2. Chapter 1 : Midnight Confession
It was the sound of a bird that roused Haldir from his reverie. He turned his head upwards to observe a small gold and silver bird chirping happily high in the tree before him. The bird leapt from its branch, and while still singing, whirled around Haldir's head before flying off in the distance.
"He's awake," he heard someone say behind him on the other side of the flet. Moments later Orophin crouched on his knees and presented Haldir with a cup of warm soup.
"Today you are going to meet someone who will forever change your life," Orophin said.
Haldir chuckled. "Are you back to making real predictions? You haven't allowed your mind to open to the unknowns since - how long has it been?"
"Since Rúmil's third begetting day," Orophin said. "These centuries have passed so fast, haven't they?"
"Aye, they have." Haldir drained his cup and thanked his brother. Rúmil approached them then, holding bread and the steaming small pot of soup. The sun was just starting to set, her golden rays beaming deep orange hues throughout the sky.
"I heard Orophin's prediction," Rúmil said as he dipped his loaf of bread into his soup (his brothers always found this an odd behavior of his.) "I wonder what you will end up doing that will make the Orc angry enough to break your legs - or neck, if that is what Orophin meant by forever changing your life."
Haldir gave a hearty laugh which his brothers all shared. It didn't seem like the family would ever find such a thing humorous. When Orophin first learned to talk, he told Haldir that he was going to slip from a large tree and land on his bottom. Haldir had laughed at the elfling's odd prediction, adored by the serious look in the elfling's eyes as he spoke of Haldir's doom. But then later that day, Haldir did indeed slip from the steps of the largest tree in Lothlórien, and he would have indeed fallen on his backside had he not grabbed onto a branch.
"Your prediction was half-correct," he told Orophin, whose eyes had grown wide and scared. He took another spoonful of his meal before looking up at Haldir again. A smug little smile filled his apple-smeared face.
"That's why you need to listen to what I say," little Orophin chirped.
In the years that followed Orophin regularly gave Haldir his morning predictions, half of which never came to pass, much to Haldir's relief. The other half of the time, Haldir wondered if his brother was gifted with foresight like that of the Lady of Light. But then he decided that perhaps his expectations of doom had led him to subconsciously making the events come to pass, so he never listened to his brother.
When the Lady Galadriel first met them, she looked deep into Orophin's eyes and turned to Haldir, informing him to always listen to his brother. As they were walking down the steps, Orophin turned to Haldir and smiled.
"I just got a vision of a third elf walking with us," he said. One year later, the two elves were cooing over their newborn brother Rúmil.
On Rúmil's third begetting day Orophin awoke from his reverie and went straight to his parents. Haldir was also with them, and once he saw the fear in Orophin's face, he groaned.
"Another one of his crazy predictions," he thought. But this one proved to turn Haldir's blood cold.
"I just had a vision of myself pulling Rúmil's body from dozens of fallen trees. Blood covered him everywhere, and there was fire all around us."
Haldir jumped to his feet. "What ill words you speak on a morning! Stop this terrible talk at once!"
And since then Orophin abandoned his craft, refusing to allow any images to come to him; so terrible was the sight of his brother near death. His parents begged him not to abandon the practice, as they were most thankful for having a warning. But Orophin refused to open his mind again. That night he had begged them not to become afraid of what he had seen.
"It was only a nightmare," Orophin had said. "Just a nightmare after hearing what had happened to Dínendal's sister."
Haldir was silently grateful for this change. He readily believed in the gift of foresight only in Lady Galadriel. He had a hard time accepting that his own brother possessed the gift when his visions were never accurate.
Yet the change took its toll on the elf. He became sullen and reclusive, so Haldir had taken the opportunity to engage Orophin in the study of elven law, his personal passion. The dreamy Rúmil eventually joined them, and together they became guards to the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien.
Rúmil often teased Orophin in hopes of bringing him back to using his gift. But Orophin refused - initially at least. Rúmil had grown into a strong elf; any worries of him getting killed ebbed away, for he proved to be very quick and agile. After the shock had wore off, Orophin was back to making predictions, but they were never real. He regularly gave them the most frivolous warnings of doom to amuse them throughout the day, and seldom was he serious with his words.
