Title: Prince of Dol Guldur
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Third Age of the Sun
Genre: Action/Adventure, AU
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Legolas, Thrandui (, OCs)
Summary: Mirkwood Elves live constantly under an influence of a shadow, and it isn’t too hard to cross the line to the side of darkness... Legolas learns this as he meets a stranger in the woods, who desires to show him a new way to see the world.
Part of the history of “The Last Journey”. Complete.
Warnings: Death, evil, darkness, violence, etc.
The morning came as pale and hollow as the night before, the mist slowly vanishing. Despite the sun that had already risen, the air was still cold, making Shannai’s breath steam. He had never favoured conditions like this, and more than anything at the moment he hoped that the sun would bless him and shine brighter in the near future.
Hopping to another branch to keep himself awake, Shannai looked around, seeing only a few of the warriors on the nearby trees. Everyone had scattered out, trying to find a mark of some sort. Asthaldo said that we are getting nearer to the place where the yesterday’s evil was released. I wonder what we shall find there…
A sharp whistle rang through the air, making all the Elves halt for a moment. Then they all continued to the direction of the signal, dropping to the ground as they met two of their fellow warriors waiting for them. “What is it?” Dínnor asked as he reached the ones who had given the call.
“We found something a few miles ahead,” one of the Elves said. “A group of dead Orcs.”
“Dead Orcs?” Shannai mused, confused.
Dínnor gestured the youth to be silent, turning back to the warriors who had found the corpses. “Let’s gather the group and head out there. It may give us a clue. Sent a message to the nearest patrols as well. They should keep their eyes open.”
“I am sure they are doing so, my Lord,” one of the Elves said. “Closest to us is Thrénandu’s group, and I am sure he will not let anyone slip from full attention.”
Dínnor blessed the other with a short smile, and then turned to welcome Thranduil as the King approached them. “These two found a group of dead Orcs some miles ahead,” the Cousin informed his Lord swiftly.
“We head out there,” Thranduil confirmed Dínnor’s earlier command.
The warriors bowed swiftly, departing back to the trees. It did not take long for the Elves to reach their destination, and as they gathered around the place they were able to feel the lingering feeling of an evil. The Cousins were first to drop to the ground, approaching the corpses cautiously. Thranduil and Rafél followed suit, Shannai staying close to them. Other warriors secured the area, as if expecting another attack.
“What did this?” Shannai spoke out, running a quick eye over the dead.
“An Elf,” Asthaldo replied smoothly, kneeling down beside the Orcs. His eyes shifted to Rafél who was staring at the corpses as well. “It happened last night, I suppose, or just before it. Around the time when we felt the evil. There is also marks that some of these foul beasts actually left the place.”
“But how do you know an Elf did this?” Shannai piped up.
“The killing-cuts are from Elven weapon,” Dínnor observed, frowning.
“A knife, I would say,” Asthaldo added.
“But who –” Shannai spoke up again, wishing to get all the answers at once.
“A youth,” Rafél muttered, making all others fall silent. “Not a grown-up,” he continued. “The cuts are from a youth’s height.”
“A youth…” Shannai mused. “Legolas!” he suddenly shouted, turning to the King.
Thranduil gave no outer sign of his thoughts, his face passive. But his eyes told a different story, worry and anger was there.
“So, some of the Orcs left the place, and there is no Elven blood in here. Two options: Legolas left the place, or he was taken,” Asthaldo counted. “Which happened –”
“My Lords!” came a loud call, interrupting Asthaldo. An Elven warrior dropped from the trees, bowing at the King swiftly. “We found another group of dead Orcs a mile south from here. It is a larger group than this one here, and no tracks lead away from there.”
“So someone finished the others…” Dínnor mused. “A riddle, then. Legolas couldn’t have done this on his own.”
“Are you sure?” Asthaldo asked. “Maybe we should ask Rafél’s opinion before assuming too much.” All eyes turned at the direction of the guardian, but Rafél was no longer there.
“Where did he go?” Shannai asked, looking around confused. “I didn’t even notice him leaving.”
“Curse him,” Dínnor swore. Swiftly he turned to Thalión, his eyes urgent. “Find him,” he commanded, and without another word, Thalión disappeared into the trees.
“Can he really find Rafél?” Shannai doubted. “Rafél can stay hidden from other Elves if he wishes, and why would he leave us so suddenly if he would want to be found?”
“Thalión is the only one who could, if any,” Dínnor sighed. “Why does he have to make this all so difficult?!” he moaned, kicking one of the corpses nearest to him. “Like we would not have trouble enough to find his missing protege…”
“He only wishes to find Legolas,” Asthaldo whispered.
“Like we all,” Dínnor spat back at his cousin.
“But his reason is far more personal,” Asthaldo continued. “And his bond to Legolas is maybe aiding him at the moment. Valar to bless him that he does not endanger both himself and the Prince he is supposed to protect.”
Dínnor didn’t say anything, but one look at him told the observer that he was not happy about the situation. But at the moment they had no other choice but to have faith in Thalión, or to continue on their own, without the guardian. Neither option seemed very promising.
As Thranduil – to everyone’s surprise –said no other word of the matter, the Elves departed into the trees, starting to make their way towards the other group of dead Orcs. From there on, they would be forced to go blind if no other tracks were indeed found.
As Rafél followed an unseen path through the forest, his mind wondered free as his fëa guided him forward. Since they had arrived at the Orcs’ corpses, he had felt Legolas’ presence touch his spirit. The trail the youth had taken was fading away, but now that he had caught the other end, it was not too difficult to follow.
Maybe I should have merely stayed with the others, he mused. But Legolas’ own presence was drowning away into the darkness even as Rafél moved forward, and he knew he couldn’t have afforded to wait another moment. Thranduil will certainly wish to speak with me of this errand, later. But alone I can move with greater speed, and focus only into the main thing: finding Legolas. My Lord will understand, for he did not stop me from leaving. The others, on the other hand…
His greatest fear was that Thalión would be sent after him, the other Elf’s skill to read the forest was greater than his. But if he would move carefully enough and ask the trees to hide him, he might be able to lose the other from his scent. It was a trick Legolas had taught him, some years ago. He had no idea how the Prince had learned to avoid the Cousin, but he knew that the youth’s tactic worked: they had practised it together.
Swallowing past a painful lump in his throat, Rafél forced himself forward. Thinking of Legolas was not a smartest thing to do: he was merely twisting the blade in the already grave wound. Since the last night, his fëa had burned for the desire to find the young Elf. Through their bond, he felt distantly what Legolas did, and at the moment he was almost too afraid to reach out and seek the other out. His heart almost broke at the feel of darkness that emanated from the other’s spirit.
Pushing his thoughts away again and focusing solely to his search, Rafél ran ahead, praying in his mind that Legolas would for once wait for him. Because this time the youth seemed to be in a danger he was not able to handle himself.
to be continued…