar, bore the ability to wield such power in the presence of another without recourse and she was no exception.
The Dragon stretched, extending his limbs out from beneath his body as layers of moss and overgrown vegetation rained down from his scales. A roar sounded out in the forest as the Dragon hurled itself into the air and streaked across the sky toward the Door Behind the Mountain.
Frodo felt hopelessly lost as he watched Aragorn and Legolas hurry to where Leiawen lie on the ruined bridge of Kazad-Dum. Boromir was pulling at him, urging him up the stair and away from the goblin arrows that flew towards them in alarming succession. His body was like lead; he couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, under the overwhelming weight of the despair that enveloped him so completely. And as the Gondorian hauled him further up the stair he didn’t recognize the screams tearing their way from his throat; it was a tortured and half-mad sound that would later horrify him with its raw, agonizing sound.
How had everything gone so terribly wrong? Hadn’t he made the right decision? A thick, suffocating film of failure slipped over him as the sight of Aragorn and Legolas disappeared around a corner, taking his view of Leiawen with it. Had continuing over the mountain been the better decision?
'There are no “better choices” here, boy,' he heard a voice murmur at the back of his mind. 'The wizard is dead; you’re the one that killed him. The Dragon will soon be dead as well; that, too is your fault, boy. Well done.'
The cool air from the Door Behind the Mountain was as much a slap in the face as the words whispered in his mind to torment him. Sunlight blinded him once Boromir released him from his grasp and Frodo stumbled once he was back upon his own two feet. As his kin drifted away from him only as far as they dared to let their tears fall in private, the lead that encased him squeezed just a bit tighter, forcing a sob from his chest. Sam, Merry, and Pippin all openly mourned Gandalf’s passing and Frodo wished with his whole heart that it had not been his own decision that led to the Wizard’s fall and the Dragon’s suffering.
“Where is she?” a voice demanded from behind him.
Frodo turned his head slowly to find three Nord men quickly descending upon them. Two of them he recognized, even beneath the black fluid that rolled over their skin and armor, they were the Dragons that had been at the Council Meeting with Leiawen in Rivendell. The last Nord was one he did not recognize. The Dragon’s dark hair rivaled Leiawen’s in the pitch color and the ice blue of his gaze froze the blood in the small hobbit’s veins, stilling even his heart in his chest. He knew this Nord was nothing like the woman he travelled with and Frodo could all save feel the anger apparent in the Dragon’s stance. This Dragon was everything he supposed a Dragon to be: fearsome and dangerous. This one would not think anything of killing him or the other members of the Fellowship if it suited his purposes.
Boromir drew his sword as he moved to intercept the three Dragons and for a moment Frodo was almost glad for the man’s headstrong actions. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” the man all but demanded of them, standing before the hobbits and blocking the Dragons from the Door Behind the Mountain.
The dark-haired Dragon’s eyes flashed in annoyance and he strode up to the man until they stood all save a hairsbreadth apart, leveling him with a glare of purely malicious intent. “I would burn your bones to ash, human, if but you were worth the waste of breath.” Something sparked within the Nord’s gaze, something that urged Frodo to flee as far from this creature as possible. “Where. Is. She?” the Dragon spoke slowly through gritted teeth, hints of thunder in his voice.
“The Great Lady, mortal,” the dark-haired Nord interjected. “You will show her the respect due of her heritage and strength, or I will shatter everything you are between my teeth.” The other two Nords came to stand behind him, similar looks of furious outrage settling across their features.
The confrontation had soon drawn the attention of Gimli and the other hobbits; Frodo himself was terrified of the imposing creatures that appeared to be no more than a moment from striking down Boromir where he stood. The rage flowed from the Dragons in waves; their eyes glowing with the same unnatural light that Leiawen’s held and thunderous growls rumbling forth from their chests. He could feel the vibrations from the sound deep in his bones, jolting him to the core of his being. They were looking for their “Great Lady”, they had ventured to this place for her, what terror would they visit upon them when they learnt that she was dying in a cave infested with Goblins and orcs and any number of other horrors he could not name? What pain would they visit upon him, what tortures would they subject him to if Aragorn was unable to protect him from them?
