The Span of Solace
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, therefore it never actually happened. Legolas and associated characters were created by JRR Tolkien. James Bond was created by Ian Fleming. Legolas' appearance belongs to Orlando Bloom in a wig.
Author's Notes: Well, the last chapter. What more can I say? More notes at the bottom.
Review replies: Nemo Returning: Of course I've known all along. How else would I write the whole story?
theinklesspen: Clever, clever. You've spotted my little clues there. Also, that's a little in-joke for the Rocky Horror Show. From 'Science Fiction, Double Feature', the line "by R.K.O." turns up, referring to the writer, Richard O'Brien (an absolute legend!).
Idlewild: I have to say, I like writing dialogue between friends, so writing Greenleaf exactly as a lone wolf Bond wouldn't have quite the same attraction. I'm probably far too verbose anyway, so writing (and having) long phatic (look, I studied English! Phatic means between friends) conversations is just something I do. Say hi to Shelob for me!
Chapter 6. Poisoner Unmasked
The room Greenleaf stood in was very neat. Nothing was left out of place; everything was exactly where it was meant to be. It was tidy to the point of obsessiveness. It was almost as if the room had no occupant, save for the travel bags and trunk laid carefully in one corner. Greenleaf began his search at the bedside cabinet, checking everything meticulously.
There was very little in the drawers. A book of Elven history, a few cosmetics, a pen and some paper. Greenleaf examined each, particularly the nib of the pen. It could have been used in the writing of the note, he decided. He laid each item back where he found it. On top of the cabinet there was only a candle, mostly burnt down. The bed was made, the sheets folded back. Greenleaf went to the wardrobe and opened the door. The sight was hardly inspiring. Each garment looked much like the one next to it, with only a small range of colours. He pushed through them, but found nothing of interest. The drawers were similarly devoid of anything useful to Greenleaf. He fished gingerly among large undergarments but found nothing.
Next he went to the travel trunk. It was a small squat affair, quite plain and undecorated. He pulled at the lid but it was obviously locked. Greenleaf knelt before it, pulling a small lockpick from his tunic and setting to work on the lock. What he didn't know was that the trunk had been specially designed to prevent any intruders. But combined with his persistence was wariness, and Greenleaf expected something. The lock clicked as he finally opened it, and something else did too.
Greenleaf jerked back as a blade shot out about four inches from the wooden trunk. It was about level with his chest and would have stabbed him if he had not been so quick. He eyed it warily before pushing up the lid of the trunk with extreme caution. Inside it seemed to be simply more clothes, all neatly folded. Greenleaf carefully lifted the folded garments and laid them beside him on the floor. As he'd suspected, the clothes did not fill the entire trunk. There was a wooden partition that was higher than the bottom of the trunk should have been. There were two small grooves, one on either side, presumably to lift it out. Greenleaf paused, but figured that they wouldn't be booby-trapped, as the owner would have to lift it too.
He pulled the partition up gingerly. It was a fully separate box, with its own lock. Very carefully, he picked the lock, staying as far back as he could. The lock clicked open. Greenleaf pulled out his knife and, kneeling some distance away and stretching out his arm, pushed the lid up with the blade. Another blade slid upwards from inside the box, just where someone's hands would probably have been if they'd been holding it. Greenleaf smirked; it was something of a one trick pony. But then he noticed the bluish tinge to the metal. That meant poison. Greenleaf avoided it as he looked inside. When he saw its contents his lips curled into a triumphant grin.
Two small bottles sat on one side, both filled with liquid. Greenleaf picked one up, unscrewed the lid and sniffed it delicately. It brought tears to his eyes that he blinked rapidly away. It was poison. Also in the box were two glass containers with small holes in the lids. One was empty, but the other held a spider similar to that which had been in Greenleaf's bed. This was proof indeed.
