Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Responses to Reviewers: scotty-lass, thanks so much! I'm really glad you like it! The Noble Rot, okay, now I'm blushing, and that just isn't fair…But thanks!!!! morphed, thanks! and what don't you get about the POV's? Incessant Darkness, thank you, and it was the least I could do since you reviewed! :) Sunn-Kissed, I thought I explained that he'd been helping the twins instruct her, but don't worry, it'll be explained more later on, lol. :P lingvist, sorry, and please see the below author's note. I, unfortunately, am not infallible, and I heartily apologize for my general stupidity. Shi Ryuu, well, this one should greatly amuse you then, if that's the case. and I know, I love Celeborn, too! Sesshyangel, it is so nice to find a fellow Legolas-worshipper…(sighs happily) love ya! LEGOSGURL, hope you like this one too, and you'll have to wait and see, lol. thanks for reviewing! Hearts Corruption, thanks!! it always gets me off when people call me smashing. (looks around innocently) What?
Author's Note: Just to let you know, I in no way proclaim to be an expert on Elvish of any kind. I do not speak Elvish, and do not delude myself into thinking everything in this fic is correct. So, as is my wont to do, I apologize to any purists that this offends.
Quick Note: 'Adar' means 'father', 'Ada' means, basically, 'Dad', 'Edain' means 'Man' or 'Human', and 'elleth' means 'she-elf'. Just letting you know since they're the only things not translated.
Morion pulled his hood lower over his face, the biting wind becoming uncomfortable even for him. Four of his warriors followed closely at his heels, their heads lowered against the stinging snow, relying on their senses to seek out any nearby life rather than their eyes. It's not as if they could have seen through the howling torrent around them anyway. They could barely see ten feet in front of them, and it was as bad as being blind to beings such as themselves, who were used to their sharp eyes catching everything, from a moth several branches up in a tree not too far away, to a bee drinking from a flower over a league away.
Not that there were any flowers, either. Valar, he hated winter.
Sure, it was all quite spectacular in a place like Imladris or Lórien, where Vilya and Nenya kept the destructive parts of the seasons from touching their Realms, or even in Mirkwood, where the huge trees shielded its inhabitants from the worst it, as did the royal family's magic. But out in the wild…he hated winter. And he was not an Elf of one of those mighty Realms, though his Realm was by no means weak. They were simply…more fey than most, living in the dense forests of the mountains as they pleased, and the only Elves they found worth associating with were their woodland kin in Thranduil and Isillinque's Realm.
Morion did have one exception, since he had known Celeborn for uncounted years, and for all that the foolish Elf had married a Noldo, he was still Sindarin, still Teleri in his heart. Therefore, he and his people had long accepted him, even if they didn't like his wife. The Kinslaying was a hard thing to forget, and though the Elves were wise enough to not put any blame on the newer generations of Arda-born Noldor offspring, Galadriel was not one of those, and she had been at Alqualondë all those years ago, her hands stained as bright a red as her brothers' and the rest of her peoples'. Elf did not kill Elf; it was forbidden and unforgivable.
It mattered not that she had been ignorant of the cause, that she had been lied to by her own kinsman, Fëanor, and told that they were the ones being attacked. Because Elf did not kill Elf. It was as simple as that. A Great Lady she might now be, supposedly forgiven by the Valar, but the Sindar, Nandor and Silvan Elves would never forget. They were the descendants of the Teleri that had been slain that day, and the grief and heartbreak would stay with them always. No one had understood how Celeborn, a Prince of Doriath, could wed a Kinslayer, but he had ended up being her salvation. All could see the love between them, and his people had no choice but to accept it.
And Galadriel…It was hard not to love the Lady, not to see how pure she was once again, but old wounds ran deep, as deep as the ocean, and not even all of the millennia that had washed the blood from her were enough for them to fully forgive. They tried, for Celeborn's sake, but the Lady knew how they felt, and the sorrow in her eyes whenever she was around any of them made it hard to carry on civil conversation. A particularly fierce gust of wind nearly knocked Morion over, and he snapped out of the daze he'd been in, cursing himself for letting the storm and the ever-growing cold lull him. His lieutenant, Maethornî, an elleth with bright hazel eyes, steadied him.
