DISCLAIMER: Lord of the Rings is the property of the Tolkien estate, New Line Cinema, and Warner Brothers Studios. This work was created purely for enjoyment. No money was made, and no infringement was intended.

RATING: M (for violence, mentions of rape, dramatized scenes of war)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hi, everyone! This story goes way back (way back like numerous pennames and more than a decade, which makes me feel old – where has the time gone?) It's the first time I've reposted it in ages, but considering I think it's probably the longest and most complicated story I've ever written, I decided to let it see the light of day again.

Set two years after Return of the King, this is a dark tale of ambition, war, and cruelty, and it explores the level of love and friendship needed to overcome the worst of adversities. Obviously, because this was written so long ago, what was revealed or hinted about Legolas' background in The Desolation of Smaug won't be included (which I suppose makes this AU?). I considered changing things around to be more in line with that, but his relationship with his father and family is an important factor to his character in this story, so I let it lie. Be advised – there is a fair description of violence, rape (nothing is described in detail), and torture, so read at your own discretion. But if you stick with me, I promise there's a happy ending!



To die, to sleep
No more, and by a sleep say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep — perchance to dream — ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III.1


Autumn had come early, or so it seemed to Legolas as he watched the painted leaves of Ithilien threaten to tear loose from the grasping fingers of the trees. The Elf stood upon the balcony of his room, letting the cool wind soothe his nerves and hopefully caress into his heart weariness strong enough to allow his riled mind some rest. Though dawn was barely beginning to warm the eastern skies, he had been up for what he knew to be hours. The prince closed his eyes and leaned into the cold stone of the ornately carved railing. Long, slender fingers lightly traced the smooth edges, searching for imperfections in the stone, but there were none to be found. Legolas smiled faintly. Gimli had certainly meant what he had long said about turning the ruins of a human empire into a work of Dwarven art.

He opened his eyes and turned. Though Elves were hardly afflicted by cold, he shuddered. The chilly breeze that brushed by his bare chest and raked icy fingers through his hair seemed touched by something else. Something dark, he thought grimly, and he looked up to the dark hues of the slowly brightening sky. He expected to see an ill omen, a dangerous sign or a glint of a terrible fortune nigh. But there was naught, only a serene, quiet moment filled with the beauty of a world restored. The dawn of a new day filled with promise and expectation. Legolas sighed. He was beginning to believe he was losing his mind.

He stepped back inside his room, his bare feet making no sound as they fell upon the stone. The rock was so unyielding to the soft flesh of his toes, and he wriggled them, still unaccustomed to this place. Only two years had passed since the fall of Sauron, since the Free Peoples of Middle Earth had reclaimed their right to peace and liberty. To an Elf, the passage of two years meant little, a proverbial drop in an ocean of eternity. Yet, for the first time in his long and experienced life, Legolas was beginning to feel the press of days passing to night. So much had happened in these last years. So much…

The Elf prince slid back into his bed and drew the crisp sheets up and over his chest. Then he drew in breath after breath, closing his eyes and sinking into his pillows. He closed his eyes and vehemently sought to forget the chaos his life had of late become. It had been nearly a year since Aragorn asked him to help rebuild the forests of Ithilien. The dark forces had for centuries strangled the great woods, leaving a dying husk of a once mighty and beautiful land. It had been well enough, he supposed, that the new king of Gondor had approached him with this monumental task. The War of the Ring and all of its dangerous and difficult struggles had been a convenient distraction. It had diverted his attention from the inevitable truth. The Elves were leaving Middle Earth. Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn of Lothlórien, Lords Elrond and Glorfindel of Rivendell, Elves of each nation, of all types and creeds… they were all gone. Even his father and brothers. Legolas turned over, opening bright blue eyes. Blankly he watched the shadows of the curtains play on the wall with the breeze. Still, some of his kind remained. The Lady Arwen, of course, and her twin brothers, though of late Legolas had not seen them. Some common folk of the Golden Wood. Those of Mirkwood that had resisted the call of the sea. Many of the Elves that still lingered in Middle Earth had joined him in this small colony in Ithilien. And yet… Legolas released a long slow breath. At times, especially lately when the restoration became an endless burden and ruling his newfound people was turned trying by inexperience, he wondered if it might not be better to simply let this go. At times, he felt so alone.

