Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings.
All That Remains
Rated: T for violence and some curse words.
Summary: Five year-old Legolas is captured by orcs and taken to Dol Guldur, where he is given to an assassin to be trained. The Nazgûl underestimated their assassin's new-found hatred of the Enemy however. Their plan backfires when a deadly but good Legolas escapes, hiding from the kin who think him dead and killing orcs from the shadows...
Time-line: Pre-LOTR onward, AU. Eventually becomes extremely AU.
Main Characters: Legolas, Thranduil, Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, Glorfindel, Erestor, others.
Eventual Main Characters: Aragorn. (You'll just have to wait and see about the others. Hint: Dwarves, Hobbits, and some Men) :)
Warnings: AU. Some changes in Middle-earth history. Large time skips leading up to the main plot.
Relationships: Gen, some OC/OC. I have no pairings planned at the moment.
Original Character Guide: Royal Family of Mirkwood
Luineth: Queen of Mirkwood, Thranduil's wife, Legolas's mother
Aglar: Thranduil and Luineth's oldest son, Crown Prince of Mirkwood
Hannel: Thranduil and Luineth's oldest daughter, second child
Megilag: Second son, third child
Barhad: Third son, older twin, fourth child
Bereneth: Second daughter, younger twin, fifth child
Fael: Fourth son, sixth child*
*Note: Legolas is 2,100 years younger than Fael
Third Age 2531. (480 years ago...)
The forest was silent. Not a whisper of wind rustled the boughs of the sturdy branches above. Not a single insect buzzed or drifted between the bright flowers that grew at the bases of the trees. No birds sang sweet notes to the sky, filling the void with their song. No animals called to each other or rustled through the undergrowth. It was as if all of nature was unwilling to break the heavy silence that lay heavily on the forest. And so the darkening woods were silent.
Then, there was a scream.
The scream ripped through the silent air like a sharp knife cutting through flesh, savagely breaking the heavy silence. The terrible wail was worse than the sound of a dying animal, filled with uncomprehending pain and grief. The heartbreaking animal-like screams changed slowly, transforming into desperate words.
"Luineth! Luineth!" a voice sobbed. "Luineth, my love, please wake!"
In the middle of the forest was a battlefield. Elven and orc bodies were strewn across the path, with the slain corpses of horses mingling with those of their masters. Discarded swords and arrows peppered the ground and surrounding trees, left where they had fallen. A small group of five elves were huddled silently in the center of the massacre, standing in a circle around two fallen shapes. One was holding the other in a tight embrace, sobbing as he rocked her back and forth. The other, the one being held, was unmoving.
Thranduil, King of Mirkwood, sat beneath the silent trees, sobbing into the blood-covered silver hair of his wife. A bloody dagger was clutched in her right hand, the black blood on the blade contrasting sharply with the wound on her chest. Silver-blue eyes stared sightlessly at the sky, filled with pain and fear even in death. Luineth, Queen of Mirkwood, was dead.
Just that morning, Luineth had decided to take a ride out in the forest, Thranduil and their youngest at her side. Before the party could depart however, one of the King's advisers had intercepted him with an urgent letter that required his immediate attention. While Thranduil had been trying to gracefully excuse himself from the adviser's presence, Luineth had gone ahead, riding out with some guards into the forest. Thranduil had been able to escape the adviser five minutes later. And five minutes made all the difference. A simple ride outside the palace had turned into a fatal trap as the Queen and her guards were attacked by orcs out in the forest. Thranduil's party had arrived in time to see Luineth fall to an orc's blade. When Thranduil reached his wife, ignoring the orc who fled the moment he saw the King, she was already dead.
The King's Guards did not move or speak as their Lord whispered and pleaded with his wife to wake up, to come back to him. They could see him shattering, weakening before their very eyes. They dared not interrupt, their own hearts breaking at the sight of their beloved Queen. They could not even find the will to bury or check their deceased comrades, overcome by the grief of their King. So they merely stood in a protective circle around him, faces blank and minds numb. If another group of orcs happened upon the elves, they would have found little fight in them.
The King's begging trailed into nothingness, replaced by wordless whimpers and sobs. Thranduil clung to his dead wife like one clinging to a lifeline, cheek resting on her bloody hair. He could feel her body cooling in his arms, the warmth fleeing with the life that had resided within it.