However, this evening there was something different in his voice. The sun had long settled, and the brothers had gone back to keeping watch, their keen eyes not missing a single movement in the dense forest. As Haldir wondered what sort of person Orophin had meant, he suddenly heard a song far in the distance that steadily grew louder as the singer drew nearer. Young the elf must have been, still innocent of the world around him. But there was also sorrow in his voice, and the longer Haldir listened to him sing, the more affection he felt for the singer.
"He is traveling with others," Rúmil said, who had climbed to the topmost branch to have a better look at what went on mile away. "They are crossing the Nimrodel, and ever they draw nearer to us."
"They must be the Company that Lady Galadriel said would be arriving tonight," Haldir said. "An elf from our Northern kindred would be among them." And Haldir was looking forward to meeting the one who sang so beautifully.
* * *
When Legolas popped his head over the hole in the talan, his eyes met with soft grey eyes in the distance. This elf was holding a lit lamp that gave a silver light. There were two other elves with him, and from the little that he could see, Legolas guessed they were brothers.
"Mae govannen," they said. Legolas was helped to his feet by one of the brothers. After thanking him and exchanging names, Legolas's eyes turned back to the one holding the silver light, so allured was he by this elf. Deep and soulful were his eyes, and Legolas found himself wanting to look away and never stop staring all at once. The elf was the tallest and oldest by appearance, and very beautiful. Though he was only a guard, a majestic and noble aura glowed about him that brought comfort to the prince. He regarded Legolas with equal interest through heavy-lidded eyes before stepping forward. He bowed low to Legolas.
"Gîl síla na lû govaded," he said in a melodic voice. Up close Legolas could count each of the elf's long eyelashes, darker than the silvery hair that cascaded down his back. "Welcome to Lothlórien! Haldir is my name, and these are my brothers Orophin and Rúmil."
Legolas replied likewise, never taking his eyes from this strange beautiful elf. "I am Legolas of Mirkwood."
"Son of King Thranduil?" Orophin said incredulously. His mouth hung open, and he suddenly glanced quickly at Haldir with amusement.
"Aye, I am the youngest of the Elfking's children," Legolas said, looking rather unsettled. "I hope the tales of me have not been of the unpleasant sort."
The three brothers laughed. "We have heard only good of you, but if you wish to tell us of your past mischief we will be all ears," Haldir said, "as we have a few of our own to share." Legolas smiled, sensing something inside him lessen. Haldir motioned to the prince to sit down by the tree stem. "You look troubled."
"My entire company has been suffering since we left Moria," Legolas said. He thank Rúmil, who had just offered him a cup of warm soup. "Some of the hobbits will be up here soon."
"Lady Galadriel has mentioned them," Haldir said.
"The Lady of Light?" Legolas's eyes shone bright, and all three brothers exchanged amused looks. "I have heard much of her but I have never traveled here. But in all my life I dreamt of coming to Lothlórien. From what I hear it is far more pleasant than my own homeland, not that I wish to speak ill of it." His eyes darkened suddenly as he studied his cup. "It is still my home, even everything that has come to pass."
The brothers exchanged looks, as all had sensed the shadow inside the prince, but just then the head of a little hobbit appeared above the hole of the flet, closely followed by another, and Haldir stood up to greet them.
* * *
With Legolas's help the elves got each of the Company comfortably settled in their appropriate talans. Gimli the dwarf had refused to sleep "up in a tree" and only obeyed when Aragorn - his patience already worn thin from the day's events - scolded the dwarf for not being more grateful to the elves for their hospitality.
Haldir assigned Legolas the talan where the dwarf slept, and Legolas dutifully took his position though he was disappointed that he wouldn't have the chance to speak some more with Haldir. He watched the two Men and dwarf doze into sleep. His eyes bored into Gimli, and for a moment he felt an incredible urge to kick the dwarf awake.
"It is because of you that Haldir sent me here," Legolas thought. "Otherwise I would be with him right now. For that you deserve my hostility, but then it wouldn't be very polite of me to attack another from the Fellowship, even if he is a dwarf."
An elf approached him, and looking up Legolas saw it was Orophin.
"I will take your position," Orophin said. "Rúmil just relieved Haldir of his duties. Go to him; he's resting against the tree. I think he'd love to spend some time with you." He gave Legolas a wink. Legolas found his face turning pink, but he thanked Orophin. Unable to hide his excitement, Legolas rushed to the other tree.
Orophin settled on the same spot Legolas had been moments before and rested back, a satisfied grin on his face. "By morning the two will be utterly inseparable!" he thought with a grin.
