Chapter 1 – Gathering and Council
The oldest and wisest of them had called for a gathering. It was nearly unheard of for their kind to gather for most remained in the dark solitude of their mountains, forests and ruins with only their treasures to rouse them. None protested, however; when the Eldest called upon them, they answered; there was no choice, no opportunity of protest. The call was a Siren's song to their blood and they were compelled to obey, even those Still-Cursed heeded the call. And so within a fortnight, in the caverns beneath the White Mountains, there was the First and Last Great Gathering of the Dragons.
The caverns beneath the White Mountains went deep into the earth; molten fire flowed in great streams throughout. Great shining veins of glittering metal twisted around the walls, thick and pure in both size and value. The Deep-dwellers had long ago begun to form a mine in the cavern, as was apparent from the formations in the stone and tools long since left behind, though none of the land-dwellers who had once called the cavern home remained alive, not for many centuries. And so, it was the home of the Eldest of the Dragons yet alive on Middle Earth, one of the few places they could gather together.
They were a great menagerie of color and splendor, wings and eyes, tails and claws. Their scales and fangs glimmered with the light from the liquid fire all around them within the depths of the caverns; the Dragons breathed in the comfort of the heat from the heart of the world. A large circle they made before He Who Had Summoned Them; twenty with scales and fangs and only three of the Cursed, those that walked upon two legs as the Children of the Valar did.
The Eldest, a great scarred Dragon with greyed silver scales, slammed his tail upon the stone and rock of the ground, calling those gathered to attend.
"I have called upon you all with information of the land-dwellers and will learn what decision those gathered would make for the Fate of this Age of the earth." He spoke without opening his powerful jaws, in a voice that enthralled the others; it was deep and rumbled like thunder through them, vibrating the bones of the three Still-Cursed ones.
"We have all heard whisperings of the Evil One's power once more growing in the land closest to where the sun rises. You have gathered from the Mountains of Angmar to the Ash Mountains and beyond so we may decide if our kind is to keep this world from the grasp of the Second Deceiver."
As the Eldest spoke many of those gathered ruffled their wings and bristled while others huffed in huge breaths of heated air, growls building in their chests. It had been nearly two Ages of the earth since their kind had dealt with the Children of the Valar extensively, not many among them were keen with the thought of suffering their presence.
A wingless white dragon narrowed ice blue eyes and spoke, her voice commanding and shrewd. "We Dragons have weathered this storm before, Eldest. There is no reason for any of our kin to interfere with the goings on of the land-dwellers." Many growled and rumbled in their agreement. "Our cousins, hidden in the depths of the world fear no concern for them, why should our kind do so in their stead?"
"Rerir-dweller, that I cannot argue," the Eldest of the Dragons said admittedly for a moment. "Our cousins, the great demons without form that they are, do not concern themselves with what occurs on the surface of the world. The Second Deceiver is cleverer than he was before, however. The great Ring of power has been awakened and it searches for its master." His frosty white gaze slid over to a dragon that appeared almost as if made from the razor sharp rock of the mountain from which he came.
"The Second Deceiver has committed a great atrocity," the great Dragon of the Mountains of Shadow informed them, "greater than any ever committed before. Nine of our Still-Cursed kin have been caught in his web of lies and false promise."
Roars of outrage were bellowed from the throats of the great Dragons gathered; their saliva dripping from their jaws as they snarled; it pooled to the ground beneath them, melting the stone and making it glow as the liquid fire all around them. The Still-Cursed, much smaller than the Dragons, moved just enough away from the enraged ones as to avoid tails and claws as they expelled their anger and fury.
"The offspring of the First Winged of our kind has not yet been caught in his gaze," he continued after the others had finally settled around them, ready to hear his words once again. "But it was with the promise of lifting the Curse of the Valar that the nine were ensnared by the Second. He gave them form and wings, but they are enslaved and bare his wraiths to do his bidding. They are not true Dragons, merely shadows of what they should be as the riders they bear.
"I fear that if the Great Black One's progeny is enslaved to him, there will be nothing to stop the Second Deceiver from destroying all of our kind."
"Then this Still-Cursed must be protected!" came the demand of a wingless blue Dragon from the Grey Mountains. "This One must be kept from his gaze at all costs."
