Love and Destruction
Dama pulled out his sword, frowning at the dripping blood as he kicked the dead body away. Turning toward the elves, he fell to his knees, motioning for the rest of the surviving villagers to do so. The people kneeled humbly, trembling in fear, before the silent elves. The sky was beginning to darken.
"Forgive us. We are not affiliated with their scheme." Dama glanced at the human bodies that lay around the village. "They wanted to ensure their safety against your punishment, but we beg you to have mercy." He bowed his head, touching the ground with his bloodied hair. Other men and women followed suit.
The elves watched them impassively. They had not touched their weapons during the fray. The struggling was handled swiftly and easily, before they stepped back to observe the sudden kin-slaying among the race of men. Blood darkened the dusty ground.
It was the blond-haired elf who spoke, breaking the silence. "We thank you for keeping the child safe from the dangers of the woods. You have our gratitude and friendship."
The villagers sighed a great breath of relief. They raised their heads tentatively, glancing at one another.
"However," continued the elf, and the people froze once again. "If it is discovered that the child has been mistreated in any way – you will face the wrath of the king. If your conscience is not clear, I suggest you leave the land before your sins come back to haunt you."
The elf promptly turned away, leaving his cold words to hang in the air, and mounted his steed. The other elves followed. Dama raised his eyes, and flinched when he found the piercing blue gaze upon him.
"May your nights be free of shadows," said the elf, eying him evenly. Then he turned away.
Cold dread crept up to his heart as Dama watched the elves gallop away into the woods.
As soon as he found his child standing alone in the clearing, Thranduil hoisted him up onto his horse, and led the warriors home. Arms wrapped tightly around his child, he buried his senses in the elfling's scent, losing himself to overwhelming relief and gratitude that made him dizzy. His companions galloped around him in a protective ring.
"Legolas," he whispered, kissing the top of the child's head. "Legolas, my little Greenleaf..."
Legolas responded by leaning back into his chest, sighing and closing his eyes, allowing his father to envelope him with warmth. He was still confused; there was a strange fog clouding his senses, lingering at the edge of his consciousness. He clutched the hem of his father's tunic tightly, praying that this was not a dream. And as his alertness slowly returned, he began to realize that he was riding in the darkened woods, with familiar figures galloping swiftly around him. And he was leaning against a broad chest, held tight by familiar arms, bathed in a comforting scent that only one person possessed.
Suddenly, tears stung his eyes. Ada. How long had it been since he last saw him? Since he last heard that comforting tenor calling him Greenleaf, felt those strong arms around his waist, that broad chest behind his back? It seemed like millennia ago. The memory of Ada and home seemed so distant, so ancient.
A gentle hand reached around his body, tenderly wiping his tears away. "All will be well," murmured a voice against his ear, as the grip around his waist tightened. "Worry not, little Greenleaf. Ada is here."
And it was true. Everything would be all right again. No more strange man touching him. No more posing all day, no more peeking out the window through a drape of blankets. No more fearing in the darkness of a cabin, hiding in the middle of a foreign world. Everything would return to normal. Ada was here, and he was taking him home.
Suddenly exhausted, the elfling leaned limply against his father's chest, drifting back to sleep.
The elves rode tirelessly into the havens and straight into the courtyard, passing the threshold as the gates opened welcomingly before them.
Amid the exclamations and tears of joy and relief, the warriors dismounted, and hurriedly set about tending to affairs that the king would not wish to be bothered with. Holding the elfling carefully in his arms, Thranduil leaped lightly off of his horse, landing without a sound on the ground. His mind was reeling as he absentmindedly answered the smiles and bows and joyful exclamations that greeted him on the way to his room. He had already scanned the child for injuries; to his relief, he had found none. Perhaps the humans had really been kind to him. He would thank them later, if that was the case. But that would come later.
Swinging his doors open, Thranduil passed his study, and made straight for the bedchamber. With an arm supporting the child, he managed to unclad himself of his bow and quiver, and lay down his sword. He lifted the blanket over his great white bed, and lowered the elfling onto the mattress. But the child's fingers were curled around his tunic tightly, and he snuggled in his sleep as his father tried to put him down. With a smile, Thranduil dropped the blanket and hoisted the child more securely into his arms. He walked back out into the spacious study, and with the elfling still latched onto his chest, kindled the hearth.
Bright flames illuminated the chamber with warmth as the king settled down upon a settee, eyes lowered onto the child in his arms. And as the fire burned away in the night, the silhouette of the king did not move from its place.
The first sensation Legolas became aware of was a soft touch of lips upon his cheek. Unconsciously he snuggled closer, sighing in contentment as his father's familiar scent enveloped him in the fog of sleep. The sun was shining bright.
