Elrohir stared hard at his opponent, but having found himself close enough to Sazaar to smell his heated breath he suddenly had nothing to say. All the words seemed too inadequate to describe what he felt for the being before him. He did not hate him, it was something altogether different.
"What have you done to father?" Elrohir finally hissed through gritted teeth. "You thief!"
"Granted, dear child," Sazaar smiled unpleasantly, letting his hand travel down the young elf's side, "I am many things, darling one. Here, take this." Elrohir tensed under Sazaar's probing touch, feeling something hard and cool press against his chest. His eyes trailed down to see the handle of a crescent-shaped dagger Sazaar offered him. "You desire my death, Elrohir, then take my life. You will do me a favor." His eyes were hypnotizing, they captured the young elf's senses like a magnet and held him at bay. In horror Elrohir felt his heart beating as though it would soon burst and his arousal tightening without his control. His shirt stuck uncomfortably to his back as his body moistened with cool sweat. He grabbed the handle in a flash of fury, but he could not kill him, no matter what he resolved to do before. Sazaar's powers were extraordinary and his sexuality absolutely monstrous, Elrohir decided, forcing himself to look away. Just standing near made the young elf lightheaded and unnaturally sensual. This is the worst enemy I will ever encounter, Elrohir thought shifting away, I am totally disarmed. What is wrong with my senses? He observed Sazaar momentarily, trying to determine if the fatal attraction was biological or the result of some dark magic.
"You are a damned witch," he gasped, "I know what you want! You will not dare touch me! You can seduce anyone, but not me!" Sazaar suggestively massaged Elrohir's lower stomach, planting a brief kiss on his neck.
"A hair-thin line separates hatred and desire, they say. You will come to me yourself in due time. For now, my cowardly one, run home. And do tell your equally cowardly king to come and take what he came here for. I am tired of waiting." He vanished like a midday hallucination, leaving Elrohir struggling to catch his breath.
Elrond set aside the leather-cased volume he mindlessly flipped through for what seemed to be an eternity. Where was Sazaar? The buzzing of the sand clock had long ceased, and the day was aging as the air grew heavy and the sunlight developed a reddish midday glow. Menacing long shadows crept up the terrace. In his brief spells of sleep Elrond dreamed of a day just like this one, with the same nauseating heat and weighty air, when the men and elves of the Last Alliance breathed heavily as they prepared their weapons, awaiting in silence for the siege of Mordor to begin. He was young then, and already sick to his stomach from the smell and sound of war, from the sticky feel of blood on his fingers and the disgusting feel of flesh being slit by his sword. Making war was never his calling, but it was Gil-Galad's passion and Elrond followed him blindly, into the heat of battle. He sat in silence, asking, searching so discover if the same mad obsession he felt then was still there now, one marriage and three children later, when years have glazed over the wounds and time eroded the sharpness of the memories. What would he say to his king now, if their eyes met right this second? Would he run to him, seek his embrace, or stay put and wait for his lover to come to him?
He stood up to walk into the creeping shadows. It seemed nearly implausible that they should ever meet again, that they should ever be one as they once were. Now he suffered as doubt haunted him at night. He thought of the burning pain and frequent moments of loneliness he endured in the name of love, he remembered the numerous sacrifices he has made for his king, the words and ugly stares he ignored, the whispers he chose not to hear. And yet in all this sea of misery the High King always seemed unwilling to fully share the burden of commitment. Indeed he was reckless when it came to love, playing with hearts as though they were unbreakable, and in this way he and Sazaar were in the same boat. His mother, too, once had the great misfortune of loving Gil-Galad too much.
That particular matter disturbed the half-elf most gravely, especially when he observed Sazaar in his rare but utterly pitiful moments of tearful sadness. He kept his afflictions private for the most part, unwilling to subject Elrond to such raw emotion, but having witnessed one such event Elrond refused to leave his side, fearing that his ill-fated companion might attempt to end his misery by violent means. No other creature Elrond knew of could ever suffer so much, for the darkness of Sauron's forces and the light of the Elven blood ran together in his veins. He was utterly alone, trapped between two warring worlds and doomed to outlive everyone he cared for. So why did the Valar permit this? The half-elf mused as he considered the unusual circumstances surrounding Sazaar's birth. What were the chances that such a thing would ever happen? And why, if his birth was indeed a tragic mistake, did the Valar grant him immortality? He sighed heavily, wondering as he slowly strode along, if the greatest love of his life was also the greatest error in the late Elven history. Things would have been so different had he kept himself out of the king's bed on that fateful night.
