18. Conversations with Legolas
“Dír,” he murmured. “Time to wake, meldanya.”
Haldir grumbled in his throat and curled up even tighter.
“You have to wake up, love,” persisted Melpomaen. “Don’t you have guard duty this morning? Your turn on night watch doesn’t start till tomorrow. And I need to work on the company records before keeping my appointment with King Thranduil. Besides, I’m hungry, and they’ll stop serving breakfast in the guards’ mess soon. Come on, Dír.”
At last Haldir uncurled and sat up crossly. “All right, I’m awake.” He went to the clothes-press, shivering a little on the stone floor, and pulled out clothes for each of them, tossing Melpomaen’s to him. “Here.”
He saw the scrap of parchment on the table and hastily thrust it into a pocket. He would go to see Legolas after breakfast.
The two Elves were relieved to see that they were not the last to arrive for the morning meal; they each collected a bowl of porridge and a handful of raisins to sweeten it, and found two places together at a long table. Morning was usually a quiet time, even among the guards, and they said little as they ate. Melpomaen finished first and went off to delve once again among the ledgers and scrolls in the dusty room adjoining the armory. Haldir ate more slowly, unsure of why his captain wished to see him, his mind worrying over possibilities like a wolf gnawing over old bones. He could not postpone the meeting forever, though, and eventually he tapped at the appropriate door.
“Come inside,” he heard Legolas say.
Haldir advanced a few feet into the room and stopped.
“Shut the door and come sit down,” Legolas told him. He was seated in a comfortable-looking chair carved from dark wood, in front of a fire crackling redly behind a polished copper grate. Behind him stood a heavy table, piled high with scrolls. He gestured for Haldir to sit in a similar chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, the mantel of which held several glass sculptures, each in a different jewel-toned color. A worn carpet patterned in leaves softened the floor between the seats.
Sitting stiffly on the edge of the chair indicated, Haldir looked at Legolas and waited.
Now that Haldir was there, Legolas seemed at a loss for words. He stepped over to the table and picked up a roll of parchment, fidgeting with it for a moment, then replaced it deliberately on the pile. Still with his back to Haldir, at last he spoke.
“Am I correct in what I believe about you and your friend Melpomaen?”
“That depends on what you believe,” said Haldir carefully. “Tell me what it is, and I will tell you if you are correct.”
Legolas whirled around, his eyes intent on the other’s, his expression set. “I believe that you and he are lovers, and that wherever you come from, that is why you left, since you have said nothing of the matter. Did you think to hide here in Mirkwood?”
Haldir shut his eyes against the scorn he thought he detected in his captain’s face. “No. I mean, yes, we love each other, but we did not come here because of that. As I told your father when we first arrived, after Melpomaen was injured on our journey, we decided that the north road through the forest would be safer than the old Dwarf-road in the south, and we did not realize how advanced the season was. We did not seek to take advantage of King Thranduil’s hospitality. If our presence is unacceptable, though, we will depart.” Swallowing, he opened his eyes again to see Legolas’s face only inches from his own.
The other held his gaze for a long moment, then walked away. Haldir was surprised when he heard the latch on the door being thrown shut, and yet more surprised when Legolas came to stand behind his chair and rested his hands on Haldir’s shoulders. Haldir could feel Legolas’s hands tremble slightly as they moved inward to press against his neck.
“Sir,” he said, apprehensive. “What are you doing?”
A finger traced across his throat, then abruptly Legolas pulled away and went back to sit again facing Haldir.
“You love each other, you said. I ask again, are you lovers? No, you need not answer. I have no doubt but that it is so. What I mean to ask is rather, are you bonded?”
Haldir looked at Legolas curiously. “How could I be Maen’s lover without a bond between us?”
Legolas sighed. “Think on it, Haldir. When is the bond created between benn and bess? When they are fully joined for the first time in the act of love. Till then, whatever promises have been given, whatever touches exchanged, the bond is incomplete and may be severed with no lasting repercussions. It is likewise with two binn, as you should know. So I ask again, are the two of you bonded?”
“Why does it matter to you whether we are or not?” demanded Haldir in a heated tone. “I have admitted that we love each other, and that should be enough justification for you to have us leave, if you wish. The rest is none of your concern.”
Legolas’s face reddened. “It matters not for that reason. I will not share your secret further, if you would have it kept, nor is it cause for you to leave.”
“Then why, by all the stars, did you bring me here to ask me such questions?”
With a look of shame, Legolas said, “Because. . . because I hoped you were not. Because I think we are much alike, you and I.”
Suddenly Haldir comprehended, and his anger left him. He knew all too well how Legolas must feel at this moment, forced by desperation to say such a thing to a near-stranger.
“Why do you think so?”
“I have never yet seen a bess for whom I felt any affection like what I have felt towards my male companions. I like talking with biss, I enjoy their company, I even appreciate their beauty, but only in a detached way – my breath never catches, my heart never beats more quickly, my desires never stir. But as I began to know you, Haldir. . .” his voice trailed off in misery, then he burst out again, “And all the worse that you are under my command. I know it is wrong of me to feel this way, but I do not seem to be able to do otherwise. Yet I like and respect Melpomaen also. What am I to do, Haldir?”
The Lórien Elf heard him out. “I cannot tell you with whom your destiny lies, Legolas, not even if it will indeed be with a benn rather than a bess. Perhaps Ilúvatar has a strange fate in store for you.”
