The Two Swords Go South
|Rating/Warnings:||Rated R. No warnings for this chapter, but there will be adult sexual situations in the next ones.|
|Disclaimer:||This is a not for profit work of amateur fanfiction and no copyright infringement on any of Tolkien's or New Line's works was intended.|
|Genre and timeline:||LOTR, specifically The Fellowship of the Ring. A mix of both movie and book canon but the character of Conner is definitely AU.|
|Summary:||The further adventures of Conner, squire to Boromir, amongst the elven folk of Imladris, Mirkwood and Lorien.|
|Author's Notes:||This story is a sequel to a PWP called 'A Tale of Two Swords' and features a character that was not in the books or movie. Conner the Gondorian squire is my own creation and is based on a guy fan who wanted to date an elf lady, or two.|
All by himself and feeling bereft, Conner sat on a stone bench near the main waterfall of the Bruinen river. To his surprise, he found some small solace in the presence of the roaring mass of cascading water as it fell in a swirling bubbly pool of foam before swiftly traveling along the floor of the enchanted valley that it had carved out. Imladris. His new home and perhaps he would be living here for the rest of his life.
Every time the young squire let the idea of his enforced residence sink in fully, the pain of it cut into him with knifelike stabs and he fought despair. The day before, his captain had ordered him to stay here, stay behind, with the elves, while he, Boromir, departed with a group of travelers chosen by the Lord Elrond on some mysterious quest.
"This protected realm offers you more safety from harm than any other, certainly more than anywhere in Gondor," his captain had told him after he bolted down a last goblet of wine in the Great Hall of Fire. "In these last days…"
"Surely," Conner had blurted out, "Minas Tirith is safe?" The hall was empty except for those who were leaving with his captain, and a few well-wishers who had gathered to say farewell, and his voice seemed to echo from the rafters. Boromir did not seem to notice his squire's outburst when he responded.
"If Rivendell is found and overrun by the enemy, then there is no safe place left elsewhere in this world." The words of his captain chilled the young squire and the thought of living in a world without his beloved home made the sense of security offered by a haven for elves seem false and appalling.
Despite his present anguish, overall he had been enjoying his stay in the valley until his captain left. The elven realm was restful and filled with interesting characters and surprises. He had learned much about many things and had met many strange persons from various lands.
The first day they had arrived, a month before, was the only time that Conner had been left on his own while Boromir attended an important council that had been hastily assembled. When the meeting was over, his captain had found him napping in the garden, and the young squire was hard pressed to explain his idle hours. They seemed so much like a dream that he doubted his own experience and remained mute.
There was a dinner that first evening for the members of the various races that had happened to gather at the Last Homely House at the same time; elves, dwarves, humans such as him and Boromir, and a new race of men called the halflings. They referred to themselves as hobbits.
At least Conner had heard of dwarves and elves before and in no way had considered them mythical or imaginary. The mention of a Halfling in the reported visions of both Boromir and his brother Faramir was as befuddling as the words about a broken sword. Now that the young squire had seen both with his own eyes, he was even more confused. What did it all mean, what doom was at hand, and what exactly was Isildur's Bane? He was sorry he had not paid more attention to his history teachers. He barely knew who Isildur was before he came to Imladris.
For the next few weeks Conner had learned more about the furry-footed little men from a land called The Shire, while Boromir waited on his departure back to Gondor at the insistence of the Halfelven Lord Elrond. They had funny names, the hobbits, childlike names such as Frodo, Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin.
Only the friendliest, to Conner, and most comical one, had the ordinary name of Sam. The two of them had become friends almost instantly for they found they had so much in common. Both revered their own fathers, who were still alive and dwelling far off from Imladris in their respective homes. They both worried about them with the same degree of resignation to the fate that had led them so far from their proud fathers' sight.
The hobbit was as loyal and steadfast in the service of his master, Frodo, as Conner was to his Captain, Boromir. Sam and the young squire speculated long over their futures during the waiting time. The hobbit worried about being sent home and Conner could not wait to start back to his own.
Scouts had been sent out in each direction, some to gather information and others to carry messages. Just what dangers were being spied on was not that big of a mystery to Conner, no matter how secretive his captain was about what he had learned in the council. They had to be looking for orcs and various other minions, mostly spies, of the nameless one in Mordor. But exactly why no one was allowed to travel freely was never explained to him.
When the elves returned, some in groups, some alone, they would go directly to Lord Elrond to give their report and no one else was the wiser for their knowledge for many days. And then the summons had come to Boromir to another meeting, but this time with only a limited number of the original council membership. Only nine of them had been invited.
"We are a fellowship," Boromir had explained to Conner as he prepared to travel south with the group of companions Elrond had chosen to send with him. That was how the young squire understood the mission. The Captain of the City was needed to defend Minas Tirith more than ever now, some doom unforeseen was threatening her, and somehow the sword that was broken would play a part in the unfolding tale.
