In the Arms of the Enemy
Thanks for everyone who reviewed the last chapter: love07, Little Birdy2, tiamaria40, peculiarxemma, Starmaker Superstar, CountryGirl6699, mizztawky, LadyVivianeNight, Aranel Mereneth, Alunewalla, PhantomXAngel33, Legomance! You guys are the BEST!
And a big shout out to The Hobbit Ivy for reading NUMEROUS versions of this chapter from sketchy outline to helping me edit the final draft!
"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." -Gandalf (from "Shadow of the Past," Fellowship of the Ring)
"Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains…Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously…And those that endure in Middle-earth and come not to Mandos shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after. The Valar have spoken." (from The Silmarillion, "The Curse of Mandos")
Chapter 49: In the Arms of the Enemy
Legolas had left the Houses of Healing some time ago and had gone directly to Celeril's room to find what was keeping Miredhel. When he found the room untouched with the sketchbook still lying on the ottoman, the prince supposed she had lost her way and had wandered off somewhere. With a chuckle, he decided to look for her by the seventh gate, guessing Miredhel had simply missed a turn. He strolled back down the long hall of the king's palace, pausing briefly to allow a bevy of ladies to pass through the door before him. They giggled as they swept past him and then admiringly glanced back at the elf lord. Legolas' keen ears could not help hearing a few of their titters, 'so handsome, even if he is wounded,' and 'I wonder if he needs someone to kiss it and make it better!'
Physically, Legolas knew he was in the worst shape he had been in ages, as many of the muscles in his back were still tender from the orcs' abuse. He had confided in Aragorn during their journey, worried that he continued to feel so appallingly weak. His friend had only commented that it was little wonder he had not died, and recovery from wounds such as his were going to require patience. Impressing a few maidens in the hall was the least of his concerns.
Thinking of the young women in the hall, there was only one maiden whose kisses Legolas desired.
Legolas permitted himself a small smile as he stepped outside. The sun had already begun to set, brightly, furiously, bathing the Tower of Ecthelion in a stream of gold, and the fresh breeze blowing off Pelennor fields was a balm to the elf's spirit. It had been too long, he reflected, since he had felt such calm. The threat of the dragon was gone, and Aragorn's city and people were once again secure. Legolas remembered having stood in almost the same spot in the Citadel, looking over the fields and lower levels after Aragorn's coronation, feeling much the same contentment. Only this time, Legolas realized he felt much more complete. His sister was with him and safe, he had a loyal group of elves willing to work with him to restore beauty to a ravaged land, and he had Miredhel. The light of her spirit, her bond with him, filled the gaping loneliness and empty void that he had suffered so long. She loved him freely, without pretension or restraint. He briefly closed his eyes, reveling in the warmth of the sun's lingering light on his face.
A faint shriek followed by a cry for help broke his solitude. His every fiber coiled with dread. He knew that voice well.
It was Miredhel.
Her screams for help rent the air a second time, and Legolas was already in motion toward that sound that had initially frozen him with fear and panic. Forgetting injury or weakness, the elf raced past the scattered denizens of the Citadel toward the southern wall, his urgency lending him speed and grace that was awe-inspiring and inhuman to the several onlookers that he passed.
"Notify the king! Call for more guards—something is happening. Prince Legolas, wait!" A guard pleaded as the elf rushed past, but even then, Legolas did not stop. His one thought was getting to her.
Fear curled only tighter inside as he ran, flying past the king's palace toward the courtyard on the southern side of the city, refusing to pay heed to his crying muscles, and none of the worry and panic he felt could have prepared him for the horror his eyes met.
Miredhel, prone across the grass, the fabric of her soft gray riding skirt stained crimson to her waist. Adrendil hovered over her, red-rimmed knife in one hand and a sword in the other.
Rage snapped through Legolas, and fury, white-hot, blinding and deadly, overcame him. All thought ceased, and he only acted, only heard the primal pounding of his heart. The prince tore into Adrendil in one swift movement, lifting him away from Miredhel's body and flinging him against the city wall so hard that he bounced, his weapons clattering to the ground around him.
Legolas heeded not the outcome of his actions, for he was already kneeling at Miredhel's side, smoothing his hand gently across her face.
"Miredhel, you're alive. Thank the Valar. When I saw him…" Legolas' voice trailed off, and he kissed her forehead, as he searched anxiously across her body for any wounds.
"He killed Eledhel," Miredhel's words came in short gasps, and Legolas' head snapped toward Adrendil's direction, and the prince rose, slowly and deliberate, taking a protective stance between her and the elf. "I found your arrows, Legolas—the mithril arrows—in his room!" Miredhel explained quickly.
Wiping at the dark, red drip across his chin, Adrendil rose from the ground, blades in hand, and glared at the prince.