That thought alone gave Frodo a shudder. Could they protect him? Could anyone save him in this? A Dragon, of all creatures, was now also in ruin from an attempt to help him…how could the others hope to have a chance?
'No one will want to save you after they see the Dragon you have destroyed; they will turn from you, one by one until you are alone.'
The sound of echoed footfalls came from the Door Behind the Mountain and the breath in Frodo’s lungs was quite suddenly gone as his gaze snapped over to the threshold. The others had all heard the noise and at the young hobbit’s movement, they followed his line of sight, waiting for whatever was to emerge from the depths of Moria behind them. Only a moment later did Aragorn and Legolas appear with the Still-Cursed Dragon between them.
'You did this, boy,' the voice taunted once more. 'This is the consequence of your choice; all of this is your doing.'
He wanted to argue, to make that damning voice understand that it wasn’t his fault; he had no way of knowing, couldn’t possibly have known it would come to this. It wasn’t his fault, he didn’t know. I’m sorry…I’m so, so sorry. No apology on the whole of Middle Earth would be of use to the Dragon now…he might as well have thrust a blade through her heart himself for all an apology would accomplish.
Leiawen’s long dark hair hung about her in sweat-drenched strands, clinging to her face and form. Her right arm hung useless at her side once more, the dark red fluid of her blood gushing from newly re-opened wounds to the ground where it hissed and steamed. It streaked a morbid banner over her skin; every part of her flesh touched by it was torn asunder, rent deep until even the muscle lie open. Every new wound glowed with an awful light, as if the heat of her blood was setting her ablaze, melting her as it had the stone floor in the halls of Moria after the battle with the Watcher in the Water. Her entire form was a sickly grey that made her appear to be crafted of wet stone; that stone was cracking, though, flecks of her body drifted off with even the slightest shift of air. It was as if she were the smoldering, ash remains of a dying fire, struggling to live and consume. Even her armor and swords were falling to ash, drifting from her in pieces that grew ever larger as she was moved.
What most caught Frodo’s attention were Leiawen’s eyes. The warm amber was gone and in its place was a black so fathomless it consumed even the whites around her irises; he felt as though he would fall into her soul if she caught him with her gaze. He then realized that no matter the fear instilled in him by the Nords and their infuriated hostility, Leiawen’s eyes terrified him so much the more than they ever could; there was no warmth behind those eyes, no trace of the Still-Cursed Dragon that he had come to trust…to care for. She was falling apart with the Loss and likely her own despair of having lost Gandalf as well. The Dragon that hung between the King of Men and the Elf Prince was slipping away from their world, so little of her remained within the crumbling shell of her body.
What had he done?
'Dragons do not die as the people of the earth. Their souls are what keep their bodies together…'
This is what happens when Dragons die, he realized, wanting to run to her side though the lead in his limbs held him down. But Gandalf said…her soul would keep this from happening to her…
Before he could consider it further, the Nords were at her side, prying her from Aragorn and Legolas to determine the severity of her condition. The dark-haired Nord lifted her in his arms and held her close to his chest, her head tucked beneath his chin and one of his hands wound in her hair even as it broke away and drifted off.
'How many more would you have die, boy, before you understand that they cannot save you? No one can, you are alone.'
The sight of the Balrog’s fierce and fiery form had both terrified the Ranger and given him reason for pause as he had guarded the hobbits on the far side of the bridge of Kazad-dum. Dread filled him when Gandalf had stood alone to face the Demon, then a glimmer of hope shone through when Leiawen was suddenly behind the Wizard, lending him the strength and power she had gained from the Gathering with her kin. Shock flowed through him when the Still-Cursed roared at the cousin to her kin; even he could hear the challenge in the sound that burst forth from the Dragon’s throat. His hope blazed brighter when she had very nearly extinguished the creature from the Ancient World; then once more when the bridge crumbled beneath its feet. Relief flooded through him just as swiftly as the horror that followed; for no sooner was the Balrog gone than it had pulled Gandalf from the Bridge as well leaving none save a quickly weakening Still-Cursed Dragon as his salvation.