"No," the Eldest spoke, disbanding the shouts that followed in agreement with the Grey Mountain dweller. "The answer cannot be to hide ourselves and the Still-Cursed ones away as we have always done. Too often have our kind been hunted within our mountains, killed for our scales and bones in the name of vengeance or glory. No, some other way must be found."
There were several moments of silence save for the smoldering travel of the liquid fire as it moved about them in the great cavern and the Dragons, both released and Still-Cursed, within its depths. A green Dragon, that had scaled that appeared more to be moss-covered stone than actual scales, raised his head, dark eyes sharp with intelligence.
"The trees of the great forest tell of the One Ring's movement to a House of the Firstborn. The Lord of that House has failed once before to destroy the Ring, he will not be so foolish a second time," he spoke cryptically, voice slow and graveled like the tree herders he had for so many centuries lived amongst.
"Arrive to your meaning, Forest-dweller," commanded a smaller, orange dragon, wings folded neatly along her back, ruby eyes glimmering with impatience.
"The forests speak of peoples traveling to a secret council, one that may perhaps find a way to destroy the Ring of power and the Second Deceiver, thereby undoing his works." His words began to take form in the thoughts of those gathered.
"Then that shall be the decision of this gathering," the Eldest of them declared, "We know what must be done. Send out our kin and find the last of the Great Black One's line; that Still-Cursed shall go to the House of the Firstborn with two that remain with the ability to Change. With this decision and our assistance in this matter, I expect this calamity shall soon be done with."
With that said the Gathering dispersed, the Great Dragons returning to the lands of their mountains to find the progeny of the First Winged of their kind. Only a few of them remained, seeking the Eldest's council.
"The last of the Unbroken line will be difficult to find," the Forest-dweller said. "Long ago that one had given up hope of lifting the Curse of the Valar.
The Great Ancient Dragon shook out his wings, walking with thunderous steps to the entrance of his cavernous home, the Forest-dweller following closely behind. "That one will not fall prey to the Second Deceiver's lies; the last of the Unbroken line to the Sire of us all and the Mightiest of our kind, the Great Black One. No, with this journey, that one may yet find a way to earn their wings and breath."
In the days that followed, the free peoples began to arrive at the House of Elrond, Lord of Imladris. Elves of Mirkwood, where the Forest-dweller resided, Men of Gondor and the Dwarves of the Deep rode in and greeted their host in preparation for the Council Meeting. In his study, Elrond Half-Elven and the Mithrandir sat together and spoke in hushed voices of the word from the White Mountains.
"Word of the Dragons has reached my ears, Lord Elrond," the Grey Wizard spoke softly.
"Indeed, two of their kind and one that yet bears the Curse of the First Age shall attend the Council Meeting on the morrow." The Lord of the Last Homely House seemed to consider this information once more, still having not come to terms with the new development. "I do not think this wise, Mithrandir, to have the Dragons, much less one Still-Cursed, near the One Ring."
The old Wizard stroked his long beard, "I once met the last of the Unbroken line to Glaurung and the Black Dragon many years ago. Though bearing the Valar's curse, that one hates more than anything, the Deceiver and his kind and has spent many years on the path to destroying them. The Dragons will be a great ally to our cause, I think."
A knock came from the doors and a young ellon announced from the other side, "My lords, the Nords have arrived. They await your council in the Hall of Fire."
Lord Elrond and the Mithrandir shared a look before standing. "I hope, for all our sakes, you are right, Mithrandir, for there is no greater foe than a dragon that has set its will against you."
Once they had made their way to the Hall of Fire and the doors swung open, the three Dragon kind stood from where they had been seated before the roaring fire. Two met their gaze as if measuring them, keeping the third almost from their sight.
"Welcome to my House," Elrond said with a polite nod in their direction. "I am Elrond, Lord of Imladris, and am glad to see of your safe arrival."
The two Dragons nodded their thanks to the Firstborn Lord. Though they no longer bore the Curse of the Valar, they stood before the Firstborn and the Wizard in the form of the Nords they and their kind had been cursed to wear. They wore thick leather breeches, fur boots and bracers tightened with strips of leather that wound up and down them. Heavy iron armor covered their chests and great black iron swords hung at their backs. Both males had pale non-descript faces, beautiful in a sense, but weathered by long lives in the mountains of the world. Long unkempt blonde hair fell to their waists and their bare arms were thick and well-muscled though scarred from many battles. Their blue eyes took measure of all around them, observing every corner and shadow for any possible threat to the Still-Cursed they protected.
