Here it is, the last chapter. I would like to thank all of you who have been reading - thank you for spending time with my tale.
My dear reviewers, you are the best!!! Thank you!
My warmest thanks go out to all those who helped my with this story by editing or commenting - Mor, Sandra, Trinka, Claudia, Any and especially San.
I know it´s the last part, but please, still feel free to review. I´d love to hear what you think (whether you are steady reviewer or a quiet lurker).
Rating: PG 13 Disclaimer: Still not mine, and I apologise for the damage I inflicted ;-)
Two in blood but four in heart
The silence was deafening. It came with a darkness that went way beyond the fact that his eyes were still closed. Aragorn could feel it waiting for him in the world outside and he loathed facing it. And yet, something urged him to do just that. The silence dissolved into hoarse whispers that were too subdued to understand and he strained to listen more carefully. Laughter mingled with the words that peeled from the chaos of wavering sound. "Too late." The voice strengthened in the gloom, its mockery growing. "Too late."
Legolas! Aragorn´s eyes shot open, the voice dissolving into a jeering snicker as he did, echoing away. Nothing remained but the still figure that lay not far from him, unmoving in the sickening glow that collected around it. The ranger reached the elf´s side in little more time than it took his stunned mind to take in the blood that pooled beneath his friend. It was much blood. Far too much.
Legolas´ eyes were closed, dark lashes standing out starkly against his shimmering white skin. The blood that had seeped from the cut at his temple had taken on an impossibly bright shade of red and it seemed to breathe and writhe, as if something living tried to break out from beneath it. It contrasted unnaturally with the mask like stillness of the elf´s features. Aragorn stared down at the face he had once known so well. The longer he looked, the less of his friend he could find in the finely cut cheekbones and the frame of golden hair. All that had been familiar drained away to leave behind an empty shell that would soon lose all of its meaning.
"No." The ranger did not even realize that the whispered denial had left his lips. No cry broke from his tight chest, and his eyes refused to shed the tears that should have spilled free by now, as if letting them fall would somehow make real what had long come to pass anyway. He willed his arms to move, and when they remained frozen in shock he only tried harder, desperate to save what was left. Finally he managed to overcome his paralysis and pulled his friend into his lap, supporting the limb body with one knee to keep it from slipping out of his grasp. Aragorn was unaware that the blood that covered the elf´s still chest now smeared his hands and soaked his tunic.
Nothing mattered but collecting the fading likeness of Legolas´ face into his hands and holding onto it with all his mind and soul. "Don´t", he pleaded under his breath, "by the Valar, don´t leave like this. You have to fight, do you hear?" His desperation mounted when even his warm hands did nothing to warm the cooling skin beneath his fingers. "Fight", he repeated, his voice rising to echo mournfully from the invisible walls in the darkness, "fight, damn you! Don´t you dare leave me with this guilt!" He let go of the elf´s head and grabbed his shoulders instead, shaking him roughly. "Fight! Stubborn dwarf of an elf, open those eyes and look at me!"
The tears were falling now, a few at first but their numbers steadily growing as if Aragorn´s body had accepted a truth that his soul was still rejecting. His hands began to shake and they slipped from his friend´s shoulders helplessly, leaving the body to rest against the human´s chest. The sobs became painfully deep and Aragorn covered his face, crumbling beneath the shattering failure he had turned out to be. He bent over as he cried, shielding the elf as he did as though protecting him from danger still. So lost he was in his grief that at he failed to notice the cold hand that was sneaking up his arm until it tightened around his shoulder almost painfully.
Aragorn´s head shot up, disbelief filling his wet eyes when he gazed down upon the elven face that suddenly showed movement again. The forehead creased as if in thought and a deep breath lifted the torn chest, the bluish lips parting to let out the air. Beneath the still closed lids the eyes sprang to life, slipping from side to side as if seeking a way out. Sudden hope flared up within the ranger and he gently cupped the white cheek again, ignoring its coldness. "There is too much here to leave it behind", he whispered imploringly, "come back to the light. Please..." He was cut off by the smile that began to form on Legolas´ mouth and a hollow voice left it, drowning the hope in Estel´s heart. "If you wish...but it is not the light I seek."
