1. The Cave in the Echoriath
It was beyond the Banquet Halls, upon a porch far away from the party where Haldir found Legolas standing alone, enjoying the night wind rippling through his long hair. He had been seeking the elf for the past hour, hoping to get a chance to kiss his soft lips once more.
Haldir had to smile when he found the wandering prince. "Of course," Haldir thought to himself. "Legolas would only come to such a place as this, far from all the noise. Only he would dare to be alone in the dark beside this ledge, looking out into the Sea without worry that someone could push him off."
Prince Legolas was a mystery even among the Mirkwood elves his own kin, but Haldir found him most fair among any being he has ever met. At that moment he was admiring the stars as he softly sang to himself a song that spoke of tragedy and romance. His lithe frame was clothed in an elegant robe of greens, violets, and blues woven with golden thread. The tail of the robes pooled around him onto the marble ground, giving him the appearance of some exotic bird with a long tail. In his slender hands he held a mask of green and golden feathers adorned with emeralds.
It was such an odd dress to choose to wear even for a masquerade, for the material was too thin to keep him warm in the night chill. And as he approached, Haldir noticed that nothing else was worn underneath, so he could make out the form of Legolas's naked body beneath the layer of fabric.
Haldir glanced around themselves, noting that they were all alone. No one would want to be out on this night when a warm fire blazed inside on the large hearth of the dance room. Haldir himself would not have wished to be out here had his own attire not kept him warm. He thought of the delicious food they were missing right now, but at that moment he did not mind. What he desired most was getting closer to this strange elf, an elf who he's been intrigued by since their first meeting. Tonight seemed to be his greatest chance. No one could interrupt them.
"Legolas, why are you not in the Halls for the merry-making?" Haldir asked as he stepped right behind the golden-haired elf.
"Haldir! Has it been a year already?" Legolas turned and smiled, and Haldir saw that the prince had been crying. Up close he was even more beautiful, his large blue eyes dancing with a deep passion. But there was also a sadness deep within them that brought out Haldir's protective nature.
"What is it that ails you?" he asked gently. They embraced, and Haldir took in the prince's scent, like a strange but beautiful rare flower that he had never encountered. He ran his hands through the silk robes, unable to stop himself. How soft the material felt, and softer still was the warm body beneath them.
Legolas chuckled in Haldir's arms, enjoying the touch. He turned around so he was still in Haldir's arms but able to look out over the ledge. "Do you see the rocks over there, so far from the shore?"
Haldir nodded. "These mountain ranges are perhaps Echoriath, which surrounded the now fallen city of Gondolin. Yes, I have read about them but I never thought one could spot them from here."
"I have seen this mountain many times," Legolas said. "Inside one of the mountains lies a small cave."
"How do you know this?"
"I have heard a tale of that cave, one that no elf today knows about." Legolas grew silent as he continued to study the mountain top. "It is a night like this that I remember the story of Legolas of Gondolin. Do you know of his tragic tale?"
"No, I haven't," Haldir said. "But I did not know he had a tragic tale. Very little is written about him, but I do know that he was a Noldo from the House of the Tree, a scout under the command of Galdor. "
"These books speak lies," Legolas said. "Legolas of Gondolin was never a scout. Very few know his true story. For many years elven scholars have fought to erase his name from our history, but I found the scribes that told of his past. The very last scribes, for the others have been destroyed."
Haldir inwardly sighed. There he went again spurting strange tales that Haldir found hard to believe, for Haldir lived by the book and was suspicious of anything that contradicted historic texts. But he was eager to remain by Legolas's side, so he decided to play along.
"It must have taken you a long time to find these documents," he said, chuckling. "But it is understandable, for you share the same name, extremely rare among our kind."
"Till now his tale griefs my heart," Legolas said, sighing.
"Tell me what this tale is," Haldir said, brushing aside stray strands of golden hair from Legolas's brow and wrapping them over his ear. He recalled the sad look inside his friend's eyes earlier. "I wish to know what sort of tale has affected you so much." His hand snaked under the sleeve of the robes and stroked Legolas's arm.