Haldir was slightly taken aback when he saw Legolas approach him. "Is something the matter?" he asked.
"Oh! Nothing like that," Legolas said in the Silvan tongue. "Orophin told me he will take my watch."
Haldir laughed. "And Rúmil offered to take my own spot! I now begin to understand - my brothers are planning something between us."
"Like what?" There was a mischievous hint in Legolas's eyes as he sat next to Haldir with his back against the tree and his arms wrapped around his knees.
"A chance to speak of our..."
"Attraction," Legolas finished. He glanced away. Haldir chuckled and inched closer towards him. "I have heard of much stories of how elves feel once they meet the one they wish to bond with," Legolas began. "My own brothers and sister - the three eldest ones - told such lovely tales of meeting their mate, like it was a sort of dream but also not a dream, something they have never felt before."
"And will you have such a tale to tell when you return home?"
Legolas grinned. "I believe so, but I do not know if the elf in question has felt the same when we met. It would become a sad tale if my love was not returned."
"Your tale will end in joy, for this elf has fallen for the young prince of Mirkwood before even seeing his face." He moved a strand of hair away from Legolas's brow. "It was your voice which drew me to you. There is much beauty inside you, and with each word you sang I felt my heart yearning for you even more."
Legolas moved his head closer till his eyelashes brushed against Haldir's cheeks. "And what did this elf feel inside him when he finally saw the prince?"
"An awakening and a comfort, like all of this world and the heavens had fallen into harmony and everything was well in my life."
"It is the same that I have felt," Legolas said. "I feel at peace in your presence, such a peace that I have not felt in so long."
Haldir's expression changed to one of concern. "Why do you say this? Even your song held sorrow."
Legolas sighed and moved away. "The dwarf is becoming unbearable," he suddenly said. "Watching Aragorn having to scream the dwarf into obedience nearly drove me mad."
"Tough conditions can break anyone," Haldir said, crestfallen by the sudden change in topic. "I do not mistrust Gimli but by law I must not fully trust him either."
"Do you follow everything by law?" Legolas asked. "It appears you would become friends with Gimli had this law not existed. I know not what makes me say this, only that this is the feeling I get from you."
Haldir laughed. "I believe you are correct," he said. "I do not think we should have such bad relations with the dwarves when we were once strong allies and friends. To continue with this animosity when we are all subject under the same threat will only secure our doom. I must confess I was surprised but also pleased to see that you are traveling with a dwarf, despite everything else. But listen to me speaking fondly of dwarves! It is not customary for one in my position to do so. I could be stripped from my status!"
"My father would love you! Do you ever consider breaking the law, even the smallest one?"
"Laws are in place for a specific purpose, and I must value each one," Haldir said, grinning when Legolas shook his head in amusement. "Laws give our daily lives a structure."
"Ai, what sort of elf have I fallen for!" Legolas laughed. "I hated studying elven law. My king required me to, of course, as I am a prince. But I much preferred song and poetry, and listening to tales of the elves during the first age. I should thank the Valar I was born last in my family. It would have been worse had I been the crown prince. I would much rather be among the trees..." Legolas grew suddenly quiet, staring into the dark, before continuing, "than rule a kingdom."
Haldir watched Legolas. The prince continued staring out into the dark, his eyes suddenly full of fear which was soon replaced with a deep sadness. Legolas shook his head as if trying to shake off whatever thought had suddenly plagued him, and he turned back to Haldir, smiling sheepishly.
"Is there something that is bothering you?" Haldir asked.
"You are determined to pick me apart," Legolas sighed.
"There was sorrow in the way you sang," Haldir said. "Already you've become sheltered in my heart, and to know there is pain inside you hurts me as well. Perhaps if you divulged what is bringing you pain, then you will begin to heal."
Legolas was silent once more for a few more moments before speaking again. "I will yield to your request even if I do not wish to think upon it tonight," he said in a whisper. "Grief is a thick presence right now among my Company."
"I see there is much that grieves your party, but there is something that troubles you in particular," Haldir said. He studied Legolas's face with a look of genuine concern. "I have never met an elf as young as yourself with such sorrow in your eyes. It grieves me to see one so young in so much pain."
"What you see inside me is ninety years of grief over my mother's death," Legolas replied softly, "and the pain plagues my heart still."
