"Where are you, my dearest lord," Erestor lovingly traced the valley on the enormous map spread on the table. After Gil-Galad's fall in the War of the Last Alliance he fled Lindon, unable to coexist with the memories that dwelled in the walls of the castle. But he never thought he would learn to love the tranquility and isolation of Rivendell. It was too quiet, too disconnected with the heartbeat of Arda. Now, having been summoned to Mithlond, Erestor lived ill at ease in the oceanfront castle. The lustrous life of the royal court sprung up from the ashes of ghostly oblivion in which the Grey Havens remained for lengthy centuries. Yet, there was a sinister, bitter spirit just below the grand charade of bliss.
Life had to continue. Gil-Galad demanded that balls and grand diners were held, and the greatest of man kings were invited. He performed flawlessly in his role of the noble Elven monarch who defeated death itself. The men worshiped the High King as a divine being. They gazed into his eyes with fretful admiration and pledged their allegiance, cautiously proposing their daughters' virginities as means to solidify the alliance of their realms. Gil-Galad was never alone, his goblet was never empty, his desires never left unattended. Only Erestor knew that tears and fright sent the king into spells of hysteria when the music of the balls and the light of councils went out. Gil-Galad never fell asleep sober. The scouting parties returned without finding any trace of Elrond or his horse. But Middle Earth was buzzing with rumors, strange rumors, that gave Gil-Galad hope but no comfort.
"Ahhh!" Erestor's heart convulsed in fear when two cold hands grabbed his ankles. "Glorfindel, no. Not Here!" Erestor shrieked, helplessly struggling against the golden elf, who effortlessly lifted him onto the table and growling suggestively pulled up his tunic. "What came over you, you rabid beast! Get off!" Glorfindel grinned and without saying a word he forced Erestor's legs apart, while pulling his leggings down with his teeth. "I am warning you!"
"I need this," Glorfindel fervently kissed Erestor's naked naval, "you denied me for so long, too long. And you need this no less than I! Don't banish me from your life. You grieve Elrond's absence deeply, as do I, but we cannot grow apart because of it."
"Glorfindel!" Erestor angrily slapped his lover across the face, leaving a pink mark on Glorfindel's ivory cheek. "You are drooling! And the door is unlocked! Imagine the embarrassment if " Glorfindel angrily bit into Erestor's mouth.
"Now," he whispered, exposing his throbbing organ, "no more tomorrows!"
"Lord Glorfindel, I... Oh." Elrohir froze for a moment, his eyes round in astound.
"We are exceptionally timely this morning," Elladan smirked. "What is it with Elves and grief, the more despondent everyone grows, the more ardently they fuck."
Glorfindel hid his impressive erected pride back in his leggings. "When that little worm in your pants grows to be of manly size, you will be old enough to use such terms," he added testily. "Until then I demand that you refrain from such crude cursing. What do you want us for?"
"King Aragorn has arrived," Elladan declared smugly, "along with our sister. The High King summons all to the royal hall. We have much to discuss."
Everyone has already gathered in the spacious room lit by the dim light of a cloudy morning. Erestor nodded to Aragorn, who looked surprisingly uptight and formal in his kingly garb. There was, however, only one High King in the room and Gil-Galad's aggressive stance only reinforced that understanding. He was in the darkest of moods, Erestor sensed, as the king wore a black velvet garment with elements of golden armor. He was ready for war.
"I welcome you to Mithlond, King Ellesar," Gil-Galad granted Aragorn a slight nod. "This man you brought, where did your scouts captured him?"
"On the outskirts of Gondor, my lord, with a band of horse thieves and other petty criminals." Gil-Galad's lustrous irises focused on the captive man who stood tied to a tall column a few feet away. He was a filthy creature, foul smelling and ugly in appearance. Three golden teeth sparked in the otherwise toothless mouth.
"I find this informal council rather distastefully set up," Arwen said, obviously appalled by the filthy, spitting captive.
"He belongs in a dungeon, not in the royal hall. And I see no sense in gathering for the sole purpose of torturing him. These are not the methods of the elves. Besides, a man in pain will say whatever pleases his tormentors ears, just so he is released. We can neither trust nor rely on his words!"
"Child," Celeborn interrupted impatiently, "we desire to hear the man speak whatever he has to say, and these are the only methods men of his kind understand!"
"Torture? Aye! Tyrants!" the man stomped his foot. "I said all I know! Elrond, the elf with long black hair. Told you the yellow-eyed Haradrim chief bought him from the Orcs, for whoring or serving, I do not know. I demand justice!"
"You rat!" Gil-Galad roared, storming toward the man. His fingers dug into the man's groin. A horrifying scream escaped the prisoner's throat. "For whoring, say you? I will show you my royal justice!" Gil-Galad gave the squeezed flesh a sharp twist.
"What else do you know? Speak!"
"This is barbaric," Arwen cried, pushing Aragorn's comforting arm away.
"I will rip it out!" Gil-Galad growled, refusing to back down. "Speak!"
"You won't like what I'll tell you! Aii!" the man squeaked, gasping for air. "In Umbar, your elf was carried to Umbar from the Orcish dungeons. Sazaar hastily married him and they fled the city! There! Release me now!" Gil-Galad grabbed the man's throat. Celeborn and Aragorn simultaneously darted to drag the High King from his prey.
"Wait," Celeborn hissed in Gil-Galad's ear, "you kill him and we will never know the full story!" He forcefully plucked the king's fingers off the man's bruised neck.
"Married!" Arwen's mouth refused to close. "You said my father remarried?"
"Bah...you heard right, princess, sure thing," the man winked his blackened eye, "they had a ceremony worthy of kings!"
"I don't believe it!" Glorfindel's nerves finally gave in. "It can't possibly be true!"
"Ada would never do something of this nature out of his own will!" Elladan agreed.
"As you wish, young lords," the prisoner crocked, "only he followed his new owner out of Umbar without a single chain or shackle restraining him. Just the wedding bracelet."
"The bracelet." Gil-Galad narrowed his eyes. "What was it like?"
