12. The Guilty
Back in Gondor, Legolas was emerging from a side door that led from the kitchens when he heard footsteps down the usually-deserted corridor. Arms full, he quickly stepped back into the darkness and concealed himself behind the door.
His surprise increased when he realised that there were two people, and that the footsteps of one were so light they were almost inaudible.
"This is preposterous!"
Legolas gave a start as he recognised it to be Haleigh in pursuit of another.
Both stopped just outside the door, and it was clear from the acute sounds of breathing spoke of both parties' agitation.
"How dare you tell me to call off the arrangement I have with the Southrons? Have you forgotten your place? Do not think that I dare not act against you. I am afraid that rousing and emotional speech you made in court today against the Southrons is about to cost you dearly. By this time tomorrow, you will be chased out of Minas Tirith --"
"Lord Haleigh," the other said, and Legolas jumped this time, making a soft thud as his head hit the low ceiling when he recognised the speaker to be Elrohir.
While the sound was muffled enough for Haleigh not to notice, it did not escape Elrohir's attention. Sounds of a scuffle then ensued as Elrohir tried to leave.
"Do not run from me, you mangy thing!" Haleigh cried. "You have cost me much with that speech of yours --"
"Perhaps we should discuss this elsewhere," Elrohir said, and there was no doubting the tinge of panic in his tone.
"No, I won't! Who has put you up to this? It must have been that cursed Elf! What has he done to mess with your mind again? Is it not enough for him to --"
"Enough!" Elrohir roared.
There was a loud cry from Haleigh.
"How dare you!" Haleigh shrieked. "I swear you will pay for this! By this time tomorrow, all of Gondor will hear of your filthy ways, of your sordid coupling with that whore of an Elf!"
"Stop it!" Elrohir cried.
"Then what would you do to buy my silence this time? Resign and never come back? Open the gates for the invading forces?" Haleigh crowed, his tone triumphant.
Elrohir had no chance to reply as there was a loud crash from the corridor, sounds of silver platters falling to the ground and crockery smashing.
The mad gleam in Haleigh's eyes increased as he realised they had been overheard. "See how another reacts to this foul piece of news, Lord Elrohir?"
He could not carry on, as a livid figure stormed out, unsheathing a long knife and throwing the scabbard at his feet.
"I challenge thee to a duel. "
Haleigh's eyes almost fell out of his head as he realised that it was Legolas standing before him, looking every inch the warrior, every pore of his body oozing rage. His fear increased tenfold when the implication of what Legolas had just done sank in, for Legolas had just invoked a sacred Gondor tradition. When those words were uttered, there was no withdrawing from the duel, and it was never used lightly. The outcome of the duel would be determined only when one side fell dead, and Haleigh was not under any illusions of being able to defeat the skilled Elf.
Recovering from relief and shock at seeing Legolas in such rage, Elrohir stepped between them.
"I would urge caution before either of you act --"
Legolas seemed not to hear him.
"Draw your weapon," he snarled, the cold anger in his voice and murderous gleam in his eye enough to unnerve any soldier.
"Move out of my way," Legolas said. "I will not rest until I kill this Orc-pup before me."
Reduced to a quivering pile, Haleigh found that he could not speak.
"I said: draw your weapon, you lily-livered fool! If you do not, I will still strike you down, whether or not you are armed. Surely you know more about your precious Gondorian traditions than a filthy Elf like me?"
Something snapped in Haleigh as he saw the way Elrohir was throwing frantic glances at Legolas, looks which spoke of his anxiety and his concern for the other. Immediately, bile rose in Haleigh's throat as he thought of the relationship between the two.
"How dare you invoke these ancient and noble tradition, you filthy man-whore? Just by mentioning them --"
Elrohir flung himself before Legolas and held him back as he let out a strangled cry and pounced.
"Let go of me! I will rip him from chin to groin, and then work on him!" Legolas cried, startling Elrohir even with his mighty rage.
Knowing that Legolas would indeed do as he was threatening, Elrohir thought quickly before pushing Legolas back further.
"I had hoped to make the both of you see this from each other's view. Haleigh, the reason I made that speech was because Halim is no longer with the Southrons. He is safe with Faramir in Osgiliath. I was hoping to bring you to him tonight."
"All the better for me to cut both their ungrateful throats!" Legolas said, still trembling with rage.
For the first time, Haleigh's embittered features seemed to relax, and his knotted facial muscles softened for the briefest second.
"How do I know you are speaking the truth?" he spat.
"Because I will be able to bring you to him. I wanted to tell you later on in private; you would not have appreciated my breaking the news to you anywhere else."
"I don't believe you," Haleigh said.
"Let me strike him down!" Legolas said. "Such ungratefulness deserves not to be allowed to linger on in this world! To think that Elrohir risked saving him while you were holding him ransom to your traitorous ways!"
"Listen to me, Haleigh, by my honour, I will take you to see Halim tomorrow at noon. All I ask is that you at least stay your threats till then."
Legolas let out a dismayed breath. "You are too kind on this traitorous bastard! He deserves punishment worse than death for his betrayal!"
"Halt your tongue, you filthy Elf!" Haleigh cried, his temper working up again. "What do you know about such things?"