"We have to get out of this storm!" She shouted over the ripping wind, but he shook his head.
"Not yet, we're too close!" He shouted back, knowing that she was reading his lips more than anything else, just as he had been doing when she had spoken.
Far-speaking to Celeborn again earlier had let him know just how close according to Galadriel, and he knew that they had to be somewhere nearby by then. They were sticking close to the side of the mountain, since their vision was severely limited and they knew that Arwen had the sense to find a cave for herself and the prince. And while they searched for those two, five more of his warriors were heading towards the last place that Galadriel had seen the sons of Elrond, as told to him by Celeborn less than an hour before. He was quite furious with the two of them for taking off into a blizzard on their own, but they might very well be the Greenleaf's saving grace.
Because Morion knew that he and his warriors would find both the prince and Arwen, but he didn't think that he or any of his people could heal Legolas at this point. It was a miracle that he wasn't a wraith already. But the twin sons of Elrond Peredhil…Well. At the very least, the prince would at least stand a chance. And Morion didn't want to lose Legolas, for he and his people had long adored the prince with eyes the color of the forest, of the deep green sea. And Isillinquë was Morion's kinswoman, a princess of his people. Her grief was something that none of them wished to see, for her children and her husband were her world, the dearest things she held close to her heart.
Could he survive without his cousin? Their mothers had been sisters, his a noble and hers a queen by marriage, and they had grown up together in the wild woods before she had been seduced by a guard on the Greenwood patrol, a guard of boundless beauty and hair like a bloody sunset, a guard that had turned out to be none other than Thranduil, son of Oropher. And now her son, the Prince of Mirkwood and the Hidden Realm, was being corrupted by shadow. But his first true ray of hope came a minute later, when one of his warriors shouted and ran up to him, pointing one gloved finger, his nostrils barely visible and flaring under his hood.
"Smoke! Do you smell it?"
And he did. Taking off at as fast of a pace as they could manage, they fought the heartless storm as best they could, before the smell grew ever stronger, and they could see the source. It was pouring from a crevice in the mountainside, mingling with the forceful winds and slanting sheets of snow. He was sliding inside moments later, and he nearly choked, the smoke too thick to see through, let alone breathe through. Sticking his head back out, he took a deep breath and motioned his warriors to do the same, but going back in became unnecessary when he was shoved backwards by a huge wolf and knocked into Maethornî.
"What in the Valar's nam—"
But she grew quiet when the huge black wolf fully emerged, a very pale, very haggard, very sick Elvin prince slung over its back. A white wolf emerged just after it, the Evenstar on its back and not looking much better off. Two more wolves followed, wheezing hard, their gray sides heaving, one with the hilts of two short swords and one long sword in its mouth, the ends dragging the ground, and the other with two bows carefully clamped between its sharp teeth. Hoping that the wolves would recognize him, Morion held out one hand to the leader after removing his glove, and waited with bated breath, praying that the great beast wouldn't take his hand instead of his help.
Sereg approached him arrogantly after gently depositing his charge onto the snow, the other wolves closing around the prince and the Evenstar. A warm nose nudged his fingers, lips pulled back for an uncertain moment in a snarl before evening out again, and then the wolf backed away again, returning to the prince and dismissing Morion as haughtily as he'd come to him. Taking it for the unconcerned neutrality that it was, Morion moved forward, kneeling next to his prince as the others stood around, trying to block some of the wind. He didn't have time for a serious look, but the Greenleaf was bad off, very bad off, and they had to get him to safety.
In that, at least, he would not fail.
