Once, during the Third Age of Arda's sun, Greenwood the Great was dark and dangerous. A shadow cast long and sombre across the land that stretched south of Ered Mithrin, east of the Misty Mountains. A shadow that called a certain evil to come and play, driving all but the Elves of the Woodland Realm far from its deceptive clutches. It was during this time that the Silvan Elves referred to their home as Mirkwood, watching with heavy hearts as the beloved forest became littered with Orcs and giant spiders only a fool would be brave enough to rouse.
Though filled to brim with unease and fear, the Elves tried their hardest to live peaceful lives under the rule of the great Elvenking Thranduil. Thranduil and his people had fled to the northeastern border of the wood and brandished a beautiful cavern city, dubbed the Elvenking's Halls, which was to serve as Thranduil's palace, and a place for his people to take refuge if need be. Most of the Elves, however, lived out in the wilderness around the Elvenking's Halls, building housing for themselves with whatever they could find.
In the year of T.A. 2841, the lives of a beautiful young couple living near the river seemed to take a turn for the better, their wishes for a large family finally being answered. On September 4th of that year, they welcomed their first children, female identical twins, into the world. Although providing for the babies would be difficult, since neither Elf were very graceful in the art of craft, the father, Esgalon, was bound and determined to find a way to give his little girls everything life had to offer. Esgalon was lithe and strong, impressing King Thranduil with his abilities and earning a place as part of the royal guard, having striven to earn their lord's attention since the moment he'd become aware of his wife's pregnancy. The couple and their daughters were moved into the palace, and the wife, Agarweneth, was appointed as one of Thranduil's personal maids, as he was rather infatuated by her kind nature.
The daughters, Celairiel and Silevien, were raised happily in the Elvenking's Halls, wanting for nothing and being treated like princesses, just as their parents had always dreamed. However, unfortunately for them, this fairy-tale wasn't going to have a happy ending. When they reached around their twentieth year, which was still just a baby in the life of an Elf, maybe around age seven to a human being, everything began to crumble before their eyes.
Thranduil's son Legolas, who was twenty-seven, was best friends with the sisters, and often played with them in the river where their parents' home had once been. The trio was out this day on yet another misadventure, Legolas being the ring-leader, per usual. The young elfling had dragged the girls out to explore the river farther out than ever, coming dangerously close to leaving the borders of their realm. The younger twin, Silevien, who had been born two minutes after her sister, was glaring at Legolas from underneath her long eyelashes.
"What did you do that for?" She complained, struggling to stand against the current and push her wet locks from her bright blue eyes. Legolas's laugh rang out soft and sweet, a blush threatening to crawl up the young girl's cheeks.
"I didn't mean to push you in, Silevien, here." He extended his hand to the Elf, who smiled mischievously back at him.
"Ha!" She shrieked in glee, taking his hand and pulling him in with her. The two burst into giggles and continued to splash around in the water as Celairiel rolled her emerald green orbs. She and her sister were identical in all sorts from their hair to their feet apart from their eyes, which were their only distinguishing features. The slightly older sister continued on walking, her long blonde hair billowing behind her in the wind. She closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of the sun on her skin. The three of them were allowed out of the palace less and less these days. Silevien loved Mirkwood, it was her home, and she was plenty comfortable spending the rest of her life there…but Celairiel, she was different. Celairiel ached for something, anything really, beyond the borders of the forest, a natural yearning for adventure deep in her heart. She sighed and looked towards the mountains longingly before returning her gaze to her friends, who were still being adorably silly.
Little did the elflings know that serious trouble was brewing within the walls of the palace, trouble that would forever alter all of their lives in extremely negative ways. A fair red headed Elfmaiden by the name of Asgardis had won King Thranduil's affections rather suddenly back in their day, her unusual shining silver eyes melting him in one glance. She was his wife and mother of Legolas, and his little sister, Nólatári. There was no one in all the realms Thranduil loved more, bringing about a jealousy common among many Silvan maidens. This jealousy was a strange concept to Agarweneth, whom for her loyalty had become best friends with the Elvenqueen during her many years of servitude. Agarweneth was jealous of none, though it was common knowledge that the queen was more beautiful than any woman Mirkwood had seen in a very long time. Thranduil considered himself lucky to have the love of the fairest among his people, though he did sometimes secretly admire his maid more than he felt was right. Love her as he did, Thranduil and Asgardis had been having some problems, and the warmth of the other Elf was at times craved. Agarweneth was always more than generous to him, and that night was no exception as she worriedly followed him into his chambers, fearing he had consumed more wine than was healthy.
