Warning: This one-shot is rated M for dark themes, situations, and adult language. Just saying.
And like the title suggests, this one is a bit darker than what I've written in the past, so be prepared for it. This story peels back a layer to take a bit of glance at Lane's Fea relatives, and just how her bloodline affects her, and who she's become at this point in the story. It's a definite glimpse at the darkness she now knows she harbors.
The Darker Side of Hope
"Would you like to accompany me or would you rather stay here in our rooms?"
I finally turned away from the open doors of the balcony and turned to face Legolas. "I think I'd rather stay here," I answered with a shrug, striving for a careless affect.
But Legolas must have seen through the charade, or perhaps heard my heart rate kick up a notch at his suggestion, for he came closer, gently grasping my shoulders.
"You do not have to leave our chambers if you are not yet ready," he assured me. "There are things I must attend to, but I shall be back shortly."
Stepping out of his grip, I turned back to the open doors and moved to stand out in the warm breeze of the balcony.
"I'm not a child who needs constant supervision," I snapped at the wind. "You can leave me alone for more than a few minutes at a time."
I didn't turn to face him, but I could feel the tenseness as Legolas stood behind me. But he didn't rise to my words, refusing to take my bait. All too soon, he silently slipped from the room.
Why I continued to bait him, I wasn't even sure I could articulate. I only knew that the anger that had lived within me for so long had become something else. Nearly a living thing I was too terrified to examine further. Too terrified to expose it to the light.
And so I continually tried to pick fights. Tried to make him feel even a shadow of the anger churning in my very soul.
Yet, despite my angry words to him, I acutely felt the emptiness and silence of the room with his departure. My breathing became shallower, but I focused on the open air and sky above the trees of the surrounding forest and tried to calm my frayed nerves and emotions. The silence was deafening, and I slowly rubbed at the ringing quiet of the dead air resounding in my ears.
I hated the all too familiar silence, but the busyness of the colony was nearly as bad. It was more overwhelming. Commotion and sounds of life that were so unfamiliar to me now.
When Legolas had first brought me through the forest to the colony, the elves had quickly gathered to watch me pass, but held themselves back in a strange, awed sort of reverence as they watched me walk into the colony. Hating the way they had stared at me, I had hardly left Legolas's rooms in the main building since, although more than a week had passed since my unexpected arrival.
Word had quickly spread about my return, and Legolas had been flooded with couriers bearing letters from nearby lords I'd never heard of. And as time passed, letters continued their influx from the further reaches. Even Aragorn—whom Legolas had said was now Elessar—and his queen had sent a letter of well wishes and hopes that I would visit the White City.
But I had no more wish to visit so large a city than I had wish to see any of the number of visitors who seemed to knock on our door almost daily asking to see me and inquiring as to how I was. I couldn't stand the thought of their pitying stares. Couldn't stand the thought that they might see through the veil to what I'd become.
The one time I had tried to leave Legolas's rooms to go down to the gardens, I had been bombarded by elven voices in the hallway wishing me well, and the pitying sympathy of my elven guards trailing me.
I'd barely made it a few feet down the hallway before I'd turned and fled for the safety and concealment of the rooms I now feared to leave.
And yet I chafed at that concealment and confinement as well. After so long in my imprisonment, I wanted to run in the open air and feel the sun on my skin, taste the free air and smell the beautiful green garden just below our balcony.
Standing once more out on the balcony, I raised my hand and turned it over as I stared at it. It was bathed in sunlight, the feeling of it familiar and warmly soothing, but feeling it here on this balcony seemed no different than remembering it from within my prison. I was just as trapped here as I was there.
My hand flexed as I stared at it. It was bathed in sunlight now. But I'd seen it bathed in blood once, too. Blood coating it so thickly. Blood I'd reveled in.
"Dammit, Lane, stop being such a pussy," I grumbled to myself, determined to chase those thoughts away. "You wanna go down to the gardens, then toughen the hell up and just walk down there."
Ignoring the slight quavering of my muscles, I resolutely marched to the door and swung it open with a thump, stepping into the hallway.
"Lane?" a surprised voice declared.
I turned to see that another elven guard was stationed just outside the door, just as there had been the last time I'd tried to walk down the hallway.
"Haldir?" I asked in surprise, my throat swallowing thickly.
"Yes," he answered, a happy smile in his voice. As he spoke, he reached out with one hand for my shoulder. "It is so very good to see you with my own eyes and to know that you are truly returned to us."
But I flattened myself against the opposite side of the doorway to avoid his hand, remembering well from my captivity how many times the visage of an old friend had dissolved into the cruel grip of one of my captors.
Haldir's hand immediately stopped and dropped back to his side, that cruel look of pity flashing in his eyes for the pathetic creature I had become. And I feared staying under his scrutiny. Feared that he would look deeper and see it all. See my worst.
"I am sorry," he lowly whispered.
My eyes squeezed shut as I looked away. "Me too," I answered.
"What has happened to you?"
My eyes snapped open at his words, and I turned to stare at him. His words had been spoken lowly, almost as though to himself, and he seemed surprised that I'd heard them.
But I had, and that wild feeling of fear returned. How could he expect me to tell him what happened to me? To tell him everything that they did to me? To tell him everything that I did? To tell him everything that I became? I wildly thought, and took a shaky step back into the room, furthering myself from him.