Black eyes opened to garb Aragorn´s gaze and freeze it in cold hatred. The smile on the elegant elven lips widened to reveal teeth that seemed to glow. Lazily, Legolas´ white hand trailed a finger over the ranger´s chest that he rested against, collecting his own blood that had clung there to lick it off thoughtfully. His head cocked to the site, golden hair slipping form behind his ear to spill over his shoulder. Elegantly curved fangs began to produce from beneath his lips, throwing shadows across his marble skin as they grew. "Hm, not bad", the elf mused, his gaze seeking out the human´s neck hungrily, "but yours will taste better.
The cry that left Aragorn tore apart what had been left of his resolve.
Elrond´s numbing fear for his son flared into burning hatred when he pushed open the heavy doors that led into the storage rooms and surveyed the scene that presented itself to him. Both Aragorn and Legolas lay unmoving. What had been left of Calen still stood upright, but the body was shrinking beneath the crumbling skin as if the flesh was melting away. Even so, the creature staggered towards the human, its evil life fading but reeking of the need for revenge. The need for renewal.
Elrond knew that running down the ramp; he would only reach the human when it was too late. Never looking back to see what Glorfindel was doing, Elrond let out an angry cry and leapt off the side of the stairs, landing in a crouch between his son and the demon. From the corner of his eye he caught Glorfindel´s movement to his side, knowing the warrior had placed himself in front of the still prince. His mind thus free to concentrate on the demon, Elrond slowly rose, drawing himself up to his full height to block the vampire´s view of Aragorn. He would let nothing of this filthy beast touch his son again, not even his gaze.
The vampire froze. Calen´s body was rapidly decaying about it, but the eyes remained powerfully alive. The creature tried to lift his stolen lips into a grin, skin splitting open as he did so, be he seemed oblivious. "Ah, hir adab." [Ah, the lord of the house.] Fresh hunger flashed within the black gaze, and Elrond could feel the evil mind turning towards a new future, one that would offer it power beyond belief. "Hráve belda a fae beleg - amarth bíria nin!" [A strong body and a powerful mind - destiny protects me!]
With the skin rapidly withdrawing from the skull, the fangs seemed all the longer when the demon turned them towards Elrond, advancing slowly. Cold travelled before the vampire in a numbing wave that stilled the air and made the elven lord´s breath dance before him in ghostlike wisps. The cold paled, however, when it met its match in Elrond´s steely eyes.
One eyebrow rose, but other than that the elf did not move to prepare himself for the attack. His voice dripped acid when he replied. "Úner beriathach le en nin." [No-one will protect you from me.] The skeletal form stopped. Elrond took one step closer, unhurriedly. "Le minnich adab nin ." [You entered my home.] Another step followed. "Le degich mellon-nin." [You killed my friend.] Another step. The vampire tried to back away, but there were no muscles left to control. Elrond´s eyes narrowed.
"Le harnnich iyn-nin canad." [You hurt my four sons.] The elven lord stopped a handbreadth from the demon, regarding it calmly. "Le trevedach hi." [You are leaving now.] The vampire snarled, the last of its will bursting into life as it threw itself at the elf with what was left of its weight, fangs gleaming. It only met air, though, when Elrond stepped aside easily. The torch-light jumped off the sharp edge of the elven blade. It arched up gracefully, coming down upon the exposed bones of the vampire´s neck with a sickening crack.
For a few heartbeats, the bony structure seemed to float in the air, frozen in time, then it´s head jerked forward violently, as if ripping itself off on its own accord. It hit the wall with a crash, rolling on until it was stopped by one the barrels that rested in its path. The rest of the skeleton fell apart, raining to the ground in a clatter.