"I have heard of the tragedy of Queen Glivereth, but not of the details. I only know that her body was found mangled in the forest, but it was not a spider that had claimed her, from what I heard. No one knew who or what it was."
"I have seen her killer," Legolas blurted out before he could stop himself. Instantly regretting his mistake, Legolas's face turned sickly pale. "I do not wish to say any more. The memory alone could render me bed-ridden for a week."
"I understand perfectly," Haldir said. "But ninety years is too much time for such a young wonderful elf as yourself. Were you given any help to alleviate your pain?"
Legolas smiled sadly. "My father tried. He sent his best healers to see what they can do. They were unable to do anything for me. It wasn't until sixty-five years ago that I could even bear leaving the halls."
Haldir said nothing, but he nodded for Legolas to continue. His eyes shone bright with compassion, and Legolas thought him more beautiful at that moment. Again came the comfort that washed over him. Feeling encouraged, Legolas took a deep intake of breath before continuing.
* * *
King Thranduil sighed. It had been many years since the death of his wife. The years had gone by rapidly, and though it was difficult to cope, he had moved on to living his life as normally as he possibly could with the absence of his queen. Her death had been hard on the entire kingdom, who loved the queen. She was fair and gentle, always the heart of their merrymaking. Though the memory still pained them, all the elves had learned to move on.
All except one.
Thranduil sighed again. His son Legolas had fallen ill again; he had lost count of how many times his son fell ill during all the difficult years since Glivereth's death.
At times Legolas was close to being the innocent bright elf that he had always been, the most cheery and lively of his siblings. Though Legolas refused to leave the halls, especially at night, Thranduil felt the boy was getting better. But then a shadow would fall over Legolas and he'd retreat to his rooms; everyone who passed his rooms could hear him muttering madly. The healers could find no explanation for his maladies other than a post-traumatic shock of that dreadful night.
But the heart of a father knew better. Something from that night had stayed with Legolas. The poor child would wake in the night screaming about devils crawling on top of him. Some healers explained it away as just his mind playing tricks at him, but Thranduil suspected there was more to it.
"What did you see that night?" he would ask him always, but Legolas never gave an answer.
"Please father do not ask me to remember," Legolas muttered. His body was drenched in cold sweat. "It's horrible enough to have him come crawling back to me every night. Let me not see those eyes again!"
"Was it a man?" Though Thranduil had good business relations with the men of Dale, he well very knew that not all men were pure of heart.
"No," Legolas choked out. "Please, let me not remember it!"
And it would always end there.
His brothers and sisters came to him as well with encouragements to leave his room.
"Perhaps the light of the sun will heal you," his eldest sister Arthiel would say. She ran her fingers through his tangle of golden hair to comfort him. "Come with me, and we can sing together with Ithildis."
"Your body is becoming weak," the crown prince Dínechir would say. "You need to go outside. Come with me and we can practice our skill with the bow and arrow."
Legolas declined every one of their offers, and soon even his siblings gave up on him. He was left alone in his misery, and for weeks he remained in this state. When he would finally emerge out from his room, it was to run straight to his father. Everyone he passed averted their eyes out of respect, for the prince was unkempt and in his tangled bedclothes.
The elvenking would attending a meeting with his advisors. Upon seeing his son, Thranduil would stand up and threw his arms wide. "Legolas, my child!" And Legolas would throw himself into the comforting arms of his remaining parent, and he cried, not caring they were in clear view of every advisor who had all averted their eyes to give the royal family some privacy.
When he was done shedding the last of his tears, Legolas would ask timidly as he wiped his eyes if there was anything for him to eat. And Legolas, in his bedclothes and unbathed for weeks, would sit down among the advisors and devour everything the chef brought him.
Thranduil never asked Legolas what made him finally leave his rooms, for Thranduil was very grateful to simply have his son back. But in time the pattern would continue. Legolas enjoyed a speedy recovery, and it appeared to everyone that the terror he had seen would never haunt him again, but in time Legolas would soon succumb into illness once more.
Thranduil regularly kept his son company when there were no duties to attend to that Prince Dínechir could not handle. He came with stories of what he has seen, though he often exaggerated to make the stories more amusing. But there was one story he told in truth, and it was the most entertaining story of all: of a time when a party of dwarves and a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins came crashing in the middle of their merry-making. Legolas at first didn't believe his father, thinking the king was now creating stories just to entertain him, as he always done when Legolas was a small elfling.
