The afternoon sun rested peacefully above the valley of Imladris, enveloping the blue skies with the warmth of its rays. Green grass caressed his robes, tapping against his feet, as the lord of the valley watched the lone rider approach. A smile spread faintly across his serene face.
"Well met, Legolas."
The horse slowed to a halt, and the young elf astride leaped off. He bowed.
Elrond held out his arms, into which the younger elf moved willingly. Gentle arms squeezed the limber body, and Legolas leaned in closer, radiating weary relief.
"My heart sings to see thee," whispered Elrond, lightly stroking the child's back. His hand halted when he felt an imperceptible tremor run along the youth's spine, but when he felt for it again, uncertain, it was gone.
Legolas pulled back, gazing up with a smile. "Thank you for sending Elladan and Elrohir to Mirkwood."
With an answering smile, Elrond wrapped his arm around the youth's shoulder and began to head back to the Last Homely House. "They went willingly, young one. But let us speak no more of this until dinner. Rest; you have traveled a long way."
The public bath was empty, as he knew it would be during dusk. Shedding his clothing, Legolas crouched at the edge of the marble floor, staring down at the waters. Golden glints were breaking over the aquamarine surface.
You are beautiful...
Slowly he stood, and swept his gaze across his body. No more scars marred his body; only burns, painful and incomprehensible burns that caressed his body with heated venom. He shut his eyes.
You are beautiful...
Snapping his eyes open, Legolas shook his head, attempting to calm his racing heart.
Gentle sunlight streamed in through the glass wall, the blurred prisms of the glass refracting the rays. A tint of red was appearing on the western sky, preparing to brush into the setting sun. He was alone in the spacious marble chamber, the silence embraced by the soft lapping of the waters. He breathed deeply. He was alone. Safe.
Sliding into the water, he rubbed his eyes wearily, and sank down until he was neck deep. He was tired.
This was a short moment of respite, and he knew it. Soon he would join the lord for dinner, and would be asked questions he dared not answer. And he would have questions of his own, questions that burned into his soul with restless fatigue. And he would soon resume his search, to piece the puzzle together; he would stay away from home, away from Lorien, Imladris – all who knew him well.
The memory of his father, prone and pale on the bed, returned with a vengeance. He shook his head, willing the memory to fade. He was not ready. He could not face his father again yet – not until he had found answers. And only after his father was fully recovered. Slowly he brought up his hands, and stared at them.
The hands of a healer.
The hands of a killer.
You cannot be both, he whispered with dull despair. You must decide.
The eyes of the orc returned, red and wide with terror. The menace that emanated from the creature was not that of an urge to kill, but the urge to survive. An instinctive distrust, a learned fear.
Clenching his hands, he looked up toward the setting sun. The rays were burning bronze.
What have I done?
Biting down a sob that begged to be released with reasons unknown, he stared hard into sunlight beyond the distorted glass.
Do you regret, Legolas? He asked shook his head. He did not know. All he knew was that his father had paid for his actions; his father was hurt. That was the only truth he could see; all else was a blur, ungraspable like the lapping waters. And that painful image of his pale father lay in the center of all the abstract realities that floated around, the one link in the chain that mattered most. But where did it lead? What lesson was to be learned, and what answer lay before his eyes?
Have you ever killed an elf, father?
Closing his eyes, he released his footing and sank deeper into the water.
That is why you must continue to fight them, Legolas.
Orcs and elves.
Elves and humans.
A human village razed by an elven king.
Looking up from under the water, he held out his hand toward the glimmering source of light that danced beyond the far surface of the broken waters.
Fractured truths, scattered realities. And no answer to the puzzle, no ultimate truth.
The last rays of the sun caressed the surface of the water. Legolas watched swirls of yellow hair dance across the aquamarine surface, breaking through the unyielding thickness. He closed his eyes.
Ada would be worried.
His back touched the floor of the tub. Then his shoulders, and then his legs – and then solid ground was under him, and he could sink no further.
He lay still, feeling the hard marble floor beneath his bones. He wished he could sleep forever encased in this warmth; he was weary.
Legolas of Mirkwood was no longer a messenger of peace, protector of light. He was no longer a valiant warrior who fought to protect his home, dirtying his hands for the most innocent and primal cause. The stains could no longer be cleansed; he was no longer innocent. He was no longer in the side of the right.
He shuddered. When had his world come to this? This confusion, the meshing of right and wrong and the disappearance of good and evil, a dance of desire and greed and power and fear – this was what his life was, what it had been throughout his years of ignorance.
Slowly, he pushed himself upward, back up toward the distant light.
No, he could not return. Not yet. He had to resume his search as soon as possible, and find the human. The human held the key; he had answers.
Breaking out of the heavy surface, listening to the slashing of water as it broke its cocoon and tumbled back into peace, he slowly opened his eyes. The sun was setting into a streak of red. Narrowing his eyes against the prism of light, he inhaled deeply.
He could not stay for long. He would ask the Rivendell elves about the humans that had come, that the twins had tracked. He would ask about the human trail that had led from the outskirts of Mirkwood, the trail that had vanished near Rivendell. And as soon as he was rested, he would leave.
Taking in another deep breath, he rose from the water, and leaped onto the marble floor. He had much to do.