Finally, after almost a half hour of silence and numbness, Thranduil looked up. The King's blue eyes were wild, terror and grief warring for dominance within him. His pale lips moved in slow movements, the cause of his desperate break from mindless grief coming out in the form of a name.
"Legolas." At the sound of the name, the warriors shifted, looking at their King. "Where's my son?" Thranduil croaked, looking around the bloody clearing. "Where is Legolas? WHERE IS HE?"
One by one, expressions of horror replacing the blank masks as they realized the reason for their King's distress. Legolas, the five year-old Prince and Thranduil's youngest child, had gone out riding with the Queen and her guards that fateful morning. And he was nowhere to be found. There was no small body among the slain elven warriors and hulking masses of dead orcs. Which only left one possibility. Thranduil snapped into action, the thoughts of his young son clearing his mind. For the moment anyway.
"Thimben, Aduial! Return to the castle and get our best trackers. You must follow the orcs' trail!"
The two named warriors hesitated, unwilling to leave their King with so little protection.
"Go!" Thranduil ordered and the warriors rode away at top speed. The King turned back to his wife, breathing harsh, and spoke to her softly, gently brushing her hair out of her face. "We'll find him. We'll find him, my love. They won't have him."
Many leagues away, near the edge of the Mirkwood forest, a horde of orcs ran swiftly through the forest, footsteps sounding like thunder in a storm. Around them, the trees grew steadily darker as they grew closer to their destination: Dol Guldur. The band of orcs moved at a steady, rhythmic pace, looking like an army of demons with their black skin and cruel yellow eyes. In the sea of black a tiny spot of pale gold and white could be seen.
Legolas, the youngest Prince of Mirkwood, was afraid. He had been out riding with his mother when the band of scary monsters had attacked their guards, killing three of them before the other elves could react. Legolas did not know how the orcs had sneaked up on the guards. His second big brother, Megilag, always said that the trees would warn the Wood Elves if any enemies were nearby. Yet the guards had been taken completely by surprise. Legolas remembered his mother covering his eyes as screams ripped through the air around them.
"Run, my Queen!" one of the guards had shouted before being cut down.
And so Luineth had spurred their horse, only to have the white stallion shot down by a black arrow. Legolas and the Queen had been thrown free of the falling horse, Luineth rising to her feet immediately in defense as the orcs— so many orcs— charged them. The orcs had quickly overwhelmed her— she was no warrior—, pushing easily past the Queen's defense and grabbing Legolas. The Prince had screamed for his mother as rough hands pulled him out of safety, whisking him away from the battle faster than he could blink. Rushed away by the eager orcs, he did not see his mother fall.
Legolas had screamed for hours, beating the orc's shoulder with tiny fists and getting nothing but a harsh shake for his efforts. If Legolas was older he would have wondered why the orcs did not threaten him for making noise. Instead, they merely focused on running, caring more about putting distance between them and the elves than the quietness of their captive. Eventually the Prince quieted, going limp over his captor's shoulder as the hours passed.
Legolas did not know what to do. His older brothers and Bereneth had told him stories about their encounters with orcs, stories that scared Legolas and made Nana scold them. orcs were evil, mean creatures, Legolas knew, ones who liked to kill and hurt elves. The young Prince was afraid of what the orcs wanted with him, especially since his family would always look scared and sad whenever he asked what happened to elves that orcs captured. He just knew that they never came back.
Ada will come after me when Nana tells him what happened. Legolas thought. So will Aglar and Hannel and Megilag and Barhad and Bereneth and Fael. They'll rescue me.
Yet as the hours went on and no help came, the young elfling grew worried. The trees around him were steadily growing darker, their angry murmurs reaching his young ears and making him shiver. The trees did not like him. He did not know why they hissed and spat at him but they did, cringing away from his inner light. Nervous among their anger, Legolas tried to shrink in on himself, which was impossible while hanging over an orc's shoulder.
"Stop squirming, tree-rat!" the orc carrying him snarled, making the Prince freeze instantly.
He managed to stay perfectly still for a couple minutes, but remaining like that quickly grew difficult. Legolas wiggled in an attempt to get more comfortable.
"I said keep still!" the orc snapped, giving the elfling a harsh shake.
Legolas gave a surprised yelp as his chin slammed into the orc's armor. Instantly, the orc's arm was grabbed by another, a threatening growl emerging from his throat.
