6. Everybody Has Secrets
"You shall go no further, Haleigh," Eldarion said, sticking out his arms.
"Your Highness," Haleigh said, forcing a smile to his face. "I have an urgent matter to attend to!"
Eldarion gave a snort of disbelief. "And what matter requires you to climb to the top of this tower, Haleigh?"
Gritting his teeth, Haleigh bowed low before the Crown Prince again. "My Lord, if you do not allow me to proceed, I fear for the safety of your Uncles Elrohir and Legolas."
His ruse caused Eldarion to turn a pasty shade. Out of the corner of his eye, Haleigh saw him give a quick, worried look towards the single entrance of the watchtower.
"Uncle Roh and Uncle Lass are fine, and do not need your concern!" Eldarion said, although his tone lacked conviction.
"But Your Highness, you do not know --"
"I know far more than you do, so be quiet and go away before I tell my father about your rudeness!" Eldarion cried, stamping his foot.
"Now, Your Highness, I am sure your knowledge does not extend that far. After all, you are only a child, and one can't expect you to understand or know certain things!"
"That's a lie!" Eldarion cried. "Uncle Roh trusts me much, much more than you!"
Haleigh noted that Eldarion kept taking panicked glances towards the door, and decided to push him further. "So what would he have told you that is such a big secret?"
"That is a stupid trick, and I will not tell you!" Eldarion said, pouting.
In an instant, Haleigh's haste to reach the top of the tower to intercept the message with the latest missive from the Southrons was forgotten, as the implications of Eldarion's inadvertent admission hit him. So, Elrohir was hiding a secret. If he could find it, such knowledge could be powerful indeed.
"Of course not, Your Highness, I am sure you are trustworthy and can keep a secret."
"I am glad you have realised it! now go before I get Uncle Roh and Uncle Lass to fight you!"
Hearing Legolas's name mentioned with Elrohir's again caused a wave of anger and annoyance to sweep through Haleigh, and he said, without thinking, "It is a pity that my attempts to repair the fight between them will end here then."
Eldarion's attention was caught by this. Truth be told, he had sensed that both Elrohir and Legolas had become more strained and unhappy of late, to the extent that they even avoided looking each other in the eye at times.
"What do you mean by that?" Eldarion demanded, as Haleigh turned to leave.
What had been a spiteful phrase meant to make Eldarion angry had turned out to be a blessing, and so Haleigh turned around slowly. He had seen Legolas storming away from holding counsel with Aragorn that night after the battle with the Southrons, and noticed that he had been distant and quiet of late. Perhaps he had hit the nail on the head by guessing that a rift had occurred between the Elves.
"I shouldn't have said that, Your Highness. After all, it is a very serious matter that shouldn't be spread around --"
"Tell me!" Eldarion cried. "I command you to do so!"
"If it is your wish, Highness. Lords Elrohir and Legolas have had a large fight, and the only thing preventing them from killing each other is your father's good grace."
Eldarion's eyes grew very wide.
"You lie!" he cried, finally finding his tongue.
"I was trying to prevent them from dueling by sending for help, but it might be too late, especially if you do not wish to let me past! I had hoped there would have been a way of settling their quarrel, but it seems that they hate each other so much --"
"No! It is not possible! They do not hate each other! Why would they want to kill each other when they love each other so much?"
Haleigh's heart leapt to his throat; could this be Elrohir's secret? He pretended to think very hard, and maintained his troubled air. "Why, Your Highness, surely you must know that love can very easily turn to hate!"
"That's stupid! When two Elves marry one another, their love lasts forever! Uncle Roh and Uncle Lass will never want to kill each other because --"
At this point, Eldarion's eyes grew very wide as he realised his mistake. Clapping his mouth with both hands, tears burst down his cheeks.
"You mustn't tell anybody what I just said!" he cried, mortified.
His words barely registered with Haleigh. So this was the real reason for Elrohir and Legolas's maddening closeness: they were married! It was an abominable thought that made him feel ill just to think of it. That two males could be lovers was a subject so taboo in Gondor that it was never discussed, although their people often believed that it was a common practice among barbarians from distant lands. If the court found out about the relationship between Legolas and Elrohir, it was likely that a unanimous vote banishing them from the kingdom could be passed. Come to think of it, they would be lucky to escape death by hanging, and there would be nothing Aragorn could do about it.
Faced with the lack of an answer while Haleigh's devious mind schemed away, Eldarion cried, "Please, Haleigh, keep it a secret!"
Haleigh jumped out of his plans and gave another smile. "Then you have to let me pass!"
Haleigh's face dropped, and Eldarion burst into noisy tears.
Salvation, however, came in the form of Elrohir and Legolas, both stepping out of the door. Seeing Eldarion wailing, Legolas rushed over and picked him up, while Elrohir glowered at Haleigh with ill-concealed hatred.
