Title: The Marshes of the Dead
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Fourth Age of the Sun
Genre: Drama, AU
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: Gimli, Legolas (, OCs)
Summary: “There are dead things. Dead faces in the water!” “All dead. All rotten. Elves and Men and Orcses. A great battle long ago. Dead Marshes. Yes. Yes, that is their name.” Who are those dead warriors in the water, whose lights call the living to join them? Only few truly know. When visiting Legolas briefly in Ithilien, the Three Cousins recall some of their worse memories, and the battle of Dagorlad is only a part of them…
Part of the history of “The Last Journey”. Complete.
Warnings: References to violence and death¬. The rating could also be PG, but let’s take no risks…
“)…(” = Sindarin
Legolas jumped from rock to another, the sound of running water filling his ears. They had crossed Anduin some time ago, and their travel down the river side has been an uneventful one.
Thalión had gained back his good mood, not a shadow of his earlier behaviour visible. But Legolas knew that the gloominess waited just beyond the surface. But he didn’t wish to push his elder. If Thalión wanted to speak, he would do so on his own volition. In that, he and Legolas were much alike – like they were in many other things too.
“Legolas, watch your step!” Asthaldo shouted from behind, and Legolas halted, just in time to notice that he had been about to step on a rock that wasn’t too stable. Asthaldo jumped on a rock nearest to Legolas, his fallow eyes shining. “Deep in thought?”
“Something like that,” Legolas admitted.
Asthaldo nodded, and then smiled again. “Well, in the case you fall, don’t worry: we shall fish you out in a first calm bay we can find. Though we shall not come across one until many miles ahead…”
Legolas lunged forward, trying to strike the other Elf. “No need to bother! I don’t do ‘fallings’, and I am a perfect swimmer.”
“Whatever you say, Princeling,” Asthaldo laughed, moving forward.
Legolas, taking up the challenge, rushed towards him. Asthaldo would not be the easiest opponent, for the other Elf was even swifter in his movements than Legolas, preferring close knife-fights above all fighting styles. But Legolas has been taught to fight both swiftly and sure-footedly, hunt a prey along the tree limbs high above the grounds… and Asthaldo had been one of those teaching him.
“Those two are going to kill each other some day…” Thalión shook his head, watching the younger Elves dash from a rock to another. Thalión himself was walking on the shore, his powder blue eyes following the rivals all the time.
Dínnor, beside Thalión, laughed softly. “Ah, I feel young again. Don’t you? And look at Asthaldo! For few centuries I have been afraid that he is finally growing up, but it seems that he still has that child inside of him.”
“I think it is because of Legolas. He has that affect on Asthaldo. Though I am not sure if it is a good one…” Thalión replied, amused.
“Oh, it is good. And do you dare to deny that you act differently when Legolas is around?”
“What about you? Your change is most radical of us, as far as I have noticed during the years. I am like Legolas’ older brothers to him: looking after and encouraging. Asthaldo is like one of his own age, making him laugh and dash along the rocks pointing out of water. But what of you?”
The oldest of the Three Cousins looked at his youngest cousin, still pursued by Legolas, and frowned. “How I change in his presence…” Dínnor pondered. “I am not sure, and that scares me.” He glanced at Thalión. “Come now, give me a hint. After all, of all of us, you are the most mature and responsible.”
”You take the lead when you feel it is necessary,” Thalión said. “And when you do so, you do it with skill. That means you are mature enough to look after yourself and the others under your care. But when it comes to Legolas…” Thalión smiled, his eyes glinting.
“Please, continue. I am bursting with curiosity.”
“You have always acted differently around Legolas: when he was younger, you asked much from him – maybe too much. You tried to make him perfect.”
“I tried to help him to be a warrior he wanted to be,” Dínnor agreed.
“But later, when he grew more sure with the weapons, you got more… how would I describe it? Possessive could be a word, or overly protective. Sometimes I couldn’t be sure who was watching Legolas with more care: his bodyguard or you.”
“He was a child then, and Mirkwood is not the best playground imaginable for children.”
“You deny it,” Thalión laughed. “You keep circling around the truth.”
“Maybe, or then not. I have always been protective towards those I care about – including both you and Asthaldo. But Legolas is different. I want to keep him away from harm.”
“And yet you continually drag him into one.”
“Pardon me?” Dínnor asked, his voice somewhat hurt.
“You get him into trouble. And don’t try to back away from this. Because this is the thing I was originally pointing at,” Thalión paused to breathe. “I am looking after him, playing a shoulder he can lean on. Asthaldo is the one of his age, understanding him on another level and making him smile after a long day. But you get him into trouble.”
“And you haven’t mentioned this before, why?” Dínnor asked, growing suspicious.
“Because you always stay beside him, seeing him through the trouble. ‘Challenges’ you call them. And it has worked, on a long run, I must admit. He has become a great warrior, who is afraid of few things, and who bonds with his companions easily. He is open-minded, and yet calculating enough.”
Dínnor laughed. “Is there actually a point you were trying to get through?”
“No,” Thalión sighed.
There was a shout of triumph from the direction of the river, and the two Elves turned to look into its direction. Legolas had caught up with Asthaldo, only a few steps separating them. Asthaldo, noticing that he was loosing the game, increased his pace, and forgot one important thing: to watch where he was stepping. Only a moment later, he landed on a rock that was less than stable, and with a shout, he tried to fight back his lost balance. The sad thing was that Legolas, who by then was right behind Asthaldo, had no time to stop, and the Prince crashed right into Asthaldo’s back. With a shout, they both fell into the water.
Dínnor and Thalión stared at the sight before them, both slightly amused. But knowing that the torrents here – still quite near the Falls of Rauros – were unpredictable and possibly dangerous, they ran forward, their eyes never leaving the place where the younger Elves had fallen to water.
