Chapter 14: Farewell
Legolas' feet were rooted upon the ground. He stood deathly still as the earth beneath him rumbled. The orcs screamed and floated onto the air, clawing tree branches and trunks as they were swept away – and yet Legolas stood where he was, untouched by the vicious squall that whipped the elfling and his mother. The queen held out her hands, rough gusts of light swirling around her violently.
"Give us protection, and shield us from evil!"
A wave of white tore out of the havens and rushed into the clearing, crashing into the land with tremendous force; the ground shook vehemently, tossing the elfling and the queen off of their feet.
A ravaged cry tore from Legolas' throat.
The queen's body was dangling precariously on the edge of the outcropping. Beyond the chasm lurked a darkness, the same darkness that Legolas remembered seeing this morning – or whenever it was – when the orc had taunted him about something.This is where you left your Nana to die.
The hot chill that had crept up and slowly conquered limb by limb now spread ablaze like wildfire, scorching his body with its ruthless icy heat. Legolas could not move, could not speak. Nor could he blink, or look away. He stared, frozen cold in the entrapment of heated agony, as he watched the elfling bend down toward the mesh of weeds in the darkness – which he finally recognized as a spider's lair. Legolas watched, eyes glazed and pale, as the elfling feebly pulled at his mother's dangling hand with his miniature ones.
"Hang on Nana," he cried, tugging at the blood-soaked hand. "Hang on..."
The strain was evident in his tight voice, the quivering body. Legolas finally cried out; the ragged voice scarred his throat, burning its way out into the cold tranquility of the fog. He struggled against the invisible bonds that held him in place, body shaking convulsively. His cheeks were cold with tremulous tears. Why did he have to go through this again? Why did he have to relive this nightmare? Why did he have to watch on as his mother died a second time? He cried out again, a hot, broken wail.
The queen looked up at her elfling, a gentle smile spreading across her pallid face. Her pale knuckles trembled as they gripped the brittle soil. With a crackle, small pieces of dirt went tumbling down the cliff. "I will climb up, little Greenleaf. Now run back to the castle."
"But Nana..." The elfling's voice shook in a helpless whimper.
"I will come after you," reassured the queen, her lips blossoming into a warmer smile than before. Her deep blue eyes shimmered, a vast dancing ocean. "You must go ahead of me, since you cannot run as fast as I can. Those monsters will try to come back for you."
The elfling's lips trembled, as he made another feeble attempt to pull up the queen. She shook her head. A pale hand hung limp at her side, crimson blood pumping out of the forearm. "I will catch up with you, Legolas," she whispered fiercely. "Then we will go to Rivendell together." Her face was sheathed in a clear sheen of sweat. Her voice quivered, attempting to mask the strain crushed underneath.
Then her eyes softened, gaze locking with the trembling elfling. She smiled again. With effort, she slowly raised the limp arm – and touched the elfling's face with the lightest of feathery caresses. Her hand trembled as it left a bloody trail upon her child's temple; the hand left the face, caressing the outline of his jaws, often coming close enough to touch the smooth skin – and yet hovering, the bloodied hand painfully quivering above the skin. Her eyes glazed with trembling silver.
Then she dropped her arm. Her jaws were set, teeth clenched. She breathed a fierce whisper.
"Run, little Greenleaf. Run."
Swallowing hard, the elfling reluctantly released his hold. With a nod from the queen, he hurriedly scrambled to his feet. The nimble legs gained speed as he ran out unto the forest path. He glanced over his shoulder, anxiety raising an edge to his voice. "Promise to come quickly, Nana!" A thin trail of blood followed him as he disappeared into the fog.
The queen smiled.
The halls were bustling with activity. Elves lined the floor, lying on their backs or sitting wearily on thin blankets, while younger elves busily scuttled among them with herbs, rags and other paraphernalia. The House of Healing was overflowing with patients; the fact that numerous healers had been wounded in battle added to the chaos of the palace. It was no minor miracle that there had been no deaths.Ironic, thought Thranduil grimly, as he waded through the moaning elves on blankets spread on the floor. We owe victory to being so close to loss. If he hadn't fallen, if the orcs hadn't been able to break through to the castle – then they would most probably be fighting still. Much blood had been shed upon the invasion, but the orcs would not have been dispelled with such force if they had not set foot upon the havens. He smiled wryly. It was a lethal gamble, but the stars had shone in their favor.