"What was I thinking," Elrond mumbled in self-chiding. Hearing someone enter the half-elf turned sharply to raise his eyebrow at the uninvited stranger.
"Damned miracle, my eyes must be failing me! An elf. In Sazaar's palace. Bah, well the old cobra's tastes are growing more capricious with age!" Elrond stared at a darkened face skewed by a hideous smile. Another scowl of yet another villain he has seen before, decades ago, but not long enough to forget. Red scourge they called him, for his burn scar and obsession with fire, and for the red marks his soldiers left on foreheads of those they captured and branded like cattle. He was a large man, nearly a giant in his own right, for he was taller than most elves and burly as a bull. His origin was in the lands where the sun rose each dawn, far in the East, the home of the fierce race of common humans whose harsh tempers earned them a reputation far worse than that of the cunning Southorns. These were the men of cold steel and stone harts, with slightly slanted eyes that neither blinked nor showed mercy. Elrond frowned in apprehension. The proud Easterlings despised the Haradrim almost as much as the western men and no good cause every forced them to seek out their Southern neighbors.
"Where is he?" The man demanded, stalking closer and flexing the fingers on his wide hand. His massive muscles shifted beneath his rich armor.
"He leaves without notifying me about his intentions. I cannot be of any use to you," Elrond said with unnatural iciness.
"You cannot," the man made one step closer, "or will not?" He towered menacingly before the defiant half-elf. "I am not used to asking the same question twice."
"Stay your temper," Sazaar appeared behind Elrond, pale as a deathly shadow, "and dare not speak to him in such manner. Leave us," he whispered to Elrond in a tone that made the half-elf's blood run cold. "If you are wise, leave." Elrond hesitated. He planned to speak with Sazaar, and he had much to say, but this bizarre intervention proved to be an even greater blessing. Satisfied that Sazaar was fully occupied with his visitor, Elrond was now free to seek out his sons in the house of Lord Izhmier.
Elladan searched frantically for the sight of his twin in the faces lit by the reddish glow of the dying daylight. Hundred curses! He turned around, panicking as he dissolved in apprehension. He slept so long and so well that he hardly recalled that moment sometime near afternoon when his brother awakened him. He shrugged him off then, unaware that the predator he feared would come searching and would lure his revenge-driven Elrohir out of the safety of Lord Izhmier's home. His brother was born to be the keeper of peace, a brave creature that often shun away from the use of force if other means were available. So why now, when good reason was most needed, did Elrohir chose to openly take on an opponent he could not take down. Or could he? Elladan sighed, aimlessly walking down the paved road. It wasn't likely. Sazaar has made a profession out of his warrior skills, his strange heritage gave him a physiological edge in speed and power, and his harsh lifestyle had given him the knowledge no Elven training could replicate. In a fair match Elrohir stood no chance. Elladan imagined his twin dead, lying lifeless in a sandy hole of a grave. No, he shook his head. He would have felt it if Elrohir was injured. Perhaps all was well, but if so, why hadn't Elrohir returned yet? Sick with worry he paused momentarily to throw a pensive glance at a slice of the desert visible through a viewing window in the city's main wall.
"This can't be what I think!" he narrowed his eyes at the spiked-roof tents that covered the sands for a good distance. He has seen tents like these before, but they were characteristic of the Easterling horsemen, not the Haradrim. "As if the Haradrim weren't enough, what are these demons looking for here? Hundreds of them!" He uttered an ugly human word and settled despondently on a lonely rock at the curbside. Just as he feared matters were spinning out of control. A large company of Easterlings outside the city meant negotiations were being conducted and regardless of their ultimate purpose, any alliance of the two fierce races still angry at Sauron's demise and forever hungry for the Western riches spelled yet another threat for the rest of Arda.
"Elrohir, Elrohir," Elladan whispered despondently, "you were right. This land of men is doomed to eternal war. They need no dark lord to cannibalize and threaten one another." He rested his head on his tired arms, permitting his hair to fall out of its bind.
"Elladan," the young elf shuddered at the suddenly gentle touch. "My child, forgive me!"
Surprised into a momentary shock Elladan slid from the rock into Elrond's firm embrace, sobbing like an elfling awakened from a night terror. He held on desperately to that silky black hair, and he rubbed his head and cheeks against his father's chest as a long-lost pup who has at last found his owner. "Elladan," Elrond smoothed the hair away from his son's forehead, holding his face still for a moment of disbelief, "don't speak, please, don't speak, listen."
"Ada how can I!" Elladan cried, "every minute, every sunrise I passed without you, every hunt I went to without you...All I regretted is never speaking! Never telling you I adore you. I adore you so much I wish I could hold on to you forever, and be just as you are...oh Ada you hardly realize how much your absence has taught me! Valar, I hardly knew the meaning of word `love' until..."