"Indeed hobbits do exist!" Thranduil said, defensive. "Tiny fellows they are, about this tall."
"Those are dwarves!" Legolas shot back, and the tiniest ghost of a laughter came upon him. It had been almost thirty years since the death of Glivereth, and for the first time Thranduil could feel a terrible weight that had been inside his son finally lessen. When Legolas left his rooms that time around, he was properly groomed, and his father was standing beside him, beaming.
Two years passed and Legolas didn't have another attack though he remained indoors. Finally his siblings, sick of how pale their youngest brother looked, forced him outside by letting Dínechir, Rothlir, and Handor carry him over their shoulders.
The rays of the summer sun warmed Legolas's pale face for the first time in many years. The elf took deep breaths, tasting the fresh air. His eyes took a minute to adjust to the brightness of the scene.
"Ai, I have nearly forgotten the beauty of the forest!" Legolas said. His siblings all grinned at him. "So long as we return before sunset, I will remain out here."
* * *
"Your family is wonderful for helping you during your dark time," Haldir said. "It must have been a relief to finally be back among the trees."
"Yes, it was truly a relief," Legolas said. "Dínechir was right; my body had grown weak during the many years I stayed in my rooms, but I was able to regain my former strength. I had to be taught again how to use bow and arrow, but I relearned quickly.
"I do not know what made me well enough to go back to my old life. Was my father's story about the hobbit Bilbo - who turned out to be real after all - what helped cure my spirits, or was it something else, I do not know. But in those sixty-four years I was happy. The memory of what I had seen never resurfaced in my mind, and there was an unspoken agreement among everyone in Mirkwood to never bring up the subject."
"And what of the sixty-fifth year?" Legolas's eyes bore into his, and Haldir felt his heart ache again for he could sense fear and turmoil inside the Mirkwood prince. "There is more to the story, I take it?"
Legolas struggled to answer. "Aye, there is. That year, my father came to my room one morning and asked me - I think we woke up Frodo."
They had been speaking softly in their native tongue when Frodo opened his eyes and peered up at them.
"I apologize for cutting your story short, but I must join my brothers," Haldir whispered, his words unheard by all except for Legolas's keen ears.
"Let me join you in your watch."
"No." Haldir cupped Legolas's face in his hands. "I have kept you too long. You must rest. You've had a difficult journey." They shared a smile before Haldir got up and disappeared beneath the hole. Legolas rested back against the tree, trying his best not to think of what he had just told his new friend. He willed his mind to focus instead on Haldir's soft hands and how nice they felt against his cheeks. The thought comforted him, and soon Legolas was deep in elven reverie.
In the middle of the night his reverie was broken by the sounds of heavy feet nosily trampling on broken twigs. Down below he heard an elf utter "Yrch!" and he sprung to his feet, grabbing his bow and quiver. Down the hole of the talan he went.
"Legolas, get back in the talan! It is not safe here!" Haldir said when Legolas had landed on the ground.
"There are Orcs about!"
"We have just evaded them. They had picked up on the sent of your Company, but we sent them away. Orophin has gone to warn our people, but for now you must go back to the talan!"
"What creature is this?" Rúmil suddenly spoke.
Legolas visibly tensed. It had just occurred to him how vulnerable he was standing out here, even if he was holding his bow and arrow in hand. Off in the distance he saw a creature crawling up the tree where the hobbits slept all the while softly hissing. A terrible coldness overcame him for a moment, but it disappeared the moment he recognized the creature.
He turned to Haldir and Rúmil. "He's come to attack Frodo and abscond away with the ring!" Rúmil rushed to the creature. Haldir stood behind, surprised at Legolas's reaction. He was wiping sweat from his forehead.
"It is only Sméagol," Legolas said to himself, seemingly not noticing that Haldir was right beside him. "Twice he's given me false fear!"
Haldir watched him but said nothing.
* * *
Haldir studied the party. Their journey had been terrible, and his heart especially went out to the hobbits. They were not accustomed to such troublesome travels. His attention went back to the dwarf Gimli. He could sense that no evil rested inside him. He was more than willing to help him, no matter how much the dwarf hurled insults at him or gave him dirty looks. But Haldir had no power to bend the law to his own will. The dwarf had to be blindfolded; it was the law of his land.