During the waiting time, Conner had met Isildur's heir, a scruffy character named Aragorn who reputedly led the northern Rangers in a vigilant watch over the former lands of the kings of old. They sounded more like a band of wandering homeless vagabonds. How that mighty line had fallen. It was disheartening to think of how all the great heroes of the past had left no worthier heirs behind to save them in this time of need.
Conner was stunned to learn that the unkempt man, who Sam had constantly referred to as 'Strider', an uncouth name for one descended from the line of Numenor, was chosen, along with Boromir, to represent the race of men in the clandestine delegation.
"I vow, that disreputable ranger is not worthy to assist in lacing your vambraces," Conner muttered to his Captain. They were standing outside together in the breezy dusk for the last time while the rest of the traveling party gathered in preparation for an evening departure as Lord Elrond had advised. From his other side, just below his elbow, he heard someone speak quietly.
"All that is gold does not glitter, my son," said the hobbit called Bilbo. "Not all those who wander are lost," he added cryptically.
"That's a fact, Mister Bilbo, and no mistaking it," voiced a somber Sam who appeared out of the gloom as magically as an elf. "Just like it says in that bit of poetry about Strider," he continued. "The old that is strong does not wither and something about the frost." More hobbits joined them, small, shivering, and quiet with their own private thoughts.
Conner smiled while Sam paused to shake his head, as if to help him remember, before reciting, "Renewed shall be blade that was broken. Say, whatever became of that, Mister Frodo?"
"And crownless again will be king," answered Bilbo, instead. Everyone was silent for a moment when Aragorn himself joined them as if on cue. Elves bearing warm, fur-lined cloaks were handing them out to the fellowship, and when the ranger's ragged and stained garb was covered with one of them, he did have a more regal air about him.
For a moment, Conner's regard for the ranger shifted as he imagined him wearing a crown and the proper raiment for a monarch. His spirits lifted when he thought of how much Gondor needed a real king on its throne, after all these years. Could it be?
"It is time to say farewell," Lord Elrond said, and the brief glimmer of hope that Conner had felt was extinguished as he said goodbye to his grim-faced captain. As he turned to go back inside the Last Homely House, he heard the clear high notes of the horn of Gondor ringing through the valley; his captain was not going to go quietly into peril.
For the rest of that dark night, after Boromir left the valley, Conner felt bitter envy from watching the lucky, if frightened, Sam leave by his own master's side. The whole group had the air and attitude of a suicide mission and that bothered him the most.
What if, the dangerous idea had crept into his thoughts today beside the noisy waterfall; what if the travelers were not going to Gondor at all, but to somewhere else more dangerous and dark? Was that not possible?
It frightened Conner to follow his imagination to its most foul conclusion but once he had started musing over the situation he could not help it. They were heading for Mordor. That was the only answer that made sense considering all of the secrecy and dour moods. But why? And how could Boromir prefer to face certain death in the company of strangers, and most of them not even humans? For a mission to that poisoned land was certain death.
Conner shifted on the bench, he was not used to sitting long in one place, and resisted the urge to bolt out of his seat and run up the zigzagging path to follow after his captain, alone. It was an impulse he had been fighting all day but he knew that he would not get any farther than the slender bridge before being halted by the elves. He stared up at the cliff sides until they gave way to the skies and wished he was up there.
Although the elves' valley was protected from the harshest gales of the season that whipped the lands above, down here the first signs of the changing season were noticeable. Leaves had turned color and fell from the trees here as they did in any other land and the frivolous blossoms of spring flowers had long given way to the sturdier fall flowers like golden marigolds and asters.
The night before, when the travelers departed, a piercing wind from the east had reached the valley floor. All this day, elves had been busy cleaning up the debris left over from the chilling blasts that had ripped small branches off the leaf-stripped trees. Today the breeze was balmier, but the sun was not as warm as it had been in the previous weeks. Winter was coming.
Conner looked at the neat piles of leaves and twigs beneath the nearby trees and wondered if snow would fall here, too. That perked him up some.
In Gondor, snow fell rarely and was normally greeted with a mixture of apprehension and guilty delight. The fear was always directed towards Mordor and the evil wizardry manifested by the wicked one who dwelt within the dark tower. Even the wise would view a snow fall with skepticism, asking, 'Has the evil one at last invented some new form of warfare to torment us with?' and shuddering at the thought. By the time the sun returned and melted the brief frosty glaze, it was usually too late to relax and appreciate its beauty as the slushy puddles turned muddy and black.
It might be worth never seeing his homeland again, if Conner was to see and enjoy a real snowfall before doom descended upon the world. There had been rain showers in the past few days, but the elves did not seem to either mind or notice. The delicate looking folk were not as dismayed as he would have predicted. They did not run for shelter in any case and that was new for the Gondorian soldier.
