Here is the last chapter! Please review and enjoy, of course:D

Ripples

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

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Burning Bridges

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They were near the fire and Legolas could feel its heat breathing on him, scorching him as he closed his eyes against the deathblow to come. Drawing what he was sure was his last breath a sudden thought came to him and he realized he might be able to save his life.

With Lostiâ's knees pinning down each arm the dagger was useless and all Legolas could move were his legs, which still hurt from the overly tight bonds placed on them earlier.

Opening his blue orbs he murmured, "I am sorry uncle."

Lostiâ paused, clearly puzzled for a moment just as Legolas thought he might be and there he was taken by surprise. Suddenly Legolas' knees came up under his chest and he felt himself being hurled to the side and towards the fierce heat of the fire.

Legolas rolled clear of Lostiâ's blade which had flipped off to the side towards him as the elder Elf fought to twist himself free of landing in the bright blaze.

Jumping up and taking a defensive stance Legolas realized that his uncle only partially succeeded and his left side only came down in the fire while he quickly rolled clear. But he was incapable of escaping some nasty burns to the left side of his face and to his left hand and leg. Even in the dim light one could tell they were ugly and extremely painful. He was lucky that his face had not been moderately melted from the heat of the fire he had built.

Arandur and his remaining three Elves stopped everything they were doing, jaws all dropping simultaneously as they seemed to freeze in place, flabbergasted by what had just transpired right before their eyes. Never before had Lostiâ fallen and to a younger Elf no less.

It was moments before anyone seemed to move, to even blink as Lostiâ lay on his back, eyes closed as a wave of pain broke over his body and he shuddered, whether from pain or malice, Legolas wasn't sure. It was anyone's guess and Legolas suspected it was a good deal of both.

Finally everyone seemed to breathe again and Lostiâ opened his right eye, unable to crack his left one even a little. Breathing in raspy and rugged breaths, the silver-haired Elf looked up at Legolas and his one eye was filled with nothing but complete and unaltered contempt, scorn and hate. "Go ahead and kill me, princeling." He snarled belligerently before gasping in agony.

Legolas stalked over to him, his knuckles white from his intense grip on the knife. His eyes that were normally a soft blue had turned dark and stormy while his brows were knitted and his lips pressed into a thin line. Body shaking from emotion, the younger Elf stepped hesitantly by his uncle.

All eyes were on him and Arandur and his three seemed disinclined to help the Elf they had followed for years. Thranduil was mouthing 'no' to his son and Elrond had a grip on Estel's arm, keeping him back, uncertain of which way things could go. Aragorn's face was pasty and sweat covered with bright red blood seeping down his temple and dripping form his chin.

Reminded of his friend's injuries and treatment, Legolas' heart wanted retribution so badly that he could taste its bitter tang in his mouth, but that was what had started this entire mess and he was bigger than that. Wasn't he? He could feel himself torn in half and the two strong emotions of anger and mercy struggling for mastery. They were tearing him apart and he drew a ragged breath, shuddering as he relented of his grip on the knife's hilt and his fingers released one by one, allowing the blade to slide from his grasp and hit the forest floor with a dull clang.

"I cannot," Legolas breathed. Then his voice firmed and he shook his head, backing away a step. "I will not." He looked at the silver-haired Elf on the ground, maimed for life. His left eye was blinded and his left hand wouldn't be much good even after it had healed.

All looked at Legolas in astonishment and he continued to shake his head. "No. Never. I will not fall into that trap!" He looked down sorrowfully at his uncle, who was returning his gaze with the most baleful and cold glower that anyone could ever come up with save for one of the accursed Nine. "It would make me no better than he is," the prince murmured, walking forward reluctantly so that he was a foot away from his uncle.

Lostiâ hissed, his voice like that of a snake. "I hate you!"

Legolas offered him a hand up and he recoiled, snapping. "I hate you! Now I have to live forever, in debt to your damning mercy! I hate all of you!"

Legolas frowned and looked at his father, who seemed to read his mind and nodded his approval, slowly and so minutely no one else seemed to see the gesture. "You can stay with us," Legolas offered kindly. "And be healed of your wounds. You can change and be free."

Lostiâ wrinkled his nose though it pained him and he growled, "never! Why do you wish that? Do you wish to smirk at me? Never! You will have no such privilege! What is it you really want?"

Legolas didn't like doing this, but enough was enough and this was what had to be done. "Very well. I want you to leave and never come back."

His statement was firm and he stared down the elder Elf critically to enforce his point. He didn't know if his mother would do this, but he doubted she would want him tearing their kingdom apart and destroying the limited peace, only causing the shadow to fall upon Mirkwood quicker.

Lostiâ was quiet for a minute and then he struggled to his knees and from there, staggered to his feet, favoring his left leg. Shooting every one a scathing glare, disappointed when none withered under his gaze, the silver-haired Elf looked at Legolas with eyes of venom. "I hate you. You will pay for this, you and that ranger."

Legolas just shook is head and sighed heavily. "I hope you find peace someday, I really do."