"We thank you for your hospitality, Lord Elrond," one said, glancing between their host and the old grey one. "The Eldest and the others fear for the world in the days to come. It is his wish, and ours as well, that peace returns to these lands."
Lord Elrond and the two Dragons shared further greetings, offerings of rooms in which to rest were made and thanks given as the Mithrandir looked to the smaller figure that still stood with its face to the fire.
"Are you so old now that you have forgotten even older friends?" he asked with a laugh, a smile at the corner of his mouth and a glimmer in his eye. The figure turned and the face that met with his gaze was exactly as he remembered it to be from so many centuries ago.
The woman was of slender build and fair skin that glowed in the light of the flames. The black leather armor she was adorned with showed all of her arms, dipping low at her chest, and had straps that were secured around her midsection. Upon her left shoulder only was a guard, the mark of the "Nordic" peoples intricately engraved into its surface, the strap reaching across her chest and under her right arm. Her bracers, breeches and boots were much like those of the Dragon males, though more fitting to her slighter form. Thick belts wound about her hips, holding the raggedly cut leather in place as it fell around the back of her legs like a split skirt, a testament to her femininity among her kin. Two swords hung in their sheaths at her waist, curved and wickedly dangerous, the smooth black metal gleaming in the firelight.
"Greybeard, it is good to see you again," the Still-Cursed proclaimed with a slight smile.
"Leiawen, you look well."
"As do you." Her voice was like smoke and water as she spoke, it flowed as subtly as music against his ears.
"Come, surely you must be tired from your journey. Rooms have been prepared so you might take rest before the Council Meeting in the morning," Elrond told the three, motioning to the great doors leading from the Hall of Fire.
The Council was gathered the next morning, many of its members casting glances at the Nords, but most especially at the dark-haired female the two males stood behind. Their kind was not known to come down from the snow laden mountains that they called their home, and yet three were gathered before them now. Leiawen's long hair was pulled back, braids hanging randomly throughout the locks down to her waist. Her face was painted in the way of their people, a dark grey band ranging from one side to the other across her eyes, making their strange amber color stand out against it.
"Strangers from distant lands, friends of old," Elrond began, drawing their attention from the three. "You have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle-Earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom." As he spoke, his words drifting over each of them, his gaze eventually settled upon the two Dragons and the Still-Cursed that sat across form the Mithrandir.
He motioned towards the dais in the center of the gathered peoples, "Bring forth the Ring, Frodo."
A young, dark haired hobbit, a creature Leiawen had not seen in many years, stood from where he sat at Greybeard's side and walked to the pedestal, placing an unassuming gold band upon it. The hobbit, Frodo, took his seat once more, sinking into the chair with a sigh of resignation.
The Still-Cursed One gazed upon the Ring and could all but feel the presence of the Second Deceiver within it. Her fingers grasped the arms of the chair so firmly that her knuckles turned white and the wood began to give way. Then, one of the Dragons put a hand to her shoulder just before the arms cracked and splintered under her grasp. She released the chair and settled her hands into her lap, waiting.
"So it is true," a voice from beside her said in a whispered tone. She saw a Gondorian crest upon the hilt of his sword as he stood. "In a dream, I saw the Eastern side grow dark but in the West a pale light lingered. A voice was crying, 'Your doom is near at hand. Isildur's Bane is found.'"
"Stop him," Leiawen told the two behind her in a voice barely heard by the others present. The man began to reach for the Ring just as the Dragons stepped from behind her chair.
"Boromir!" Elrond called out.
Greybeard stood and the sky darkened as he spoke, the power of the dark speech making the air around them thick and difficult to breathe. The Wizard's voice was layered with power and magick, the might of the words in the language that they were spoken caused her blood to course hot through her. Leiawen shielded her eyes from the members of the Council lest they see the unearthly glow to them that the Black Speech had caused within.
Then suddenly, it was gone and she could feel herself return to normal, the two Dragon males with their hands on her shoulders and arms to steady her. Leiawen waved them off with a motion of her hand and looked back up to see the Firstborn Lord all but glaring at Greybeard.
"Never before has any voice uttered the words of that tongue here in Imladris."
"I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond, for the Black Speech of Mordor may yet be heard in every corner of the West! The Ring is altogether evil." Greybeard was right, if the Second Deceiver achieved his goal, there would be no part of the world untouched by his plight.