"Careful with that. The Witch-King wants him unharmed." the second orc growled, cuffing the first with an armored fist.
The orc carrying Legolas hissed in pain, giving the other a hate-filled glare. "The little twit was trying to break free! I was just discouraging him."
The second orc looked unconvinced. "Of course you were." he sneered. "I didn't know you were so incompetent that you can't keep hold of a tiny tree-rat!"
The offended orc gave an enraged snarl and lunged for the second, fist connecting with the other's chin. Legolas gave a shriek as the second orc retaliated, bowling his carrier over and sending all three of them to the ground. The Elf Prince was thrown free of the tussling orcs, cringing as the others continued to march around him and a large, booted foot barely missed his head. Before he could be trampled, the other orcs halted, focusing on the fight. Shouts of encouragement for the two brawlers rippled through the ranks, until the entire group was calling bets on the winner.
Legolas quickly realized that no attention was on him. Careful to keep low to the ground and not touch anyone he passed, the small Prince scurried through the legs of the surrounding orcs. None noticed him as he hurried through their ranks as fast as he dared. As shouts, grunts, and screams came from the two fighters, the orcs grew even more frenzied, crazed by blood-lust. Legolas whimpered and gasped as spear-butts slammed down in front of him and large feet stomped in an erratic rhythm. Miraculously, he made it to the edge of the mass, taking a single step out of the circle of orcs braying for blood. A large hand grabbed his hair, forcing a scream of pain from the elfling.
"Where do you think you're going?" the orc who held him growled. He turned angry yellow eyes on the crowd of spectators and bellowed. "At attention you stinking half-wits!"
The orcs flinched or jumped, attention swiftly diverted, and scurried back into formation, purposely forming up around the Prince and his captor. Form Legolas's height, it seemed like the giant orcs were blocking out the sun with their dark skin and armor. The Prince's heart sank as his chance at freedom was literally blocked off. The orc that held him strode forward with long strides, ignoring the elfling's pained gasps as he struggled to keep pace so that his hair would not be pulled. The orc released him, turning his attention to the two brawling orcs that stood rigidly at attention. Without a word of warning the orc— the Captain of the horde— punched them both in the gut. Both orcs bent over double, wheezing and gasping for breath.
"Bloody idiots!" the orc Captain snarled. "Your little scuffle almost let the tree-rat get away!"
"But he was—" the orc who had been carrying Legolas began.
The Captain slapped his subordinate across the face, two of the lackey's yellowed teeth ripping free of his gums. The orc spat the teeth on the ground but did not speak again.
"Let's get moving!" the orc Captain shouted, planning to punish the two more thoroughly later. "The adult tree-rats will be here soon."
He turned to Legolas but the elfling stepped back, wondering if he could stall for time. Just long enough for his father or the warriors to get there. The little Prince did not know that the orc Captain had left several false trails behind him, good enough to confuse any trackers of Mirkwood. By the time the warriors fought off the spiders they would encounter and circled back to find the real trail, the orcs would be long gone.
"My Nana will tell my Ada you took me and he'll come rescue me." Legolas said bravely, unaware that no help would be coming any time soon.
Around him, the orcs laughed. Legolas looked at them all in confusion. The large orc leaned down in front of him, making the elfling recoil from his horrid breath.
"Your mother's dead, tree-rat." the orc captain sneered.
Legolas's mouth snapped shut and he stared at the orc mutely. Although he did not fully understand death, he knew what it was. When he was the human equivalent of a three year-old, the young Prince had owned a pet rabbit named Floppy. One day, the curious bunny had escaped the palace into the stables, and got trampled by a startled horse. Legolas had found the animal and gone running into the palace, bursting into tears as he begged the first person he met— Hannel— to make Floppy better. Hannel had gently taken the dead rabbit from her brother and cradled in her arms, quietly explaining that Floppy had been badly injured, so injured that his spirit had moved on to eternal rest. That was the first time the Prince had heard of death.
Legolas did not fully understand what "death" meant, but he did know that the person person who had died was not coming back. In other words, the orc had taken his mother away. The elfling stared unblinkingly at the orc with eyes that seemed to age rapidly, holding the cold anger of a much older and more vengeful elf. The orc froze as the silver-blue eyes pierced him, pinning him in place with an ancient power.
