Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, save the plot and some minor characters.
Rating: PG -13
Summary: In the bloody aftermath of dire mistakes, both father and son choose their own roads to right the wrong. But faced with a mortal vendetta and a resurfacing of a sinister past, can Legolas and Thranduil find redemption before it's too late?
Author's Note: This story contains references to To Love and to Sin, and picks up the thread of Legolas' pilgrimage at the end of From Twilight to Dawn. You can follow my order of posting for maximum effect, but the chronological order is also listed on my bio page.
By Kasmi Kassim
Road to Redemption
Chapter 14: To Sanctuary
Dawn was brightening. Amid the restless peace, Glorfindel stormed into his tent, and started when Erestor rose from a chair in the corner.
"The escorts are here," Erestor said, watching Glorfindel walk around the tent like a caged animal, albeit a magnificent one. "We leave in an hour. Did the humans leave?"
"The older one scampered off immediately. The younger one is still sitting there." Glorfindel scowled. "I wish I could walk by so I could have an accident with my sword."
Erestor chuckled. "Let it be, Glorfindel. Legolas thinks demonstrating forgiveness might put an end to this."
"Forgiveness." Glorfindel stopped mid-pace, and turned an eye to Erestor. "That's a steep price to pay, Erestor. It expects to be repaid in repentance, but not everyone can afford it."
Erestor looked uncertainly at Glorfindel.
With a long sigh, Glorfindel raked his fingers through his hair. "Our kind young Thranduillion is idealistic," he murmured. "Some people do not understand the tremendous gravity of their sins, the pain that they have caused. That is why they cannot grasp the tremendous gravity of the forgiveness they are granted." His eyes flickered. "Such a sacrifice is wasted on the likes of that human. When betrayed again, Legolas will be doubly wounded, and perhaps become too jaded to even forgive those who deserve."
Erestor dared a breath. "You believe the older man will go after Legolas, after all this."
Glorfindel let out a rueful smile. "You haven't seen him conscious, have you, Erestor? I have. Before Elrohir beat him to a pulp." He slowly turned to gaze out into a distance. "I know that look in his eyes. I have seen it too many times to count."
Erestor hesitated. "Were there many elves who were like him?"
"Perhaps not those of the same sins, no." Glorfindel sighed. "But that look – Erestor, why do you think the Firstborn would exile themselves from the Blessed Realm and cross the unforgiving ice? Why would so many betray, battle, slay fellow kinsmen? They were haunted, my friend, possessed with a longing they could not contain. And it overcame them."
The weight of the ages settled into the tent, thick as fog. Erestor's voice was hushed. "Is there no hope for such men?"
"Not that man. He is old, and has not the strength, or will, to start anew. His life is marked."
The Vanya suddenly seemed ancient in his youth and beauty, softened in the remnants of a jagged grief that had been weathered by time. "If victims have a blessing," he said softly, "it is that they are free to grant forgiveness. Pity. And then, forget and move on." He turned to look at Erestor. "He, on the other hand, has no such salvation."
Erestor sat very still. Glorfindel slowly moved forward. He held out a hand. "Come, dear councilor," he said, with a weak smile. "It is time."
With a weary smile of his own, Erestor allowed Glorfindel to pull him to his feet.
Legolas was already on his horse, bidding farewell to the Mirkwood elves, when the two arrived at the center of the dew-laden campsite. After all the goodbyes were said, Thranduil held out a great black scabbard emblazoned with the royal crest. Legolas started. "Father, that's-"
"Take it." Thranduil thrust the scabbard into the hesitant youth's arms, and turned to call to a Mirkwood trooper. Legolas stared down at his father's sword, running his fingers down the exquisite inlays of gold. His own weapons had been crushed under the rubble of the fortress; his knives would be taken back to Mirkwood to be re-forged, and he would need to make a new bow on his own.
Thranduil turned with a ewer in his hands, and held it out to Legolas. When Legolas reached for it without hesitation, Thranduil said in a low voice: "Water from the enchanted stream."
