“What were you thinking? Or were you thinking at all?”
I shake my head, trying to isolate where the loud voice is coming from. The angry tone sounds all too familiar, its sound echoing in memories of a long-ago past when I lived in a land of dreams. Giving the search up as hopeless, I return to immobility. Moving requires too much effort.
His words continue to echo around me.
“Did you just feel that as always, you had to follow along; you had to be the good son and the good brother? Didn’t it ever occur to you that by following, you would also be leaving - you would be leaving ME?”
Opening my eyes again I try to focus on the voice. Its sound crackles in the air, scratching my skin and gouging my eyes. I know it as well as I once knew the body issuing it. My hands still remember the feel of his body, my tongue recalls his taste. I ache for him to be mine once again. I strain to reach him...but no. I am still frozen and immobile save for small movements of my head.
“Irmo? I hear you.”
Did I really say the words or am I just thinking that I said them? A weak chuckle rings out to be quickly swallowed in darkness. Is that my laugh? Or is it HIS jaded laugh – my “lover's''? I can't determine whether I am experiencing true feelings and sensations, or whether I am in a dream or an illusion. It is more than possible that none of this is real - after all, he is the Lord of Lórien, the Master of Dreams. But does my interpretation of reality really matter? No, it doesn't. I gather my strength and make another effort to speak.
“I smell you. The flowers of Lórien follow you as you move through the aether.”
I look above me trying to remember...trying to determine where I am. Glancing around, it seems that I am lying on a platform in a large area without features or walls. Arches open on every side, recessing in an endless procession, extending farther than my eyes can see. I am tricked by the light. Scenes seem to come and go, flashing by in shadowed subtlety. Exhausted, I stop looking to the sides and look above me. The side arches begin to merge into a central vault high above me with a few random crosspieces. Their actual junction is so distant that it disappears in deepest darkness. There are no stars and I can't identify the faint light source, yet where I lie is lighted.
I clench my fists as the crosspieces begin to move, circling in a dizzying manner. The scene shifts and suddenly I am in a familiar place that we marked by acts of love and pain.
* * *
Thwack! I hear the swish of the lash before I feel it pass through the air, a hair's width from my back. I am kneeling on the ground in a grove I am very familiar with. My hands are bound behind me and fastened to my ankles. My only clothing consists of a leather and metal harness strapped across my chest. Sturdy metal rings are positioned around each of my nipples. I look down at the opal-set metal bars that my lover had placed through them to mark me as his. They are positioned above the harness rings, stretching my nipples to the threshold of agony. It is painful, but joyously so. It excites me and the erection that I glimpse as I glance down my body confirms that.
I look up at Irmo who is moving to face me. He holds the lash loosely, familiarly, tapping it against his hand. As always, he speaks no words. Within the grove words are rare; we speak by our actions not sound. Suddenly he leans down capturing my mouth in a hard and unforgiving kiss. One hand grips my shoulder with enough force to cause bruising, his other one, still holding the lash, grips the back of my head. His mouth grinds my lips against my teeth and I taste the copper tang of my own blood. His tongue forces itself into my mouth and I hear myself moan. When I catch my breath, I whisper, ignoring the tears flowing from my eyes. “Please...please believe me. I didn't want to leave you.”
* * *
The scene shifts. Now it is Irmo who is immobilized and naked. His chest and shoulders are supported by a narrow bench and his hands are tied to its bottom legs. Most of his body is unprotected as he kneels, dog-like, his back straight and buttocks thrusting back. He appears completely vulnerable.
I look at my hand and see that I am now holding the short lash. Never in our long relationship have I been the one in power. I examine the braided leather, then smile and turn back to my captive Vala. If he won't believe my words, then perhaps he will believe my actions. I raise the lash.
“You allowed me to leave you”.
Swish...thwack...I strike a blow across his back. The stroke is hard enough to mark his perfect body with a thin red welt, but I know it will fade quickly.