"Flashy, with blue stones. Pretty creatures, I'd like to see them mate-" Aragorn angrily punched the man in the forehead, knocking him out.
"Bastard," he kicked the limp body. "Guards, drag this filth away. I plain out refuse to believe him," Aragorn shook his head. "Elrond raised me since infancy, I knew of no other love but his. I understand what drives him and this isn't the path he would chose to walk. I don't accept it."
"Well I do!" Arwen's face was skewed with impulsive fury. "I do. He uttered the right word. Whore. A fair word. Yes. YES! My father is a whore! A negligent, hedonistic whore who grew tired of his bored life of office and ran off to marry his lover!"
"My little one," Galadriel gently gripped Arwen's hand, "do not judge so harshly. There are things we do not yet understand."
"How must I judge him, grandmother? Here we are, fading of grief at his disappearance, blaming ourselves, and what of my Ada? He joyfully entertains himself in the hot embraces of that exotic bastard! I understand now," Arwen sobbed, "he never truly had a care for the life he lived! He always was a free-spirited being who married Nana for the sake of custom and merely fulfilled his duty raising us. In his heart and mind he was never faithful to Nana. It was you," Arwen accusingly pointed her hand at Gil-Galad, "you he loved, not Nana or us! We were mere errors, diversions! He never-"
In a brisk second Gil-Gald calmly walked up to Arwen, his large, flashing eyes met hers. Her head snapped to the side as the High King brought the back of his hand across her face. "One more word, I swear. I have no fear striking a woman."
"Who granted you the right to chastise me?" Arwen growled, "you would bend every law the elves hold sacred to return Ada to your bed! For you it is merely a matter of reclaiming lost territory! You care not that he is rightfully married to Nana, and you care less that you are leaving us, his children, without a cohesive family. What angers you more, oh the wise and proud High King, the fact that my Ada ran off or that Sazaar, not you, is the one he spreads his legs for now? Either way, he is a lowly traitor who betrayed our love and Nana. Whether he lies with you or with that man, it makes no difference to me. I curse you both." Arwen nodded to silent Celeborn and avoiding Galadriel's eyes she briskly exited the hall.
"King Elessar," Gil-Galad said coldly, "I ask you to see that your wife does nothing foolish. I doubt she will allow any elf near her now, but to you she will listen."
"I will speak with her," Aragorn agreed, picking up his pace to catch up to escaping Arwen.
"This knowledge cannot become public," Elrohir said quietly, "this will cause a scandal."
"It should!" Glorfindel objected. "Lord Elrond has gone crazy in his old age! Married, oh that unpredictable old horse! Has he no better sense than to marry that scoundrel? Of all the elves of Arda, Elrond must be the one to know that marriage is not a matter elves take lightly. Especially to one of Sauron`s servants!"
"Not all Haradrim worship the Dark Lord," Celeborn finally broke his long silence. "We must not assume that Sazaar does either. As for the marriage, it is a matter of ritual. It is not anything similar to the bond that joins Galadriel and me. Sazaar himself was married several dozen times and I doubt love was always his primary reason. It is merely a way to claim ownership over somebody, or be claimed by another, nothing more. It is no grounds to accuse Elrond of treason. Only when an elf consciously turns against his kin and murders them with intent and for a dark purpose can he be considered a traitor."
"I suspect Elrond is hardly at the center of all this madness," Galadriel's piercing eyes stared accusingly at Gil-Galad. "Would you not agree, dear Erenion?"
"Oh I know this has little to do with Elrond," Gil-Galad spat back, "Sazaar is angry at me! I admit to it! By giving him to his father I sentenced him to a hideous life and to get even he has taken what is most precious to me, my Elrond. And he married him to secure his hold on my beloved." The king sighed, "Granted, I created this curse, but I see no way out of this triangle!"
"I believe you are too quick to write this off as your shortcoming, sire," Erestor nervously flexed his fingers.
"Perhaps there is some wisdom in what Arwen said, after all. I observed Elrond for so long, toiling, day after day, for the good of Arda, for men, for elves, for his children. But such dedication takes its toll on the body and mind. I doubt not that he loves his offspring endlessly, but my king, there comes a time when an elf must attend to his own needs as well. Could it be that he simply needed rest from everything and the silent desert promised him that?"
"With a husband who lives in the desert and makes a living by whoring and killing?" Glorfindel snapped his tongue. "What a splendid way to rest one's mind, indeed! Curses! I cannot believe Elrond followed him unrestrained, not even attempting to escape. Senseless old goat! Was he hypnotized?"
"Someone with Sazaar's cleverness does not need chains to keep Elrond in place." Thranduil finally announced his presence to the tense group of elves who failed to notice his silent entrance. "The tragic story with his mother is all he needs to manipulate Elrond's guilt. Our dear peredhel is remarkably intelligent, but it is excessive kindness, not stupidity that befalls the most prudent elf. Elrond has a soft spot for suffering creatures and if your Sazaar is as smart as I assume he is, he will press on Elrond's conscience with complains about his lifelong misery. And Elrond will feel personally at fault for all that Sazaar complains about. A man with a hardened heart would send Sazaar to Sauron's underworld, where his wretched little soul belongs, but Elrond will comfort and pity him, and he will stay with him, out of sympathy, for as long as Sazaar sheds fake tears and begs him to stay."
"I am going." Elrohir suddenly said to nobody in particular. "I am. Yes."
"Where do you believe you are headed, young sir?" Glorfindel narrowed his eyes.
"Oh no." Celeborn shook his head in displeasure, his eyes wide with admonition. "Desperate as you are, Elrohir, abandon that idea. Immediately. You will lose your life long before you ever come close to finding them."
"I am past my majority," the twin declared defiantly, "and if there is one being for whom I will risk my life, it is Ada."
"I am going with you." Elladan reassuringly squeezed his twin's forearm.
"Over my stiff, dead body." Celeborn said calmly.
