Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, save the plot.
Rating: PG 13 for scenes of battle violence and adolescent angst.
Summary: To all, the prince of Mirkwood was Beloved. But to the lone Warden of Lorien, he was a nightmare incarnate.
Author's Note: Finally, a story of Legolas and Haldir – a standalone, yes, but a backdrop to my ongoing Road to Redemption series. Thank you in advance for reviews. Wink.
By Kasmi Kassim
Golden Sun, Silver Moon
Chapter 5: To Know Not
Early morning saw Legolas returning to camp. Rumil looked up from the fire. "You didn't sleep," he noted with disapproval.
Legolas came to crouch by Rumil. "Sorry, Rumil."
Rumil raised his eyebrows.
Legolas ran his hands down his face. "With your brother – it was brash of me."
Rumil shrugged. "Nothing wrong with brash youth."
Legolas hung his head. "Valar, Father would have my head."
Rumil smiled. "Well, he used to blame his temper on his father, you know." He glanced up from poking at the flames, and winked at Legolas' startled face. "Only when his father wasn't around, of course."
Legolas started to laugh.
A fog was rolling in. Patrol members began to emerge, and the two straightened as they saw Haldir stride out and turn sharply toward the eastern horizon.
"This fog is ominous," he breathed, and the bustling camp fell into a hush.
"Legolas, Rumil! Lookout on the cliffside."
The two leaped to their feet. Haldir stood tall in the rolling mist, dark against the dimming sun.
"Gilthor, Salmas! Western hills. Keep the retreat path open!" Elves began to scatter, and Legolas and Rumil diverged quickly to opposite cliffs. "The rest of you, line formation! Do not converge!"
A chill rippled up Legolas' spine. The morning was swiftly becoming dark. Evil was at hand.
A ripple in the marshes. Wind? Legolas realized that the cliff lookout was steep, isolated. He slowly drew back, watching the wavering grass below. The marsh was enormous, and unexplored. And moving – moving too fast.
"Incoming!" he shouted, springing to his feet, as a hand jerked out from underneath. He turned to see Rumil fighting off an orc that had leaped onto his shoulder. The orc beneath his own foot grabbed again, and Legolas shot it swiftly down, and scampered away as another orc rose in its stead. The entire cliffside was swarming with orcs. He turned and ran, Rumil joining his side.
All of patrol were gathering around Haldir. He began to shout retreat orders when Rumil cried out: "Legolas!"
Dread outpaced vision. He turned to see Legolas turn and leap toward the edge of the cliff. His eyes were trained toward the marshes. That Thranduilion...
Haldir was shouting before he knew himself. Arrows were launched as he fought his way to the cliffside, reaching him in that short eternity, and grabbed the youth by the arm and spun him around. Legolas looked up, eyes alight with the battle rush, and Haldir's vision blurred. He began to drag him back to the flanks, and started when Legolas planted his feet.
"What -" Haldir turned, seething, and saw defiant eyes. He was dizzy; his chest was exploding with hot fury. "Retreat, and this is an order!"
Legolas struggled against Haldir's hold. "I saw them, Haldir, I saw them heading out from the marshes! If we retreat now, we may never find their route!"
"I don't give an orcshit!" Haldir thrust him against Rumil, who dragged the youth toward the retreating guards. Haldir protected the rear as the guards climbed down the cliff through its plateau path.
Then there was a cry.
Calm, he told himself, stay calm. Rumil was shouting. The retreat had run straight into a wall of orcs. They were trapped.
He ran then. Arrows flew in a flenzy; axes and spears hurled blood into the air. Shouts, curses, cries from his guards –
"Captain!" Orophin. "Ambush from the flanks!"
Where had he gone wrong?
His blade met the first orc that blocked his way. Leathery skin tore, and blood splattered against his face. He pushed through the crowd. How had he not known that the path was cut off? If he had not come to the cliffside in time, they would both be dead. His brother, and Legolas, would be dead.
He swung his sword, blinding white among black skin and armor. The sky was dark, raining blood. Then gray – black – red –
"Legolas!" Rumil's scream. Haldir turned, and a halberd cut deep into his side. He faltered, grabbed the shaft, and pulled it as blood pumped freely down. He pressed on, drawing arcs of white in the air. Amid the screams, there were calls, shouts – and then, the orcs cleared, and he could see again.
His squadron was a moving circle, archers in the back, lancers middle, swordsmen in front – constantly in rotation, an unbreakable shield. Haldir smiled faintly.
Orophin was coming - was cutting his way toward him desperately, and Haldir wanted to tell him not to panic, because he looked a little bit like an idiot when he looked like that.
His cheekbone hurt. He blinked, eyelashes wet against a red pool. Had he spilled that wine? I'm too old for this, he murmured. The world was becoming quiet. And dark.
Haldir cursed. Rumil and Orophin would be worried.
Legolas woke in darkness.
He blinked to feel eyelashes scraping cloth. He reached up with a sharp breath; a dry cough exploded from his throat.
"Ah, you are awake." A strong hand lifted his head. "There, there." And a cool surface was nudging parched lips.
The water soothed the burn in his throat, and he was suddenly exhausted. He lay back down. "Rumil?" he rasped.
"That's my name," said the lulling voice. "That's a good child... talk to me."
What was this eerie silence? Legolas tried to push down the panic. "Is anyone hurt?"
"You are, little prince." A cool hand brushed away a strand of hair from his forehead. "Don't you remember? You went down like a leaf."
He remembered, faintly. The sudden attack; he was the first to be hit. He vaguely recalled the cries as he fell. How he must have given them a fright. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"You should be." The hand continued its soothing motion. "Don't ever do that again."
