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Del Rion [userpic]

The Last Journey; Chapter 30: Love's Confessions

Story Info

Title: The Last Journey
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Fourth Age of the Sun
Genre: AU, Action/Adventure
Rating: M / FRM
Main characters: Aragorn, Celeborn, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, Éomer, Erestor, Faramir, Gandalf, Gimli, Glorfindel, Haldir, Legolas, Meriadoc, Nazgûl, Pippin, Thranduil (, OCs).
Pairings: Legolas/OMC (brief Aragorn/Arwen, Éowyn/Faramir)
Summary: After many peaceful years that have followed the war against Sauron, everything changes. Evil returns, striking without warning, and it is stronger than ever before. It is time for the final fight, but who shall achieve victory?
Work in Process.
Warnings: Characters’ death (major, OC), violence, torture, slash, mild sexual content (het and slash), plenty of evil, etc.

~ ~ ~

Author’s Note: The song in the beginning – theme song of this chapter – is from 30 Seconds to Mars’ new album called “A Beautiful Lie”.

And now, to the real business… Be ready for an emotional storm!

Chapter 30: Love’s Confessions

A Beautiful Lie

Lie awake in bed at night
and think about your life
do you want to be different?
try to let go of the truth
the battles of your youth
‘cause this is just a game

It’s a beautiful lie
it’s a perfect denial
such a beautiful lie to believe in
so beautiful, beautiful lie makes me

Its time to forget about the past
to wash away what happened last
hide behind an empty face
don’t ask too much the same
‘cause this is just a game

It’s a beautiful lie
it’s a perfect denial
such a beautiful lie to believe in
so beautiful, beautiful lie makes me

Everyone’s looking at me
I’m running ‘round in circles (plagued with)
a quiet desperation’s building higher
I’ve got to remember this is just a game

So beautiful, beautiful
it’s a beautiful lie

It’s a beautiful lie
it’s a perfect denial
such a beautiful lie to believe in
so beautiful, beautiful lie makes me

Legolas woke up in the soft light of a late afternoon. Light curtains before a window did little to keep the sunshine outside and the warm rays extended themselves over the bed like a second blanket. Blinking sleepily, the Elf lay still for a long moment, collecting his thoughts. Normally Elves were alert and ready as soon as they woke from their sleep-like reverie, but today Legolas felt his mind take a slowest possible road to inform him of the latest events of his waking life.

Not that he greatly desired to remember anything when his mind finally arranged itself into a state that could have been called “awareness”.

Turning on the bed, Legolas gazed through the window, his brow furrowed. His mind was still hazy, memories flitting through his mind like passing shadows, leaving him with no true recollection of yesterday. For surely it was yesterday, as the sun was already high on its route, and the last time he could remember had been in the middle of a night.

Several minutes followed, Legolas’ mind aligning itself and its memories. His fingers ghosted over the light bandages wrapped around his chest, seeking the wound hidden beneath. It felt as if a cold blade being pushed against his skin, reminding him exactly where the cut was. It did not hurt, but he was well aware that something was wrong with him. Or had been. He was not quite sure.

Blue eyes sought the window again, gazing through the curtains to the world outside. His memories were getting clearer now, most of them making him shudder. It was not only the image of Aragorn collapsing to the ground, his blade buried into the Man’s body, but the cold terror of Nazgûl around him. Yet I wasn’t truly frightened. Not back then when they hunted me in Ithilien, or on the field last night… I have been afraid of them in the past, but it seems that their presence doesn’t affect me in a same way as before. Frowning, Legolas pondered this, trying to find a reasonable solution. Maybe there was so much darkness in me after the attack of the Balrog that it made me immune to all else. But I feel better now. As if the shadows had vanished, or at least retreated.

Chewing his lip, Legolas tried to remember what had happened after he had been stabbed by the Witch-king. His memory got blurred there, as if he would have been trying to remember a dream that kept escaping his mind. He remembered terror and pain, much similar to the dreams he kept having. But this “dream” had been different. For one, it was not a dream. It had been reality – not physical, but one of his mind.

Images flashed through his mind, disoriented and with little meaning as they made no real sense. Letting out a sigh, Legolas shook his head, ready to give up. It would not matter, as it had all been in his head. No other would ever know… Rafél. Sudden flash of memory made him tremble, strange feeling coming over him. Rafél had been there. He had seen it all, protected him from the darkness and fought it back. Legolas was not sure what exactly the other had done, but his fëa kept singing as he thought of his guardian. And there was something else… Something the other had said…

Voices carried from the outside, waking Legolas from his memories. He turned his head, listening, the voices falling down again after a moment. Trust them to stay around, Legolas smiled to himself. He made out the tones of the Cousins, and his senses told him that Rafél was also near. It made him feel safe, despite the dark feeling still lingering inside him.

As the Prince found no reason to stay in the bed, he got up, finding a clean set of clothes from a nearby stool. He slipped into them quickly, noticing that the wound in his chest was far less painful than he had expected. Taking a look around the rather low house – Hobbit one as it was – his eyes encountered an object on a table. His knives were resting there, sheathed and cleaned, their white handles almost gleaming in the sunlight. But what Legolas saw made his blood turn cold, the events of the last night making him look away. He left the room without a seconds look at the weapons, hoping to drop the image of Aragorn from his mind quickly as possible. Maybe he could find the Man himself and see that he was well…

Slipping out from the house to the bright afternoon air, Legolas blinked to adjust his eyes. There was little commotion on the village, the ruined buildings standing in eerie silence. As far as Legolas knew, it was never silent in a Hobbit village. The truth made his heart clench, and as much as he would have liked to go and speak with his friends, he suddenly needed to be alone. Walking away from the house, purposefully keeping himself hidden from the Elves whom he knew to be sitting on the other side of the house, he made his way along an abandoned road.

On their side, sitting in the sunshine beside the grass-roofed house, Rafél snapped out from his thoughts. His eyes went to the Cousins next to him, meeting Thalión’s gaze. The Cousin nodded, his eyes shifting on the direction of the door they did not currently see. Rafél did not say a word as he rose from his place silently and made his way to the doorway. He did not look in, however, knowing that an empty bed would wait him there. It took only a moment from him to track Legolas down, the other Elf not even attempting to hide his path. Without hesitation Rafél took the same trail as his protege before him, following with practised ease.

