Frost by Liek|
Summary: When Thorongil is threatened, Denethor will protect him, at any cost.
Disclaimer: luckily I do not own Denethor. Unfortunately, I do not own any of the other’s either.
A/N If you ever come across a person that cooled down too much: NEVER rub his hands or feet, it is the worst thing you can do. It is a method fitted for elves only :D.
Proverb: Clear Moon, Frost soon.
The hunter looked up from the moonlit tracks and smiled. He had followed his pray for so long now, tracking him from Rivendell to Rohan to Gondor.
But now at last the tracks were fresh. He was close, so close…
And with his brother moving in from the other side they would soon spring the trap around their prey.
Thorongil’s days were counted.
Something was off. For the last few days, the feeling of dread had grown stronger every day, and every day Denethor found himself looking back more often. His eyes never found anything that gave a reason for the feeling that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand upright, and still he could feel it coming ever closer.
But tonight, in the clear moonlight, his eyes had caught a glimpse of a shadow moving in the trees.
There was something hidden in the small forest right behind them. Eyes that moved, feet that followed him wherever he went.
He was being hunted.
His eyes followed the man that moved so painfully slowly through the land, and he sighed annoyed as the man took yet another pause. Men! They moved ever so slowly, they slept ever so much!
The hunter shook his head, and retreated back into the shadows.
The man he followed was not his prey, he was simple his means of getting to it.
The hunter was unfamiliar with these lands, and he knew how well his prey was able to hide…
But the hunter would find Thorongil.
He just had to wait for the track to continue. "Go on…" he whispered softly to the rich looking man in the distance. "Hurry…"
The steward’s son leaned closer to one of his men. "Araval, my friend." He whispered softly, trying to look casual, as he felt the eyes on his back even now. "That trap Thorongil taught us… do you still remember how to build it?"
A year earlier that trap had saved the life of his father when he had been hunted by Haradhim assassins, and though Denethor had still seen no proof of the one following him, he was not going to take chances.
When Araval nodded he sighed in relief. "Then lay that trap again, for I fear we are being followed."
As his guard left to do as Thorongil had taught him, Denethor smiled.
Whoever had hunted them tonight, would no longer be hunting them tomorrow.
Denethor’s smile did not survive the night, for the one following them did not fall for the traps laid in his path.
Araval did not return that night.
"My lord? Maybe we should just continue to Minas Tirith."
Denethor eyed the man standing next to him, and shook his head silently. He was not a coward. He would not come back.
"Nay." he said, looking at the forest behind him. It was really small. Just a few trees standing together, offering just enough space for a man to hide. It was not even worthy of the name forest. And its significance to Gondor was less than zero." Surround those trees. Set fire to it. We will smoke him out."
He so had had it with Haradrim assassins.
It took some time to get the fire lighted, for though it had not rained or snowed in a few days, the air was damp of the coming frost, but eventually they succeeded.
"Come out." Denethor whispered, "Come out, come out, wherever you are…"
But whoever had followed them, did not hear or did not listen. No one came. Nothing was moving over the forest floor.
Until suddenly… "The trees! He is moving through the branches!"
The steward’s son looked up and spotted the dark form moving there.
"Shoot him!" He ordered. "Don’t just stand there! Shoot it down! SHOOT!"
With great satisfaction Denethor watched how the dark form tumbled and fell.
"Well, Cantamir?" He asked the archer rushing towards him with a report "Is the Haradrim dead?"
"No sir." The young archer replied uncertainly "And.. we don’t think he is Haradhrim either, sir.
In fact… we are not even sure it is, human, my lord." The man said, looking away.
Denethor lifted an eyebrow. "Show me.."
"All we have learned so far, is that he is after Thorongil and.. that he is not alone." Denethor said as he stood before his father in Minas Tirith’s white hall.
"He.. or it, as it is not human… It speaks of brothers, or a brother at least." Denethor shivered unconsciously. "Father… It frightens me."
Those words made Ecthelion look up at last. So rarely did his son admit a weakness.