Arwen awoke slowly, surprised when she couldn't see a thing. All was dark and colorless, and she had a moment of pure panic before she realized that her eyes were closed. Cracking them open slowly, the light assaulted them even though a single candle was all that gave off any luminescence but for the natural, oh-so-faint glow of her skin. But no, that wasn't her skin glowing, it was another's, and hers seemed dull and lifeless for the first time that she could remember. Opening her eyes farther, she nearly screamed when she saw a strange Elf sitting beside her, regarding her curiously, his foreign braids sliding over one sculpted cheek.
He had silver hair; a darker silver than she was used to from visiting Lothlórien, but it reminded her of someone that her foggy brain couldn't name. His eyes, though, his eyes were black, and she had never seen such eyes on an Elf before. Another Elf sat beside him, an Elf with hair just a shade or two of lighter silver, its eyes a dark, startling blue. Both stared at her blatantly, and she stared right back, because she couldn't for the life of her think of anything to say. She knew that she wasn't thinking normally, and contributed it to the weariness that still pulled at her. But she was relieved of being the first to speak, when the second Elf greeted her.
"Mae tollen, Undómiel. How do you fare?" ((Welcome, Evenstar.))
"I…" But her throat felt dry and parched, full of soot and tasting of ash, and understanding flashed briefly over the Elf's face.
He leant over, taking a goblet of clear water off a small table, and she chanced looking around. They were in a medium-sized room of what appeared to be a talan, the rounded walls and ceiling testament enough to that. It was richly decorated, though in a rougher fashion than she was used to. The bed she was on was large, and the two chairs that the Elves sat on looked to have been moved from a table off to the left. Tapestries hung along the walls, tapestries of Beleriand, Doriath, Lórien, Greenwood in its prime and later as Mirkwood, and one of the Hithaeglir as viewed from far off in a high tree, the stars bright above the dark, snowy peaks.
"Here." The strange Elf said, offering her the goblet. Sitting up, she took it with a drooping hand, so tired she could barely make the reach. The water was sweet heaven sliding down her raspy throat, though, and she deemed the effort well worth it. Handing the goblet back, and trying not to let her shaking hand spill the rest on the seemingly kind Elf, she finally managed words.
"Hennaid evyr." She started slowly, and the Elf who'd given her the water and spoken nodded, while the other stayed as silent and still as he had been since she had awoken. "My companion…Where is he?" She didn't know who these Elves were, and as much as she wished to trust her kindred no matter what, these were dark times, and you could never be too careful. ((Many thanks.))
"Prince Legolas is in the next room with the best of our healers." The blue-eyed Elf replied, and she nodded slowly. So they knew her, and they knew him too. She hoped that was a good thing. "Your grandfather, Lord Celeborn, alerted me to your situation, and we came looking for you immediately."
"Who are you?" She asked, and the Elf with the black eyes finally spoke.
"We are the Moriquendi, the Dark Elves, the Hidden Folk."
She nearly fell off the bed as she scrambled backwards. His voice was harsh, daring her to say something, but her lungs seemed frozen, filled with dread. Moriquendi, Moriquendi, Moriquendi…It echoed in her head, echoed and echoed until she felt like screaming but couldn't, and she desperately tried to still her racing heart. All right, she told herself, you can handle this. Just don't panic, try to think, try to breathe…Perhaps she was just dreaming, and she wasn't really in this nightmare. She had never really feared having Noldor blood in her veins before, but she did then. Because to these Elves, it marked her as an enemy.
"Tiro nin Elbereth." She whispered, her eyes wide as she watched them watching her, and those black eyes seemed to pierce her, while the blue still looked impassive. ((May Varda watch over me.))
"Don't scare her so, Helchon." He said, and those black eyes flickered to him for the barest of seconds before disregarding him entirely and coming back to rest on her. Those dark eyes hid something, some power she couldn't name, didn't want to name, and she wondered if they would have been safer in the cave on their own.
"Look at her. She hears one word, and it changes everything. Suddenly, we are not heroes that saved hers and her friend's lives, but villains who might do what only her people have ever done." Helchon snapped, and she inwardly flinched.