Legolas had no idea where he was going, but as he found himself from a small river near the village, he knew this was a good place as any to solve his thoughts. Stepping onto a small bridge build over the stream, he leaned over the railing, gazing at the constantly moving currents below him. The water was clear, murmuring soothingly in his ears, making him forget the destroyed lives so close to him. Houses could be rebuilt, gardens would grow again and fields of crop would spread out as before. But the lives lost could not be restored, and even if there was no reason, Legolas felt responsible. They had come here because he had insisted. Because of his “vision”. Maybe they had lured the enemy here, bringing them right at the innocent Hobbits…

A shift both in the air and in his heart informed Legolas that he was not alone. Lifting his head, his eyes met the deep brown of his guardian. A smile he couldn’t hide curved his lips and he pushed away from the railing, waiting Rafél to join him. He expected a small rebuke about his escape, but none came, Rafél’s eyes searching his with obvious relief.

“Shall I leave you alone?” Rafél asked softly.

“No,” Legolas whispered in return, the other’s presence driving away his dark thoughts. “Stay,” he added with a sigh, looking down at the water again. “Thank you,” he muttered, not sure what he was thanking the other for, but knowing he needed to do so.

Rafél almost snorted, leaning against the railing beside Legolas. His eyes did not gaze at the water, however, but at the Elf beside him. It seemed that is was harder to take his eyes away from Legolas nowadays. He did not know why, but he knew that something had changed. Liar, he said to himself, quickly looking away when Legolas turned to look back at him. You know exactly what is going on in your mind. Such thoughts you should have never to begin with…

“There is something…” Legolas began, halting uncertainly. “I do not exactly remember what happened after… Witch-king’s attack… But I remember you.”

“I aided you back to light,” Rafél confessed, his own memories clear as the running stream below them. “Gandalf told me to separate you from the darkness so he could destroy it. The evil is gone now,” he added, his voice strained with forced calmness.

“Gandalf?” Legolas gasped, his eyes widening. “He has returned?” He was not able to mask the happiness in his voice, his eyes shining with a new light.

“He attends to leave for Imladris tomorrow, or the day after. He has promised to help us with this… enemy,” Rafél detailed, deciding to fully inform Legolas when a time would be more appropriate.

“Good,” Legolas smiled, falling back to his own thoughts. Rafél took this as a good sign, relaxing somewhat. There were several things he had to speak with Legolas, but some of them would have to wait… “You said something,” Legolas said suddenly, making Rafél jump. The Prince turned to his guardian, the earlier shine of his eyes now gone, turned into a more thoughtful shade. “You said something, but I can’t quite catch it. Something important. When you fought the shadows off…”

“I said a lot,” Rafél confessed, not willing to go down this road. He had hoped that Legolas would not by some miracle remember what had happened in his dream, but it was a false hope. “I wouldn’t have pushed so deep if it wouldn’t have been Mithrandir’s order…”

Legolas shook his head, frowning. “It matters not. We have always been… close.” He bit his lip, trying to get hold of the words that kept escaping his mind.

“So, is that what your dreams are like?” Rafél asked, knowing it would disturb Legolas out of his thoughts.

Indeed, the Prince’s head shot up, momentary alarm in his eyes. “You shouldn’t have watched,” he hissed, anger in his voice. “It is… not your trouble. But yes, I have seen dreams like that.” Rafél let out a long breath, nodding. “And no,” Legolas continued suddenly. “It was nothing like the dreams I have seen. Those keep playing the past, showing me what might happen in the future…” He fell silent, shuddering. Rafél reached towards the distraught Elf, wishing to comfort the other, but Legolas straightened suddenly, his blue eyes wide and hopeful as he looked up at Rafél. “You said you love me,” he whispered, finally catching the piece of the dream he had hunted for several moments.

Rafél stood back, his expression freezing. “Of course I love you,” he said carefully. “I have always loved you. From the very first moment when I held you in my arms. Commitment and love are things that no guardian can go without.” It sounded reasonable enough, even in his ears.

Legolas’ face fell, his eyes suddenly troubled. “I thought…” he began, but then swallowed his words, looking away. “I thought you meant something else…” he said with a small voice, his eyes watching a small stick bounce in the river. He felt like that stick, at the moment, taken by a current, helpless to do anything but wait and see, hoping that someone would pick you up before it was too late…

“What else could have I meant?” Rafél offered, his hand resting upon Legolas’ shoulder for a moment. As the Prince did not reply, Rafél drew his hand back, steadying himself with an intake of breathe. “I will always love you. I could not do my task if I would not. Like a soldier loves his King, I am bond to you. Like a comrade to another.”

Legolas nodded, not risking saying anything. It was as if all his hopes were ruined before his very eyes, any chances of happiness crumbling to the ground, leaving him helpless to do anything. He does not love me. Not like I would love him… He knew it was not right – that it had never been meant to happen – but he couldn’t help himself anymore. All he could think of was his dream and Rafél’s words to him, the feeling he had thought to be there. But again, it was only his own mind that played tricks with him. A dream – nightmare – that haunted him to the waking world, making him believe that this was what he wanted. “Could you leave me now?” he asked finally, his voice calm and clear of emotions. “There are things that I need to think over. I will meet you later, I promise,” he glanced at Rafél, the plea visible in his eyes.

The guardian nodded reluctantly, then turned and left the bridge. His fëa did not quite agree with him, clenching his heart in anguish that he had recently known far too often. But he had to hide his feelings, for his bond to Legolas would give him away if he was not careful. In a same way that I felt the defeat in him when he told me to leave. He couldn’t mask it. It hurt him to do this, but he knew it was the only reasonable way to act. Legolas would get over it, realise that this was only an after-effect of the shadow, making him crave for someone else’s closeness…

“I do not really understand what you thought you would achieve with that,” a voice suddenly snapped.

Rafél halted on his tracks, cursing his carelessness, and glanced up to the trees. His heart froze, knowing the other had probably heard every word since he arrived to Legolas: now they were both hidden by a small forest, far away enough that their voices would not carry over to the Prince.