"Aran Vell, I must speak with you, I fear you need someone to confide in, or if you will not, at least will you lie down?" Thranduil raised a perfectly arched eyebrow.
"Enlighten me, mellon, as to why I need to confide in you? I am fine." Agarweneth's eyebrows furrowed and her heart sank, reaching out to lay her hand softly upon Thranduil's own.
"Forgive me, for I know it is not my place to say, but I observe ill will in your marriage. I would say, at least I suppose, that this is why you've taken to such strong wines in the evening. I'd like to help if I'm able, milord, as I care for you both as if you were family." Under normal circumstance Thranduil would have taken offence, but he was highly inebriated and her words left a warm feeling in his chest.
"I fear…I lost more than my father after the War of the Last Alliance, or perhaps she still carries a shadow upon her heart from giving birth. To be honest I'm not entirely sure, but she hasn't so much as touched me since Nólatári was born." Agarweneth felt bad for her king, and felt it was her duty to comfort him. However, the embrace she enveloped him in quickly became more, as in his drunken state, Thranduil pulled her into a sloppy kiss. Without thinking she had melted into his touch, his soft lips, bewitched by the friendly feelings warm in her heart having admired him so long. But it wasn't long until she came to her senses and before Thranduil knew it there was a ringing in his ears and a stinging in his cheek.
"A-Aran Vell….what have you done?" Her eyes filled with tears and her body began to tremble as the very thought of betraying the one she loved most in all the world crept into her mind.
"Gin ù-velin!" She cried out, stumbling away from Thranduil in shame. Thranduil realized his mistake a moment too late, his hand brushing his lips gingerly as Agarweneth fled from his sight. He called out to her, beseeching her forgiveness if he may have it, though she had already slammed the door to his chamber in his face. Agarweneth slid down the side of the wall, a sob ripping from her chest as she buried her face in her hands.
"Esgalon, I am so sorry my love. I have shamed you." That was it, there was no way she could ever again face him, not after this. Perhaps if she hadn't enjoyed the taste of the king so, could she have moved on from the injury, but Thranduil's touch had excited her, and an emptiness was now gnawing at her insides. She didn't deserve her husband.
"Namárië…na lû e-govaned 'wîn." Agarweneth rose slowly and dried her tears on the sleeve of her gown, running to her bedroom and locking herself in the bathroom.
Esgalon was out looking for the girls, knowing he would likely find them out with Legolas. It was almost time for dinner and he didn't want the young prince to be late because of his daughters. Thranduil could either be very kind or very unmerciful, there was never an in between, and Esgalon knew making Legolas late for a feast would mean an awful amount of scorn. The Elf was mortified when he found them all immersed in the river.
"Ci be-chennas?! Ú-Vêr! Get out of that water this instant! King Thranduil will be most displeased!" Little Legolas simply rolled his eyes and helped Silevien out of the water.
"Ada will not punish us. He has been nicer to me than normal of late." Celairiel crawled up the embankment to stand with her sister, wrapping an arm around her.
"Legolas is right. I've never seen the king in such a good mood before…maybe it's because he drinks so much." Esgalon scowled at his child.
"Watch your mouth, iellig. Legolas is your prince, you address him thus, and don't you ever let me catch you speaking ill of the King's habits. A drink at dinner makes not a drunk man." Legolas's eyebrows furrowed.
"But she's my friend." This comment went largely ignored as Esgalon pushed the three children back toward the Elvenking's Halls in silence. The three pouting elflings trudged into the palace and stomped off towards their bedrooms to change into dry clothes, except for Celairiel, who was held back by her father.
"I need you to go see if your mother is ready first, I haven't seen her all day, it's a bit troublesome. Then put on your nicest gown, do you understand me? Tonight is an important dinner for the king, I've advised him to propose a vowel renewal with the queen, to rekindle their romance." Celairiel smiled politely at her father and nodded, sauntering off in the direction of her parents'chambers. She knocked three times on the bathroom door once she noticed that the light was on.