Legolas froze. Stunned eyes turned to his father, questions rising in a storm. The king did not thrust the ewer into the youth's arms. "I only offer you the choice," he said, holding the son's gaze with the intensity of his own. "Whatever you choose, I will trust, and approve."
Silence lingered. Legolas closed his fingers around the handle of the ewer.
Elladan woke in a sumptuous bed, with a sleepy Elrohir curled up by his side. It did not take long for him to be wringing his sheets as Elrohir watched on helplessly. Elladan was about to struggle out of bed when their host came to see the progress of his ailing guest.
"Is it true, then, that he left alone?" Disbelief in his eyes begged the king to deny. The king nodded. Elladan's face grew dark.
"With all due respect, sire," he said slowly, "last time we let him go alone, things did not turn out well."
"I offered to accompany him," sighed Elrohir, "but he refused."
"We must go after him." Elladan pulled himself out of bed. Thranduil firmly pushed him back down.
"Legolas will be safe, Elladan." The conviction in his voice stayed Elladan's restless body. Thranduil looked wistfully out the window. "So long as he carries my sword, no creature shall look upon him with unclean eyes."
The gray skies stretched on, swept by the winds into the mountains in the distance. Lorien was near.
Legolas stood by his horse, waiting patiently until the man caught up.
"I have no more food to give you," he said. "There is a human village nearby. Go, and start anew."
"I cannot," sighed the man. "I tried to leave you, you know I did – but I am haunted by your visage, and it is killing me. I can't douse the fire you have set on my veins."
The young elf grimaced. The man chuckled. "Such cold eyes... you really are a prince of elves."
"I can help you no more." Legolas stepped back. "Be gone."
He did not expect the tired man to move so fast. He dodged swiftly, but was caught by his tunic and thrown onto the grass, straining against the weight of the man.
"Do you know how long I have waited for this?" the man hissed. "How many fevered dreams I suffered for this, putting up with that idiot Gama and his plans?" Rough hands made quick work of the tunic. Legolas gasped. Roloth.
With a sharp cry, he strained, and found that he could not overpower the man. His vision whitened. Think, Legolas, think!
Amid the panic, his body worked with battle-honed instinct, and went limp enough to upset the man's balance. Legolas quickly rolled to the side, and managed to push the man off before springing to his feet. He swiftly moved away. "Vengeance I understand," he said, breathing hard, "but this – whatever it is, Rolof, this will lead you to ruin." His hands shook.
Rolof laughed mirthlessly. "I know. I am a slave to my desires. Just as you are a slave to your father's anguish."
Legolas' eyes flickered, and the man took his chance to lunge. Tackled onto the grass, the elf hissed, "Leave my father out of this!"
"Anything you say, prince." Hands dug into his tunic. Legolas reached to the side with a free hand, fumbling among the grass. Just as the man began to undo his tunic, Legolas' fingers hooked around the sheathed sword and swung it to his chest; the man cried out, drawing back as if burned. Legolas raised his head and stared as the scabbard shone blindingly, white-hot runes spinning in a pulsing rhythm of blessed magic.
The man stumbled away, clutching at his eyes. "What is this?" he cried. "What have you done to me?"
Legolas shakily stood. The man fell to his knees. "Curse you! How dare you – how dare you!" He grabbed fistfuls of grass, writhing. "You will pay for this, elfling!"
The elf looked down at his sword, realizing that this was his chance to strike. Yet he stumbled back, dropping the shining sword from his shaking hands. The glow died down, the magic no longer whispering in his hand. He needed to be away from this man. Away from those screams. "Take the horse," he breathed. "It will lead you to the human village. Do not come back."
"I will come back for you, cursed elf!" cried the man, as the elf hurried away. "I will come back for you as long as I live!"
Gama sat on the forest ground where the campsite once had been. With the elves gone, shadows seemed darker, and the sounds of the forest seemed more sinister. He was staring into the thorn-laced path when a lithe black figure appeared from behind, passing him.
"Where are you going?" he called out absently.
The slender elf turned. It was the dark-haired councilor from Rivendell, radiating silent power even when garbed in a light tunic and a sword. He regarded the man in silence as fey winds brushed past his warrior plaits.
