Well, here it is folks, the sixth and final chapter. Once more, I hope it was worth the wait.
asyr –Thank you so much for being such a faithful reader/reviewer. I can't tell you how good it makes me feel to read your comments, especially your one for chapter five. I'm glad you liked it; personally chapter six is my favorite, because it has lots of action (although it isn't as funny) so you will have to let me know what you think!
And now, the finale. Many, many thanks to the Jedi Wizard Hobbit for making the terrible ending just perfect!
The three companions (followed unbeknownst to them by Hoggle) picked their way through the piles of junk that surrounded the walls of the goblin city.
"Is everyone in the place a complete slob?" Thranduil questioned as he pushed aside a broken chair and stepped over a pile of unwashed cooking ware.
At last they found themselves at the walls to the goblin city. Although they had once been tall, the thick stone barriers were cracked and broken in places, and blackened with the scorch marks of a great fire. They found the door, which had fallen or been torn off its hinges, leaving only the door frame and a few bits of splintered wood scattered around. Thranduil noticed a pair of metal boots placed beside the doorway, as if the sentry standing there had simply stepped out of them and walked away. The elf glanced about uneasily as the trio passed beneath the archway.
"I wonder what has occurred here," Sir Didymus remarked as they passed beneath a second archway, also without a door, and entered the goblin city.
"Mess…" Ludo declared.
Some of the houses were intact, but many were in similar states to the outside walls, crumbling in places, missing doors or roofs, and some were blackened by soot. Ambrosius sniffed about, startling a wandering chicken, as the companions studied the dismal scene.
"I see no goblins in this so-called goblin city," Sir Didymus said, tugging at his mount. "Ambrosius, really! There is no need to smell that."
But Thranduil's sharp eyes spotted movement in the shadows, and as he watched a goblin, perhaps two and a half feet high, with long spindly fingers and a face that was almost completely flat, emerged. It waddled towards them and peered up at Thranduil.
"Got any spare change, mate?" it asked.
"Ah, no, I am sorry," he answered. "May I ask who you are?"
"What happened to this place, master… ah, Cus?"
"Well, I'll tell you," the goblin replied. "This place used to be a thrivin' metropolis, but one day all these rocks came to the city and rolled around and chased a body and smashed just about everything, and rather than rebuild the rich folk all moved out to the 'burbs.'"
Thranduil blinked at the unfamiliar word, and the goblin lowered his voice conspiratorially.
"And then the king sent it to guard the city, since the soldiers had gone."
"It," Cus repeated unhelpfully. "It did that." He pointed at the blackened buildings. "And that." He pointed at the dismantled doors. "And this." He tugged his shirt over his head, like a turtle disappearing into its shell.
"I beg your pardon?"
The goblin only cackled to itself and ran off, its head still inside its shirt. Thranduil watched it bump into a wall, bounce off, and continue on its way, still chortling madly.
"How odd," Thranduil said.
"'Tis a very strange person indeed, my lord," Didymus agreed. "Pay no attention to aught that he said, for I am sure he is less than trustworthy."
"Perhaps," Thranduil agreed. "But nevertheless something is amiss here. We must be on our guard."
"I am always on guard!" Didymus declared loudly. "Let all the defenders of this city come! I shall fight them all to the death!"
"Didymus…" Thranduil began.
"Have at you!" Didymus shouted, swinging his staff at an imagined foe. "Take that! And that! I am not afraid!"
"Didymus!" Thranduil's voice was sharper, more commanding. "Please be quiet!"
Sir Didymus looked up at him.
"But why must we be quiet, my lord? Surely you do not fear whatever dwells in this city."
"Fear, nay," Thranduil replied. "But there is no cowardice in being cautious. Only prudence."
"As you command, my lord, so I shall obey."
The most direct route to the castle would have taken them in a straight line from the archway, but this path was impossible to follow due to the number of buildings that had fallen over or been torn down. Perhaps Thranduil could have climbed over them, but Ludo and Sir Didymus could not, and so the group attempted to find an alternate route.
As they passed yet another fallen building, Thranduil began to believe in the it that Cus had spoken of in such hushed tones about. It was obvious to the elven king that the decrepit state of these buildings were due to more than the hand of time as he ran his hand across several deep gouges in the stone, white against the scorched black, like the clawings of some great beast.
A gentle breeze had sprung up, and it caressed their backs as they walked. Thranduil froze suddenly as the wind carried to his nose a distinctive smell.
Sulfur, he thought, sniffing. And smoke.
He turned to look behind them but there was nothing there, and the sent that had caught his attention was gone as quickly as it had come.
"My lord, is something amiss?" Sir Didymus questioned.
