So, I've decide to try updating this one on Wednesdays. That may change, but for now, that's how it's going to be. This story takes place just after Chapter Two of Innocence, but does not exist in the same world as Chapter Three. I'm not really sure this can be called an AU; it's more of a 'what if?' I'm sure you'll see what I mean. Anyway, this story has seven chapters, and is completely finished, so keep an eye out next Wednesday for Chapter Two!
"Again, Lúthien, why are we doing this?" Beren asked his wife as they moved cautiously through the dark forest.
"Beren, you heard the rumors. Something is wrong with this part of the forest," Lúthien said with a slight air of annoyance.
"Right, I know that," Beren assured her. "I'm just wondering why we have to be the ones to go see what the problem is. After all, it's not like any elves live here. It's probably just some creature of Morgoth."
"And if it is, don't you think that we should do something about that? At least so we can warn someone if necessary?"
She was definitely annoyed, Beren thought.
"Beren, I'm not suggesting we deal with it on our own," Lúthien softened her voice. "But we are in a position to at least find out if the rumors are true. I would feel horrible if something were to happen that we could have prevented."
Beren sighed. "You're right, as usual," he admitted.
They continued on in silence, senses extended for anything unusual. Despite their unequaled feats, they knew that most of it had been a combination of luck and desperation. They had no wish to have to fight now.
They followed a small stream farther into the woods. Water would be an important commodity for anyone dwelling in this forest, and the soft ground at its edge would reveal if anyone had been there recently.
Unexpectedly, the forest receded into a small clearing. Beren and Lúthien froze, but not before they caught the attention of the clearing's sole occupant.
Beren's first thought was that it was an escaped Noldorin slave, because whoever it was had clearly been tortured by a Balrog. There was barely an undamaged patch of visible skin: whip cuts layered under burns.
Then Beren met the golden eyes that haunted his nightmares. He didn't recognize the expression in them, terror never being an emotion he would have associated with Sauron. He stood frozen as the Maia scrambled to his feet using the tree he had been leaning on, putting no weight on his right foot. He turned to flee, but didn't get very far.
An agonized cry tore from his lips as his right thigh bent in a way it was never meant to do. He crashed to the ground, dark hair unable to hide the burns that covered much of his body. It obviously hurt, but the Maia made no sound as he curled into himself in response to the pain.
Lúthien instinctively started to move forward, but Beren caught her hand.
"It could be a trap," he cautioned her. She pursed her lips, then she shook her head decisively.
"It's not," she replied. "He wouldn't be able to fake something like this." Beren reluctantly agreed, as Lúthien, the daughter of a Maia, would know more about this than he. But he still didn't see why they had to help.
'Well, then, we know what's wrong with this part of the forest, and we can leave," he suggested. Lúthien turned appalled eyes on him.
"And just leave him like this?" she demanded.
"Lúthien, love, it is Sauron. He has tried to kill both of us, or worse, hand us over to Morgoth. We owe him nothing," Beren said firmly. Lúthien sighed.
"I know that," she said softly. "But…he and I are kin, in a way. If we leave, will we be any better than he?"
"Yes," grumbled Beren. "But your gentle heart shall not be denied, my love." He sighed, running his hand through his hair. "I just hope we won't regret this."
Lúthien was already moving forward. Beren hung back slightly, giving himself room to defend her, just in case she was wrong, and it was a trap. From this position, he had a clear view when Lúthien softly touched the wounded Maia's shoulder. Though her touch was extremely gentle, and on a patch of undamaged skin, Sauron still flinched away from it.
"Be easy," Lúthien said in a soft voice. "We won't hurt you." Sauron opened his eyes, and the wary desperation in them reminded Beren of a wounded wolf brought to bay. Of course, that connection brought up more recent memories of a dungeon, and Beren wished that he could have convinced Lúthien to walk away.
The golden eyes left Lúthien's face, and travelled beyond her to Beren. Beren restrained a sigh and moved forward to stand by Lúthien.
"I won't hurt you either," he assured the Maia. "I've been married long enough to know disagreeing with my beautiful wife is a rather bad idea." The wariness did not disappear, but diminished slightly.
Lúthien took this as a sign to push the long black hair aside, and gently turned Sauron enough to get a better look at his injuries. Along with the broken leg, the three major bones in his left arm were clearly broken as well. Beren looked closer, and realized that there were handprints burned into the arm. The Balrog that had done this had snapped the bones with its hands.
But Lúthien's attention, however, had been caught by the only wound that did not involve burns. Sauron's throat was a mess, bruised black and purple. Slightly curved wounds marred each side of his throat; they had bled copiously. Lúthien frowned as she looked at them.