"You will be thankful to Sazaar then," Elrond smiled, planting a gentle kiss above Elladan's hairline. "Where are the others? Your brother? Gil-Galad?"
"I know not, Ada. Please, let us not talk of them. Can we not?"
"Selfish pup, you always have been. My son, listen, I have so much to-"
But Elladan was relentless. He blabbered on about each and every thing that came to his mind as he sat embracing Elrond, drunk on happiness and fearful that at any moment he would open his eyes and see another reality.
"Father?" he finally asked, suddenly aware that Elrond's gaze focused somewhere beyond Elladan's head. "Are you listening!"
"Valar, he brought an entire army with him!" Elrond whispered, seeing the field of small fires being lit outside the city. "Elladan I must go. I must return."
"You must be hypnotized," Elladan's voice suddenly grew bitter. He untangled himself from the half-elf's embrace and stood up. "You wish to return to him? Ada please-"
"There are matters that I must understand, Elladan," Elrond responded with equal harshness. "Matters bigger than me, or you. The Easterlings outside, before I left I saw their commander. He came to speak with Sazaar. My heart is not set right about this child, the Easterlings, they want to forge an alliance I know it! I saw it in dreams, my son, I felt it, dark times are coming. The West is still weak, Gondor is still weak. If they unite and attack...who will stop them? I must speak with Sazaar about this."
"Who is concerned with them! Aye, Adar they have been fighting since the dawn of times, that is what men do! To hell with the Easterlings, the Haradrim, all men, forget about them for once! Ada this is not our war! You are safe and unharmed, that is all we prayed for. Come with me, can you for once simply walk away? Please," Elladan resorted to tearful begging, "I had my dreams too, I saw blood Adar, pools of it! Ada, I sense your life is in grave danger! If you become involved with this matter, you may not live to tell about it! I will never ask for anything more! Let us just go!"
"Return to Lord Izhmier's home and tell Erenion to send orders for the ship to be loaded with provisions and ready to sail on captain's notice," Elrond said sternly. "There is no such thing as a war that scars some and leaves others untouched, Elladan. You and I will leave Arda one day, but your sister and those born to her will face the world we leave behind. I do not wish for my grandchildren to inherit a barren land scorched by war and plundered by these invaders! If there is one damn thing that I can do to influence history, then I cannot run away like a coward." He gently touched Elladan's heated face. "There is Valar's will in each thing that comes. Do as I ask and soon enough we all will find our peace. One more thing," he hesitated, "tell Gil-Galad that he is still my only king." He embraced his son with restrained passion and determinately walked into the darkness.
"A predator may be loathed by those beneath him in the chain of feeding, and the sight of his kill may well be frightening and hideous to see. And yet, yet it is his tooth and claw that guard the privacy of the wild forest and keeps the balance of all things in check." Lord Izhmier paused before a towering fountain shaped to resemble a snow-peaked mountain. "Countless generations of our men died in deep blindness, having seen neither hope nor light. Like animals they fought out their disputes and ate one another's flesh, seeking to devour the rival's spirit. There were no courts. No bathing waters. No written volumes. This city was no more than a mad brothel surrounded by crumbling walls. Look about you, my lord, all that is white and eternal here, from the birthing halls to the courts of trial, was built here at his command and with his blessing."
"So had you been standing in my place," said Gil-Galad evaluating the pensive expression of his host, "you would not-"
"I would do good. Not evil," the man responded mysteriously, averting the High-King's scrutinizing eyes. "That's all. You will need him, as much as he will need you."
"There is no easy method of defining `good' in regards to the man who caused me more grief than Sauron himself," the elf admitted with bitterness, squinting his eyes at the excruciating headache that invaded his head as though a blade was lodged into his skull. The Valar had not fooled with its curses. He had no peace since the beginning of the wretched affair and he could never forget Sazaar's eyes that haunted him like vicious apparitions. His mind relentlessly battled the Valar's invisible will. And despite all his misery he refused the see any fault in his principles. He believed in honest love, not politically promising matching, and granted a choice between the two he chose his Elrond, even though that choice almost ended the royal line of succession. Gil-Galad often wondered how would the destiny of the Noldor progress had he married his intended bride, the ever smiling elf who insisted on her human name Lenara? Would the Valar protect him and permit him to live through the Mordor battles then? Would the Elven race remain strong in the land of men? Would the ring of Sauron even resurface? And would Sazaar be his son then, his legitimate heir, the next High King to rule over the great Lindon kingdom? Perhaps, but as the matters stood currently he was a common thief, a murderer and a slave-trader with long-standing whoring habits and generally lacking morality. Gil-Galad was unsure of just how he pictured letting his rival live after all that has come to pass between them.