"I am unsure," Thranduil replied.They continued walking, but the elven king could not shake the uneasy feeling that he was being watched.
From his vantage point in the second story window, Hoggle watched the dragon stalk Thranduil, Ludo, and Sir Didymus as the trio attempted to find their way to the castle. The creature was about twice the size of a horse, with scales as red as blood and huge teeth and claws which were wicked-looking even in the distance from which Hoggle was viewing them. He shuddered, and wondered how he could warn Thranduil of the creature.
A soft sound, somewhat like metal scraping against rock, caused Thranduil to turn again, but as before he could see no sign of any threat. He waited, tense, searching the shadows behind the crooked buildings, but saw nothing.
Hoggle saw the dragon circle around Thranduil, who had turned his back to the others and was looking back the way they had come. The huge serpent slunk around a building, almost like a cat hunting a mouse. Hoggle saw it gather itself for a spring.
Behind you! he thought desperately, knowing that the elf king was too
far away to hear him should he speak aloud. Look
Thranduil heard the shout in his mind and turned, catching sight of the huge shape hurtling toward him. Faster than the eye could follow he snatched up the lid of a large barrel that stood nearby and threw it up before him like a shield. Six inch claws, meant for his chest, sunk into the wood as the elf was thrown to the ground by the force of the impact. He rolled swiftly away before the weight of the beast could press him to the earth and crush him.
The dragon snarled as it tried to free itself from the wood, quickly accomplishing this with a quick snap of its huge jaws. It turned upon Thranduil again, who had scrambled to his feet and stood a short distance away.
The elf had no weapon with which to fight the creature, so he waited for the dragon it make the first move, diving out of the way behind a heap of rubble as the dragon sent a huge spurt of flame in his direction. He felt the heat pass over him, and hoped the fire hadn't singed his hair as he picked up a rock about the size of his fist.
As soon as the danger of being burnt was momentarily passed, Thranduil leapt from his hiding place, running toward one of the buildings as he threw the rock with all the strength in his arm. It struck the dragon squarely on the nose, and the beast howled as it sank back on its haunches and pawed at its smarting snout.
Behind the building, Thranduil crouched with his back against the cool stone and considered his options. They were few; he had no weapon with which to defend himself, and he did not have time to attempt to lose the dragon in the maze of buildings. He suspected he could do it, but not before his allotted time to rescue Legolas was over, and he could not afford to take the risk. Then again, what else could he do against a dragon?
He heard the dragon snuffling at the corner of the building and stood quickly, jumping up and catching the edge of the roof, pulling himself effortlessly up. A moment later the dragon came around the corner and looked around for him and Thranduil, armed with a piece of broken shingle, jumped onto its back.
The dragon roared again, twisting and tossing beneath him, forcing the elf to grasp at the horns atop its head to keep from falling. The dragon whirled in a circle, flapping its wings in an attempt to dislodge its attacker. Releasing his hold with one hand, Thranduil raised his shingle, intending to attempt to drive it into the dragon's eye, but the move was ill timed. A great sweeping wing struck him hard in the side as he raised his arm, knocking him from his perch and sending him flying off. He landed a good twelve feet away, his head striking something hard as he fell. For a moment the world spun and darkened, and he fought to hold on to consciousness.
When his vision cleared he saw the dragon coming swiftly toward him. He tried to scramble backward, but his muscles would not respond to his commands. The dragon loomed over him, opening its jaws to end his life, when suddenly it stopped a mere foot from him, a puzzled look coming into its eyes. It strained against some halting force that Thranduil could not see, then turned its head to look back.
Ludo had the dragon by the tail, stopping it from being able to reach Thranduil. The dragon huffed as it gathered itself to spit fire at the great beast.
"Ludo, beware!" Thranduil cried, but just as the dragon was about to roast Ludo alive it was attacked from a new angle.
"Have at ye!" Sir Didymus shouted, whacking whatever part of the dragon he could reach with his staff. Ambrosius tried to bite the beast, although his teeth were thwarted by the tough scales that covered the dragon's body. The dragon turned its head, snapping at this new attack. Its teeth broke the staff in two. Sir Didymus barked angrily.
Just then the attack came from yet another angle in the form of small stones that struck the dragon's face upon the opposite side.
"Ha! Take that, you overgrown snake, you!" Hoggle shouted, hurling the small projectiles with a surprising amount of accuracy. "Ya!"
Somehow, Thranduil had managed to hold onto his shingle all this time, and as the dragon turned its face toward Hoggle he forced his arm to move and drove the sharp metal into the dragon's eye. He nearly went deaf with the resulting howl.