"Lane?" a lighter voice called as someone hurried down the hallway. I turned to see Andreth hurrying towards me. I could only stare at her in a surprised trance. Not moving until she was nearly to me and had opened her arms, her intentions to throw them around me obvious.
But I stumbled back from her several more steps, grabbing the door as I scooted around the end of it to partially hide and protect myself.
She stopped in the doorway next to Haldir, her arms dropping to her side as twin looks of horror and pity filled both of the expressions of the Lórien elves.
"I'm sorry," I again croaked, and then quickly shut the door, turning to flee across the room to the safety of the open balcony.
No looks of understanding horror or pity at my pathetic state met me there. And no risk of them seeing too much met me. Only solitude.
But what did it matter if they pitied me? I knew well what a pathetic creature I had become. Yet, I knew pity would have been a kindness. If they saw—if they knew… I could not stand the abhorrence and revulsion that would face me.
And still, their looks of pity were better than those looks of awed reverence I'd received from the rest of the colony. At least the pitying looks meant they saw that I was not the sort of creature to be revered simply because I had been reborn.
Nothing about what I'd done was worthy of reverence.
After several minutes had passed and I had calmed my nerves, I found I still wanted to leave the confines of Legolas's rooms. They were lovely and spacious, but as a strong woman had once said, no more than a gilded cage. One I had trapped myself in, true, but one I was determined to escape, even if only for a brief time.
But I couldn't face going out into the hallway again and facing Haldir and Andreth any more today. I could feel that they both remained outside my door, talking in hushed voices I couldn't understand, but their worry and pity for me palpable nonetheless.
I leaned over the railing of the balcony and stared down at the vast garden below. It was empty now, the elves of the colony busy rebuilding other parts of the forest or seeing to the many couriers that were taking meals and rest here before they returned with the letters of thanks Legolas was busy writing nearly every night.
It made me almost wish for the technology of my world. How much easier it would have been if Legolas could just send a blast email or text saying "Thanks for your kind words" and be done with it. Or better yet, an automatic "Out of Office" email reply to all the well wishes so he could have stayed with me and kept me company.
Much as I tried to pick fights with him, at least I didn't fear he would see the truth with only a look.
I laughed bitterly to myself.
He was the one being that could read my mind if I slipped and lowered my guard, but I still didn't fear him seeing everything. He'd said he wouldn't pry or ask questions, and I knew he wouldn't at least for now. I knew he didn't truly want to see. Not that. Not what had happened. He was content in his ignorance.
But I continued to wish that he were there to take the edge off my loneliness, if nothing else.
And the anger returned on the heels of that thought. Hadn't I just told Legolas that he didn't have to babysit me like a child? And here I was acting like a child because he couldn't keep me company like the spoiled brat I had acted. How truly pathetic I'd become.
"Dammit. I need to get out of here. Just for a little while," I whispered to myself.
Glancing around the balcony, I decided that just because I couldn't walk through the door into the hallway, didn't mean that I was trapped in here. The main part of the largest building where Legolas's rooms were was only three stories high, his open balcony overlooking the gardens below. Looking at the outer wall next to the balcony, I could see that crisscrossing trellis had been put up for vining flowers to grow and entwine throughout.
"Bingo," I grinned. It was a little teenage-girl-sneaking-out-of-the-house-esque, but I wasn't complaining. It was my ticket out of this room without an elven guard trailing after me everywhere I went. As lonely and isolated as I felt, I still wasn't ready for the company of others.
Like everything of elven make, the trellis was sturdy and strong, very well holding up under the strain of my weight, although I did feel a little bad about the flowers my hands and feet crushed in places. The looked like a deep shade of purple Morning Glories, and were quite fragrant.
But it was worth a few crushed flowers when I finally jumped the last several feet to the soft grassy floor of the garden I'd spent my days staring at. And my heart did feel a little lighter as I walked alone through the stone paths of the spreading garden.
Here I could let my mind flow free. Here I could push it all away and not think about what I'd become. What had happened.
I could just be a simple girl walking in a garden.
I could pretend I truly was the simple girl I'd never once been.
Time passed unmarked as I walked, the garden stretching on and on. It really shouldn't have surprised me. I'd seen the vast stretches of Galadriel's gardens in Lothlórien. I knew just how much elves enjoyed growing all sorts of living things.
I finally stopped at the bottom of a grassy hill, the land slopping in such a way as to create a natural bowl of the grassy forest floor. Trees surrounded it thickly on all sides, the slopes of the hills slanting down to a circular patch of ground perhaps thirty or forty feet across.
But while everything about this ground was natural, even the patchwork stone pathway stopping short of the slopping sides of the grassy bowl, there was one unnatural piece of work in the center.
An elegant, stunningly crafted fountain stood in the center. Shaped of fine white marble, and spanning nearly four feet across, it was elegant in its beauty and simplicity. It had no tiers of flowing water. No flowing water at all; so unlike most of the fancy fountains I was familiar with from my former world.
But it was stunning in the breathtaking detail of its carving. The untold hours and love that had to have been poured into crafting the piece.
Yet it was out in a very wooded part of the colony. An area I wasn't even all together certain was truly a part of the gardens anymore.
Looking at the fountain, I remembered another fountain. One I'd been offered the chance to look into. One that was supposed to show many things.