Aragorn had no notion of where the snap had come from, only that it rang out against his ears as loudly as the crack of the Balrog’s fire whip. Then Gandalf was falling and all that remained of the fierce fight was Leiawen unmoving on the bridge as the dark creatures drew closer, bows drawn to finish her off. The Ranger acted quickly then, Leiawen didn’t have time for any hesitation or fear at that moment; Gandalf was gone and there would be time later to mourn his passing, but the Still-Cursed was alive and needed his help.
Both the Ranger and the Elf rushed toward the stone structure and the woman that lie broken, torn, and bleeding upon it, Frodo’s screams biting at their heels. The lingering smell of flames and smoke nearly overwhelmed Aragorn once he and Legolas were upon the woman; she had managed to turn over onto her back, her nearly-healed arm torn open and bleeding profusely once more. The stone beneath her was glowing as the viscous fluid from her body melted it and it fell away in pieces and streams of fire to the abyss below.
Aragorn knelt beside her and pulled her good arm to rest about his shoulder, doing his level best to help her to stand without further damaging her body. The Dragon had no control over her limbs though, she could not maneuver in any manner and he knew then that saving her would be more difficult every second they waited. Legolas pulled her up, grasping the firm leather armor about her hips and forcing her to stand. For someone so small her dead weight was more than the Ranger alone could move and he could fairly hear Pippin and Merry shrug off his concerns with their customary “It’s a Dragon thing.”
“Leiawen,” Aragorn called to her once the Elf had managed to maneuver the Dragon to her feet. “Leiawen, you must open your eyes; the Goblins will overtake us if you do not move now.”
When she did not respond, even as he placed a cautious hand against her cheek, he leaned over her, placing his other hand upon her shoulder. He didn’t see it, but his gift from Arwen tumbled from the confines of his shirt and as he leaned into the Dragon, the jewel brushing against her skin. The barest touch of the treasure left behind a glimmer on the Still-Cursed’s flesh, a warm glow shimmering for the barest moment before fading away, like blood in a stream.
The Dragon’s eyes opened slowly and when the Ranger met her gaze he was taken aback, a gasp catching in his throat and dying before he was able to release it. A pitch black shroud was encroaching on her amber irises from the edges of her eyes, the reflective glow that belied her heritage flickering as a candle flame in a stiff breeze. The skin of her cheeks was losing its healthy sheen and fading to a lifeless grey, the color of spent ashes and death.
“What’s happening to you?” he could not stop the words as they tumbled from his mouth.
Legolas gripped the Ranger’s upper arm, his eyes glancing off towards the ledge on the other side of the bridge and the Goblins that were firing poorly aimed arrows upon them. “We must go,” the Elf urged, “We cannot save her.”
“I will not leave her,” he insisted. “You must help me, I cannot move her alone.”
The Elf’s gaze snapped to him and then back to the Goblins drawing ever closer. Legolas wanted to leave her there to die; she could not move under her own power, the Loss was taking more from her with every passing moment. He knew there was very little chance that the Still-Cursed would live even if they managed to drag her from the Mines, but he could not leave her in the depths. Aragorn took the Elf by the shoulder and tightened his grip as tight as he could, demanding the other’s attention.
“I. Will. Not. Leave her.” He hoped that the insistence he felt would be heard in his voice and that the Elf would set aside his reservations toward the Dragon and help him save her.
Just as an arrow flew past his head, nearly catching his hair, the Elf nodded and together they gripped the Still-Cursed’s arms and hauled her up. “We must hurry, they are drawing closer.”
It was miraculous that they had not been struck by one of the black arrows thus far, but as Aragorn glanced over at the woman he saw her skin begin to pale impossibly fast. It quickly took to the same ashen color that her face had taken on and her hair was soaking up the sweat that seeped from her pores, wet against his arm and plastered to her face. She jerked forward suddenly, a strangled cry of pain falling from her bloodied lips as both Aragorn and Legolas struggled to keep her from falling; an arrow haft protruding from her back.
The Ranger cursed as Legolas, in a flurry of instantaneous movement, turned and released a storm of arrows into the mass of Goblins that had set their sights upon them. When the Elf turned back the Ranger noticed a strange glow upon his companion’s face; only moments later did he realize that the Dragon’s blood was harming her. It ignited her flesh, tearing and rupturing her skin until more wounds opened and she burned as heated metal in a forge. When he moved to pull the arrow from her it was naught but embers, the heat in her body burning it to ash and the haft fell away in ashes. The Elf met his astounded gaze before they gathered the Dragon once more, moving her from the bridge as quickly as they were able.