Legolas stared back, daring Adrendil to refute Miredhel's words. He thought back to that fateful evening at the encampment when the orcs had captured him. Adrendil had been with him that night. They had crept together to the edge of the orcs' camp, but it had been Eledhel, not Adrendil, who had rescued him, when the orcs had seized him, abused and tortured him. Had Adrendil lain in wait, watched as the orcs had taken a chain to his back, and then stolen the arrows? And to what end? His mind flashed to the fields of Calenfen as the black dragon circled, lashing its tail against the sky, and his friend Eledhel sank to his knees, his armor and chest pierced by three of the mithril arrows.
Adrendil's words from days before, unbidden, rushed back to him: 'If Miredhel's grief returned, would you let her go? To leave these lands?' If her grief returned… Eledhel, brought down by the mithril arrows. If. Adrendil had taken no chances.
"Kinslayer," Legolas hissed. "Murderer." All the relief and ease that had come with finding Miredhel unharmed evaporated against the fury burning through his body. He reached for his knives and realized with a start that he had left them with his saddlebag in his room. He had not anticipated needing them again so soon.
Eyes gleaming, Adrendil lazily spun his sword in his hand. "Seems you've lost your weapons again, Prince Legolas, and there's no Eledhel to save you this time."
"You are a coward, Adrendil. You would sneak and deceive and kill others, rather than face me openly in honest battle," Legolas baited him, his voice low and dangerous, "because you know I would win."
Adrendil launched himself toward Legolas, and only then did Miredhel remember that she still carried Roren's dagger. She flipped it up to Legolas, and in one fluid motion, he caught the small knife and flung it straight at his enemy's heart.
But Adrendil was no simple orc on the battlefield, he was elf kind, and his reflexes were every bit as honed as the prince's. Long had he waited for the chance to prove he was the better elf! His sword struck dagger mid-air and deflected it, sending it far from his opponent's reach.
Legolas did not care. He had used that split-second to gain ground on Adrendil, putting valuable distance between the fight and Miredhel. He deftly side-stepped the next violent slash of the captain's sword and reached into the blow, his forearm snapping up, his hand balled into a tight fist. Legolas struck him across the jaw, and Adrendil staggered back.
"You will never touch her again," the prince promised in a low growl.
"Lord Legolas!" a man's voice called, and a quick glance told him that their fight was no longer a private dispute. A small crowd of onlookers mixed with a few of the Citadel guards had gathered on the edge of the courtyard; with a rush of gratitude, he realized Miredhel had joined them.
"Lord Legolas!" one of the guards shouted again, and steel flashed bright through the air. He tossed the elf his sword, and Legolas caught it high at the hilt, and not a moment too soon.
Adrendil was upon him, his blade flashing, and Legolas met the challenge. He parried the blow so quickly that many of the onlookers might have missed the action, for he instantly begun his attack, anticipating Adrendil's moves. The elves moved with amazing speed against each other. Every feint, every turn and strike, each thrust and parry—all were executed with swift, lethal grace.
As the deadly dance quickened its pace, many in the crowd watching murmured uncomfortably, dismayed by the raw display of power before them. Never before had they beheld a fight between two of the Firstborn, and this was no exhibition or practice match. This was a fight to the death between two completely committed foes, whose training and expertise had been cultivated over centuries. It was awe-inspiring and belittling all at once.
Miredhel flinched at the clash of the swords, and she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was King Aragorn.
"Please, please put a stop to this," she begged him.
"I dare not order the archers to shoot, my lady. They are moving too quickly for my men to get off a clean shot." His voice was low and surprisingly calm.
"I fear Legolas will not last much longer, for he is already injured! Oh, if only he had his knives instead of a sword," Miredhel said worriedly. She could hardly stand to watch, nor could she merely look away; with every strike and turn, her anguish mounted, the much-hated grief clamoring to spill forth, barely held back by sheer will and the strength of her bond with Legolas.
Aragorn braced her, and his clear eyes focused on hers, willing her to not give into despair. "Legolas will not fall, my lady. Look at him!"
Legolas spun out of Adrendil's reach and counter struck against him, slashing through the fabric in his captain's tunic; the prince's blade was all ease and smoothness, while he moved with a feral intensity not oft seen in generations of men or elves.
"Did you ever wonder why Legolas fights with knives, not a sword?" Aragorn asked Miredhel. "I asked him one time, and he just sort of smiled, so next time I asked his sister. Do you know what she said? She told me that Legolas switched to training with the knives a century ago, because the sword was no longer a challenge."
Miredhel's mouth formed a small 'o,' taking small comfort that revelation, giving due that Legolas seemed very much a master of the sword.
"Have you ever seen such a fight?" one of the soldiers exclaimed to the other, and the crowd tittered in agreement.