“Whatever it is, it cannot lie with me,” he continued with a hint of regret in his voice, “for as you believed, Melpomaen and I do share the bond of lovers. I am sorry that I must disappoint you, and I hope you will not hold it against me, or him? If you want to talk about such matters, I at least would be happy to do so – I lived near to despair for many years, myself, for among my kin and people those suspected of such feelings are despised, even outcast. You were not entirely wrong in thinking that this contributed to our willingness to wander, though it was by no means the sole reason. But I, at least, was happy to be away for a little while from those who would think ill of me for who I love. Do folk not think similarly here?”
Legolas replied, “Not entirely. It is not highly thought of, that two binn or two biss should form a bond, but it is acknowledged as something that may happen. Those who bond in that way are if anything pitied, since they will never have children. So some conceal their feelings, rather than experience such condescension. It is often known, but ignored in courtesy.” He smiled a little, ruefully. “The causes for such a bond are on occasion debated among us, as a rhetorical point – how else, think you, I came to know so well how two binn may be bonded? Some who debate undoubtedly follow such a path themselves, but I might not know for certain in every instance. I would not dare to assume that one with no acknowledged mate had found another like himself, though that could well be the case.”
“I see. Your people clearly have ideas that differ from those I am accustomed to. I am curious as to how they were developed, and justified.”
“Some evening this winter, I am sure it will be discussed among the guard, as it is a perennial topic,” Legolas promised. “But Haldir, I would take it as a favor if you would say nothing of this conversation, treat me no differently, as I will treat you just as any other guardsman and friend. I should not have made my feelings known to you, in the circumstances; they verge on the dishonorable and put you in an awkward position.”
Haldir frowned. “Melpomaen may ask something; he was near asleep when I saw your message, but he may recall and inquire about what you wanted. I will not lie to him, but I am sure he would not share your secret further.”
“If you trust him – well, I trust you,” said Legolas. “I’m afraid I’ve made you late for your turn at duty. I need to check on Melpomaen, too, and make certain he has everything he needs for his work.”
He rose and held out his hands to Haldir. “Thank you.”
They left Legolas’s room together, Haldir departing to take up his watch, Legolas to find Melpomaen.
The latter had spent his morning still sorting through the jumble of sheets and ledgers, trying to put them in some kind of order. He looked up in relief as Legolas appeared in the doorway.
“Sir, I’m glad you’re here. I wanted to get these organized by time to begin with, but a number of the loose leaves have no indication of any date. Can you help me with that, or send for someone who might know?”
“I can try – it is more likely that I would know what orders were made when than any other. In fact, it is probably my haste and lack of attention that has caused your difficulties.” He removed a stack of books from the second chair in the room and sat down.
The two of them worked through the pile of undated items for an hour or more, Legolas skimming through and giving his best guess at the date for each, Melpomaen noting it down in any convenient empty margin and filing each leaf in order with the rest. When they reached the bottom of the stack, Melpomaen thanked the captain.
“I believe I can get this into shape pretty well now, thank you.” He paused, and cleared his throat.
“Yes?” Legolas was rising to go.
“Well, sir, I’m not sure if I ought to say it, but about last night. . .”
Legolas sat back down and braced himself.
“You were asking about how to get King Thranduil to treat the Dwarves more equitably,” said Melpomaen.
Legolas leaned back in relief. “Yes?”
“As you know, I am to speak with him today, at his request, and I just wanted to say again that if you wished I could try to turn the conversation to such matters,” Melpomaen volunteered.
“That is a kind offer, but you need not do so. Besides, my father rarely lets another control his conversations – it is more likely that he will get you to speak on topics of his choosing, instead. I do thank you for the thought, though.”
“As you wish,” shrugged Melpomaen.
Legolas hesitated a moment, then said, “I’m going to rearrange some duty schedules, Melpomaen. You won’t be on regular duty for some weeks more, of course, and working with the ledgers is something that can be done at whatever time of day or night you may prefer. But I would enjoy getting to know you and Haldir a little better before you leave. He was due to take a turn on the night watch, but I think I will shift him back so that he and I are off-duty at the same time.”
Melpomaen shot a glance at him, wondering. Aloud he said, “I’m sure that Haldir would willingly take on whatever duties he is assigned, as I would.”
“Oh, I have no doubt of that,” said Legolas hastily. “I only want to make sure that I don’t choose an inconvenient moment to try to talk again, as I think I did last night, when I apparently interrupted your bathing.”
“Bathing. Yes,” Melpomaen frowned, then said bluntly, “Sir, I’m not always good at reading between the lines. Are you trying to ask me something, or tell me something? Because I don’t know if I understand what you are getting at.”
Legolas laughed softly. “I suppose I ought to have expected directness from you. And after I asked. . .” he broke off. “Very well, let us be more open with each other. Melpomaen, I believe there was more than just bathing going on in your room last night.”
Melpomaen straightened, saying with pride, “And if so?”
“Nothing, if so. If you wish to remain, shall we say, discreet, even if it is not entirely in your nature to do so, then you may rely on me to remain silent as well.” He closed his mouth abruptly, before adding anything else.
Inhaling deeply, Melpomaen replied, “Do you mean to say that you are not troubled that Haldir and I. . .”
Legolas cut him off. “I cannot say that I am untroubled by it, but I would not see you, hm, gain a reputation you might not wish. What harms no one is between you and your conscience, as far as I am concerned. That is all I wish to say on the matter for the time being.”
“Very well.” Melpomaen stood. “I should probably go and make myself ready for my audience with the king, if you will excuse me.”
“Indeed, go – you would not wish to be late.” Legolas waved Melpomaen out the door, pausing thoughtfully for a few moments before he himself left, wondering what he might have set in motion by this morning’s conversations.
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.