“Leiawen, we need to move, they are coming,” Aragorn urged at her groans.
“Grey Beard…” at her mumble it was then that he realized she was delirious from the pain wreaking havoc upon her.
“He’s gone…” he told her, “We cannot help him now.”
As they pushed and pulled her down the path to the stair strange words passed from her mouth until the common tongue took over once more. “Dead…gone… … fire…” Her eyes were black as they rounded the corner to the stair, safe from the arrows, and Aragorn took her face in his hands, looking into her unseeing gaze.
“Yes, you fought the Balrog, do you remember?” he asked. “You and Gandalf fought and saved us; Gandalf… he fell…you held on as long as you were able though; it is not your fault.”
“… made me…said …all right…couldn’t hold on…”
“We need to move her quickly. If we act now we may be able to locate and gather the other Nords, they may have means enough to save her,” Legolas insisted, as the Dragon nearly fell to the stone of the stairs. Aragorn only just noticed the look of concern on the Elf’s face; it was the same one that had dominated his expression when Leiawen had last suffered the Loss.
Then Leiawen’s entire body seized in their grasp and the two held her with all the strength they possessed to keep her from tumbling head-first down the stair. The luminescence in her wounds brightened to the point of a near-blinding light and her flesh tore further. When they shifted their grip to keep from burning themselves, the two noticed something even more disturbing. Her skin and armor were falling to pieces like layers of dust from worn parchment; even her swords, the sleek blades that they were, began to crumble, breaking into shards and shattering like glass upon the worn stone of the stair.
They were running out of time.
The Elf did not care for the dark-haired Nord; that much he was certain of. When the Dragon had torn Leiawen from his grasp he could not help but feel protective of her and cautious of this newcomer. He longed to keep the Still-Cursed from the man’s grasp, and then other two were pulling her from him as well. Legolas knew that he should not stop them, not when there was a possibility that they might have the means with which to save her. But something strange flickered to life in his chest as he watched the dark-haired Nord cradle Leiawen in his arms, something that he had never before felt. He knew not what it was, the thing that constricted his heart and lungs, wrapping around his chest as an iron band; unyielding.
“What has been done to her?!” one of the Nords he had seen before demanded, leveling Aragorn with a glare of unbridled fury.
None of the Fellowship spoke, none had the words in that moment to admit the truth of what had occurred in the Depths of Moria. Thankfully, it was the Still-Cursed that absolved them of that admittance when she gasped and her body seized in the newcomer’s arms. As the Nord pulled her in closer to his chest Legolas fought the urge to pull Leiawen from him, something that he had only ever once felt compelled of before. He remembered the urge from the first night in Moria, when she had suffered the Loss after the Watcher and Boromir made to carry her through the Mines.
“Fafnir…” came her strangled cry and the sound was very much like a blow to his chest.
“Ancalalei, where is it?” the Dragon, Fafnir, asked her. “Why did you not kill it?”
By the grace of his people alone did Legolas keep from snapping his head back in shock. How did this creature know of the Balrog when the other two did not? Suspicion bloomed in the Elf’s mind once more, this Dragon was either more than he seemed or a spy for whatever darkness that lingered still in the depths of Moria. Was this all simply an elaborate scheme to further their own means?
“…no…fell… …let go… Grey Beard…” then she was delirious once more, uttering words in the strange tongue that even he, in all his years, could not understand.
For what felt like an eternity they waited as the newcomer listened to her mumbled, strangled words, speaking them back to her in low tones and whispers, mouth ever near to her own. He wanted to know what they were saying, why she could speak to this dark creature when she did not have the words for the Fellowship, for him. But when the anger fled from the dark-haired Nord’s face as well as the other two, Legolas knew that she was, in her own way, defending the Fellowship, defending Frodo, from what consequences befell her. And after the long moments passed, a look of dread passed over the Nords’ faces.
“This cannot happen,” one of the Nords dismayed in a hushed tone. “We cannot win this war without her.”