A shape dropped from the trees, powder-blue eyes staring sternly at Rafél. There was almost hate in them, anger and frustration shining through his every word. “You cannot be this… foolish,” Thalión spat, glancing quickly back at the direction of the river.

“I am not aware of what you are speaking of,” Rafél said coolly, his body unconsciously shifting into a more defensive position.

Thalión let out a laugh, though the sound was far from its usual fairness. “Let’s play this your way, then. But I know you are more than aware of what you did back there – though I do not understand how you could hurt Legolas so, especially after all he has been through recently!”

So he was indeed close enough to see everything, Rafél bristled, taking it as his fault and carelessness that he hadn’t kept his senses alarmed. “If you speak of comforting him with the fact that I love him…”

“Comfort…” Thalión snorted spitefully, his anger winning over his previous idea to make Rafél realise this himself. Of course, the fact is that he knows very well what he is doing. But if all would be well, and he would accept the truth, we would not be having this conversation. “You know you cannot suffer much longer with denying your heart like that.”

Rafél did not even blink, to his credit, but his posture stoned even more than before. “I haven’t –”

Please, spare me!” Thalión hissed, taking a small step closer. “I am not stupid, am I? And I didn’t think you to be, either. Not until now.” As there was no more response than a cold glare, Thalión pushed on, taking another step. “You must understand that this is not only your erratic heart you are fighting down. It is also Legolas’, and you know that as well as I. But even if it would be only your heart, I would wish you to act it out a little better. Elven hearts do not take treatment like this very lightly.”

“What do you know of my heart – or his?” Rafél snapped, but his eyes shifted, pain in them.

“Enough to tell you this: you both need this. Have needed for long, but now it is the time to make the move. If you wish to hurt him more than any enemy ever has, you will now walk away like nothing happened. Because you know what he wanted to hear from you: the truth. But you lied to him, making it sound like a truthful litany of empty words.”

“Maybe there is reason for me to mask my feelings,” Rafél started. The frustration of weeks was beginning to take better of him, and he knew if he would continue this little chat any longer, they would soon be vocal enough to be heard by Legolas. “Legolas is confused after all he has been through, and I cannot blame him. After what I did yesterday, it is no wonder that he clings onto me, trying to see there something that does not exist.”

“I do not need you to repeat the lie you told him, as beautiful as it might sound and look,” Thalión stated.

“Then what would you have me to say?”

“Maybe the actual truth. If you say it to me, it will be easier to face him, later, and correct your words,” the Cousin tilted his head, waiting. He saw that Rafél was on a point of snapping, and knew the other would speak up his heart in his anger.

“The truth you so long for will not lead me anywhere. Nor him! What now is affection – love even… Do you want me to show it? To him? Tell him that I care more for him than I should. That my valiant loyalty and love have turned into a base feeling, and shall surely turn into something else soon. Desire perhaps? Lust?” The brown eyes blazed, anger finally leashed upon the one who had provoked it. Rafél knew he would regret most of his words later – he already did – but he was determined to drive his point to the other as well. “I am supposed to be his Guardian, for Valars’ sake! Yes, I am supposed to love him – more than any other – and protect him, even from myself. But this is the wrong kind of love. This is how you love your mate, not your Prince! Thranduil has had people killed for lesser reasons…” he mumbled, shaking his head in self-disgust.

“This is not about the father, but about the son,” Thalión replied, much more tenderly this time. “In the case you haven’t noticed, Legolas returns your feelings. However confused he is, this is something he has craved for a long time –”

“His guardian lusting over him?” Rafél asked mockingly.

“It is not lust, and you know it,” Thalión snapped. “I have seen lust often enough to know it. The love between you – what there could be if you would let it – is pure and strong, and has nothing to do with mere base desire. But if you go on like this, you end up hurting you both greater than you can imagine. Elven hearts have sundered for lesser reasons.”

“Do not try to teach me in the matters of Elven hearts – or my own. I have guarded over Legolas’ heart for years, and I have no intention to corrupt it now,” Rafél said harshly, his eyes narrowing.

“You speak as he would be a child. Is that why you torment yourself so? Because in your eyes, he is still the same youth you have followed around for so long? You cannot see the grown Elf he has become, and that is why you violate your heart – not to speak of his. Because you think you would be confessing your feelings to a child? Lead him down a path that is not his to walk?” Thalión pressed on, seeing that he was at least closing up with the true obstacle. “Legolas knows what he wants from his life. But he just cannot come and take it from you,” he said almost gently. “You are his senior, do not forget that. His uncertainty comes from that fact, not to let out that he has thought himself to be alone with this… feeling. And you gave him no reason to believe otherwise.”

“For his own good. I am his senior, true. In so many years that he could be the grandchild of my grandchildren! Or more.” Rafél drew a long breathe, his eyes locking with Thalión’s. “Do not ever call forth this matter with him. You may think me heartless, but I know what Legolas needs, and it isn’t this.” With that, he turned and left, not giving Thalión a chance to say another word.

“Heartless you might be soon enough, my friend, if you keep denying its needs like this,” Thalión said under his breath, his eyes following Rafél. “I just wish that you would give in – for Legolas. Before it is too late for both of you.”

Rafél heard none of this, and it wouldn’t have made much to break his resolve. His own mind had accused him much worse in the recent past, even if some of Thalión’s words cut down to his heart. But he was adamant not to give in to his heart, knowing it would be a false path to take. Soon, it would all roll past like an ugly season, leaving him only with a bad aftertaste.

Storming to the house they were currently settled in, Rafél scared both Dínnor and Asthaldo out of their wits. He did not halt to counsel the two, but went straight inside instead. He needed to be alone and think, clear his mind of all the poison his heart had set there recently…

“Rafél, what is the matter?” Asthaldo asked, slipping in after the guardian. “Where is Legolas?”

“Leave me be,” Rafél said instead answering, his back to the others.

“But –” Asthaldo tried, taking a hesitant step forward. He was able to feel great anger in the other, but he overcame the fear with an intent to calm the other Sinda before he did anything rash.

