What Lies Within
by Fairy Laughing with help from TC
/ In winter fog, in gathering mist
The grey grim battle had its end -
And at the very last we knew
His enemy had turned his friend. /
Sarah Teasdale - 'The Silent Battle'
Chapter X: Concluding the Nightmare ii
Above the storm began; initially with a glimmer of silver against the grey, and then a growing streak which became bolts of lightening dancing across the sky. Cracks sounded, though there was always an underlying rumble as the light split the clouds. The falling snow was becoming wetter and wetter, not quite totally frozen as it made it's way down. Unfortunately this not-quite-frozen snow was even colder than actual snow, which one could easily brush away. The sleet, with an amount of hail mixed in as if the Valar were testing their strength, rained down thickly and even the thick canopy of Mirkwood could not repel it. It was in fact one of these hailstones, a particularly large one, which woke Estel. Upon impact he opened his eyes, noticing first that his body was numb with cold and then that he was tied to a tree. Mind reeling, the incidents from hours ago came flooding back. He closed his eyes and sighed, his brow creasing with worry. Where was Legolas? Where were the twins?
"Looking for someone?" A voice asked, cool, confident, and unsettlingly familiar. Estel didn't want to bring his gaze up from the snowy ground, but he recognized the boots all too well. They were of soft, brown deerskin, treated to the point of being nearly entirely waterproof, and lined with soft fur for warmth. Obviously they had seen some travel, but were not yet in need of major repairs. He could remember Elrohir complaining about the fit, the amount of toe space to be exact, and putting up such a fuss that he eventually gave them to his twin.
"Estel, dearest little brother..." Elladan said, clasping one hand along Aragorn's lightly stubbled jaw and bringing it up so that he could look into his face. "Do you know what they will do to Legolas?"
"Legolas will not let them... change... him as they have changed you."
"Estel, watch this..." Elladan quickly moved to an old stump, ancient and embeded deeply in the ground, though it's roots were rotting. It was still quite tightly held under by the frost and hard-packed earth, and would take at least five elves to pull it free. But Elladan grasped it from either side, digging tightly into the wood with his elongated fingernails, and gave a great heave. He grunted, and soon the ground about the trunk cracked and gave way, allowing Elladan to pull it up with ease and toss it aside.
Elladan returned, grinning and gazing at his quivering hands, "Did you see that? That strength... that power... it's all mine Estel."
"It is unnatural!" Estel cried, starring in horror. Elladan was never that power hungry before, why was he now? "Elladan," He pleaded, "is there any of you left in there?"
A flash of lightening and Elladan's face went from smirking to blank, the vampire fledgling seeming to think for a few minutes, his pallid face bright in the greyness. "I..." his voice gave way and his head fell. The raging storm seemed to fall into the background, not mattering at all to either of them.
"I need the old Elladan... is he in there?" Estel's voice sounded too soft and broken even upon his own ears, but his voice was laced with urgency.
When Elladan looked back up his eyes were back to the same dark blue that they always had been, and his skin held a healthier tone, lacking the azure glow from before.
"Estel..." Was all he had a chance to mutter before a heavy sword hilt was brought down on his temple, rendering him unconscious.
"Elladan!" Estel screamed in horror as his brother sank below him, his face replaced by that of one of the Mirkwood guards.
"You are safe now."
"Rundiul, he was not going to hurt me!"
Celvandil laughed, coming up beside them, "And wargs can fly."
"Truly, he was not." Estel said, not knowing how to explain what he had seen. Rundiul cut him down from the tree, and three of the other guards surveyed the area, each of them bearing a newly lit lantern that they strove to keep dry in the storm, holding their cloaks against the wind. Estel nearly sank to the ground as soon as he was released, but besides the dizziness, cold and resounding pain in his head, he found himself otherwise unharmed.
The remaining guard took his dagger to Elladan's throat, holding it against the point where blood still throbbed and turned to his captain, awaiting the order to slay him. "Do not do it!" Estel yelled, shoving the guard away. "Would you begin war between Mirkwood and Imladris?"
The guard looked up, wide-eyed; that would be quite an accusation, and quite a weight to bear if a war were to begin.
"It would be better than having this beast walk the forests, taking as he will." Rundiul said, eyeing Elladan with trepidation.
"This may sound ridiculous, I know, but Elladan is still in there... somewhere. He is lost, but I know that he is there. Just wait a little while longer, the King Thranduil will settle these disputes."
Rundiul was still not convinced, but the captain stepped in. "There will be no unnecessary deaths by my part." He said with a shake of his golden head, and he issued for the guard to sheath his dagger.
"Nor under my watch." Celvandil said, quickly using the ropes that had been holding Estel the tree to Elladan's wrists, being cautious not to touch the great black wings upon his back as if they would sting her.
"Those ropes will not hold him!" Rundiul cried in alarm, but was promptly ignored when a great falcon swooped downwards and gave a screech before taking flight between the trees.
The captain and Celvandil burst into a run after it, calling for the other guards to follow them. They saw the flask held within his talons, and knew that it was the fabled Light of Eärendil. Following the falcon led them to where Thranduil was in the cave, and the light emanated by the flask guided them to him.
Thranduil looked to his left momentarily to see the falcon land on his shoulder, and he reached up to grab the flask away from him. "Thank you my friend."
Before he could use the flask, Aidan came upon him again. But this flask would be to his advantage. Thranduil knew, bringing his blade against the vampire and then holding out the Light of Eärendil against him...
- - -
Aidan held the Prince Thranduil tightly in his clutches as Oropher fell. But as soon as the king had fallen to the ground Thranduil squirmed away; Aidan had made the mistake of thinking that Thranduil could do nothing. He fell to his knees next to his father, crying "Ada! Ada!"