"Nana? Ada sent me to check on you…are you well? Nana?" Celairiel knocked harder and then pressed an ear to the door. Silence. Thankfully for her, Legolas was always getting her and Silevien into trouble, and early on in their friendship he had taught her how to pick locks. The young elf removed a bobby-pin from her hair and had the door unlocked in no time, curiously pulling it back to see what on earth her mother could be doing in there.
The blood curdling scream that erupted from Celairiel's chest could be heard several rooms away, many of the palace's staff running to the child's aid. There was blood everywhere, thick crimson and hot, coating and marring the stark white floor. Beautiful silken blonde hair was floating in the ill-fated liquid, and her mother's body lay still, as if she were sleeping.
Agarweneth's suicide affected much more than she ever dreamed it would, the repercussions perhaps not inflicting pain on those she'd meant it for. It was not Thranduil, but Esgalon who mourned her, whose sanity was drowned in grief and guilt. It wasn't Thranduil whose life was torn apart. Esgalon and the girls were forced to leave the palace and were moved back into their old home, everything the family had worked for crumbling backward in time to days when Esgalon was no one. He never recovered from that.
As the years passed, Esgalon became a maddened and over-protective father. Celairiel and Silevien feared him and his insanity more than they'd ever feared the dangers that lurked in Mirkwood, more than they ever had feared the king. Though his wife's "affair" had been largely swept under the rug and kept hush-hush by Thranduil, Esgalon knew, and any and all contact with Legolas was forbidden from the twins. Celairiel had once been thrown into a den of spiders by her father for helping Silevien sneak out to see the prince, with whom she'd fallen in love. Acts of aggression such as this were things beyond Esgalon's mental capacity, never remembering that he'd inflicted them himself, and blaming those around him for any harm that came to his girls.
All of this was kept as hidden from Legolas as possible, who the girls knew wouldn't understand their father's situation, and mistake him for something he wasn't. By T.A. 2941 the girls had reached age one hundred, finally adults by elven standards. Legolas was excited by this, and was hoping that it meant Esgalon's reins would loosen up, allowing him to freely court Silevien. He stopped by their house on the girls' coming of age, a red rose in his hand, nerves about to consume him. It was Celairiel who opened the door when he knocked.
"Legolas? Man carir hí? Hmm let me guess…you're here to see sister dearest." Celairiel taunted playfully, giggling at how bashful her friend looked. Anxious was a new look for Legolas.
"Silevien, I think you're going to want to come to the door." She called over her shoulder, grinning when she heard her sister's footsteps.
"I'm just going to…yeah." Celairiel left to give the two some alone time, walking to the kitchen and peering in, her mood faltering a little when she noticed her father was home.
"Good morning, Ada," she said quietly, pulling her long pale locks into a high ponytail and dutifully beginning to cook his breakfast. Esgalon grunted and glared at his daughter.
"What's so great about it?" Celairiel sighed as she put some eggs on to fry and went to fetch him a glass of water. He was obviously drunk.
"Oh, nothing, a day of absolutely no importance." She muttered sarcastically to herself, flinching as she heard him rise from his chair.
"What was that?" Celairiel could smell mead on him as he approached her, his breath hot on the back of her neck.
"You smell like a Dwarf, that's what." She said instead, refusing to turn and face him. She attempted to busy herself, as not to cry, and reached for pancake mix on one of the top shelves, halting only when she felt a sharp tug on her hair.
"I don't want to hear any lip from you, this is an important night for the king, have you forgotten? Behave!" He growled, yanking her head back by her hair, harder this time, Celairiel hating herself for having such a low pain tolerance. Esgalon often thought he was back in the palace when he had episodes like this, back in the night he lost his beloved.
"Ada please, you're hurting me, let go!" She begged in a whisper, praying that Legolas couldn't hear. Esgalon roughly tore his hands away from his daughter's hair, furiously pacing around his kitchen.
"You are what caused all of this, you and your sister are the worst things that could have ever happened to this family! If I hadn't been so bent on making a good life for you, we never would have made it to the Elvenking's Halls, your mother would still be alive! She'd have never allowed that petty king to touch her!" In his rage, Esgalon reached for the pan on the stove and threw it at Celairiel, grease splashing all over her right arm. At the sight of the forming burn, however, his mood swung once more and he reached out to cup her face with his hand.
