Corrupted & Deceived by miss_bloom
__CHAPTER five [ MiDDLE EARTH ]
The entire morning and early afternoon was spent searching for magical changes in the air, and so far, no change had happened except for the cold, gray morning that had turned into a cloudy, hazy afternoon. Gandalf had been pacing the grounds for nearly a half hour, while Gollum had wandered off somewhere in search of food. The others had managed to fall into an uneasy slumber. While the others were haunted by dark dreams, Aragorn was visited by Arwen in his sleep.
Aragorn awoke abruptly, his eyes meeting the setting sun in the west. The air around him was brisk, and the ground was covered with dead leaves that had blown into the room from the trees that covered the perimeter of Elrond’s house. He found himself curled up on a soft bed, barefoot and clothed in clean garments. He took in his surroundings, his sights finally falling onto the fair Elven maiden that stood at the balcony, unfazed by the brisk wind coming into the bedroom.
“Arwen,” Aragorn said softly, his heart swelling with happiness at seeing her again, even though he knew it was only a dream. He left the bed, padding barefoot to her side.
Arwen turned to him, her pitch black hair cascading down her back in soft waves. She looked upon him with pale blue eyes that shone with a wiseness and sadness that only Elves possessed. “Estel,” she breathed, as if it were her very last breath. She approached him, cupping his cheek with a fair, slender hand.
Aragorn reveled in her touch, cupping her hand with his own, drawing it to his lips. He kissed her open palm, breathing in her familiar scent.
The Elven maiden leaned into his touch, her eyes fluttering closed as she took comfort in his warmth. “Much has changed over such a short time,” she said softly. “Frodo no longer dwells in Middle-Earth. The fate of the Ring has changed.”
“Have you foreseen Frodo’s fate?” Aragorn asked gently.
“It is unclear, even to my father,” she replied. She looked into his eyes, brushing his dark, unruly hair from his face. “I wish to aid you in your quest to find Frodo,” she said, standing straighter.
“Arwen, you cannot –” Aragorn began, but she placed a finger to his lips to quiet him.
“I have already discussed this matter with my father,” she told him gently, her eyes never leaving his. She slowly lowered her eyes, turning away from him as she remembered her conversation with her father. Her heart was filled with bitterness. “He told me that I was beyond his help now,” she said quietly, glancing at him. “I have given away my life’s grace.”
Aragorn frowned, taking a step closer to her. “I do not understand.”
“Do you remember the first time Frodo was brought into Rivendell?” Arwen asked. “He was badly wounded by that Ringwraith’s sword. He was dying. There was nothing else I could do in order to spare him.” She closed the distance between them, resting her hands on his forearms. She gently placed a kiss upon his lips. “I will stay in Middle-Earth,” she whispered.
“You will not sail to the Undying Lands?” Aragorn demanded, eyes wide.
The Elven maiden shook her head, smiling gently. “I will not,” she murmured.
Accepting this, Aragorn nodded. “Where will we meet?” he asked worriedly.
“I know for sure that Gandalf will linger there. He will soon find what he is looking for. Look for me when the last rays of the sun descend into the horizon.” She placed a quick kiss to his lips, and then she let him awaken.
“Aragorn,” Gimli yelped, surprised, when the ranger abruptly awoke from his deep slumber.
“We thought you had died in your sleep,” Pippin said, eyes wide.
“You need not worry for me,” Aragorn assured them. He glanced at the horizon, seeing the sun waxing high in the sky. “Where is Gandalf?”
“He will not rest,” Legolas replied, looking into the ranger’s eyes. “Someone visited you in a dream,” he murmured with a knowing smile.
Aragorn smiled. “How did you know?”
“The name of Evenstar was on your lips, as if it were your very last breath,” Legolas smiled, chuckling.
“Well, what of it then, laddie?” Gimli demanded with a grin.
“Arwen wishes to aid us in our search for Frodo and Sam,” Aragorn replied. “We will look for her when the last rays of the sun descend into the horizon.”
“She will not sail to the Undying Lands?” Legolas asked incredulously.
“She has given away her life’s grace. She cannot,” Aragorn said softly. Fixing his pack, he asked, “What is the time?”
“High noon,” Merry replied, wrinkling his nose. “I’m hungry,” he whined, “I haven’t had a decent breakfast in months!”
Aragorn chuckled. “All in due time, Merry, all in due time.”