"It was hard enough top pull this information out of him, father. But now… it seems it had become … resistant. No matter how I hurt it, it speaks nothing else. It does not tell me where he is from, or who send him… All it ever does is ask for Thorongil."
Denethor looked up at his father. "Thorongil is…at least.. I regard him as my friend" He said softly.
Ecthelion looked at his son. "Is he?" he asked.
"He is." Denethor answered, knowing why his father had sounded so doubtful. He and the dark-haired commander usually fought over the smallest things.
But Denethor did respect the man. He did like him. In fact… He did see the man as an elder brother, as much as his father saw the man as a son.
"I don’t want him hurt." He said.
"Of course not." Ecthelion said, and again the steward waited.
"So.. so… Well you know how Thorongil is! If he is threatened he will ride towards the danger, confront it rather than flee. But these, these *things* are dangerous! And.. I fear.. I fear he will not be able to win this fight. So.. I want to ask you… If maybe you could… Make him stay? In the city?
Then I could continue the questioning. Find out as much as I can, capture the others, bring them here. They are not after me, so it will be less dangerous if I go, and..
Thorongil has saved my life so often now.. and.."
Ecthelion studied his son.
"These… creatures," the steward said. "Are they really that dangerous?"
Denethor looked his father into the eyes. "Come." He said. "I’ll show you."
Ecthelion stared at the creature as it walked back and forth in his snow covered cell, as far as the chains allowed him.
Back and forth.
Back and forth… Like a chained wild beast.
"What is this… this sorcery?’ the steward whispered. "How…?"
The creature turned his head, looking straight at Ecthelion, with piercing blue eyes, cold as ice.
"Take me to Thorongil." It commanded, in a voice so lordly that Ecthelion almost left to follow the order.
But his eye fell on the beast again, and he shook his head.
Never would he allow his beast close to anyone he loved.
Aragorn stared at the man in front of him with growing anger.
He respected Ecthelion, he knew the man was wise and kind. When the ranger had sworn his loyalty to the steward he had meant every word, and it had never been hard for him to follow the orders of the man whose king he could have been, had he chosen another life.
Not once had Aragorn hesitated to follow Ecthelion’s orders.
Not once had he failed to do as he was asked.
But this time he would.
He would not just hide.
"I can take care of myself, Lord Ecthelion."
The Steward of Gondor sighed.
"Thorongil, my son, I know you have more courage and strength that any other man in my ranks. It is not that I think you a coward that I ask you to be careful, commander.
You have no idea what you are up against.
Trust me, son. I would send you to battle an entire fleet of corsairs, if such a battle was needed, but these men you face now…
You did not see it move. Like a cat it trotted over the snow, with a stealth you would not believe, as if it floated rather than walked.
Thorongil, whatever assassins are hunting you; they are not human.
The one we caught… all we learned of him is that he has brothers that hunt you. That is all he ever talked about. Brothers."
The old man looked at his commander, the young man that fought his battles with conviction, the stranger that had become Gondor’s hero in so little time. Ecthelion, like his city, loved the young man as a son.
"Please, Thorongil. I beg you. Stay out of danger this time.
Let Denethor handle this."
Aragorn sighed. "You are making me a prisoner of this city."
Ecthelion looked his commander into the eyes, and Aragorn suddenly realized the plea the old man was sending him and yielded. "... but alright. I’ll do what you ask. "
And when the ranger noted the relief in his friend’s eyes, he suddenly felt a small bolt of fear.
What exactly was hunting him, if it had been able to scare the old man so?
The cellars were freezing and Denethor’s fingertips were slowly getting too stiff to properly do their work, but he did not back up yet. He sensed he was on a break now, and their prisoner was finally giving in.
"Who are you working for?" He repeated his question. As he spoke he could see his breath, and he realized it had been a while since he had seen the same from his prisoner.
He hoped he had not killed it, not before the creature had spilt everything it knew.
