For Imber, Scarlett10 and my dear Curiouswombat! Thank you for your kind comments. This is for you!
Disclaimer: Not mine of course. Just playing in ME.
As always, thanks to the wonderful Anarithilien for her betaing and suggestions to make this something readable and fun.
Warning: As before. Violence, at least mention of sexual violence.
And a reminder that this is AU-ish but follows the overall storyline with some shocking liberties taken.
Chapter 5: 'Helcaraxe'
Elladan could see that Aragorn was furious. He was disturbed himself by the dreadful events. He was only too aware of the dull ache in his jaw where his brother had punched him and in his ribs where Legolas had kicked out at him. Ai, he should have left the pair of them to battle it out had they not been armed. And now he had a furious Aragorn. Elladan sighed and stretched out his long legs where he sat against the crumbled stone of the town walls, and wondered what he had done to deserve all this aggravation. He glanced over towards the Dwarf who bristled like an angry badger.
Aragorn's eyes glittered and he glared first at the Dwarf and then at Elladan himself.
'Keep them away from each other.' Aragorn's voice was clipped. 'How can we fight the enemy when we turn against ourselves?' He swept his cloak behind him in an irritated gesture and tugged his gloves on.
Gimli was just as furious. He stood in front of Aragorn with feet planted firmly, arms crossed. Aragorn pulled up short and stared down at the angry Dwarf. 'What is it?' he demanded impatiently.
'Legolas says he is leaving.'
Elladan shook his head slowly and looked away. He had hoped it would not come to this. Absently he pulled his silver knife from its sheath and twirled it between his fingers. He had always found it soothing. And right now, he thought, they all needed soothing. 'Perhaps it is best,' he wondered aloud but that was not what he felt. He had not forgotten the look on Legolas' face when he overheard their argument.
Gimli glared at him. 'It is your brother should leave, not Legolas,' he demanded, stabbing his finger at Elladan. 'Legolas has done nothing. Halbarad said that your brother attacked him! And Elrohir has goaded and glared and muttered and made Legolas thoroughly uncomfortable.'
Elladan looked up at the Dwarf, chestnut hair and beard bristling, almost crackling with fire and energy.
'Besides, we were here first and you have only just joined the quest.' Gimli turned to Aragorn defiantly. 'Legolas is one of us.'
Elladan took a moment to realise what the Dwarf meant. He pulled a wry smile and twirled his knife, silver-black-silver-black.
Aragorn paused and looked Gimli in the eye. A moment passed and then Aragorn sighed. 'No one is going anywhere. Here we are all allies and have one enemy.' Aragorn's voice was heavy with fatigue and sorrow. 'I do not wish to ride to battle without my brothers, or without my friends.'
Elladan stared at the blade that flashed between his fingers. 'I will speak to my brother if you will speak to Legolas.' He glanced at Gimli and caught the deep look in those brown eyes and for a moment, he felt the song of the Dwarf. It brushed his mind lightly, a sensation of the deep fires of earth, and then it was gone. He smiled. 'I will make sure he understands,' he said firmly.
Gimli nodded and let his arms fall to his sides.
He turned to leave but Aragorn caught his arm and leaned down to him. 'I do not want him to leave. But I want no more of this either. Tell him, Gimli.'
Gimli gave the Man a stare and Elladan sighed. It was all going wrong so soon. He steeled himself to go and find Elrohir, but he did not relish the thought. Elrohir would be in his darkest mood now, full of guilt and recrimination. He would own his fault, his guilt, but then steep himself in anger over their mother… it always came back to that. Elladan sighed. He wished his brother could find peace. But he fought and fought and fought it- any intimacy, any love, and there were those who had wished to help him find peace but he ran from them if they became too close… like he was afraid. Elladan paused and stared at the silver knife he held lightly between his fingers. Like he was afraid... but what could he fear?