“I told you to leave me alone!” Rafél all but shouted, turning around so quickly that Asthaldo stumbled back, collapsing against Dínnor. The guardian stared at the two, not leaving them a room to disobey, and with a shaky breath, Asthaldo turned away, Dínnor following him reluctantly. Only after the door was shut did Rafél allow himself to breath, strength leaving his body. He sat down on the bed, burying his head to his hands.

Silence was usually comforting, but at the moment it held such a malice that it made Rafél desire for any kind of a disturbance. Quiet, recently, had left him open for his inner demons, and they did not wait long to appear this time, either. “By Valar, Legolas…” he moaned, shaking his head. “What am I doing? None of these feelings belong to me.” But they did, and he was no longer able to deny it. From the others, perhaps, but not from himself. What is wrong with me? I cannot want this, or need it. Not him. I was supposed to protect him, teach him in the ways of life and make sure that he had someone to lean on when he needed it. Thranduil never requested me to love him. At least not in a way I do now.

With a shuddery breathe, Rafél glanced down at the mattress he was sitting upon. He could smell Legolas on it, the fact making his heart beat faster. He averted his eyes quickly, trying to put his mind elsewhere, but this was something he needed to solve now. I know that Legolas is grown up. I have accepted that fact. But why is it that my feelings seemed to change when I realised he was no longer a youth? The change surprised him, still. His emotions towards the other had transformed so slowly it had left him oblivious for the truth – and now it was too late. He loved Legolas. He knew it was wrong in so many different ways, knew he was not allowed to, but his heart had made its decision for him. As an Elf, he had very little to say to it when it came to the matters of heart and soul – and those both yearned to love the one he was not supposed to.

Eyes locked into nothingness, his mind deep in memories, Rafél let his thoughts travel past all the years he had spent with Legolas. The small being’s first breathe of air safely in his arms as Legolas was born. His first, miserable day with the reluctant youth. Their long days and countless hours on the practice-fields, honing Legolas’ skills onto a brink of perfection. Patrols they had taken together, scouting their realm for any danger. There were also dark memories, ones which Rafél did not wish to bring himself to remember.

There had not been a single day after his nomination as Legolas’ guardian that he had not worried for the Prince. Dark paths they had travelled, sometimes to face death and to survive again. There has not been a day when I wouldn’t have given my life for him. Even today, I would die for him without a second thought… He raised his head, his eyes suddenly finding the white knives lying on the table. His hand reached for one, sliding it free from its scabbard. His eyes traced the blade, but for once it brought him no memories. It revealed him a chance. An escape. So easy to lift the blade and… life is such a fragile thing, even for us Elves, he thought, caressing the hilt with his fingers. He saw a possibility there, a way, but yet he hesitated.

“You both need this. Have needed for long, but now it is the time to make the move. If you wish to hurt him more than any enemy ever has, you will now walk away like nothing happened. Because you know what he wanted to hear from you: the truth. But you lied to him, making it sound like a truthful litany of empty words.”

Thalión’s words cut through his thoughts, and again he was forced to look back at his discussion with Legolas. He did not wish to remember the pain on the younger Elf’s appearance, the disappointment. Legolas had expected him to answer in some other way. He only wished to hear the truth from me, Rafél confessed to himself, and with a pained moan, he pressed his forehead against the flat side of the knife still in his hands, closing his eyes.

The guardian sat still for hours, the sun passing to the side of west. When the shadows reached for him across the bed, and the air was turning slightly chill outside, Rafél raised his head, resolve in his eyes. Slowly he put the knife back to its scabbard, sliding his fingers across the smooth surface one more time. Then he stepped out to the late evening air, his mind finally made. The only thing he hoped for was that is was the right decision to do. If not, both he and Legolas would end up severely hurt…

- - -

Back on the river, some hours ago, in the warm light of the afternoon sun, Legolas leaned against the railing of the bridge with a distant look. He did not feel the warmth of the sun, the cold in him increasing its hold with every passing second. He had planned to go after Rafél for long minutes now, but he was not able to get himself on the move. He felt broken, alone, and deserted. Two latter feelings were probably the same, but to him they meant two different things.

He wished Rafél would come back, even if just to be with him. Right now, he felt more isolated than ever in his life. He was frightened, the dark feeling inside him growing constantly, feeding upon his sorrow. It was like a dark wave, trying to engulf him whole. And what made him fear most was the fact that he was not sure if he wanted to hold on anymore.

On the other hand, he wanted to be alone. If he would be forced to face Rafél again, he would surely blurt out something he would later regret. There were so many things he needed to say to his guardian, knowing that it might be too late if he did not act out now. But a greater part of him was afraid, still uncertain what he was truly feeling. What if this all was a dream? Even as his mind was free of shadows momentarily, it did not mean that this entire idea was some twisted, untrue nightmare…

Sighing, Legolas pushed away from the railing, deciding that he did not want to be alone, but not in Rafél’s company, either – not before he was certain of his own heart. But there were plenty of people for him so seek out, and so he returned to the village, preparing himself for a search. He did not have to seek long, though, before he saw a familiar group on a small backyard. “Aragorn!” he called out, making the dark Man turn around in surprise.

“Legolas,” the King smiled, grasping Legolas’ shoulder with his unbound hand. “I am so glad to see you awake. How do you fare?”

“Well, thank you. How about yourself?” Legolas asked in turn, eyeing the Man up and down carefully.

“Those two said that I was lucky to have your blade instead of one of Orcs,” Aragorn laughed, tilting his head to the direction of Twins nearby. Both Elladan and Elrohir grinned, snickering as if to some inside joke.

“Right…” Legolas muttered, his spirits falling. What had surely been a joke among the others did not make him even smile. Quite the contrary.

“Do not look so solemn, Las,” said a gruff voice from Legolas’ side. “We are all more than happy to see you on your own two feet, and Aragorn is faring well enough.”

Legolas did not look to his Dwarven friend as he lowered his hand to the other’s shoulder. “And I assume you are well?” he asked without looking, the necklace around his throat flashing warmly.

“That is why I wear an armour: to keep myself from harm,” Gimli stated, but it was left unnoticed by none that his comment was far more kinder than usually while his banter with the Elf.

