Chapter Thirty-Five: Edoras
Edoras was an intriguing city. Befitting the men who lived within its walls, the buildings and architecture almost worshiped the horses they rode. As he handed the reigns of his mount to a stableman, Legolas idly noted every horse-shaped bust and tapestry on the structures around him. It had been a while since he had stepped foot inside Edoras, at least seventy-five years perhaps. The people here were kind, but they were more wary of elves and their "magic" than others of their kind.
Here was one of the places where rumors of the "Elf-Witch" ran rampant, and although he enjoyed the ways of the Rohirric, the violet-eyed elf did not visit this place as much as he did others in the world. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to run away screaming because he was an elf.
Legolas's hood was up, his face-mask covering him up to his eyes, and as he followed Aragorn through the crowds of people walking through the streets his resolve to make sure none knew what he was only grew. Two wives were whispering outside of one of their homes, their conversation too low for the mortals around them to hear but loud enough for the assassin's sensitive ears.
"...Heard another village was attacked by those demon-eyed Elves." one was saying in hushed tones. "My sister was visiting an old friend there. I hope she is all right."
"I always knew those elves would turn on us one day."the other woman said darkly. "I'll bet that the Elf-Witch did some terrible magic on her people, making them lose their minds and fall into Darkness."
It was a demon, not Galadriel, Legolas thought irritably. And if you weren't too caught up in the gossip you have heard, you would know that most elves would never fall to Shadow and "turn" on you! Bloody ignorant prejudiced fools—!
"(Is everything all right, Esgal?)" Aragorn asked his friend quietly in Sindarin. "(You were reaching for your knives.)"
Had he been? Legolas let his hands drop, sighing softly. "(It is nothing, Estel. People here just have poor opinions of elves.)"
The Ranger frowned. "(Indeed. I know that Theoden and his kin do not hold such prejudices, however.)" He smiled, eyes twinkling. "(Just make sure to keep your aversion to horses to yourself. The Rohirrim will not be happy if they learn you do not like their favorite animal.)"
Legolas glared at his friend. "(I do not have an 'aversion' to horses. I like horses perfectly well. I merely like to walk instead of riding everywhere. With horses, you are forced to stay on civilized paths, while you may travel where you wish without being noticed while traveling on foot.)"
Aragon was silent a long while before he responded. "(... I see. You are used to traveling in secret.)"
"(Indeed.)" the assassin said, attention shifting away from their conversation. "(Estel, there is someone following us.)"
The silver-eyed man did not tense, still walking casually. "(Where?)"
"(The aura I sense is fifteen yards behind us, just behind that building with the furs that we just passed.)" Legolas told him, not mentioning that the shape, height, and size of the aura suggested their shadow was a woman.
Although Aragorn was raised by elves, he still held a little of the mannish belief that women were less of a threat than men. Legolas thought that was incredibly stupid of the Ranger and men in general, and he knew that his friend's reaction to their pursuer would change if he let the other know it was a woman. That would not do at all if it turned out the woman spying on them was a threat.
"(Let's confront him up ahead.)" Aragorn said calmly. "(You know what to do.)"
Legolas nodded and the two turned the corner into what could be considered a small alley. The elf climbed up the wall, hiding himself from the street, while Aragorn went up ahead, halting just around the next corner.
The assassin watched a cloaked figure walk into the alley, the woman's steps slowing as she realized her targets were gone. She hurried towards Aragorn's position, skidding to a halt as the man stepped out in front of her.
"Why are you following us?"
Th woman's arm jerked, metal glinting in the light, but the Ranger grabbed her arm, pressing a point Legolas had taught him and forcing her to release the weapon. The woman gasped and stumbled, her hood falling back to reveal flowing blonde hair. She tensed as if to flee, but the assassin dropped down behind her, putting a knife to her throat. The woman froze. Aragorn, who had drawn his sword after relieving the cloaked figure of her knife, stared at the revealed female in shock.
"You are a girl?!"
Indignant eyes glared at him. "And you are a pig."
Aragorn gaped, then rearranged his features into a calm expression. His eyes still showed his bewilderment however. "Esgal, let her go."
He sheathed his sword. Legolas did not, keeping his knife where it was.
"She tried to stab you, Estel." the assassin said neutrally. "In case you have forgotten."
"That was an accident." the woman said, half angry, half embarrassed. "He startled me."
