9. Shattered Fronts
Legolas had strode through the corridors back to his chambers, mind numb with anger. By the time he reached his rooms and locked the door behind him, the anger had given away to something else, and he slid to the floor, shaking. He was running out of excuses for Elrohir, and while it was true that they had had their fair share of squabbles, this one felt like something impossible to recover from. After all, he had never questioned Elrohir's commitment in a way he was doing now.
An age later, a knock came on the door, but Legolas ignored it. He was in no fit state to face Elrohir, not after he had uttered those hurtful words.
To his greatest ire, the door was tried, and then the lock picked. Legolas prepared to snap at Elrohir, but was faced with Aragorn instead.
Seeing Legolas huddled on the floor near his balcony, Aragorn strode across the room and folded his arms around Legolas.
It was the last straw for Legolas, and he turned to Aragorn, whispering, "But I love him so much!"
His tears broke through the shattered front, but still Aragorn did not say a word, instead rocking Legolas in what he hoped was a small measure of comfort. In all their long years as friends, he had not seen Legolas like this before. Emotions Aragorn had fought hard to suppress years ago came rushing to the surface again, and he found himself wanting to throw away his life in exchange for a smile from Legolas again.
It was a good time before Legolas showed any signs of stopping, and even then, he continued to fold his body around his legs, refusing to allow Aragorn into his most private world of pain.
"Come, Lass," Aragorn said, taking Legolas's wrist in his hand. He noticed that an involuntary flinch passed through Legolas then.
Knowing that Legolas would not submit to an examination, Aragorn continued to pull Legolas closer to him, while at the same time started undoing his cuff. He let out a shocked gasp as he pushed up the sleeve to reveal dark, angry lines of raw flesh running around Legolas's wrist, some more healed than others, reddened and painful where they had been chaffed over and over again.
"Elrohir has been hitting you!" Aragorn cried, stunned.
Anger flashed across Legolas's face. "Shame on you, Estel! I thought you knew your brother well enough than to think him capable of that! Elrohir has not, and will never hit me."
The worry did not leave Aragorn. "Then what is this? Do not try to protect him --"
"I am not! Elrohir has simply been rough in his bed-play, although I do not see what business this is of yours!"
Aragorn's thoughts flew to the belts he had seen strewn over Elrohir's bed-chamber.
"Valar!" he breathed, staring at Legolas.
Legolas stiffened. "What did you come here for? To humiliate me further?"
"No, Lass," Aragorn cried, trying to pull him even closer.
Hearing the concern in his voice, Legolas stopped fighting.
"There are times when I doubt he loves me anymore," he said, fighting back the tears. "I am starting to fear his touch."
Stroking Legolas's hair, Aragorn placed a few kisses on his head. "It is impossible to fall out of love of you, Legolas. I am sure that Roh still loves you as much as he did when he first gave his heart to you."
Legolas's eyes grew wide. "Estel, are you saying --"
"But what about Arwen?"
"I love her more than anything in all of Arda, but there is a small part of my heart that is unable to give up the love I felt for you all those years ago. I do not want to see you so unhappy, Legolas. Elrohir has no right to treat you this way. Come tomorrow, I shall tell him to leave for Ithilien with you."
Touched, Legolas felt a little more strength return to his deadened limbs.
"Roh will not leave. He has made up his mind, and you know nothing will be able to change it."
"But if you ask him?"
"Do you think I have not tried? Furthermore, after what I said to him --"
"He deserved every single word of it!" Aragorn cried, thinking about the angry injuries. "Lass, I do not think he realised before how much he was hurting you, and that was because you did not say anything!"
Images of Elrohir slamming roughly into him came to Legolas, and he tried to shut them out.
"I should leave and wait for him in Ithilien."
"Please, stay behind!"
"If not for Roh's sake, stay for Eldarion. I have been meaning to tell you this, but I heard him complaining yesterday that he hardly got to spend time with you. He looks up to you, even worships you, and I would like for him to start learning to use a bow and arrow."
"Do you wish for me to instruct him, then?"
"There is no better teacher than the Golden Archer of Mirkwood."
Legolas knew Aragorn was making it up as he went along. Still, he was grateful, nevertheless, for Aragorn's good intentions.
"Since you put it that way, I will gladly undertake instructing Eldarion. But, I cannot face Roh after what I said to him, so do not expect me to seek him out."
"Thank you, Lass."
"I am sorry, Estel."
"You do not choose to be so easy to love."
True to his word, Legolas started Eldarion's lessons the next day, starting with a lecture on the most basic aspects of bowmanship. Eldarion had long heard tales of how his Uncle Lass had saved the Fellowship from many a dire situation with his skill, and was so excited at receiving instruction from him that he stilled his usual active nature, and paid him full attention.
The days went on in this manner, with Legolas accompanying Eldarion to the training yard at the crack of dawn and putting in a good two hours before breakfast. This Eldarion did without a single complaint, much to Aragorn and Arwen's greatest surprise. They had known that Legolas would require Eldarion to rise early, for it was part of a warrior's discipline, but had their doubts as to whether their unruly son would co-operate.