If Legolas noticed this, he did leave it to its own grace. “Maybe that layer of metal keeps the harm away from you, but it cannot by all means keep you from it.” He finally glanced down, flashing the bearded creature an innocent smile.

“He is fine all right…” Gimli growled good-naturedly. “Now what say you, but I am starving. Surely it would be a high time for a proper supper. Let’s search out those two Hobbits of ours and do something to feed our empty stomachs!” The Elves and one Man laughed, but left with Gimli nevertheless. They all were indeed hungry, even if they hadn’t noticed it before now. As they passed a nearby house, Gimli halted to its front and yelled to someone inside. The words were not on the Common tongue, but the others understood soon enough when two other Dwarves appeared.

“Good to see you up again,” Adír welcomed Legolas.

Fundal cried out “Star-eye!” as soon as he saw Legolas, falling silent as soon as he realised what he had said. The youth blushed and mumbled something to himself, his eyes finding something unusually interesting on his boots. People looked surprised around him, but none admonished him. Legolas himself smiled, well remembering the nickname the youth had come up with – so Gimli said. Nowadays, many of the Durin’s kind called him so, at least in private. Fundal seemed to think it childish, but he probably did not realise how honoured Legolas was by this name.

As the group stood there, a couple of Men reached them, their eyes widening in amazement as they encountered Legolas. “My King,” Faramir greeted Aragorn hastily, then turned back to Legolas with a relieved expression. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you, my Lord. We were all afraid for your life.”

“There was no reason to worry so,” Legolas said lightly. “In such a company as this, I am nowhere near a danger of death.”

“I wish that would be truth,” Éomer replied, taking his place beside Aragorn as they began to walk towards a small, private square they had dined and gathered on except during their meeting with Gandalf. “We have spoken to Men and made the preparations of departure. We should be able to leave at tomorrow morning,” he counted.

“Gandalf will be very pleased,” Aragorn said, glad himself. Though he shouldn’t have been surprised: all his Men were warriors and knew how to move quickly around, from one place to another.

“We left Irolas to watch over the rest of the proceedings,” Faramir told. “After a good night’s rest, we shall be able to ride swiftly.”

Aragorn nodded, in his thoughts already. Now that Legolas was well, they would leave as soon as possible. Gandalf would set the pace, but he had a feeling it would not be a kind one to either men or horses. But it couldn’t be helped, and Gandalf alone was aware of the possible danger the Middle-earth was in.

A group of Elves came across the party, one of them rushing forward as soon as they were in sight. “Legolas!” Khai cried out, throwing herself to her friend’s arms, hugging the Prince tight. “By Valar, we were so afraid for you.”

“It is all right. I am fine,” Legolas told the female, returning the embrace with a small smile on his own. “Would you join us for the supper?” he indicated at the group of Lórien Elves gathering closer.

“Of course, but there is something we need to check first,” Haldir said quickly, clasping hands with Legolas.

“Is ought… wrong?” Legolas was about to ask, but then felt the disturbance in the air himself.

“I think someone is having a bad day,” Ithika guessed, his words making sense only to the Elves. The mortals looked around, dumbfounded. They did not see or hear anything alarming, but surely the Elves were positive that something was wrong.

The Elves moved forward as one, leaving the others no choice but to follow. It took only short time before they all saw what this all was about. The Cousins were standing on a street, the air around them tense. Even the mortals could feel it now, when connected to the sight of the Elves.

“Ah, we got company,” Asthaldo muttered, clearly unhappy with the situation. “Do not get me wrong: it is nice to see you, but this is not a best possible moment for it.”

“What is wrong?” Elladan requested, looking from one Cousin to another.

“Thalión is…” Dínnor began, not sure how to end the sentence.

“Being annoying,” Asthaldo ended for his elder. “His is furious about something, but won’t tell us the reason.”

“You haven’t yet seen me furious,” Thalión snapped, but then turned to Legolas, and all his anger seemed to be washed away. “Legolas, well met. Good to see you are still up and about.”

“See that?” Asthaldo muttered, leaning closer to Dínnor.

“Yes,” the elder replied. “Complete calmness in a fraction of a moment.”

“Wonder why is that…”


“I know. But why is that?”

“Maybe the things are connected –”

“Please, you two!” Thalión sighed back to his Cousins. “Do not be childish. I am quite fine, and you know it.”

“He is fine,” Asthaldo repeated to Dínnor, making them both grimace. Thalión groaned, pressing the bridge of his nose with his fingers.

“Would you join us for a supper?” Elrohir asked quickly, wishing to have this strange discussion over and done.

“Certainly,” Thalión answered, his two other relatives to busy with whispering to each other. “Food sounds great, even if we ate only a half day ago.”

“Half day…” Gimli muttered. “Completely unnatural. But fortunately we are now in a village of Hobbits: they might be able to teach you some proper eating-manners.” Legolas gave out a partially smothered laugh, making the Dwarf look up at him with a dark look.

“Fine, food,” Legolas calmed the situation with a nod of his head, and together they all walked forward. When they reached the square they were looking for, three sides of it lined up with thick forest, they met Gandalf speaking with Glorfindel, Merry and Pippin leaning against a boulder, smoking. Food has been set out, as if waiting for them to come and seize it.

The Wizard looked up from his place, his eyes lighting up. “Legolas, it is great ease for my heart to see you up. It was not my intention to come that late.”

“No harm done,” the Prince smiled, though many around him snorted in disapproval. “It is well to see you as well, Mithrandir. I, for one, did not expect you to return.”

“Neither did I when I sailed out from the Grey Havens,” Gandalf said, his eyes growing darker. “But many things have hanged since my departure. Days grow darker, and the evil increases its hold… But let us not talk of such gloomy things on this fine day! Sit down and enjoy each others’ good company. The food is excellent, too.”

The company sat down, taking their places, and went for the food eagerly. None of them knew when they would have a decent supper next time. “The Men are ready to leave tomorrow morning,” Aragorn informed the Istari, making the elder look up at him from his thoughts.

“Good,” Gandalf said, sounding somewhat absentminded. “Very good indeed.” None bothered him after that, wishing that leaving the Wizard alone would mean answers for them in some near future.