“I am aware, Jorum,” Fafnir snapped, his impatience and dread flooding the words he spoke. Then the Dragon gazed about the members of the Fellowship, as if searching for something. “We must take her to the Bones of her Sire if we are to pull her back from the edge of this darkness. We require a token, one given in love and borne of the earth; it may save what remains of her soul until then.”
Legolas kept his eyes upon the newcomer as he held Leiawen close to himself, seemingly unconcerned with her blood as it steadily streamed down his body to the stone beneath his feet. What were they planning, plotting that would require them to take the Still-Cursed from the Fellowship? How would a token “given in love and borne of the earth” save her? The Elf was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the questions that flitted across his mind and no forthcoming answers. He knew, though, that if the Dragons did not take her then they would lose Leiawen as well, and one loss this day was devastating in itself.
Frodo spoke then, the remaining fear the hobbit felt apparent in the manner that his voice shook, “What do you mean?”
The dark-haired Nord turned his gaze upon the small hobbit. “A token, a gift, given out of love and crafted in the metal of the earth. Mithril or gold is often the strongest; she requires it for our task to succeed; you shall have you token returned to you once she has been saved, but you must hurry.”
Legolas was suitably stunned when both Frodo and Aragorn moved hastily toward the Nord, the Hobbit removing the chain Mithril from under his shirt and the Ranger with his token from the Lady Arwen. Both handed over the items without further question to the dark-haired Nord, Aragorn with a look of longing toward the treasure he placed in the Dragon’s hand.
The creature gave them a nod in thanks and motioned to the Dragon Jorum, “Jorum will remain in the Great Lady’s place until she has been returned to you. Expect her within two days.”
Suddenly there was an enormous gust of wind and upon its passing neither the newcomer, the other Nord, nor Leiawen were anywhere to be seen. Legolas glanced about, searching for the Dragons to demand what trickery had just occurred, where they were taking Leiawen to save her. Just what was happening to the Still-Cursed that not three of her kin had the ability to heal by their presence and the Gathering alone? When he finally sighted them, however, they were already flying North and East…toward the Iron Mountains.
Sometime later, when the Fellowship and the Dragon were well on their way to the woods of Lothlorien, Legolas asked the Ranger why he had given up the treasure he had been gifted. The man simply said that if his gift from the Lady Arwen would help to save the Still-Cursed, then he would gladly have let her keep it. At the time, the Elf Prince had not understood why the Man would offer up such a gift, though when he saw the despair in the faces of those around him, he began to hope the Dragon…no, he hoped that Leiawen would be returned to them. To him.
In the hours that followed the Fellowship learned a great deal of what consequences Leiawen had suffered with the Loss after having fought off the Balrog, once Pippin and Merry had pestered him enough Jorum was glad to answer any question they could ask if only to silence them. Every creature of Morgoth gained power at the Gathering, that much they knew from Gandalf’s words and seeing such a thing with their own eyes. Though what they had not known was that if one creature killed the other, their strength would remain and the Loss would not affect the one creature that had lived.
The Dragon had explained it to them this way: when the Gathering occurred, the strength and power gained was enough to destroy even one of the Valar, so the Loss had been their answer to prohibit the creatures of Morgoth from gaining such immense power in order to persevere. However, when one of the creatures was killed, the Valar had only cared so much that fewer were left of those touched by Morgoth’s dark magick, not that the one to live would suffer no ill effect or lose the power from the Gathering. Therefore, if one died, the other kept whatever power had been gained, growing ever stronger with each of its kin to fall before it.
The Fellowship learned that though the Dragons were only able to live with the three elements of the Silmarils, the fourth element brought them comfort and strength, much like the Gathering, though without the Loss. Metals of the earth brought these things to Jorum’s kin, “Why do you think we collect hoards of treasure?” he had asked them. “It is not as though they have any monetary value to my kind. They bring us comfort and strength, a thing sorely missed as we were not always such solitary creatures.” And it was then that they understood just how much the Dragons had suffered in the aftermath of Morgoth.
“So, what’s wrong with Leiawen, then?” Pippin asked. “I mean, before she just fainted, but this time…”
The Hobbit was referring to how the Still-Cursed had been falling apart before their very eyes. It was a sight that none of them would soon forget, and it haunted Frodo as the voice whispered dark, sinister things in the back of his mind.