Legolas rose an eyebrow at her even though she could not see it. "So you walk around stabbing citizens who startle you? I saw your movements. You are trained. So before I release you, please answer the question of the man you tried to poke with your dagger: Why are you following us? And who are you?"
The woman scowled, chin tilting upward the slightest bit. "I am Eowyn, niece and ward of Theoden King. I am also a Shieldmaiden of Rohan."
Legolas studied her for a moment, sensing no deceit in her words, and let her go, stepping back and sheathing his dagger. He crossed his arms, looking at the woman steadily. "Why were you following us?"
Eowyn looked uncomfortable for a moment before she hid it behind a blank mask. "We do not get many travelers here anymore. We have not for the past month. I was interested as to why you were here... so I followed you."
Esgal sighed and bowed slightly to the Shieldmaiden, who looked taken aback. "Greetings, Lady Eowyn. I am Esgal, and this is Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, and adoptive son of Lord Elrond. We have come to tell grave news to your uncle, the King."
Eowyn processed what he had said, cheeks coloring as she realized who she had called a "pig". "I will lead you to my uncle's halls." she said hastily.
They walked up to the Golden Hall of Edoras the guards not halting them because of the Lady who led them into the building. They did look as if they wanted to stop Legolas— They must think I am an assassin, the elf thought with amusement— but backed off when Eowyn waved them away. Theoden King sat upon his throne at the end of the hall, speaking with his son and the Crown Prince, Theodred on his right, while a pale-faced, black haired man hovered in the shadows at his left.
The moment he spotted the man, Legolas did not like him. More specifically, the moment he became aware of the rancid, disgusting, vile aura that surrounded the man, the assassin disliked and distrusted him. His eyes hidden by the cowl of his hood, the violet-eyed elf studied the disgusting man with narrowed eyes, fingering a small throwing knife. The man was not trustworthy, was not an ally, and was most definitely a threat.
Standing over to the side, the blonde-haired man who must be Eowyn's brother, Eomer, was the first the first to notice the newcomers. He cleared his throat and his uncle and cousin looked up. Theoden straightened, eyes sweeping over Legolas before landing on Aragorn.
"Aragorn, son of Arathorn. It was not long ago that I partook in a meeting with you. You coming to my halls so soon after does not bode well. What brings you to Edoras?" The King's eyes once again went to the cloaked elf. "And who is your companion? I am surprised that my guards did not make him reveal his face before they let him enter here."
'He' is right here and would appreciate it if you spoke to him directly, Legolas thought, but kept his silence.
"This is Esgal of Mirkwood." Aragorn introduced his friend.
...I would really rather you had not told them I was an elf.
"An elf!" Disgusting-Man shouted, jerking forward with an enraged expression on his face. "You have brought one of those creatures here?!"
Legolas breathed in. Out. In. I will not throw a knife at him. I will not throw a knife at him. I will not throw a knife into his ugly face—
"'Creature' is a rather degrading term." the assassin said, voice icily polite. He looked directly at Disgusting-Man, knowing his eyes were blazing brightly with rage, and felt great satisfaction when the man flinched. "And if you are as insulted by my presence as I am by yours, I will leave now." Before I change my mind and see how you look with knives sticking out of your eye sockets.
"He meant no offense, Master Elf." Theoden said smoothly. "my adviser, Grima Wormtongue, was just concerned due to the reports we have seen about evil elves."
"That is why we are here, Theoden King." Aragorn cut in. "We have come bearing terrible news."
He told his listening audience about Iãgaw, the Shadowed Elves, and the fallen Elven Realms. He told them of the Sanctuary in Mirkwood, of the powers Iãgaw possessed that they may face, and regretfully told them there was no known way to kill the demon. He told them about who had been warned and any plans that had been formed in order to try to counter this threat, and so on.
Legolas did not join him in his explanations, instead watching Grima like a wolf watched a small crow. The man shifted and looked about himself, paranoid, though he could not see Legolas's eyes beneath the cowl.
The King of Rohan sat back in his throne, eyes dark and head bowed low as he thought. "This is grave news indeed." he murmured. "So this "Sanctuary" is the only place in Arda that is truly safe?"
"Yes, Theoden King." the Ranger said. "We believe—"
A high-pitched, shrieking scream ripped through the air, the men crying out in shock and covering their ears as the painful noise assaulted their eardrums. Legolas flinched but did not cringe, eyes narrowing with hate as he recognized the infamous cry, just as the familiar, vile presence entered his awareness.