"The robes he wore are like those which I now wear," Legolas said. "His status in society was of lowest position, one full of shame, for he was to live his life giving pleasure to others."
Haldir paused in his caresses. "I have never heard of such thing among the Eldar!"
"Our history is written in blood," Legolas said. "It surprises me not. Thrice our people has slain their own kin, and always for insensible reasons! With that knowledge, does it now surprise you that an elf would be forced to live his days as a whore?"
"That is fair to think," Haldir said, trying to understand why Legolas was telling him a tale so grievous. "But how did the poor elf end up with this cursed life?"
Legolas did not respond at first. "All that is important to know is that he was alone in his status in Gondolin. He was a sad elf who eagerly gave his love to each of his clients, for he was incredibly lonely. He saw other elves in love and wanted to feel the same affection, but none would give him an ounce of love in return.
"He was simply a vessel for them to use, and in return he was paid gold to give to the elves who owned him. He got none of the gold for himself; these robes were all he were allowed to wear so everyone would know who he was. So alone he was for a time, living in the shadows of Gondolin, his loneliness eating away at him. Till the day he met Haldir -"
"Lord of the Haladin of Brethil?" Haldir said with a small look of amusement. He now understood Legolas's motive for the strange story. He was making it up as he went along, picking historic figures who they happened to share names with to weave in his little tale. Haldir glanced down at the robes and wanted to kick himself for not seeing it earlier: Legolas was trying to woo him in, and he made a story to explain his robes and the tears in his eyes. Why didn't Haldir see it earlier?
Grinning, he nuzzled against Legolas's ear and kissed his neck. "I am beginning to see where this story is headed, though your tale is among an Elf and a Man. But if it is a Man you wish me to be tonight, I will happily comply."
Legolas gave him an odd look for a brief moment and did not speak for a few moments, and Haldir felt his face flush. "Perhaps I was over-enthusiastic," he thought, wishing that Legolas would just drop his strange story and behave more normal in this relationship.
But Legolas continued to look at him before a small smile appeared. "Haldir of the Haladin…yes, he was noble, adorned in the warrior armor much like the one you wear now, but with his helm on. He was traveling through the marshes one evening near Gondolin where Legolas was resting, and it was Legolas's song that drew him in."
Legolas placed his mask on. "The elf was wearing his mask, as he always did for he was too ashamed to show his face among the rest of the elves. Haldir spotted Legolas easily in the Marshes, for elves commonly didn't wear something as bright as Legolas's robes. He was looking up at the stars, as what I had been doing when you found me."
Next he turned around so he was looking at Haldir. He fished for Haldir's own mask tucked in the belt of his armor and placed it on him. "Haldir approached Legolas, but Legolas was at first timid, for he was not allowed to ever leave the city. Then he thought Haldir wished to bed him, so he willingly offered his body. Haldir was taken aback. He had fallen for Legolas's voice, but he did not want to simply bed him. He wished to know more about him, for he had fallen in love."
The prince cuddled closer against Haldir. "When Legolas would not say his name, Haldir asked next if he could see his face. This also troubled Legolas, but after a while he was coaxed into revealing himself. Legolas said he will let Haldir see his face so long as he can take off Haldir's helm."
Each elf placed his hands over the other's mask. "So together they lifted their mask and helm. The moment their eyes fell on one another, they were deeply in love."
As he said this, Haldir and Legolas lifted the other's mask. Haldir regarded again the brightness in Legolas's eyes. Legolas smiled at him, and they leaned closer to share a kiss. Haldir deepened the kiss, taking in as much of Legolas as he could into his mouth, hoping that his story would end there, that the character Legolas of Gondolin would live the rest of his life in happiness with Haldir of the Haladin.
Legolas moaned into the warm mouth and pulled away. Slightly disappointed, Haldir opened his eyes and saw that the sadness had returned in Legolas's eyes that quickly vanished when their eyes locked once more. Legolas's lower lip quivered slightly, but he said nothing of it.
"There is something that bothers you," Haldir said.