“We Dragons do not leave a body to rot and decay when we pass from this earth. Because of what we are, many of us that are meant for wings and fire burn hot and only the strength of our souls may contain the heat of our blood. Once that soul has been damaged or destroyed, what we once were becomes no more than ash and bone,” Jorum explained carefully.
“Ancalalei’s soul was shattered as the Great Loss began and began to fall into pieces after her battle with the Balrog; the aftermath of that Gathering was enormous and many of my kin felt the wave of power that crashed over the land afterward. That is how Fafnir came to know of her suffering, he alone may distinguish whose power lies in the aftermath of a Gathering. Those of us who felt it will undoubtedly come to ensure the Great Lady lives once they learn of her plight, many will offer what aid they are able now. The Great Loss must compensate for the strength gained and spent to balance the scales of power; it did so in the breaking of her soul.”
The members of the Fellowship were suitably horrified and filled even more so with dread at the Nord’s words. They did not yet understand what it was Fafnir planned to do with Leiawen in order to save her, but they all hoped that he was successful. The anguish of the group was palpable, though, with the loss of Gandalf and the uncertainty as they waited for the Still-Cursed. How long would such a thing take?
“But…she’s going to be all right. Isn’t she?” Pippin asked. “I mean, she beat the monster in the water and …and that thing…she almost killed the thing in Moria…”
The young Hobbit searched the faces og the others, hoping that just one of them thought the same, that he alone was not the only one of them with faith in her strength. “Leiawen’s a Dragon! She’s strong and fast and… She’ll be okay. Won’t she?”
It was when this question was asked that many of the Fellowship felt less animosity for the volatile Dragon, and nearly all of them were ashamed at having though horribly of him to begin with.
Jorum looked away from the young Hobbit, unsure of what it was that he should say. Should he lie and agree with the boy, tell him that he was right and the Great Lady would be none the worse for wear? So after a long moment, he said the only words that he could summon: the truth.
“Fafnir takes her to the Bones of her Sires in hope to keep her soul from failing completely. If they arrive in time, he will join his soul with what remains of hers; sacrificing himself so that she may live. Her soul will strengthen through the bond with his and she will return to you to complete this task. Although, I do not know that he will succeed. Until now, such a thing has never before been done. The very idea of doing such a thing comes of our myths and legends, many which originate from beyond the Door of Night.
“He loves her, a thing no longer common in our kind. There are many long years of history shared between them and so long as he draws breath, he will do all in his power to save her. Should she be too far gone, though, if he does not make it to the Bones of her Sires in time…then he will fail and she will be gone forever.”
None save the Dragon heard the gritting of Legolas’ teeth or the clenching of his fists as they made their way steadily toward Lothlorian.
Fafnir flew as swiftly as his wings could carry him into the Ruined Fortress that lie deep within the black heart of the Iron Mountains. The white and silver of his massive form painted a streak across the dark, storm clouded skies in the world below. Low, mournful calls of his kin reached out to him from caves and forests, mountains and valleys; they knew of his purpose and could feel Ancalalei’s shattered soul as she bled into the wind. The tokens of the earth were failing her and if he did not reach the Felled Towers soon, there would be no power in this world or the next that could save her.
“The Way has been cleared,” a deep rumbling voice spoke as he neared the sharp, ragged range of bare mountains. “You must hurry.”
The white Dragon pushed harder for the Felled Towers, every muscle straining as the Guards of the Fortress in the Mountains flew out to meet him. They were smallish creatures, as Dragons went, black and grey scales weathered to take on the appearance of the stone peaks they had guarded for an Age. Despite their size, they were wickedly fast and dexterous, fearsome enough to have kept every darkness at bay since the fall of the Deceiver. Their presence gave him one final burst of strength as he crossed the threshold to the Tomb of the Black Dragon.
“We will Watch for pursuers,” one Guard told him, settling upon the rubble of the Ruined Fortress. “Do not fail.”
He did not intend to. “Another is not far behind; do not allow him to reach the Tomb,” he called out to them before continuing on.
The Dragon of the Forest was gone before they had an opportunity to respond. The Still-Cursed Great Lady was fading fast, the last shards of her soul falling to pieces; the reflection of such decay upon her body in the loss of both swords and her armor completely, long since having drifted away on the wind as naught but ash. Ancalalei was barely breathing in his grasp, even as she held the treasures given her from the Fellowship in a white-knuckle grip; the skin of her hands beginning to split and bleed.
