Author’s Note: Weird shit ahoy. Strange slashy mind games, to be precise. This chapter dedicated to whimsy, who likes my strange reference notes and appreciates the hard work I put into researching the facts I slip into the story.
Without, Part 23
“There are,” Thranduil said after a while, “entirely too many hawks for a terrain such as this.” He turned to his son, a long finger brushing from his eyes the golden hair blown about by the increasingly strong wind. “Have you noticed, Greenleaf?”
Radagast continued walking, but there was an alertness about him that belied the casual nature of his strolling gait.
“Yes,” Legolas replied, gazing upward at the silhouette of the circling birds, scarcely darker than the clouds that were their background, so intent he forgot to take offense at his father’s use of his nickname. A sudden gust heaved a gout of black sand round him, and he coughed.
“Should you take one down, do you think?” asked Buffy, eyes scanning the sky as she patted her husband’s back. “To investigate?
“Never you mind about the hawks,” Gimli said, gazed fixed downward. “Whilst you lot have been looking up, I’ve been looking down, and the tracks stop here.” He pointed a stubby finger; following the line of it, they saw that the two sets of tracks (one curiously backward) had indeed vanished for apparently no reason.
“Think you it has aught to do with the creatures they slew?” Legolas asked, referring to the myriad worm corpses they’d encountered a half-mile back. Gimli squatted down to inspect the last footsteps more closely.
“No,” the dwarf replied, brushing sand away. Gimli pressed hard on the stone surface to test its texture. “There is a symbol here in the dust. Igneous rock, quite old, and—“ His words were cut off when there was a flash of light and an odd hooting sound, and he disappeared.
Buffy, Legolas, and Thranduil jerked in shock, hands automatically going to weapons. “Where did he go?” Legolas demanded, his fair brow creased with concern for his friend.
“Do not tell me that fool of a dwarf touched a mysterious symbol that appeared out of nowhere?” Radagast asked from behind them, his face tired rather than angry, as if he’d long ago resigned himself to the fact that his companions were hopelessly inept and, quite possibly, deeply retarded as well.
“Ok, I won’t tell you that,” Buffy snapped, the thread of her ever-decreasing patience coming perilously close to breaking. “What I will tell you is that you’ve got thirty seconds to figure out where he went, and how we get him back.”
Radagast studied her a moment, then allowed a faint smile to curl one side of his moustache. “I love a forceful woman,” he murmured, causing the others to blink in alarm, and touched the tip of his staff to the symbol around which they all stood. Closing his eyes, he seemed to be concentrating.
“It is another portal,” he explained at last. “Gimli is there, as are those we seek.”
“Corinne?” Buffy asked.
The wizard nodded. “’Tis a dangerous place they have gone. We must hurry.” He directed each to step on the symbol, and one by one they disappeared (Thranduil shooting Radagast a cool and haughty glance before the portal flashed and hooted, whisking him away).
Radagast sighed. How easy it would be to return to the mountain, to locate the other far-less-volatile members of their company and concentrate on the very dire issue of Aker’s penetration into the world of Arda and Aman. Legolas and his human wife were bearable, the dwarf only slightly less so; but the temptation to strand Mirkwood’s king in an unknown dimension for the rest of his already-overlong life… ai, ‘twas cruel to tease a Maia so with something so dearly desired and yet so impossible.
He sent one last longing look toward the mountain in the distance, then turned resolutely back to the symbol and stepped onto it.
Beside Spike, Corinne moaned and squirmed in discomfort. Hand trembling, Spike reached out to grasp her shoulder and shake her awake. She came back to consciousness with a jerk, eyes wide as she tried to make sense of her surroundings and the pain she felt. “What?” she demanded. “What happened? Why does my ass hurt? And…” she stared in amazement down at her hands. “Why am I teal?”
“Buffy,” Spike stated flatly.
“I’m teal because of Buffy?” That didn’t seem right to her.
He huffed out his unneeded breath impatiently. “No, you stupid bint.. Do you know where Buffy is?”
She tried to hoist herself on her uninjured hip so she could look him in the eye. “Kinda indisposed here, Spike,” she snapped, lifting the duster he’d draped over her to inspect herself. “I’ve got a sore spot the size of Delaware on my ass—what did you do to me?—and I’m fucking teal. Buffy can wait.”
“One of those little buggers got you in the arse with a dart,” Spike replied shortly, his eyes glaring daggers at her. “Must have been poisoned or something. I, um, lanced and closed the wound. You’ve no fever, so I think you’ll be fine.” He paused. “Now tell me about Buffy.”