Save for his private lessons with loremasters like Faramir, Eldarion found himself free for most of the day, and would inevitably choose to stick close to Legolas, pestering him for tales of the Fellowship, Imladris and Eryn Galen, or begging him for an impromptu lesson on the many plants that grew in the royal gardens. Just the other day, Eldarion was heard telling a shocked Arwen that he wished to follow the ways of the Silvan folk and forgo all meats, only to be persuaded that a future King of Gondor could hardly insult his hosts by refusing to eat their best roast.
Much to Aragorn's relief, Legolas found comfort in Eldarion's innocent companionship, and smiles started working their way back to his face. While it was true that some of Aragorn's subjects were starting to question the wisdom in allowing a full-blooded Elf to exert his influence on the Crown Prince, most of them had not the time to think about it, for it seemed that the situation in the Southrons was reaching crisis point.
While Legolas was sheltered by having Eldarion around him, the same could not be said of Elrohir. As Legolas had predicted, Elrohir no longer sought him out. Instead, he appeared to retreat behind his huge stack of duties, skipping meals and not emerging from his study for hours. To all around him, he appeared to be wasting away before their eyes, as his face started to take on a hollow, gaunt look, and his eyes were dull and bloodshot. His behaviour in court, too, was beginning to be talked about. While he had always been a strong proponent for strong, decisive action, he had started to stall major decisions relating to the Southrons by coming up with ridiculous objections and concerns. While he had always been charismatic, charming and persuasive, he was now bad-tempered and brusque to the point of rudeness to various minister and courtiers.
Of course, Arwen and Aragorn's efforts to help him, or even to get to the heart of the matter were met with flat rejections, and so they had left him alone. If things continued the way they were, it seemed that the only solution would be to forcibly remove Elrohir and place him in Imladris in order for him to recover.
Legolas saw all of this and worried, but did nothing. There was no doubt about the way Elrohir would have responded, and so Legolas kept his distance, only exchanging civilised conversation with him to put up a front for the benefit for those who did not know of their difficulties.
Then, three weeks after their quarrel, Legolas found himself treading the path to Elrohir's room again. He had heard from Aragorn how Elrohir had stormed from the negotiating room for the second time in as many days. Faramir had left on an assignment a week before, and it appeared that Elrohir's workload had doubled as a result. He appeared to lack even the strength to keep upright at times, and was looking like a living skeleton. Just the other day, he had missed a step and fallen down a long flight of stairs, resulting in a very swollen eye.
Not to Legolas's surprise, there was no answer to a knock on the door, and so he picked the lock and entered the room. A dying candle burnt on a table, illuminating a mess of papers interspersed with half-chewed cocoa beans, often taken for their energising and sleep-deprivation effects.
Rummaging about in the cupboard next to the table, Legolas came across a large store of beans before he managed to find a new candle. Lighting it, he noticed that the papers consisted of pages of correspondences from Faramir: old papers and reports.
The door to the private passage connecting Elrohir's room to his study was ajar, and so Legolas pulled it open and strode through. Finding Elrohir's study silent, Legolas pushed open the door, to see that Elrohir had collapsed upon his desk amidst more papers, empty mugs, and more beans.
Rushing forward, Legolas saw that Elrohir had given in to his exhaustion and fallen asleep. Sympathy coupled with a surge of love filled Legolas, and he gently raised Elrohir away from the table.
Elrohir stirred, and an eye cracked open. He tried to speak when he saw that it was Legolas, but instead only managed to let out a croak.
"Shh. Come, Roh, let us get you comfortable."
Elrohir was unable to protest as Legolas gathered him into his arms and lifted him off the chair. Noticing that Elrohir was shaking, Legolas brought him back to his bed chamber and placed him on the bed.
By this time, Elrohir was more awake, but was still unable to speak as Legolas started undressing him. When Legolas pulled the covers over him, Elrohir's eyes widened, then closed, before he started to tremble.
Startled, Legolas lifted the covers and took Elrohir's body into his arms, noting that Elrohir was icy-cold. Recognising all this as signs of extreme fatigue, Legolas cradled Elrohir's head against his chest, stroking his hair and rubbing his back, and started singing a low and soothing song.
Cocooned in Legolas's soothing embrace, Elrohir started to calm down, and it was not long before he gave in to the sweet lull of sleep.
That night, Elrohir's dreams were no longer tormented and frightening, and he woke to feel refreshed for the first time in months. Blinking, he noted that a golden stream of sunlight was peeking through the drawn curtains. Still disorientated, he sat up in bed to find that his room had been tidied.
The door opened, and Legolas entered with a breakfast tray laden with fruits, oats, and a traditional Imladrin cooked breakfast.
Seeing Elrohir sitting up, Legolas smiled. "You have finally risen, sluggard! It is past noon, and this might more appropriately be called lunch."
He placed the tray before Elrohir and perched on the bed, wondering at Elrohir's silence.
"Eat! You look as if you have not taken a bite in months! I have been teaching El, and it is a beautiful day outside."