"Huan left these," she murmured. "But they should have at least partially healed by now."
"I think they were reopened, Tinúviel," Beren said gently. Sauron raised his eyes to meet Beren's, then nodded, a single dip of the dark head. Lúthien's frown deepened.
"By whom?" she asked. Sauron opened his mouth and tried to speak, but he could only manage a raspy hiss. He stopped almost instantly, a pained wince flashing across his face. Lúthien looked up at Beren, a question clear in her eyes. He sighed, and knelt.
"I think we know who," he said softly. "The question is why."
The wary look in Sauron's eyes increased, but he reached out hesitantly, and gently touched Beren's right forearm, just above where it abruptly ended. The Maia's fingers were cold, Beren noticed fleetingly, before the full implication of Sauron's action registered.
"Because we won the Silmaril," Beren whispered. Sauron withdrew his hand, and closed his eyes, nodding.
Beren stared in disbelief at the injured Maia. Sauron had been subjected to this, simply because he had been partially involved with their quest for the Silmaril? He deserved it though, didn't he? a small voice whispered.
"That doesn't make any sense," Beren said, striving for calm. "If Morgoth himself couldn't stop us, what makes him think that you could have?" Sauron opened his eyes again, an expression of weary cynicism on his face. Beren sighed.
"No, I suppose that wouldn't have made a difference to Morgoth, would it," he muttered. Sauron shook his head, pessimism slowly fading to be replaced again with pain.
The horror on Lúthien's face was disappearing, being replaced by a no-nonsense look Beren recognized from the various times he'd been injured and she'd cared for him. It was lucky for him that Lúthien had training as a healer, the gifts she'd inherited from her mother aiding her greatly.
"The burns look bad, but they are beginning to heal nicely on their own," she began. "The worst seems to be the broken bones. If they begin to heal without being set, you'll lose mobility."
Sauron nodded, weary acceptance visible in his face. Lúthien bit her lip, thinking. The femur would be the hardest and most painful to set, but it also would probably cause Sauron to loose consciousness, sparing him the pain of her dealing with everything else.
Making her decision, she gently pressed the Maia onto his back. He winced when his lacerated back came in contact with the hard ground, but didn't resist. Lúthien motioned Beren over.
"Hold him down, and don't let him move," she ordered her husband. "This is going to hurt," she warned Sauron. He just nodded, closing his eyes. Gritting her teeth, she pulled on his right leg in a single motion, smoothly, but using all her strength to overcome the thick, contracted muscles in his thigh.
Beren had to quickly use his weight to keep Sauron still as the Maia's back arched and he tried to jerk away from them. Part of Beren flinched away from the hoarse, agonized scream Sauron produced, but another part of him gleefully felt that revenge was only fair.
Sauron suddenly went limp beneath his hands, as he fell into unconsciousness. Lúthien sighed in relief, but Beren just stared at the slack features of the Maia, feeling his emotions tangle into a conflicted snarl. He shook his head, and continued to help his wife treat the Maia who had caused them so much pain.
Sauron regained consciousness as the sun was setting. He looked disoriented for a moment, then realizing where he was, relaxed slightly. He seemed slightly out of it, glassy eyes staring at nothing. Beren moved around, setting up camp and trying to ignore the unwelcome addition. Lúthien offered Sauron water, which he drank gratefully, as it eased his raw throat.
With the quick ease of practice, Beren and Lúthien quickly finished creating their camp, and settled down for the night. Beren briefly missed Huan and the hound's loyal guardianship.
Sauron lay on his back, watching the stars dance overhead. He was exhausted from the constant pain, and simply let his thoughts drift. Could they see him, those cold distant lights? Could their creator? Did the Valar know the fate of the one who had once faithfully served them but had turned in allegiance so long ago? Did Varda's stars report of his broken form? Did the small stream nearby carry to Ulmo echoes of his choked cry as Beren and Lúthien set his broken limbs? Did the earth tell Sauron's former lord how the Maia dug his fingers into it to try and deal with the pain? Did Yavanna know as her trees were used as splints? Did Irmo see his dreams, full of fire and darkness and pain? Did his spouse, the fair Estë, know of his desperate need for healing?
Is there no healing for me? he cried silently. He closed his eyes to the cold indifference of the stars, turning his head to the side. Even if the Valar did know, they wouldn't care. He had betrayed them long ago, and deserved the fate he suffered. He drifted to sleep, seeking oblivion to deal with the pain in his body and in his heart.
Like it, hate it, think I'm crazy? Let me know! Please review!