12. Chapter Eleven
'If you please, Sir,' said the messenger, 'the prince sends you these.'
Haldir rubbed his eyes and tried to focus on the tall figure who stood shadowed in the opening of his tent.
'What hour is it?' he croaked, throwing aside the sheet and putting his feet on the floor. Hastily he found his tinderbox and lit the stub of candle which rested on his upturned shield beside his quilted bedding.
'Nearly dawn, Sir. The prince has been awake for some time. He thought you would be too.'
'Not quite,' said Haldir. 'What have you brought me?'
The messenger handed him a rolled-up parchment and a small hessian drawstring bag.
Haldir raised his eyebrows. 'Are you to wait for an answer?' he asked.
'No, Sir, the prince said no answer is needed.'
Haldir placed the objects on the bed, pushing his sleep-dishevelled hair out of his face.
'I've nothing to give you for your trouble. We've neither ale nor wine left…'
'Sir, it's no matter,' said the messenger. 'We're all glad to serve you. Lorien has helped us in our need: we owe you a great deal.' He smiled slowly, and Haldir saw something in his face. Standing up, he noticed for the first time the messenger's broad shoulders and handsome features, and his well-trained sense told him there might be something here for him.
'You are most kind,' he said, looking the other in the eye. 'Perhaps at a later time there might be ways such a debt could be settled.'
The messenger looked back at him, then suddenly leaned forward and placed one large hand on the back of Haldir's head, pulling him closer. At once Haldir shook himself out of the other's hold but instead seized the messenger's face in both his hands and kissed him hard. The messenger shuddered and dropped his bow to the ground with a clatter, but he returned the kiss with interest, groaning with pleasure.
After a long moment Haldir released him, without warning. The messenger staggered back, then recovering himself, stood before Haldir, breathing hard.
'That was delightful,' said Haldir lightly. 'But always remember that in such matters, I am the master. I would advise you never again to touch me without my permission.'
'Sir,' said the messenger, bending down to retrieve his bow without taking his eyes from Haldir's face. He looked thoroughly bewildered.
'Maybe we'll meet again at a more opportune time,' said Haldir.
The messenger nodded several times. 'I hope so,' he said hoarsely.
'And your name is?' said Haldir.
Haldir raised an eyebrow. 'I wonder…will you live up to your name, champion of Mirkwood?' he said, in a deep soft voice which sought to alleviate his earlier harshness.
Thalion could find nothing to say.
'You're dismissed,' said Haldir. 'Please give the prince my thanks. And of course you have them also, Thalion.'
Thalion bowed awkwardly and left the tent.
Haldir stretched his arms luxuriously above his head, laughing quietly to himself. His eye fell on the parchment and the small bag and he seized the first and unrolled it quickly, stretching out on the bed.
'Legolas Thranduilion to Haldir of Lorien.
In return for your kindness in giving me news of Lorien and of my kin, accept this small gift with my thanks.
You and yours have been given too little honour since your arrival in our lands, and whilst pleading our preoccupation with our own troubles, Mirkwood would repair the omission.
If there is any service I can do for you, you have only to ask and it is yours.
Haldir read the missive through three times then tossed it on to the bed, moved again to laughter.
'What now?' said Rumil, pushing his way into the tent, already fully dressed and armed. 'Some new development in your complicated life?'
Haldir handed him the parchment.
'My life isn't complicated, Rumil,' he said. 'I decide what I want, and if I can, I have it.'
'With no thought of how others are affected,' said Rumil, his eyes quickly scanning Legolas' elegant script.
'Oh, Rumil, don't spoil things with your sour remarks,' said Haldir, with a dazzling smile. 'I'm almost home. Would you begrudge me the fruits of all my hard work?'
He pulled open the hessian bag and spilt out some of its contents on to his palm.
'Fruits indeed!' he exclaimed, helping himself to a crystallised cherry. 'Our minds are already as one, for that's what he's sent me. Never before have I seen such a love-gift.'
'What else could he give you? They have travelled nearly four hundred miles from the Elvenking's halls. They brought only what they needed,' said Rumil. 'And since there's virtually nothing to eat in the whole camp, his gift is handsome, Haldir.'
Haldir leapt up from the bed.
'Let us hope an even more handsome one awaits me,' he said, stripping off his clothes and beginning to wash.
Rumil lay down on Haldir's bed.
'Why does no-one ever pursue me with such zeal, Haldir?' he said plaintively.
'Because you don't put your mind to it,' said Haldir, pouring a few precious drops of scented oil into the water. 'You don't believe in yourself, Rumil. I don't know why. If I were not your brother, I'm sure I would find you attractive.'
'Would you?' said Rumil, pushing himself up on to his elbow.
'Rumil, I'm no more beautiful than you. My power is that I'm master of myself, and that gives me my potency. Everyone says they want a lover who is gentle and treats them as an equal, but what they really seek is one who knows what he wants and will take it. It is my ruthlessness which makes them fall into my arms, Rumil, not my gentleness.'
'You don't value gentleness at all then, Haldir.'
'No, I don't. I know what I want, and I make sure my needs are satisfied. None of my lovers has ever complained of me. Why would I need gentleness? There, I'm ready.'
Ignoring Rumil's muttered remark that he had diverted quite a few complaints over the years, Haldir put a few more drops of oil on to his fingers and drew them through his hair. He had changed into a dark blue tunic and breeches and his eyes sparkled with anticipation.