At last one of Oropher's eyes opened, a slit of azure blue that watched Thranduil. Through his tears Thranduil watched as his father's chest heaved his last few breathes, he murmured in Sindarin, "My son, please, tell your mother that I love you."
"Do not go ada!"
"I cannot stay. Mandos' Halls are calling me." He smiled a little bit, "My strong son, take care of Greenwood the Great, it is yours now."
"And never," he gasped as dots of pain came across his vision, "never, turn your back on your friend, nor your enemy."
"Ada..." Thranduil whispered in a broken voice as his father's hand fell from the side of his face it was caressing.
"I shall avenge you, ada, mark my words!" Thranduil alleged, swelling with hatred and grief. With that he stood up, holding the sword he had found in his fathers' limp grasp.
"Aidan, I will destroy you!" He declared, jumping on the vampire with his sword held out.
Aidan cried out, a hideous howling sound, as Thranduil's sword slid into the lower section of his chest cavity. He writhed, his great black wings nearly beating up a whirlwind.
"Die, you beast!"
Thranduil released the sword to avoid being thrashed by the wings and stepped back, watching awestruck as Aidan took to a wavering flight into the abysmal grey skyscape above the battlefield. The vampire staggered, and then disappeared within moments.
- - -
Aragorn, Celvandil and the guards rushed into the cave, quickly drawing their blades against the vampires. Celvandil was pitted against the female vampire, each exchanging extremely quick, light blows and parries.
The guards tried to pry Legolas away from Elrohir's clutches, and soon their prince fell to the ground, wounded with many scratches and deep gnashes, but breathing still.
They looked to one another, and then cried, "For Mirkwood!" and rushed forth, blades drawn against Elrohir. But with his supernatural speed, strength and skill Elrohir was evenly matched, able to parry most of the thrusts directed towards him.
Celvandil, though, was having some difficulties against the female vampire. A well-placed scratch landed her right arm mostly useless, and more often than not the vampire eluded her own blows. Aragorn thought it was time to intercept, and the two with one guard soon had driven her into a corner.
Within the cave, the air was thick with tension and the sounds of battle.
Suddenly, Thranduil shoved the Light of Eärendil up into Aidan's face. While the vampire had before been trying to avoid the light, now he screamed, covering his eyes with an arm as if it were blinding him. When he turned around to avoid the light, Thranduil plunged the sword into Aidan's heart, right between his wings. Aidan arched forward, gasping, his face contorted in horror. Elrohir and the female vampire both clutched their chests as well, both falling to the ground and writhing like dying animals.
Everyone watched, not daring to move, as Thranduil drove his sword a little deeper into Aidan, all the way to the hilt. He gritted through his teeth, "This is for killing my father. I vowed long ago that I would avenge you, and this is it. "Die, beast!"
With a muttered curse, Aidan's body fell upon itself and burst into flame, dissolving into ashes within the confined environment of the cave. It all seemed to pass by quickly to Aragorn, and when he looked again Thranduil had resheathed his blade and was standing next to Celvandil who was checking Elrohir's pulse. Legolas leant against his father, looking weary.
She nodded to her king, "He will live."
- - -
The guards helped carry Elladan and Elrohir back while Thranduil, feeling defensive, took his son into his arms as if he were only a small child. Thus they trekked back to the palace, the moon rising in a flourish and spilling bright white light across the forest floor. Aragorn and Celvandil leaned against each other, both wounded in the battle but still able to walk. Celvandil muttered insults directed towards Aragorn and humans in general beneath her breath, but Aragorn paid no heed.
It was noon the next day when Legolas woke up, suffering from a pounding headache that was nearly as bad as Aragorn's and many scratches. Thranduil immediately hugged his son, relieved at the sight of his bright eyes and the smile that graced his fair features. It took another three days before the twins woke up, both disoriented, but well. They had fortunatly not been vampires long enough to make them full ones. The elvish woman they had fought had not woken up, and they did not know whether she would or not. Eventually, after everyone had endured a great deal of rest and herbal teas, they began to remember what had happened, and constantly offered heart-felt apologies.
"We do not blame you, you do realize." Aragorn at last told them, after accepting every apology before then. "You were not yourselves.. it is well now. Let us forget it."
"Does that mean that we do not have to tell Adar?" Elrohir asked hopefully.
"Lord Elrond already knows." Thranduil told them, leaning against the doorway.
Elladan and Elrohir looked to each other, their eyes filled with fear.
"Do not make us go back just yet."
"Let us stay."
"We will do anything."
"Anything you say?" Thranduil asked.
- - -
"I think I would prefer facing ada's wrath.." Elladan commented, wiping sweat from his brow. They were kneeling in Thranduil's throne room, their breeches pulled to above their knees and their sleeves shoved above their elbows. Half the floor had been scrubbed, and they had a great deal to finish still.
"Can you imagine what he will say?!" Elrohir asked, aghast.
"Yeah.. he will say 'You have been very bad," Elladan imitated their father, waving his mop about haphazardly. Without watching what he was doing, Elladan didn't even see the vase until he had smashed it to the ground.
"Oh no.." Elrohir moaned.
"Let us go, now!" Elladan cried, abandoning his mop and dashing towards their chamber to pack for the trip home.
Legolas laughed as Elladan and Elrohir passed by him, like a whirlwind, and headed down the corridor, straight into his father.
"Are you not staying for the festival?" Thranduil asked, raising a brow.
"No, no. Our adar will be worried.
They continued down the corridor, nearly tripping over each others feet, leaving Thranduil to chuckle heartily and Legolas grin. Things were as they should be.
- - -
I hope you enjoyed this little story!