Then there it was. The Ruined Fortress and the Felled Towers lie directly before him, the Bones of Ancalalei’s Sire bare upon the melted rubble. Fafnir tucked his wings to his back and dove steeply downward, the Still-Cursed held close to him as he began the change back. The ground rushed toward him, the passing air making the folded skin of his wings smack against his sides harshly; and just before he met with the jagged, black earth, he turned and a great cloud of dirt and rock exploded out from where he landed in a kneel. For a moment everything around him was hazy, until the dust settled and the tokens fell from Ancalalei’s hands as he stood in the midst of her Sire’s bones; the chime-like sound of the metal ringing out in his skull.
Fafnir ached, breath caught in his lungs as he gazed upon her, fearing what he might see as the world sharpened impossibly before him. The metal of the tokens shone brightly upon the charred ground, gleaming in stark contrast against Ancalalei’s ashen skin. The black in her gaze lingered beneath her slit lids, blending with the flat obsidian strands of hair draped across her skin. One arm lie limp, her fingers brushing against the black ground beneath his feet even as he held her to his chest; her neck was bared to him as her boneless body struggles to maintain what little life remained within her.
His time was up and so was hers.
The Dragon of the Forest pressed his brow to hers, eyes closed against the sight of her as he attempted to think, to stay calm in the wake of the panic that threatened to eat him alive. He breathed in the lingering scent of her; iron and summer and rain…that’s what she smelled of. The sound of her failing heart pounded a desperate tattoo in his mind as he knelt there with her close to his chest, the Bones of her Sire surrounding them as surely as the fog and mist approaching from every
direction. Each breath he took burned as acid in his heart as her own breath grew shallow; he was losing her.
“What must I do? Ancalalei…”he whispered into her hair, taking in a long, shuddering breath. “Lei, what do I do…how do I save you?”
When she said nothing and the cold of the mist drew in around them like a shroud, he slid a hand up to her face and caressed her cheek. “I am so sorry, I never should have left you,” he confessed and slid his mouth against hers. It was in that kiss that he felt the few remaining shards of her soul against his own, they cut now as a blade instead of falling to dust at the slightest movement. She was holding on by the last, frayed thread, fighting against the pull to let go, even as the cold settled into her skin.
He pulled back suddenly, his eyes snapping open; she should not be cold, if anything she should have been burning alive. Then he saw the fog that rolled in around them…she was breathing it in. It was settling into her skin and what remained lessened at each breath she took. Refractions of light blazed against her flesh, magic and life all save poured out of the wounds created as her soul tore. The mist, it was coming from the bones, the Bones of the Black Dragon were bringing her back. He had not failed her.
'Bind your soul with hers,' came an ancient, thunderous rumble from all around him. 'She will die if you do not and my remains alone cannot save her, the Last of the Unbroken Line.'
Ancalagon the Black; somehow the bones of the Ancient Dragon were saving her, bringing her hack so that he might heal her. “How?” Fafnir asked, “Tell me how.”
'Will yourself to her and save my progeny.' And then the voice was gone as Ancalalei’s eyes slit further open. The black tore at him, threatened to force him into madness, but she was awake now, she could see him.
“Fafnir…” her voice was no more than a breath and a whisper, but it was enough.
He stroked he cheek with his fingertips as the last plumes of the mist and fog flowed into her flesh. The shards of her soul were reaching out to him, entwining with his own soul while he gazed into her face.
“I know that I hurt you…when I left,” he pulled her closer, uncaring of her blood as it continued to run over his skin from her rent flesh. “I swore my life to you once, even though you did not want it. I am sorry, for everything, and I wish there were another way…”
In that moment he captured her lips with his own once more, Sapphire eyes closed against the knowledge of what he had to do, and then he reached for her soul with his own and pushed. Everything he was, he wrapped around what few small fragments remained of her; weaving himself within them, through them. And he felt her grow stronger. Just as surely as her heart beat within her chest, it beat within his; as her breath grew steady and sure, he felt her life within himself as well. Then her fingertips brushed against his temple and her mouth moved against his.