But before the rescuers reached the place, Legolas and Asthaldo surfaced, and for a moment it wasn’t quite clear for the ones watching them if they were trying to strangle each other or trying to get away from the water.
“Oh this is just great…”
“Don’t you dare to put the blame on me!”
“You crashed right into me. What I’m supposed to –”
“You stopped like a lighting would have struck you. I had little choice but to –”
“Now, children, children…” Dínnor smiled, reaching the fighting couple.
“You even dare to say you are not enjoying the situation…” Asthaldo growled at Dínnor, trying to stay above the surface and wipe out the hair on his face.
Laughing, Dínnor and Thalión pulled the two out of the water. The wet couple should have been a happy one because they had not been swept away by the currents. Glowering to each other, Legolas and Asthaldo walked back to the dry land, under stern supervision of their elders.
Warmed by the campfire, a faint smell of roasting meat in the air, Asthaldo sighed happily and relaxed on the ground where he was lying. The night was arriving, and they had camped near the river, now waiting their supper to be ready.
Thalión was checking his bow, polishing the embroidered surface with care. Beside him sat Legolas, having volunteered to fix the arrow that has brought down their meal. Dínnor was watching after the food, as if it would have been planning to run away in near future…
The accident happened earlier that day had not been mentioned again, and Asthaldo was happy about it – just as much as Legolas. Dínnor would have been able to shout them for ages of such stupidity. But the eldest had let the matter rest, most likely understanding that the two younger ones understood the risk themselves. They were all four, after all, seasoned warriors.
“Supper is ready,” Dínnor called out.
Everyone dropped their current task and gathered nearer the fire. They had not eaten during that day, and they were hungry. Even if Elves survived with little food and had no appetite of Men, they also needed food at times. And the Cousins, having spent a lot of time among Men in their earlier years, were accustomed to eat daily.
After the supper was finished, Thalión and Legolas returned back to their tasks, and Dínnor cleaned the signs of their eating. Asthaldo, in the meanwhile, brushed his hair, and started to braid it again. He hadn’t had time to do so after their little ‘dive’. Leaving his slightly shorter front hair free, Asthaldo played for a moment with the rest of his hair, trying to come up with some fun way to braid it. Finally, he braided the upper layer of his back hair to a one big braid, and the lower level partly to smaller braids, leaving them hang among free strands of hair. Finally satisfied, Asthaldo settled down again, leaning on his arms for support.
Legolas, always interested in the Cousins’ way of braiding their hair, had stopped his working while Asthaldo operated with his hair. The Prince new well the envy the mortals held towards Elves in this way of ‘art’, as well: what to the Elves was a simple braiding, would take for mortals hours to perform, especially when done to yourself. Now that Asthaldo was finished, Legolas crept closer, his blue eyes scanning the other Elf’s work.
“What do you think?” Asthaldo asked with a smile.
Legolas blushed slightly, like a youth caught by a maiden he had been spying on. “Well, it is different – from the normal customs of Elves…” the Prince touched his own hair somewhat remorsefully.
Dínnor let out a small laughter, smiling at the two younger Elves. Shaking his head, he glanced towards the sky. “Elbereth has blessed us with many stars tonight, it seems.”
“They are always the same stars, Dínnor,” Asthaldo rebuked.
“Don’t ruin my romantic moment, Asthaldo.”
Time passed in silence, all of the Elves staring at the skies, their eyes distant. The time mortals used to sleeping, was also a time of rest for the Elves – even if they did not sleep. Bathing themselves in starlight is enough rest for Firstborns.
At some time of the night, Thalión rose from his place and walked away from the others. Legolas, stirred by this, turned to look after the older Elf. “Thalión? Is anything wrong?” There was no answer, however, Legolas rose to his feet, and swiftly walked after Thalión, finding the other standing in the darkness, gazing at the north-east. “Thalión?” he asked again, his voice barely above a whisper.
The silver haired Elf did not turn to face Legolas and the archer grew worried, circling around to see Thalión’s face. He was shocked by the pale, emotionless expression he faced. “Thalión, are you well?” Legolas asked again, more sternly this time, putting his had gingerly on the other’s shoulder. Thalión did not react, and Legolas frowned, puzzled. This was not like Thalión. It seemed as if the other Elf was not even seeing or hearing him… “Thalión, what’s wrong? You are scaring me, )mellon nîn(” Legolas tightened his grip upon Thalión’s shoulder.
To this the other one seemed to react, the powder blue eyes blinking, a shudder running through the strong body. Legolas took immediately advantage, calling out Thalión’s name again. This time Thalión also turned to meet the worried haze of the Prince. It looked for a moment that Thalión struggled to see Legolas, his eyes narrowing and a hand grasping Legolas’ tunic in a desperate grip.
It was gone. The haze passed, and Thalión let go, pushing away from Legolas. “Leave me be.”
“You heard me, Greenleaf. Leave me. The lights are calling…” Thalión eyes turned back to north-east again.
“Lights? What lights? Thalión, you are not making any sense!” Legolas tried desperately.
“The lights shine in the dark, calling… Their voices come from the deep…” Thalión’s voice was like it was coming through a dream.
“Come on, Legolas, you heard him. Let’s leave him alone.” Dínnor’s hands took Legolas by the shoulders, dragging him back to the camp.
“What’s wrong with him? His words didn’t make any sense…” Legolas asked, glancing back worriedly.
“Let’s say it is good you do not understand,” Dínnor answered, his voice grave. He, on his side, refused to look at his cousin. “Leave him be,” he muttered into the night that had suddenly turned cold.
to be continued…
)Sindarin(: - Westron:
Mellon nîn - My friend