“Why do you think I know Buffy?” Corinne hedged, replacing the aged leather over herself and leaning heavily on her hand to keep herself upright.
“Because you mentioned elves, and that the bloke you were chained to was named Haldir.”
Her butt hurt like the devil, throbbing so hard the pain radiated with each heartbeat down past her knee and up past her waist. “So?”
“So, when Dawn went through the portal to join her big sis, Buffy was standing there with an elf. Called him Haldir… big blond chap, snooty-looking, acted like he owned the Slayer and everyone else.”
At that reminding of Haldir, Corinne felt a pang that was completely unrelated to her injury and wondered what he was doing. Forcing away her muddled emotions on that issue, she concentrated on Spike. His description was certainly Haldir to a T, she had to admit. Corinne knew she should have admitted that she’d recognized him from what Buffy and Dawn (mostly Dawn) had told her, but quite frankly hadn’t known what to do. What purpose would it serve, stirring up Spike’s memories and feelings, if they were doomed to an eternity of living in the equivalent of a Dali painting?
Spike’s gaze, keen as an eagle’s, easily picked out her guilty expression in the firelight and pointed accusingly. “Now. Tell me about them. Tell me now.”
“I… I don’t know much,” she stammered, trying valiantly to ignore the dull throbbing ache in her butt and thigh and shifting her weight again. “Buffy’s good friends with Haldir, who was my—“ She stopped. What had he been to her? “My—well, you know,” Corinne continued lamely. “She’s married to Legolas, another elf—“ Something flickered in Spike’s eyes, a flash of disappointment perhaps, but she forged on. “and they live in Ithilien, some sort of elf commune, she calls it.”
“Do they have any children?” he asked softly.
“No, but Dawn does,” Corinne replied absently, deciding to give up on the sitting and instead rolling to her belly. Ah, much better… the throbbing receded to a dull ache and she sighed in relief.
“The Nibblet’s had a baby?” He seemed incredulous that such a thing was possible.
“His name’s Mercas,” she said, dropping her head wearily onto her arms and dredging her memory for things to tell Spike. “It’s the Sindarin equivalent of William, she said she named him after her best friend back on earth…” She stopped then, for a most extraordinary thing had happened:
Spike, aka William the Bloody, one of the original Scourge of Europe and Slayer of Slayers, was crying.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Corinne sighed, and reached out to pat his knee comfortingly. “You’re William, aren’t you?”
He scrubbed at his eyes, then stared out the door of the hut to the wild jungle beyond its threshold, and nodded. “Are they happy?”
“I think so,” she said haltingly. “Dawn and Boromir and Mercas live in Minas Ithil, that’s the main city of Ithilien… they’re the prince and princess of it, I think she told me… she’s organizing the library from Orthanc, which was deserted after that war a year ago. And Buffy and Legolas have their elf commune, and they run that. When they’re not on wild adventures, that is.”
Spike smiled faintly. “Some things never change,” he said, his voice a bit wistful. Then his nostrils flared and his entire demeanor, heretofore relaxed, tensed. He went from lazy, if emotional, cat to alert predator in the blink of an eye, and shot to his feet. “Get up,” he directed quietly, kicking dirt over the fire until it was just embers and smoke.
Corinne crawled on one knee over to the wall and heaved herself up, pulling on her jeans and taking a few steps to test her ability to walk. Her right leg was all but useless, and she was gasping from the pain within moments. Gritting her teeth, she pushed away from the wall and made herself walk, forcing her knee to bend, compelling her leg to carry her weight until she had found a place where she could bear the agony while moving. Lameness equaled death here.
Spike stood by the door, body aligned with the jamb as he peeked his head around to survey what was going on outside. ”They’ll be here any minute,” he whispered. Snatching up the machete, he cut a hole in the back of the hut and ushered her outside into the jungle once more. There was no way he could defend the both of them against another pygmy attack, not with her injured like that.
Thank God for vampiric hearing, she thought fervently as she limped after him as swiftly as she could. Not wanting the pygmies, who she still hadn’t seen, to hear which way they’d gone Spike had foregone the use of his machete and now merely shoved the vegetation aside so they could stumble through it.
“The river’s this way,” he muttered, and made a sharp right turn. What he hadn’t counted on, however, was that the shores here were no mere gentle slopes down to the water but instead steep embankments, and so was very surprised when his foot met, on its next step, not the spongy jungle floor but rather empty air.
Corinne, clutching at his duster so she didn’t lose him in the pitch-darkness, accordingly tumbled directly after him, her cry of fear choked off when he snarled, “Shut it, schoolgirl.” Having never heard that tone of menace from him before, she was shocked into duly shutting it.
