The Apple of His Eye

Author: Russandol

Nominator: Ignoble Bard

2011 Award Category: Cross-Cultural: General - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Medium Length

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes,Sexual Content,Violence

Summary: In the year 2850 of the Third Age, two Elves from Mirkwood fall in the clutches of the Lord of Dol Guldur. Little do they suspect the true identity of the Necromancer, who demands their compliance to his twisted game of power and seduction. Warning: Non-con, explicit m/m (Sauron/Legolas)

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Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

Wow! This was difficult to read at times, as it ought to be by the nature of it. The test of the story for me, given how cowardly I am, is that I could not put it down--could stop reading or even give myself a short break. The story is beautiful crafted and written. Sauron's brilliant and terrifying manipulations are impossible to resist, not just on the part of the victim, but for your readers as well. The wonderful thing about your Legolas is that he is amazing, clearly strong and powerful in his own right, but in the end unable to resist the lure of Sauron. Well done. You are also one of those fabulous writers, who is able to take my native language, not your own!!! and knock me out. I am so impressed with your writing in general and this story in particular is beautifully done. It really has the elements of contradiction, tenderness and ruthless manipulation and complicated and messy emotional and psychological interpretation all mixed together to make it incredibly compelling. Each character is doubly convincing in the fine details. The dialogue between the two of them is perfect. You really crafted yet another great story with this one--personally, I find swap fics the absolute hardest thing to write.

Author response: Believe it or not, this was not fiendishly difficult to write, for which I'm glad! When I got the swap prompt I was excited, it was something I knew I would love writing, but I was daunted too, because of who the recipient was. However, knowing who had requested it made it easier to define the key ingredients I thought needed to go into the mix. Luckily as well, the whole plot, except for the finer details of Huvaen's role, came to me very early on, so that I had time to write it unhurriedly. Except for Huvaen, the dynamics of the tale were mostly dictated by Legolas having to be strong. I could not picture him yielding at once or becoming a whimpering prisoner, even though ultimately he knew he was only buying time, and maybe his friend's life, before dying or becoming Sauron's slave. Of course, it wasn't as simple as that. :o) As to the language, I'm blessed with a fantastic beta who points out my quirks and goofs. Thanks a lot for your fabulous review, oshun. I'm very happy to hear the story gripped you enough to finish it despite your misgivings on the dark theme.

Reviewed by: Malinornë  ✧  Score: 10

I enjoyed this story very much! I'm surprised, because it's not my usual cup of tea - I tend to shy away from anything with a hint of torture in it - but you pulled me in from the very start. After reading that Shakespeare quote, I could not not be curious to see what would follow. I enjoyed how you wrote Legolas. The many stories I've read about him in the early days of my fic experience were mostly based on the movies and typically described him as girlish and a victim to his rougher lover (slash) or prince charming on a white horse (het) - neither kind making him very interesting. I did enjoy seeing him depicted as an archer and a warrior and a man, a strong character with believable emotions and actions. I also ended up liking Mairon, much to my surprise. He was evil, yes, but seemingly not from a desire to do constantly do maximum harm, but rather from selfishness, a need to have what he wants, here and now. That is definitely something one can relate to and it makes him much more intriguing than a purely evil character would be. And Húvaen... I ache for his plight, like him and loathe him. Excellent writing! And not only because of the characterizations of course, but the overall language and writing style. So, yeah, I may have winced a couple of times at Sauron's actions, but I enjoyed the story very much.

Author response: I'm so pleased you got past your qualms and managed to read it, after I pestered you for so long with the names - thanks about that! Yes, Mairon is likeable and ruthless, he must be both to seduce and rule his allies, or at least that's how I imagine him. As for Legolas, I don't believe he could be wimpy in a million years, living in Mirkwood. Thank for everything, and for your fantastic review!