The assassin did not hesitate in running out of the Golden Hall, eyes scanning the sky. He spotted the fell beast swooping low over the buildings not far away, its screams and tail shattering buildings as it went. People ran about in a panic on the ground, while the soldiers of Rohan shouted orders and tried to shoot it down. Rubble fell into the streets, large stones striking fleeing mortals and sending them unmoving to the ground, buried or terribly exposed.
Legolas did not rush into the chaos, instead keeping his eyes upward, his violet orbs following the path of the dragon-like creature. He resisted the urge to snarl as he spotted the familiar helm-wearing figure on the fell beast's back. It was undoubtedly the Witch-King. The assassin reached for his bow, and cursed as he recalled that he had left it with his horse. Of course this was the one time he did not have the weapon with him—!
He made to run but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. He jerked his head around, glaring at Aragorn, who was also watching the Ringwraith in the sky. The man kept a firm hold on his friend's arm.
"Release me." the assassin said.
Aragorn shook his head, silver eyes dark. "Esgal, that is the Witch-King of Angmar! It is said that no man can kill him!"
Legolas's eyes darkened, turning from a bright violet to a more shaded hue. "But I am not a man, Estel. I am an elf!"
With that he broke away, dashing towards the closest building. Panicking mortals ran around him but Legolas ignored them. He headed straight for the wall, leaping high and climbing swiftly up the building. It was not as high as he would like, but when the Nazgûl made his next pass—
Legolas jumped as the fell beast flew by, landing behind the Witch-King. The fell beast bucked and moved beneath him but he balanced easily on its back. The Nazgûl Lord turned, fiery eyes widening with horror as he spotted the assassin.
"Well met, Master." the violet-eyed elf hissed, lunging for the Nazgûl.
The Ringwraith leaned sharply to the side, the assassin's elven blade plunging into his shoulder instead of his heart. The fell beast, believing the movement to be an order to turn, flew sharply to the left. Legolas stumbled for a moment but regained his footing, again attacking his hated enemy.
The Witch-King jerked the reigns, trying to shake the elf off, but Legolas refused to fall. His remaining blade met the Ringwraith's neck. With a swift swipe, the assassin sliced through...
The Nazgûl's head separated from his body just as it turned to ash, exploding outward. Legolas stumbled back, unbalanced. Before he could recover the creature's tail slammed into his back. The elf went hurtling off of the black creature's back, the ground rushing up to meet him.
Legolas braced himself.
He hit the ground hard, rolling and skidding on the street. His bones jarred painfully and he felt the skin on his right arm break. When the assassin stopped he stumbled to his feet, breathing heavily as he watched the fell beast fly towards the ground at the edge of the city. The violet-eyed elf ran towards it, in time to see it dive into the shadows like it was leaping into a deep lake. It was only then that he saw the struggling figure in the creature's claws.
Valar no... It took someone!
"Did you kill him?"
The assassin slowly turned to look at the wide-eyed boy that was standing just behind him. Innocent green eyes looked up at the elf, and the child asked again.
"Did you kill him? The Witch-King? Wasn't that the Witch-King? Mama told me about him. He's mean."
Legolas slowly became aware of the people gathering around him and the boy. He looked up to see them all watching him, Aragorn, the Rohan Royals, and Grima among those looking at him expectantly. Most had fragile hope in their eyes, a brightness entering their gazes as they realized their feared enemy may be gone. Only one looked nervous and upset.
"Yes." the uncomfortable assassin said, raising his voice enough for all to hear. "The Witch-King is dead!"
All around, there was silence. Then someone began to clap. Another set of hands joined the first, then another, and then everyone was clapping and cheering, laughing and hugging each other as they shouted their joy to the world.
People rushed forward to thank and compliment Legolas, grasping his hands and patting his arm— which reminded him of the wounds from his fall. The moment they saw his pain the people were rushing, rushing, rushing to assist him in tending his wounds and they were so many and they were too close and he needed to get away—
"Back away, please." Aragorn's voice rose above the happy chaos and he and Theoden swept through the crowd as they parted before them. The Ranger smiled kindly at the people who wished to assist Legolas, but with a look in his silver eyes to warn them to get out of his way. "I will tend to Esgal's wounds, thank you." Then he looked at Legolas, and his smile grew into one of awe and pure joy. "Well done." He gave a short laugh. "Well done, Master Elf."