Denethor was not usually in favour of torture, meaning he would never allow torture of a human being. But this prisoner was not human: It was as if someone had tried to imitate humans when he created this, and had almost succeeded. Expect for its unnatural blue eyes, and the deformed ears, the creature had been perfect. Almost too perfect.
"Who is your master?"
Most of that perfection had faded now. After a week spent in this cell the creature had started to look as ugly as its intentions. Its bright eyes were made invisible by the cloth kept over them at all times, the bruises on its face were as black as its heart, and the stripes on its back showed that whoever had been its master before, Denethor was its master now.
It was the answer the prisoner had given every time when he was asked a question. It was all Denethor had learned so far. It was as if the creature’s mission to hunt the commander with his brother was so deeply imprinted on its brain that there was no room for anything else.
Disappointed the steward’s son picked up the whip again. His hands were getting cold, and he would soon have to stop, but not before he had left a fresh trail of blood to freeze on the creature’s back.
He would show the monster that the people of Gondor were capable of horrors worse than Mordor, He would show every orc, wraith or whatever he came across, so that one day, one day, no orc would dare to attack his city or kill his friends.
That was his dream.
In the dark, cold prison cell, colour red with blood and white with snow, the creature called out to its brother with its thoughts.
‘Hurry.’ It commanded. " Hurry, brother.
Finish what we started.
But beware of the humans.
Beware, for they are mistrusting.
Stay out of their path!’
Miles away from the creature its brother heard its call.
It looked at the convoy of humans in front of it one last time.
Though the creature had thought it would have been able to talk to them, convince them to take him to the city, he now turned suddenly and disappeared.
His fleeing feet left no imprint on the cold, frozen snow.
Denethor’s frustration grew with each step he took from the dungeon hidden in the depths of the city to the tower towering above.
He was to report his progress to his father, or more realistically his lack of any. There was something very unnerving about the monster locked in the city’s dungeons, as it just didn’t seem to break. No matter what Denethor did to him, no matter the pressure he was under the creature never said anything other that the things Denethor had known since the very first time they had met: he was after Thorongil, and he was not alone...
He had heard those words so many times now and they could still make him sick.
Ever had the forces of Mordor threatened the people he cared most about, his entire life he had lived with the fear of losing his loved ones.
Thorongil had only been with them for a few years, but in those years the captain had grown close, as an older brother Denethor had never had. He could not count the times the other man had saved his life.
And now, at the very first opportunity the steward’s son had to repay the favour, he was already failing.
He reached the top and breathed deeply, before opening the door.
Ecthelion looked up. "The other one has been seen near Rohan borders."
The despair left Denethor, as hope took his place. Things were not lost. Not yet. There still was a chance….
"Leave him to me" He said, his words a promise to his prey, all those miles away. For the first time in days, Denethor smiled.
The creature lay beside the road, hidden in the low bushes, looking up at the sky, but seeing far beyond the clear moon and the starry skies.
It had pushed on as far as it could, running until it had had no strength left. The snow had not bothered him, at least, not as much as it would have had he been human, but still it had drained his strength.
He could feel something bad had happened to his brother. As he reached out to him, he could feel his pain… his fear…
"Hold on." he whispered softly in his own tongue. "Hold on… I am coming for you."
The creature sat up and stared into the direction he knew his brother lay chained, Loneliness pressing on his shoulders.
"I am coming." It repeated again, reaching out its hand…
Just behind the creature, hidden by the same bushes, Denethor smelled his chance. He had had his eye on this creature for a day now, waiting for it to stop, to show its weakness, and now it finally had.
He readied the ropes and set the trap.
He would have to be fast, he knew that. Fast and accurate if he were to trap this beast. But he had learned many weaknesses and how to exploit them from the time he had spent with its brother.
He would not fail.
Thorongil wandered restlessly through the white city of Minas Tirith, unable to clear his head. The white city was beautiful, a wonderful example of the splendour of his ancestors, strong proof that the blood of Isildur held more that just weakness.