"She has never killed one of her one kind, Helchon." The other responded, looking exasperated. "And anyway, she is the sister of the twin princes, and you like them well enough." Arwen would have choked had any air been in her lungs. They know my brothers? My brothers know Moriquendi Elves? How!?
"Hmph." Helchon huffed, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms over his broad chest. "Perhaps, but they are kin of my kin through my grandson, and they no longer act like Noldos. She does."
"My brothers are not your kin." She said, surprised at the vehemence in her voice. Helchon sneered, and waved a jewel-laden, dismissive hand at her.
"What would you know? You are not bound to one of my line, now are you? But they are."
That took a moment to sink in. And when it did—
He looked at her as if he thought she were incredibly dense. "My grandson?" He said sarcastically, waving a hand in front of her face. "Legolas Greenleaf? Bound to the uncrowned princes of Imladris? Any of this making sense to you?"
Oh no, she didn't like this Elf at all.
"You are not Legolas's grandfather." She spat, and regretted it when his eyes flashed dangerously. Continuing cautiously, she said softly, "Oropher was his grandfather, and you are not him."
"Of course I'm not Oropher." He replied coolly, leaning back once more and looking at her with pity, as if his belief that she was adle-brained had been proven and she was not worth his anger. "I suppose you thought Thranduil just mated with himself, hmm? Or with a tree? Perhaps that's why Legolas is named the Greenleaf? Honestly. I'm Isillinque's father."
"Oh." Was all she managed for a moment, as she tried to get her bearings. Legolas couldn't be part Moriquendi, could he? As if he knew her thoughts, Helchon spoke again.
"If you use the old meaning of the word, you are Moriquendi as well, for you never saw the light of the Two Trees." He said, and she shook her head forcefully.
"Do not say that is the meaning you meant!"
"It was not." He agreed, smiling without any real humor.
She nodded, and closed her eyes in thought. 'Moriquendi' did, at one time, mean any who had not seen Telperion and Laurelin. But now, and for a long time before, it refers to the Dark Ones, the Hidden Ones, the Elves who lived wild in the deep forests with their feral king. They were said to be mad, and dangerous, and all know that they had felt Morgoth's, and later Sauron's, touch more than any other Quendi. But if this Elf was truly Legolas's grandfather, than she had no choice but to trust him for the moment. She had always been told that Isillinquë had no family, but that, apparently, was far from the truth.
Because not only did his words ring of truth, but her fright helped clear her thoughts. She knew now where she recognized Helchon's dark silver hair. Isillinquë. Isillinquë and Elenhísë were the only other Elves she'd ever seen with that particular shade of silver, the color of mithril in its liquid form. And was that not the same shade that streaked through Legolas's mane? No, the resemblance was undeniable, and the blue-eyed Elf looked quite a bit like Isillinquë himself. No wonder she'd never heard anything more than vague whispers about where Thranduil had found his mate.
She wondered if the denizens of Mirkwood knew, or if they were just as clueless as the other Realms.
"Why do we know nothing of you if you are the grandfather of royalty?" She asked cautiously, and it was the sky-eyed Elf that answered that time.
"He is not just the grandfather of royalty, he is our king."
Sweet Gilthoniel, she thought dazedly, and wondered if she was going to pass out again.
"I want to see Legolas." She said suddenly, needing to be in his familiar presence and away from these strange Dark Elves. "And I need to contact my father and brothers." She immediately knew something was wrong when the nicer Elf paled and the other just kept staring at her, something odd flickering in those ebony eyes.
"They have already left Imladris." The blue-eyed Elf said after a moment. "Your father rides with Glorfindel and a small company."
And what of the twins?" They said nothing. "What of my brothers?"
"We look for them even now." The king said, those eyes still boring into her. "You will be notified the moment we find them."
"Can I see Legolas now?" She asked again, and she didn't like the looks once more being exchanged.
"If you wish." The king finally replied, and for the first time, something like grief flickered in those black eyes. "But I am warning you now that his condition is worsening. Do you understand me?"