The king shook his head to clear his thoughts as he was reminded of the one who had dared to call upon the magic beyond the protected havens.
A healer straightened his back after tending to a wounded warrior, scouring through the crowded bodies in the hall. His eyes caught the sight of the king slowly walking among the wounded. A drape of dark blue wavered rhythmically in his gait, revealing and concealing in a caressing tide the white bandages that outlined his chest. His long sleeves could be seen trailing his path with a gentle flutter. Eyes downcast and hands outreached, the king's lips moved quietly and consistently, occasionally turning upwards for an encouraging smile, as he grimly treaded among his people, speaking to them, commending them, comforting them, encouraging them. His platinum hair tapped lightly against his back as he picked his way through the crowded floor.
Thranduil was upon the door to his son's healing chamber when the male elf approached him. He turned, solemn eyes unfathomable as they regarded the sandy-haired healer. This healer was no exception from the number of wounded; he sported a fractured arm and a tightly bound shoulder.
Bowing slightly, the healer raised his voice to be heard above the painful moans and whimpers filling the halls. "You must allow me to see to your wounds, my lord. You have been negligent of yourself."
With a dismissive wave of a hand, the king opened his mouth to decline – when he was cut off by a sudden crack of an opening door.
A pair of dark eyes regarded them with an indiscernible expression as the healer and king both turned in surprise. The dark-haired lord turned to the healer with a kind smile. Thranduil watched curiously, noting how stern, and yet so warm, those deep orbs were. Perhaps it came with age. Or it came with having known much, seen much – and to have lost much. Elrond of Imladris was not among the most penetrable elves he knew.
"No need to worry, young one. Your king has promised to let me see to his wounds."I did not know that, mumbled the king inwardly, as he watched his healer retreat to the great hall with a bow. Elrond turned to Thranduil and pulled him into the chamber, closing the door behind them with no less dignity, but with a strange sense of urgency.
The king needed no prompting from the elven lord to look toward his child in alarm. He hastily crossed the space to his elfling's bed. Elrond watched in silence as the anxious father bent over his elfling with searching eyes.
"How is he?" the voice was apprehensive. Elrond reached out and pulled the king's sleeve. Taken the surprise, the king soon found himself guided across the room and seated upon an adjacent bed, blinking at the healer with a blank stare.
Elrond's expression was still unreadable as he rolled up the lengthy fabric of his sleeves.
"I will tell you while I tend to your wounds."
The king sighed in exasperation. But he voiced no protest, and remained still while Elrond removed the loose robe from his bandaged shoulders, baring the skin with experienced hands.
Elrond's eyes were fixed on Thranduil's wounds as he undressed them deftly. "Your child was suffering nightmares."
Thranduil eyed the lore master with impatience. Elrond seemed absorbed in his work. His fingers were flying around the wounds, ever careful not to cause pain. The king could feel the vibration of magic tingling from the healer's hands. The sparkles of magic were infinitesimal, and yet he could feel the immense power pulsating behind the feathery touches. It was brighter, more reverberant, than any magic of healers he had faced. Thranduil took a deep breath.
"It seems that he encountered the same orcs that were there five years ago. They were bent on destroying his mind through memories."
Thranduil's eyes darted back to his motionless child.
Elrond reached for a small vial resting on a nearby table. His eyes were focused on the semi-transparent content he poured out from the clear container. "I used Gandalf's words to seep comfort into his subconscious mind. He is relieved of nightmares, and once more free of the weight of guilt." He applied the balm with gentle fingers.
Thranduil continued to stare mutely, and suddenly grimaced as the dark-haired elf pressed a grimy mixture of semi-ground herbs to his wound. Biting pain flared throughout his body. The king bit slowly onto his tongue.
Holding the herbs firmly in place, Elrond studied the king. "His subconscious mind sensed that I was trying to probe into it, however, and shut me out. Now he is beyond reach."
The king's eyes flashed. Elrond removed the herbs and began to bandage the wounds expertly.