He was considering his other options when thankfully Aragorn came to a most reasonable compromise: everyone of the Fellowship was to be blindfolded. Haldir willingly accepted it, for it was the most fair course of action.
It became Legolas's turn to become upset. Speaking kindly Haldir was able to settle him down, but the prince still looked troubled as each of the members were blindfolded. Haldir came to him last, and it was then that he remembered Legolas's confessions from the night before. He had been so engrossed on solving the matter of Gimli that he had nearly forgotten about Legolas's fears.
"Do forgive me," Haldir whispered softly. "Will this bring back your fears of the dark?"
"Yes," Legolas shot back angrily.
Haldir winced slightly. "I apologize for doing this, but I must be fair," he said. "You will not be in trouble. I will never allow harm to come to you. Do you trust me?"
Legolas looked away. "Yes. I am acting foolish."
"Your actions are completely understandable."
Legolas turned to face him again, allowing him to place the strip around his head.
"Is this hurting you?" Haldir asked gently, but he didn't need a reply. Legolas's hand had already begun to shake. "Legolas!" He grabbed his hand and rubbed it between his own. "You are safe here. The monster will never enter these woods without our notice." He leaned forward until their foreheads were touching. You are free to speak to me in thought during our journey.
Legolas took a deep breath, smelling the scent of Haldir, and a smile came to him. "I have never noticed how sweet you smell," Legolas whispered. "Like the grass after a spring rain. I will keep this memory with me during our journey." He tentatively wrapped his arms around the Silvan elf, and he moved his head till his lips were brushing against Haldir's cheeks. Hannon le, Haldir.
Haldir returned the embrace, but he soon had to let go. Turning around he could see his brother Rúmil giving him a knowing smile. Haldir nodded and pointed to him to go to the back of the Fellowship. Haldir himself marched to the front and commanded them to follow.
True to their word, the Company stumbled not once during the journey. Haldir kept a conversation going with them; while he had accepted that blindfolding everyone was only fair thing to do, a part of him still felt guilty that they had to travel in darkness, missing the splendors of the forest. He wished also to engage Legolas in the talk, or at least to sense that the prince's nerves had calmed. His mind was fully open to accept Legolas's messages, but rarely did Legolas communicate with him.
They walked till it became dark and the night became too chilled for the hobbits. Haldir allowed them all to rest against the trees, assuring them that they will not be attacked.
He noticed Pippin tugging at his blindfold. "I am afraid you must rest while still wearing the blindfold," Haldir said. Pippin made a face but said nothing more on the matter.
"I will watch them," Rúmil whispered. He inclined his head towards Legolas, who sat alone against a tree further from the rest of the Company. His head twitched back and forth, trying to take in whatever he could from his surroundings. "I told him to wait for you there."
Haldir thanked his brother, glad to be relieved from his watch. He called out Legolas in his mind as not to startle him as he settled besides the prince.
"How are you faring?" Haldir asked in a voice too soft and silent to be heard by anyone else but Legolas.
"Not as bad as I had feared I would," Legolas said in an equally quiet voice. "Over on the Naith I felt a peace wash over me. It feels strange to be speaking to a friend while blindfolded. Can I take this off?"
"It would be unfair to the others," Haldir said. Legolas made a face similar to Pippin's. "You will find that most cities have the same rules these days. They will blindfold even their own kin."
"Even a prince?"
"Even a friend." Haldir smiled. He wrapped one arm around Legolas, ready to take his arm away if Legolas flinched, but instead Legolas leaned into the embrace. He rested his head against Haldir's shoulder.
In silence they listened to the soft sounds of the night. The tree branches swayed slowly above them as if in a trance, gleaming silver under the moonlight. The scene was breathtaking to behold, and Haldir wished Legolas would get a chance to admire the leaves of this place. But, rules were rules, and Haldir always abide by them.
"Perhaps in another time, after this dreadful war is over, I will take Legolas back here and show him the forest," Haldir thought, and this brought a smile to his face; suddenly Haldir became aware that Legolas and he had their fingers entwined together, moving about in a slow dance that, Haldir realized, mimicked the swaying of the tree branches.
After a time, Haldir spoke again. "Legolas, I do not wish to bring up any undesirable topics, but you seemed rather terrified of this Sméagol. Was he the one who -"
"No." Legolas sighed. "Though my father thought it was. My people watched over him last year when Aragorn and Gandalf brought him into Mirkwood, sixty-five years after my mother died."