Gimli found Legolas with Arod and the other horses which were tied beneath a wide spreading oak tree in the square of the deserted town. Legolas' blood-soaked shirt had been thrown down on the dusty ground and the Elf had simply pulled his Lorien cloak over his shoulders to hide the wound. He was brushing Arod's coat hard, across the neck, down the shoulders and withers. Arod snorted restlessly when the Dwarf came too near but Legolas ignored him, his jaw set in a stubborn line that Gimli recognised well and meant that it did not matter what anyone said now, he would do as he pleased.
Gimli stood and watched, saying nothing. He stood calmly, simply watching. He was a figure of patience, of stone, feet planted firmly on the good earth, his clever, subtle hand on the haft of his axe that was stuck in his wide leather belt, worked with copper and brass. Watching the Elf, he began to see the truth.
'What are you staring at?' Legolas snapped over his shoulder, but he did not stop brushing the horse. 'Your eyes are drilling holes in my back, Gimli, so say what it is you have to say and then leave me be.'
Gimli said nothing at first. Instead he simply reached over and took the wisp from Legolas' grasp. The Elf resisted at first and then let go with a sigh. Taking his hand, Gimli turned it over. The knuckles were bruised and blood had dried on them. A deep sword cut was already scabbing over and dirt was ingrained in his skin. Gimli ran his thumb over the Elf's knuckle and peered up at the cut on his cheek, tutted at the bruising and cuts on his arms and face. He reached up to move back the cloak but Legolas pulled away and turned back to Arod, never meeting the Dwarf's concerned gaze.
'The hurt is also to your pride,' said Gimli softly. He moved to stand in front of the Elf so he had to stop grooming Arod. 'I remember when first we saw the Sons of Elrond. You spoke of them as great warriors amongst your people. Mighty slayers of orcs and goblins in the mountains you called them.' He did not say it, but he remembered the note of admiration the Elf had been unable to keep from his voice.
Legolas shook his head as if to rid himself of thought or emotion. 'Elrohir has held me in contempt since he first saw me.' Legolas rubbed his hand over his chest as if the wound were more than physical, and looked down at his feet, a gesture so vulnerable it almost hurt Gimli to see it.
Gimli looked away and let his hand smooth the horse's glossy coat. 'Things change,' he said quietly. 'This horse would not let me near him when first we met. He was all pride and arrogance I thought. And I did not want to go near him either if you recall… Until I saw him in battle and realised he is a great ally and warrior.' He glanced up at Legolas, who still had his face turned away. 'For a horse that is,' he added.
Legolas lips twitched slightly.
'He thought the same of you when first he met you,' replied Legolas, finally looking the Dwarf in the eye. 'Until he realised what a very good friend you are.'
Gimli pulled out his pipe and seated himself at the roots of the huge oak tree, away from the horse' great hoofs. He rummaged around his pockets and pulled out the pipe weed he had found earlier. 'I suppose if you left, you could take the inland roads at least,' he said innocently. 'It may be that this is a blessing in disguise.'
Legolas paused. Then he said, 'I did not mean I would leave you.'
'Ah. So it's Aragorn you will leave.'
There was a silence.
Gimli smiled in his beard. 'Or were you just saying that?' he asked. 'Because you were a mite peeved.'
'Hmm,' came the noncommittal grunt from the Elf, and he turned back to wisping the horse.
Gimli took his pipe out of his mouth and cleared his throat. 'Was that a 'Yes, I was just saying that'?'
'Yes,' the Elf mumbled.
Gimli grinned. 'I knew that. Hah! No, you do not leave me certainly. We have Orcs to kill and you have to catch up with me.' He became serious again. 'I told you in Edoras,' Gimli nodded sagely and sent a large smoke ring to hover over the Elf's head like a strange blessing. 'To be friends with a dwarf is to never break your word. You gave me your word; not even through death can you break it. If you leave, I leave. And we have given our word to Aragorn to ride with him.' The Dwarf looked shrewdly at the Elf, his earth-brown eyes steady and calm. 'I cannot think the son of Thranduil will let some Noldo drive him off.'