I wondered what I would have seen if I'd taken Galadriel's offer.
Would I have seen everything that was to come? Would I have seen what my choice would cost me? And would I have seen the depths I would be forced to after I was hurtled back to my world, would I have made the same choice?
I knew now, that if the Valar were to offer me the choice again, I'd take their offer to remove my memories. It felt hollow and cowardly to admit even to myself. But I knew I'd change my answer if given the chance.
It had seemed so much simpler when they had made their offer. I had been dead. My emotions and memories of so many things were dulled. I was simply a soul missing a piece of myself, knowing only that I needed that piece to be whole. Desire only to make my soul whole again had been my only driving force when they'd come to me. The pain and memories so far removed that they hadn't been a thought to me. I had only known that I could find the other part of my soul faster if my memories were intact.
It wasn't fair of them to make that offer when I was no more than another soul in their Halls of Waiting. Waiting my choice. I could have stayed there. Could have taken Mandos's offer of peace and rest. But that piece of my soul tugged at me. Prejudicing my choice. I hadn't been operating at full capacity to make such a decision.
Heart and soul were poor masters for such choices. Impulsive. Sure. Foolish.
They didn't know. They didn't have the memories. They didn't see how bad things would be.
Shaking myself, I realized I was sitting beside the fountain, fingers tracing the trees and animals carved into the marble as my forehead rested against it.
My heart and soul had made the choice of the Valar that now led me here, but was I doomed to forever be locked in the mind and memories that I hadn't chosen to have them clean? Was I to forever be damned to this walking prison cell of my mind?
"It becomes easier," a deep voice said.
My body reacted automatically, springing my body to my feet as my hand deftly slid my familiar knife from my belt, even as I cursed myself for not donning the sword I'd once worn, the one Legolas had kept these past years.
"Who the hell are you?" I snarled at the elf standing only a few feet away from me.
He ignored my remark, stepping soundlessly to the fountain as he trailed a hand along the water's edge, his fingers creating the smallest of ripples on the glassy surface.
"It is beautiful here. A perfect place to think. One I come to myself when I need solitude," he spoke, not looking at me.
I continued to stare at him, my knife still held out in front of me. My lip curled as I leaned forward towards the elf, considering how easily I could strike at him and feel his blood before he could even pull his sword from the scabbard at his hip.
The elf turned his head to regard me, one brow raised in a deathly challenge. And I felt my blood cool at the primitive look in his eyes. A look that spoke of death and blood and hardship.
A look I well understood.
My hand calmly returned the knife to my belt as I ducked my head and stepped away from the elf, scooting around the fountain to put more distance between us.
It was a mistake I soon realized. For now, I was across from him, and my eyes darted up of their own accord, catching the watchful eyes of the elf as he tracked my movement.
Intelligent and watchful eyes.
And in those eyes, was a flash of understanding.
So I turned away once more, staring at the trees as my heart thumped in terror, adrenaline rushing as I considered what he might understand.
"It does become easier," he repeated.
As he said the words again, this time I heard more than just the words, I heard the voice that spoke them. A voice deeper than any elf I'd met before. Not that I could claim to have met all that many in truth.
My eyes darted another glance at him from the corner of my eye. He appeared different from other elves as well, but with the same blonde hair—though more of a golden hue. Taller. Broader. Haldir was broader than many elves as well, but this one was different. There was a power in his breadth. And a sense of uncountable age.
"What does?" I snapped at him in response.
He started moving around the fountain as he answered, "Living in the world again."
My attention snapped back to him as he closed the distance, my feet scrambling as I backed away towards the grassy slope.
But I didn't move for the knife again. Something told me this elf's skill went far beyond the danger a knife could possess in hand-to-hand combat. And I'd never been able to master the art of knife throwing.
"I mean no harm to you," his deep voice rumbled, somehow seeming to accurately read the crazy thoughts my mind had been racing through.
I glared suspiciously at him, wondering if he could read my mind, and carefully probing his own mind, but finding only thoughts in a strange elven dialect I wasn't familiar with. Along with an overwhelming feeling of understanding and solidarity.
The last surprised me. What could he possibly feel we shared in common?
"What do you mean?" I found myself suspiciously asking.
His eyes danced to the trees around us, a strange sort of vulnerability lighting briefly in them. "I know it is difficult to return to what once was after rebirth," he lowly offered, his eyes now fixed on the tree line.
My heart slowed as I hardly dared to think it. "How?" I demanded, much more harshly than I'd intended.
His lip twitched as though he was fighting a smile, and he finally turned to look back at me.
But he didn't answer.
"Who are you?" I asked instead.
He dipped his head in a polite nod. "I am Glorfindel."
My brows scrunched as I tried to place the name. It seemed like it should be familiar.
He stepped a few paces closer, carefully gauging my reaction. I tensed, but held my ground, my brow rising in a silent request for more information.
"I, too, was reborn," he explained.
I felt both of my brows raise at that. "I thought—no one—I mean—nobody ever said anything about an elf having been reborn. They're all staring at me like I'm the freaking Messiah or something," I said, my hand flinging out in the direction of the colony. "If it's happened before, why the hell do they keep staring at me like I'm something special?"