Fight. Miredhel thought it seemed almost too small a word, to capture what she now witnessed, Legolas and Adrendil trading feints, thrusts and parries with lightning speed, almost impossible to follow; this was no mere fight, it was a storm—raging, dark, destructive. Their blades were glints of lightning as the elves thundered across the courtyard and toward the high walls of the sixth level.
"Are you sure about this?" Legolas asked coolly, eyes glittering, as Adrendil's offensive strikes led him to back up the stairs accessing the top of the city walls. "There is no easy way down from these walls, Captain, and my skill has always exceeded your own."
"So sure are you?" Adrendil scoffed, and his blade rang against the prince's in vehement protest. "I'm the one who has kept the lands of our people safe all these years, by my sword, my blood. You know nothing of my skill!"
Navigating the stairs did nothing to slow the speed of either warrior's attack. Adrendil continued to rain blow after powerful blow across Legolas' defenses, hoping to make the proud prince falter as he nimbly climbed the high stairs in reverse.
Legolas knew he would not be able to defeat Adrendil through sheer strength alone; his injuries left him far too weak, his stamina sorely lacking. From almost the beginning of the fight, he had let Adrendil take the offensive. The captain ranked as one of the best offensive sword masters in Mirkwood, and both elves knew it, just as they both knew Legolas' defensive skills were nonpareil. There is little room in combat for false modesty. Legolas depended on the captain's blinding pride almost as much as his own skill to help him win this fight.
The prince had determined moments after meeting Adrendil's blade for the first time in the courtyard that their fight should end here, high above Minas Tirith on the sixth wall of the city. After the first series of exchanged strikes and parries, Legolas observed that Adrendil's strength and overconfidence could very well be his weakness; the Captain consistently struck too hard, with too much momentum.
Adrendil's balance was off, and the prince was too good of a swordsman to let it go by unnoticed. Between two great masters of the sword, even the tiniest nuance could be turned to strategic advantage. Adrendil's over-powering strength could be his downfall. Literally.
So Legolas had lured Adrendil to the high stairs of the city wall, and when the elves had reached the top, the shouts and banter of the crowd below died to a murmur as they watched the dueling silhouettes of the two elves high above them. For all could see change apparent in what now transpired. Something had happened, had shifted—the prince had deftly taken control of the fight.
No longer content to play defense, Legolas pulled on the last reserves of his strength the moment he reached the top of the city wall. He attacked Adrendil with seamless grace and fluidity bought by decades of knife work, his agility and speed unmatched.
Adrendil stumbled and hastily stepped away.
Legolas did not pursue, but kept his stance and lazily spun the borrowed sword in his right hand. Far below the crowd leaned in, hoping the light evening breeze would blow snatches of their conversation down to the courtyard.
"Legolas is trying to talk Adrendil down," Aragorn surmised quietly to the lady beside him. He did not need to hear the words to know the meaning. He knew his friend Legolas.
The prince gazed down at the lower levels of the city, where lanterns now glimmered over the walks. "Surrender, Adrendil. Return to my father's kingdom for judgment," he said at last and then turned toward the captain.
"For what? Exile?" Adrendil scoffed. "I think not."
"You have to know that I've only been toying with you this whole fight," Legolas said softly. "I could have easily killed you by now."
The captain's face flushed with contempt. "Then why haven't you?" he sneered. "Too noble? Or as your father always despaired, too emotional? Lacking the killer instinct?"
"No," Legolas said grimly, "I despair for what you have done, Captain and the lives you've taken. You've forced me to be judge and executioner, and for myself, I would spill your blood across these stones in a second."
Adrendil's eyes darkened. "I won't surrender to face banishment."
"That's what I thought," the prince said resignedly. Bitterness welled up inside the elf that this task should fall to him. He would have to kill Adrendil, one of his own kind; the wickedness of it sickened him, just as the rage warring inside him ever since he saw Adrendil leaning over Miredhel, his knife at her throat, craved vengeance.
A breath later Legolas' sword slashed through the air, a violent white line in the sun's dying light. Adrendil dodged the blade, and countered, forcefully, desperately, throwing his weight behind the blow.
Legolas feinted at the last possible moment, and the captain's previous attack had left himself open, for he could not bring his sword back quickly enough to defend his center. It was all the opening Legolas needed.
The prince sliced up the underside of Adrendil's forearm to rest the point of the sword at his throat. The captain stilled, his sword arm dangling at his side, the sleeve torn and wet.
"Yield, Adrendil. Drop your sword," Legolas warned, pressing the blade against the smooth column of the captain's neck.
Adrendil's sword clattered to the ground, but little compliance registered in the captain's visage.
"I won't go in. You'll have to kill me," Adrendil said simply and smirked, "but you won't."