Elrond remained standing, regarding the remains warily. Then, as if windows had been opened to allow in fresh air, the mood lightened. A veil of grey dissolved from them, and the fangs melted from the skull that still lay facing them, giving it an impression of peace. Elrond´s eyes softened, and a single tear slid down his cheek. "Namarie, mellon-nin", he whispered, for a heartbeat glimpsing the image of a bright elven face that smiled at him from beyond a line even he could not cross.
It was an agitated groan that ripped the elven lord from his contemplation and brought him to his knees at Aragorn´s side. The young human twisted as if fighting something, his hands pushing at the empty air. "Dinen, ion-nin" [Be still, my son], Elrond soothed, carefully lifting the ranger into his embrace, "im nev hi, im berion le." [I am here now, I protect you.] Aragorn stilled at the sound of his father´s voice, but he was still tense. His lips moved, trying to form words, and the elf smiled warmly when he read the question. "Legolas is fine, my son. Do not worry. He is fine, and so are you."
The elven lord threw a look across the room to where Glorfindel sat, cradling the young prince in his arms. The warrior met his friend´s gaze and read the urgent need for confirmation that shone from it. Glorfindel allowed himself a thin smile. "Aye, hir-nin", [Yes, my lord] he confirmed, acknowledging Elrond´s victory with the title he rarely used, "he lives, thank the Valar. It was his ancient namesake that once again came to his aid." The Balrog slayer indicated that blood-coated bone that lay upon the floor close by.
Legolas stirred in the older elf´s arms and Glorfindel absent-mindedly stroked his hair to calm him, his smile warming. "I think he wants us to know that he is indeed fine, even though I would not second this judgement." A weak whinny from the corner turned their attention to Faun, whose eyes looked upon them intently. "And that", Glorfindel concluded dryly, "will mean double guards at the front doors for at least two weeks."
The two elven lords rose in unison, deciding without a word that it was time to take their charges out of the gloom and back into the fresh air that the autumn storm whipped through the Last Homely House. As they walked side by side, Glorfindel cocked his head to the side and gave his friend a mock serious glance. "Four sons, mellon-nin?" he asked, referring to what Elrond had told the demon. "Did I miss anything or are there further family members hidden away somewhere in the depth beneath Imladris? I was under in the impression you had two sons." Elrond smiled, for the first time in many days without a strain around his eyes as he let his loving gaze travel over both Aragorn and Legolas. "Two in blood", he answered quietly, "but four in heart."
Elrond stood by the window and looked down into the gardens. Autumn had progressed quickly, stripping the trees of their leaves and scattering them across the ground in a carpet that was slowly turning brown. Not long now and the first snow would come. He could feel it in the winds that carried across to them from the mountains. The nights were chilly already and as the evening approached, he could feel the cold deepen and reach into the room.
The elven lord wondered whether he should call out to the younger elf who sat motionlessly on the grass where the meadow sloped down to meet the woods. He knew that Legolas would feel the chill and should not expose himself to it, but he was also aware of the fact how much the young prince loathed to be reminded of his current weakness. Elrond sighed. As relieved as he still was that Legolas had survived the hardships he had been put through, he also realized that all was not well with the prince. He recovered far less quickly than he should have. Even Aragorn had almost fully healed by now, yet Legolas was still in great pain from his leg. The bones were not mending properly, forcing the young elf to move slowly.
What was worse, Legolas did not seem very eager to change his fate. Even though he obediently did anything Elrond asked him to do to aid his recovery, he lacked his usual impatient eagerness to escape the healer´s grasp. For hours, he would just sit and gaze into nothing, sometimes inclining his head as if regarding things that nobody else could see. Elrond sighed again. He of all people should know that sometimes time was needed to heal certain wounds. And time they had now that winter´s calm approached. It would eventually work its magic.