In the past when our positions were reversed and he had been painting my back with welts from the lash, he had explained to me that the momentary sting of the whip heightened the sexual experience. “Each line of pain, each excited piece of your skin, will increase the intensity of your orgasm, my Dark One,” he had whispered as he raised his hand to strike another blow.
But this time I am the one in control. I continue.
Swish ... thwack ...“You let me go.” Thwack...”You didn't even try to stop me.” I punctuate each sentence I spit out with a blow across his body. I am so angry. No, I am furious; both at his accusation and at his lack of action.
I again ignore the tears running down my face. Thwack...“I would have stayed with you, didn't you know?” Swish...thwack...”I would have broken my Oath, my sacred Oath sworn to Eru himself, to stay with you.” Thwack...”I would have done anything to be your lover, your tormentor, your savior forever.” His back is becoming a maze of thin raised marks of pain and blood, yet I continue. “Nobody has ever understood me the way that you do and you...you...YOU thwack LET thwack ME thwack GO.”
“Yes! I let you go,” he finally responds. “I could not do otherwise. We are forbidden to interfere with your freedom of choice.”
My actions have excited him, even as I had been earlier. While I was punishing him for his lack of action, he grew hard, driven by the fuel of my lash. Now his erection is trembling with the strain of his iron-willed control. He wants release, but knows that he is not allowed to ejaculate until I give the word. The one who holds the lash is in total control. That is one of the few rules in our 'game'; that, and 'no permanent marks'.
I resume circling him. My lover is so beautiful, even when marked by the lash and begging on his knees. In fact, his humbled appearance makes my breathing shallow. My tongue slowly licks my lips. I want to taste him again, to fondle him again, and to roll in the grass body-to-body again. I wonder for a moment, how could I ever have loved elsewhere?
Anger overtakes me again. “It would have been interference if you had asked me to stay with you? You are wrong. Freedom of choice was not exercised by your asking the question, it would have been embodied by my response to it.” Thwack, I struck him again raising another mark on his perfect body. “But you never gave me that choice, did you?”
* * *
I glance away for a moment. Is that a sound off to my left? I turn back to strike Irmo again but swirls of mist are now obscuring my sight.
The arches of my prison surround me again and my hope dies. “Irmo! My love ... my life ... come back to me.” I whimper as I turn my head on my hard platform and weep.
Time passes, at least I assume it does, but I have no way of tracking how long I have been here.
The song of birds resonates in my ears. I open my eyes again and look wildly around me. Verdant growth surrounds me and my room seems to have disappeared again.
* * *
A single word echoes around me: “Remember”.
I am lying atop a familiar hillock on a bright and sunny day before I understood what pain and longing truly were. Looking around me I realize that I am back to where I never thought to be again – in Irmo's Lórien.
“What are you doing here in my gardens, son of Fëanáro?” A rich contralto voice pushes itself into my consciousness and a being of unrelenting beauty comes closer to me, obscuring my view. I hurriedly push myself to my elbows and attempt to gain my footing to give the Vala the obeisance he should receive. But I am on a slope and the thought is much easier than the reality. My feet tangle across each other and I fall, rolling down the small hillock to come to rest at his feet.
Strong hands, featuring long, elegant fingers and palms too soft to belong to any laborer, grasp mine and pull me upright. We look at each other, eye to eye. I am still on the small hill and his greater height is offset by the slope. I become lost within his gaze. I am floating in a sea of warm amber speckled with flecks of brightest emerald. My father could have arrived at that moment and commanded me to attend to him and I would not have heard or acknowledged him. I am immobile, caught in the Vala's spell, held up by his hands gripping my upper arms. I have neither desire nor ability to move away from him.
“I know not why they call you 'The Dark', son of Fëanáro, but I would like to explore that with you if you are willing.” One of his hands moves to my face. It cups my head and then continues moving, caressing my brow, my cheek, and then stroking across my lips which open slightly at his touch.
“So, it is that way with you? Good.” I see him nod once.