They walked slowly through the alley of graceful columns that supported the city's center wall. Glorfindel said not one word as he trod behind his king, watchful and glum despite his naturally cheerful nature. Thranduil placed a hand on Gil-Galad's shoulder in a silent warning, as the company froze at once.
"Over there!" Glorfindel cried, baring his sword, prepared for battle. Gil-Galad looked hard into the darkened passage in which two lustrous eyes lit up like glowing ambers. His lips parted slightly in breathless awe as the gorgeous mountain lynx slowly stepped out of the shadow. The last of the dying light made her long fur glisten slightly as she great cat walked determinately toward the High King.
"Glordindel, Thranduil, stay your swords!" Gil-Galad laughed at his bristling companions. "How you are so fearful of one lone animal? Beautiful, how graceful you are," he reached out to touch the silky fur. "See?" he turned his head towards fuming Glorfindel. In the next moment he briskly pulled his hand away, feeling heated blood rushing from a deep gash that ran across his palm. "Curses!" The lynx turned and in a few graceful leaps vanished out of sight. Gil-Galad held up the sapphire bracelet that mysteriously found his way into his bloodied hand. His features darkened.
"Tell me this animal belongs to that mean-spirited witch you beg me to spare!" Gil-Galad growled at Lord Izhmier, but the space where the old man stood was empty. Instead Gil-Galad's eyes caught the sight of a figure running madly towards them. It was Elladan. Almost simultaneously Elrohir also appeared from another corridor, walking slowly as if dazed.
"Where have you been!" Elladan gasped first, nodding to the elder elves and reaching to grasp his twin's hand.
"I... I saw him!" Elrohir mumbled, coughing slightly as he breathed. "I saw Sazaar."
"Has he injured you?" Glorfindel immediately raced to Elrohir's side, supporting the elf as he slid down to the ground. "Your neck!" Glorfindel frowned at the faint passion mark. "Filthy creature, he fondled you, did he not? I can smell his scent on you."
"I am... he made me sick. Somehow. I feel as though I am fainting. My whole body trembles in this feverish weakness. Am I dying?" Elrohir closed his eyes for a long moment.
"No Elrohir," Elladan fondled his twin, showering him with quick kisses. "It is a pleasant aroma nonetheless."
"Don't smell him," Glorfindel ordered, pulling Elladan away. "That scent isn't what you think." He stared at Gil-Galad in fury. "He plays with us like a cat with a set of rats! What are you waiting for!" he demanded. "The fountains, the courts, the written lore - what farce! He is Sauron's servant, half-animal, no better than a common Orc! I was patient with your will, my king, but I am no longer! Elrohir is fortunate to have kept his life today! For as long as it was a triangle you three needed to resolve, I kept my distance, but these are my children as much as they are Elrond's, and I'd be damned if I permit this madness to continue with their safety at stake! Now mark my words, sir, I will seek him out and I will teach him the meaning of pain! For this," he pointed at still breathless Elrohir, "there is no sufficient punishment! He is as good as dead!"
"He is mine to settle this with, Glorfindel of Gondolin!" Gil-Galad stepped in front of the Barlog slayer, his eyes flashing with anger. "This," he held up the sapphire bracelet, "has tormented me long enough! The Valar's will is clear to me, whatever happens, taking his life is not our privilege! Calm yourself now!"
"Coward!" Glorfindel forcefully pushed his king out of the way. "You see nothing but your own benefit in all this, you want nothing but to alleviate your own discomfort, no matter the price! If ever I had a drop of respect for you, I now have lost it all! You cannot save him, but I can save our peace, and I intend to do just that!"
"Where are you going!" Gil-Galad yelled angrily at the retreating elf.
"To retrieve my good sword!" Glorfindel spat back. "And then let out his guts!"
"Your voice, my king," Thranduil interrupted cautiously. "We ought not to attract such obvious attention."
"And who will hear?" Gil-Galad growled back.
"The army of Easterlings stationed outside the city," Elladan said calmly. "Don't believe me, look for yourself." Gil-Galad raised his eyes beyond the peaks of the main wall where a distance away the dark desert was lit up with hundreds of fires. He frowned in apprehension.
"Adar asks that you send word for the ship to be restocked and ready," Elladan added quietly.
"I will do so, tonight," Gil-Galad responded without reaction, deep in thoughts as he examined the sapphire bracelet with his still bleeding hand. "We are leaving this place. Soon. But for now I must pay a visit to our golden-eyed friend. I believe it is time we meet at last."