Gandalf finally returned to their camping grounds. He looked weary, but satisfied. “I have found a drastic change in the air,” he murmured with a tired sigh. “Leftover energy, it seems.”
“What does that mean?” Pippin asked curiously.
Gandalf glanced at the Hobbit, and then at the rest of the Fellowship. “It means that the portal will open again, but I do not know when.”
“What is the purpose of this portal if it isn’t meant only to capture the Ringbearer?” Merry asked, exasperated.
“Destroy Middle-Earth, perhaps,” Gandalf said solemnly.
“Arwen is coming,” Aragorn told the Wizard.
The White Wizard stood straighter, his eyes on Aragorn. “She will not sail to the Grey Havens?”
“She has given away her life’s grace, or so she has said,” Aragorn murmured, looking troubled.
The Wizard nodded, frowning. “She has,” he replied, glancing up at the ranger. “When Frodo had been wounded by the Ringwraith’s sword. If not for her, we would have no Ringbearer.” Taking a seat on the dusty ground, he sighed, “We will wait for her coming.”
“And if the portal comes before she is here?” Aragorn wanted to know.
“I will try my best to keep it open, but I can make no promises. If I cannot, we must go without her.” Gandalf replied. “But I doubt it,” he reassured him, “Arwen is a fast rider. We will not leave her.”
Soon Gollum returned, and he collapsed on the ground, exhausted. He slept for a long while, shivering slightly.
“I do not think this wretched creature has found anything to eat,” Legolas said with pity.
Gimli shook his head, frowning. “You know he will not eat Elven bread.”
“Well he must try, if there is no other food,” Legolas said, determination in his voice. He approached his pack and took out a small package of Lembas bread. Crouching beside the sleeping Gollum, he nudged the creature with his elbow, holding out a small portion of the wafer.
Gollum opened one eye to glare at the elf. “What does it want?” he demanded, voice hoarse.
“Eat,” Legolas told the wretched creature, holding out a piece of Lembas bread.
Gollum hissed, backing away from him. “You wants to poison Gollum!” he cried, “Tricksy elf!”
“Eat, if you do not wish to starve,” Legolas coaxed him.
After a few more moments, Gollum finally gave in and snatched the small package of Lembas bread away from the Elf. He crawled away from the Fellowship to eat in private.
The sun was beginning to set, and Gandalf had gotten up again, walking around in the pre-darkness. Aragorn followed after him, his eyes ever watchful on the setting sun, and the paths before him. When finally the last rays of the sun descended into the horizon, there came the sound of hoofbeats on the hard ground. A soft light came in from one of the trails, and from behind him, the wind grew, bring a putrid smell. The hoofbeats slowed, and soon Arwen was before him, high upon her horse, called Asfoloth. She dismounted the strong, white, grey-speckled beast with such grace that Men did not possess.
“Aragorn, the portal!” Legolas called from deep within the shadows.
“Noro lim, Asfoloth, noro lim,” Arwen coaxed the horse, pushing him back towards the trail. “You know the way,” she told it before it galloped off, back to the safety of the house of Elrond.
Then Aragorn took her hand, and together, they ran towards Gandalf’s yelling voice; he was summoning an incantation to keep the portal open.
The portal was magnificent; inside, it swirled a blood red, and if stared at closely, the Fellowship could have seen other portals beside them. But they were in a hurry, and Gandalf’s spell would not last long.
“Go!” Gandalf commanded them.
Merry and Pippin were the first to jump into the portal, dragging Gollum along with them. Then it was Legolas and Gimli, and finally Arwen and Aragorn. As the spell was beginning to crumble, Gandalf leaped into the portal, hurling through dimensions that he never knew existed.
And in that moment, the Fellowship disappeared from Middle-Earth.
[ SUNNYDALE ]
It was four in the morning when the lights came back on, but the storm proceeded to rage on. The Scoobies had decided to camp out in the Magic Box, since the roads were too flooded to drive in, and the traffic lights were temporarily suspended. Buffy and the gang had brought out the mats from the back room to sleep on. Everyone had slept, except for Spike, who sat at the research table and watched as the plastic bag that served as a covering for the broken advertisement window billow in and out, in synchronization to the winds outside.
Almost imperceptibly, the air began to change around the Magic Box. Willow stirred in her sleep, but chose to ignore it. Spike became antsy, pacing in front of the cash register. Soon the change in the air became so drastic that Dawn’s small hairs on the top of her head stood on end because of the static.