The elf—Glorfindel—smiled sadly as he stepped closer, his eyes studying me curiously as he tried to work through my words. I felt my body go rigid, my breath stopping as he walked to my side. But he merely walked past me, continuing on to the grassy slope behind me.
Breathing once more in a deep noisy inhale, I turned to see him lowering himself to the ground, silently offering me a spot next to him on the grass.
I eyed him and the gesture suspiciously, but did move closer, though I sat with several feet between us.
"In all of Arda's history, you are only the second being to be granted such a rebirth. And a human no less," he finally explained.
"So it used to be just you?"
I couldn't stop the snort that escaped. "I bet that sucked."
Again, he stared at me curiously.
"I mean, I bet that wasn't exactly a fun experience," I tried.
"No. Indeed, it was not. I suffered through many lifetimes of men bearing the sorts of stares and adoration I know you shun." As he spoke, he shook his head slowly, his eyes seeming lost in memory. A painful past by the hollowness of that look.
"How did you ever get them to stop looking at you that way?" I found myself asking.
His fingers threaded through the thick carpet of the forest grass, coming up through their blades as he ran his fingers through them. "Eventually, they decided I was as I had been and lost interest in their stares as the novelty wore away."
I let my own hands drop to the grass on either side of my crossed legs. "What if I'll never be as I once was?" I whispered, unsure if I was asking Glorfindel or myself. "Besides," I said in a louder voice, "I doubt I'll have 'many lifetimes of men' to wait-out their stares."
Glorfindel was silent, so I finally risked a glance up into his face, finding him staring at me, seeming to wait for me to meet his eyes. "No. Never again shall you be as you once were. Just as I shall never be the ellon I was before my death. We are both ever marked by death. It cannot be changed."
"But," I sputtered, "you just said—"
He cut me off. "I said that their stares stopped when they decided I was as I had been before. I did not say I truly was."
My knees slid up to my chest as I wrapped my arms around my legs, fingering the soft leather of my tall boots. "I don't get it. Are you trying to tell me that I should pretend I'm the woman I was before. Just hope that no one notices the hollow pit left inside me now?"
"Yes," he answered matter-of-factly. "In a manner of speaking, that is what I'm saying."
I snorted again as I laid my head on my knees, keeping my head turned so that I could keep looking at Glorfindel, even from the awkward angle. "I can't believe an elf is advising me to lie."
He sighed, looking down at the grass under his hands again. "I am suggesting that you allow others to believe what they wish and hope to believe. It shall ease their minds, and they shall not stare so as to make you more uncomfortable. In time—" he paused, trying to find the right words. "In time you will come to master the things you feel now, and you will be closer to what you were before. You just need time without their stares to overcome the price of rebirth."
I laughed bitterly, raising my head to stare at the elf. "Fake it 'till you make it. That's the advice some great elf is giving me?"
One golden brow arched challengingly. "By what reason am I a 'great elf?'" he questioned.
"You were reborn," I pointed out.
"As were you," he returned.
I bit at the inside of my cheek. "So why were you reborn?" I decided to ask.
He stared at me, and I had decided he wasn't going to answer when he finally did.
"Long ago, I fought and slew an ancient creature. A foul creature. A Balrog. And though I slew it, I, too, perished."
He stopped there, so I prodded, "So did the Valar ask you if you wanted to be reborn, too? Or did they just do it?"
"I, too, was given the choice," he slowly answered. "And like you, I regretted it for many long years though I'd initially chosen rebirth, wanting to see this world again."
I looked away at his accurate assessment. Ashamed by his utter correctness. Ashamed that I'd been given my choice, and now I'd give anything to throw it back in the faces of the Valar. This "gift."
"No other can understand what it is to be reborn. The difficulty in returning to the frivolous and inconsequential tasks of the everyday after one has passed through the dark Halls of Mandos. To remember your life before, to remember the absolute terror and evil to touch your soul before your death. No other can understand what it is to fight unto your death, the primal power one feels in killing unto your last breath, and then being reborn and remembering that power. And hungering for another taste of such domination and destruction."
My muscles quivered as I shook, looking away as I tried to deny. "I don't know what you mean."
But he continued speaking, now disregarding that I wasn't meeting his eyes. "I see the hunger in your eyes. Like recognizes like. I fought the Balrog, an ancient creature of darkness and evil. I cannot begin to describe the feelings at slaying such a creature. The pain. The fear. The strength. The thirst for more. To spill more blood. And so many other feelings." He paused for the span of several moments, but I kept my face tilted in the other direction on my knees. "I see that thirst in your eyes. The hunger to spill more blood. I can see the truth in your eyes. You died as I did. Not facing the same creature, but spilling blood…and finding that you enjoyed that power. That even in your death, you reveled in it."
My whole body shook now, but I couldn't open my mouth to deny him. But still, "You don't know anything about what I did in the end. About what I became," I whispered.
"I would not judge you," he answered steadily.
I sprang to my feet, staring down at the elf as my entire body continued to quake. "You don't know anything about what I did. How can you possibly understand? And what, should I just plop down on the couch and tell you my life story? Let you analyze my childhood and tell me my fucked up relationship with my father is the root of all my evils?" I shouted.
He seemed unfazed by my outburst, merely folding his arms across his chest as he remained on the soft grass. "Does your father have aught to do with the events surrounding your death? With your thirst to exert your dominance over those you slayed?"