It was the largest city Aragorn had ever been in, but no matter its size, Aragorn felt it was somehow too small.
Now that he had promised the steward that he would stay behind its strong protective walls, the city seemed to shrink with each passing day. And each day the call of the place he had sworn not to go near grew stronger.
As he followed the path trough the city the ranger missed the open fields, the fresh air… He did not like to hide behind walls while another fought his battle, but that was not all that bothered him. The longer he stayed inside Minas Tirith’s walls the stronger the feeling came to him: Home. He missed his home.
Though the white city was beautiful he missed the graceful arch of the ancient buildings of Rivendell, the light playing with the trees, and the sound of elvish laughter in the air.
He had not been home for so long now…
His thoughts were interrupted by a strange sound, and suddenly the ranger stopped in his tracks. Without thinking his feet had led him further and further down into the city, descending level after level, until they had brought him here, below the ground to the dungeon where the murderous beast were captured, where the thing that had hunted him was chained.
"ororororororo" The sound had continued without stopping, and it sent cold shivers down his spine.
He knew that sound, he knew it so well.
It was the sound of his worst fear coming true.
Denethor looked down at his prey and smiled. He had caught the beast in time, it had not been able to hurt Thorongil. He had finally repaid his duty to the other man; he was no longer ‘less worthy.’
"Hello." He spoke to the beast in a low threatening voice, and he saw how it sent shivers through the spine of his prey. He could almost smell its fear.
"Take me to Thorongil."
Denethor’s eyes narrowed, as he remembered the other assassin, chained in Minas Tirith. That one too had only ever asked for the commander, always focused on his prey. He eyed this beast, and remembered the other. They were so alike…even their faces were the same.
"Take me to Thorongil." The beast repeated, his face lifted up in pride, his eyes glaring at Denethor.
"Never," the steward’s son replied.
Never would he let these monstrous murderers near his friend.
"Take me …" It started saying again, but Denethor had enough. With one hard blow directed at the creature’s temple, he knocked it unconscious.
Aragorn stood on the threshold of the cold, snow-covered prison cell as if frozen there, unable to react to the scene displayed there.
Ecthelion had warned him that the creature locked in the dungeon would give him nightmares forever, but not even the steward himself could have known how right he had been.
"Dan?" he spoke softly, trying to regain the strength to react.
The elf looked up, pain in his eyes, blood frozen on all parts of his near-naked body. Still his lips managed to form some kind of a smile.
"Estel…" he whispered. "We came… to find you… To… Take you home…No.. no more Thorongil. Back to Estel… No.. No more.. Thoron.." he failed to continue and Aragorn found himself next to him in an instant.
"Hush..." he said as he tried to hug his brother where it would not hurt him. "Hush…I’ll get you out of here… I’ll find the key, they shall not hurt you anymore, I…"
But his brother could not hear his words. He had slipped away, giving in to his need to sleep, now that he finally felt safe enough to do so.
Denethor eyed his captive in frustration. "You will walk!" he hissed, kicking the creature again.
It only glared.
Denethor tried kicking once more, but the creature was as stubborn as a mule and stood his ground.
"I will make you!"
Why was the monster smiling now? Smiling as if he were a child?
"You know… I do not have to bring you." Denethor hissed. "I could just leave you here, so you would freeze to dead."
The creature remained as he was, unimpressed, and Denethor slowly began to fear he was going to have to follow through upon his threat.
"Move!" he ordered, a hint of panic in his voice. "Move or I will leave you, here in the cold, bound so you cannot move! You’ll freeze to death!"
The creature stood unmoving.
Denethor shivered. He had never killed before. Would he be able to?
"Your brother?" Fear filled Ecthelion as he looked down upon the man he considered a second son.
Aragorn’s eyes were still filled with anger as he replied. "My brother, Lord Elladan of Rivendell. He is much respected amongst both elves and man, and he would never hurt me, for he is the kindest person alive on middle earth as you would have known if you had talked to him before you started torturing him!"