"Daughter, who has done this to you?" She shook her head, tears running down her face, unable to break it to her father that it was him who had hurt her, his mind was too fragile.
"Don't worry about it, Ada. It was me, I'll be more careful."
Legolas had given his rose to Silevien, who was turning pink from her ears up. She had fancied Legolas for as long as she could remember, and the thought of him actually loving her back was enough to make her want to faint. His lips brushed the back of her hand in a gentlemanly kiss and he gently brushed a strand of platinum blonde hair behind her ear.
"Come with me down to the falls. They're beautiful this time of year." Silevien opened her mouth to respond when they heard Celairiel's ear-splitting shriek. The two of them rushed forward, but Celairiel said her peace to her father and walked out before they could get there, tears streaming down her face and a wet towel placed firmly on her arm.
"Are you alright? What happened?!" Celairiel just shook her head, fighting with herself to find her voice. She didn't want Legolas to know, and she wanted her sister to go out and have a good time, she deserved it.
"I'm f-fine, I'm just clumsy, you know that. I knocked the frying pan onto my arm, I don't want you to worry about it. Go out, have fun, I'll clean up the kitchen." Her smile was bright and confident, but Silevien saw right through it. She knew exactly what had happened in the kitchen.
"Why don't you come with us? Let Ada clean it up, you do enough around here." Celairiel looked uneasily from her sister to Legolas, not wanting to be a third wheel but not really wanting to stay home either. Legolas didn't seem bothered by it, however, and wrapped an arm around Celairiel's shoulder.
"I don't see why not, as long as you don't mind me kissing your sister." Legolas was only half joking, but they all burst into laughter anyway. Celairiel lovingly pinched Legolas under his arm and rolled her eyes.
"Let's go then."
Legolas and Silevien became lost in one another once reaching the falls, allowing Celairiel to sort of fade into the background, which she was thankful for. After the escapade at breakfast she really just wanted to be alone. She took a seat on a tree stump and examined the nasty burn that began at her wrist and travelled up her forearm, stopping just at her elbow. Her long fingers tenderly stroked the damaged skin, a silent weep overcoming her. She turned her forlorn expression to the sky, shaking her head at the world.
Why, Nana, why?
Legolas was walking hand-in-hand with Silevien, who was full of so many emotions that she didn't quite know what to do with herself. On one hand she was so happy, because all she'd ever wanted was for Legolas to ask her to be his only, but on the other, she knew her sister was hurting. Legolas could see the hurt in his love's eyes, sitting down on a rock near the edge of the water and pulling her into his lap.
"What is it, lovely? I hope I have not offended you in any way." Silevien shook her head and leaned back on to Legolas, who buried his nose in her hair.
"No, you could never offend me. I just worry about my sister." Legolas let out a soft chuckle and kissed the top of her head.
"Her burn will heal. Come on, let's get in the water." Silevien smiled and pulled her shirt over her head, undressing and diving into the cool water. Legolas followed suit, taking her hand and swimming out to the base of the waterfall, shivering as the water poured over his face. Silevien gently pushed him against the side of the falls, capturing his lips for the first time. He smiled at the unexpected assault, leaning in to kiss her neck. Something caught Legolas's eye, however, as he pressed kisses to her porcelain flesh, and he pulled back in concern to examine her shoulders.
"Silevien… how did this happen?" There was deep bruising all along both of her shoulders and down the small of her back from her father's last mental lapse and she couldn't think of a lie fast enough, the concern and love in Legolas's eyes breaking her heart. She couldn't lie to him.
"Ada…" She choked out, Legolas pulling away from her quickly, murder in his eyes and sorrow in his heart.
"You didn't tell me…why? Do you not trust me to protect you?" His voice was soft as velvet as he spoke to her, but she flinched anyway.
"I didn't tell you because I knew you would protect me. He doesn't mean it, Legolas, he―" Legolas cut her off and shook his head.
"Don't make excuses for him. I'll kill him for touching you, no one is ever going to hurt you like this again, not ever." Legolas's voice was calm and steady, but he swam off angrily, Silevien struggling to keep up.
"Legolas, no, don't!" But her plea was in vain, and she was fearful for the lives of everyone to be involved.