Legolas straightened slowly, his eyes fastened on the wisp and his fingers still. Long winter-grass hair swept over this shoulder and the grey-green Lorien cloak fluttered slightly at the edges.
'No.' He looked towards the Dwarf and a smile teased his lips. 'Not while he has the son of Gloin at his back.'
Aragorn stood quietly on the crumbling wall of the town. He was still furious with both Legolas and Elrohir. And himself for not sensing the storm that was brewing between them, although in truth he did not expect them to actually draw weapons.
In the empty town square below, he could see Legolas and Gimli. Horses stood quietly by, tails swishing. The Rohan horse that Legolas rode was restless, his hoof stamped several times as if picking up on his rider's anxiety and agitation. When Gimli settled himself on the roots of the great oak and pulled out his pipe, he knew it was safe, that Legolas was calm. Or at least calmer- Aragorn knew better than to believe any Mirkwood Elf would, or even could, recover so quickly from that storm of anger and feelings. And Legolas was no exception; if anything he was even more Silvan than any others Aragorn had met on his travels. And given the pressure they had all been under since they set off from Imladris all that time ago, it was a wonder they had not seen that temper earlier.
He sighed and looked away from them briefly, pulled by the fear for his city. Far away East and North, a great pall of smoke and bruised cloud amassed, covering the sky so that even here, the sun could not penetrate and the day seemed to dim to twilight. Away to the West, the sky seemed torn in two by the ragged edge of the great cloud. He sensed rather than saw the Great River Anduin and its wide expanse of water, its low shores winding, meandering to the Sea. It oppressed his spirits and for a moment, he believed all hope was lost.
Below him, the shadow host, like a sea of mists, shifted and moved like waves, as if they sensed his thoughts. He looked down at them and their restless whispering brushed against his thoughts. He knew what they wanted… blood… revenge. They were restless and wanted to ride, to charge his enemies, to drown them in blood, to crack their bones and break them with the fear that was their weapon…he could see the Southron and Harad host flee, Men stumbling over themselves to escape the dread, eyes staring in horror, drowning in the black water of the river, scrambling to get to the safety of their ships only to find them ablaze and the timbers creaking, cracking in flames…
He opened his eyes sharply. It was becoming more and more difficult to resist them. It was a little like the Ring, how it edged closer and closer and insinuated itself into one's thoughts. This was not how it was going to be however. Even with the weak blood of Isildur, he had resisted the One Ring. He could certainly resist the Oath-breakers. He pulled his cloak about him and squared his shoulders; he forced himself to look into the shadows, to see them. Instantly they stilled. He was the King. You will await my command. He lifted his chin and drove his thought into their midst. You are not yet free. You will do as I command.
He felt he heard a strange murmur but it was only the wind.
He turned slowly, as if against the incoming tide and felt he was wading down from the wall, but once he reached the ground the Shadow Host were no longer in view and he felt free of their desperate grasping urge. He breathed in deeply, and rid himself of the last vestige of their need.
Closing his eyes briefly, he remembered the horror he felt when he and Gimli had arrived and Elladan was already forcing the knife from Legolas' hand. Stunned, Aragorn had watched the long silver blade fly from Legolas' fingers. There was blood on the Elf's hand and for a horrible moment, he thought Legolas had killed Elrohir. But when Elrohir had kicked Legolas he had suddenly understood and thrown himself between them. He could barely remember the next few seconds, so confused and chaotic they were, with fists flying and legs kicking, fingers scratching and scrambling until at last, he had dragged Legolas away and shaken him still until that cold blood-lust left his eyes...