Ecthelion felt sick. "And… the other? The one he kept mentioning?"
"The Lord Elrohir of Rivendell!" Aragorn snapped. "His twin!"
All blood drained from Ecthelion’s face. "You best leave now and find Denethor, Thorongil." He whispered. "Leave! Hurry! Your brother will be safe now! Find Denethor before it is too late!"
Denethor walked around his captive, admiring his handiwork.
The creature had put up quite some fight, but Denethor had come out the victor in the end, and now it lay defeated at his feet, bound so severely it was not able to wriggle even a little bit.
Denethor noted with satisfaction that the temperature had dropped even further with the passing of the hours.
"I told you; you should have moved." He spoke pleasantly, and he smiled satisfied as the creature was unable to react. "You’ll die here, now. Frost will come. You’ll die."
The creature looked up, and allowed Denethor a glimpse into his unnatural blue eyes. The man hesitated.
Was he doing the right thing?
It had to be, right? It was threatening his best friend… It had to be killed.
"It serves you right, you know." Denethor snapped, angry that the creature had been able to make him doubt.
And with those words he turned and left his victim to die.
Elladan stared at the flowers the frost had painted on the windows of the healing ward as the steward of this city, Ecthelion sneaked near.
The elf did not turn.
"I can’t tell you how sorry I am."
The elf kept his gaze on the window as he shivered.
"I am cold." he said, sounding concerned.
Ecthelion nodded. "It is a cold night, sir. It is freezing outside."
"I am not used to feeling cold." The elf replied worriedly. "I fear… for my brother."
Ecthelion nodded, and looked at the dark night, remembering the dark look on the face of his son, and he too feared for the life of the dark-haired elf’s brother.
For the first time in his life, Elrohir experienced the true feeling of cold. Though he was bound in a way that didn’t even leave enough room to shiver he could feel the small spasms wanting to take over his body and his teeth were clattering in spite of the gag in his mouth.
"I am an elf." He tried to tell himself. "Stupid human. To me cold is only a nuisance. It will not kill me."
But his body betrayed him, as his toes turned from white to blue.
"I am an elf." He repeated as he lost the feeling in his hands. "This will not kill me. I am an elf."
The blue had spread, covering not only his toes now, but his entire legs.
"I am an ELF!" He wished he had not been gagged so he would have been able to shout to his body. "Cold is not affecting me! I am an elf!"
"I am an elf…
I am an elf…
Cold is not affecting me"
He repeated it while he slowly lost feeling in his entire body, when his body slowly turned blue, and blisters started to appear on his hands and toes.
Denethor was surprised to meet Thorongil by the warm fire of the inn, but he was glad he did all the same.
He walked up to the man he regarded as his brother and he smiled.
"You are safe now, Thorongil." He said, for the first time since he had left the creature feeling proud over what he had done. "I took care of your assassins."
Denethor’s friend turned slowly, as if he was restraining himself, and the smile on the Steward’s son’s face disappeared when he noticed the look of cold hatred in the other’s eyes.
"Where is he?" Thorongil hissed. "Where?!"
Denethor backed away. "Thorongil?" he spoke, not understanding what had happened. Hadn’t he done what was right? He had helped his friend hadn’t he? He had saved his life. He had killed the murderers…
The taller man grabbed him by the collar, and Denethor could again see the hatred, and … something else… Panic?
"Where is he?" Thorongil’s voice sounded desperate. "What have you done to my brother?"
"I am an elf."
"I am an elf."
"Cold is not affecting me."
"I am an elf."
"I am an ELF!" the repetition became desperate as he felt the darkness of unconsciousness tugging at the borders of his mind. "Cold is not affecting me! COLD IS NOT AFFECTING ME!"
But it was.
And slowly but surely Elrohir lost the battle with the darkness of his mind.
Denethor walked in front of Thorongil, tracing back his steps. The man behind him had his hand on his sword, as if he, Denethor were an enemy instead of a friend.