Legolas shook his head and looked away back over the ledge to the mountain top. Haldir continued to hold him, wondering what was going through his mind. A part of him began to suspect he would never get closer to this strange elf, that Legolas would live the rest of his mysterious life alone, always escaping the other elves to sit alone on porches in the dark cold nights.
He held him tighter. "I won't ever let him suffer the way Legolas of Gondolin suffered," Haldir thought.
When it seemed like Legolas was lost deep in his thoughts for too long, Haldir decided to break the silence. "What happened next? In the story?"
Legolas took a deep breath and rested his head against Haldir's chest. "For the first time, Legolas experienced love - genuine love, love that someone was giving to him. But they had to keep their affair a secret. Haldir's own status meant he could only be with him in one way, and love was not allowed between them in that way."
"How then did they express their love?"
Legolas studied the hard mail of Haldir's costume. "There was a cave not too far from Gondolin in the Echoriath. That was where they met and made love, and this went on for a few years. On some nights they could not bear to part with each other, so they remained the entire time in their home in the cave. But it was not long before the elves of Gondolin who controlled Legolas had begun to question his absence, for Legolas refused any gold Haldir gave him, not wanting their love to carry a price. But in the end there was a price, and Legolas paid it fatally.
"On one dark night the elves snuck out to follow Legolas. They followed him with no torches lit, for it was not hard to spot Legolas in the dark with his frivolous robes. Also he had been singing to himself, oblivious to his surroundings, so cheerful was he in those days.
"Legolas was just a few feet away from the cave where his lover awaited when he was ambushed by the Gondolin elves. He sent off a terrible scream that roused Haldir from the cave, but by the time his lover had run out, he could not see his love. The elves had gagged Legolas so he wouldn't make another sound and off they whisked him away.
"Some of the elves stayed behind to attend to the matter of Haldir. They took Haldir away, but he never suffered the same violence that Legolas endured. Instead, the elves brainwashed Haldir, making him forget his time with Legolas. For the rest of his life he never remembered the elf he once loved."
Legolas was now burying his face on Haldir's shoulder, looking away from the ledge. His voice trailed off, his hands running through a patch of Haldir's uniform that was not covered in thick armor. All was silent once more before Haldir again prod him to continue.
"What of Legolas? What happened to him?"
"He was taken far from where no one could find them. They stripped him and kicked him several times till his ribs shattered. Then they beat him with hard metal bars, and for many hours they continued their torment of the elf. His body was heavily bruised and he bled from being violated by each of the elves. The gag fell off and he kept screaming Haldir's name until someone ripped off his tongue."
Haldir cringed. What sort of story was this turning into?
"When the Gondolin elves were satisfied with their work," Legolas continued, "they dragged out Legolas's body back to the cave where he spent his nights with Haldir, back to the only place where he ever knew love, and they buried him without even taking the moment to check if his heart still beat. Till now he lies there in that lonely cave, never resting. And atop his grave lay the robes he used to wear."
"And Haldir of Haladin never knew that truth?" Haldir sighed. He kissed the top of Legolas's head and caressed his back, for the other elf had begun to cry once more. His opinion had changed of the story; perhaps his young lover knew more of the truth of the tale of Legolas of Gondolin than he Haldir knew. It was too disturbing for anyone to dream up. "Never was there a happy end to any tale between an Elf and a Man."
Legolas's lower lip quivered again as his sobs grew louder. Suddenly without warning he lost it right there. He yelled and pushed Haldir away from him.
"You fool!" Legolas screamed. "You stupid fool! Till now their spell blinds you to the truth: you were never a Man! There was an elf of the same name as Haldir Lord of the Haladin!
"Our history is written in blood, did I not tell you! To elves none remember that there once lived an elf of Gondolin with the name Haldir, an elf who stands before me right now, who is looking right in the eyes of his lost lover but does not recognize him!"
"Legolas?" Haldir approached him cautiously, wondering if he should just leave. The elf was clearly insane, a prince that King Thranduil undoubtedly never mentioned out of shame. But when he touched Legolas's shoulder, the elf swatted him away and gave a horrible scream that nearly deafened Haldir.