"You are planning to follow Sazaar, aren't you?" Gil-Galad's stare seemed strangely approving. His mind was well-aligned with those of the twins. "Yes. It is what must be done. But it is my duty, not yours, to risk death in the desert. I have seen the great Haradwaith and know enough about those who inhabit it. And I have much to resolve with Sazaar, while you do not. I can track him, you stay behind."
"Have we all gone insane?" Glorfindel let out a rasping laugh. "We must have. Indeed! My king, you must be jesting! The desert is full of belligerent, savage tribes that feast on manflesh! There are sand serpents, snakes, and Valar knows what else that inhabits the dunes! And have you any concept of the space the desert covers?"
"I am afraid our list of options is short," Thranduil beckoned the gathered elves closer to the table upon which he unrolled a wide map. "In those lands danger is never far, and I fear for Elrond's safety. But he is strong and agile, he can defend his body sufficiently against the enemies his eyes can see. It is the state of Elrond's mind that concerns me the most. Evil energy still rules the Harad and an elf living in those lands becomes misaligned with the Valar. His soul grows angry and corrupted, fearful and defiant of the light. All the dark emotions he may experience become magnified tenfold after a time. He forgets how to hope and to trust. The longer he stays, the more reluctant Elrond will be to return."
Thranduil lovingly traced the words on the soft beige paper of the map. "In my foolish pursuit of Gil-Galad's love I failed to understand what great pain I was causing to the one elf who was most kind to me. My cruelty induced his desire to flee this castle, where he belongs, and all that happened to my dear Elrond after that is my liability. I will go to the edge of the world to save him, if I must, because guilt will murder me otherwise."
"Ha! At last you admit to your mean-spirited nature!" Celeborn declared smugly. "But if Gil-Galad has at least a slim chance of sneaking past the savages, you and your luscious blond hair will attract the attention of slave-traders. Blonds bring great fortunes in the Harad."
"That is just it, the slave traders."
"Celeborn, the slave-traders, all Haradrim merchants, where do they go to sell and trade their goods?"
"To Bazhisha-Dar, my king," Celeborn sounded skeptical, "they call it the Jewel of the Far Harad." Gil-Galad stared at the map for a prolonged moment.
"Of course, the grand city where spicy wine and golden silks flow, as Cirdan used to say. In the Second Age the best amber and ivory came from there. Thinking back to the time I saw him, I recall that Sazaar spoke the common tongue flawlessly, a skill most Haradrim do not possess. He could also read. Such eloquence in languages is a sign of rare education that can only be received in a larger city. I do not believe he is a permanent desert-dweller. In all likelihood he resides in Bazhisha-Dar, and that is where he is headed. With Elrond." Gil-Galad's face brightened.
"Erestor, summon Cirdan to me. It seems as if I will be able to avoid your sand serpents after all, Lord Glorfindel."
"What," Glorfindel bristled, "you are planning to fly there?"
"No. Swim. Bazhisha-Dar is an oceanfront city. The sailing rout is well-established and I can sail there without much risk."
He exchanged meaningful stares with the eager twins. "With right men to aid me, this may end rather satisfactory."
"Why, this is madness!" Glorfindel announced, throwing his hands in the air. "The High King of Noldor is sailing to Bazhisha-Dar. A curse on you, Erenion! Bah. I am coming with you."
"We will discuss that later," Gil-Galad said, his mind already engaged in planning, "for now we need Cirdan and a ship sturdy enough to withstand the long journey."
"We are going in circles!" Elrond angrily threw off the heavy leather sack he carried. "I refuse to make another step!"
"How amusing. You lasted quite long without complaining, my starlight. Exercise transforms your temper rather delightfully. And that feral look of yours drives me mad." Elrond glared at Sazaar. "You will see what I mean when we reach the Reverie Oasis," Sazaar beckoned Elrond to follow him, "not that your appearance was lacking before, but now I could spend my entire days looking at you."
"Yes," Elrond effortlessly lifted the bag to his shoulders, "feral is the right word to describe my tangled up hair and dirty skin. I have no notion of time anymore. Slumbering the entire day with a belly full of snake and rabbit meat tends to do that to a well-cultured elf. Have I spoke of being denied the pleasures of showering! I reek like an Orc!"
"On the contrary, your natural scent is extremely arousing."
Sazaar was already at the top of the steep sand hill. "Behold, the fair Reverie Oasis."
Elrond squinted at the glare of the sand valley. Below the dune upon which they stood the yellowish sand gave way to fine glimmering white powder. It was a vision, the half-elf was convinced, for in the pink light of the early sunset the Oasis was a snapshot of a child's fantasy, not of a real place. A dozen of tall, tranquil palms swayed in the invisible wind. A half-circle of spacious white dwellings spread in a perfect row on the edge of a crescent-shaped lake. Emerald green climbing plants filled the spaces between the smooth-edged houses, their long lianas, heavy with white blossoms, hung low above the mirror-smooth surface of the clear water.
"Unbelievable," the half-elf remarked, "and I was convinced the Reverie Oasis was a figment of some traveler's thirsty imagination."
"Money can build the most magical things."
"You built it?" Elrond gasped.
"One of my husbands did, as a wedding present."
"Scoundrel. You never mentioned you had husbands as well as wives."
Cool water never felt so tranquilizing to the half-elf. He rested his head on the edge of the pool carved from white rock. His overgrown, thick hair floated in the water, naked body relaxed and peaceful in the warm glow of the sun. The scent of the flowers was rancid and intoxicating. It seeped into Elrond's nostrils like sweet poison, slowly decomposing his senses, diluting his thoughts with pleasurable visions. The Oasis was named quite appropriately, the elf-lord decided, absentmindedly massaging his tingling groin. He was unsure if any of the silent servants in white flowing garb were real beings, or if all of them were ghostly products of his mind. They floated in, pouring scented oils in his water, and vanished in a blink of an eye. Elrond's legs tensed in a cramp. He massaged harder, his eyes closed, lips kissing the light air. His body trembled from release as he whispered Gil-Galad's name.
"And you said you had no interest in sexual matters," Sazaar splashed some water in Elrond's face. The half-elf opened his eyes, trying to focus. "You really ought to thank me for returning you your youth," Sazaar sipped the steaming liquid from a large hollow shell. "Look up, you old snake. You will be impressed."