"It is a gift! A gift to the foes of Mordor! Why not use this Ring?" the Gondorian man, Boromir, proclaimed from where he stood, looking to each member of the Council. "Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe! Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy. Let us use it against him!"
The boy was a fool, the Ring would twist his mind, using his good intentions against him; Leiawen knew that to be true. The Sons of Men were so easy to deceive with promises of power, especially when they had something to lose. The Still-Cursed could see it in the boy's eyes already; the Ring was taking hold of him through his fears, speaking to him with its voice full of dark promise. It would eventually kill him in his desperation to keep those he loved safe. Such was the fate of all who were enticed by the Ring if they sought to gain anything through its power.
A dark haired man in poor cloth spoke against him, "You cannot wield it! None of us can. The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master."
"And what would a ranger know of this matter?" the Gondorian asked haughtily.
One of the Firstborn who sat next to the dark haired man stood quickly to defend the Son of Man, "This is no mere ranger. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You owe him your allegiance."
Leiawen's eyebrows rose almost imperceptibly, this ranger was the heir of Isildur, the last King of Men. Isildur, who had had the chance to destroy the Ring but did not.
"Aragorn?" Boromir asked incredulously. "This… is Isildur's heir?"
"And heir to the throne of Gondor."
"Havo dad, Legolas," the ranger, Aragorn, said to the blonde haired Firstborn.
Boromir's face darkened as he went back to his seat. "Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king."
"Aragorn is right," Greybeard proclaimed to the members of the Council. "We cannot use it."
"We have but one choice," Elrond told them. "The Ring must be destroyed."
One of the dwarves stood, "Then what are we waiting for?" he said gruffly and slammed his axe upon the Ring.
All save the Dragons, the Firstborn Lord, and the Still-Cursed moved to inspect the Ring. The axe exploded upon contact and the dwarf was thrown backwards, pieces of the shattered weapon strewn about around him.
"The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli, son of Gloin by any craft that we here possess." The Firstborn Lord glanced at the Dwarf, "The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came," he glanced to the peoples of the Council as if inspecting each of them. "One of you must do this."
Leiawen breathed a deep sigh. The Eldest and the forest-dweller had been right; they were to destroy the One Ring. She would not be the one to take the token into Mordor; she could not touch such a thing. Through the Ring, the Second Deceiver would attempt to wield her to his designs, something she could not allow to happen under any circumstance. She could not touch the Ring without him casting his gaze upon her, for once his gaze was cast, he would know what it was that she wanted more than anything. He would know of her desire for the wings and breath of her Sires. To go into Mordor though, she knew was no easy task, not even for the Great Dragons that claimed those mountains and dwelt within the caverns beneath them.
"One does not simply walk into Mordor," the Gondorian man, Boromir, said interrupting her thoughts. "Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. And the great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly!"
"Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said? The Ring must be destroyed," the Firstborn, Legolas claimed, standing once more from his seat at the ranger's side.
As the people of the Council continued to the point of raising their voices and fighting amongst themselves, she gazed over the dais to the hobbit, Frodo, who had already borne the Ring thus far. It was whispering to him in the confusion, she could feel it. He looked up as if seeking guidance and his eyes met with hers. He was afraid, possibly of her, but more of the Ring and its power.
The Still-Cursed stood and made her way around the bickering folk until she was but a few steps from him. "It is a difficult thing," she told him, "to do what you know in your heart to be right. But you must do it, for if you do not, no one else will."
Frodo hesitated for a moment, taking the time to understand the meaning of her words. Leiawen smiled lightly to him and nodded, and he cried out to the others, "I will take it!"
When none heard, he spoke louder, standing to make his presence and intentions known, "I will take it."
The group fell silent before him as they all looked at the young hobbit, Greybeard casting a forlorn look upon him.
"I will take the Ring to Mordor. Though…I do not know the way."
Greybeard walked over to Frodo and put a gentle hand upon his shoulder. "I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, so long as it is yours to bear."
The ranger, heir the throne of Gondor, stood and approached Frodo. "If by my life or death, I can protect you, I will." He knelt before the young hobbit, "You have my sword."
"And you have my bow," the blonde Firstborn, Legolas, said joined the ranger at Frodo's side.