She breathed his name against his lips and when he dared look into her eyes he was met with a familiar amber glow. The wounds and ragged gashes in her skin were mending slowly, her flesh regaining its healthy glow as the light of their combined magic lingered within her.
“Why?” she asked, her voice even and silken against his ears and he remembered how he had longed to hear it in the centuries they had been apart.
Fafnir smiled and silenced whatever further questions that may have spilled forth with one last brush of his lips against hers; her mouth moving eagerly against his in response as he gently laid her upon the ground. “Because we need you,” he answered, covering her body with his own. “The World is falling into ruin and you are the only one our kind will follow. They need you to guide them.”
“Why you, Fafnir?” she asked as he settled into the cradle of her body. “Why not another?”
It was then that he understood what she was truly asking. She wanted to know why he was there with her to begin with. Why he did not simply stay asleep deep within the confines of his forest or move on when he had felt her. She wanted to hear him say the words that he had so long ago denied her, what fear and pride had kept him from admitting.
And as his armor faded into his skin, leaving him as bare as she, luminous sapphire eyes met amber and those small words spilled forth.
“I love you.”
Tears fell from those Still-Cursed amber eyes to evaporate against the heat growing beneath her skin and she pulled him into her as he wiped the salt from her face. Their physical joining was a macabre thing; her blood eased his entry into her body, gushing between them as an open wound. They were stained red and black with the fluid and earth that had long since been burnt into ash. Neither paid it any mind.
They gasped together at the sensation of their joining, the friction of their skin, the melding of the magic hidden in their very bones, their souls as they entwined in a dance older than the earth itself that lie beneath them. Fafnir began to move within her then, basking in the comfort of everything that she was; the power of her mending essence beginning to tear at him for bringing her back from the edge. But he could not leave her, not yet, not again…
A long moan poured forth from her as his pace quickened, his hands grasping at her hips and his tongue tasting the skin of the neck she had once unwittingly offered to him. Just as before, he was fighting time in an effort to keep her with him; though it was not she drifting closer to the edge, holding on by a final, frayed thread. This time, it was he.
Fafnir’s hips snapped forward as he felt her near completion; by the fires within he had missed the feel of her. In their decades together he had learned every aspect of her, and though he had once sworn to her that he would have her for the entirety of their endless existence, he was now being forced from her once more.
With every relentless push forward he felt her tighten around him, her fingers clawing at his back and her legs draped about his hips. It was then, with her head thrown back as she screamed her release, that he understood: if he truly meant to save her, he would have to let her go. Up until that point he was able to feel the fractures still, the cracks in her remade soul, but if he let her go, if he accepted that he would not survive, that he would lose her forever, she could be whole once more.
So the Dragon in the Forest took a deep breath and looked into her glowing amber eyes; the Great Lady, Last of the Unbroken Line, the only person he had every loved or lied to. Fafnir thrust his hips forward once more and with one final kiss, let go.
A mist formed once more then, but not from the now non-existent bones of Ancalalei’s Sire, it came from him. The Still-Cursed Dragon’s eyes snapped open as he released the breath with a shudder and an expression he had never seen in her eyes before was there now; she was afraid. Fafnir, his dark hair draped around them like a curtain, gave her a soft smile and trailed his fingertips through her hair.
“Do not be afraid.”
The mist grew thicker around him suddenly and before she could reach out to stop it, the Dragon in the Forest was gone and all that remained was the smoke and fog. Ancalalei pulled herself to her feet, never once taking her eyes off of the thick cloud before her; her hair wrapped around her skin, clinging to her face and arms. She was unsteady on her feet, her half-remade soul beginning to crack once more, and then she squared her shoulders. Everything that was left of Fafnir poured into her skin with the mist, invading her senses and strengthening her even as it tore her to pieces.
Just as swiftly as it began, it was over, and she stood alone upon the charred earth. She was now all that remained of both Fafnir and her great Sire, Ancalagon the Black, the bones had become a part of her when Fafnir had brought her and the first fog. Her black leather armor wrapped around her once more, stronger and thicker; the swords she had once carried had returned to her as well, though lighter in both color and weight.
For once a Dragon is broken it loses its scales and fangs, when it is remade, it can only become stronger.
Thank you for reading.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.