My blood chilled, my face turning cold as I knew the blood plummeted from my face. "You know nothing about what I am or what I come from. You know nothing about what my childhood was," I whispered, my hand sliding up to cover the heart thumping frantically in my chest.
"I could have sailed when many of the other elf lords sailed only a short time ago. But I chose to remain in Arda a while longer," he suddenly spoke, stilling my body with the seemingly strange change in topic. "I chose to relocate to this colony and remain in these lands a while longer. I thought to remain in lands where I have learned some degree of peace since my rebirth. But I found myself interested in the ellon married to a mortal."
The ease I'd begun to feel disappeared at his last words, but I could only remain in place and listen as he continued.
"Never has there been a record of ellon actually taking a mortal to wife, and I found this quite curious. Long it has been since any project or event has interested me as this tale did," he continued. "Your husband was considered late in life to finally have wed, and it is said that strange fates are destined for those elves who wed late. None could say the circumstances in the wake of the War were not strange. But stranger still is your rebirth." He paused for several moments, simply staring up into my eyes, seemingly unconcerned or even unaware of the height advantage I had. "I have heard whispers of you in my time here. The mortal woman married and bound to an ellon. A feat deemed impossible, yet achieved. And whispers I have heard saying you are not as mortal women of this world. Another you hail from, and nor are you the simple mortal woman you appear."
After he'd stopped again for a span of time and clearly wasn't continuing, I answered flatly, "Whispers about me doesn't mean you understand what I am. What I come from."
He leaned back slightly. "Then tell me." It was spoken softly, but with a hint of challenge in his eyes and in his posture.
My eyes closed against the sudden desire to tell someone. To speak to someone who just might have a hope in hell at understanding what I'd gone through. But I bit my tongue and remained silent.
"Have you told your husband?" Glorfindel suddenly asked.
My eyes shot open. "No!" I exclaimed. "He doesn't need to know anything about that. This isn't his problem."
Glorfindel stared at me patiently. "You needs must tell someone. Your bondmate should know."
My head shook vehemently. "I can't tell him this. I can't bring this to him."
"One day you must tell him. Your fëa are bound. You cannot keep your past from his notice for all time."
"But how can I possibly explain this to him? How can I tell him the truth?" I pleaded miserably.
"I am willing to allow you to practice by telling me," the elf responded. Before I could answer, he continued. "Whom else shall you find who can understand what it is we have been through? You shall find no judgment from me." He glanced away from me for a moment, a haunted look lighting in his eyes as he continued. "I spent some time in Mandos's Halls before I made my decision to be reborn. Long I listened to the wails of souls in that place. Long did I listen to the wail of my own soul in that place. My perspectives have changed since my previous life."
My teeth worried nervously at my lip. Could I tell this elf what had happened? Could I stand here and tell him what had happened to me, and what I'd done in the end?
"I lied to my husband," I whispered in a choked voice. "I couldn't look him in the eye and tell him what happened. How could I?" I continued, my voice gaining some strength as I set out on my course, right or wrong. "I told him that I had been sent back to my world—to that prison camp—and that when I was back there, I just gave up, quit even trying to live, and just died. But that's not the truth. I did give up for a long time, but I didn't just quit. I became a hollow pit, and eventually, that anger, that endless destruction filled me, yearning to destroy everything. It wasn't three years. It was longer. I don't know how much longer, but it was. I became cold and unfeeling. No. Hungry. Just like you said. And thirsty. And I was starved, truly starved. So desperate and filled with hate. So completely filled with hate, that I embraced the thing I'd loathed and feared as a child. I became like my father and his people."
I started pacing nervously. My words might have made no sense to the elf, but now that I'd begun, I couldn't seem to stop. "That last day, I was so filled with hatred. Hatred of my captors, hatred of the world, hatred for the gods. I wanted them to feel what I felt every time they brought me out of my hole. All the starvation I'd endured, the beatings, the rapes. I wanted them to feel what it was like to be subjugated. I wanted them to stare up into my eyes in fear and terror. I so very much longed to sink my sharpened teeth into their flesh."
Still pacing, my hand trailed up to my mouth. My teeth were flat and blunt now, but I remembered the thrilling feel of them when they'd grown and sharpened in my mouth as I gave into that hunger. Remembered the sense of power and destruction I'd suddenly felt.
And it still thrilled and terrified me.
"When that first man grabbed me to tie me down, I rolled into him, sinking my teeth in so deeply," I paused as my eyes closed at the memory. "I lost myself in the frenzy then, biting and tearing into each of them. Tearing at their flesh when they were too stunned to move or respond." I shook my head. Disgusted and thrilled by the hunger I remembered feeling. "For nearly all my life, I had feared my father and his people. Terrified of the hunger I'd seen in their eyes. Terrified that that hunger, that utter joy in tearing of flesh could ever be within me. I vowed never to let myself sink to the depths of depravity I'd seen in my father's eyes. But in the end—in the end I sank to those depths. I sank to those depths, and relished it. I became little more than an animal. No. Not an animal. I became like all the Fae before me. I tore into human flesh, and enjoyed it. And I was no longer hungry. No longer starved."
