Convergence of the Banners: Chapter Two
Powder on the Edges
A/N: Thanks to all who have reviewed the first time! Here comes Part Two.
Let the madness commence again
Convergence of the Banners
Powder on the Edges
The vast dining hall was lit brightly with the golden sheen of many torches, swimming with many laughing voices and the sweet sound of minstrel music and singing. To Legolas, though, the sounds he heard were all but sweet. It had always felt like some sort of dreamworld, when he stepped into such crowded gatherings every evening — a horrific dreamworld — in which people swirled, flitting about him mundanely, and approached him with smiles and greetings — yet only did so on a false heart. To make it short and to the point, being in company was like being immersed in a mirage panorama — a phantom world — for everything, truly, went only as far as skin deep. And Prince Legolas drifted down the long aisles between well-laden tables, robes swirling behind him, nodding as many a lovely damsel sidled up to him and lilted his name in hello, saluting with the inclination of an arm when a squire or lord approached him — but his wondrous blue eyes, during all of it, were glazed, and lifeless — for he saw nothing but mere apparitions about him, and meaningless ghosts.
And indeed, if he were not the Prince Legolas, he would not be facing ghosts. He would be contending against demons.
During all of the pre-dining sermon he remained emotionless. Rarely did he converse with anybody, or even do so much as say a word; and when he finally sat down in his chair, next to his repulsive brothers, his appetite had all but gone. That was why he was so thin — a living wraith, people had dubbed him, as opposed to Nimaran, who was quite well-built, and the others, Gaerdrin and Tirilan, who were incapable of getting any bit fat even if they each ate a roasted ox. Legolas's gold fork would simply move, up and down, up and down, very slowly, in a monotonous fashion, while his eyes were fixed in some faraway corner of the room — and when he was not picking scantily at his food, he would simply stare down at his fare and order them around his plate with his utensil. And all the while during the meal, as he would remain oblivious, sunk in his own world, his older siblings would openly dart sneers at him — and the King, who sat at the head of the High Table on a raised, jeweled throne-dais, would look upon the Prince with smoldering eyes.
Tonight, as opposed to the regular dining, a whispering knot of advisors stood not far from the High Table, eyeing the eating occupants. One of them inched over, and, discreetly, gave Legolas a little nudge on the shoulder.
The Elf Prince jumped, cast violently out of his reverie.
"Wha — yes?"
The face of Larëndil, one of the high-ranked counselors of Thrandul, swam into view in front of him.
"My prince!" he said brightly. "I have a question for you."
Legolas furrowed his brow.
"Were you not sent to Gondor a short moment ago as ambassador to King Elessar?"
So new traveled fast in the Palace, indeed. Legolas swallowed his small mouthful of potatoes and nodded.
Larëndil sighed, and, motioning to a servant, had a chair brought up next to Legolas's station. He sat down, adjusting his long robes, and the Prince set his fork down and scooted a bit over to him.
"I have tried my utmost to dissuade my lord," Larëndil said in undertone to Legolas. "But it seems that he is adamant about his decision, no matter whether it is plain folly or not. But he is not being very wise about sending you - I am terribly worried about your wellbeing out there, your Highness."
Legolas opened his mouth, on the verge of saying something, but he checked himself in time and gave a deep nod.
It was Larëndil's turn to frown. "Do you not know of the events that have occurred between your father Thranduil and your friend Telcontar as of late?"
"Everybody has been talking about it," Legolas replied, quickly. "Even my brothers —"
Nimaran, Gaerdrin and Tirilan perked up and whipped in their direction. It took one of Larëndil's more malevolent and piercing stares to make them resume on their eating.
"Of course everybody has," he mouthed at the Prince. "But, do you realize, they tell only of the situation, and not of the facts behind it?"
Legolas bit him lip.
Larëndil shook his head. "I am afraid everybody is hiding something from you," he said.
"Shhh! Not so loud! But yes, hiding something."
Oh, then it was no whatsoever surprise. Legolas lowered a black eyebrow.
"Something that concerns you, your Highness," Larëndil answered, so softly that even Legolas, who was only a few inches away from him, had trouble hearing the words. But of course, Thranduil sat only a few yards away from both of them — and his father probably had even sharper ears.
"Me? Something about me?"
Larëndil made a small noise of disdain and leaned so close that his breath played on the tip of Legolas's nose. "Of course it is about you," he replied faintly. "And it is a conspiracy, regarding you, my Prince."
Legolas swallowed and bit his finely chiseled lower lip, which was white.
"I would like to know what sort of conspiracy it is, your Excellency."
The counselor-in-chief gave another soft pshaw and shook his head, sending a few auburn strands flying. "Your father the King is so adept at enforcing secrets that even I do not know. Nor do my lower colleagues have any hint of what it might be"
"But it concerns Gondor," deduced Legolas. "And why I was sent there also ties it in."