The dragon's wings unfurled and it flapped awkwardly upwards, disappearing with a keening wail as it flew off past the rooftops. Thranduil levered himself into a sitting position with a groan.
"Are you well, my lord?" Sir Didymus asked.
"Yes, I am unhurt, thank you all." He looked up into their faces, smiling, and then turned to Hoggle, who stood a short distance away.
"I'm sorry I gave ya that apple," the dwarf said, "Jareth made me do it."
Thranduil stood and walked over to the despondent dwarf, laying his hand upon Hoggle's head.
"There is nothing to forgive. Thank you."
Hoggle simply smiled.
"Now we must hurry," Thranduil said. "We are almost out of time.
When at last they reached the doors to the castle, Thranduil stopped at the base of the steps.
"Here is where we must part," he told his companions.
"Part?" Sir Didymus exclaimed. "But we have not yet rescued thy son and completed our quest!"
Thranduil smiled down at the enthusiastic little figure.
"I am sorry, Didymus," he said. "But this is my quest, and I must complete it alone."
Sir Didymus nodded solemnly.
"Very well, my lord. I wish you good fortune."
Ambrosius licked Thranduil's hand, and he patted the shaggy head briefly before turning to Ludo.
"Buuhhh-Byyyeee, Thhrraannndoooollll." Before the elf could reply he found himself caught up in a very big, very hairy hug. He patted Ludo's shoulder awkwardly and waited to be released.
"Good-bye," Hoggle said forlornly when Ludo had set Thranduil down once more.
Thranduil turned and walked up the steps, pausing at the top to look back once more at his companions. He lifted his hand in an elvish blessing.
"Farewell, my brothers. May the Valar protect you on your path under the sky."
Then he turned away once more, pushing open the heavy doors and stepping inside without looking back.
He found the throne room easily enough. Jareth stood upon a dais before his throne, dressed all in white with a flowing robe of white feathers. Legolas stood a few feet away, encased in what looked like a giant bubble.
Thranduil saw Legolas's lips move in a silent cry of Ada and watched the little fists beat upon the unyielding surface of his transparent prison. Thranduil took a menacing step toward the goblin king.
"Give me my son," he commanded.
Jareth smiled scornfully.
"No, I don't think I shall."
He snapped his fingers, and hundreds of small goblins appeared as if out of nowhere, swarming across the ground and throwing themselves upon Thranduil. He struggled against them, but like a mass of ravenous fire ants upon a stag they quickly covered him and bore him to the ground through sheer numbers. Thranduil struggled valiantly, but in vain, and all he could do was hurl furious curses at the mocking Goblin King.
"Liar!" he snarled. "Coward! I have reached your castle as you bade me, and yet you hold my son still, and keep me subdued by magic and trickery. You send your minions to do your bidding, for you dare not face me yourself!" He threw one of the goblins off and partially freed his right arm, but three more quickly took its place, pinning the limb down once again.
"You dare not meet me alone, for you know I would do more than place another bruise upon your face!"
Jareth's hand moved slowly to his cheek as the mocking smile fell away and a deadly serious look came over his visage.
"If that is the way you want it," he said slowly, his voice like a serpent's hiss before its strike. "Then that is the way it will be."
At once the goblins were gone, vanished as if they had never been. Thranduil nearly brained himself as suddenly he was struggling against only air, but he recovered quickly and rose swiftly and gracefully to his feet.
Jareth waved his hand and two long, bright swords appeared before them, hanging suspended in the air.
"Your weapon of choice, I believe?" Jareth said politely, malice in his smile.
"Not quite," Thranduil replied, meeting the man's eyes. "But with my weapon of choice there would be no contest, so I begrudge you not."
He approached the blades slowly, not trusting the goblin king at all. Cautiously he reached out and grasped the handle of one of the swords, which came away easily in his hand as he hefted the blade, testing its weight and breadth as he sighted down the length of the steel to see if it was straight and hale. He swung the blade swiftly over his head and down in a cutting arc as Jareth watched.
"It will serve," he said.
Jareth's smile grew broader, but no less cold.
"I am so glad you approve." He brushed his cloak away from his shoulders and the white material fluttered to the ground in a graceful heap. Beneath the robe he also wore a coat of mail, the steel rings somewhat larger than the mithril ones of Thranduil's and studded with diamonds. He reached for the second sword.
Both armed, they circled slowly, eyes locked, each daring the other to make the first move. They moved with cautious grace that showed neither was a stranger to the sword, each silently assessing the other's step and balance. Lightning flickered from their eyes, emerald to cobalt, the gaze of these two kings nearly as great and terrible as the swords they held.