"I have called for him repeatedly, but he does not heed my call."
"What can we do?" The king's eyes glittered wildly, piercing into the gaze of the healer. Elrond stood and cast a glance at Legolas. Then he tensed, alarm invading the impassive mask.
"He is moving away as we speak."
The father sprang to his feet, startling the lore master. Thranduil strode over to the elfling's bed vigorously, eyes set ablaze.Oh no. No.
He bent over his child, golden hair tumbling over his shoulders and touching the elfling's cheeks, as his hand caressed the motionless face. The chiseled jaw tightened.Don't you take him away from me.
Shrugging the hanging garb off of his shoulder completely, Thranduil climbed into the bed and pulled the child to his breast.Don't you take him away from me...!"Don't give in, my little Greenleaf," he whispered fiercely, wrapping his arms protectively around the delicate little body. "Don't you leave me."If the prince be truly one of you and the queen's blood, then he will have the strength and wisdom to endure this grief.Thranduil stroked the golden head, nuzzling the pale neck as his lips moved in fervent whisper.
"Come back, Legolas. Come back to me."
Legolas was tired.
He rubbed his eyes, and wearily looked around at the foreboding mist of the dark forest. The trees twisted their way up to the darkness, gnarled and rough. A heavy silence thickened through the pale silver fog. Legolas wondered drowsily why he was here. Did he not see his father with a big spider before he found himself walking in this direction? What had happened?
He had no clue as to where he was headed, or where he came from. The elfling sighed resignedly.
Finally, he stopped walking. Perhaps it would be wiser to stay still, and let Ada find him. He frowned. Ada must be really worried by now. He had to go back. What had happened with the spider anyway? And that orc...
"Ada?" he called, and jumped when his voice echoed ominously among the trees. He looked around uneasily. Perhaps he was too far away to be heard. Had he come the wrong way?
The elfling looked back at the direction from which he came. He was surrounded by fog and twisted trees; there were no clues to show him the way back to Ada. Legolas stood still, and then plopped down where he was, ignoring the chill seeping up through his tunic. It was not wise to wander away blindly. With a long-suffering sigh, he crossed his arms. And waited.
It was not too much later that he heard a distant melody. A mysterious echo of a song. The elfling perked up, raising his eyes to scan the trees.
Sinister as it was, there was something familiar about the haunting melody. Legolas found himself rising to his feet, drawn to the sound as if pulled by a magnet.
The music grew louder, carried by the whispering wind. A gentle flutter could be heard from behind. Legolas whirled around.
A soft laughter rolled melodiously among jagged outlines of the trees. Legolas' eyes widened. He turned again, but found only the trees looking back at him with a stoic mask.
A light brush of fabric swept the ground. Legolas turned more swiftly this time, and caught a glimpse of azure blue disappearing into the fog. He darted after the disappearing figure.
He could hear the music floating away, drifting among the trees like fluttering silk. Glimmering blue fabric danced among the silver fog. Gritting his teeth, the elfling willed his weary legs to run faster. His body was rekindled with an explosive fire. Nana was there, just beyond this mist. He could feel it!
And then, he turned his head in surprise.
Something was ringing behind him. A voice.
A distant call. Ada was calling.
Legolas slowed, mind racing with panic. Ada was near. What to do?
He watched, helpless, as the blue dress drifted out of his sight. He bolted again. He had to catch up with her. If he lost her now, he would never see her again. He knew it.
"Wait, Nana! I'm coming!"
Ada's voice grew distant, more frantic. Legolas' palms grew slick with sweat. Ada was searching for him desperately. His lips trembled; he could not lose her again. How could he let her slip away from within his reach? He silently begged his father to stop searching, to stop calling. He had to see her again.
The mist cleared. Legolas' feet stumbled, and skidded on the soil. He gasped, and quickly came to a halt.
Before him was a large portal of ethereal light. Legolas stared, amazement striking him speechless, as the dazzling white light glowed welcomingly before him. Before the threshold stood his mother, a mysterious smile playing upon her lips. Rich gold hair cascaded down her back, embroidering the flowing azure dress. Deep blue eyes shimmered with warmth, the long black lashes casting wondrous shadows upon her cheeks.