"Why, most certainly. But even given these leads, I can only speculate."
The prince nodded and turned back to his golden plate.
"You know," he remarked, "I leave, first thing tomorrow."
Larëndil's face turned into one of alarm. "Tomorrow?" he hissed, incredulity flecked in his deep wont. "Has my lord gone mad?" He started wagging his head violently. "No, noif you depart anytime within this season, nay, the year, you shall not be safe. And of all places he has sent you to — where in Gondor?"
"The capital city, of course," answered the Prince. "Minas Tirith."
Larëndil wrung his hands in a very out-of-character display of anxiety. Legolas, seeing his reaction, was very much confused by it all.
"Why would I not be safe?" he demanded, and gave Larëndil's wide sleeve a small tug.
The older elf bounded out of his chair. "I do not know for sure," he admitted, hastily — "though I do feel it in myself, very strongly. No, your father has made a grave mistake. I shall go see him now —"
Legolas seized Larëndil's robes and yanked him back down into a sitting position. "You know Father does not like to be interrupted in his meals," he breathed, seething from his own pummeling heartbeat. "And, besides, he is extremely angry with me today —"
"He is always angry with you," retorted Larëndil. "And that makes a very bad impression on me, my Prince — he spoils the others, and yet he prides in giving you beating rounds —"
"I have heard that," said another voice, this one slurred and tinged with snobbery. Both the counselor and the prince jumped, jolted rather badly, and they turned their heads about.
The silver-haired Corilan, chief advisor and Grand Vizier to Thranduil, stood in front of them, nose lobbed high in the air and hands held behind his back in an imperious attitude. In front of him stood a young male elf, blond and unusually attractive — one of the cupbearers of the King — and with his bare arms he held a gold tray, on which rested a jeweled pewter goblet and a bowl of large figs.
"And indeed, I know why your father is not happy with you," continued Corilan, relishing in the snarl that was developing on the rival Larëndil's handsome face. "You have been too much absorbed in your own silly affairs to — er- devote — the proper amount of time to your duty as prince, and your kingdom."
Larëndil, who wholly backed Legolas, snorted sharply. The Prince only shifted, sat up a bit taller, and eyed Corilan back with his most dazzling stare — making the elf-lord recoil ever so slightly.
"Whatwhat is that for?" the Prince asked, turning and gesturing abstractly at the cupbearing boy, and the tray in his hands.
"Oh!" Corilan said, and his face brightened. He reached out both arms and took the tray from the boy. "This is your way to — win — some favor back from your dear father. Go up to him and present this to him, I'm sure he'll like it. King Thranduil has always a weakness for good fruit and wine — and he will not be mad at you, I am sure of it."
Legolas tossed his flaxen tresses and laughed hollowly. "Indeed!" he jested. "I shall be astounded if he doesn't slap the tray out of my hands when I approach him."
Corilan glared momentarily before reverting to his little, crooked smile. "That is not the way to go about life, my most sadistic Highness," he lectured spiffily, pursing his lips. "And, if what you fear does indeed happen, I shall owe you a generously-sized sack full of gems, or gold, or whatever you desire. But I think Thranduil would have better sense than to disgrace his own son in front of such a large gathering —"
"Thranduil treats his son worse than a slave," muttered Larëndil vehemently, out of the corner of his mouth.
Corilan snorted back at him, then pretended not to have heard anything at all. He leaned forward almost in a bow, in some sort of strange attitude — and with both hands he presented the tray to Legolas.
"My Prince," he intoned.
Legolas frowned and tilted his eyebrows, and hesitated for quite some time. Larëndil was watching him, apprehensively — and, after nearly a minute's fidgeting debate, the elf-prince finally rose, and took the tray out of Corilan's hands.
"If this goes wrong," he sneered at the Vizier, on a sudden impulse of rebelliousness, "the blame is on you, your Excellency."
Corilan gave a soft laugh in submissiveness and stepped respectfully to one side, looking very much pleased with himself. Larëndil's eyes were trained in a furious glare upon Corilan — as if he wished to strike him for daring to a Prince around in such a fashion.
But, Legolas admitted to himself that his limbs were shaking quite badly as he slowly approached the throne-dais, the tray in his hands. The pewter goblet clattered somewhat loudly — and Legolas took a chance to peer inside at its contents as he went. It was a reddish sort of wine — perhaps the strong grape varieties spawned from Esgaroth, on Long Lake — yes, it really was — blood red, with the unmistakable pinkish tint. And on the edges of the cup, where the dark, translucent liquid met the electrum-colored metal, there lingered some sort of yellowish, powdery substance that strongly reminded Legolas of flour.
Yellowish, powdery substance?