Legolas turned over again to lie on his back. Absently his eyes followed the lines of mortar and sealant worked in between the stones of which the ceiling was composed. The pattern reminded him of a cage, or a net. Stop this now, chided his mind. He drummed his fingers on the bed, frustrated with himself. He was not alone, and though the call of the sea was forever a part of him, he had learned to control it. Though there were moments when he forgot it, it never left his heart, a silent whisper in the back of his mind that sang a tale of gulls crying, of waves crashing, of the whistle of wind rushing over water. Legolas' will was strong enough now to fight, but what truly caused him despair was its black inevitability. Eventually he would lose this war against his fate, even if the battles now were easily won. He thought of his father, of warning words spoken in the heat of an argument. "Legolas, my son, you think with your heart and not with your head! If you stay in this world, if you live among them, it is your forfeit. They will gain little for your sacrifice. Trapped here, your life will be torn asunder. If the sea-longing does not destroy you, your bonds to these mortals will be a storm that rips from you everything our kind promises. It will not end as you wish it, Legolas. It cannot!"

The Elf scrubbed his eyes tiredly. Ai, for the terrible paradox into which his life was evolving! Now it was but a faint nightmare of the future, one he could dismiss if he so wished. But he knew it would destroy him. Each day he spent building this colony… he wondered at this choice he had made. What did he hope to accomplish, at any rate? Defying fate. There is no greater folly! Why did he linger in a world that no longer welcomed him?

But as always, when his mind was rendered a storm of turmoil by these matters, he returned to the same answer: his friends. How could he leave them? His long friendship with Aragorn had only grown stronger since the war, since the man had become king. With Arwen, the Queen and Lady Evenstar, he enjoyed long talks and quiet moments. He was one of Faramir's closest and strongest allies, and the two had spent much time together in amiable discussion as they created a nation worthy of the prosperity promised in the Fourth Age. He was not as close with Faramir's lady, a noble maid of Rohan called Éowyn, for to him she still donned the same cold mask that he had witnessed come his arrival in Edoras years prior. But with even Éowyn he found solace and companionship, for though the striking woman bore an air of cold detachment, Legolas had learned her heart was warm and bright. And Gimli… dear Gimli. Legolas winced at his father's booming voice. "A Dwarf! You forsake your family for a Dwarf?" Old prejudices never died, it seemed, and the words had hurt him deeply.

In private, Gimli, as the stout warrior often did, had read Legolas plainly. It was an irritating skill Gimli had developed; it seemed the Elf prince could hide nothing from the perceptive creature. He pictured the small, ruddy creature now, his face dark with thought as he puffed on that putrid pipe of his. They sat in quiet a long while before Gimli finally spoke. "He says what he does because he loves you. As rude as the King of Mirkwood may be, he is a father at heart."

A strange thing! Who could have foretold the unlikely alliance between them? The wince slowly became a grin. Though he was much troubled by the ebb and flow of things around him, he treasured his time with Gimli, when they argued and bantered over the merits of Elves and Dwarves and trees and rocks, when they sat quietly in companionable contemplation, secure in a relationship that required no masks or formalities. He treasured his time with them all. What was it that Merry the Hobbit had said when he had first seen the sea? "You must not go to the Havens, Legolas. There will always be some folk, big or little, and even a few wise Dwarves like Gimli, who need you."

Legolas sighed. The conflict within always ended as thus, with this hope. He was needed. And if not, he needed them. It was enough for now to placate the anguish within his slowly tearing heart.

He only feared the day when it would not be.

And so he tried once again to sleep. He lay and thought of Mirkwood, the great trees restored to their former beauty and majesty. Green leaves singing to his kindred spirit, boughs strong and protective. His mind wandered to Ithilien, to this hurting forest. Its melody was darker, weaker, but he and every Elf that struggled to return to it light heard its call. Therein came the true predicament, the actual source of his anguish this eve. As it was the night before this, and two nights ago as well. Legolas closed his eyes and fought to isolate this tension that denied him rest. An inkling of evil. The caress of a threat, like the smell of an ominous black storm about ready to sunder the land. For days this had plagued him, but he could neither make sense of the feeling nor credit it with any validity. His colleagues and comrades in Ithilien appeared relaxed and oblivious, but for all his effort, he could not convince himself this foul premonition was the product of exhaustion. The Elf rolled over once more, tucking his arms under his pillows. He thought he heard voices on the wind, angry tones lined with malice and thinly veiled ambition. A black future. In a heart beat, it was silent. Legolas buried his face into his pillows and cursed his imagination. He was not an Elf gifted in foresight. This was undoubtedly borne from exhaustion and stress. Still… I am going mad.