Elrond's intoxicated eyes focused on the mirror dome of the pool in which he rested. He touched his wet face with a disobedient hand. His visage glowed with renewed energy and vigor, the deathly paleness and dark circles of long-harbored worries were replaced by flawless, taunt skin. His ageless body grew leaner and firmer, his ivory skin felt lush and tinted with a mild golden tan. He did, in fact, look youthful, in a way he hasn't for centuries. Elves did not age in the way men did, but if they grew weary and worry-laden enough, their bodies begun to grow soft around the ages. Fortunately the effects could be reversed, but Elrond has not managed to do so with any of the conventional remedies. So what did it now? His questioning eyes examined Sazaar.
"Boredom murders a living being," the man smiled with the corners of his lips, "but boredom is a luxury of the wealthy and protected. Take away your pampered existence, make you hunt for your food and sleep when you are falling from exhaustion, not when the hour is late, and surprise, you have no time to grow bored anymore! Suddenly life revolves around survival. You are thankful for the smallest of graces and like never before every little thing that bears any pleasure is something to look forward to. Your mind is focused, your body is awake and tense, like that of a predator. Your best qualities are brought to light. See, how quickly you shed your layer of royal fat. You are a fascinating experiment."
"I miss my fluffy pillows and exquisite dinners," Elrond smiled back, "but I swear you added something to the brew we drink each night." Sazaar gently massaged Elrond's neck. Elrond relaxed under his touch that felt strangely assuring. "You have a strange intuition for sensing pain," the half-elf observed, "you always know what pains me and where. You mother was a healer, perhaps instead of being an assassin you ought to undertake that trade."
"I am a healer, Elrond," Sazaar continued to run his fingers down Elrond's spine, "but medicine at its best has great limitations."
"So ironic, you kill and save lives with the same two hands," Elrond murmured thoughtfully. "Your soul is a battleground of good and evil, Sazaar. Why won't you let the light win? You have the backbone to purge the world of much evil, why dedicate yourself to destroying it instead?"
"And who will purge me of evil, my wise Elven friend? You?" Elrond smirked, pinching his flat, muscular stomach. The little pouch of fat was gone. Oh. He pinched himself again. The sensation instantly traveled to his groin, causing tightening and tingling in his resting member. Elrond shifted. Water currents swirling around his legs had the same sweet effect. Almost anything did. The half-elf smiled. It felt incredibly rejuvenating to suffer in this desirous state. How long has it been since he felt the casual arousal?
"Your rejuvenating talents might make you worthy of my efforts."
"Do they, now? Well, I understand your painful urges. I will let you explore your assets in privacy."
"No, wait," Elrond felt increasingly light-headed, "I don't wish to fall asleep and drown. Come here. I must ask you something."
Sazaar adjusted the satin sheet tied around his hips and settled back down, next to Elrond. The half-elf carefully observed him for a moment.
"You loved your mate. Why did you marry me?"
"Who wouldn't wish to own such a fabulous being?" Sazaar ran his fingers through Elrond's wet hair, pausing to caress his neck.
He leaned in to smell his skin. "You bought me for sexual pleasures?" Elrond frowned. "Is that why you took such care that my best appearance was restored?"
"It is more complicated than that, midnight. I desired revenge, but I had no guts to kill your lover Gil-Galad when I had the chance. I inherited that reverence for him through my mother, I'm sure. But I couldn't give up on taking revenge either, and you, my pearl, were the perfect means to get at the High King where it hurt the most. Without battling him face to face. In addition, I wasn't willing to forgive you for coming between my mother and her intended husband. You wished to know about the ship. When I shot the arrow I meant to kill you alone, but my hand trembled. Still, I could not let you sail to the blessed lands and burning the ship was the only way to hinder that."
"You have accomplished all that you aimed to. You cut out the very heart of the High King, and you enslaved me, against my will. So tell me, are you content now?" Elrond searched the amber eyes that stared back at him.
"I never felt more rotten in my life. Your lordly presence cost me my lover and my tribe. It nearly cost me my life as well. You are one poisonous blessing."
"Well, that feeling is mutual." Elrond climbed out of the water and settled on the edge of the pool. His body felt weightless and relaxed. He spread his legs a bit to allow the cool airflow to caress his nude privates. He moaned quietly, rubbing his back on the rock column against which he leaned. This was becoming dangerous. What has become of the reserved elf lord you once were, where is your sense of propriety? His flesh did not obey. Elrond drew his eyes away from his slowly mounting arousal.
"You are an old promiscuous creature, Lord Elrond. Why not admit it?" Sazaar playfully tickled Elrond's inner thigh, causing his scrotum to contract. He then massaged the balls that fit snugly under Elrond's quickly erecting member. "You can't fight your body. I can smell it on your skin, you are willing like a cat in heat."
Elrond whispered a weak no, but his body betrayed him. Lust sent his muscles into spasms, his breathing quickened. Elrond saw the disapproving eye of the Valar, the energy of the light gathering in him, fighting, protesting. The memory of his days as the ruler of Rivendell returned once more. He heard a voice, feminine and distant, calling him, beseeching to remember his honor and his allegiance to his king. He envisioned Gil-Galad and the fresh shores of Grey Havens. I love you, my Erenion, I will never stop loving you, Elrond moaned from the aching desire that gripped his body. So strong was his wanting that his vision blacked out. He forcefully shut Galadriel out of his mind. Stay out of my affairs, my prying mother-in-law! The half-elf defiantly gritted his teeth. A dark, spiteful flower of rebellion blossomed in his mind, as his legs wrapped Sazaar's hips in a passionate embrace.
He felt Sazaar's darker, heavier presence in his mind. He was probing the half-elf's thoughts, invading his emotions. He is trying to drag me down with him, Elrond thought, desperately fighting to maintain control of his senses. As their bodies merged, their minds engaged in a tag of war and Elrond felt himself slipping. The light grew dimmer, his thoughts became defiant. Gil-Galad, he thought with malice, my most beloved and most unfaithful! You had no reservations about sharing your bed with another. King Thranduil's tight ass must have proved most pleasurable to your royal cock after a long abstinence in the Hall of Mandos! Well, I too have my needs. He bit into Sazaar's neck, drawing blood.