The dwarf stood next, "And my axe!" he declared. Gimli cast a dark glare at the Firstborn before he, too settled at the hobbit's side.
Leiawen stood before Frodo and the four gathered already around him. "It is as I said; you must do what you hold in your heart to be right. You have any assistance I may offer in this task and that of my people," she glanced back to the two Dragon males, ensuring they had understood her meaning. She then bowed lightly to him before joining Greybeard.
The Son of Gondor stood and walked up to the young hobbit, "You carry the fates of us all little one. If this is indeed the will of the council, then Gondor will see it done." He glanced between those gathered to assist Frodo on his quest before he, too joined their ranks.
"Hey!" came a shout as another hobbit emerged from the bushes outside the ring of the Council. "Mr. Frodo is not going anywhere without me!"
The Firstborn Lord was trying not to smile as the second hobbit crossed his arms over his chest proudly. "No indeed, it is hardly possible to separate you even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not."
"Wait! We're coming too!" two more hobbits called out, rushing from behind the pillars to stand beside Frodo and the sandy haired hobbit.
"You'd have to send us home tied up in a sack to stop us!" the first proclaimed.
"Anyways you need people of intelligence on this sort of mission, quest... thing…" the other said, sounding for all intents and purposes to be completely serious.
"Well that rules you out, Pip," the first retorted.
"Ten companions," Elrond examined them. "So be it! You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!"
"Great!" the second hobbit, Pip, exclaimed. "Where are we going?"
Later that day, as the Fellowship prepared for their journey, Leiawen found herself on a stone bridge before the waterfalls. The two Dragon males approached with Greybeard following; they stopped just short of the rise, motioning for the Wizard to move on ahead.
The Still-Cursed glanced over her shoulder as he drew near, "I have heard that we are to set out with the new day's light."
"You do not have to accompany us on this quest, Leiawen. Whether you are to reveal to them what you are or not, either path shall be difficult to bear."
She almost laughed. "Never before have I travelled with the Firstborn, the Deep-dwellers or the Sons of Man, Greybeard. All of my life I have been overshadowed by the deeds of my Sires and my kin," she sighed heavily, closing her eyes for just a moment. "Too long have we have lived apart from this world, thinking that in our solitude we were hidden from such troubles. That the acts of a Deceiver should enlighten them to otherwise…well..."
Greybeard placed a cool hand upon her shoulder. "Come, there is a banquet being held in Lord Elrond's hall for the Fellowship. You know what must be done." Together the two turned and made their way back to the House, the Dragons falling into step behind her.
"Is this wise?" one questioned, not certain of her decision to reveal her heritage to those she had sworn her services and those of their kin to.
"It is the only way," she replied firmly.
"Very well; do you wish us to remain?" the other inquired.
"No, the Eldest must be informed of the events of this day and of my decision. You cannot linger in this place any longer."
"As you wish," then the two were gone with the passing of a warm breeze.
Greybeard and the Still-Cursed continued on through the vast gardens of Imladris. "The Eldest Dragon is aware of the happenings in Mordor?" he asked finally.
"The dweller of the Mountains of Shadow and his kin have been watching over those lands. Though my kind does not care for the troubles of the land-dwellers, something…unprecedented has forced the Eldest of my kind to call the others to him in Gathering."
The Grey Wizard brought her to a halt, "This affects the Dragons?"
Leiawen grit her teeth and clenched her hands into fists. "The Second Deceiver has enslaved nine of those Still-Cursed with lies, promises of true form and wings…"
"They bear the Nazgul," he said, understanding her meaning. "They fear he means to ensnare you as well. Ancalalei, you must tell me the moment the Ring calls to you. I know you would not betray us, but the moment his gaze is upon you…I fear for the course of the future."
That Sauron had not already seen the Still-Cursed progeny of the two greatest Dragons of the History of Middle Earth was strangely fortunate. The grey wizard knew it would not be too long before the Dark Lord found the last of the unbroken line with all of his spies and sent out his minions to bring her to him. Should he gain control of her… He preferred not to think of such dire consequences should Sauron twist the Still-Cursed Dragon to his will.
"Perhaps it is wise that you reveal yourself to the others; tell them of the curse but not of Sauron's plan should he find you."
"I will do as you say, my friend. You have never before led me astray."
This chapter has been edited, so it should read just a little bit better. As always let me know what you think and thanks for reading!