Smiling, Greenleaf replaced almost everything as he had found it, sliding the concealed blades back into their spring-loaded holes. He stood and went out of the door. Aragorn was just running along the corridor towards him. He came to a halt just before Greenleaf and questioned with a look the Elf's happy face. Greenleaf simply nodded.
"That's good," said Aragorn. "Your mark is on their way."
"Fine," said Greenleaf. "Go and fetch Elladan and Elrohir, and you might want to let Lord Elrond know. You should be able to hear from here, just outside the door. I'll talk to her and get her to confess."
"Got it." Aragorn raced off along the corridor.
Greenleaf stepped back into the room, shutting the door behind him. So this was it, the final showdown. He had a thrill of anticipation at this. The case was nearly over; the culprit was drawing closer to the net. And Greenleaf was glad. He didn't particularly like it when people tried to kill him by underhand methods. It wasn't really sporting. There was one thing he wanted to set up before they got there, and he did it. Footsteps were heard in the corridor outside.
He stepped carefully behind the door as it opened. The poisoner stepped through. Short, squat and ugly, she looked like she could slip poison into something and not give it a second thought. Greenleaf looked her over critically. She really was quite unprepossessing in appearance. Solid calves protruded from under the hem of her dress, ending in square-toed shoes. Her bust resembled nothing short of a badly-packed sandbag, crammed into the dress inexpertly. Her hair was red and scraped back viciously into a bun.
She strode across the room to her trunk, and was about to open it when she noticed something. Greenleaf didn't know what she'd noticed, but it was enough that she had. He stepped forward as she turned around.
"Rose Khelek?" he said, smiling charmingly.
"That is me," she replied politely, hiding her surprise. "To what do I owe the honour?"
"I wished to speak with you," answered Greenleaf. He would have to watch carefully to see how this panned out and how he should take it on. She wasn't going to admit anything readily.
"Oh," she said. "What about? Nothing bad has happened, has it?"
"No, no," Greenleaf lied glibly, "well, that is to say, yes, in a way. There's been a spider found in one of the rooms, and Lord Elrond was concerned that there could be more in other rooms. We've been sent to check."
"Just an ordinary spider?" she asked. "Surely that wouldn't warrant such a serious reaction?"
Greenleaf reflected for a moment on her voice. It was unpleasant, though she probably intended it to sound charming or sweet. There was a slight whining quality that she couldn't quite banish, and it grated a little on the ears. He wondered how she saw herself when she looked in the mirror. Did she see herself as others did –plain to the point of ugliness? Or did her eyes give her another story –that of a flame-haired beauty cruelly ignored? Greenleaf didn't expect it would be the latter, though he wasn't sure it would be completely the former.
Flashing his most charming smile, he gave an answer to her question. "Unfortunately it wasn't a common spider, but rather a foreign one. Poisonous too, I'm afraid. Lord Elrond thinks that it's probably an isolated incident, but better safe than sorry, eh?" He went over to the curtains and made a show of checking behind them."
Rose Khelek stood where she was in the centre of the room, feet planted squarely apart. She didn't seem overly alarmed at the news about the spider, not that he'd expected her to be. But she had made an attempt at surprise, a pretence at least. That could mean that she didn't think he'd worked it out. She would.
"It would be helpful," suggested Greenleaf, "if you were to check among your belongings. I would do it, but obviously they're your personal possessions."
"Of course." Rose Khelek opened her wardrobe and pushed half-heartedly through her dresses. Greenleaf, checking behind the chest of drawers, could see out of the corner of his eye that she wasn't really trying. But of course she wasn't; she knew that the other spider was safely in the bottom of her trunk. Or so she thought anyway.
"You probably want to check inside your shoes," Greenleaf hinted, "spiders like dark little spaces they can curl up in."
He watched carefully and surreptitiously as she lifted each shoe and tipped it without enthusiasm. He waited. Then a small furry body slid out and landed by her foot. She looked at it, eyes narrowing in thought before pretending to jump and cry out in surprise. Greenleaf glanced across, his shock as feigned as hers. They both stared at the creature.