Glorfindel smugly examined the towering fence. The hour was late, and the guards sleepy, but he never underestimated the hearing ability of the vigilant Southorns. They knew he was near, and he did not intend on making himself unseen. He quickly threw off his boots, carelessly rolling up his pants and unbuttoning his garments. He tore his shirt in several places, making it hang off his shoulder exposing his luscious skin. Hair loose and cheeks dirtied with roadside dust, he no longer looked as a lord of a fine household.
With his appearance of a common whore complete, he wondered confidently to the back gates, swaying as if drunk and humming an incoherent melody. The guards eyed him with suspicion, but quickly grew annoyed with his mumbled responses and vulgar gestures. They barked for him to get in and keep quiet, for which Glorfindel thanked them with an arrogant node and stumbled on. Once inside his foolish grin faded. He removed the bow he hid beneath his cloak and sprinted silently in search of his enemy. Anger fumed in his chest as the stern expression on Gil-Galad's face haunted him. After their altercation the king said nothing more. He motioned for the twins to follow him somewhere, and that was the last Glorfindel saw of the trio. What he couldn't account for was the whereabouts of Thranduil, but he couldn't think of the clever Mirkwood elf now.
Having outfitted himself in riding garb Elrond inhaled heavily and swung open the carved doors that guarded the entrance to the inner chambers. "Sazaar?" he called as he entered the dimly lit hall. "I am leaving, but I wish to ask you something, before.we part ways."
"You disappointed me, Lord Elrond. Why did you have to return, if you mind is set to leave?" Elrond raised his eyes to glare at Sazaar, who stood a few feet away with a mocking expression on his hideously pale face. Dressed in a flowing black robe, with his hair flowing unrestrained and skin unnaturally ashy, he looked his true age in the flickering candle light.
"Where is Selga?" the half-elf asked suddenly, realizing for the first time that the lynx had not followed him as she always has.
"The lynx is the only animal with principles," Sazaar said bitterly as he slowly advanced toward the half-elf, "in these uncertain times I cannot force her to choose sides. I released her from my command. She is a free being. And so are you." Elrond frowned in disbelief. Matters were simple, too simple almost. He expected a display of some kind of emotion from a man who shared his bed for so long, but Sazaar's eyes revealed little care.
"You are playing with me, as you always have," cried the angry half-elf, his ego wounded by such disinterest. "Tell me, the scar-faced Easterling king, is he the reason you so readily release me? Is he the replacement of my companionship?" Elrond frowned, his voice almost bitter with jealousy.
"No, midnight.your life. his presence is a menace to it, and I cannot guarantee your safety."
"Knowledge, dear friend, is not always a blessing. Can you not trust me when I say I have my reasons?" Sazaar examined the impatient half-elf, then asked for his hand. "Close your eyes, I will show you our future."
Moments later, as though awakened after an age-long nightmare, Elrond angrily drew his hand away. He saw images of the future, frightening, bloody, and chaotic reality he would give anything to avoid. He saw Aragorn, the beloved fosterling he raised since infancy, dead from an arrow through his heart. He saw his grandchild, yet to be born to his only daughter Arwen, running into the wilderness to escape the battle cries of war. And he saw the flag of the great red serpent swaying in the smoke-filled wind above the ruins of Gondor. He saw the amber eyes of the commander who lead that army, the great plague of an army that spread across the Western land like a disease, consuming all and growing stronger as scores of new converts enhanced its force. Those were not the eyes of Sazaar, but of a creature that bore physical semblance to his being, yet none of his conscience.
"The balance of good and evil is terribly hard to maintain in the land where the Dark Lord still reins supreme," Sazaar sighed, seeing Elrond's hateful stare. "I made compromises, a great many of them I admit, but I maintained peace. Until Sauron's return, that is. I resisted that war with all my power, I foresaw that my people will find nothing but loss and misery if they answered Sauron's call, but greed and religious fervor are unstoppable. I failed to persuade them to remain neutral before. This time the tribal leaders are listening to me, but the men beneath them are anxious. This Easterling king, he is the sort of leader I have no weapons against.
He spread rumors of the Gondor's vast riches, of green lands full of cattle and coffers full of gold. He promised wealth to all those who will follow him on a conquest, and just as they died for the empty promises of Sauron, these fools will die for the promises he made."
"So what is holding them then, why not march West now, what do they wait for?" Elrond demanded.