I do not understand what he says or means, but mere seconds later his lips are against mine and his tongue is asking for entrance. I cannot deny him and, with a groan I open myself to him - my body and my soul. We wrap our arms around each other and through the cloth of our tunics I feel my erection brush against his as he pulls our bodies together. I gasp, clutching him closer. I want him. I know in that moment that I will do anything for him. Whatever he asks of me, I will be his willing and obedient slave.
“Come with me, young Caranthir,” he says as he releases my body and once more takes hold of my hand. I have no response for him, but it is not necessary. He knows I will follow him.
We come to a small grove surrounded by a high hedge with no obvious entry. I see the tall tree tops on the other side swaying gently in the breeze. He holds his hand out towards the tangled briars and they separate, forming a tunnel. I follow him through the thorny branches and emerge into a protected glade. Turning around I notice that our passageway has disappeared.
“Only by my will can this grove be entered and here we will never be interrupted or watched. You may ask to leave one time. The entrance will open and you will be able to walk through. Yet, afterward, you and I will never meet here again; we will be as strangers to one another from that point on.”
A pitcher and two goblets suddenly appear on a small table under an awning that had not been there a moment earlier. “Pour a glass for each of us and bring them here.”
I obey and return to him. He is now standing unclothed in the center of the grassy sward. Handing one goblet to him, he smiles. “Drink,” he says, and he takes a sip from his own. He begins to slowly walk around me, examining me in detail. “Drain your goblet, then return it to the table and remove your clothing.”
I feel as if I am in a dream, but I am in Lórien after all, the land of living dreams. Why wouldn't I feel as if this experience is surreal? I turn back to him after I remove my tunic and leggings. He is standing in the center of the glade which is illuminated by the light of the mingled Trees. He almost gleams. He is perfect.
“You are so beautiful,” I whisper. He motions me to approach.
“'Dark Caranthir' they call you. How dark are you truly? How far will you go?” He is almost talking to himself, his voice barely sounding at all. He looks at me and smiles. “I want you to indulge yourself, to enact your darkest sexual dreams here in this grove. I will help you discover how sex and pain are interrelated. Each of these two basic feelings can enhance the other and bring you to new, unexpected heights of ecstasy. I am in no hurry. We will move slowly. We have all the time in Arda.”
He held out his arms in welcome. “Come to me. Kiss me.”
I walk to him and lightly press my lips to his. His arms encircle me, warming me and yet I shiver. He pulls away slightly, looking at me intently. “Have you ever lain with a man before? No? Then I will be your first and your best. Open yourself to me and let me worship your body.”
I do as he asks; I have no power or desire to resist him.
That meeting was but the first of many. We did nothing earthshaking that first time, at least nothing that indicated to me the road we would end up walking together. But we did join in body and soul. He breached my willing body while I panted with lust and could not contain my moans and cries. The pain was welcome because it came from him. I wanted more, but could barely speak coherently. His body slammed into mine again and again. I could no longer hold back and cried out as I released. I then collapsed backwards, exhausted, even as his arms tightened around me while he stiffened and finally sounded his own cry, jerking against my thighs.
Afterward I was no longer a virgin in any sense of the word. We lay together in the center of the glade and I kissed his face and told him that I loved him. I meant it then and I still do.
He said something similar - similar and yet not the same. “And I, you,” was his response; typically non-committed as I look back on it now. But then it and he satisfied me. He had thrown out the snare and I had been caught. I would never be released again.
* * *
I find myself back on my platform in my endless room panting as if his nails had raked down my chest again. I shiver and reflect.
When had our lovemaking become so dark? Was he responding to his own unknown depths, or was he nurturing something within me that I had never realized existed? I still have no answers even though it has been hundreds of years since our first meeting on that hillock long ago. Yet, once my desire to mix pain and sex had been awakened I could no longer push it back into obscurity. Irmo fostered the beginnings of my growing into my moniker. He trained me until I truly became 'The Dark' son of Fëanáro.