Good thing, too, because then she hit the water. It felt blessedly cool and comforting against her overheated skin, soothing on her injury, and when she felt Spike grab her arm and knew she was safe, quite happily relinquished her grasp on consciousness, slipping away into the velvet darkness that beckoned.
After their unpleasant experience with Mut earlier that day, all five of Elessar’s group were subdued and there had not been much talk or cheer amongst them. When the king declared it time to make camp for the night, Haldir had been all too happy to go hunting, returning quickly with an entire rabbit for each of them. Elessar’s only reaction was a single blink, and then he merely thanked the elf and began skinning them while Boromir undertook the task of setting up sticks to roast their dinners on.
The males thus occupied, Dawn went to Arwen, who still seemed shaken up by seeing her mother, even if it hadn’t really been Celebrían. In low tones, the elleth explained what had happened to her mother, how she’d been captured and tortured by orcs until her twin sons had rescued her. Gentle spirit broken, Celebrían had had to leave for Valinor and the healing of the gods themselves, leaving behind her husband and children in Middle-Earth.
“I shall never see her again,” Arwen said, her voice trembling. “Not her, not Ada. Grandmother shall go, as will Grandfather. And if Elrohir and Elladan choose to follow Ada to the West, I shall be alone of all my kin.” Most people, Dawn mused, looked horrible when they cried. Their faces got blotchy, eyes red and swollen, noses dripping. Not Arwen—her normally-luminescent skin gained a pallor that was very becoming, making her look fragile and vulnerable, and her eyes, cerulean as the sky, glimmered with newly fallen moonlight.
“But you will have Elessar,” replied Dawn, trying hard to comfort Arwen. Not very familiar with elven ways, she really didn’t know what she could say—it was all completely foreign to her, this idea of immortality and living on a island with deities. “You have Elessar, and any children you’ll have together… you’ll create another family.”
She needs something to distract her, Dawn thought. “Why not try to contact Radagast?” she suggested. “See what the others are up to?” Arwen’s look told her that her attempt was transparent, but agreed anyway, and closed her eyes to make the connection to the wizard. Her concerned frown was immediate.
“What’s wrong?” Dawn demanded, the urgency of her tone drawing the attention of the males. Elessar stepped over and put a hand on his wife’s narrow shoulder, squeezing gently.
“What is it?” he asked Dawn softly.
She only shrugged. “I thought she could try contacting Radagast. She isn’t happy about what she’s learned.” Boromir came up behind her, and Dawn leaned back against his solid form.
“It seems that all seven of them have fallen through another portal,” Arwen said at last.
“Seven?” Boromir commented. “Counting Corinne, there should be at most six.”
“Corinne has been joined by another,” Arwen replied, oblivious to how Haldir stiffened in displeasure. “They have already engaged some creatures in battle, for Radagast reports finding many bodies. The man with her must be a formidable combatant, for Corinne is no warrior.”
“Where are they now?” Dawn wanted to know. “Are they safe?”
Arwen’s sooty eyelashes fluttered open to find them all ringing her, watching intently. “They are safe,” she affirmed. “Radagast knows not where they are, but all are safe.”
The smell of burning meat alerted them to be more careful with their dinner, and they drifted apart, Dawn and Boromir taking over the culinary duties while Elessar and Arwen spoke quietly and Haldir stood at the edge of the fire’s circle of light, ever the watchful sentry. When the rabbits were cooked, each ate heartily. Supplemented with a few judicious bites of lembas, it was very satisfying, and when all but Haldir, on the first watch of the night, lay back to sleep they believed themselves well satisfied.
Dawn came awake slowly, her consciousness floating up from the misty layers of sleep, and became aware of lips roaming over her cheek and throat while a hand caressed her hip and waist. A wave of instantaneous lust broke over her and she brought her hand up to tangle in the hair of her lover, bringing those lips to her own and kissing deeply.
A different experience, this… the mouth was softer, gentler than Boromir’s, and tasted exotic instead of familiar. Opening her eyes, she found Arwen’s exquisite face a mere inch from her own, mouth reddened by their shared kiss and hair mussed from Dawn’s fingers combing through it.
She was pretty sure this was a bad thing, but then Arwen’s hand closed over Dawn’s breast and squeezed, rubbing her palm on the nipple, and she pulled the elleth in for another kiss. When their lips parted again, both were breathing heavier and Arwen’s body was rubbing rhythmically against Dawn’s, for Elessar was doing a slow grind against his wife’s back, lavishing open-mouthed kisses on the slender column of her neck as he pulled her jetty hair away.