The Elf had stood stony-faced and silent, not looking at him while he scolded him for his loss of temper, for drawing a blade on Elrohir, for disgracing himself and his father. Legolas barely flinched even then and Aragorn had fought an impulse to raise his own hand, for some reaction, some remorse, but there was nothing. It was only now that Aragorn recalled the blood on his white shirt, the torn skin on his cheek, his hand clutched at his ribs and the dirt and blood and bruises already forming. Legolas had drawn his blades first. Halbarad, as witness to the confrontation's beginning, had said. It was a mess. And he could not understand how it had come to this.
Aragorn steeled himself. He had seen the terrible gash across Legolas' chest, the blood-soaked shirt balled up and thrown on the ground. But he was still angry.
Carefully he approached the Dwarf and Elf, watching as they turned to stare.
Legolas straightened and his gaze settled into the impassive stare of Mirkwood Elves.
Aragorn felt a surge of irritation- so that's how it was going to be.
'Have you told him,' he demanded of the Dwarf.
Gimli turned his head away and sighed. 'Not like this, Aragorn. Look at him. He needs your help now not your hard words.'
'Did you tell him?' Aragorn insisted. Legolas eyes still held his, dark slate green. 'I will not have this will not happen again. Do you hear me?' He took a step towards Legolas. Although the Elf's face was pale, his eyes burned. Aragorn glared back and said, 'You will not fail me in this.'
Legolas flinched. A flash of hurt flickered briefly in his eyes to be replaced by a smouldering fury. 'As I failed your trust before you mean?' he hurled back.
Aragorn stared at him, unable to speak for a moment. 'At the Council of Elrond you told me my folk had failed their trust!' the Elf spat, 'My folk died trying to keep their trust!'**
Aragorn did not relent. He could not forget the sight of his friend and his brother. Sword and knife flashing. The dust spattered with their blood. Clashing blade on elven blade. Stories of the kinslaying had flooded his mind in that moment and his horror was so great he had frozen.
'You drew your weapon first,' he accused. He stepped closer to the Elf, so close now he could feel his warmth, and the breath on his skin.
'He drew first blood,' Legolas said coldly.
'You drew a blade on my brother.' Aragorn's voice was like steel itself, hard, cold, bitter. 'He was unarmed and you drew your knife.'
'That's not what happened, Aragorn…' began the Dwarf angrily. 'Elrohir…'
'He drew first blood,' the Elf repeated stubborny, his eyes like glass, his generous mouth a hard line.
'You are not listening to me, Thranduillion.' Aragorn stood close now, chest to chest and held the gaze of his friend. 'I am telling you, it ends now.'
'Then tell your brother, Aragorn!' Gimli tried again, 'because he drew first blood when he struck Legolas. He…'
'Enough!' shouted Aragorn, turning to glare at them both. He felt their friendship tremble under the strain of this unbearable tension.
Dwarf, Man and Elf stared at each other in a moment of brittle understanding.
Then Aragorn slowly reached out to Legolas' shoulder. 'Enough,' he said more softly. 'It ends now.'
He looked up into the Elf's dark eyes, gleaming like mercury in the strange half-light. Aragorn stared for a moment and then saw the bloody wound half-hidden beneath the cloak. He pushed aside the green-grey material and his fingers brushed the bloody gash in the Elf's chest. Legolas flinched slightly but he did not pull back. Aragorn took his wrists in his own hands and turned them over. He winced at the swollen knuckles and the cuts on the Elf's hands that could only have come from his brother's blade. 'No more, Legolas. Please. For my sake.'
'I will not raise a blade to your brother again.' He said so quietly only Aragorn could hear.' I swear this because of my love for you. But tell him not to test me. I would not break my word.'
Aragorn nodded. It would have to be enough.
Elladan could sense his twin's disquiet and misery and found him easily, standing on the high wall of the ruined town, looking west. He did not turn or speak but simply stared into the darkness. Clouds scudded across the sky, torn and ragged.
Elladan felt his twin's misery, like a great deep chasm that swallowed all light, all hope, all joy. He said nothing but went to his brother and stood with him in his silence.