Reviewed by: Ignoble Bard  ✧  Score: 10

I read this with bated breath, loving every minute of it, wondering what was going to happen next, worrying about Legolas’s fate, and was rewarded with a truly exceptional rendition of a favored story trope, an Elf finding himself at the mercy of Sauron. Defiant Legolas, sexy beast Legolas, best archer in the world Legolas, this story has it all! Legolas’s lover, Noruion, is a great character, well written and developed through the story. I also love Sauron's cruelty and seduction here, and my heart broke for his poor slave, who turned out to be quite a bit cleverer than anyone knew. You made Sauron a believable, complex villain with more brains and sophistication than is the norm in stories of this type and which makes him a real pleasure to read. The whole story is such a treat, but the icing on the cake is when Legolas must shoot the apple off his friend’s head a la William Tell. One of the aspects I really like about Legolas here is his skill with a bow and that aspect of his character really shines here. Russandol made it extremely exciting and suspenseful. I also love that Legolas is not a wimp or victim and fights back to the best of his ability against insurmountable odds. This is just a fantastic story and one I shall continue to enjoy for many years to come.

Author response: It was a pleasure to write this story. I can't even begin to imagine a wimpy Legolas that would just play along without defiance, and my version of Sauron is that of a cruel but clever and seductive guy. So it was a lot of fun to work out the dynamics to let Legolas walk away, given that you had forbidden me from killing him. I'm so happy the story worked for you, and that you will read it again. Thanks for reviewing it, and for your nomination!

Reviewed by: Keiliss  ✧  Score: 8

This was a dark, at times chilling, but utterly gripping story. I was fascinated by the writer's view of Sauron, not a misshapen horror but something far more deadly and potent. Very much liked his explanation for why he was still pleasing to look at, it certainly worked for me. The way he drew Legolas unwilling to him was wholly believable, as was every twist and turn of this excellent tale. There was a point though where I found myself beginning to wonder who in reality was the captive and who the captor. I specially liked the fact that he kept his word, that fitted him very well, it was true to the logic of his personality. I enjoyed the suggestion of this being the way the news of the Necromancer's real identity got out, love it when a story can tie back into canon so seamlessly. And oh, I did love Russandol's Legolas. Nothing weak or helpless about him, a true warrior and king's son ---- book-Legolas, no hint of fanon about him. This is the elf I fell in love with when I first read the trilogy. An excellent read, even for those not normally drawn to the darker side. Highly recommended.

Author response: I´m so happy you liked my characters, Keiliss! Like you say, Legolas for me had to be strong even in these dire circumstances, but no match for Sauron, an expert in manipulation and seduction instead of the more common image of an almost mindless eye in the dark tower. I´m also very glad you caught on the ambiguity of who actually was calling the shots and on the story timing and the input into finding the identity of the evil in Dol Guldur. I usually love bending or twisting canon to fit my own little "what if" stories... Thank you very much for your great review!

Reviewed by: Alpha Ori  ✧  Score: 8

First and foremost, please allow me to heartily congratulate you on a wonderful piece of writing. The theme in itself is not particularly original, in the sense that there are many stories that deal with Legolas being taken to Dol Guldûr. The originality comes with the way in which you deal with his captivity. Specifically, I found it surprising that you would give Annatar that noble quality of 'keeping a promise.' Even to the point of freeing prisoners, although in the case of Noruion, you do explain that he had no further use. Legolas, however, certainly seems to fullfil a very specific use - that of apparently giving himself freely to this, self-proclaimed monster. I would assume Sauron would be delighted with Legolas' efforts in that respect. I enjoyed your descriptive narrative, which was not excessive, yet sufficient to draw the scenes and feelings of the characters most efficiently. And so, thank you for a delightful read. I will be sure to read more of your stories after this first experience.

Author response: I'm very pleased you like the story, Alpha Ori. As to why Sauron keeps his promise, it's because I don't believe in the 100% dark and evil villain stereotype. I prefer to picture him as a being with desires and needs like any other, including a sort of twisted honour, or what can remain of it. This is in contrast to the conventional image of him as "the enemy" and therefore vilified by those writing the history of Middle-earth who, similarly, claim (wrongly, in my view) that he's hideous. Thank you for your kind review, I hope you enjoy my other stories, too.