Arandur looked at Lostiâ and looked at Legolas slowly, evaluating them. He felt torn in half and seeing Legolas so strong and merciful all at once when Lostiâ deserved death touched his hardened heart in some way, softening it and his dark aurora that had floated so strongly around him began to dissipate. Here was a lord he knew would be fair and that he would like to be a warrior for.

Looking at his three remaining, he shifted his gaze reluctantly to the dead warrior, slain physically by orcs but in theory by Lostiâ. If Lostiâ had listened to Legolas' warning they wouldn't of had this happen and if he hadn't gone along with Lostiâ then this wouldn't of happened either. Legolas had tried to save them even though they had wanted to take his life and had tortured him for their own cruel amusement.

Nodding to his followers, Arandur stepped forward and stood beside Legolas, causing Thranduil to flinch and step defensively forward as well, to try and protect his son. The other three Elves stepped by Legolas as well; all still had their bows notched though they were facing towards the ground.

"Legolas!" Thranduil's voice reached his son's ears and Legolas turned slowly, seeing Arandur at his side with his bow and with three Elves at his call. Aragorn tried to spring forward to his friend's defense but Elrond stopped him. Clenching the human's shoulder tightly.

Smiling thinly, Legolas acknowledged the other Elves, who suddenly all turned their attention to Lostiâ who was snarling like a rapid creature. "Kill him! Arandur! Kill him now!" His face was turning red and then a slight shade of purple as his hate intensified and drained him of energy. "KILL HIM NOW!"

For nigh on twenty years Arandur had been following orders to kill and terrorize by either Lostiâ or Rána and now he had a chance to be free. He didn't know where this would take him but he had decided that now that he understood all the horror and unneeded blood that had been spilled, he didn't want to be a part of this anymore.

Without even realizing it he had placed his arrow away and lowered his bow and was responding coolly. "No. I can't follow you anymore. You killed Rána and you made everyone's lives miserable because you tried to change what happened years ago. You committed more atrocities than Legolas ever had and now you have paid."

At his words the other Elves' made up their minds to follow his example and dropped their arrows, letting them fall to the ground as they slung their bows over their shoulders. Their faces displayed looks of sorrow and anger. If Legolas hadn't forbidden the slaying of Lostiâ they would have had done.

"What are you doing!" Lostiâ spat at them as they took a step away from him and their faces hardened.

"What's right," responded Arandur, turning his back on the silver-haired Elf and beginning to walk away. The other three followed.

Legolas just shrugged. "You are weaponless, we aren't going to kill you. Go your own way and leave us and never come back. I am sorry it had to be this way." The sincerity and mercy in his nephew's voice caused Lostiâ to turn his nose up in disgust and he snorted disdainfully.

"This isn't over!"

Legolas blotted out his uncle's voice and turned to his father with a faint smile pulling his lips back into a grin. Aragorn pulled free of Elrond, technically being released from his grip, and sprinted over to Legolas. Grabbing the prince's arms and halting his movement the ranger asked seriously, "Are you alright?" He glanced the Elf over with a critical eye.

Legolas brushed him off and frowned. "I am fine." Pausing, he asked tersely, "what about your leg?" His eyes narrowed demandingly and Aragorn recoiled.

"Fine…well…what about your hand," he persisted, giving his friend a dubious glower.

"It has seen better days," Legolas admitted a bit tiredly. "Now Human, how is your temple?" he insisted, having never been put off by Aragorn's protests before. "That gash looks nasty."

"None of your business, Elf," Aragorn teased and would have gave Legolas a light shove but for the battered ribs and severe bruising. Without warning he felt a strong hand on his shoulder, massaging it gently but firmly.

"But it is my business," Elrond's deep voice drifted to Aragorn from behind.

"Yes, Ada," Aragorn relented softly, cringing as he put a bit too much weight on his ripped leg that he had forgotten about until now.

Thranduil came up behind Legolas and looped his arm around Legolas' waist, offering his support for his son. Legolas accepted it gratefully and leaned his head on his father's shoulder, rubbing his ear against the material of the warm tunic. "I love you Ada," he murmured softly into his father's ear.

Thranduil just leaned his head over so it gently rested on the top of Legolas' golden one and he smiled. "I know ion-nin. I know." He pulled Legolas tighter against him, mindful of the tender bruises that mottled his son's chest and the sensitive ribs. He coulds till feel his son's heart hammering and he was proud. Legolas had been so scared, but controled his fear and anger and done the right thing. Thranduil knew he should have never expected less.

But even as everyone faded into the trees, and Arandur gathered up the body of their fallen companion, Lostiâ didn't let his hate go. "I hate you all!" his voice filtered through the trees and the leaves, causing them to tremble ominously, and haunting the friends and family with one final threat.

"I will be back!"

The End


Our next story will be the sequel to Masquerade, called The Edge of the World. The music-trailer is on our website, use the navigation bar until you find the right option:D Please review! We want to know what you thought of the ending! As a matter of fact...we are DYING to know, so please, tell us. If you didn't like it, that is fine! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, we would just like to know why and if you have an constructive critism.

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