“You seem to fare well, after that horrible night…” Pippin called out, catching Legolas’ attention.

“Yes, thank you,” Legolas’ smiled to the Hobbit gently. “I will be fine. But tell me, how do your people manage? This has been terrible time for them with no doubt.”

“We are taking all this quite well,” Merry said slowly. “The three of us, I mean, who went with the Fellowship. We are used to death and destruction, though not in our home and on this degree, of course.” The small being was silent for a moment, gazing at the part of the village visible to them. “But our people will forget this soon. They will write great books of history about this, go back to their normal lives and just… forget. But Sam will make sure that we are protected now. He couldn’t make for the supper, though, for he is with his family at the moment.”

“We sent him away to Rosie and the children,” Pippin chorused with a happy smile. “He has been around too much lately, and the family needs its father. They all love Sam very much, and will support him through this in a way we cannot.”

“He is a happy one,” Legolas replied quietly, his eyes sliding away. Speaking of love was not a thing he desired for at the moment.

Thalión also seemed to notice this from his place beside Legolas, his eyes darkening somewhat. “Do not look so unhappy,” the Elf chided, though there was not such a great amount of happiness in his voice than one would have expected. “The sun will shine on you as well. There is still hours left today, and then there is tomorrow, and the day after that. And thousands more to come and for you to face! It is only a matter of time when all will turn out to the best again.”

Legolas blinked, looking at his silver-haired friend. He knew that the words were meant for comfort, but they only increased the hollow feeling in him. Like the shadows of late evening, they crept upon his heart, trying to suffocate him. When he realised he could no longer hold back the tears, he stood up, making the people around him jump in surprise. “I am not that hungry…” he mumbled, escaping to the forest behind him.

“What was that all about?” Gimli was first to recover, looking after his friend.

“Something I said,” Thalión decided. He had not meant to hurt Legolas more, but now he saw how deeply the other had been affected by certain words…

“Then you better go an fix it!” Dínnor hissed. “There is no need to spread your bad mood around.”

Thalión did not answer, his senses suddenly spotting someone else in the forest. With care, he shifted his eyes, seeing Rafél take after the younger Elf. Maybe things are going to turn out the best in some near future, after all, he thought happily, yet still a little awkward.

“Thalión!” Dínnor snapped, clear warning in his voice.

“Right, right,” Thalión said smoothly, grabbing a piece of bread with him. “See you later,” he quipped, taking after Legolas.

“What was that?” Asthaldo wondered aloud, still startled.

“Don’t know, but I hope our ill-humoured relative can do something about it and soon,” Dínnor snorted, leaning back against a tree unhappily.

On his side, Thalión took to the trees as soon as possible, keeping himself hidden with experience of years. He could not afford to be caught if things would go as he wished. Yet if events would go on as they currently were – which would not be a surprise at all – he would interfere to the affairs before more harm could be done. It seemed that Legolas was heading out to the river again, and as he spotted the young Prince on the water’s edge, he took a good spot in the trees, disguising himself completely. When Rafél came to his view, his senses told him that something had happened in the other. “Good supper, Thalión,” the Cousin whispered to himself, and tore a piece of bread to his fingers, watching the scene before him with interest.

Below, things were moving on steadily as Thalión guarded them from his place. Rafél approached his Prince quietly, alarming Legolas from his thoughts with a purposely snapped twig. Legolas turned around, tears still in his eyes, but he smiled a little despite the fact he looked as mournful as ever. “Rafél,” he welcomed the other softly, regarding the elder Elf who stood some feet before him. “I wished to see you,” he continued, an edge of nervousness in his voice. There was also anguish, but Rafél rather felt it through their bond than saw with his eyes. “I am sorry for the earlier. I wasn’t completely in my senses –”

“Do not apologise,” Rafél interrupted swiftly, his hand lifted in between them, “for it is I who should do so.” The hand lowered itself, and his expression turned troubled, his eyes leaving Legolas’ for a moment. With a deep sigh, the guardian gathered himself, but still refused to meet Legolas’ eyes as he went on: “I have always asked truthfulness from you, for it has been a key of our… relationship. Without that there can never be trust or true friendship. Or anything else.” He halted again, shifting his eyes to meet Legolas’ again. “But now I have lied straight at your face. I promised myself to always stay true to you, and though I haven’t been able to keep that always in the past… this was different. This lie went deeper than any of those before.”

“You do not love me,” Legolas said with a small voice, his eyes turning hollow. “I understand it,” he continued, his gaze downcast and his form trembling slightly. “No one could love a dark, twisted creature like me. I do not deserve your effort to help me. You all have endangered your lives for me – especially you. And for what? The darkness is creeping back in me, and I start to think it never left me in the first place. Not all of it. It’s something that has always been there.” Halting for a moment, the Prince’s haunted gaze ran over the darkening landscape, another shiver passing his body. “It is just… When Angmar welcomed me to the darkness… it feels like I really belong there, now. It would be so easy to let go, just drown away…”

“Never!” Rafél gasped in alarm, closing the distance between them. He had been afraid to stop Legolas before, wishing to learn what the Prince thought in his head. But he knew if he waited any longer, things would turn only worse. With a desperate effort to keep his protege from going on with his horrible litany, he grasped Legolas’ shoulders, hoping it would aid him to keep the other silent for a while. “Never say that again!” he said harshly, making the Prince cringe at his words, his eyes still shunning his elder’s. “Don’t you dare to think about surrendering yourself to the darkness,” Rafél continued with a hint of more gentleness, his fingers easing their grip some. “I will always be there to fight for you, when you cannot – or will not. Because I am not willing to let go of you yet.” Rafél halted for a moment, considering his options. But he was not ready to back down, realising that Legolas truly needed him now. This is it. The moment I have so dreaded. But I need to do this. For him, if not for myself. I can live with that. “I just want to make you feel safe, Las, to see you truly smile once more…” He halted yet again. “Would you look at me?” he requested, his right hand moving up to Legolas’ cheek to turn the reluctant head to his direction.