He loved waking to his father's kiss in the morning. Because Thranduil was not always free to spend time with him, and because his undivided attention was a treat that the elfling could not dare hope for on a regular basis, Legolas cherished the mornings when his father would walk in silently and sit by him, kissing him awake with the first rays of the sun. It was the most blissful feeling Legolas knew of, a blessing that brought back the happy times with his mother – and made him happier than usual for the rest of the day. He would be absolutely certain in his knowledge of his father's love for him, for the soft warmth and whispers, the tender touch, the scent – all of them spoke to him in a way that the man's touch could not.
Legolas frowned, and blinked his eyes. Where was the man? He was not in bed.
When the haze cleared from his eyes, he looked up to see his father's pale blue eyes smiling down upon him. And then, another kiss. He blinked.
"Good afternoon, sleepy little elf."
The elfling scrunched up his nose and smiled, eliciting a soft chuckle and another kiss on the forehead. He found himself being cradled in his father's arms, as if he were still a babe – but then, he was a very small elfling for his age. He opened his mouth, and moved his lips in a soft murmur.
"Ada – am I home?"
It felt so new, this return to normalcy. As if it had been forever ago. He found himself wondering about the cabin, and its dark, cramped interior. Did he miss it? Perhaps. He had grown accustomed to it.
Thranduil gently pinched his elfling's cheek, laughing softly as the child scrunched his face.
"Yes, little one. You are home."
And I will never lose you again.
Thranduil kissed him slowly, tenderly, as lips met skin, the brows, the cheeks, the forehead, the chin. Legolas stilled.
Suddenly, the child sat up. His eyes had a look of confusion mingled with fear, a wild and frightened animal who did not understand the source of its threat. Thranduil pulled back instinctively, still holding the elfling secure in his arms.
"Do you love me?"
The question startled him. Thranduil recovered quickly, however, and bent down to plant another smiling kiss upon the child. "Of course I do."
The child looked so young, so old, so confused, so mature. He stared up at him, a strange dread spreading in his darkened eyes.
"Do you love me?"
Small hands slow crept in closer, sliding against his sides. However, instead of wrapping around his waist, the fingers slowly delved under his tunic, seeking the smooth flesh underneath. Thranduil watched, perplexed, as his child breathed his whisper fearfully, looking up with that strange expression of despair and hope in his eyes.
The hands were roaming over bared skin, laying the tunic lacings apart, rubbing against his sides and sliding around his chest. Groping, stroking, skimming. And the child continued to stare up with those eyes, voice breaking into a hoarse whisper. Heat began to gather under the pale-eyed elf's skin. And the child continued to whisper, a fevered plea.
"Do you love me...?"
A hand snatched both wrists into a death grip.
Smoldering flames of ice pierced into the elfling's frightened ones, trembling rigidly. Pale sunlight cooled against the window.
A tight silence stretched between father and son as they stared into each other, the father's eyes cutting into that of his child, searching, screaming. The elfling sucked his breath. The crushing grip was trembling, deadly against his small hands.
And then, Thranduil pulled Legolas into a crushing embrace.
"I love you," he whispered, face invisible as pale hair streamed down around him to merge with that of his child. Pulling the child closer, closer still, he clutched tight with his fingers, rocking his body back and forth, back and forth, fevered whispers seeping into the elfling's ears. Tense fingers dug into a fragile back. And he continued to pull the child closer, fervently murmuring into his soft hair, arms wrapped tightly around the small body. And rocked him back and forth, back and forth.
"I love you, my little Greenleaf. I love you."
The hot voice dissolved into a vehement defiance, an outraged cry, a passionate plea. And he continued to whisper into his hair, clutching him tight against his breast. And the whispers dissolved into broken breaths.
Dama looked up, eyes freezing with dread. So it has come.
Arrows burst forth from the foliage, slicing the air with venomous whispers. And soon, more arrows followed, tips blazing with a vengeful wrath. The villagers screamed and scattered, running blindly, groping madly, as vehement fire continued to rain mercilessly on them, wrapping the village into a flare of light.
From the bushes burst forth elves on horseback, battle cries tearing out of their throats as they ran around the settlement madly, shooting flames at the wretched lives that fled, raining death upon the doomed creatures. And cabins were swept up into wilder flames, the golden red dance of the fire becoming more frenzied, more alluring, more deadly.
The elvenking remained motionless on horseback, watching in silence as the people fled in terror and elves whirled about in a frenzy, unleashing their avenging fury.
...Do you love me...?
His glassy eyes reflected the blazing fire as the flames wrapped the entire village in its wild and mournful embrace, rising higher and higher into the crimson sky.