“Mmm,” Dawn moaned as nimble female fingers plucked at her nipple through the fabric of her tunic, and she arched into Arwen’s ministrations even as she wondered what Boromir was doing. Looking over her shoulder to where her husband had been sleeping beside her, she found him pressing Haldir against a tree, firmly ravishing the elf’s mouth with his own. The sight sent a bolt of longing and a need for satisfaction through her, and she turned once more to Arwen.
Only too glad to help, Arwen’s hand insinuated itself down Dawn’s trousers to pet the triangle of curls between the woman’s long thighs. Dawn cupped the elleth’s breast in return, feeling the bud at its centre furl tightly, and pushed aside the fabric with great impatience to latch her mouth around it. She suckled tenderly at first, then more fiercely at Arwen’s soft cries of, “Ai, yes! Oh, Dawn…”
Dawn felt a great need to know all the secrets of Arwen’s body, to know how she tasted elsewhere beside her breasts, and whispered as much in Arwen’s delicately pointed ear even as slim fingers found her most hidden place and she arched her pelvis up to meet them.
“Yes, taste her,” Elessar directed hoarsely. “For she is sweet like honey.” He removed his hand, which had itself been down Arwen’s leggings, and held it to Dawn’s mouth. Obediently, kitten-like, she lapped the slick moisture from his fingers, the action itself becoming more sensual as she locked eyes with the king. When she was done, they leaned over Arwen’s shoulder and met him in a fierce kiss, relishing his power as he explored her mouth.
Behind them, Haldir’s hiss of indrawn breath indicated something deeply pleasing had just occurred to him…looking back again, she saw the elf’s leggings around his ankles and Boromir kneeling at his feet, the elf’s shaft buried to the root in her husband’s mouth. Smiling, she turned back to Arwen, only to find the other female regarding her with an expression of horror.
“Daro,” Arwen whispered, her face ashen. “Ai, daro, daro, Elessar!” She pulled away from him, tugging frantically at her clothing. Confused only for a moment, he reached for Dawn, covering her body with his own and kissing her deeply as he wound her long legs around his waist.
Tears streaming down her face, Arwen’s mind raced for a way to stop them. Her own entrancement had been broken by Radagast’s attempt to contact her; perhaps he would know what to do. “Radagast,” she thought with all her might. “Something has happened to us… we are enspelled. I am free now, but the others are not.” Elessar groaned as he tried to pull down Dawn’s leggings; she giggled and lifted her hips to assist him. “Help me, Istari! Guide me!”
His answering sigh, though only mental, was deep and heartfelt. “Find a large rock,” he recommended at last. “Strike them in the head, that they become insensible. With any luck, they shall be free of enchantment when they awake.” His attention to her was drawn away for a moment. “We must fight, I must leave you now.”
“No!” Arwen cried aloud as his presence left her mind, but he was gone. Elessar was now kneeling, nude, between Dawn’s legs, just moments from penetrating her, and Haldir was thrusting purposefully into Boromir’s eager mouth, his head thrown back in ecstasy as he neared his peak. Sobbing as she rummaged around, dashing tears from her cheeks, Arwen located a stout fallen branch and hefted it up.
Swinging it downward, she got both her husband and Dawn with the same blow. He fell with a groan onto her, and they both lay very still. Arwen stumbled to Boromir and Haldir.
“Care to join us?” the elf asked with a slow, sensual grin, his silvery eyes glazed with desire. “'Twould be an honour to spend myself in the Evenstar.”
In response, Arwen clocked him over the head with the branch and when he fell over, repeated the gesture with Boromir. Dropping the branch, she fell to her knees and allowed herself a few moments to weep before beginning the task of straightening them up, for she would not allow them to lay in such compromising positions.
She rolled Boromir and Haldir far, far away from each other, refastening their clothing, and then set to the unpleasant task of pushing Elessar off of Dawn. The woman had only had her trousers pushed down, so it was a small matter to draw them back up and drag her over to her own husband, but Elessar had gotten himself completely nude—even in these dire circumstances, Arwen couldn’t keep a faint smile from lifting her lips. Ever was he quick to unrobe, was her Elessar…
When all were arranged and accoutered properly once more, and nowhere near each other except for Dawn and Boromir, Arwen dropped beside the fire. Staring at the flames, she felt something alight within her, a flame in its own right—fury. Elves were not easily angered, but once raised, their ire was deadly and inescapable. When the others awoke, what before had been a simple quest of duty would become a mission of vengeance.
Aker had made enemies this night.
Aman = another name for Valinor.
daro = stop