"I believe you told me earlier that last year brought back memories you wished to bury."
"Aye, that is true." Legolas laughed lightly at the memory. "It began on a morning when my father came to my room and asked me a question..."
* * *
"Legolas, I know these past few years you have been recovering from a dreadful illness," Thranduil said. "But I must ask you something very important: I request you help me identify whether a new prisoner brought in is your mother's killer."
Legolas just stared at Thranduil in disbelief. "You wish me to become ill again? Never do I want to bring back the demons of the past! How could you even mention this to me?"
Thranduil took a deep breath. "Child, I understand you have been through a very painful time, but please help me with this one request. If he is the killer than I will bring him to death immediately."
"And what of how I feel? Would you disregard the pain I've been through just to avenge your wife?"
Thranduil cursed. "You have not been the only one in illness, Legolas! My heart still grieves for Glivereth! For nearly ninety years I have suffered silently! For ninety years I have been widowed without any clue of who had taken her life, and the only witness of my love's death is refusing to speak!"
The Mirkwood king had never so much as raise his hand against any of his children, even if they misbehaved on the rare occasion. So to hear his father raise his voice in such anger shocked and terrified Legolas. And then his heart ached to see his own father - the great noble elvenking of Mirkwood - fighting back tears and losing. Legolas felt selfish then; he had been too absorbed in his own illness to realize that his mother's death had affected everyone till now.
He hugged his father. "I'm sorry, Ada. I will take a look at this creature."
The creature turned out to be Gollum, or Sméagol as he was known in his youth. Legolas gave him one look then turned to his father and shook his head. Legolas felt relieved, but the guilt came back for Thranduil was disappointed. His eyes silently begged him to reveal who the real killer was, and Legolas decided that it was time to open up. But at that moment he realized that he could no longer remember how the killer looked, only that the mere mention of the fiend still brought fear to him.
Instead Legolas offered to be one of the guards that watched over the strange being. It had been ages since Legolas had contact with peoples other than elves, and he was curious to know about this creature. Also, he felt it was his duty to do something for his father.
It had been his idea to take Sméagol out every day to breathe in the fresh air, as he personally knew very well how damaging staying indoors was. And it had become his worst mistake. One night he was roused by the shouts and screams of his people. He ran out just in time to see an Orc strike one of the elves with an arrow. Soon, half of Mirkwood appeared to be out at war with the Orcs, which they fought till daybreak. It was then they remembered Sméagol, but the creature was no where to be found.
Thranduil was devastated at having lost much of his people. But Legolas felt worse, for he blamed himself for his people's death.
"There is not much else that I can do than sending a messenger to Elrond in Rivendell," Thranduil said one evening, looking far more miserable than his children could ever remember him. He sat with his head down, one hand rubbing his forehead. "Lord Elrond must hear of this immediately."
"Then let me deliver the message," Legolas offered. "It is by my own foolishness that Sméagol escaped!"
"But you have not left this realm in over a hundred years!" Legolas hung his head, crestfallen. "However, perhaps what you need more than anything else is to travel beyond this place. Rivendell is fair, as I am sure you remember from your youth." He studied his son further before continuing. "Yes, I think it would do you well to leave all the painful memories from here behind, and go out into the world."
* * *
"And so a week later I left for Rivendell along with a few escorts appointed by King Thranduil," Legolas said. "For sixteen days we traveled, and at nights we rested in the trees while our horses slept below us. At least one of my escorts kept watch among the horses, just for my sake, so I wouldn't be afraid. Though I had become accustomed to being outside during the nights, the fear was returning now that I traveled to lands I haven't seen in so long."
"It must have been great relief to finally reach Imladris," Haldir said. "The horror of seeing your people killed must have brought back some of the fear from that night. Even now traveling to strange lands you have never set foot in must all be affecting you. But you are well now. You are among friends."
Legolas did not respond. He brought Haldir's hands, surprisingly soft for one so skilled with a bow and arrow, up to his face and gently rubbed them against his cheeks. He had not the heart to tell Haldir that there was more to the tale even still, that the truth behind his fears had nothing to do with traveling to strange lands. For so long he had tried to avoid seeing the monster again only to find himself facing it again in a place he called his second home: he had met the monster again in Rivendell.
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.