I turned to look down into Glorfindel's eyes. Despite his words, I saw the surprise in them. The shock. But I held his gaze as I continued. "I relished it and reveled in that feeling of hunger and power until I saw a guard run at me with a gun. Young. No more than a boy really. And I saw the horror reflected in his eyes that had once shone in my own as a child. And when he raised that old rifle at me, I simply stood there and let him shoot me. Let him kill me.
"And suddenly, there my soul was, with the Valar, hearing them ask me if I wanted to be reborn. Reunited with my husband. I wanted that so badly. Wanted so badly to believe that if I could just return to Legolas, that I could be healed of what had awoken in me. And what had broken as a result. They told me I had passed the test. That I had embraced the lesson I needed to learn. Accepted even the darkest part of my nature. Accepted what I was, and the depths I could go to for survival. Said that I'd learned what strength I had, even in the worst, most horrifying parts of myself. And then I was reborn."
I paced nervously again before stopping in front of the still elf. "And you propose I tell my husband that? That I tell him every horrifying thing I did? That I tore into those men, into humans. Tell him that I broke every promise I made to myself to never become like my father's kindred. That what, the Valar think it was a good thing I embraced the psycho side of my family tree? How the hell do I tell him what I did when I can barely stomach the thought of it?" I demanded.
Glorfindel sighed deeply, seeming to have difficulty swallowing as he attempted several times before finally speaking. "There is much I do not yet understand about your story. Much I feel I do not understand about your father's people, these Fae. But I keep my word to you. I do not judge what is done. How can I, when I do see pieces of your story, and understand at least partly what you must have suffered. As you say, you were beaten, starved, abused. You attacked when driven past the point of sanity. I think to understand that you attacked in the manner of your father's people. How can I find fault in that? You killed those who brought great harm and suffering upon you."
"I became like my father and his before him," I whispered brokenly.
"As all are destined to some influence by their forbearers. None can wholly escape it," Glorfindel tried.
He hadn't moved from his seated position, and I finally dropped down beside him, only a foot separating us, and suddenly too exhausted to care about anything.
"Tell me more about these Fae," Glorfindel softly requested, turning to regard me, his eyes showing a surprising amount of softness to them. "And tell me more about what happened in your world."
With a sigh, I relented and told him what I could, still wondering why I seemed so able to tell him these things at all.
"Your kindred, these Fae, are a remarkable race," Glorfindel finally said in the silence that followed my explanations.
"'Remarkable?'" I repeated in surprise.
He shook his head. "Oh, no doubt terrifying and as fearsome as you say, but it is astonishing to think of a race so like elves in appearance, and yet so vastly different. Though none can say that elves have not their own dark blemishes in our history."
The silence lapsed again as Glorfindel seemed to be turning my story over in his mind, and I absently tore at green blades of grass.
"I can understand your reluctance to speak of this with your husband," he suddenly said, "but such things cannot be forever kept. You must find a way to tell him of these things. I know your fear, but your souls are bound, open yourself to him and let him sense what you feel. He shall understand you and his love shall not fade."
I turned to look at his surefire expression.
But I wasn't nearly so sure. "How can you know for certain? After what happened? After what I did? Who could understand that? Do you really think any of those elves," I threw my arm in gesture towards the colony once more. "Do you really think any of them could understand or forgive something like that?"
"Perhaps it is not a thing those elves can understand. Perhaps I alone am able to understand by virtue of our shared experiences. But such a thing should not be withheld from one who shares your soul. He may not understand everything, but he will not turn away from you. And it is my hope that with his help you can begin to heal the hole in your heart and fëa."
My hands stilled, bits of grass stuck to my hands and my fingers stained green.
"Why did you seek me out? Why are you so concerned about any of my troubles?" I whispered, eyes still fixated on my grass-stained fingers.
Glorfindel reached out with one hand, lightly touching my elbow. For the first time since my return, I didn't flinch at the contact. Because I didn't fear what he might see. He already knew it all. And strangely, I didn't fear that this ancient warrior would harm me, though he was well capable.
"Well I remember my own turmoil in the time after my rebirth. I thought you could use a friend to speak with whom would understand your struggles. It helps to speak of these things," he offered, his large hand squeezing my elbow with surprising gentleness.
"And who do you speak to about your own struggles?" I whispered, turning to face him as I covered his larger hand on my elbow with my much smaller one.
Only a sad smile met my query.
"What a pair you and I make, huh? Not exactly poster children for the blissful success of rebirth, are we?" I lamented, a half-smile tugging at my lips.
Glorfindel didn't answer, but tilted his head, seeming to listen to something.
"Your melindo searches for you," he explained, turning back to face me.
"Forgive me. It is Quenya for lover. Your husband comes." As he spoke, he pointed back through the forest towards the colony.
And sure enough, as I looked, Legolas broke through the trees at a run, long knife in hand, a frantic look on his face and sweat on his brow.
Glorfindel leaned closer for just a moment, whispering, "Consider my words," and then pulled his hand away as he pushed to his feet.
I would consider his words, and I knew I'd spend a long time considering the things I'd told him as well.
I suddenly jerked violently awake. My body and emotions so rattled that I tried to scramble away, trying to flee from what I'd seen.
But something was trying to stop me. Something was holding me back.
And then I landed hard on my back and shoulders, my head smacking painfully against hard wooden floors.
"What the hell?" I muttered to myself, one hand feeling tenderly behind my head as I lay on the ground.