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 8

In this story, Legolas and his lover are captured by the Necromancer, who then toys with them as a cat with a mouse, playing his power games of seduction and manipulation. I've read a number of Legolas is captured by Sauron stories but this one stands out for its characterizations, and the quality of the writing, not to mention its very clever twist at the end in which we discover that things are not what they seemed. That twist really made the story for me. Russandol writes such a fascinating, multi-layered Sauron, clever and manipulative as he should be, but he seems to have another side to him, one that has a need for intimacy, which is ultimately suborned by his need for control over others. Legolas is a real hero doing his best in a difficult situation. I love the apple scene with its echoes of William Tell. Russa's personal experience as a master archer really fleshes out the scene and makes it come alive. And the minor characters all well drawn. For those who enjoy Legolas captive stories replete with sensuality, good characters, and an unexpected turn of events, this is a good story for you.

Author response: Yes, this is the same Sauron that I know too well lately, and maybe that's why writing his part was much easier than Legolas' or even Huvaen's. However evil he might be, I want to think there was still a little corner of him that was able to surprise us, otherwise I would have had to finish the fic very differently and against my prompt. I was also very glad to have a chance to write a little of archery into the story, too. BTW, I've tried the stunt without a volunteer! Thanks for reviewing and for your wonderful help with the story!

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 7

A contention of wills with Legolas affords Sauron much amusement but finally leads to stalemate: the only way he can truly conquer Legolas would be to break him. For me, the most interesting character in this piece is Húvaen, Sauron's Elven thrall. His doggish obedience conceals some seeming remnant of self, but in the end I was uncertain how much he did out of a lingering loyalty to Legolas and Thranduil, and how much was "sexy roleplay with Master," giving Sauron a pleasing way out of his predicament. Then there is Noruion, Legolas' lover, who knows the truth about Húvaen. The chief focus of this story is on Legolas and Sauron, but I had to wonder about the lasting implications for Noruion, both for his relationship with Legolas (beyond, one assumes, an initially relieved and joyous reunion) and for his peace of mind. Love and duty sent him back as a messenger to Thranduil, but can he really stay away from Dol Goldur after this, knowing what he does?

Author response: Because the plot about "helpless elf in the hands of cruel dark lord" has been so overdone, I decided everything needed to be a bit skewed from the predictable. To make things really awkward, I was not allowed to kill my characters, according to my prompt, what a dilemma! I'm happy to hear that you liked Húvaen. You are free to choose your preference about his motivations to orchestrated Legolas' freedom. In fact, both your guesses are right. He has no choice but to play in the background and behave ambiguously if only because of his perilous position. As to Noruion, I agree. Like you, I doubt there would be a happy reunion, or it would be short-lived after what both he and Legolas had to do to survive, but each reader can choose their preferred ending. Thanks so much for reviewing!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 4

This piece was a very interesting exploration of characters. The author presented a nearly Stockholm Syndrome-like situation in which both characters retained their innate sense of uncowedness, which I thought was well done. And the portrayal of Mairon as more of a sympathy-earning persona that the standard 'Dark Lord' was well-done. I do wish, however, that the piece had been longer. It seemed that a great deal was summarized and could (and should) have been drawn out.

Author response: Ys, looking back I wish I had time to write more too, mainly about Huvaen, who got to be a bit on the side. But this fic written for a swap, with a limited time. Who knows, I may revisit it one day... Thanks for your kind review!

Reviewed by: ziggy  ✧  Score: 3

It is something when you read something and it stays with you. The tale is an interesting idea, and as it states in the summary, a twist. Well written and intriguing, the writers draws you into the plot, pulling you this way and that with the unexpected relationships that develop.

Author response: As you say, it all hangs on the relationships. I'm glad the story was memorable for you. Thanks, ziggy!

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 3

This is a wonderful, complex story. It shows just how cleverly one's feelings for others can be used as leverage to make them obey. Often one can endure much and endure it willingly -- if it affects only one's own self. But when another person's safety and happiness depend on one's compliance, that is quite another.

Author response: I imagine Sauron as a very skilled and ruthless manipulator. After all, he managed to trick the elves of Eregion and the Númenóreans. Thanks for reviewing!