The explosion from Legolas never came as predicted by Elrohir, as Legolas took a deep breath and spoke, his voice suddenly strained. "Enough to know that I had once allowed a mere boy I loved more than anything in the world die rather than allow my people to fall to darkness."
Seeing Legolas suddenly lose his rage, Elrohir said, "Haleigh, you have known me as one who has always kept my word, and again I give it to you that Legolas speaks the truth. All I ask is that you open your mind to our ways, and understand that we are not that different from you."
The confusion that Haleigh felt was clear to both Legolas and Elrohir, as he struggled with the notion that had just been put so rationally before him. Could it be true then that Elrohir was being perfectly honest with him, that there was no reason for him to loathe and fear the Elves as he had come to all his life?
"You know that we are lovers. By his life, I swear to you that your son will be returned to you soonest. You will never hear of this again, and I will see to it that the Harad princes no longer bother you or your family."
Haleigh looked like he was about to reply vehemently. Then, before their eyes, he crumbled and fell to his knees, face suddenly taking on a joyous, hopeful sheen unlike anything either Legolas or Elrohir had seen before.
"Is what you say true, Lord Elrohir? Halim is safe with Faramir?"
"This is ridiculous --" Legolas's answer was cut off by Elrohir.
"Is it true?" Haleigh repeated, staring at Elrohir.
"I gave you my word, Haleigh. I understand why you feared for your son. Even as we speak our soldiers march on the Southrons, and there has been a re-assignment of men to thwart the information you sold to them. Gondor will find safety in her strength, as is your son."
Two loud cries pierced the air as Haleigh lunged forward at Legolas, who lifted his knife to defend himself, sending it straight into Haleigh's abdomen.
Horrified, Legolas let go, and Haleigh grabbed the handle, flicking the sharp knife upwards, before he fell to the ground.
Elrohir and Legolas rushed to him.
"My Lords, please forgive me! I was blind not to see through our differences and recognise the good hearts in you. I have betrayed my country, my people, even my son, and have no right to hear him address me as his father again."
By this time, his voice was so weak that Elrohir and Legolas had trouble hearing it.
"Promise me to look after Halim --"
"We will," Elrohir said with conviction, knowing that there was no hope for the man.
Haleigh managed a tiny smile before his body stiffened and his eyes rolled up.
Looking at Legolas, Elrohir saw that he was shaking with the sudden release of his rage.
"The knife," Legolas said.
"Lass, go to Estel and bring him here."
"Would I have killed him unarmed?" Legolas said, still rooted to the spot. It was the very last response he had expected from the man.
"Lass, please go!"
Snapping back to the present, Legolas ducked into the passageway, leaping over smashed plates and ruined fruits while Elrohir kept watch.
It was a good quarter of an hour before Aragorn arrived with Legolas. His lips pursed further when he saw the sight of Haleigh's dead body.
"I killed him, Estel, after challenging him to a duel," Elrohir said, pointed at the drawn sword in Haleigh's hand.
"Nice try," Aragorn said, while beside him, Legolas narrowed his eyes.
"Estel, I will not --"
"No, Roh, I will not have you bear this for me. You have borne enough!" Legolas said. "It was my duel and my knife that killed him, and I shall bear responsibility for it."
"Legolas has told me the whole story," Aragorn said. How are you feeling, Roh?"
"Stop trying to change the subject, Estel. Somebody must be held accountable for his death, and he has hurt Legolas enough!"
"And you? Will you look me in the face and lie about how you have been enjoying yourself these past months?" Legolas cried.
"It appears that none of you need worry," Aragorn said, stepping between his foster brothers. "I will arrange to be disposed."
"But we passed a law banning duelling!" Elrohir cried. "Even kings are not above the law, Estel! You keep the peace, and I will not have your conscience tarred for my sake!"
"He is right, Estel," Legolas said. "This will be an unacceptable breach on your behalf, and we will not be the cause for that."
"What would you have me do, then?"
"Subject us to a full committee, painful as the experience might be. I will not have your people speak of how you lavish special favours upon your family and how we can do no wrong under the law of the land. I have faith that we will be exonerated, for we have done no wrong!" Legolas said.
"We cannot do that," Aragorn said. "'Else your relationship will be known to all. The damage that you will suffer will far outdo the service you have just rendered upon Gondor. Not many of my Court will see it and understand."
Legolas let out an exasperated sigh. "Must we hide in the shadows then?"
"Estel is right, Legolas," Elrohir said. "We will be banished from Gondor were our binding to become public knowledge."
"I do not like feeling as if what I do was something base."
"Please, leave this to Faramir and I. As King, I have a discretion to make decisions when the information is too sensitive for public dissemination, and this I hold to be one of them. I hereby exile the both of you for invoking a banned duel of the ancient nature, and you shall stay away from Gondor for a year upon pain of death."
Elrohir flushed and took a step forward. "Now, Estel, while I told Ada I would look after you, I am sure he would understand if I took offence at you for ordering me around in this manner."
"Really, Elrohir," Legolas said, stepping behind him. "Even were you to renounce all allegiance sworn to Estel, surely you are still bound to whatever orders I as your spouse am able to dispense to you?"
Elrohir whipped around to face Legolas, only to have his mouth caught in a full kiss.
"Your orders are to leave now, my heart," Legolas said, as Aragorn looked away to hide his grin.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.