"He's an elf?" a familiar female voice whispered to her friend.
"Apparently so." the second woman murmured. "I always knew that they were wonderful people. I am so glad that they are our allies."
Legolas shook his head wryly and followed Aragorn back to the Golden Hall. A small "Excuse me?" made him turn, and he spotted a young girl standing next to him, the Witch-King's abandoned helm in her hands.
"Do you want this?" she asked shyly. "Like as a trophy?"
The assassin took the helm, staring at it and still unable to fully comprehend what he had done. He had killed the Witch-King. He had killed his "Master". They reentered the King's Halls, heading into a side room which held their healing halls. Others were already inside being treated, the healers ignoring the newcomers other than one that tried to approach Legolas. The Ranger's firm stare sent the healer scurrying away.
Aragorn forced the violet-eyed elf to sit, setting the Witch-King's helm on the bedside table. He fussed over Legolas's scrapes and contusions, wincing as he studied the long gash the elf had received on his right arm.
"Washing will get most of the stones out, but I am afraid a few larger pieces will be harder to remove. You will probably need stitches."
"It was worth it." Legolas murmured, eyes turning away from the black helmet and dropping to the objects still held in his hands. "It was all worth it..."
The dark-haired man paused in his work, following his friend's gaze. He gave a small gasp, eyes clouding with sorrow. "Esgal... I am so sorry."
"...Ciaran gave me these..." The assassin's voice cracked and he bit his lip.
In his hands lay two bone hilts, all that was left of his elven daggers. The weapons had killed the Nazgûl Lord at a price, disintegrating the moment their job was done. Even they had not been immune to the effect of striking a creature that could not be killed. Legolas gripped the hilts tightly, resisting the irrational urge to cry. Ciaran had given him these blades, and he had fought with them for years, thinking of his mentor/father whenever he held the smooth bone hilts.
These blades had killed many orcs, saved many lives by vanquishing those that threatened them, and been his most precious gift from Ciaran. These daggers had been beacons of light and goodness in Dol Guldur, hidden from the Darkness for almost as long as Legolas had shielded his true nature from the Nazgûl. The assassin should be happy that he had used them to kill the one that had kept him and his mentor prisoner for so many years. Instead he felt as if he had lost yet another important piece of his past.
Aragorn finished pulling the stones from Legolas's arm, and began sewing the wound. The assassin barely felt the pain, still wallowing in his loss. He did not notice the Ranger was finished until the man placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently.
"When we get back to Mirkwood, the elven blacksmiths will reforge the blades. We can fix them." Aragorn told him.
"I know." Legolas said softly.
He hesitated, then placed the hilts beside him, rising to his feet and walking over to the helmet that sat, dark and malicious, on the table. The assassin looked into the empty eye holes of the helm, then picked it up. He exited the healing halls, Aragorn at his side, and looked at Theoden King and his family, who were waiting just outside the door. Grima skulked in the shadows, but Legolas ignored him.
"I need a fire, the hottest one you have, my Lord." he requested in a quiet but strong voice.
Theoden nodded silently and walked down the hall, Legoals following and the others trailing behind them. They went into the city, where the people were starting to clear up rubble, but all halted in their work and watched as the group passed. They exited Edoras, halting just outside, and Theoden murmured softly to a man there. The man nodded, shouting orders to his subordinates, who gathered wood for a large bonfire, setting it alight.
Legolas stood before the leaping flames, staring into the empty eye-holes of the helm as shadows and flame reflected on the black, desolate metal. He stepped forward and tossed the helmet into the flames, watching as the Witch-King's helm slowly melted and deformed into an unrecognizable piece of metal. That too sizzled and faded away, leaving nothing left of the dreaded Nazgûl Lord.
No one cheered. No one spoke. All was silent as they continued to watch the flames lick the sunny sky.
And Legolas glared at the place where the helm had once been, speaking a single word. "Delorcion."
He turned his back to the flames, striding forward, and the awed, respectful crowd parted as he passed.
Iãgaw shook his head in annoyance as the fell beast returned, with a burden between its claws but its rider noticeably absent. The demon had not watched the Witch-King's attack on Edoras, trusting the Nazgûl Lord to be able to complete his task without him. The Ringwraith had gotten the man that the demon sought, but even the Void had not expected him to die in this mission.