He was used to being out of doors no matter what the weather or circumstances, but he had never learned to enjoy being wetted by a rain fall. The constant wind-whipped drops spattering on his face and in his eyes were not pleasant. But here in the valley, the rain fell in an orderly and almost polite fashion, straight down. And there seemed just enough to wet everything down and not enough to cause the river to rise.
There was more than just control over the weather that had captured Conner's attention and imagination. Indeed, all of his imagination until the day before was pretty much suffused with memories of his first day in Imladris, and the elf ladies, the ellith, who had entertained him. Or, rather, they had amused themselves with him, if truth be told.
It was not an unpleasant recollection, but it was massively distracting. That dreamlike day remained a secret between him and the ellith.
Now that he was suddenly on an enforced leave of absence from his typical duties as squire to a Captain of Gondor as well as a soldier of the White City, even his pleasant recollections of the lascivious twin sisters and their distressingly seductive mother could not bring cheer to his broken heart and shattered spirit. What purpose did he serve in this world, this magical world, besides a source of amusement?
As the day passed he had grown more concerned about his Captain and less satisfied with the idea of doing nothing. He wished he had more courage because he might seek out the twin ellith, if only for a chance to see something lovely to ease his troubled soul.
Conner had not spent any more time alone with the beautiful elf maids, after that first fantastic encounter, and almost to his relief. He was shy and if it had not been for the bold behavior of the sisters, he would never have approached either of them for even the most platonic form of companionship. On that day, after meeting them in the library, they had led him to a marvelous bathing chamber where they cast some type of spell over him, he was quite sure of that, and he was as weak as a kitten in their hands. Especially after they had both disrobed.
Any innocence he might have brought with him into this valley was gone by the time they were finished bathing him that glorious afternoon.
Today, by the waterfall, he was half-heartedly attempting to recapture that memory, which was the main reason he had sought a place to sit and think that was far from the elves. It had been, however, a useless exercise. He attempted to summon the images of the graceful naked ellith to his mind, only to utterly fail again and again, no matter how hard he tried, to see anything but blurry shadows. There was none of the sharp sweet edges that seemed to torment his thoughts incessantly in the first few days afterwards.
Indeed, that time seemed like the distant past in his now miserable life, those days of being in constant dread of meeting those ellith somewhere within the Homely House by accident while at the same time suffering with the desire for such a serendipitous occasion to happen, and soon. If it did, he had wondered how he would keep it a secret a second time around. As he sat and stared at the waterfall, he felt nostalgic for that suffering and wondering. He would have settled for feeling even that again.
Unfortunately, the constant sound of water being poured into the pool did not provide an adequate enough trigger mechanism, as he had thought it might, to transport him back to that day. The bathing chamber was enclosed and the real waterfall was mimicked by a hand-crafted replica at one at the edge of the massive marble tub. That water made a music that haunted his dreams for days but the original seemed to make no difference now, he still felt sad.
Out of the corner of his eye, for Conner was an excellent soldier even when he was despondent, he saw movement and whirled reflexively to confront the possible danger. After having stared for so long at the falling water, his eyeballs refused to focus properly in a most annoying way, almost as if he had no control over their insistence on moving up and down. But even thus handicapped, he stood at attention when he recognized his host, the Elflord Elrond.
"At ease, soldier," said the elf, kindly, his hands motioning downward. "Sit, sit, I will join you." The tall robed lord sat on the bench while Conner hesitated for a few moments, unsure if he should first bow, speak a proper greeting, offer his hand, or just sit. "Please, sit," repeated Elrond.
For several long moments Conner waited for Elrond to ask after his state of well-being and he struggled to think of something to say in reply that would not betray his emotional turmoil. He was of the true belief that the elves were able to detect falsity in the speech of men by magical means and he felt shame at his lack of gratitude toward his noble host. Being deceitful was not in his nature.
It was best to say nothing, if asked how he was faring, Conner decided. But the elf was unrelentingly silent. The sound of the waterfall seemed to grow louder in comparison. Shadows fell over them, indicating that the afternoon was drawing to a close and the stars would be out before long. At last the young squire could not bear it anymore.
"Forgive me, lord," he said. "But could you find it in your heart to allow me to leave your home and follow my captain? I fear for his safety in the company of those strangers and I would not get in the way…" He could go no further in his rush of speech when the vivid image of his home and his father's face swam into his mind unbidden. The shame he felt only increased when he realized how close to tears he had come. What was the matter with him?
"Is it not the duty of the Gondorian soldier to obey the command of his superiors?" Lord Elrond's voice was gentle but his words cut deep. He added, "Were you not ordered to abide here until such time as I deem it safe for you to leave?"
"Am I prisoner, then? What if I promise not to follow Boromir, but instead set my own course toward the White City, before she falls?" Conner felt his courage return as he imagined returning home on his own. His captain had not forbidden him that much, he explained to the Elflord beside him, at least not explicitly.
Conner's mind felt clearer now that he knew what he really wanted to do. Go home.
To be continued in Chapter 2
Posted: January 11, 2006
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"