"I seek a path to my past, Master Human," he said.
"Your past?" Gama stared. "Why now? Why here?"
"Sometimes, when one is lost – it is best to start back from where the path began to derail." He smiled mirthlessly, as if to himself. "A past is a good marker to the future. But in my case, it is only to satisfy my curiosity."
Realization dawned, and Gama struggled to his feet. The elf watched on with an unreadable expression as the taller man righted himself. "I will do the same," he said, a new determination breathing strength into his feet.
"Will you?" The elf turned and began to walk again.
"Yes," breathed Gama. He felt dizzy with the possibilities, the hope. "I have nothing left for me now. Maybe I can find my answer there. I will see if he lives, the man who started this all."
"Your answer?" The elf moved like water, a sinuous shadow lapping at the forest ground. "No, child, not there. Perhaps during the journey – but if you fail to find your answer on the way, your only answer at the end will be another bout of bloodshed. And you will come upon another dead end."
Gama stood alone, torn, as the elf disappeared into the morning mist.
Red and gold leaves drizzled in a spectacular dance. Legolas paused to catch his breath. The pains at his chest were flaring more often now; the screams of the wind tore into his ears, and the endless stretches of grass seemed to taunt him, beckoning toward an unreachable paradise. He gritted his teeth.
After a few more steps, the pain flared again, sharp and sizzling against his heart. He collapsed onto his knees. The drizzle of leaves continued on, and slowly the screams faded away, blended into a gentle song. He heaved a weary breath, eyes unseeing, as a haunting melody neared, emitting a blinding white light. He raised a weary gaze.
The light stood before him, smiling with deep blue eyes. Cascades of golden hair fell onto the ground as she bent down, smiling, and held out her hand. Legolas smiled faintly.
With a determined heave, he reached out and rose to his feet. Then the light was gone, and he was once again standing alone in a field of tall grass and gray gales. But the pain in his chest was fainter, and gray winds whispered comfort into his ears, raining golden leaves his way. Legolas tightened his grip on his father's sword.
"I will not fade, Nana," he whispered, and resolutely trudged forward.
Haldir's feet flew against the sea of wavering grass, breaking through the boundaries of Lothlorien. Dark clouds hovered over the plains.
Much pain is coming. Many tears will be shed.
The Lady had looked at him with a sort of sorrow Haldir had not seen since her daughter had sailed. When she had foreseen grief that would take long to fade.
In the golden woods of Lorien, a sun shall rise, and a moon shall set.
Keen eyes spotted a figure at last. Crouched in knee-high grass, barely visible among the swaying blades. He drew his sword. "Who goes there?" he shouted, increasing his pace. A head shot up, and Haldir recognized a human face. Blinking pale eyes in panic, the man scampered away.
Haldir gave no chase to the obviously half-blind man; he reached the place the man had been, and pushed the whipping blades of grass aside. He fell to his knees.
"Legolas." Shaking fingers pushed back wayward strands of hair, pulled ripped strands of the worn tunic together. An unfinished murder, Haldir thought icily, as fingers caressed reddened scratchmarks. The youth lay still, breathing shallowly, as he gazed unseeing toward the gray heavens. His hand clutched a ewer, and another hand lay sprawled on the grass, reaching toward a sword that lay not far away, emitting a gentle glow of protective rune. He was worn, torn, having crawled with the last of his strength toward the Golden Woods with a fading spirit.
Haldir bent down to gather the limp body into a deep embrace. "Wake up, little elf," he whispered. He rose to his feet, holding the youth in his arms. He buried his face in the folds of the young elf's tunic. "Wake up. You are late. I have to reprimand you."
He turned, and disappeared into the looming trees of the golden woods. And above the two battered children, the clouds were every gray, the winds furious in their howling, as the trees whispered their gentle welcome to Lothlorien, the golden sanctuary.
Author's Note: Thank you for sharing this journey with me. The sequel will finally wrap up this dark little tale. Stay with me, and may the Valar be with you.