Pathetic until the end. Now only seven of the Nine were left. For wraiths that were supposedly unable to be killed, they were dying rather easily. Iãgaw still could not wrap his mind around how Sauron ever expected to take over the world with servants as weak as that. Perhaps he himself should go and teach Edoras a lesson for killing his servant... No. Not yet. There was something else he needed to take care of.
The fell beast deposited his package in front of the demon, the man stumbling to his feet. He shook his black hair out of his face, revealing angry brown eyes that glowered at Iãgaw. Tall and a little broader in the shoulders than an average man, this one's glare could be quite intimidating to other mortals, Iãgaw supposed.
The scar on his cheek gives a nice dangerous touch, the demon decided, smirking.
"Hello Riagán." the Void said.
Riagán, grandson of Drust, Dunedan, and exile of Blue Harbor, sneered at the demon. "What do you want, Dark-elf?"
Rather than be insulted, Iãgaw's grin only widened. "You are not even the least bit afraid of me! I knew I liked you for a reason."
The man crossed his arms over his chest, unimpressed. "I asked what you want. And who are you?"
"Do you know what I am?" the Void asked, circling around Riagán. The black-haired man did not turn to watch the demon, instead turning his distasteful gaze on the fell beast that was chasing some orcs nearby.
"No, and I don't particularly care." Riagán snapped. "What. Do. You. Want?"
"Fine." Iãgaw said with a sigh. "I am Iãgaw, the greatest Darkness in this world. I have a proposition for you, my intriguing mortal. You seek to destroy the one that wronged you years ago. The Ranger, known as 'Strider'. You wish to kill him."
"How do you know about that?" Riagán asked suspiciously.
"I have my ways." the Void murmured. "That is why you are without fear, without cares, and without morals. You are cruel, ruthless, and positively murderous, caring for the lives of others as little as I do. I have been watching you for some time, and I have seen that all you care about is killing Strider. You have spent years trying to find him but the trail ended in Rohan, so you have had no luck tracking down your target. I, meanwhile, and in need of a leader for my armies. One who can think for himself, and is not a mindless slave. I believe that both of us would benefit if we worked together."
"What can you give me that would convince me to join you?" Riagán asked with a scoff.
Iagaw's eyes narrowed into almost-playful slits. "Strider's real name is Aragorn, and he is the Heir to the throne of Gondor."
The man's attitude changed at once, all of his attention on Iãgaw.
The Void smirked internally. I have you now. "I promise you that if you work for me, you will find Aragorn and get your revenge. I will specifically order my Shadowed Elves not to kill him— wound and maim him perhaps, but not kill— so that you may strike the final blow on the one that took everything from you. I will also give you any information on Aragorn that you ask for." Iãgaw held out a hand. "Do we have a deal?"
Without hesitation, Riagán took it. "All right. Deal. But let me make something clear to you, Iãgaw." he growled, leaning in close. He was not afraid of the demon. "I don't care about who wins this war. I don't care about sides, the big picture, or the survival or destruction of this world. I just want that Ranger dead, and I want to kill anyone who aids him or gets in my way."
Iãgaw's crimson eyes glowed like drops of freshly spilled blood. "I know. I am counting on it."
A/N: OMG this chapter is so short! It's only like 4500 words! (Bangs head on desk) But I can't figure out a way to extend it! Noooooo... :((( Me: "Maybe I should wait a day to update and try to extend this." (Five seconds later) Me: "...Forget that. I'm uploading the short chapter so I can upload the next one!"
I did a lot of debating on how I wanted to introduce Eowyn. I really like her character, but for some reason I wanted the first meeting between her and Aragorn to be incredibly awkward. And for her to stalk Legolas and Aragorn through the streets. I don't know why. XD
Oh, and a little explanation: When Legolas tilts his head up slightly and his eyes are glowing, his eyes can be seen when he had his hood up.
But, most importantly... the Witch-King died! (triumphant dance) He's dead! He's dead! The delorcion is deaaaaaaddddd! He got his head chopped off! :D :D :D ...Wow. I never thought I would be cheering for something like that. O_O But still, yayyyyy! (I hope you all are as excited as I am. :P) Except... the Royals won't know that the Witch-King is dead...
Thanks to everyone who followed, favorites, and/or reviewed!
Responses to Guest reviews will be posted in the next chapter since this is a DOUBLE UPDATE! :D
Please review! (Even though there is another chapter up, could you review this one before moving on? Pleeeaaaasssseeeee? :) )