"The older tribal chiefs will not go against my will, midnight. I am still their queen, and they fear bad fortune will befall them again if they are to disobey my advice. So the Easterlings wait for their king to join me in marriage. Then, it will be his will that will guide the actions of the tribes."
Sazaar cocked his ear, listening attentively to the darkness that lived in the corners. "I thought I outran my fate, but it found me regardless. Take this," he said, handing Elrond an elaborately carved sword. "It brought me great fortune in many battles when I defended evil. I wish for it to defend the light now." Elrond examined the gorgeous blade, marveling at its almost sexual power. "You were good to me, midnight," Sazaar smiled as he caressed Elrond's forearm, "but I cannot continue to bask in your sun. Leave at daybreak. I have no claim to you any longer, so go. Your king is waiting for you." Elrond tensed in indecision. "What are you waiting for?" Sazaar hissed. "To induce my cooperation he will cut you in pieces before my very eyes! I have one chance to settle my scores with him, one chance only, but with you around I am helpless. I cannot defend you and myself at the same time. Go now."
Elrond shook his head, "I cannot leave it to you, Sazaar. You will fail," he narrowed his eyes in disgust, "I saw it all, in my dream, you will not stand up to him! He will caress your neck and whisper promises, and your cheap little soul will crumble from the weight of greed! You will marry him, and he will have his grand army... and he will have Gondor, and all the free land he desires!" "Your sons, Elrond, they will come for you, and he will hunt them down like rabbits as well! I sense his presence, please."
Sazaar's tone turned desperate as the sand clock suspended on the wall grew silent. "I have nothing to lose Elrond, but you.you have the rest of eternity to spend in bliss. Leave now."
Elrond gripped the smooth cool handle of the sword. "I see through you, Sazaar, and your eloquent words of concern for my and my son's well-being are indicative only of your characteristic treachery! You indeed have nothing to lose, in fact, by accepting his proposal you will gain more power, gold, and recognition than any honorable means could bring! Considering your other thirty-three marriages, this would be the greatest leap to power you've had yet!
And your son, the amber-eyed monster you'll bear by that scar-faced scoundrel, why, he, too, will be king!" Elrond breathed hard as fury chocked him. He shook with emotion and yet he suddenly felt utterly helpless. "Of all the creatures in this world!" he cried, "you are meant to give life to the one who will bring death and devastation to the lands I call home, the one who will destroy the future of my grandchildren..."
"Why do you think I gave you the sword, Elrond?" Sazaar's stare was suddenly distant. "Destiny is in your hands, wield it with wisdom." He turned his head so his neck was exposed, his body relaxed visibly as he waited in silence. "The days of the Easterling king are numbered, he is rotting on the inside, I saw it, in the way he walks and breathes. If I die, he will not have his heir. His inevitable death will leave his army leaderless and without a commander they will disintegrate before they reach Gondor. Make your choice then. Save your future."
Elrond effortlessly wielded the blade, slicing the air a few times as he practiced, but his determination waned when he finally brought the blade to Sazaar's throat. Sweat dripped from his forehead as he struggled to steady his trembling hand. He dreamed of doing this for so long, and now he had the most honorable of justifications for murder, and yet. He breathed hard, squeezing the blade that drew blood from Sazaar's chest. His child will burn my grandchildren alive, destroy the lands I fought and bleed to save, he cannot live.
"I am sorry still," he whispered, tightening the grip on the sword, but before the blade impaled Sazaar's flesh a curved dagger cut a gash on Elrond's hand, forcing him to drop the weapon.
"Your mind is weak, if you seek death so willingly," the Easterling king smirked in disgust. "Men of your status ought never to disgrace themselves by begging for a mercy killing!" He advanced toward Sazaar with a menacing grin. "Come to me, closer, you know only I can return the honor and grace to your decaying pride."
Sazaar hesitated, backing away. "You hand, dear, one word, one whisper of your luscious lips, and I," the giant forced his long fingers into a powerful fist, "will restructure the world to your liking. With you, only for you."
"Arda's destiny is none of your design," Glorfindel made his presence known as he angrily drew his bow, "and you yellow-eyed lizard, burn in Sauron's flames!" His target, his enemy, so close, he took a long stare into Sazaar's hypnotizing eyes. "Cursed soul!"
He fired with pleasure, but moments later Glorfindel cried in disbelief when he saw the folly of his move. Elrond inhaled slowly as burning agony spread like venom through his body. His garment grew moist as blood begun to seep from the wound made by the massive arrow lodged in his side.