"You think I won't? For what you've done?" Legolas challenged with the weight and the power of his blood ringing true in his every word, his lineage resonant and as firm as the sword in his hands.
"I know you, Legolas. It was an ill kept secret within the palace that you returned from the war…unwell." Adrendil said, his words like a dangerous current, smooth. "There were whispers from the guards—Thranduil's youngest was not sleeping. You stalked the corridors of your father's palace late into the morning hours, and when you did perchance to sleep…you dreamed, did you not?"
"Do not make this about me," the prince hissed and pushed his blade's edge even more firmly against the traitor's neck.
"It has always been about you, Prince Legolas," Adrendil debated precipitously. "For all the talk among the palace staff of what ailed their beloved prince, few could put it together, but I did. I listened well enough, watched closely enough."
"Enough for what?" Legolas demanded.
"You have sea-longing!" Adrendil exclaimed loudly enough that even the people below could make out the elf's words. "I know that you do! Do not try to deny it."
Legolas did not answer, and Adrendil spoke again.
"And when Aragorn's days dwindle to naught, and you grow weary of waiting on the whims of these mortals, you will wish to leave these shores."
Legolas eyes flashed and he would have contradicted the captain, but the captain cut him off.
"You will, Legolas. The Sindarin blood runs too deep in your veins even for you to withstand for long." Adrendil eyed the blade still pressed firmly against his neck.
"But not if you kill me." The captain smiled bitterly.
"Kill me, and no gray ship will bear you hence. Your days will be unending agony," he predicted, his voice dropping to a harsh whisper. "All will leave. Miredhel will leave. But you, you will stay in unending loneliness, forever listening for crashing waves calling you home..."
The prince's eyes lost their focus for only a second, perhaps even less than that, but the moment was all the chance that a guileful and seasoned warrior such as Adrendil needed. He broke away from the lethal sharp edge digging into his neck and drew his own long knife from his belt. His blade caught the prince in his side with one ruthless quick jab, and Legolas staggered back.
Then faster than sight, Prince Legolas Thranduillion spilled the blood of his father's former captain.
He struck Adrendil down atop the high walls of Minas Tirith, and all watching silently below gasped to see the famous elven prince, friend to their king, seemingly all things gentle and noble as such is the way of the elves, take the life of his own captain with a powerful sweep of the sword across the chest. The elves had a name for such a perfectly timed move, meant not to disable but to kill one's enemy outright- durtha sul, a deathblow.
Adrendil wavered and then sunk to his knees before his lord, the knife rolling uselessly from his hand, and he pressed both palms across his chest, only to raise them again in disbelief. So many times had his hands been stained with the blood of his enemy, but now the captain stared at his own crimson-coated fingertips, his own blood. His face grew ashen.
At the same time, Legolas dropped his sword, and clutching his side, knelt by Adrendil's side to help him lean back.
"I did not… think you would do it," Adrendil gasped. "You… Legolas are not so different from me. I killed, because I wanted…what I could not have… and now you…" His face paled, and Legolas braced him, supporting his head.
"You have served my people for many years, Adrendil. I am sorry it has come to this," Legolas said softly, his voice holding no malice, only sorrow.
The light in the captain's eyes dwindled, but remained unapologetic. "You will never leave these shores, Legolas…never… leave" The honeyed tones of his voice failed, and so died Adrendil, Captain of Mirkwood, his face bitter and resolute, cradled in the arms of his enemy.
Thank you for reading!
Adrendil references the "Curse of Mandos"—In The Silmarillion, the Noldor attack and slay many of the Teleri when they refuse Feanor the use of their ships. Mandos, one of the Valar, curses the Noldor to exile… (of course, Legolas is Sindarin, but hey! The idea remains: Elves shouldn't kill elves. 'nuff said!)
Please, Puh-lease, review and let me know what you thought about the big showdown. Many of you had some very definite opinions on Adrendil and what his fate should be, so let me know how the fight scene measured up. Was justice served?
And what now for Legolas? Is he as guilty as Adrendil of kinslaying? Do you believe Legolas was justified in killing him? I really debated this in terms of characterization for Legolas—could he strike down a fellow elf? Is he a killer? (in my mind, undoubtedly—but not a murderer, more like a product of his environment)
You know I'm making this up as I go, right? I really am influenced by your feedback and insight!
Coming up: Legolas returns to the Houses of Healing, and Miredhel sets things straight. And hey, does killing a person on the king's city wall mean that Aragorn will have to cancel his dinner banquet in Legolas' honor?
One Last thing: Go check out Aranel Mereneth's new 'legomance' Enyalie. I LOVED the first chapter and definitely recommend it! (I have to say: it has Gollum in it—what could be better?) Nasty elvesess.