No, I must not think that, for my love of Gil-Galad supercedes my jealousy. Elrond trembled in pleasure, his pupils grew gigantic and focused on the mirror above them. They rolled like wild mating animals until both fell into the welcoming water of the pool. On the verge of drowning, Elrond hungrily clung to Sazaar, whose spasming cock burrowed deep into the peredhel's body. You won't drag me into the darkness, Elrond aggressively reciprocated their passionate caresses, forcing his lover beneath himself. You will not lead me away from the light. On the contrary, I will force you to follow me out of the darkness!
"The light, my son, you stand perilously close to the abyss of darkness. Valar's mercy runs thin, seek redemption for the blood that stains your hands and your soul may still avoid the pit of hopelessness. Awaken, I bid you, hear my voice!" Sazaar squinted against the blinding light. Mother. Cold sweat trickled down his temples. He sat up, fighting the wave of panic and vertigo that nearly caused him to vomit. I am going mad, it is beginning to show. He bit down on his quivering lip, trying to quiet his shuddering hands.
"What is it?" the peredhel lazily shifted his eyelids.
"I am going insane, midnight. That is all. I am scared."
"Oh how touching," Elrond said yawning, "that a being with your level of reserve sometimes succumbs to hysteria. Sazaar?" The half-elf examined the man with a less derisive look. "I am beginning to feel uneasy."
"My mother's influence on my father was stunning. After their love flourished he was altered into a new being. Her Elven grace forced him to reform his path and that of his people. He came west to fight in the War of the Last Alliance, but after he met mother he commanded the tribe to leave the western lands, breaking his allegiance to Sauron. He defied the Dark Lord and outlawed the sacrificial killings his tribe had practiced for centuries. For me he was a gentle and loving parent. For years I knew not of hunger or despair, I fell asleep in his arms watching the stars and believing that one day I would break the Dark Lord's hold on the men of Haraad. But then the paranoia started; the feverish surges of fear made my sire agitated and suspicious. His mind decayed and his temper grew cruel and violent. He became like a rabid animal. He murdered his most trusted companions and consumed their flesh. It is the fate that befell all men in my lineage. It is my future as well." Sazaar closed his quivering eyelids.
"How do you know for certain? There is no need to fear doom because you woke up from a nasty nightmare."
"Cold sweat, Elrond. It is the first sign of the end."
"Strange that you are so uneasy, I feel so secure in this paradise," the elf-lord settled back into the warmth of the luxurious pelt spread on the floor nearside the pool. "Come rest, it will pass. Bid the servants to bring cold wine, it will sooth your nerves."
"Servants? We are alone here, Elrond. Only the bones and the spirits dwell in the Reverie Oasis." The half-elf looked questioningly at Sazaar's disturbed face.
"Why did you bring me here if death lives in these walls? You planned to kill me here, did you not? And you decided to grant me a last glance at beauty before you slashed my throat. And I shared my body with you. How funny, how tragic, I even imagined, as you put it, purging you of evil. Valar, can an old elf be kind to absurdity?"
"Hush," the Southorn placed his slender finger to Elrond's angry lips, "I wanted to destroy you so many times, but I never could."
"You certainly have no trouble destroying others without regret."
"A blind creature does not fear the dark, Elrond. In the days when I lived in pain and rage I feared nothing and regretted nothing. You have purged me in a way. I woke up scared senseless because I am no longer oblivious to who I have become and to what I have done. I wanted to break you, but your energy is powerful beyond all that I ever encountered. It brought back to life something I thought had died a long time ago - my conscience. Regret is such painful and ugly emotion. You revived it."
"I find it strange how it never occurred to you before that you are an evil creature with a shallow, wretched soul. You do have much to regret, indeed, but don't look my way for pity, Sazaar. My reserves of compassion are exhausted. If I revived your conscience, then I am glad of it. I hope guilt eats you alive, and I pray to Valar that it does so slowly."
Meanwhile in Mithlond...
"Your dagger, my lover," Erestor handed the short blade with a silver handle into the hand of solemn Glorfindel, "may it keep you safe." They hugged passionately. Glorfindel buried his nose in the silk of Erestor's black hair, kissing the dark softness. He had no doubt about the undertaking, it was his duty, something he owed to Elrond as an old friend, but beneath his pompous pride he was frightened and uneasy. He battled a Barlog and died once in its wicked flames, but he was more edgy now, having to face the unknown, than he ever was standing before the fiery beast. "Remember, you must cover your hair at all times, for the eyes of slave traders will be evaluating your golden beauty. And abandon your greediness, my love, I know you have an eye for that which sparkles. But promise me that you will not seek any precious trophies from the Haradrim traders. I want nothing brought from that distant land, only Elrond. And you. Alive."
Glorfindel chuckled at Erestor's undue protectiveness and lovingly plucked off the fingers that were clutching onto the front of his tunic. "I am not going into battle, for stars' sake, Erestor,
I am merely taking another trip. See it as that. Nothing more." "Your anger is boiling below your skin, beloved, and I worry that in your rage you may act against wisdom. You are intruders in those lands, one wrong word may cause disaster. Please, swear to me that regardless of the circumstances you will not permit anger to rule you."
"I dare not to disobey my king," Glorfindel said defiantly, "if Gil-Galad desires to capture Sazaar alive, then his word is the law. He might lose all his teeth, but I won`t strangle him."
A few feet away Gil-Galad nodded in satisfaction.
"She is a warrior beauty worthy of gods, such ships are rare in this day."
"She will serve you well, my king," Cirdan drew his gaze away, "it is the least I could offer."