"Remember me! Remember me! Remember me!" His fists pounded on Haldir's chest as he kept screaming.
Though elves never were inflicted with pain from the cold, Haldir felt a terrible chill plague him as everything came crashing down on him at that moment. He looked up to see the moon as though for the first time, and a strangled, painful cry escaped him.
Images spun before him. Legolas let go of him and screamed again. And suddenly Haldir remembered that night, of hearing the cry for help and rushing out of the cave, of seeing nothing around him, and then being overthrown by many elves. His eyes glanced over at Legolas's robes and his exposed neck, and he remembered too of undressing Legolas, and kissing each inch of his skin glowing under the light of the campfire, of holding him tightly in his arms, whispering words of love that the elf had been starved from all his life.
Haldir's shoulders shook with his dry sobs as all his memories long buried returned. The entire world seemed to have blurred, gone colder, before becoming clear once again. He threw his arms open and cried out, "By the Valar - Legolas!"
Legolas ran into Haldir's arms, his own body shaking with the tears, and for the longest time the two united lovers held one another. "I screamed your name over and over, but you never came for me. Why did you never return to me?"
"I did not remember," Haldir said, his throat dry. "I truly never remembered. By Eru, I never remembered!"
Legolas kissed his lips. "You do not remember? I was not special enough for you to remember? You cannot remember the kisses we shared? Does no kiss from me ever brought back anything at all to you? You remember nothing and yet you found me again. It seems your body remembers me still, but your mind thinks me only as a strange elf that you've met a few years ago!"
Legolas turned back to the ledge. "At first it had filled me with hope that you may have recovered your memory. I roamed around the Mirkwood elves for years under my new disguise, brainwashing the entire kingdom into thinking I was one of them, their prince. I placed myself at a high status so I can receive news of the other elven realms. My disguise wasn't flawless. Many thought me odd and left me alone, but it was to my advantage. I was free to travel wherever I pleased.
"Somehow I knew you were still alive. Otherwise I would have passed on to the Halls, I was sure of that. And when I did find you I was so glad, for I thought you'd remember me immediately. But then you introduced yourself as though we were strangers, and I was devastated. I went searching for answers, and I found the records of what the elves had done to you.
"But I was desperate to make you remember. We were falling in love once more, but I could not let this go on without you knowing the truth. By our rotten luck, this festival is held every year in the Grey Havens, on the anniversary of that terrible night. And year after year I would wait for you here, hoping to find some way to make you remember."
"But…something is off about this tale," Haldir said softly, looking about himself. "You were buried, were you not? How did you escape?"
"I never did escape, Haldir," Legolas said, his eyes boring into him.
"But if you never escaped, then you must have died! I'm speaking to an elf who's been dead for thousands of years!"
"Fool!" Legolas said softly as he kissed Haldir's cheek. "Such a fool."
Legolas shook his head sadly. When he looked back up at Haldir, the elf gave a small shriek of horror, for the once beautiful elf before him had changed. His face had become sunken and grey, and when he opened his mouth to speak, Haldir could see that there was no tongue. Blood dripped from Legolas's lips onto his robes.
"Haven't you been listening?" Legolas said with difficulty as the tears overcame him again. "My heart never stopped beating."
Haldir felt his body turn cold once more, and he looked out over the ledge. A scream died in his throat at what he saw walking on the water. He could make out the shape of an elf, a tiny speck in the night, walking towards where the cave was deep underwater. And behind the elf trailed the soft song that Legolas always sang whenever he went to see him.
"This is impossible," Haldir said. "How can you be here and there at once?"
He turned back to Legolas, but he was no longer in Haldir's arms. Haldir quickly turned back to the ledge and cried out for his lover, but Legolas's fëa was no where to be seen; he had returned back to the cave.
Instead in Haldir's hands were Legolas's robes, once bright and too frivolous for anyone to wear. The years had eaten away at them, but when Haldir brought it to his nose, he could still smell Legolas's beautiful scent on them, like the rare golden flowers that once bloomed in Gondolin.