"Yes." She said softly, her imagination spinning away and creating horror after horror. But she had to see her friend, had to know for sure that he still lived. And gods, how she wished to see her brothers... "Does King Thranduil know?"
"Alright. Take me to him, please."
And they did. It was a chore getting out of bed, and she wasn't used to feeling so helpless without having been wounded. But then again, wasn't fading a type of wound, grief being the weapon that causes such agony? She pondered this as they led her the short distance to Legolas's room, trying not to think of what she would see when she entered. They pulled the silk curtain back to let her pass through the archway, and she noticed the tapestries and sculptures and elegant decoration not a whit, her attention going immediately to her friend. He was laid out on a four-poster bed covered in furs, which had all been kicked to the foot of the mattress.
He was bound, his hands tied to the top posts and his legs to the lower, and he'd been bathed, the dirt and blood gone from his once-golden skin. Clean bandages wrapped around his wounds and his hair had been brushed and re-braided, glowing in the soft candlelight as much as his skin. But the glow was wrong somehow, not the usual silvery blue or occasional sea green that she had seen from him before, but a dark, reddish hue that sparked brown in some places and reeked of infection. His hands were curled into claws around the binds on his wrists, ripping and tearing at the mithril chains, the only metal that could hold him.
His beautiful face was contorted, twisted, layered with pain, suffering, hate…and something she could not name. His lips were bloody shreds from his teeth, his green eyes were rolling madly, and his body convulsed upon the sheets with every breath, working them off as the furs had been. The bandages were becoming slightly stained, testifying that the wounds were still open, and by the orange tint, they were still festering as well. He had lost weight, enough that she could see his ribs, but muscles as strong as ever pulled and strained fiercely, making the mithril scrape into the wood of the posts. She wondered how much longer they would hold.
"Oh, belegron, how you fight even now…" She whispered, moving forward on forgotten feet, nothing registering but her friend's torment. "How cruel for this to be your fate." ((mighty one))
"Do not—" The king started to say, but he was a moment too late, and Arwen reached out for her friend, her fingers lightly brushing skin as white as snow, skin that had once been a warm, honey color, full of brilliance and life.
As soon as she touched him, his eyes focused on her, his movements stilling for a moment, and she started to exclaim in joy, but he hissed at her, those green eyes alien and maleficent, and his struggling grew even stronger as he tried to get at her with those curled fingers. Jumping back, she closed her eyes in mourning, feeling as if he'd struck her. Crumpling slowly to the ground, she only distantly felt arms around her waist before she could hit the floor, and startled exclamations from those around her. And it sounded like more then two suddenly, as if the Elves outside were shouting something only faintly heard through the blizzard.
But she couldn't make out their words, and she couldn't think past her writhing, snarling friend. Her vision was swimming, whether with exhaustion or tears, she didn't know or care, and her whole body was shaking, everything seeming to crash down on top of her at once. She wanted her parents, her grandparents, her brothers…She needed them, because she simply couldn't handle this alone. She felt as if she were breaking, as if she were splintering apart at the seams, and most of all, she wanted to lift her eyes and see Legolas, not this warped, twisted being before her with his face and form. The door burst open, and foggily, she heard an Elvin cry.
"We have found them!"
Mithrandir was walking quite calmly along the bank of the Anduin when it happened. Now, you have to understand; what would have been extraordinary to most was just plain ordinary to him. He was a wizard, after all. These things were to be expected. In fact, because of them, he found more joy in what bored others (but for the Elves), things like flowers and trees and the endless sky. But even he was taken aback when the events along that river's edge unfolded. At first, he paid no heed to the green dragon fish that had flopped up onto the bank, its fins flapping uselessly, as he knew that it was the fish's fate and he was unwilling to interfere.
Until it spoke, that is.