He lay in a numb trance for a bit, trying to sink into a thoughtless, dreamless daze. Lethargically, sleep emerged from the void for him. Even so, a long while passed before the Elf slipped away.

There was a knock at the door.

Legolas sprung up from bed so quickly that he wondered briefly if he had slept at all. He gasped and glanced around, grotesquely disoriented. He could not recall dreaming, but the haze of what must have been a terrible nightmare was slow to release him. A blink and a gasp.

"Lord Legolas?"

Slowly he regained his breath. A terrible knot of panicked fear slowly that was once his stomach unwound, and he struggled to slow his thundering heart. His equanimity, so characteristic of an Elf, was fleeting.

"Sir?" It was Velathir, his aide. The elder Elf's muffled voice was filled with concern. It was very unlike his lord to not answer immediately. "Are you well, sir?"

Legolas shook his head as if to clear it. Astounded, he slid from the mess of sheets and stood. So rarely had he felt this riled! "Yes, Velathir," he called. His voice sounded bizarrely alien to his ears. "I am fine." His long legs devoured the distance between himself and the large oak doors. He grasped the cold knob and pulled open the thick slabs. The aide appeared before him, pristine and calm. A disturbed and concerned looked passed over his dark eyes. "What is it?"

Velathir spoke quickly. "It is Prince Faramir, my Lord. He requests your presence immediately."

Legolas' smooth brow furrowed in confusion. "For what purpose?" he asked softly.

The Lórien Elf shook his head blankly. "I know not, my Lord."

Legolas stepped back into his room, shaking away the remnants of sleep from his irritatingly muddled mind. "Tell him I will be with him momentarily," he ordered, and Velathir nodded before ducking from the room and closing the door. The prince glanced to the window. The last shadows of night clung to the land, and the first light of dawn shed gold over the leaves and stones. Legolas shook his head. He really had not slept.

He dressed quickly, methodically but without conscious direction. From his cluttered and tired mind he pushed all other concerns. It was still quite early, too early for the day's business to begin. He was to meet with Faramir for lunch that day and discuss the plans for new housing in Ithilien for men and Elves alike. Legolas doubted the mundane and simple matter had inexplicably and unexpectedly become so pressing that Faramir would wake him for it. His thoughts raced with the possibilities as he placed his feet into his boots. He wrapped his belt, the one his father had given him when he had come of age, around his waist tightly, securing the buckle. He smoothed his long, flaxen hair quickly before gracefully exiting his room.

The manor of the Elves was quiet. Many had not yet risen, and those who had began the day's activity with no hustle or bustle. Legolas nodded briskly to those of his colony he encountered in the corridors as he quickly made his way to the entrance hall. In the blink of an eye the troubled young archer had transformed into the stoic Elf lord. Legolas had never counted himself overly regal. He lacked his father's stern decorum and attention to detail. He felt uncomfortable delegating orders to Elves many years his senior, and he lacked the gall to rule a kingdom expertly with a tight hand as Thranduil had done for so many years. Centuries of training in the ways of the court and war had done little to aid him; the natural talent to lead was simply not there. Still, he did his best to guide what remained of Elf-kind on Middle Earth. They looked to him, the son of the last king of Elves, the friend and comrade of the King of Gondor, a hero of the War of the Ring. He tried very hard to be what they desired, to be who they needed.

To them, he was infallible. He did not like the image, but he also did not disarm them of it. His father had always told him respect was a valuable tool, but adoration and deification forever tied a people to its leader. Rebuilding Ithilien was a colossal task, and it required the cooperation of every Elf, man, and Dwarf involved. He could not appear to have doubts about their purpose here, even when the sea-calling assailed him with uncertainty. Even now, when this strange and persistent warning pulsed all around him, he could not afford to seem weak.