Haldir had said those words in that lamplight, and his eyes had trembled blue. Legolas' heart scorched. "Where is Haldir?"
There was a pause. Panic caught in his throat; Legolas tried to rise, and firm hands pushed him down with: "He is all right."
"But?" The pain was intolerable; his body throbbed with each movement.
"He lost too much blood." Rumil's voice was defeated. "A light wound, but he's barely there."
Black dread swamped him blind. He dared not breathe. "How long has it been?"
That was it, this eerie silence. They were unable to complete their retreat into the woods; they were caught in this desolate land, with thin tents and nothing to lie on but layers of the Galadhrim's cloaks. Their only healer was blinded, and their captain had fallen – the squadron was well and utterly broken.
"I'm sorry," Legolas whispered, and words were so inadequate he wanted to cry.
There was a pause, and then a clipped reply: "I heard you the first time, little prince. No more of that."
Legolas swallowed. If only he had not insisted on this entire matter – if only he had realized sooner that the attack on the scouts was a decoy!
"When will the healers come?" he whispered.
"In another day or so," said the voice. "Until then, no moving for you. Keep your eyes closed." There was a rustle, and he felt Rumil rise to his feet. "I will get you some food," he said, "and let everyone know that at least one of you idiots is all right."
Legolas smiled weakly. The tent flap rustled, and he called with sudden memory: "Rumil?"
"Thank you," Legolas breathed, "for saving me."
Amid the screams and cries, he had been caught broken in an orc's grasp, and had it not been for the thunderous slash of white that cleaved its way to his side –
There was silence. And then, Rumil moved again. "That was Orophin."
The healer ordered absolute stillness. He spoke of Haldir to none but Rumil. And it terrified him; as a healer himself, he knew there were sometimes no answers to give.
Guards took turns tending to him, and the kindness was too much to bear. No one but the brothers knew that he was at fault for this. If they found out – well, he could not begrudge them. He could not begrudge Orophin, certainly. He had not visited once after the battle.
Hours slid into days, and materialized into nights. He woke breathless from a dream, and reached for the cloth on his eyes. A large, cool hand halted him, smelling of healing balms. Someone from Haldir's tent. "Who is it?" he called, and was met with sounds of rustling cloaks. Enough to notify him of a presence, but refusing to speak – Orophin.
"Orophin?" he whispered. There was silence.
"I'm sorry," he tried again, and pased. "I meant, thank you. And I'm sorry."
"Nothing to thank me for," said Orophin's quiet voice, a distance away. "I owed you one for that insult on your father."
Legolas swallowed. "Orophin, that... it was foolish of me. Forgive me."
"My stance remains," said the voice, devoid of emotion. "But what exactly are you sorry for?"
Legolas paused. "For...everything."
"Injuries are not uncommon in battle."
"Yes. But I... I had insisted on this sojourn."
"So why was it, Legolas?" The voice was patiently tired. "Why did you insist on realigning our patrol so drastically on vulnerable ground?"
Legolas let out a silent breath. He had had five days to ask himself that very question. "I think you were right," he whispered, dragging the words out of his throat. "I might have wanted Haldir's attention."
Silence. And then the voice returned, thankfully unaltered. "Why Haldir? Do you enjoy a challenge?" A shift. "Does it baffle you to be unloved for once?"
Legolas winced. "It was Haldir's love I wanted. I wanted to...know what it felt like. To have him look upon me with love."
"He doted on you when you were a babe."
"Did he?" Legolas' voice fell, bitter. "Or was it that he doted on my mother, and me too, by default?"
Orophin did not answer.
"I had grown up with tales of Haldir." Legolas laughed breathily. "Haldir knows me, he loved my mother, he loves my father, but as for me," his voice fell into a whisper, "I know not whether he loves me or hates me."
There was stillness, and then a draft from the flaps. Legolas sighed. For the first time since coming to Lorien, he felt unbearably tired.
Haldir was sitting on his makeshift cot, resting after another round of Orophin's fussing, when he was greeted by a hesitant shadow upon his flaps. "Come in," he called.
Legolas entered, hesitant, and started to meet Haldir's alert stare. Haldir gestured to a nearby makeshift chair. "How is your eye?"
Legolas touched a covered eye with his fingers. "It will heal," he said, with a mild smile. "I am glad to see you finally up, Captain."
Haldir was silent. "I will heal as well," he said at last.
Legolas looked around the tent, uneasy. "Your brothers were very worried about you."
Haldir watched him fidget. The air was restless, dark. With his soldiers he would have barked at them to say whatever it was they wanted, but with Legolas – it was so fragile, this piece of himself that was beautiful and bright and lethal. "Have the soldiers been good to you?" he said, and the thickness of the air was doubled.
Legolas' good eye flickered. "Yes," he said, and looked away again. Haldir steeled himself.
"Captain." With a deep breath, Legolas straightened. "I came to bid farewell."
Haldir's fingers curled around his blanket.
"I – I miss home more than I expected," Legolas said, looking uneasy. He glanced up, and pushed on. "I have already spoken with the Lord and Lady."
Haldir's fingers clenched.
"I wish you a speedy recovery, Capta-"
Legolas blinked. "Pardon?"
"It's Haldir, not Captain." Haldir's voice was slicing. "We are in private audience."
Legolas glanced around the tent with an uneasy smile. "So we are...Haldir."
Haldir tried to raise himself from the bed. He finally saw the nature of the black clouds looming, and though his heart screamed that it was too late, he was desperate – he could not let this continue.
"I have already sent a letter home," Legolas said. The clouds blackened.
Haldir sat still, and again he was too late. Legolas was prepared, as always. Haldir was not.
"Farewell, Haldir." Legolas smiled. With a curt bow, he turned, and strode out of the tent.
To Be Continued