Legolas stood as if paralyzed. She had not changed at all. After five years, here she was again, as she had promised. As if – it had all been just a dream.
The queen did not call out to him. She did not hold out her arms. She stood before the luminous portal, watching the elfling with an expression of sorrow and overwhelming love. Legolas' eyes were riveted onto hers. Silence reigned.
Legolas took a step forward – and faltered. He looked behind him.
"Legolas! Where are you, Legolas? Answer me!"
The voice was getting more distant, more desperate. Screaming thoughts clawed his mind. He had to go back to Ada. He couldn't worry Ada any more than he already had. He had to go back into his arms, reassure him that he was safe.
Frustration mounting inside him, he took another tentative step forward. The queen moved slowly toward the portal. Legolas's body froze with fear.
Standing within the glowing threshold, the queen turned to him, a gentle smile caressing her lips. Legolas moved again, and she watched on. Her body began to glow with the same fluorescent light as the vortex she stood upon. The elfling stood where he was, not taking a step further. His round eyes were silver with a glimmering sheen. He reached out, ragged voice catching in his throat. A strangled sob choked out from the elfling.Can't I touch you...even once?Small fingers trembled violently.
Legolas turned his head, looking out toward the misty path. He dropped his hand, clenching it into a fist. He knew the peace and warmth that lay beyond that gate.
"Legolas! Where are you? Come back to me, Legolas!" The frantic cry was moving away. More anguished, more heart-wrenching. It clawed into his heart with agonizing heat. Legolas clenched his teeth, eyes glazed with thickening tears.
Shoulders square with resolution, the elfling whirled toward his mother. A silent tear rolled down a rounded cheek.
"I'm sorry, Nana," he whispered. More tears rained down the porcelain skin. The crystalline drops shattered against the earth, quenching the dark soil with a mournful cry. The elfling's lips moved one last time for a voiceless whisper. "I'm sorry."
He turned, and ran back the way he had come.
Thranduil's eyes fluttered open. His remained still, heart racing heatedly within his body, when he felt a squirm. It was faint, but it was there, the soft warmth brushing against his bare skin. A soft outtake of breath could be heard from the head buried in his chest.
He quickly looked down at the bundle in his arms, detaching himself just enough to see the face of his elfling.
Half-lidded eyes gazed back at him groggily. Thranduil's eyes widened, fingers frozen where they lay wrapped around his elfling's body. Legolas blinked, trying to clear the haze from his eyes.
The father swallowed hard, his throat tightening with emotion. The elfling's eyes slowly moved up and down and around, taking in the view of his whereabouts. Then his eyes snapped wide open.
"Nana..." The clear orbs stared hauntingly through the air.
Thranduil could find no words. Instead he caressed his child's hair, lips trembling and eyes wide, as he dared to let out a shaky breath. Thirstily drinking in the sight of his golden light.
Large blue eyes stared into his own. "Nana came." The voice was a whisper.
Thranduil nodded, swallowing hard again, willing his burning heart to pour out the heated agony through tremulous sighs. The elfling continued to stare, as if he could see the dream again by looking into his father's eyes. "I didn't go to to her." The elfling swallowed, suddenly overwhelmed by the realization of what he had done. His dark lashes trembled. "You were calling." His voice thickened, wavered.
Thranduil closed his eyes, letting out a final quavering breath, before opening them again. He pulled the elfling's head close. "Neither did I."
Not trusting himself to speak further, he tenderly planted a soft kiss on the elfling's forehead.I knew you would return to me.The child stared at him with unsteady eyes. A translucent tear slid down from the large blue pools. The tear rolled down solitarily, embracing the elfling's pale face with a gentle caress. Legolas blinked.
Without a word, the father gathered his child into his arms. Small hands reached up slowly to clench at a robe that was not there, and then the fingers weakly clung onto warm skin, finding their way up to the soft hair. The body slowly curled up against the wall of muscled chest, head buried in the golden screen. The small body shook as large hands stroked the warm head. A muffled sob broke out from under the curtain of gold. Thranduil closed his eyes.
Glistening trails of silver tears spread against the king's bare breast as he lay with his elfling, father and son sharing in the grief.
To Be Continued