"Cirdan," Gil-Galad took one of the older elf's hands and placed it gently on his chest, right above the heart. "You granted me the love of a true sire and I adore you too deeply to keep grudges against you. I leave my crown in your hands once more. If it is the Valar's will that I do not return, I know of no other elf whose head will be more deserving to wear it. Stir my kingdom on true course for as long as you are willing and when the time comes for you to sail west, seek another to take the reigns for you. But chose wisely this time. No more greedy men." Cirdan smiled, nodding.
"Gil-Galad," Celeborn approached the king, accompanied by two slender, golden-skinned youth in a foreign garb. "These are Fahray and Irzen, the noble sons of the pearl trader from the Far Harad," the silver elf introduced the two young men. "Their family brought the greatest of the ocean gifts to Lothlorien for centuries and these men have my full trust. Upon your arrival their sire will gladly welcome you as his guests and will provide you with guidance and protection during your stay. These lads know Bazhisha-Dar like the back of their hands and can lead you to the home of Sazaar, for they are personally acquainted with the man and know his habits."
"I thank you in advance," Gil-Galad nodded to the men as they walked past him to board the ship. "How can I ever pay you back for this, my Celeborn. Without the aid of your friends we would be acting in the blind."
"Bring Elrond back to me," Celeborn said, gripping Gil-Galad in a hearty embrace. "Keep safe and watch over my grandchildren," he planted a small kiss on Gil-Galad's neck. "It will ruin me to lose any one of you. And please," Celeborn captured Gil-Galad's eyes with his warm, yet demanding stare, "bid Thranduil to stay behind. You are inviting disaster by bringing him along. His intentions are suspect, and his presence will complicate things unnecessarily."
"He served me well, Celeborn, and he-"
"And was it not Thranduil's loyal service to your cock that made Elrond flee in the first place? They have bad blood between them, Gil-Galad, and your stubborn refusal to recognize it only aggravates the problem. Thranduil's presence will remind Elrond of what he was escaping and he may refuse to return."
"Celeborn, Elrond is not a runaway elfling, enjoying his time in a valley of roses! He is a miserable slave, a belonging, kept against his will by sinister hands. Why would he not desire to be freed? It's absurd."
"Do not assume he is a mistreated captive, Gil-Galad. And do not be arrogant enough to dismiss your infidelity to him as unimportant. He was angry at you when he left Mithlond and he still feels bitter. If you drag Thranduil along as if nothing took place between you two, Elrond may declare his marriage to Sazaar valid, just to incite your jealousy. The moment he utters those words the Valar may grant them a marital blessing and they will be bound for all ages to come. You will never separate them then."
"And that, Lord Celeborn, is a choice that is Elrond's to make, not yours." Thranduil calmly approached the elves, carrying an elegant jug of Elven wine. "For good fortune and safe journey," he raised the jug to his lips.
"No, thank you, King Thranduil, I believe I had enough of your well-wishing." Celeborn granted Gil-Galad one last meaningful glance. "The odds of sharing your eternity with Elrond are already not exactly in your favor, leave your arrogance and jealousy behind. Do not destroy your own dream." He silently took his leave.
"The ship is ready, my king we are awaiting you. All else is aboard."
Gil-Galad examined the slender golden-haired elf who stood before him, his body clad in well-fitted traveling garb. His gracefully shaped legs were well-served by the suede fabric of his leggings that made his body appear elastic and flawlessly smooth. Thranduil's appeal was irresistible. His features combined in them the youthful mischievousness so obvious in Legolas and the settled calmness and confidence gained in his mature age.
"Gil-Galad," Thrandul's pink tongue briskly moistened his sensual lips, "we must haste to depart. A storm may come soon."
"Yes indeed," Gil-Galad took the wine jug out of Thranduil's hand and poured its contents in his suddenly dry mouth, "we must."
Gil-galad still contemplated Celeborn's words as he bid farewell to Erestor and the small group of elves who came to see them sail off. His eyes rested on the twins, who were still lustfully squeezing the slender frame of Legolas.
"I cannot say I truly envy you," Legolas said, planting a brisk kiss on Elrohir's lips, "this cruel ordeal must be a living nightmare for you. But to see Bazhisha-Dar with your own two eyes... what a gift it is for an elf confined in this corner of the world."
"I am aflame with curiosity," Elladan grinned, "I can make peace with a second stepfather if he lets me into his splendid harem of whores! Ouch!" Elrohir viciously slapped Elladan's face, shoving his brother to the side. "Make peace?! He forced Ada into servitude and...a harem of whores! I am telling Gil-Galad."
"You must keep faithful to your honorable upbringing, dear Elladan," Gil-Galad, who had to smile as the devilish nature of the elder twin he already learned to regard as his own offspring, suggested coyly. "These exotic beauties you dream of may carry rotting diseases that will leave you without your pride. Come now, it is time to depart."
The image of the wondrous white refuge of the Reverie Oasis turned into a distant memory as days of endless walking in the thick golden sands grew into weeks. Desert travel was a mortifyingly grueling task for Elrond's active mind. For infinite miles in all directions there was nothing except smooth dunes with an occasional snake trail zigzagging its way across the surface. Not one being stirred, the world was silent and empty under the merciless boiling sun. Elrond never heard such silence, it was foreign for the keen Elven ear to hear nothing at all and with the background of menacing quiet his mind trailed off once again in many dangerous directions. Sometimes Elrond froze, focusing his eyes on the empty space where his mind painted elaborate scenes, some of carnage, some of festivities. In this state he once imagined that his dear Arwen walked alongside him, carrying a sleeping child in her arms. But she vanished as soon as Elrond turned his head to face the ghost. His last vision was that of Arwen's son, little and well-groomed, prancing around and beckoning the half-elf to follow. Elrond blinked his eyes to chase the image away.
The thought of his daughter nearly brought wetness to his eyes, for he often pictured her while watching the desert sky at night. He saw Arwen in her childhood, fair and restless like a wondrous dragonfly. He remembered how she loved to sleep on his back and kiss his hair in her sleep, whispering simple poetry. She was once his daughter to the last hair on her head, but no more. She belonged to death now, it was only a matter of time before it came to claim her.