Spike heard soft crackling sounds coming from the back room. He glanced at the sleeping Scoobies before moving towards the back door to investigate. Quietly, he pushed the door open and surveyed the dark room. Lightning danced across the small windows in the back. The crackling sound gradually became louder, until the air was practically humming with an electrical-like energy. Spike stared at the door that led to the alley beside the Magic Box. Rainwater was pooled around the perimeter of the door, and he could see underneath the small fissure on the bottom, where the door met the floor. Blood red sparks of light were emanating from outside, and as the bleach blonde vampire approached the door, he found that it was the source of the crackling sounds.
He grabbed the door knob and immediately felt a quick jolt. The air was heavy with energy, and something was behind the door. Taking a deep, unneeded breath, Spike opened the door, and his eyes met a huge portal, and it was still growing.
“Red!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. He heard the witch jolt awake and hit her head on the leg of the research table, which was right beside her. Cursing, she ran into the back room, staring at Spike confusedly. He swung open the door, careless of the heavy pelts of rain coming into the room.
Willow’s eyes grew wide when she saw the red, swirling portal outside. A putrid smell filled her nose, and she groaned in disgust. “Where the hell did that come from?” she asked, raising her voice over the wind, which had begun to howl.
Spike shrugged, staring at it. There were tiny footsteps coming from within the shop. Sam and Frodo rushed into the back room, staring at the portal, hopeful expressions on their faces.
“It could be Gandalf,” Frodo whispered, grasping Sam’s shoulder.
“Stay back,” Spike warned them.
The source of the scream soon came tumbling out of the portal, with two other small creatures falling on top of him.
“Hush, Pippin, I’m here!”
“Where did that wretched creature go?”
“Sam! It’s Merry and Pippin!” Frodo cried. “Merry! Pippin!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
The two voices from outside stopped quarreling.
“Merry, I think I just heard Frodo!” a hushed voice with a lilting Irish accent hissed.
Spike and Willow stood to one side of the room, for they did not know how to react to this type of situation. Usually, they would just kill anything that a portal would spit out, but Frodo and Sam seemed to recognize the voices coming from outside.
Frodo and Sam ran towards the open doorway, yelling their friends’ names. Frodo collided into someone, banging his forehead against something hard.
“Ow!” he cried. He squinted into the darkness. “Merry? Pippin? Is that you? Come into the light, so I can see.”
“Why, Merry! It is Frodo!” Pippin cried, stepping into the doorway beside Frodo. He glanced at the other small figure beside him. “And Sam! Dear Sam!” The three shared a warm embrace, and soon Merry saw the faces of his friends and embraced them as well.
“We thought it would have been harder to find you,” Merry said with a warm smile.
“Where is Gandalf?” Frodo demanded worriedly, seeing that the portal had not closed.
“I’m hungry,” Pippin whined.
“We’ll get you something to eat, but where is Gandalf?” Frodo exclaimed, shaking his friend hard.
“They are coming,” replied Pippin.
“They?” Frodo asked with a growing smile.
“The Fellowship, Frodo. And Arwen!” Pippin said with a contagious grin. He lowered his voice. “Frodo, Boromir fell.”
“Boromir..” the dark haired Hobbit murmured. “How? When?” he demanded.
“The Orcs,” Merry said sadly. “We have much to tell you, but we must wait until Gandalf arrives.”
Suddenly, a lithe figure leaped out of the portal, while a round, stout one rolled out. The graceful, catlike figure grabbed an arrow from his pack and loaded it into his bow, surveying his surroundings warily. The stout figure stood, hobbling after him.
“Legolas!” Merry cried.
Legolas whipped around, lowering his bow. He easily found the four small Hobbits huddled together in a dark doorway. “Where is Gollum?” he asked quietly.
Suddenly, there were soft shuffling sounds from inside the doorway, such as the scuffing of many booted feet. Legolas raised his bow. A bleach blonde figure came into his view, and he launched the arrow, only for the other figure to catch it between both hands, the spear tip nearly an inch away from his face.
“Who are you?” Legolas demanded.
Sam stood in front of Spike. “Don’t hurt him. He saved us.”
Legolas studied the bleach blonde warily, reluctantly lowering his bow. Spike tossed his arrow back, and the Elf caught it in midair, sliding it back in his pack.
“Where is Strider?” Sam asked.
“He is coming, along with Arwen and Gandalf.”