Worried voices called through our door at the commotion, but I had yet to learn enough Sindarin to understand or answer the concerned calls.
Legolas suddenly appeared in my view. "Elaina?" he worriedly asked. "Are you hurt?"
He seemed unsure at first, but he slowly and deliberately reached out, carefully helping me into a sitting position.
I stared at the bed for a moment, seeing the tangle of sheets pulled over the side of the bed.
"What happened? Another nightmare?" he asked, his fingers skimming over the back of my head to check for damage.
"I'm fine," I insisted, trying to push his probing hands away. "It was nothing."
Elven voices called out again, and this time Legolas answered back, no doubt assuring them it was nothing. Unfortunately, the elves of the colony were becoming used to my cries and screams throughout the night.
Legolas sighed, sitting back on his heels as he knelt and stared at me. I turned away from that worried and frustrated stare, having seen it too often since I'd returned, and swiveled on the floor, leaning my back against the bed I'd tumbled out of.
"Why can you not open up? Share with me what happened. At the least, share with me your nightmare. And perhaps we can dispel it from your sleep," he tried.
It's a sweet offer, I bitterly thought, but nothing's going to dispel those memories from my dreams. They'll always be there.
Legolas scooted closer, gently touching the knee I'd drawn to my chest with light fingers. "Why must you try so hard to keep yourself from me? You lock away your thoughts and emotions and guard them with the zeal of a dragon hoarding treasure. Only when your emotions are extreme can I even feel them through our bond. Please, speak to me. Share your burdens and struggles, as we once promised one another."
I felt a lone tear escape to trace down my cheek. The first tear I'd lost control of since I'd first found my way back to this world.
Hating my weakness, I turned away, looking down the length of the bed I leaned against and out the open balcony doors.
Legolas sighed again, so much disappointment laced in that single sound, but I felt him moving closer to me. He turned as I had, sitting on my other side, likewise leaning back against the bed.
"Please, Elaina. Please," he whispered brokenly, and I felt another tear chase after the first, hanging wetly from my jawline.
How can I regain her trust? How can I reach her to bridge this chasm?
I heard Legolas's thoughts ring through my mind as he reached out to brush the twin tears away with his thumb. And I couldn't help but turn to face him, surprised that those stray thoughts filtering through my mind had come to me in Westron instead of Elvish.
There was such a fierce look of desperation as he stared at me, and I felt my breath hitch at the sight.
"I'm sorry," I told him. "I'm so sorry."
He pressed closer, the loose pants and shirt he'd taken to wearing to bed in my deference brushing against the similar loose cotton pants and shirt I'd also taken to wearing. Only his fingers against my cheek and neck brushed my skin. But still, my body felt like it had been burned where his legs and arm pressed against me, and I fought the urge to pull away to keep from contaminating him.
"You have no reason to be sorry," he assured me, but I certainly felt as though I should be sorry. I wasn't exactly the picture of mental health for what either of us had imagined of our reunion.
"But please," he continued, "do not shut me out. Speak to me," he pleaded. "I know you have not told me all there is to know. I can feel that there is much you are holding back. Do not feel that you must so shield me."
Glorfindel's words came back to me, telling me to tell Legolas about what happened. But could I? Could I really tell him everything? Could I stand it if he looked at me with the shock and revulsion I knew I was warranted. I had never wanted to see Legolas look at me that way.
But was there any other choice? Could I continue lying when he was already asking questions?
Turning, I fixed my gaze again on the balcony, watching the elegant sway of the trees in the night breeze. "I didn't tell you everything. Hell, a lot of what I did tell you was a lie. I just hate to think of you knowing it all. I can't stand the thought of how you'll look at me."
I felt him press closer, felt his hand thread through my right hand and pull it between us, but I didn't move. And I didn't turn to look at him.
Forcing myself to speak, I began to talk in a detached manner, skimming over many things, but explaining how bad off I'd been in the end. How emaciated and starved I'd been. How angry I'd been.
And I continued to tell him the worst, that in the end, despite the words he'd once told me about how there was goodness and light in me, I'd fallen into the pit. I'd become what my father's ancestors before him had been. That I'd become a monster.
He never released my hand, just held it between us as I spoke in monotone sentences. And when I finally stopped speaking, the silence rang in my ears. Reminding me by its incredible weight what I'd become, and what I now knew I'd lose.
"Elaina." It was whispered between us, but I felt the heavy press of its sorrow.
And I couldn't stand it.
Didn't want to hear the next words.
Better to flee.
Pushing from the hardwood floors, I made to stand, but the hand wrapped around mine tightened, pulling downward as Legolas said my name once more. Again, I pulled at my hand, trying to stand, but again, was yanked down, this time with more force as I landed hard on my butt.
I tried to turn further away, to escape, but suddenly, Legolas was surrounding me, his knees on either side of me as he straddled my hips, his hands locked against the bed on either side of me, blocking my escape. With a shove, I tried to dislodge him, but he merely gathered my wrists in his hands, pressing them against the mattress to stop my attempts.
"Elaina!" he shouted again. "Stop this. I will not allow you to run from me."
"Get off me! Let me go!" I pleaded, an edge of hysteria creeping in.
His grip suddenly changed as he pressed my hands to his chest.
"Feel. Feel the beat of my heart. Feel the pace of my breath. It is I, your husband, and I shall never harm you. But I will neither allow you to run from me again," he commanded.