He froze, for once in his life quite shocked. Fish couldn't speak! Especially not with the voice of Thranduil's eldest son! And it was Legolas he'd just heard, he was sure of it! Men passed too quickly for him to know the sounds of their voices so well, but he remembered the Elves' voices, especially ones he called friend. Then the fish flopped back into the river as if it had never been there, its gold eyes flashing in the sun. Confused, and not entirely sure that Curunír wasn't playing some slightly disturbing joke on him, Mithrandir continued down the river's bank, undisturbed for several minutes and thinking that maybe, he was just getting old.
Until an owl landed on his shoulder.
Well, it wasn't nearly as strange to hear something intelligent from an owl, but it was midday, and that…that was the voice of Galadriel, was it not? What in Eru's name was going on? Saruman had better not be messing with him again…But this didn't feel like his friend's work, and the owl had blue eyes. Something strange was definitely going on. But what? Why would he need to think of the Morgul Lord? It certainly wasn't a pleasant experience to draw up memories of that wretched creature. The owl briefly pressed talons into his shoulder, before shooting back into the sky and heading for the dark trees. Continuing on, more confused than ever, he decided maybe it was Curunír.
Until the first snowflake he had seen that season tumbled onto his nose.
"Beloved Ilúvatar, take mercy upon your children…" This time it was Elladan's musical tenor, melancholic and despondent. "Great One, please do not forsake us…Help us, Eru Everlasting, spare our love…"
Another snowflake, another voice.
"Manwë, Blessed One, do not let my precious Evenstar die out…" Elrond's voice was laden with sorrow worse than any the old Istari had ever heard from him, quiet and broken. "Do not steal my sons from me…please…"
Another snowflake, perfect and glimmering.
"Elentári, Queen of the Stars, long have I loved you…" Ah, and the sweet, sad voice of Arwen, as perfectly tragic as her fate. "Do not abandon us now…not now, sweet Elbereth…"
Another snowflake, a hint of silver in white.
"Ulmo, King of the Sea, Lord of the Teleri, hear my voice…" And Celeborn, the wisdom and compassion in his timeless tone unmistakable. "For we desperately need your aid…"
Another snowflake, a flash of fiery gold.
"Kementári, Queen of the Earth, always have I served you…" Was that Thranduil that sounded so shaken, so unsure? Surely not. But it was. "Will you not show me a bit of hope, of strong green growth? All I see is darkness…"
Another snowflake, smaller than those before it.
"Aulë, Lord of Invention, ignore me not as others do…" Only one possessed that soft, constantly curious timbre. Ornutur, youngest of Mirkwood's royals. "Help me help him, no matter the cost. He matters so much more than I do…"
Another snowflake, darker than the rest.
"Nienna, Mournful One, ages I have wept with you…" Isillinque's trickling speech was always a pleasure, though it was now full of pain. "In silence and with cold tears I watched my mother and brothers fade…Do this not to me again, I beg of you…"
Another snowflake, icy blue and sparkling.
"Oromë, Lord of Forests, Lord of Hunting, Lord of me…" And yes, of course, the free-spirited Mirkwood princess, Elenhísë, who was constantly in the trees. "Blow once more upon your great horn, majestic one, and let us know that we are not alone…"
Another snowflake, symmetrical to the first, its edges a bit sharper.
"Mighty Mandos, Master of Spirits, forgive me for my breach of faith…" It would take a dead heart indeed not to bleed at the anguish and guilt in Elrohir's lyrical, velvety voice. "But the dawn feels dead and the night as poisoned as my love."
Another snowflake, a startling and most fascinating blend of black, silver and green.
"I would give my soul, all my grace, for a single moment with them again…"
And oh, he knew those voices. The three princes never sounded more ethereal then when they spoke in unison, and he had heard them do so many times over the years. But never had the situation been so very bleak, and Mithrandir understood perfectly now. The Valar had always guided him in strange ways, just never with prayers that had been sent to them on wings of withering hope. He knew now that it was not chance that had him so near the Misty Mountains right by the Old Ford, just south of the Weeping Stone. Slamming his staff into the ground, he whistled long into the wind.
It was time for the Grey Pilgrim to step into the fray.
Well, I hope you liked it! Please review!