His mind longed for conversation. He never went so long without speaking. It was a frightening state of mind for an elf, this state of internal turbulence and apprehension, of wanting to bolt at every noise. What would it do to me to live in this barren land for years? For centuries? Elrond shuddered. He could not name a single elf who was sure to withstand it, not his fierce sons, not brave Glorfindel, in all likelihood, not even Gil-Galad himself. And yet he, a half-elven being so often deemed lesser for his blood impurity, seemed to adopt rather admirably. His ageless body was at the peak of its agility, each one of his muscles was strengthened and stretched to the point of perfection. He balanced his weight flawlessly; his walk, like that of a desert cat, was smooth and efficient. He could not remember the time when he felt as attuned with his hot, sensitive flesh as he did now.
It is a tragedy, Elrond thought, flexing the large muscles in his buttocks as he climbed yet another dune, that such remarkable sensuality developed here, at the edge of the known world. He imagined what would one of his famous mating fits with Gil-Galad feel like now. The intensity of intercourse would be deadly, for his body was fully awakened and he cold make love with every one of his cells, sensing the full extent of the pleasure. Yes, Elrond trembled in elevating sexual elation just picturing the way his lover's enormous pride would enter his tender depths, he could die in the passionate embraces of his king. But Gil-Galad was on the other side of this cursed land, and Elrond's self-proclaimed owner smugly refused to socialize.
"Am I doomed to live out my days without speaking another word!" Elrond finally protested, angrily stirring up sand. "This is ludicrous!"
"I believe last time we spoke you wanted nothing to do with my evil nature. I am thinking. Leave me at peace."
"Aye, come now! I did not mean it that way." Elrond shook his head dramatically. His neck felt burdened from the weight of his hair that has grown beyond all acceptable length and was now pinned up with a long arrow. "I thought about what you said. I do not understand it, but I do believe you are sincere for once."
"How gracious of you. I still do not feel like talking."
"I feel you."
"Feel me?" Sazaar laughed quietly, shaking his own overgrown mane. Elrond noticed that his natural hair appeared to be auburn with slight reddish highlights. The bizarre spotted colors were dyed onto the hair, and the paint was washing off. Given the proper grooming he could indeed look like an elf, the peredhel decided.
"Elves sense each other's presence in a very intuitive way," he said after momentary consideration, "I sense you very strongly now. I never used to before. It is a curious feeling. And there is something else."
"You said I altered you, I want to understand how."
"Beyond that chain of dunes, Elrond, is Bazhisha-Dar. I have grand plans for you, my pearl, and you will have all the time in the universe to contemplate that question. We can even stage a few more experiments to see if this `feeling' of yours intensifies."
Elrond snorted in mounting irritation. He suddenly felt cocky and aggressive, a feeling rather unnatural for an elf with his peaceful and kind predisposition. But then it was becoming the norm for Elrond to experience his emotions with increased intensity. He did not grow annoyed, he became very furious and very quickly, and when he did he immediately went on the offensive.
"You will not utilize my body for such things," he hissed, "unless you strangle me first and than rape my dead corpse. I have only one king, and my body and mind remain loyal to him!"
"And is his mind and body still loyal to you?" Sazaar slowed his pace to examine Elrond with an unreadable smile. "It is almost humorous to observe your indignant anger. You were a pathetic concubine with no rights in the High King's court, and still you defend your allegiance to him as if your life depended on the matter. Your attachment to him is damaging to your spirit if you ask me, but what do I know about that miraculous higher love?"
"I do not expect you to understand," Elrond returned the stare with vengeance. "You loved and you lost before, but you have never known the love for another immortal to whom you are tied for eternity, regardless of what you do! You were able to move past the loves you buried, and you loved again and again. I couldn't, I still cannot, even though the one I love is forbidden from returning my affection by custom and royal obligation. I am doomed to forever be that `pathetic concubine' as you put it, and there is neither hope nor mercy to be expected from the Valar."
"Oh yes, the Valar, the all-knowing and the all-seeing guardians of immortal time." Sazaar smirked in disgust, wrinkling his nose. "Desert lily, I hate to disturb the surface of your ancient wisdom, but has it ever occurred to you that you ought to blame the High King, not the Valar, for turning you into a royal court whore? He is too terrified of the Elven nobility to marry you properly and that is what kept you in this demeaning status. The Valar cares little about you or who you lay with."
"I see your point, yet, you highly underestimate the power the Valar has over our destiny."
"Oh those wise Elven gods. Where was their damned guidance when Middle Earth hungered for their good advice? I am sure you worshiped rather ardently throughout the ages and still you lost thousands of your kin in wars you fought for the good of mankind. Why did the Valar refrain from exercising its `great powers' in order to spare you elves the pain of bloodshed and loss? I should think in the mortal world your people would be most deserving of its graces."
"You are treading dangerous ground with such reasoning, my dear friend," Elrond watched the glow in Sazaar's eyes, deciding if he should probe deeper. The man seemed calm and composed, but inside him lived the spirit of the fierce Uruk-hai and generations of hot-blooded desert dwellers. He was not to be angered beyond reason, but the subject interested the half-elf immensely. Sazaar showed blatant contempt for Sauron and The Dark Lord, worshiped by most Haradrim, and he seemed to hold no interest in the pagan gods of the East as well. So where was his truth? Elrond looked again to the expression on the face of his companion.
"No, Elrond," Sazaar added thoughtfully, "I do not share your enthusiasm for worshiping the gods that care little if not at all about the beings that pray for their love."
"Do you really have no faith?" Elrond's eyes grew slightly wild, as he was taken off guard by such bold and rare remark. "You really know not of the Valar that guides the lives of the Firsborn, Sazaar?" The half-elf carefully watched the man, focusing on the shifting expression of his tightening features.