My eyes were still closed, and I found myself following his commands, feeling the beat of his heart and breath. They were thumping fast, nearly frantic, as I knew my own was. But his began to slow, and my own soon followed.
"Look at me," he pleaded, his voice dropping to a whisper.
But I couldn't. Could force myself to open my eyes and see his filled with disappointment, disgust, and distrust. Instead, I felt my head dip down, my chin falling to my chest miserably.
Legolas sighed softly.
But then I felt his head dip down as wet salty lips gently brushed mine. The sensation was so startling that my eyes popped open, gazing into his tear-filled gaze, silent tears racing down to coat his soft lips.
"I'm sorry," I whispered again.
His head shook slightly from side to side as he spoke deliberately, "You do not disappoint me. You do not disgust me. And I certainly do not distrust you."
I sucked in a surprised gasp.
His smile gentled. "Your thoughts slipped through as your emotions heightened." Then his expression turned serious. "Never do you have to fear losing my love. I am bound to you for all time, and not even given the choice would I have it otherwise. My heart bleeds to know the struggles you have endured, but it does not change you. You are still my love. And I can feel your sorrow and fear as you speak of your struggles. You are still the embodiment of my heart. You have not hidden the nature of your father's kindred, and I cannot fault that nature coming forth under the shadow of such horror. I feel your sorrow for this happening, and I know you did not wish it."
My fingers toyed with the loose cotton of the shirt Legolas wore, my eyes fixed on my fingers. "I may not have wanted it to happen, Legolas, but it did. And when it was happening, I wanted it. And I can still feel that need—that hunger—slithering around inside of me. Waiting. What if I'm never rid of it? How do I even go about it?"
I could see the confusion that marked his face, but he shook his head. "I know not, but we shall overcome this obstacle together."
"You can't understand. You can't understand what I did, and you can't understand what it's like to be alive again after having been dead. How hard that is. How silly everything in life seems," I responded.
The frustrated sigh came again as he pushed away from me, swiveling to sit beside me on the floor once more. But my right hand remained clasped in his warm one.
"You would feel less ill at ease discussing these struggles with Lord Glorfindel?" he suddenly asked.
My eyes darted surreptitiously out the corner of my eyes as I wondered whether or not to answer. When Legolas had found me by the fountain, he had demanded to know what had upset me and what I'd been doing so far from the main part of the colony, and when I'd admitted to speaking with Glorfindel about our shared experiences, it would have taken a blind person not to see the hurt in his eyes that I'd confided in someone else.
"He's been through some of what I have. Plus I don't care what he thinks of me," I carefully explained.
Legolas was silent for several minutes. He was quiet for so long, that I finally turned to face him.
"If this is your wish, and should Lord Glorfindel be willing, I shall not object. My only hope is for the anguish you feel to heal. For it to fade from memory. If he is the one to help you, I shall be glad in my heart," he slowly answered, not looking at me but straight ahead.
I reached across with my left hand and pressed it to his chest. "Are you sure that's okay?" I pressed, knowing well that he wanted me to share even this with him, but knowing I couldn't tell him everything, and without working through it all, that I would always be haunted by it.
He turned to face me, carefully wrapping an arm around my shoulders and pulling me closer into his side as I noted fresh tears in his eyes.
"My only wish is to see you healed. How it occurs is irrelevant in the end. If Lord Glorfindel can help you as I cannot, then I shall be grateful to him."
I collapsed further into him, hearing the bite of bitterness in his voice as he spoke, but grateful that he would give this a chance. He pulled my legs over his own, nearly pulling me completely onto his lap as my tears let loose.
Maybe nothing could heal my spirit in the end. Maybe I could live thousands of years like Glorfindel obviously had and still be haunted by the memories, still be captivated by the primal hunger we'd both awoken in ourselves.
Maybe there was no fixing me.
But I knew I could try with Glorfindel's help. And I knew I wouldn't have to force any more of a blight onto Legolas's soul.
Glorfindel and I had already descended into the primeval, and I found myself for once praying to the gods and the Valar that we could indeed help each other.
But if I was already lost to that darkness, I'd make certain I didn't bring Legolas low, too.
I wouldn't submit his soul to the torture of continually talking about what I'd done.
My life had become a mess, but I wouldn't bring Legolas with me into the pit if that was my destination.
I would at least protect him.
Neither of us moved until the sunlight warmed our room; we merely clung to each other and our own hopes.
A/N: This one-shot is for Rhennan, whose review came at just the right time to kick me in the butt and get me in gear to finish writing this one-shot, which had been sitting half-written for a while now.
Also, if there is any confusion between where the story-arc epilogue in To Honor left Lane and Legolas in Middle-earth, I will remind you that it was from Legolas's POV and so he didn't know about what things Lane was and wasn't telling him.
I also had purposefully written a few things the way I did so that if I didn't ever write any more one-shots or a sequel for this series, it would have some resolution to the ending, and not leave things too open-ended.
Hopefully this one-shot doesn't leave things open-ended either, but at least in my mind, there are still things to be addressed and resolved. We'll just have to see if I get to them. ;)
Thanks so much again to everyone for reading the trilogy before this, and now this one-shot. And thanks so much for those of you who take the time to leave a review.
You guys are wonderful!