He moved slowly as he had promised. His caresses shifted from using his fingertips to using his nails. Now scratches marred my skin and my shivers of excitement increased. Use of his fingernails gave way to scratches made by the edge of a blade, the small lines of blood eagerly cleaned by his tongue. Any disgust I might have felt at the action was lost just looking at his erotic enjoyment of my taste. I could barely contain myself until he gave me permission to release. My erection seemed to almost explode with my essence spewing over his perfect body. He laughed and rubbed it over himself sensuously. If I had not just come, I would have immediately become erect again. My mind watched him with dizzy delight and I wanted to taste him again and again.
He had such an effect upon me; I would have done anything for him by that point.
After I left and crossed the Sea, I became harsher. The new realities of a land where danger stalked us from every side and elves died caused me to forge new rules for my life. By the time I ruled my own kingdom I no longer cared about the second rule, 'no permanent marks'. In truth, I sometimes fell so completely into the darkness of pain, ecstasy and the sorrow of losing him that some of those who walked into my 'pleasure' chambers never walked out of them again.
But I wasn't there now...was I?
The mists come again and once more I am not on my stone platform, but in the center of our glade in the light of the Trees.
* * *
“Do you want me?” he asks. “Will you do whatever I ask and wear my mark proudly, yet remain forever silent about what we share here in this glade?”
I fall to my knees and bow my head. “Lord. I am fully yours. Anything you wish of me I will do, and gladly.” Just saying those words of subservience cause my penis to twitch. Oh, he understands me so very well by that time.
“Then seat yourself.”
Turning around I see a chair with bindings attached to the front legs and around the back of the seat. I sit and he fastens my legs to the wooden framework and the belt across my waist to keep me seated. The bindings are part of our games, although he could accomplish my immobility with ease just by a small wave of his hand.
As always, here in Irmo's glade, we are both naked. A small table appears to my left but I only see it peripherally. My eyes are locked upon his beautiful face.
“Good. Very good,” he says. He reaches over to the side table. Holding a thick needle in one hand and an opal embellished bar in the other, he shows them to me.
“I ask you one last time. Are you willing to wear my mark?”
“Yes, Lord, anything that you request I will do.”
His eyes hold mine. “Reach out with your hands and hold onto the chair arms tightly. Do not allow your eyes to leave mine. I will not lie to you, this will hurt. Yet, after the pain ends and the wounds heal we will derive much enjoyment from this jewelry.” I grasp the chair arms.
“Look into my eyes, do not look away.” I focus my energy, losing myself within the amber and emerald depths.
Sharp, white pain bolts through me as he thrusts the needle through the base of my nipple and then pushes the bar through the opening. He fastens the other end of the bar on and it fuses into a solid piece of metal and stone with a snick. He lowers his head to my chest and licks away the blood that had issued from the wound, cleaning my chest.
Raising his head, he captures my lips in his and then pulls away. I concentrate on his eyes again. He repeats the process on my other nipple. This time, because it is building on the previous piercing, the pain is intense enough to make my hands almost white from the strength of my grip against the chair arms. My mind fills with sparks and light and I almost lose consciousness. My eyes are open but I am unable to see anything through my temporary agony.
His arm comes around my head and he captures my lips in his once more, crushing his mouth to mine. His hand grasps my penis, stroking an erection that I hadn't realized I had. He increases his strokes. I tense and then release, marking our bodies with my essence. He laughs with joy and his tongue continues to dance with mine. I taste the copper undertone of my blood in his mouth. Releasing the chair arms, I bring my arms around his shoulders as I tremble with the conflicting feelings of pain and sexual release. He holds me tightly and then moves to nuzzle the hollow of my neck, nipping and licking his way down my shoulder.
“Now you are mine,” he whispers.
He unties my ankles, unbuckles the belt and helps me to stretch out on the ground. Raising my legs, he pushes himself into me. I welcome the pain as he stretches me open. I cannot wish for anything better. We are together and I am in love.
* * *
Mists clear from the featureless wall and endless ceiling. “Remember,” his voice echoes.
I am back in the endless chamber. But have I even left it? Have I been remembering true memories, or am I merely dreaming? I try to bring my hands up to feel my nipples and determine if the opalized bars are still inserted, but I am unable to move more than my head, and even that small thing seems to be getting harder and harder.