Legolas stared up to his guardian, uncertain what to do. He should deny everything that Rafél would give or promise, send him away from him before something evil would befall to the Elf he loved. For surely Rafél would be hurt if he stayed around, just like everyone else. But something in the older Sinda’s eyes spoke of words still unsaid, and Legolas forced himself to wait, deciding that nothing could be worse than the cold he now felt inside.

When Legolas finally allowed their eyes meet, Rafél drew a careful breathe of air, letting his boundaries fall for once, and locking all differing thoughts aside. “Weather I allow it or not, my heart has made the decision for me,” he stated quietly, guiding his fëa to touch Legolas’ to confirm his words. “I love you.” There was a silence, both staring at each other without further reaction. Then Legolas’ eyes widened, his breath catching in his throat. He opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again, shivering, and Rafél knew that Legolas understood perfectly what he had meant with those words. “With all my heart and soul, now and forever, I love you. It sounds lame, but that is all I have in me to give,” Rafél said quietly, feeling his Prince’s fëa touch his like a physical thing. Then he tilted his head, making their lips touch slowly. The kiss was not a hurried, passionate one. Rafél took it slow, knowing that this was a moment when he crossed the line. After a moment he pulled away, meeting Legolas’ shining eyes.

Fighting off the tears that threatened to break free again, Legolas allowed his hands to encounter Rafél’s tunic, the material soft and familiar under his touch. “You love me?” he asked with a hopeful tone. “You really…” he drew a steadying breath, not quite believing this was not only a dream in his head. “Say it again, please!”

“I love you. Only you. My heart is yours, as is my life,” Rafél answered, leaning their foreheads together. After this was said, they both fell silent, but their spirits seemed to sing a song on their own. After a moment of hesitation, Legolas moved closer to him, and Rafél drew the younger Elf into his arms. The Prince’s fingers pressed against his chest, feeling his every heartbeat as the golden head leaned against his shoulder. Unable to resist the temptation, Rafél allowed his hand to slide along the smooth hair, soothing away any of the fears Legolas still might had. The felt the other close his eyes, and with a small smile, the guardian held his protege.

After a time which could have been an hour, Legolas drew away slightly, his hands travelling up to Rafél’s shoulders. He felt his guardian’s hands circle his waist, and with a dreamy smile, Legolas nuzzled his face against Rafél’s gently, feeling happier than for a long time. For once, he was not alone, and he highly doubted he would ever be if his guardian had anything to say about it.

“Shall we go back to the others?” Rafél asked finally, knowing that their absence would soon be noticed.

“Yes,” Legolas gave in, flashing the other a smile. “I am still hungry, and I think I scared most of my friends by my hasty departure.” He knew that several pointed glances would be directed at him when he returned, but most of all he should apologise to Thalión.

“Good. Let us go, then,” Rafél decided, taking Legolas’ hand into his and leading the way. The Prince followed, unwilling to lose the contact either. All the moments they could have, he would be happy to draw as long as they could. Of tomorrow he knew nothing, and by judging the latest events of their life, he did not believe a moment that no more harm would be thrown on their way.

Up in the trees, Thalión got to his feet without a sound, making his way quickly through the canopy. He knew how to move without notice, but both Rafél and Legolas were seasoned warriors and sensitive Elves. He had no intentions to be caught, even now, and so he chose the quickest way back to the place where he had left the others. As he emerged to the clearing, steadying his breath, Dínnor glanced up at him with surprise. The Hobbits nearly jumped out of their skins with startled squeaks, even in their places on the other side of the group. Thalión looked with apology at the small beings, then merely shook his head at the others: there was no time for words. “All is well,” he assured, taking his seat on the ground.

After a moment of stunned silence and confused looks, a soft sound of approaching voices drew the group’s attention from Thalión’s strange behaviour. Soon Rafél and Legolas emerged from the forest, the younger Elf walking slightly behind his guardian, throwing a careful look at his companions.

“Sit down and take some food before the Hobbits consume it all,” Gimli muttered gruffly, lighting up his pipe absently. As Hobbits, Merry and Pippin laughed at this, finding the statement thoroughly amusing. Legolas returned the Dwarf’s look with a smile, glancing at Rafél before they both sat down together.

“I am glad that your mood has improved,” Asthaldo said to the guardian.

Rafél merely snorted, not commenting anything further. Legolas, on the other hand, turned to look at his guardian with confusion, slowly understanding what the two might have been talking about. As his eyes shifted to Thalión, he met the other already looking at him with a secret smile. The expression faded soon after the Prince saw it, making Legolas decide that he had to speak with the Cousin soon. But at the moment he was too content to just sit where he was, filling his empty stomach. They would have plenty of time for talk later.

Small groups were beginning to form after the supper came to its end, most unexpected people engaging into discussion with each other: Faramir was welcomed into a company of Lórien Elves, giving his viewpoint at the making of a bow. Gimli sat with Aragorn, Gandalf, the Hobbits and his kinsmen, speaking of different pipe-weeds and smoking. Éomer was speaking with Glorfindel, horses rising up in their talk now and then. The Cousins were again siding with the Twins, and soon Legolas noticed that he sat alone with Rafél. He listened to the various voices around them. He did not feel like entering any of the debates, however. Instead, he leaned towards Rafél, tilting his head slightly. “Would you walk with me? The evening is fair, and I haven’t had a chance to see this land before. If we are about to move on tomorrow, this is as good time as any to take a small look around.”

Rafél nodded, rose silently and turned to the forest with Legolas standing at his side. They made their way from the others in silence, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the darkening day on its fullest. There were no words needed, either, both of them enjoying the silent companionship too much to break it. The nature sang around them, its song far different from the other places they had visited. Yet it welcomed the Elves, the trees swaying their limbs at their direction as they passed, caressing their cheeks with soft leaves.

They reached the river and crossed it, walking further away from the houses of Hobbiton, stopping now and then to watch a sudden bed of flowers, or a beautiful form of twined trees. This was something the Elves never grew tired of: their bonds to nature were different from all the other races, and being both Sindar blood, their connection to Arda was strong. After living so many years in shadows of Mirkwood, any life was precious to them, no matter how small or tall.

As the sun began to sink onto the horizon, making the sky shine in colours of red and orange, Legolas halted under a canopy of trees, his eyes never leaving the bright source of light. Finally the last rays were swallowed by the clouds and the night descended, bringing its own, more distant light with it. Stars appeared to the sky above them, shining down with everlasting love and fondness.