"Come, Eldarion, let us go someplace else," Legolas said, walking away with Eldarion.
"Lord Elrohir," Haleigh said, with a contemptuous bow.
Elrohir's face turned even blacker.
"Get in here, you wretch," Elrohir said, shoving him into the tower. "There is something I wish to talk to you about."
Just a while ago, Eldarion had chanced upon Legolas at the top of one of the palace's watch-towers, sitting on the ground and staring moodily into thin air.
"Uncle Lass?" he said, sitting down beside Legolas and leaning on his bent leg. "Why are you not happy?"
Legolas let out a sigh but did not turn to look at him.
"Do you know what it means to be a great leader, Eldarion?"
"Ada says being a King means to serve our people. He says it is a great honour."
"Honour comes with great sacrifices, tithen pen." Little one.
"You find it difficult, then? I know you do not like Minas Tirith and its stone walls, but at least you have Uncle Roh near you all the time!"
Unknown to Eldarion, Legolas clenched his fists.
"Is that not a good thing, Uncle Lass?" Eldarion said, growing confused when Legolas failed to reply.
"You are right, El, 'tis good," Legolas said, trying to ignore his healing lips, bitten by Elrohir in the heat of passion the night before. Passion that was becoming increasingly one-sided. In his desperate state, Elrohir was losing his concern for his mate. Every coupling they had undertaken for the past few months would end up being Legolas yielding to Elrohir's rough treatment, before Elrohir fell asleep, leaving Legolas lying awake all night.
Eldarion swung around to see Elrohir standing in the archway, studying them with concern. Legolas, on the other hand, turned slowly.
"Uncle Roh!" Eldarion greeted with a cheery wave.
"Eldarion, I would like to talk to Uncle Lass alone. Can you make sure nobody interrupts us?" Elrohir said.
"Yes, Uncle Roh!" Eldarion said, alarm building in him for the first time. He gave Legolas a big hug, before running out of the room, determined to do his job properly.
Elrohir walked over to Legolas and knelt before him. He reached out and raised Legolas's face to meet his gaze.
Legolas's eyes dropped. He had been so ill-tempered of late, and so prone to snapping at Elrohir for tiny wrongdoings that Arwen had given him a sharp rebuking when he had used a particularly strong phrase in the company of Aragorn, Arwen, and Eldarion the night before. At the moment, he did not trust himself to not start squabbling with Elrohir again in an attempt to mete out his frustration, and so he remained silent.
"Why do you not look at me?" Elrohir said, dismayed. His fear increased when he spotted a wine goblet beside Legolas.
"Worry not, Roh-nîn, for I simply needed to soothe my nerves. I promised you never to turn to drink again, and I fully intend to keep my word."
Reassured, Elrohir turned back to him. "You look so tired."
"The same could be said of you."
Elrohir traced his thumb across the circles that had appeared under Legolas's eyes, put there by endless, sleepless nights.
"It pains me so much to see you like this, Lass. I know I am hurting you, and how I hate myself for it! You know that I love you, and would wish to shout it from this tower, but I cannot!"
Legolas found that he knew all this without Elrohir telling him, and it was why he strove so hard to hide the strain, to be by Elrohir's side, supporting him, giving him what he needed. Yet, it was so difficult, when he could not help but feel like an inanimate bed-toy with the sole purpose of providing physical comfort to Elrohir.
"Lass? What are you thinking?"
"That you are as beautiful as you were the first day I saw you and mistook you as one of the Valar," Legolas said, reaching out and sealing his lips to Elrohir's.
Elrohir let out a sound of protest as Legolas broke apart from him after a long while. Elrohir was about to grab Legolas when a large falcon flew into the tower, landing right on Legolas's outstretched arm. It nibbled at Legolas's ear, and gave a low shrill of delight when Legolas picked up the wine goblet to reveal a few raw chunks of meat.
"It appears all that youthful breaking into Adar's kitchens have proved useful after all!" Legolas said, watching the falcon snap down the meat.
When the bird had polished off its snack, Legolas detached the cylinder tied to the bird's foot, and drew out a piece of paper hidden within. His lips pursed into a thin line as he passed it to Elrohir.
Elrohir almost let out a cry of surprise when he saw that it contained a missive from the Southron leader to his spy within the Gondorian court, instructing him to stall the debate on continuing further peace negotiations with their neighbours in order to allow the Southrons to raise a huge army to strike Gondor before she knew what had happened. Thanks were also conveyed for disclosure of the army's weaknesses and positions.
Elrohir's surprise turned to rage.
"If only we knew who this was meant for!" he said through gritted teeth.