"It isn't moving," Greenleaf pointed out, his eyes moving to watch her expression.
She poked it with the toe of her shoe. "It's dead." Cold and detached.
"Probably a good idea to check elsewhere, just to be sure." His voice contained nothing but concern. He had planted the dead spider there purposefully to gauge her reaction.
"You think there may be another?" she asked, not bothering to keep disbelief from her voice.
"Like I said, better to be safe than sorry." He gave her a smile, completely free of charge. "Why don't you have a check of your trunk?" It was a suggestion, not an order, but not one she could easily refuse without drawing suspicion.
She inserted a key into the keyhole and turned it, unlocking the trunk. No blade shot out to greet her. She lifted the lid, not expecting to find anything. She was wrong.
Sitting on top of the neatly folded clothes, just where Greenleaf had left it, was the glass box he had found in the bottom of the trunk. The spider inside froze at the sudden light. Greenleaf heard Rose Khelek's sudden surprised intake of breath. She hadn't been expecting that. But her shock didn't last long, and Greenleaf saw her body tense. She knew she hadn't left it on top.
"How did that get there?" asked Greenleaf, innocently enough.
She turned, still kneeling on the floor, and he saw that she knew that he knew. She was scowling.
"Was it a pet of yours?" he asked. "I suppose that one," he pointed at the dead spider on the floor," escaped, did it? It got rather a long way, I have to say."
She glared at him, her hands still in her trunk. They pushed through the clothes.
"And I found your little bottles of poison as well," continued Greenleaf. "You really ought to get better tasting ones. Have a little consideration for your victims."
"You don't deserve it!" she spat. "Filthy pig!"
"Ah, now we're getting somewhere," said Greenleaf, "even if it is insults. Why don't I deserve consideration?"
She said nothing. Her lip curled angrily.
Greenleaf smiled sardonically. "Well, let's start with an easier one. Why do you want to kill me?"
Still no answer. Outside, a bird sang a brief burst of song before flying off.
"Come on now, you can't pretend that you're innocent. We both know what's been going on. I want to know why."
"I have my reasons," she said coldly. "You deserve everything you get for what you did!"
"And what was that?"
She was silent again.
Greenleaf decided to try a new tack. "When were you planning on using the second spider? It's quite an original method of murder, by the way. What would have happened if it had bitten me?"
"You'd have died in fearful agony," she hissed, "writhing and screaming."
"I see. Not just agony but fearful agony. You must really hate me for that."
"I do," she said. She didn't expand on the point.
"And then there was the hiring of that hunter. That didn't work out either, did it?"
"Men are fools."
"I'm almost inclined to agree there." Greenleaf smirked. "But anyway, then it was the poison in the wine. You really are determined, aren't you?"
"I am." She whirled round, sprang to her feet and rushed at him. In her hand she held a stiletto dagger.
Greenleaf stepped aside and caught her wrist, holding the dagger away. She was a strong woman, and he knew instinctively that her stocky shape was nothing to do with flab. They struggled, and he was surprised at how much of a challenge she was. She had obviously been trained to fight, but by whom Greenleaf didn't know. Her elbow jammed into his stomach and he retaliated by swinging her out away from him, still holding her dagger hand. She tried to kick him, but he was too quick and her legs too short. He pressed his fingers into her wrist. The stiletto dropped from her fingers. Greenleaf kicked it into the corner.
"And that's enough from you," he said, still gripping her wrist.
The door opened. Aragorn entered, followed by the twins, Gimli, and Lord Elrond, all in a little row. Greenleaf grinned at them.
"One poisoner," he said cheerfully, indicating his captive.
"Well done," said Lord Elrond, with a dry smile, "I'm sure you will sleep easier in your bed now."