But as the darkness surrounded them, consuming the world like a shadow, Legolas found little comfort in the distant light of the stars. He had always loved to sit outside at night, just silently staring up to the nothingness, or sing to the light above. Still it had been different for some time: ever since the attack of Balrog, he had fought to gather his senses. And when he finally had succeeded in that and had found joy in the song of Iluvatar again, he had been forced to look at the palatír, and all had changed. The dreams had begun, and the day had lost its shine while the night became a bitter enemy of darkness. He had hoped it all to be over now, but deep inside he knew that the battle had just begun…

Rafél saw Legolas shudder, the Prince’s face distant and almost fearful. He took a step closer, reaching out with his hand, but then decided against it, lowering it back to his side. “Are you in pain?” he asked worriedly, hoping that he would be able to offer the other the comfort needed.

Legolas actually smiled, but this time it had no warmth in it, no true happiness. “No, not yet. The pain comes… later.” He halted, drawing a long breath to steady his shaking voice. As Rafél reached out with his fëa to encourage him, Legolas looked sideways to the other, his eyes flashing in the darkness. “Its starts with darkness, and gradually turns into pain. But the dreams have to come first…” His voice turned distant again, his eyes out of focus.

Rafél weighed his options for a moment, but then decided against his hesitation, knowing that he had waited long enough. “I have seen a part of your dreams, but still there are some things I do not understand… This all began after your vision.” He noticed Legolas jerk involuntary, and knew he had hit the spot. This “vision” was the source of all his protege’s misery. “You were never one to foresee things, so tell me about this… vision. Was it a dream?”

Legolas swallowed nervously, taking a step back. He had not told to any of the true nature of his vision, and he had no intention to. But there was something in Rafél’s tone that told him the other would not back off. “I cannot tell you…” he finally sputtered out, sounding like a child in the aftermath of a nightmare.

Rafél noticed this, and closed the distance between them, grasping Legolas’ shoulders to prevent the other from escaping. Locking their eyes together, he held Legolas for a moment, and then made his move. “Tell me something, truthfully. Do you love me?”

Legolas’ eyes grew even wider, confusion in them. “Of course,” he said with a small voice. “But –”

“If you love me, you must tell me this. A time ago you promised me that you would allow me to fulfil my task as your guardian. I haven’t maybe done that as I should – after that or back in the past – but you haven’t made it easy, either.” Legolas bowed his head in shame, saying nothing. Rafél sighed, his grip loosing its angry strength. “If you love me, you will have to let me love you back. And that means you must let me protect you.” He waited for a moment, letting the words sink in. “If I do not know the danger, how am I supposed to –”

“You always say that!” Legolas finally snapped, his head shooting back up. “But how am I supposed to tell you something I do not know myself?! The reason why I never told you – or anyone else – a single thing was that I had to solve the riddles in my own mind at first. But I am not past the first when the seconds appears, and I have no answers…” Legolas knew he was sobbing by then, but at the moment he did not care. Rafél had seen the worse of him, and he had no strength left to fight the desperation that was welling up in him. He felt defeated, crushed, and at the moment he just wanted to sink down and let go. “I love you and I don’t want to lose you. But I cannot tell you something I am not sure about. I do not want this darkness to hurt you if I misjudge it and tell you something –”

“Legolas,” Rafél interrupted the younger Elf gently but determinedly. “If you love me, you will tell me. You must trust me to trust you. And you know something to begin with. Even if it would have never crossed your stubborn mind, you are not alone with your secrets once you share them, and then you have others to help you to solve then out.”

Legolas nodded slowly, sniffing. He stood silent for a long moment, but before Rafél went on, he lifted his head, gazing at the darkness. “It was no dream. Not a true vision, either. I couldn’t sleep at night and sneaked past your guard, trying to solve my thoughts. Then I saw the light in the tower, and went to see it out. The door on the top of the stairs was open, and I saw it… Palantír, uncovered and shining, practically begging to be touched. I decided to cover it and then go to tell Aragorn. But he did not let me… He made me touch it, set my hand upon the stone and I saw… this. Him. Sauron…” Legolas’ voice cut off, his eyes closed in desperate fight to drive away the pictures in his head.

“Who?” Rafél asked slowly, knowing this was the key to everything.

“I did not see his face. I do not know,” Legolas cried out, his features agonised. He hoped against all assumptions that Rafél would not catch the hint of a lie in his statement. For he knew that the same one had caught him the day before in Ithilien, and had been there when he had been saved from the burning pile in the village of Men. But he did not know who he was, so he was not really lying… “He was evil, and cloaked in black. That is all I know. How he got into the White City, I cannot guess. Nor do I know his purpose,” Legolas said slowly, glad that the other did not press the matter.

Rafél nodded, his own thoughts far from the present. As he drew Legolas into his arms and held him in the darkness of the night, a cold feel of dread settled down upon him. “Evil and cloaked in black.” It was enough to make him shiver, and he pressed Legolas even closer, praying that his sudden, dark intuition was wrong.

to be continued…

Author’s Notes: This final, penetrating discussion of palantír and all the other nice stuff is dedicated to you, Almut, meine freund (see, Legolas finally told someone something!). You always complain that Legolas keeps all within himself, so it was a time to change that a little. Hopefully this scene also explained why he has refused to tell anyone (now and in the past, for he is the very same Elf still).

In the next chapter (which seems to become horribly longer than I first planned, but what can one do…) will be some more action related (at last #sigh#). A night in Bree proves to be far more dangerous that any of this company thought. And oh, Thaíly will appear again! (for those who have missed him, this is good news, right?)

See you in next chapter, and remember to review! It is not that I am greedy for feedback or anything, but it is always nice to hear (which a review usually proves) that someone is reading this stuff. Criticism, requests, questions and hopes are taken in, and you can never be too encouraging, either :-) I’ll answer to proper reviews, I promise. Trying to be a good author now, as I have failed in it for some time already, lol (because of the lack of online-time, that is. Not that the thing would be any better at the moment, though…). Bye for now!

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