“Yes, Lord, I remember it well.” My whisper seems small compared to his resonating voice.
“And do you love me, even today, after the other acts we performed upon each other in later days? The whips, the chains, and the many other acts of pain and degradation that you begged me to do to you?”
“Yes, Lord. I begged you for each stroke of the whip or love that you gave to me. You knew that I needed this two-edged love; that I needed to drown myself in you. Each time I fell, you picked me up. Each time I spiraled into deeper darkness, you brought me back to the light. You knew what I needed to keep me sane. Your love was a sharp edge and balanced me. How I missed you when I sailed east. You knew how to give me the love of pain without hatred. No-one has ever understood me as completely as you.”
“Yet you walked away from me. You stood on that platform surrounded by your brothers and without hesitation echoed Fëanáro’s dread Oath. Did you even think about it at all? Did it even cross your mind that you were doomed forever until the breaking of Arda as you spoke those words?”
“No, Lord. Only two people have I followed without question, you and my father. Only two have I loved without reservation, the one who raised me, and you – the lover who trained me to the twinned joys of love and pain.”
A breeze blows over my face, yet there can be no breeze in this formless room. I blink back sudden tears. Why am I suddenly filled with grief? I close my eyes tightly against their sting.
* * *
“It is time.” The words that flow over me come from a different source, a different voice.
“Just one more, brother.”
Although I hear nothing I sense that a presence has withdrawn and once more it is just two of us. Mists and shadows flow over me and once more I hear the word. “Remember.”
* * *
I am standing on a platform, surrounded by my family. My father is speaking to a crowd that has gathered before us. Torches and lamps glow in the darkness. Wait…darkness? For a breath I wonder where the sun and moon have gone, then with a second breath I push farther back and wonder where the light of the Trees are. Reality comes crashing down upon me with a jarring weight.
I hear the last of my father’s words to the crowd and watch as he thrusts a blade up into the air ahead of him. The torchlight gleaming on it makes it run with red light as if it was dripping in blood.
“…Whoso hideth or hoardth, or in hand taketh, finding keepeth or afar casteth a Silmaril, this swear we all. Death we will deal him ere Day’s ending, woe unto world’s end! Our word hear thou Eru Allfather! To the everlasting Darkness doom us if our deed faileth. On the holy mountain hear in witness and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda.”
Around me my brothers are pulling their swords and holding them in front of them, echoing my father's pose. From six other voices come the words “And so we so swear,” yet I am slow to join them. I look over the crowd and there, at the far side, I see my lover walking away, his back to me, his head bowed. He has but to ask me to stay and I will turn my back on my brothers, even on my father. Yet he continues walking. As Maitimo’s eyes meet mine in anger, silently chiding me for my hesitation, I pull my sword and speak the damning words even as my brothers had. My doom is sealed.
* * *
Tears fall from my eyes, but I pay them no mind. The sight of Irmo walking away from me is etched onto them and will not leave.
“You left me. You abandoned our love. Was I so little to you – only a plaything? Was I so easy to cast off, like an old or broken toy thrown into a pile of offal?”
“Brother, it is time.” The deeper voice has returned. I cast my eyes around. My head no longer obeys my commands to move, but I seem to sense a darker shadow at the far edge of my vision.
“No, my love,” a mere whisper of air sounds in my ear, and his voice fills my spirit with hope. “You were not and never will be a broken plaything to be cast off. At the ending of Arda we will meet once more. Then, by Eru's mercy, I will be able to hold you one last time before all is dust again.”
The darker shape approaches us yet Irmo's voice continues.
“The darkness of the Void is all-consuming.” Lips with no form brush across mine. “You wear my mark, Caranthir, and you are mine forever. Hold that thought as all else disappears.”
I feel the darkness surround me and I rise up, turning and twisting as I approach the blackness at the center of the vault. As I pass into the Void a scream is forced from me, entering the room behind me as I leave. I do not hear it.
Only love and hate can exist in nothingness, and I cannot decide my path.