Looking into the gardens again, a smile appeared on the elf´s lips. Yes, time would help, but there were other, more important means to heal a soul. And one of these was just approaching the prince in the form of Aragorn who crossed the meadow, hugging his coat about him against the cold. Elrond withdrew from the window, leaving it to his son to bring Legolas into the warmth he needed.
Aragorn muttered under his breath as he hobbled across the grass, annoyed that the limp from his injured knee was still not completely gone. He stared at Legolas´ back in the hopes the elf would feel his gaze and spare him part of the journey, but he had no such luck. He knew that his friend had heard him, though, for when he reached him, Legolas said: "You should have stayed inside, Estel. The wind is turning cold." "Oh, aye", Aragorn agreed grumpily, slumping down beside his friend with a grunt to stretch out his hurting leg, "I have noticed. Interestingly, so have you."
Legolas turned to him with a frown. "Of course I have", he retorted haughtily, "I am an elf and we notice things." "And I´m sure you shiver out of pure sympathy", Aragorn shot back. Legolas did not respond. Instead, he watched the plants that grew to his feet. Athelas covered a patch of ground to his right, growing merrily as if it had not realized that it was fall and it should fall asleep now. To his left, three young birch trees leaned against each other in support against the wind. When they were grown, their light barks would shine with every ray of light that graced them.
"They were good choices", Aragorn said quietly, "for they mark souls that were pure and brave." The ranger knew that elves were not fond of marking graves with stones as humans did. Rather, they preferred to choose plants that resembled the dead most closely and plant them where they had laid the remains to rest. There was no need for dates and names. Elves never forgot.
Legolas nodded slowly. He lifted his eyes and looked at Aragorn questioningly. "How did you know that Legolas of Gondolin´s bones rested in that bag?" he asked. "Or that they would serve so well to stake our foe?" The friends had shared their memories of the battle before, but there were still patches left untouched. The pain faded more slowly in some areas than in others. Aragorn shrugged. "I could tell you that I sensed it", he replied with a small smile, "and that I knew what I was doing. But I´m sure those sharp elven senses of yours would tell you that I lied, so I won´t try." He was rewarded by a faint smile and continued. "I was no longer in the state to think and plan. I turned to the only thing I still had the strength to crawl to. All I could think of, was that I needed to give you some sort of weapon." He shrugged again. "I did not even know that Glorfindel had returned to the lake and retrieved all the bones from it for proper burial."
Silence stretched between them. The wind picked up and Legolas shivered visibly now. Making up his mind, Aragorn clambered to his feet and then, without asking, hitched his hands under his friend´s armpits and hauled him up, too. Since both of them could neither stand nor walk properly, this resulted in both of them staggering, holding on to each other for support. When they were finally standing more or less safely, Legolas glared at the ranger.
"That was most ungraceful", he complained, "next time, let me pull you up, that would at least keep us from falling flat onto our faces." "Who has fallen?" Aragorn replied with a smirk, reaching down for the walking stick that Legolas used to steady himself. "Here, I´ll not carry this thing for you, but if you allow it, I´ll lean on you a bit on our way in. Coming out here made my knee cold and now it won´t bend properly."
Legolas took the stick and offered Aragorn his other arm, a smirk of his own spreading over his face. "I would never leave an elderly human in need of help behind", he quipped, "especially because I´m eager to have you at my side at the dinner table. Elladan made the most interesting hint at a story from your youth, far away as it is. He promised to entertain us with it tonight." Aragorn grumbled but took the arm and they slowly hobbled back towards the house through the darkening evening.
As they went, their voices continued to float across the meadow.
"If you laugh at me I´ll tell them about that evening in Mirkwood when you locked yourself into your father´s wine cellar and I had to let you out."
"You would not do that, Estel! You promised."
Laughter drifted into the halls of Imladris, lighting Elrond´s heart as he listened. Sometimes herbs were not the best healers, but friends were.