Thranduil struck, sweeping in with a double-handed diagonal cut intended to test the strength of his opponent's guard. He was elven fast, but Jareth's blade met his well, faltering only slightly under the surprising strength of the deceptively slender elf lord. The goblin king took a half-step backward, giving himself room to maneuver as he turned his wrist, spinning down and under Thranduil's attack and forcing the elf to reassess his own guard, turning his blade to knock aside Jareth's thrust at his unprotected left side.
Thranduil made use of his superior strength, forcing Jareth's arm upward in an arc and stepping in so that their hilts met. Locked together, their eyes met over the clasp of their hands and the silver pommels of their weapons. Jareth's widened slightly as he felt the power in the elf's arms press him down, and, knowing he had not the strength to contend at such close quarters, he dropped to one knee and rolled into Thranduil's shins, causing the elf to stumble forward. Thranduil did not fall as most opponents would have, however, and Jareth was only just quick enough to block the descending sword that would have sundered his head in two. He heaved upward, forcing Thranduil to take a step back, and followed with a quick undercut, a reverse, and an uppercut upon the other side to keep the elf defending.
Jareth realized that the elven king had superior strength and that his greater age had allowed him many more years of study in the art of swordplay. If the combat was to depend upon physical skill alone, he knew he would lose. However, Jareth had his own advantages; he had watched Thranduil navigate the labyrinth, and knew the way the elf thought. Jareth was nothing if not crafty, and he knew how to work this understanding to his advantage.
He let Thranduil take the lead once more, concentrating on parrying the blows that rained down upon him. When he returned to the offensive he struck with a deliberately awkward and seemingly desperate blow, throwing open his guard upon the left side as he did so. Thranduil fell for the trick, sidestepping the apparently careless lunge and responding with a thrust of his own rather than defending with his sword against Jareth's attack.
Jareth switched his lunge to a cut and slid in below Thranduil's arm to lay a deep gash in the elf's thigh. Only the quickest of reflexes prevented Thranduil from losing his ability to walk as he realized how he had been tricked and dropped down and sideways away from the blow. Jareth's blade still found its mark, though not with the power its owner had intended.
Thranduil rolled and came to his feet once more.
"Curunír!" he hissed as he put weight upon the injured leg.
"First blood," Jareth replied.
"And an effective one." They began to circle once more. "You are far too snooty and prideful, Thranduil, and someday it is going to get you killed."
"Perhaps," Thranduil said, echoing Jareth's mocking smile with one of his own. "But not at your hand."
The elf struck again, feinting right and then coming in on the left as Jareth swung his sword to meet the blow. Jareth twisted his body so that it was behind his misplaced his sword once more and then dropped to one knee and aimed a blow at Thranduil's legs, which the elf avoided. His wound didn't seem to slow him at all as he brought his sword down upon Jareth.
Jareth kicked him in the shin.
"I learned that move from your son!" he snarled as Thranduil stumbled and took a step back, giving Jareth a moment to scramble backwards. Then the elf was upon him again, and Jareth brought up his sword like a shield, horizontally across his body with the hilt in his right hand and the flat of the blade pressed against the palm of his left, as Thranduil fell upon him, the elf king's knees on the stone floor on either side of Jareth's body, his sword forming a cross with the goblin king's and his face pressing close to the other's.
With a grunt, Jareth drove his knee into Thranduil's stomach and propelled his opponent over his head. This time it was Thranduil, winded, who had to scramble to block a falling blow. He hissed through clenched teeth as he swung his sword to meet Jareth's cut, pushing the goblin king's sword to the side. There was the ring of metal sliding 'gainst metal as Thranduil spun Jareth's sword aside and down, pinning it to the ground beneath his own. He surged upwards, hitting Jareth's chest squarely with his left shoulder and knocking him onto his back. The sword fell from the goblin king's fingers and before he could even look to see where it had fallen he felt the cool kiss of sharp steel against his neck. He lay back again and looked up into Thranduil's face. The elven king's eyes were ice.
"Release my son."
Jareth raised his hands slightly as if to protest, and the pressure against his skin increased until he could feel it just cut into his neck.
"I cannot think of a reason why I should refrain from taking your life," Thranduil warned.
Jareth's eyes dared him to do it, even as he waved his hand and the globe encasing the elven prince faded away.
"Ada!" Legolas cried, finding himself free at last. "Ada!"
Thranduil turned to look, and Jareth attempted to take advantage of the elf king's distraction. Although Thranduil's eyes were no longer upon him, however, the sword remained sure against his neck.