"You witch!" Glorfindel briskly drew another arrow as he stalked closer to Sazaar, who reluctantly backed away. "Your devilish magic will not save you! Stay still, coward!" Sazaar hissed, frantically searching for the sword Elrond dropped. He spotted it on the ground, mere feet away, but as he leaned to retrieve it a pair of powerful hands gripped his thick hair, pulling him into a forceful embrace. His neck burst in agonizing flame as the tip of a wide knife burrowed beneath his chin.
"Your defenses are weak, my queen. Is it not time you agreed to my proposal?" The Easterling king snarled. "Consider it, with me by your side you will never need to worry about defending your pitiful life." He smirked, nuzzling Sazaar's temple. "You there, lower your bow, elf," he signaled to Glorfindel. "You and I have nothing to settle. Leave him to me. You may as well take your leave, along with your wounded companion." Glorfindel gave the man a long and hateful stare. He desired Sazaar's life more than anything, but Elrond's severely bleeding wound took priority over personal vengeance. Growling in helpless rage he lowered his bow.
"Come, Elrond, my friend I believe this matter is resolved to the best of all parties involved."
"Damn you, Glorfindel!" Elrond pushed his hand away. "He was right in front of you, no more than a few feet away, and still you missed! You're drunk on your anger, leave me!" He forcefully yanked out the arrow, and grimacing in agony he leaned on the cool surface of the dining table. "You do not understand."
"You will forget this, all of it," said Glorfindel, gently stroking his companion's silky hair, his rage waning as he held close the friend and lover he longed to hold for so long. "And so will all of us. You will forget this, forget this place, and him. In a day, in a week, hell, you will think you dreamed it all! Come, let the two serpents devour each other."
"You do not understand," Elrond whispered again, as he drew his eyes back to where Sazaar fiercely struggled with his giant opponent. Managing to free his head Sazaar viciously bit into the forearm of the Easterling, ripping out a chunk of bleeding flesh.
"Never!" he cried, as the Easterling king, enraged by Sazaar's resistance, forced the long, curved knife up to its handle into Sazaar's side. "You kill me, and my tribes will turn against you," Sazaar hissed, coughing up blood as he sat on the floor.
"Go on then, finish me!"
"How ugly." Glorfindel shook his head in disgust. "Let us leave. They are animals, both of them, mere beasts. This is not our war."
"It will be." Gil-Galad's lustrous eyes met Elrond's as the time and sound froze around them. The High King stepped out of the shadowy space he occupied as he observed the unfolding events. The twins, pale and speechless, trailed close behind. Gil-Galad's judging gaze swept across the dining hall, marred by blood spatter and broken glass. The weakened half-elf grew cold with fright and feverish with joy all at once. The surge of emotion that exploded in his gut momentarily clouded his vision. He lifted his hand, as a child asking for assistance, but Gil-Galad said nothing, only looked, and in mere moments his attention shifted away from Elrond. "Or will it, Sazaar?" He said unsheathing his sword.
The Easterling king straightened up in a defensive stance.
"This grows more complex by the minute! Fascinating how one useless being such as yourself can have THIS many enemies fighting each other over who gets to kill you first! You are outnumbered," he laughed, lifting Sazaar's hair with the tip of his sword. "My marvelous, why be so stubborn? Join me. Fight with me! For the sake of the gods, you can rule an empire, or rot on your own!"
"Remember this?" Gil-Galad retrieved the elaborate sapphire bracelet from the folds of his cloak and threw it to Sazaar's feet. "Or has darkness and greed finally suffocated your soul?"
"Ahhh, the one king who got to rule twice!" the Easterling king roared, stepping forward with his sword raised high. "Next time you die your gods may not be this generous! Do not meddle in our affairs, his soul is none of your interest, it is mine!"
Gil-Galad's attack was swift and elegant. The Easterling king, enraged by the bold challenge, retaliated with monstrously forceful strikes. Glorfindel watched silently as the two battled in the middle of the lavishly decorated dining chamber, unwilling to risk firing another faulty arrow.
"Very well, I yield!" Sazaar cried suddenly. The Easterling king, trapped in the moment by rage and surging energy, was caught off guard by the sudden surrender. He flashed a brisk angry glare in Sazaar's direction. He turned to face Gil-Galad split second later, but his heavy form did not move beyond a certain angle. His eyes trailed down to see the sword that pierced his chest between the armor plates. Next second Gil-Galad forcefully twisted the sword and withdrew it from his opponent who died before his body crushed to the floor. Stepping carelessly through the deep river of blood that formed beneath the dead man, Gil-Galad walked to where Sazaar still sat, shuddering slightly and breathing heavily.
"What do you want from me?" he growled, bowing over as he gripped his wound and backing away. "You have your lover, you have my honor, you have your crown!"