Sinking his teeth into a nectarine, a wave of hunger swept over Elrohir, and he wolfed down the rest of the fruit, ignoring Legolas's amused smile. Once that was done, he attacked the other contents of the tray, wolfing down them down.
Leaning back and feeling as if he was filled to the brim, Elrohir noted that Legolas was still staring at him.
He reached for Legolas's hand, squeezed it, and said, "Thank you, Lass."
Legolas brought his hand up to his lips. "I hope you do not get sick after eating all that so quickly. Mmm, still sweet."
Attempting to bring himself under control as Legolas started sucking his fingers, Elrohir said, "Lass, there is something I have to tell you."
"Hmm?" Legolas said, not to be dissuaded.
"I received word from Faramir last night --"
A frustrated growl escaped Legolas. "Hear me out, Lass. He has found that Haleigh's son, Halim, was taken by the Southrons a year ago."
Legolas sat up straight and released Elrohir's hand.
"But he was supposed to have left to stay with his relatives!"
"No, Lass. Faramir paid a visit to their estate and found that Halim never arrived. He made a few more enquiries, and the trail led to Krashnon's first-born, Talik. It appears that Halim is being held a prisoner in Talik's castle. Black as his heart might be, Haleigh does indeed find some room to love his son."
"Yes, he did use to go on about his precious son. So you believe the Southrons are controlling him in this manner? What do you propose to do?"
Elrohir reached across and grasped Legolas's hand.
"What I plan for us to do, Lass, is to rescue Halim."
The surprise was all too clear in Legolas's eyes. All Elrohir had done so far was to push Legolas away, to protect him, and now --
"Will you, Lass?" Elrohir said, and Legolas saw that there were tears of desperation in his eyes. "Will you not come with me?"
"I will, Roh. I just did not realised you still wanted me --"
"I always do, Lass. I am sorry I could not act against Haleigh, even with your information. Many would have disregarded the evidence we obtained, as there is no proof that Haleigh is the one meant to receive the letter."
"But I saw him! And Gonwin told me too!"
Seeing the sad look on Elrohir's face, the answer came to Legolas.
"They do not trust my word," he said, and there was disbelief in his tone. "I do not understand why being an Elf means I am to be feared and distrusted!"
"Neither do I, Lass. Your heart is so beautiful that any who doubts it must lack a sound mind. But you must understand that people fear the unknown, and make up stories of evil to feel better."
Legolas noticed then that it was the first time in a long while that Elrohir had praised him.
"When do we leave?"
"Now, if possible."
"But you are still tired!"
"How would you have felt if it were Eldarion locked up in some foreign lord's cell while you were held hostage to his commands?"
Legolas fell silent.
"Do you understand now, Lass? Deplorable as Haleigh might be, he did all this because he loved Halim. I would have done the same thing had it been you locked up in a dungeon."
Legolas's shocked expression almost caused Elrohir to speak his thought: Or rather, I am doing the same thing for your sake.
Leaning forward and stroking Elrohir's face, Legolas let out a gentle smile, one that Elrohir loved and missed so much.
"At least allow time for me to give you a bath. I have the herbs ready."
Elrohir allowed Legolas to lead him to the bathroom and give him an invigorating massage. Leaning back into Legolas's embrace, Elrohir felt the strength come back to him.
A rapid knocking on the door sounded just after the pair had finished getting dressed.
"Lass, please stay out of sight," Elrohir whispered, fearing the worst.
Feeling Elrohir tensing up, Legolas agreed and slipped behind the door without a sound.
"Uncle Roh!" a loud shout filled the air, and Eldarion came bounding into the room wearing a big grin. "I have been looking all over for you!"
Chuckling, Legolas stepped into view and returned the hug Eldarion flung at him.
"The two of you smell so nice!" Eldarion said, still clinging onto Legolas's waist. "Is it true that you have both made up? Ada told me that you had a small fight before this, but would come to your senses soon enough. He was right!"
Knowing that Aragorn had played down the seriousness of their estrangement, Elrohir and Legolas answered in the affirmative.
"Yes, Eldarion, as a matter of speaking, Lass and I will be taking a short holiday," Elrohir said. "It has been long ere I left Gondor."
A cry of disappointment escaped Eldarion. "I don't suppose I can go along?"
Legolas laughed. "Nay, El, I am afraid your parents will not give their permission. Perhaps when you are older, we will bring you with us. While I am gone, I expect you to continue your practices every morning."
"Yes, mi'lord!" Eldarion said, mocking a bow at him. "When do you leave?"
"This afternoon," Elrohir said.
"Yes, I am afraid so. Lass and I will need to talk to your father about this. Do you know where he is?"
"I last saw him cooing to Narssin and dancing a ridiculous dance while holding her."
Elrohir and Legolas had to try hard to keep straight faces at Eldarion's description of Aragorn.
"You used to enjoy that when you were her age!" Legolas said.
Horror and indignation filled Eldarion's face. "Did I?"
"We were all young once," Elrohir said, suppressing a grin as the trio left the room in search of Aragorn.
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.