Taking Elrohir's hand in his own, Legolas massaged it absently as he said, "I came across Haleigh receiving this falcon a week ago. I called for her just after she was about to return South, and found that she had been bearing a message for him. I did not know what the message was, and so had to return again this week to wait for her, for she agreed to deliver it to me first. All that would remain afterwards would be to apprehend him when he tried to take it from her."
"You were trailing Haleigh?" Elrohir said, amazed.
"I suspected him, but lacked evidence to pin him down. This should be enough to warrant locking him in the deepest dungeons while we conduct further investigations."
"Why, Lass? I thought you had never showed much interest in Gondor's affairs!"
Legolas smiled, some of the strain disappearing.
"You forget that I too helped put Aragorn in that throne! I do not want to see our little brother ousted from a seat he has barely warmed! Furthermore, any business of yours is surely mine too!"
"Thank you, Lass."
"You know you do not have to."
The pair shared another lingering kiss, only ending it when sounds of a commotion reached their ears.
"Eldarion!" Elrohir cried, and they both hurried down the tower to where Eldarion had burst into noisy tears.
Legolas was not surprised to see that Haleigh was the culprit for Eldarion's distress, and he knew it would be best for Elrohir to handle the politician while he took Eldarion back to his nursery, and so he carried Eldarion away, cursing Haleigh and his ability to upset the entire family.
Once alone inside the tower with Elrohir, Haleigh looked him in the eye.
"What do you want?" he said, none of his usual ingratiating tones present.
Although Elrohir was surprised, he did not show it, and instead gave a cold laugh.
"It appears that there has been communication asking for cooperation in stalling talks on the peace process in order that the Southrons can amass an army to attack?"
Haleigh turned green, but quickly recovered himself.
"On what basis do you make this ludicrous accusation of there being a traitor in His Majesty's court?"
"I have enough evidence to have you executed, Haleigh," Elrohir said, showing him the letter he and Legolas had intercepted.
A sneer spread across Haleigh's face. "And who would believe your word?"
"Careful, Haleigh," Elrohir said. All his pores were screaming warnings at him: Haleigh's calm and collected manner was too aberrant. Something was amiss.
"I would lever the same advice on you. What were you doing here in the tower, anyway?"
Elrohir clenched his fists so hard that his knuckles cracked, but he did not answer.
"Trying to steal a few moments with your slut?"
A loud cry of pain filled the air as Elrohir slammed a fist into Haleigh's face.
"What did you say?"
Clutching at his face, Haleigh spat at Elrohir, and a single tooth fell from his mouth.
"Temper, temper, Lord Elrohir. Tell me, what depraved mind would think of taking a man to his bed? I admit that had Lord Legolas been a woman, I would not have thought twice about pillaging him again and again, but he is male! Or maybe, you are indeed the victim here, prey of a pure-blooded Elf's lust? Has he cast some deviant spell on your mind to make you yield to him?"
Elrohir took a step back, too stunned to speak. How did Haleigh know? Who else did?
Haleigh grinned, revealing two rows of reddened teeth.
"I suppose I could give you the tooth as a present. I am perfectly willing to forgive your bad temper. After all, it is to be understood, even sympathised with, for what the Elf has placed you under."
Numb, Elrohir continued to stare at Haleigh. The implications of Haleigh leaking the information were simply to great to imagine. In all likelihood, the Gondorians would demand that Legolas be burned at the stake, while Elrohir, Aragorn, and anyone with any Elven blood would be banished from their kingdom under pain of death. Their extreme prejudice against couplings undertaken by the same kind was something Elrohir had never fully explained to Legolas, and with good reason, too, for Legolas's first reaction would have been to attempt to change their attitudes, surely a death warrant.
"You hate me; you want to kill me, don't you?" Haleigh said. "But what you do not know is that I have written this down in a sealed letter, to be opened only in the event of my sudden death. You really wouldn't want the nature of your bed-play to become common knowledge, do you?"
"What do you want?" Elrohir said, finally finding his voice.
"You must know, Lord Elrohir, that I am, of course, a discerning man. A discerning man knows how to keep secrets, and I am sure you do too. It is fair to say that everybody has secrets. After all, you have managed to hide Lord Legolas under the cloak of respectability and friendship thus far. There should be proof enough, don't you think? Oh no, keep that letter from the South if you wish. I can always ask for the instructions again, for more delay means more time to amass an army!
"Now, I shall leave you here to think, for it seems like something you would enjoy. If I were you, I would stay away from Legolas. It can't be good for the health, and what a pity it would be for King Elessar to lose his most trusted advisor!"
With that, Haleigh swept out of the tower, knowing that he had found the only one weakness in Elrohir's armour, and milked it for all it was worth. The next few months were going to be good ones; he could feel it.
Adar -- Father
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.