"Ada, don't do it!" Legolas shouted in Sindarian, running to his father and throwing himself into Thranduil's arms. There were tears on the child's cheeks; Thranduil could feel their dampness against his neck as Legolas buried his face into his father's shoulder.
"Don't do what, my heart?" Thranduil asked softly.
"Don't kill him!" Legolas cried, his voice muffled as he refused to lift his head. "Don't kill him, ada. Don't, don't…" he began to sob unintelligibly.
"I won't dear one," Thranduil soothed. He took the sword from Jareth's neck and dropped it upon the ground so that he might stroke his son's heaving back. "Be at peace, I am here."
Jareth propped himself up on his elbows.
"What did he say?"
Thranduil glanced down at the goblin king.
"He asked me not to kill you."
For a moment they looked at each other, and then there was a silent clap in the air, like thunder with no sound, and Thranduil found himself standing by the open window of Legolas's room once more.
Too concerned for the small bundle in his arms to be overly surprised by once again being transported somewhere entirely different, Thranduil moved quickly to the bed, stroking the small golden head resting on his shoulder.
"Shhh," he soothed. "All is well, my heart. All is well."
Legolas quieted under his father's gentle touch and comforting voice, and soon was asleep against Thranduil's chest. Thranduil held him for a while, comforting himself as much as his child, assuring himself that his son was indeed safe. Finally he laid the elfling down upon the bed and pulled the blankets up to the little chin. He dipped a cloth in the basin beside the bed and carefully washed streaks of dust and salt tears off his son's face.
Legolas lay still, long, dark lashes resting upon fair cheeks, for he was too young yet to sleep with his eyes open as the adults of his kind did. Thranduil brushed a strand of hair away from his son's face and planted a kiss upon his brow. As he sat up a shadow fell across the bed.
Thranduil leapt to his feet and whirled around, his hand reaching for a knife that was not there. Straightening, he readied himself to deal with whatever threat had come with his hands, turning toward the moon-lit window. The wound in his leg twinged, but he ignored it.
Jareth stood just inside the room, dressed simply in all black, a loose-fitting shirt open at the collar and his usual tight breeches and boots. He raised his hands in submission.
"I only want to say goodbye."
Thranduil stared at him, unsure, and when he gave no reply Jareth brushed past him and stepped toward the bed. Thranduil caught his arm.
"No tricks," he warned as the goblin king turned to look at him.
Jareth turned back to the bed, gazing down at the angelic little figure beneath the blankets.
"He really is a charming little fellow," he observed to no one in particular, laying his hand on the sleeping elf's brow much as Legolas's father had done a few moments before. He let his hand slide down the sleeping form until it lay over Legolas's small fist. He held it there for a moment, and when he lifted it the ebony chess figure of Jareth was clutched in the elfing's fingers.
"They really did go to live in a castle in the sky," he said softly, leaning down close to the sleeping face.
Legolas stirred at the sound of Jareth's voice and opened sleepy eyes.
"Legolas murmured something in Sindarian that Jareth couldn't even make out, never mind understand. The elfling's eyes fluttered closed and he rolled over onto his side, unconsciously bringing the little ebony king close to his chest as he tucked his hands under his chin.
Jareth turned to look at Thranduil.
"What did he say?"
"I hope you find the girl with the pants." Thranduil frowned questioningly, and Jareth laughed.
"He's a perceptive little chap."
"You have no idea."
The two paused, alarmed that they were suddenly talking as if they were equals, even comrades. But Thranduil pursued the conversation, for something was still on his mind.
"You are not allowed to come back and take him again?"
Jareth shook his head. "No, you defeated the labyrinth, my goblins are not allowed to take him again. So worried?" A hint of a smirk played at the corners of the Goblin King's mouth.
Thranduil squared his shoulders. "He is my son."
"Yes," Jareth said quickly, starting toward the window. When he reached it, he stopped and turned around to face the elven king. "And you are a good father."
Thranduil's head tilted slightly, confused by the sudden shift he perceived in the seemingly hard-hearted, mocking, childish Goblin King. But then he thought of his son, how the boy had wanted to save him. He realized that there were things that he, despite being thousands of years older than the sleeping child on the bed, did not know or understand. He looked the Goblin King directly in the eye with a changed expression on his face.
"Farewell, King of the Elves," he said, before turning into an owl and disappearing out into the night. Thranduil went to the window and watched his silhouette against the moon.
Well, folks, that's all she wrote, at least for now. We are considering, however, doing a sequel and possibly an AU spin off in which Thranduil goes to visit Jareth's father bringing along little!Legolas to play with little!Jareth. So, click that little button down there pointy point and let me know if you are interested in either. And thanks for reading Magic Dance in Middle Earth!