Frodo stepped outside, for he had seen a slight movement in the darkness. Suddenly, something leapt on top of him, hissing and clawing at his neck. Frodo instinctively reached for Sting, drawing it out of its sheath and thrusting it at his attacker. It did not hit its mark, but the foul smelling creature backed away, hissing.
“Gollum,” Frodo acknowledged.
“What have you done with the Precious?” Gollum demanded.
“It has been taken away from me. Calm down, and come inside. You will help us get it back.” Frodo said gently, backing into the doorway while Willow and Spike watched warily, and behind them were four other people.
Gollum cagily crept into the doorway, his eyes focused solely on Frodo. With a grace, stealth and quickness that only an Elf possessed, Legolas wrapped a sturdy string of Elven rope around the wretched creature’s neck. Gollum howled in disgust, his cries ringing through the alley outside and carrying off several blocks away.
“What’s happening?” Dawn asked Spike, shivering slightly at the sight of the creature.
“Looks like the portal brought back Frodo and Sam’s friends,” Spike murmured, frowning.
Outside, there was suddenly a blinding white light that seemed to swallow up the darkness. Everyone stopped what they were doing to look upon the graceful figure that appeared outside of the portal, as if it had just walked out of it. Beside the illuminated figure was a tall man with dark shoulder length hair and he had an air of wildness about him. He held the other one’s hand, helping her out of the portal. Behind them, there came a soft groan, and a bent, old man was spit out of the portal.
Arwen and Aragorn immediately bent over Gandalf, helping him stand and retrieving his staff.
“Are you hurt?” Arwen asked with concern.
Gandalf shook his head, and with Aragorn’s help, stood on his two feet. He glanced around him, disoriented. “This is a strange place,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Gandalf!” Frodo cried, immediately running to the Wizard. Gandalf smiled wearily and enveloped the Hobbit in a warm embrace. “Frodo, my boy,” he chuckled. “Thank goodness you’re alright.”
“I am,” Frodo said with a beaming smile. He glanced at Sam. “We are.” He then glanced into the doorway, where Spike, Willow, Dawn, Xander, Anya and Buffy stood. “Because of them.”
“Oh, I apologize, I didn’t see..” Gandalf trailed off, staring at these people in wonder. “Where are we?”
“Uh.. Sunnydale, sir,” a red haired young woman stepped up.
“Sunnydale,” Gandalf murmured, frowning as he tried to recall that name in his memory.
“We’re in another dimension, Gandalf.” Frodo said sadly. “And the Ring has been taken from me.”
“By whom?” Gandalf demanded, raising his staff. The air around him crackled, even though the portal had closed.
Anya stepped up to him, raising her eyebrows at the old man. “What will you do about it, old man? Turn me on my stomach and spank me–“
Xander placed his hand over her mouth, smiling sheepishly. “She’s a bit.. uh..”
“These are queer folk,” Gimli observed.
“Very,” Sam agreed with a nod. “They have machine-like monsters parading the roads day in and day out. Very deadly, they are. And huge boxes that show small, moving pictures. I at first thought that they were akin to Lady Galadriel’s mirror, but they did not seem to foretell anything in particular.”
Aragorn stepped up to the queer people, his eyes on the woman who had the Ring hanging on a chain around her neck. “Lady, you must understand that this Ring is not something you would want to wield. It corrupts and deceives, not only you, but the people around you. Wearing that Ring around your neck will only bring you pain and misfortune.”
“I will only give the Ring back under one condition,” Anya said sultrily, twirling a strand of hair around a slender finger.
“And what condition may that be?” Gimli demanded.
Anya giggled bubbly, sighing softly as she approached Aragorn and caressed the side of his neck with her slender index finger. “I get to sleep with him,” she murmured, looking into the ranger’s eyes.
Arwen’s eyes grew wide, and she grabbed Aragorn from the strange woman. “I will not allow it!”
“Oh, so he’s your piece, then?” Anya laughed.
“Anya, would you please stop this?” Xander hissed. “This Ring has obviously gone to your head. Give it to the nice people before you hurt yourself.”
Gandalf sighed heavily. “This will be more complicated than we all thought,” he muttered under his breath. He stood quietly before turning to the Fellowship, who stared at him expectantly. “We must do what we must,” he finally decided. Licking his suddenly dry lips, he glanced at Anya. Painfully, he murmured, “Legolas?”
Hearing the pain and desperateness in his tone of voice, Legolas understood what Gandalf wanted him to do. Quietly and quickly, he grabbed an arrow from his pack, loaded it into his bow, and launched it at Anya.