A terrible heaviness settled over them both but Elladan did not shrink from it, for it was ever thus. After the raging storm that drove Elrohir in his fury and revenge, there was always this terrible heavy brooding emptiness; this chasm of despair that seemed to pull everything into it. For Elrohir there was only existence in one of those two states, either the furious storm or the pit of despair.
Elladan let his gentle calm reach out, a mist of healing, a soft light that disappeared into the emptiness of Elrohir's despair. He let his brother gradually, gently come back to himself.
'You cannot continue like this,' said Elladan eventually. He gazed across the river towards the west. 'You cannot change the past. She has gone, she left us long ago. But she will be waiting for us when we leave these shores.'
He waited for a moment, waited for the rage to dissipate and the grief to come. It was always like this; after the killing rage came the storm of guilt and then the frozen waste of his grief, suppressed, hardened, frosted until it became as cold and implacable as the Helcaraxe.
Elladan sighed and shifted slightly. It was strange though, this time, for the usual killing rage was always directed against the Enemy and their errantry was ever thus. But ever since they had joined Aragorn, it had been different. The burning focus on Legolas was strange; the icy calm of his brother in the other elf's presence had never been more than superficial and the fire of rage had smouldered so near the surface it had cracked and all the molten hate poured forth.
He heard a strangled sound. Half snort, half sob, and he turned to look at his brother. Elrohir's head was bent and he looked down, eyes tightly shut and the long raven black hair hung over his face. His hand clutched at his chest as if it were he who had been wounded there.
'I cannot bear it. I cannot bear it any longer… You did not see…'
Elladan felt his own heart constrict and he reached out and pulled his brother into his embrace, and comforted him as he always did. He could hear the words, muffled against his own chest, stumble from Elrohir and he pulled back a little to listen.
'… cannot bear to see him… he reminds me of her… of when I found her.'
Elladan paused, shocked.
'Legolas reminds you of her?' he asked gently, surprised, for there was nothing about the woodland Elf that reminded him of his mother – he was all lean muscle and sinew and strength. And so utterly male. 'How?'
'I don't know. It is his hair… long, pale, silk… like hers. When I see him it makes me think of when I found her… and I cannot bear it….' Another stifled sob and Elladan felt his brave warrior brother begin to pull away. He held him close, tightly, surrounding him with calm and peace.
Elladan paused again, thinking. He felt something beneath his brother's words, something held back, unacknowledged, not quite recognised. He said very gently, almost fearfully, 'What does he make you feel?'
'I want to…I want to hurt him.'
Elladan did not let his brother go, he did not pull back in shock as he felt. He held him tighter and breathed with him, slowly. He remembered one occasion. He had known that Elrohir sometimes journeyed alone, or in the company of Men who Elladan did not know.
It had been last winter and the trees were bare, black silhouettes against the grey winter sky. He had seen him, a lone rider, cloaked against the winter cold as the black horse picked its way down the Hidden Path into the valley. But the cloaked rider had been hunched over, almost hugging to himself some secret shame. His confusion and dark shame so palpable that Elladan had cried out. And Elrohir, for it was he, had started like some guilty thief. They never spoke of it, for Elrohir had avoided his gaze for a while, and kept to his rooms or trained, hard, battling against any who would train with him, but there was a hunted, feralness about him during those weeks that frightened Elladan.
He was suddenly afraid for his brother, afraid for Legolas and what might have happened had they not stopped them both. His fingers tightened on his brother's arm but he said, very gently, 'You said he reminds you of when you found Naneth…Why do you want to hurt him?'
There was another muffled cry and Elladan felt his brother shaking his head, as if to rid himself of some tortured thought. He could not go on then and Elladan held him tightly, stroking his head like he was a child.
Helcaraxe- the frozen wastes crossed by the Noldor in the Silmarillion (I have no idea how to put umlauts on letters on a Mac!!)
** In the FOTR, the Council of Elrond, Aragorn is angry at Legolas' news that Smeagol has escaped. He says that the folk of Thranduil had failed in their trust.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.