OK, that´s it. Phew, strange feeling to have this done... But as I said, there are 2 sequels in the works. One will be rather long and deal with the Legolas - Legolas of Gondolin connection again as Legolas tries to follow his namesake´s "trail" and find out why he was given the old warrior´s name. Before that will be a shorter (or so I think...) story that will be set in Imladris right after the events of "The Beckoning" and show how the different characters deal with the aftermath of the fight with the demon. The much-quoted "disability angst" will be found there, too, even though in a slightly different way than might be expected. This story´s name will be "Sleigh Ride" and it will be along shortly. In addition, there might well be some one-shots and shorter stories unconnected to "Beckoning".
Thanks again for giving me your time!!!
Lizbet: Thank you for your review! Yes, I´m sure Legolas will remember this for a long time (as will Elrohir). I hope you´ll like the later chapters, too.
Elvingirl 3737: Thanks!! Yes, coming back although dead is the major problem with vampires, isn´t it?! And Legolas risked a lot to slay it, that´s for sure. Good thing he succeeded (with a bit of help).
Nightshadow 131: Aww, poor you! I hope you are feeling better now. I´m flattered that the story "sucked you in" like that. Thank you for your kind words. As for Legolas, it certainly was a close call...Thanks also for your comment on "Ada´s Boots". I have never written a "little Estel" story before (or any without Legolas, for that matter) but when the plot bunny bit I decided to give it a try and it was fun to write ;-)
Candidus-lupus-full Moon: Thank you - hope you liked the conclusion, too
Gozilla: Thanks! LOL; I´m glad you liked the fights!
Fiara: Oh good - yes, action is fun to read and write. There has to be a built-up to it, though, for it to have an impact. Or so I think :) I´m happy you enjoyed it (and the "bone" comment, too).
Someone Reading: LOL, looks like you went into the last chapter well-prepared! Good thing, too, who knows what might have happened otherwise... Thanks for your friendly words!!! And believe me, Aragorn would have LOVED to cut off that head, had he had the strength to do it. But he saved the day nevertheless. And of course there will be more stories. I´m so "infected" by the writing bug that I won´t stop any time soon. Thanks again!!
Tychen: Yes, I quite agree! In some ways Aragorn and Legolas are soul-mates to me, just like good friends cab be in real life, too (minus all the hurts and dangers, that is, lol). And yes, poor Calen. I feel a bit guilty about what I have done to him. But there was no way around killing him sighs
Ertia: LOL, thanks! Do you think demon slaying could become an Olympic discipline? I guess the Gold Medal would go to Glorfindel, then... And killing Faun? No way :) He deserves to be saved, even though being Legolas´ horse sure is a dangerous job. Thanks for your comment on "Ada´s Boots", too! I see what you mean about the Lorien brothers, but for some reason, the story ended for me where it did, maybe because most of it was from Estel´s perspective.
Silvertoekee: Thanks!! I hope you liked the vampire´s end!
Alexa: No problem I know everything about typos!! Wow, thank you blushes . I´m so glad you liked it, but you are right about Legolas being close to death. So close, in fact, that this was part of what triggered poor Aragorn´s nightmare. And yes, the death of Calen is hard, especially on Legolas...
Beling: LOL; yes, how true. And Elrond got even more furious towards to end - that alone would have made the demon cower!
Mornflower: Wow, thank you!!! What can I say but that I´m happy you enjoy it so much!
Deana: LOL!! No vampire Legolas, no. He drove the creature away with the bone and effectively killed it. Good thing for him that he did not kill it instantly, though, because in that case it´s soul might indeed have tried to take him over. The way it was the vampire feared him and tried to go for Aragorn instead as a last resort. But of course, Elrond would not let that happen...
I have said it before and I´ll say it again: THANK YOU!!!! You guys are the best. I still cannot believe the number of wonderful reviews you have given me. I´m blown away. Hannon len!!