"I will kill you for hurting my Nana." the Prince vowed quietly, in a voice that matched his too-old eyes.
The orc captain flinched and retreated to the front of the group, eager to get away from those terrifying eyes. Even as he was picked up and thrown over a shoulder once more, Legolas's gaze followed the orc, marking him in his mind. He would remember this conversation. He would remember the orc. And one day, the orc would pay for taking away his mother. The orc would pay with his life.
Thranduil sat in his throne room, shoulders hunched and head down with his golden hair falling into his face. His crown was crooked on his head and his skin was pale, eyes red-rimmed from tears and stress. The two guards standing on the inside of the doors shifted uncomfortably, never before having seen their King look so defeated. Thranduil did not bother trying to pretend to be strong and unmoved by his losses. Luineth's death and Legolas's current missing status had taken it's toll on the King. He was more vulnerable now than he had ever been, as if a breath of wind would make him shatter. Thranduil, who was always the image of confidence and strength, was a mere shadow of his former self, lost deep in his thoughts.
His grief for his wife was a stain upon his soul, but his fear for his lost son was what overwhelmed the King, taking away his breath and will. Thranduil wanted nothing more than to be with the patrol— led by his eldest son, Aglar— that was searching for Legolas, but knew he would only hinder the search rather than help. He could feel the numbness of grief creeping up on him but refused to fall into it. He had to remain alert. He had to know his youngest son was all right before he crumbled.
The rest of his family was nowhere to be found. Thranduil was not sure whether he should be grateful or upset. Aglar was with the patrol searching for his youngest sibling. His two daughters and third son— the even-tempered Hannel, fiery Bereneth, and her calm twin Barhad— were all in Lothlorien. The twins were there visiting Hannel and her husband, as they did every year since the eldest sister had decided to live in her husband's realm. The rest of Thranduil's children— stern Megilag and mischievous Fael— were in Rivendell visiting Elrond's sons.
Normally Thranduil's thoughts would be filled with laughter as he imagined what pranks Fael and the devious twins would play on poor Glorfindel and Erestor, but now all his thoughts were dark with fear and grief. How would his children react when the messengers arrived with the news of their mother's death? Thranduil had not the heart to tell them of Legolas's capture.
By the time they arrive in Mirkwood, little Greenleaf will be home, the father thought determinedly, forcing himself to believe his thoughts. He had to believe his youngest would be returned home, safe and sound. He had to.
Legolas had been an unexpected surprise for the Royal Family of Mirkwood. It had been over two thousand years since the birth of their sixth child, Fael. Both Thranduil and Luineth were overjoyed when they discovered they would be adding one more member to the family. The Palace had gotten quieter since their first six children had grown into adults, all heading out into the world. They all still lived in the palace of course, but the noticeable absence of an elfling's laughter had saddened the parents' hearts.
The youngest Prince's birth had not been an easy one. Luineth had gone into labor more than a month early, and the healer's had feared the baby would not survive. But he had, and ten hours later Thranduil found himself holding a tiny elfling with a tuft of blonde fuzz on his head. It was a blonde so pale it looked almost silver or white, a unique color not only among the Royal family but among all Silvan Elves as well. The rest of Legolas's siblings had gotten their parent's hair, be it Thranduil's gold or Luineth's silver locks.
Legolas had looked so delicate and frail in his large hands. For the first time since the birth of Aglar, the Elvenking had felt that he was going to drop or break the tiny baby that relied so much on him. But then the babe's eyes had fluttered open exposing Thranduil to orbs of innocent silver-blue. Legolas was the only child to inherit his mother's unique silver-blue eyes. Looking back, Thranduil remembered the comfort he had felt when he gazed into the curious eyes of his youngest child.
"You are destined for great things, little one." he remembered saying. "My little Greenleaf."
And so the King and Queen had named him Legolas, after the green leaves that flourished out in the spring. But now the green leaves of spring had been captured by the darkest of shadows. Thranduil shuddered once, shivering the sudden cold that came from within his heart.
The creak of a moving hinge was like a cannon blast in the silence. The King's head snapped up and he rose to his feet, hope entering his gaze as his eldest son entered the room. Aglar closed the door firmly behind him before turning to face his father. Thranduil's sharp eyes instantly spotted the bloody strip of cloth on his son's forearm.