"Oh I know all about the Valar. And the Valar knows about me. I had no peace for that precise reason. I speak thirty-three tongues, Elrond, all main dialects, common to men and halflings. Even Elvish. I can name backwards each elf in each great family, each marriage, each death, each date of birth. I read more volumes than you have hairs on your gorgeous body, but what good does the great lore bring? See over there," Sazaar pointed to the distant dune where a gigantic statue of menacing black rock towered above the sand, "there is fresh blood on that altar, Elrond, meant to appease the Dark Lord, and the rituals have not ceased for thousands of years. I could bring my people literacy, but I could not teach them to resist the shadow. You tell me what I must believe? If the light is good, then why did I lost the war for their souls?"
"Maybe I am beginning to understand," said Elrond looking at the mythical outline of Bazhisha-Dar. "I often wondered why, for all your seemingly hopeless flaws, you have such powerful and overwhelming ability to resist the forces that consume all others. You said your father was a great and courageous reformer, and it is his blood that runs through your veins. Your war for the souls of your people is not lost unless you chose to walk the path of darkness, Sazaar. Just trust in the fact that the Valar makes no error, that in the grand scheme of things it all does make sense."
"Another one of your grand speeches Lord Elrond. Now walk," Sazaar ordered, hassling the half-elf along, "I smell the wind changing. There will be a storm tonight."
Elrond's heart accelerated its beat as they closed the distance to the white gates of the lustrous port city. They were open, he saw, and a steady chains of caravans floated in like apparitions from the desert roads encircling the port. The sand gave way to a road paved with fine ocean pebbles and fresh ocean winds chased away the desert's angry heat. As they walked through the gates the guards greeted Sazaar with silent reverence, bowing their heads and spreading their arms in a speechless welcome. Elrond felt small in the monstrous buzzing beehive of the strange city. He was overwhelmed by the rush of sounds from a million voices, the sight of an endless array of colors, and the entrancing blend of scents. The streets were crowded with exotic travelers. There were warriors and beggars, traders and prisoners, gypsies, beggars, prostitutes, and kings. They mingled in the sea of bright fabric and lush pelts, quickly exchanging gold for every imaginable good. Everything from beaded satin slippers to virgin bodies was for sale here at the right price.
As they advanced through the streets Elrond felt the evaluating glares of the men who gathered in small groups to converse outside their dwellings. They were fine lords, dressed in flowing garments of light silks and fine linens, and their eyes openly caressed the body of the scantily-clad peredhel. Then there were women, medium in height and hearty in frame, with slim waists, large rounded breasts and luscious hips, elegantly covered with folds of their delicate dresses. Some had their faces concealed with light veils, while others kept their features at full display, and all of them followed Elrond with their wide, expressive eyes. Their smiles were mythical and knowing, as if these enchantresses could read minds. They weaved their way to the narrow unguarded gate in the towering fence and pushing through the thicket of grape wines they entered a wide marble terrace. Elrond looked in amazement at the spread of the dwelling that stood before him. It was, by all measure, a palace, encircled with intricate balconies connected with stairs and rows of delicate statues suspended on pearly pedestals. On the far side the house was tightly surrounded by lush jungle vegetation, while the western side offered a spectacular view of the ocean waves crushing into the shore. There were miniature waterfalls that channeled crystal water into a vast pool at the center of the marble terrace.
Elrond gasped as his eyes focused on the spotted fur of a bizarre animal that casually drunk water from one of the splendid water fountains. It was a mountain lynx. Elrond sucked in his breath, watching the magnificent creature in all its beauty. The lynx were the elves of the animal world. Wise, immortal, and mysterious, these grand felines were said to inhabit the snowy mountains of Middle Earth since before the firstborn awakened, but only the luckiest of beings ever had the opportunity to observe them. Legend had it that the elves departing for the blessed lands have lured their animal counterparts away with them and Elrond had come to regard that as the truth, for the last cat he ever laid his eyes upon was the one his wife Celebrian tamed in her youth. It was the young lynx cub that ran home to alert Elrond of the misfortune that had befallen his beloved and it was the same cub that lead the twins to where the Orcs have taken their mother. But the kitten vanished soon thereafter.
"Selga!" Sazaar called to his feline companion. "Do not bite." He motioned for Elrond to follow him further. Selga did not move from her resting place by the pool, only her furry bobbed tail stirred slightly in acknowledgement of her keeper. Passing by Elrond had to marvel at Sazaar's audacity to attempt taming such an animal.
Mountain lynx were the only natural enemies of the vicious Wargs and rivaled the monsters in size and power. They leapt fearlessly over canyons men had to built bridges to cross and could outrun the fastest of stallions. Selga was not yet fully grown, but Elrond surmised that he could ride on her back with ease.
"I assume you have great affection for animals," Sazaar continued, seeing Elrond's cautious evaluation of the lynx's deadliness.
"Depends on how much affection they have for me," Elrond could not stop nervously looking over his shoulder.
"Selga will reside in your quarters, to keep you company." Sazaar smiled cruelly at Elrond's dejected expression. "She is an amiable lady, if you know how to scratch behind her ear, and one cannot ask for a more formidable and vigilant guard. She can smell you from miles away, her eyes are keen and hearing flawless. She can break through rock walls, climb the tallest trees, swim like a shark, run faster than your legs could carry you and sever your limbs off with one bite. She will eat you alive if you attempt escaping, so do not test her patience."
Elrond silently bit his lower lip. His plans of eventually seeking his freedom were now seriously flawed. In fact he had to reconsider the plan entirely, but for now all his body longed for was slumber. He took no notice of the halls through which he advanced on his way to his destination and only when his dirty skin felt the coolness of the lush silk sheets did he become aware of his stalker. He stared at the two sapphire glowing eyes that calmly observed him from the dim corner. The lynx was watching his every more, her shifting nose glistening in the shadow. Outsmarting Sazaar was a tricky matter, but evading this creature would require a special approach. Hearing the half-elf's thoughts the lynx rose up and walked closer to the bed. Selga bared her terrifying fangs in a silent hiss and settled right beneath the bed, both shiny irises drilling into Elrond. This was torture, he decided with disgust. It was impossible to rest when the monster lie so close, ready to rip you into pieces if you moved too suddenly. Long torturous minutes passed before the exhausted half-elf finally slid into a nervous, shallow sleep.
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