But Faramir was far too astute. "Are you well, Legolas?" asked the young lord upon seeing his Elven friend. Legolas was shaken by how easily Faramir had detected his distress. Faramir was quite bright, with intelligent eyes and a lean face that portrayed a rarely false air of seriousness.

The Elf drew in a deep breath. "Aye, Faramir. My dreams have been dark of late, but they are so without reason and I am weary of it." A look of concern crossed the man's lightly bearded face, and at seeing it, Legolas went on, desperate to change the subject. "You have arrived most suddenly. Do tell me: is there ill news in Emyn Arnen that has wrested from you sleep this night?"

Faramir's face grew dark, and the years returned to his face. The two lords had recently grown close, bound by both friendship and allegiance to Aragorn and a common goal. Legolas greatly respected Faramir. The man had an analytical mind, the sort that was naturally conscientious about even the most mundane of matters, that could easily parse emotion from purpose and see clearly. He had a brilliant intellect, one Legolas knew had been molded and nourished by Gondor's massive libraries of lore and Gandalf's encouraging hand. The Elf greatly admired him. At times, he felt hampered by memory of Boromir, Faramir's brother who had died during the war. He worried that he would one day bear the resentment the younger of Denethor's sons might hold for him, as he was one of the few that witnessed Boromir's demise and failed to stop it. He also thought perhaps he made Faramir slightly uncomfortable, noting awkward silences when Faramir made a pointed effort at trying to ignore the Elf's presence. Although he did not know why, Faramir's guarded actions around Legolas at times heightened the Elf's guilt over Boromir's death. However, they both cared too much for their friendship to allow the ghosts of the past to challenge it.

Faramir grasped Legolas' arm and drew the young prince away from the growing crowd of soldiers and pages. His voice was barely a whisper. "Word reached me but a few hours ago. Cair Andros has been attacked."

Legolas stopped suddenly. Shock mulled over him. "Attacked?" he repeated incredulously. "By whom?"

Faramir's face twisted into an angry, confused scowl. "I know not. A wounded soldier was found outside my manor. The town is burning, razed. No indication of survivors."

The pale face of the Elf blanched further. More than five hundred peasants, tradesmen, and soldiers inhabited the outpost. A slow rage was beginning to shake him, uncurling from the pit of his stomach. If no one survived, the attack was a massacre, a cowardly slaughter. Legolas tightened his hand into a fist. "No survivors?"

The other shook his head sadly. "I pray the reports are wrong."

Legolas felt weak with alarm and rage. "Have you informed the King?"

Faramir nodded curtly. "I have sent forth my fastest riders to Minas Tirith. But I hope you agree that we cannot wait for a response. We must take action. If some yet live, they face terrible odds should the enemy return. Will you ride with me?"

Perhaps I never awoke… Perhaps this is a nightmare still… "Of course, Faramir. I can spare some warriors as well, but not enough to support a charge if–"

"Hopefully it will not come to that," Faramir said resolutely. The lord of Ithilien closed his eyes. It was clear he as well had slept little that night. "We leave as soon as you are ready."

Legolas nodded slowly, digesting the situation with a numbed mind. "If your men have not yet eaten, they are welcomed to the dining hall. It is early, but the cooks have surely begun the day's work."

The two lords were silent then, watching the halls of the wood Elf lord come alive with this new day. Golden spirals of sun shot through the windows, bright and cheery with dawn. All around came the ordered commotion of the Elven colony. Men and the Firstborn melded, joined in their work to build together a life in these woods.

Legolas shook his head and narrowed his eyes darkly. Neither he nor Faramir spoke a moment, but both knew the fear that was left unvoiced. All for which they had aspired, all for which they had labored… Who now threatened their peace?

Then the silence became unbearable. Faramir clapped Legolas on the shoulder, his expression soft despite his worries, his grip warm and friendly. "Thank you, Legolas," he murmured softly and sincerely. After he walked quickly to his men. Legolas watched him speak to his company quietly and felt the world close upon him. A cold, fall breeze pushed through the open gate doors and brushed against him. It smelled of fire and burnt flesh. The fair Elf stifled a shudder before tending to his duties.