Elladan and Elrohir came up behind Rose Khelek to take hold of her. As Greenleaf released her wrist she pretended to rub it, while she actually twisted the stone on one of her rings, unnoticed by the Elves. A tiny spike slid out, its end tinted a dirty blue. As soon as her hand was free she raised it and slapped Greenleaf squarely on the left cheek. He staggered a little from the force of the blow but stood straight as Elladan grabbed the woman's hand. The little spike of dirty metal had retreated again, undetected.
Greenleaf regarded her coldly. "Take her away," he sighed.
The twins did so, pulling the now unresisting woman from the room. Greenleaf lifted his hand to touch his cheek, noticing as he did that it seemed an awfully long distance.
"Well, you got her," said Aragorn, "long before any of us worked it out."
Greenleaf smiled, though it suddenly became a great task to do so. He half-closed his eyes in an effort to concentrate on the others in the room, though he fought a battle not to close them entirely. His breathing didn't seem quite right; it was shallow and erratic. An army of ants was marching across his skin, each one ice cold.
"And you were right," said Gimli cheerfully," it was a woman after all."
Desperately, Greenleaf focussed on the Dwarf. "Aren't I always..." he managed to say.
Then dizziness overtook him and pulled him forwards. His arms would obey his commands as he fell, inexorably, towards the wine-red rug on the floor. He was vaguely aware of the other three rushing towards him as he hit the floor. Then there was only blessed darkness.
Sitting in a chair in the healing wing, Gimli fidgeted. Aragorn stood beside him, equally distracted. Elladan and Elrohir stood a little way away, both silent. A closed door, blank and impersonal, was a frustrating companion. Outside it was growing dark and stars were pinpricked one by one across the sky. Lamps gave the room a soft glow.
Finally, the door opened. Lord Elrond, looking weary, beckoned the odd little group in. Gimli pushed his way in first, going straight to the side of the bed.
Greenleaf lay there, calm and still with his eyes closed. His skin was pale enough to be white while his lips had an unhealthy blue tinge. Aragorn studied the motionless Elf for a moment before turning to Lord Elrond. The question was in his eyes, and everyone else's minds.
"He's alive," said Elrond, "if barely."
"Thank Mahal," muttered Gimli, touching Greenleaf's hand.
"But we don't know if his condition will improve," continued Elrond, "we've done our best, but that was rather a vicious poison."
"You mean he might die?" asked Elrohir.
Elrond rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. "It's a possibility," he admitted, "but we should try to think positively."
"But what if he never wakes up?" asked Elladan.
"Never say never," said Elrond. He placed a comforting arm around each of his son's shoulders.
Greenleaf lay unconscious on the bed, almost dead to all appearances. But beneath the cold skin blood still pumped and breath still blew in and out of the lungs.
Never say never indeed.
Notes: Well, that wasn't quite as bad an ending as in 'From Russia, With Love', was it? It could have been worse.
Rose Khelek is, obviously, a version of Rosa Klebb, my favourite Bond villain. You've got to love someone whose bosom is a "badly-packed sandbag" (yes, I stole that quote from Fleming). In a way, dear Umbridge from Harry Potter reminds me of her.
That is, quite definitely, the end of this fic. But, fear not, campers, there is a sequel in production. Yes, another one. It won't be up for quite a while –due to other commitments (I've finally got a job –in MacDonald's!), the fact that it's going to be pretty epic, computer access etc- but I promise you it will get there. Probably not for a few months though. I'll be off to uni soon (hopefully) so we shall have to see. And even if I can't get to a computer to type it up very quickly, I will keep writing in the old-fashioned way, with ink pen and paper. And I'm going to be dividing my time between Greenleaf and a certain Harry Potter fic that I've been neglecting (Am I getting those bits back anytime, Lana?).
As it's not going to be up for quite some time, here's an offer. If you wish to be notified as to when the fic will be up and don't have me on author alert, leave me a note in a review along with your email address. I'll make a list and send an email round when it's up. Can't say fairer than that, can I?
Brief teaser: the title is "The City of the King". That's all you're getting until closer to the time.
So, until then, this is the Rabbit of Iron signing off. Love you all.