The steward’s son had thought he had seen his friend angry. He thought he had seen hatred in the man’s eyes when they had ridden through villages raided by Haradrhim or Corsairs. He thought he had seen the man’s eyes express hatred when he had watched orcs.
But it was nothing compared to the look on his friend now.
"Walk on!" the man snapped. "Walk on, Hurry!"
Denethor had seen how the hand of the other had tightened on the hilt of his sword and he shivered.
He hoped that somehow, by some miracle, the creature he had left behind would still be alive.
But as he felt the bitter cold hit his face he shivered again and his hopes faded.
Of everything he had been repeating over and over only one word had remained.
It was the only thing his mind was able to concentrate on, he only thing that it could accept.
"Elrohir!" he shouted, pushing Denethor aside. "Ro!"
He cut away the ropes that bound his brother, removed the cruel gag. "Elrohir, answer me!"
He put his brother’s hands between his own, careful not to hurt the blisters as he rubbed them softly.
"Elrohir…" His voice was no less threatening than it had been when he had commanded Denethor.
Aragorn gently removed the elf’s wet tunic, and replaced it with a dry one of his own.
"I know you are." he said softly. "Now try to move your fingers."
"Cold!" The word sounded as a protest and Aragorn took the fingers between his hands once more.
"Your cloak." He spoke to Denethor. "Make a tent out of it. Take mine too."
"Do it!" he hissed, before directing his voice to Elrohir again. "The cold shall fade, brother. We shall warm you up."
"Hush Ro.. hush.. you’ll be warm again." He looked back at Denethor. "Give me the blankets! Make a fire! Warm some water!"
"I am an elf." Elrohir said and Aragorn nodded. "Of course you are."
"Cold is not affecting me." Elrohir continued and Aragorn smiled.
"But we’ll put these blankets around you just in case, shall we not?"
"I am an elf." Elrohir repeated and Aragorn continued to softly rub his hands and feet.
"I am an elf.
"I know you are, my brother." The human softly said. "But I will get you warm. I will get you safe.
I will get you to Minas Tirith…" Elladan was there. He would be able to heal his twin.
"Yes… I’ll take you to Imladris too if you want."
"We … we missed you, Estel. We came… to get you. "
"Hold him steady!" Aragorn snapped as he felt the stretcher shift.
Though Denethor had once been his friend, he could not bring himself to be understanding towards him now. He could not bear the man near his wounded, frail brother, and yet he could not do without him.
He looked back, seeing Denethor standing in the snow, completely miserable, but he could not bring himself to feel compassion.
Not until his brothers were safe.
"Walk on". He spoke softly. "We need to make for Minas Tirith. We need to get out of the cold."
A few weeks later, Aragorn sat next to his eldest brother in the gardens of the city, looking over the white walls, studying Elladan’s face.
"Is he healed enough, you think?"
Elladan nodded slowly. "He is not healed. But healed enough I think. I think it would be better if we left this place."
"And you? Are you healed enough?"
Elladan smiled. "So.. you have not forgotten our characters in the years you were gone, brother." He said smiling.
"Answer the question, Elrondion."
"Aye. I am healed enough."
"I will inform Ecthelion then. Start packing."
Ethelion looked down at the man in front of him, not knowing what to say.
He understood why Thorongil wanted to go.
He was sorry for all he and his son had done to his brothers.
They had done it only out of love for him.
"Denethor feels… ashamed. Of what he did." He spoke softly. "as do I."
Thorongil did not speak.
"But… you don’t have to go, because of it. You will always be welcome. Allow us a chance to make it up to your brothers, to make it up to you…"
"I long for my home, Ecthelion. My brothers came here to get me back, and I would have gone with them. Either way. I am sorry."
"Gondor could become your home as well, my son." Ecthelion spoke softly.
"It could." Aragorn replied. "Maybe one day, it will. But now my home is calling for me, Etchelion. I must go."
"Will you return? One day? To show you have forgiven us?"
A long silence followed.
"Maybe, when I have forgiven you, I will." He said and left the hall.