"What happened?" he asked his eldest, urgently striding forward to inspect the wound.
Aglar did not resist as his father as the King took his arm, gently touching the area next to the small gash. "Spider attack. The orcs left a false trail into a Spider nest. No one was killed, but Heled was poisoned. The healers gave him the antidote though so he'll be all right." The Crown Prince avoided his father's intense blue eyes, unable to look him in the face and give him the news. "We circled back and tracked the orcs as far South as we dared, but the trail led into the Shadowed part of Mirkwood. The trees attacked Glamor and blocked the way so... we had to turn back. But the path we were following... I... I believe they have taken Legolas to Dol Guldur." Aglar choked on the words he uttered, feeling as if he were giving his little brother a death sentence. The fortress of Dol Guldur was currently housing the Nazgûl, including the dreaded Witch-King. If Legolas had indeed been taken to the dreaded fortress, it practically was a death sentence. Few elves went into Dol Guldur. None came out.
The King's face crumpled and he turned away from his son, tears breaking free as he brought a shaking hand to cover his eyes. "What do they want with him?" Thranduil whispered, anguished. "Will they torture him until he becomes one of them? Will they kill him? Why? Why did they take my son?! Valar have mercy, he's just a child! My youngest child..."
Aglar strode forward, hugging his father as his own grief and self-disappointment broke his emotionless mask. Thranduil's knees buckled and he sank to the ground, his son falling with him to their knees. The guards shut their eyes as their King and his Heir cried, their grief making the stone walls of the palace seem even colder.
Ciaran, Man of the North watched expressionlessly with cold hazel eyes as the band of orcs marched into Dol Guldur. While many men would have left the room or shied away at the sight of the monsters, the Dunedain did not move from the spot in which he stood, glaring at the orcs as they halted in front of him. Beside him stood a tall, black-cloaked figure which emitted a feeling of malice that could send ice into the hearts of the bravest souls. Ciaran was unaffected by the Witch-King's evil aura, ignoring like a person who was not an animal-lover ignored their friend's dog. He was not afraid of the Witch-King. Ciaran was not afraid of anything. Not anymore.
Apathy and anger were the emotions most commonly found in the man, nothing else. This was an excellent mindset for a man of his profession. It would not do for an assassin to falter after all. The man was a unique one among the inhabitants of Dol Guldur, both because of his profession and his mix of powerlessness and power. He was a prisoner yet he was not, only remaining in the Hill of Sorcery because he felt like it at the current time.
Ciaran was a wild card, not allied with the Enemy of the Free People but not aligning himself with the Free People either. He drifted, on neither side and both, depending on which side required his skills that week. Ciaran had no qualms about working for a party one day and killing them the next. He used to have morals and guidelines to his shadowy profession... but not anymore. He was no longer the man he had been before The Incident.
Needless to say, Ciaran had been perfectly capable of defeating the orcs that the Nazgûl had sent to retrieve him, he just had not felt like it. Ciaran had been an assassin without a mission, wandering from place to place and finding no work or content anywhere. He was a neutral party, had been ever since The Incident. The Incident that had hardened his heart more than any training could. Some who knew of him called him the Beserker, a man who could kill hundreds in mere seconds. Others named him the Eternal Avenger, the man who would never find peace until he died. In the dark parts of the world he was known as the Touch of Death, the assassin who could kill a man just by brushing past him and leave no trace. Ciaran was a dangerous man indeed. Without loyalty, without love, and without morals...
...or at least, that was who he was right now.
The assassin shifted slightly on his feet, watching the orcs walk by, a speck of light among the black shapes catching his eye. A single brown eyebrow rose as Ciaran spotted the source of the light. How had the orcs captured an elfling?
The orc Captain strutted forward, arrogant and proud, before bowing to the Witch-King. "My Lord, we brought what you asked for. An elfling, alive and unspoiled."
Another orc stepped forward, dropping the elfling at the Witch-King's feet. The pale-haired boy flinched as he stared up at the menacing Ringwraith. Then his chin jerked up, and he stared defiantly at the Nazgûl with determined silver-blue eyes.
"What is your name?" the Witch-King asked in his deep dark voice.
The child remained silent. His orc kidnappers answered for him. "He is Legolas Thranduilion, the youngest Prince of Mirkwood." the orc Captain said.