"You viper," Gil-Galad forcefully brought the back of his open hand against the man's face. Fury boiled in the great king as his imaginative mind pictured Elrond, his Elrond, in Sazaar's passionate embraces. His second hit was harsher and it drew more blood. "It is men like you that makes beasts out of those with greatest character! I cursed your cannibalistic kind all my life, and yet," Gil-Galad leaned in closer, "I desire nothing more than to rip out your spine! To strip the flesh off your bone and devour it, while you're still alive to feel the pain!"
"Then do it," Sazaar hissed, springing up to bring the wide blade of the sword he hid across Gil-Galad's chest, "this is what you came here for? I am all yours."
"Lower your arrow, Glorfindel," Gil-Galad chuckled, "this is the time to teach our inhospitable friend some manners."
"Ada!" Elladan noticed Elrond's bloody hand and rushed to embrace him. "Come away, quickly, we will."
"He must not die!" Elrond cried, pushing his sons away, "both of you! Cease this madness!" The twins restrained him as he fought to step in between Gil-Galad and Sazaar. "You will murder each other!" Elrond gripped his face with his bloodied hand. He could not bear to watch, and as he drew his eyes away from the unfolding scene of violence his gaze encountered the challenging and almost disdainful stare of King Thranduil, who remained out of the action entirely. Elrond's heart sunk as he drew in a painful breath.
His rival, he was here, here all along, by his king's side. And Gil-Galad, he showed no sign of still cherishing their affection. Cold feeling stirred and grew at the pit of the half-elf's stomach as he contemplated whether his king really did come out of love for him, or has he come simply to settle his business with Sazaar.
At the moment Gil-Galad was laughing. "I saw you in nightmares," he smiled, taunting Sazaar with a torch he tore off the wall, "Valar, I tormented myself into fearing you!" He lowered his weapon, beckoning his opponent closer. Panicking and careless, Sazaar cursed his hands for disobeying his will. As the High King stared him down, he suddenly grew clumsy. Growing angrier from his own weakness Sazaar neared the king for one final strike, but loosing his footing on the slippery with blood floor he found himself on his knees. Gil-Galad tore away a chain that restrained the sand clock near the ceiling. It crushed on the floor in a spectacular shower of glass and crystals.
"You mean little coward," the king brought the chain against the granite floor with such force that sparks emerged from the crushing metal. "Here is your chance to battle me face to face, and here you are, looking for a way to flee! Submit to me, you stubborn pup," the dark-haired elf forcefully brought the chain around Sazaar's neck, restraining the man in his powerful grip. "The dream, I saw it, too, on many nights. And your fate, Sazaar you weren't meant to rule his empire alongside him. Your submission would have only guaranteed you a hideous death in childbirth. He wouldn't have even buried your body, and your son.he would have become the most hated creature in Arda. You ought to be thankful to me for sparing you from the Easterling!"
"Thankful? Indeed, I thank you greatly for so kindly leaving me in my mad father's care! I thank you greatly for my childhood among the cannibals and madmen! For your kind ostracizing me and your court writers erasing the memory of my mother from your lore! I thank indeed!" Sazaar angrily bit Gil-Galad's wrist, fighting madly to break free, but the king held on, tightening his grip on the chain and squeezing it around Sazaar's neck. He watched, as his powerful muscles continued to suffocate his opponent, how Sazaar's pupils expanded. His eyes flashed with scarlet glow as he hissed, still trying to bite, and his expression, skewed by fury, reminded the High King of the vicious Uruk-hai.
"No need to make a spectacle out of this," Glorfindel scolded impatiently, "break his neck!"
"Submit to me," Gil-Galad whispered again into Sazaar's pointed ear. "I give you a choice, your last chance at redemption.
We, too, are your kind - walk with us," he pointed at the dead Easterling, "or die with them." Sazaar's movements became less erratic, his short breaths slowed and his stare became contemplative. A look of tranquility returned grace and beauty to his face. He closed his eyes, as one lone tear escaped from beneath his rich lashes.
"I desire death then."
"Death isn't your destiny," Gil-Galad said, relaxing the hold on the chain. "As old as you may feel, in the eyes of the Valar you are still a youth coming of age, and as you do so, you will understand that great responsibility for greater deeds still lie ahead of you. Promise you won't bite, and I will cause you no more pain." Gil-Galad soon withdrew the chain and observed his opponent with contempt. "I only pray that Valar will grant me patience not to execute you for what you've done in the meantime."
To be continued...
Send Sophia feedback
The characters belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema. No profit is being made by the authors or the archivist and no disrespect is intented.
Do not post this work elsewhere without the author's consent.