The Prince halted abruptly and stared openly into the cup. Of course, every single monarch, royal and court character knew what powder sticking to the sides of a cup of wine meant.
Who in Iluvatar's name was Corilan?
Legolas whirled around so violently that the goblet was nearly upset, hair fluttering quite impressively about him, and trained his eyes in a mixture of disbelief and fury at the elf-lord who stood at his spot. Corilan wore a mysterious half-smile — as if he either had expected Legolas's action, or had completely disregarded it. Legolas's frantic heartbeats were shaking his entire frame, and he felt two powerful sensations acting at once — a leaden weight descending into his insides, accompanied by a torrential maëlstrom of cold water swirling up into his stomach, threatening to drown his lungs as well. His vision blurred, and it seemed as if everything in front of his eyes had slanted sharply, and were distorting themselves fast into grotesque shapes. His head throbbed — and he didn't know whether to faint dead away on the spot, or scream and cast both the tray, and its contents, into Corilan's sallow face.
"Boy! What are you doing, out of your seat?"
A tomblike silence fell amidst the vast gathering, and, with large quivering eyes, knees slowly turning into pudding, Legolas turned around to the speaker. His father had seen him with the tray, and now stood up from his throne-dais.
"What is it?"
The Prince struggled to open his mouth, but it was as if somebody had fused it shut with a dab of the hobbit's treacle-tart treat, and was impossible to open. And, when he did succeed in wrenching his teeth apart, he could only utter a stream of incoherent babblings.
"SPEAK!!!" roared Thranduil.
Then, suddenly, unexplainably, an ethereal calm fell upon the once quaking Legolas — and slowly, with feet turned into heavy metal, he advanced upon the King.
"Your wine, my lord," he spoke out — and, goblet rattling faintly as his hands shook, he held out the tray to Thranduil. His mind screamed a brief protest at him, but it was instantly shut out by something else, more powerful. It was as if somebody had taken over all his functions — his actions, his emotions, everything — and he were in total enslavement of body and mind.
What was he doing?
Thranduil simply looked at his son — and he stood, poised, stone still as if he were modeling for a sculptor's statue — and his eyes drifted from the Prince and fell upon the goblet, and the bowl of figs.
Then, something within Legolas snapped. His senses flooded without abandon back into his ravaged mind — and, on impulse — both without warning, and overwhelmingly strong — he did the most stupid thing he had ever done in his entire elven life.
"I know what you thinkFather," he croaked. "You are afraid for your safety."
Though Legolas could not see, and did not see, Corilan behind him widened his eyes. Larëndil slowly stood up from his chair — and the other three princes' forks dropped with three sharp clatters that rang throughout the entire vast hall.
"Then, I, Legolas Greenleaf, your son, shall drink some of this wine beforehandto test it." And, without even a second thought or reconsideration — in some sort of bitter resignation, almost - Legolas reached out his hand, picked up the goblet — and downed a full mouthful into his throat.
Still it was dead silence that succeeded the act, followed by the chink as the cup was set back onto the tray — and the Prince slowly set his burden down upon the nearby table, his two eyes glassy and staring, mouth frozen. To Legolas, the wine tasted like wine — with just a slightly funny tinge to it — and for a few terrifying seconds, nothing happened. Then, an odd ringing began developing in his ears, followed by a pounding, then a thrashing, it seemed — and his head chilled tremendously, then caught on fire, and was compressed in a screw-drive. His arms and legs went tingly, then lost all sensation, becoming numb. The blurs then turned into bright swirls, and then fireworks and stars — and he became deaf to all but a faint buzzing that resonated in his skull. And it was as if somebody had snaked a strong elven rope about his neck, and was slowly tightening it, and tightening it, forbidding any air to enter his windpipe — then slowly, but gradually, the buzzing became louder, the pain ever more vicious, the explosions ever more bright — and his limbs ever more dead.
Yes, Corilan's poison was strong. And he was to die, quite soon. Very soon.
Thranduil saw his son stand where he was, erect as a pillar, for several silent minutes — and his subjects watched the Prince, some in shock, others in horror, along with him. They saw the color fly like magic out of his face, making the blue streaks of veins become grotesquely visible, and his temples throbbed red, while the fingers became ashen gray. Finally, Legolas swayed — once, twice, three times — like the delicate little leaf he was, caught in a merciless gale, bitten with frost — and in a swirl of shining silk and pale gold tresses he turned up his eyes, and slumped down onto the floor with a hollow thud. He was dead.
End Part Two
Final A/N: Whew! This chapter took a long time to pen — damned writer's block. Evil school is underway for me, so expect less updates — but I shall try to wring up Chapter Three in a week or two. Until later, Kudos! ~ Verok
And, ohfor your information, post-script: I did NOT kill Legolas off. I would never do that V.