"A Prince of Mirkwood?" the Witch-King murmured. "Excellent." Ciaran had a feeling that if he could see the face beneath the hood, the Ringwraith would be smiling. "Ciaran of the North." the Nazgûl King said suddenly, making everyone except the assassin and the elfling jump. "Do you know why you're here?"
Ciaran stared into the black abyss beneath the Ringwraith's hood, unaffected by the fire-like eyes that glowed like a demon's from within the shadow, and shrugged carelessly. The Witch-King glided forward, walking slowly around Legolas like a wolf stalking a rabbit.
"This is why you are here, assassin. The Dark Lord Sauron has a job for you. He wants you to pass on your skills to this little elfling here."
Ciaran kept his surprise from showing on his face. "Why?" he asked.
"Lord Sauron has plenty of orcs and men to take out the armies of his enemies," the Witch-King said. "What he needs now is a special warrior— an assassin— to kill those who are not at the front lines of war. The slaying of Kings, Lords, and leaders is more delicate than what orcs and goblins are capable of. Such a profession requires... finesse. The Dark Lord has no desire to retrain assassins every time his chosen one dies, and so the answer is obvious. No race is more deadly than the elves, and even their children can be molded." The Witch-King stopped his circling, turning to stare at Ciaran. "I do not want this elfling tortured, mutilated, or beaten into submission. That is not what Lord Sauron demands. We need an assassin, quick with his mind and quicker with a blade, loyal to none but his employer. You will teach him your skills."
With these words the Witch-King grabbed the Prince by the back of his tunic, throwing him at Ciaran. The assassin deftly caught the child, setting him upright before looking up at the King of the Nazgûl.
"Very well." he said simply. He turned to look at Legolas. "Come."
With that, he walked into the depths of the fortress, and paused just inside the doorway. The elfling hesitated a moment, glancing nervously at the Witch-King before deciding he would take his chances with the strange man and hurrying after the assassin. Elf Prince and Assassin walked side by side in silence, Legolas glancing curiously at Ciaran from time to time, looking up at the assassin with wide, innocent eyes. Such innocent eyes, eyes that reminded him of—
Ciaran squashed the grief before it could fully form, his expression never changing. He did not deserve to feel grief. His hands were covered in too much blood, and his heart was too hard for such emotions. Emotions were weaknesses. Weaknesses that could be exploited. It was that weakness, that emotion, that had caused them to be— that caused The Incident. He did not deserve emotion.
So why did he have to keep reminding himself that?
Ciaran did not outwardly acknowledge the Prince's curiosity, keeping his expression stoic and cold. He halted in front of the room that the orcs had given him— a room he now knew was going to be his home for quite a while— and opened the door. The "room" was in fact four rooms, leading out to a personal training area outside. It was only now that Ciaran understood the significance of the location of the room, or perhaps the proper word would be "apartment". The apartment consisted of two bedrooms, a living area, and study, only separated by thick stone-block walls.
"This is your new home, Prince." Ciaran said bluntly. "Get used to it."
Legolas moved cautiously into the apartment, glancing around before turning back to the assassin. "I won't be here long." he said in a confident voice. "My Ada will come rescue me."
Ciaran barely stifled a scoff. With the Witch-King and Nazgûl present, plus the thousands of orcs inside the fortress, it would take the combined might of Mirkwood, Lothlorien, and Rivendell to even stand a chance in a rescue attempt. "This is your home now. And I wouldn't mention your father here. There's no need to anger the orcs. And angry orcs hurt people."
The Prince quieted, glancing nervously out the door before shuffling closer to Ciaran. "You won't let the orcs hurt me." he said quietly.
Ciaran's eyebrow inched upward at his open naivety. "Why not?"
The elfling looked up at him and Ciaran was once again caught in the innocence of those silver-blue eyes. "You will protect me because you are not a bad man." His head tipped slightly, as if he were listening to voices only he could hear. "You are very sad, but you are not a bad man."
Ciaran mentally cursed the elfling for making him so unsettled, and himself for letting him. Unwanted memories and emotions were rushing through a body he had once thought incapable of producing them. It was the eyes, he decided. The innocent, childish, pure eyes that reminded the assassin so much of him and her. He must be weaker than he thought for a child to shatter him so easily.
"Don't count on that, Prince." the assassin told the elfling, before opening the door to the smaller bedroom "This is your room. Go to bed. We start your training tomorrow."
