The Unwilling

Author: Thundera Tiger

Nominator: Ellynn

2011 Award Category: Horror: General - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes,Violence

Summary: While seeking shelter during the battle against Dol Guldur, Elladan discovers his would-be-refuge is already spoken for. A chance encounter with a creature who knows a bit too much concerning the Rings of Power.

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Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 10

When I read [The Unwilling], it put me in mind of two very different storytelling traditions. One is a trope in which avowed enemies must become unwilling allies due to exigent circumstances, often involving superglue or handcuffs or some other farcical plot point. They must be willing to compromise with and to depend on one another, to coordinate their movements in tandem, if they are to survive. Hilarity generally ensues. Minus the usual farce, this story depicts an uneasy truce between Elladan and a Nazgul, and the rather disquieting conversation that they share during that tiny window. Which is where the second tradition comes into play... I have, of late, been reading Victorian ghost stories. While this is not a ghost story per se, it complements that Victorian brand of horror very nicely. [The Unwilling] displays similarly unnerving and cerebral restraint: there is no blood, no gore, outside the opening premise of the wound that Elladan brings with him to the abandoned homestead. We never really see the monster: Khamul is a malevolent presence lurking beyond a cottage wall, giving voice to Elladan's deepest insecurities and fears. Despite the threat of a Morgul blade, the greatest terror here is one of mind and soul, not body. Thundera Tiger says her topic was to explore the degree of free will that Ringwraiths might have versus their level of subjection by Sauron. Elladan, following this vein of inquiry, gets more than he bargained for when Khamul turns the question on its head, leaving Elladan with lasting uncertainty about his own degree of free will, and that of his father. Of course, the reader becomes implicated in this question as well. To what degree do we base our decisions on conscious choice or unconscious influence? Is something (or someone?) else making our decisions for us? How much control does anyone have? A tense, suspenseful story of a wounded Elf menaced by a Nazgul becomes the backdrop for a darker exploration of Ego and Id. Good stuff. If I ever get into a war of words with an Elf, I will know just how to freak him out.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

Thundera has a penchant for argumentative story-telling - the arguments are often lengthy, sometimes humorous, and she sustains them with style. One doesn't get bogged down in the logic, one simply follows right along. This story has a fabulous setting, and puts the White Council's attack on Dol Goldur that initially drove out the Necromancer to good use. It lets Thundera give Elladan a life and responsibility far beyond what is usually seen in fanfiction, and ties him to the Rings of Power in disturbing ways, showing him to be a scholar of their powers and bearers by necessity, enough to be able to debate with a Nazgûl as to how much control the Ring and its master exert on all the other master rings. Of course, because Elladan *is* debating with a Nazgûl, and is hardly well himself but trying to forestall an attack while he's alone and injured, it's impossible to judge just how much of what Khamûl says is a lie, and how much is truth. By delving into the murky depths of the nature of the will, and its relationship to desire and choice, Thundera further complicates the matter and impairs one's ability to judge how far the Ring-bearers - all of them - are bound to the will of the master of the one Ring. Poor Elladan's predicament is well-written, as is his grim determination not to be taken alive/undead by a Nazgûl; Thundera's Nazgûl - Khamûl - is also fantastically written. Unexpectedly gregarious for a Nazgûl, as it were, despite the terrible circumstances, Thundera manages a touch of humor here and there that leaven the whole fic and bring smiles where one wouldn't expect. Very well done, as always - highly recommended!

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 9

Dear Thundera Tiger, as you know, I very much enjoyed your story “A Mirkwood Solstice” and was impressed by your rendition of the nazgul Khamul. You can imagine then that I was delighted to find that you have another Khamul story nominated this year. Different though the set-up is, the menace is as tangible here as in the other story. Khamul does have the power to attack the body, but he prefers to attack the mind. The doubts he plants into Elladan’s mind will cause much longer lasting harm than the injuries Elladan sustained in the battle. Whether it is the truth or a lie remains open, and rightly so, I think. It is a tense and claustrophobic scenario and I think you made the right decision not to show us the actual rescue. That might have taken away from the intensity of the mental confrontation, because it would inevitably have involved scenes of physical action and violence. As it is, we see now only the aftermath and are left to wonder how much of Elladan’s new fears will prove to be well-founded. This is a skilfully crafted story that keeps the reader’s attention through well-pitched terror.

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 7

Chilling! Not only did the premise of the story attract me from the get-go, the incipient descriptions of the abandoned farmstead, general scenery and Elladan's injuries provided lots of atmospheric details, and set the mood right away. The encounter with the Nazgul doesn't have to be shy of holding a candle to the novel itself and is true to the fact that one of the enemy's chief weapons is fear. I wouldn't have wanted to read this story with the light off, not even during the unexpected debate of Elladan and the Nazgul that added a very different quality to the dread - similar to Elladan's astonishment of receiving a reply, I likewise wouldn't have expected this at all - making it no less acute, but more rational. His lingering houghts of the lie even later make it an even more fascinating story. I won't be forgetting this anytime soon and will be sure to give it a more thorough re-read when I'm less rushed about getting a few more MEFA reviews in before the deadline.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 6

This is a powerful story, suspenseful, chilling, and claustrophobic. Taking place in the aftermath of the battle to drive the Necromancer from Dol Goldur, a badly injured Elladan takes shelter in an abandoned homestead-- and finds he is keeping unwilling company with a Nazgul on the other side of the wall. This particular Nazgul, Khamul, has taken refuge against the sun. The story was written as a response to a prompt asking if the Ringwraiths had any free will left or were they wholly subject to Sauron? The subject is discussed but not settled, and Elladan is very nearly finished before he is finally rescued. The enemy fled. But he's planted some very uncomfortable seeds of doubt. Once again, a story that will make you think-- something this particular author is very good at indeed!

Reviewed by: Keiliss  ✧  Score: 5

Wow, that was quite a ride! It takes a special gift with words to write proper, skin-chilling horror, and that is to be found here in full measure. The approach to the homestead had me holding my breath. Elladan pushing past pain and weakness in an attempt to survive was very realistic. I found the debate - is that the right word? - with the other inhabitant of the homestead fascinating, certainly it will twist and turn around in Elladan's head for a long time to come. The description of the scream and its effects --- I have never seen this done quite as well, it'll stay with me for a long time. This was a very good read.

Reviewed by: Darkover  ✧  Score: 4

This is a vividly written and very frightening tale. The descriptions of Elladan's near-helplessness, his pain and his dwindling strength in the presence of such an enemy, will have the reader on the edge of his or her seat. The author's style is most descriptive, and the characterization is very good. Even aside from the mounting fear and danger, the ethical questions raised by this story provide food for thought. A magnificently-written story of courage in the face of horror. Not to be missed!

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 4

A story that made my flesh creep and I mean that as a compliment!When Elladan is badly wounded he takes shelter in what seems like an abandoned cottage only to find a Ring Wraith there. No doubt deciding he is no threat the creature does not kill him, but instead taunts him, before Elladan is able to drive it away with fire. A chilling, thought provoking and fascinating story.

Reviewed by: Independence1776 (Crystal113)  ✧  Score: 3

A thought-provoking story centering on an unlikely meeting between Elladan and a Nazgûl and there conversation about the three Elven rings, and how much influence the One and thus Sauron holds over the wielders. More then slightly creepy, with fantastic writing.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 2

The Enemy's greatest weapons are not always in numbers and force but in their half-lies and creating uncertainty in one's own judgement.