He expected protests or exclamations about being rescued tomorrow, but none came. The tiny elfling merely nodded, taking off his dirty shoes and climbing into the bed with his day clothes on. Ciaran would have to ask for proper clothes for the child tomorrow. Before the confused assassin could retreat, Legolas's small voice sounded out of the dark depths of the room. "What's your name, Mister?"
The assassin paused in the doorway. What should the boy call him? Master? Teacher? Mentor? "I am Ciaran." The words slipped out before he could stop them and he blinked, surprised at himself.
"Nice to meet you..." the Prince mumbled, and was immediately asleep, leaving a confused assassin to retreat to his own room.
The moment Ciaran's surroundings came into focus, the assassin knew he was dreaming. His surroundings were terribly, horribly familiar, and yet he always knew that they would appear the moment he shut his eyes. He had this dream almost every night, ever since the Incident. The dream was The Incident, after all. And the dream— the memory— always started the same way. Beneath the shining sun stood a man and a woman on a porch.
"I can't do this anymore," Eithne, his wife— the one woman he ever truly loved— said. Her red hair was pulled back into a loose bun, her green eyes flashing with emotions. She was wearing the blue dress he had given her for her birthday, a small spattering of flour on the skirt from her earlier attempts at baking.
Ciaran could not stop the words that came from himself next, unable to prevent the events before him from taking place. "Eithne—"
"You said you were going to stop," the red-haired woman whispered, voice cracking. "You said you were going to get an honest job."
His dream/memory self looked at the ground, fists clenched tightly at his sides. "I know, darling and I'm sorry. Being an assassin is a part of who I am. It's all that I'm good at."
"You could use your medical knowledge to become a healer—"
"I only know some healing herbs and most of the pressure points I use are harmful or deadly."
"You could do woodwork or become a blacksmith—"
"But I will never be more than average."
And then his wife exploded, screaming at him with her eyes glowing like emerald flames. "Is that what it is? You want to be special? You think that you're only good at killing?"
His memory/dream self avoided her accusing gaze, looking out over the lush fields that surrounded their home. His voice was soft and heartbroken when he spoke again. "I am special. I was trained from childhood to kill the enemies of my father and older brother. While other children were outside playing I was throwing knives at a target. I want to be a normal farmer or baker or blacksmith for you and Brian, Eithne, but I cannot deny who I am any more than I can stop the moon from rising."
She was quiet for the longest time, piercing eyes never leaving his face. It was those eyes that had captivated him the first time they had met. Her green eyes had been filled with such wonder and innocence that he had felt moved by them, like a shadow reaching for the light. The naivety had long-since vanished from Eithne's eyes, but was now in the bright blue eyes of their son, Brian. Brian, who had just turned five years old. Finally, his wife spoke.
The one word echoed in Ciaran's mind, and the oak door had been shut before the single dreadful word had fully registered. Memory/dream Ciaran stared at the closed door, speechless, for a long five minutes.
Then he walked away.
Every single day, in the ten years since The Incident, Ciaran wished he had not left that front porch. He wished he had not gone to the nearest tavern, drinking for all he was worth. He wished he had not staggered home at one in the morning, almost too intoxicated to see straight. If he had not left, if he had not returned so late, then maybe he would have arrived in time to stop his wife and child from being murdered.
As it was, Ciaran could not change the events in his dream any more than he could change the events of the past. The assassin was grateful that the fuzziness and headache he had received from drinking did not transfer into his dreams. At the same time, he wished it did. Every time he had the dream, Ciaran was able to see the scene in perfect clarity, unlike what had happened in real life. And every time he had the dream/memory, he noticed another little detail, thought about the choices he could have made, tried to imagine the exact events of his family's deaths until his stomach clenched. Now, Ciaran lived for the extra noticed details in the mystery that had never been solved, hoping that one day he would discover who had murdered his wife and son. In the ten straight years of dreaming/remembering The Incident, no such revelation had come forth.
Ciaran saw him.
His dream/memory self was stumbling towards the front porch, not paying attention to the world around him when he— the Ciaran of the present— saw him disappearing into the forest behind the house. He was not a Man as Ciaran had expected. He was not an Elf as the assassin had thought in his darkest moments. He was not a Dwarf as the man had mused when drunk. He was not of the race of any of the Free People of Middle-earth.
He was an orc.
An icy chill trickled down Ciaran's spine as he watched the creature vanish, blending with the shadows. The creature who had killed his family, a member of the race that he had worked for many times after the Incident without a second thought, who he was working for right now. A twig snapped behind him and he twisted, stiffening as he spotted Legolas. Legolas? What was he doing in the dream? The elfling looked up at him with innocent silver-blue eyes, so different yet so similar to Brian's bright blue, and Eithne's fiery green.
As Ciaran watched the silver-blue eyes hardened, the light within them going out. Suddenly Legolas looked dangerous, like a deadly predator ready to strike. Ciaran felt an icy chill just by looking at him, the feeling of danger making his heart pound in his chest. A glint of metal caught the man's eye and he looked down, face paling with horror as he saw the bloody knife in the elfling's hand.
"So will you do it?" a voice asked from behind him.
Ciaran whipped around to find Eithne standing behind him, blood from her chest wound dried on her blue dress. Beside her stood Brian, brown-haired, blue-eyed Brian, who stared at his father with hatred in his eyes.
"Will you do what those monsters want?" Eithne asked in a cold, accusing tone.
Ciaran turned back to look at Legolas and his heart froze as he saw not the young elfling, but a small brown-haired boy with cold hazel eyes. A boy who was covered in blood but did not care. A monster to his core.
"Will you turn him into a killer..." Eithne whispered coldly in his ear. "... just like you?"
Ciaran snapped awake, eyes opening to the sight of dark stone above him. He did not breath harshly and he was not covered in perspiration like some are wont to do when waking from nightmares. Instead he was silent, and absolutely still, staring blankly at the ceiling he could barely see.
As silent as a shadow he stood, exiting his room on soft steps and entering the one adjacent to his. The Elf Prince was fast asleep, eyes open and glassy with his breathing soft and even. Ciaran stood next to the bed for a moment before sitting on the mattress's edge, trying to collect his thoughts. He could not deny many things this night. One was that he was employed by the race that had murdered his wife and son. Another was that they expected him to turn this little elfling into a cold-blooded killer. And finally... Ciaran realized he did not want to.
So now what?
The assassin knew he could easily escape Dol Guldur by himself. He could not with an elfling in tow. Firstly, the Prince's glow was a beacon in the dark fortress. Secondly, the Witch-King would be able to sense him no matter how well-hidden he was. In other words, Ciaran knew that escape was not an option, for him or the Prince. He could not leave the boy here alone, after all. Not now that he was so reminded of Brian.
And yet he had no choice but to train the innocent child. If he refused, the Witch-King would find another to turn Legolas into Sauron's Assassin. Ciaran would not allow that to happen. So what could he do?
Legolas shifted and mumbled in his sleep, sticking a thumb into his mouth. Lips twitching— Brian used to do that too— Ciaran gently took the appendage out of the elfling's mouth, receiving no protests or moves to place the thumb back where it had been. Legolas would never work for those monsters— the monsters that killed his family— not while he drew breath. The assassin gently brushed a hand over the long pale locks, smiling softly as the elfling mumbled in response. Ciaran had to save him, to keep the young one whole and good. Eithne would have wanted him too. But how?
Ciaran sat with the sleeping elfling for the longest time, trying to figure out a way to prevent the Witch-King from getting his assassin. Slowly, an idea formed in the man's mind and he grinned, a grin that was a complex mix of triumphant and pained.
Yes, I will train this child to be an assassin, he decided. But I will not train him for what you wish, vile creatures. He will not become one of your merciless killers. I will teach him compassion, morals, justice, and love. I will teach him the wonders of Middle-earth and why it is worth fighting for... even though I did not. Legolas will not work for the Enemy, he will be a warrior of the Free People of Middle-earth. I will teach him how to kill orcs. I will teach him how to fight Dark Sorcery. I will teach him how shield his mind and soul from evil, so that it may never corrupt him. I will teach him everything you want me to, but it will not be for use against the forces of Good. He will use them against you. And he will destroy you all. Prepare yourselves, servants of the Shadow. Your doom is coming!
A/N: This idea just popped into my head while I was trying to get over my writer's block on my other stories. I still have writer's block for most of my other stuff, but I have four chapters of this done so I decided to start posting it. I hope you enjoyed it!
Please review! Give me feedback!