'To the chase,' he said, strapping on his quiver and taking up his bow. Wearily Rumil rose from the bed and the two brothers went out to meet their allies.
The five companies of the Galadhrim stood in perfect order in the dawning light, every single pair of eyes fixed on Haldir.
'We will try many strategies today,' he was saying. 'We will mix our companies with those of Mirkwood and see if that gives our two armies greater coherence. We will attempt different plans of attack with different weapons and formations. I depend on you all to remember the training you have undertaken these last months under my command. I am keeping an open mind today, and I ask you to do the same. Only thus will we discover the best way to use our resources when we march against the enemy two weeks from now, as Mithrandir has instructed us.'
He fell silent, walking slowly between the companies, looking closely at their weapons and their gear, indicating a rusty buckle here and a fraying leather strap there. When he had finished he stood in their midst.
'Brothers,' he said quietly, 'we know our craft, the craft of war. I am proud to stand beside you now, and I will be proud to lead you against the enemy. And let me remind anyone who feels like being clumsy or losing his concentration today: don't. I need every single one of you, with all your faculties, for the battle that is to come.'
'And for the celebration afterwards!' called out a voice from the ranks.
'And for the celebration afterwards,' agreed Haldir, amid general laughter. 'Follow me, brothers.'
The Galadhrim gathered outside the camp, facing the larger group from Mirkwood, some of whom carried spears as well as bows and swords. Saelon was in the front row beside Faron, and Haldir greeted them with a nod, before bowing politely to Legolas who stood beside them.
The prince was finely dressed in green and silver, the colours of his father's house, and as well as a sword he carried a longbow and two white-handled knives in a leather quiver on his back. Haldir noted the dark shadows under his eyes and the tension around his mouth: perhaps he had not slept well…
'Shall we begin?' said Saelon. Haldir nodded, and together they directed their officers to move to the units allocated to them and to brief those under their command. Haldir watched, eagle-eyed, as his captains moved between the Mirkwood companies. So preoccupied was he that he did not notice Legolas come to his side, and it was only when the prince laid a light hand on his shoulder that he turned to him.
'Forgive me,' said Haldir. 'My mind was on my warriors.'
'That is exactly where it should be,' said Legolas. Close to, Haldir saw the pallor of the prince's fine skin and the intense blue gaze. Modestly he lowered his eyes.
'Thank you for your generous gift,' he said.
'Haldir, it's nothing,' said Legolas, leaning closer so that their shoulders collided briefly. 'A token from one friend to another.'
Haldir nodded his acquiescence. He wanted very much to touch Legolas, but he knew his purposes would be better served by self-control.
'Until later, then,' he said, throwing Legolas a look from under his lashes. Legolas coloured briefly; his fair skin showed every nuance of emotion.
'Until later,' said Legolas.
He began to move away, but then Haldir felt Legolas' fingers drift down the skin of his hand with a touch so light he almost thought he had imagined it; but light though it was, it passed through Haldir like a bolt of electricity. Without conscious volition he began to turn towards Legolas, and it was only at the last possible moment that he was able to hold himself back, and walk away as though nothing untoward had happened.
Haldir took his place beside Rumil, disturbed and irritated. Never had he encountered such a disconcerting touch. He would have to discipline himself to disregard it or it could become a serious hindrance to his plans, at least until he was ready to enjoy it in his own time. Haldir wondered fleetingly why Legolas had such a powerful effect on him, but being far more accustomed to thinking of the effect he had on other people, he had no answer to the question and dropped it at once.
The manoeuvres began a little while after that and Lorien and Mirkwood tried every permutation of command, strategy and disposition that they could think of. The commanders of both realms observed their own and each other's warriors in action, getting to know their faces and characters, and also competed themselves, fighting with a zeal which was at least partly to do with the long estrangement of Lorien and Mirkwood.
Haldir watched Legolas sprinting across a space between two groups of trees, reaching for an arrow then nocking and releasing it in a single fluid movement, before drawing his sword and defending himself against an attack from one of the Galadhrim. Was that Orophin? Involved in his own fight, Haldir saw Orophin give ground and then turn his wrists so that Legolas almost lost his grip on his sword, but a moment later one of the white-handled knives was in his left hand – how had it got there?- and Orophin was giving ground again. For the first time, Haldir saw a different side of Legolas: the clear-eyed warrior, his mind and body given fully to defeating his enemy, and the beauty and the savagery of it shook him unexpectedly. How could this creature be the same one who coloured up whenever Haldir looked his way, and was too timid to ask for what he surely wanted from him?
Haldir's own opponent began to press him a little harder and he had no more time for such thoughts, but they drifted through his mind like wisps of smoke during the next hours, and came back more strongly as he sat in the council tent with the other commanders when the manoeuvres were over. Legolas had a bruise high on his cheekbone and a cut on his hairline had left a trickle of dried blood smeared across his temple. There was a look in his eyes that Haldir had never seen before, as though fighting took him to a far place from which it took a long time to return.
'What is your opinion, Haldir?' said Saelon, glancing at Legolas and then away again without surprise, as if he had seen that look often.
'I was very impressed by your forces,' said Haldir massaging the muscles of his sword-arm. 'As for us, we have trained hard over the last months, and my warriors remembered most of what I have taught them. Between us we make a powerful company. I am content.'
'Excellent,' said Saelon, and Faron nodded his approval. 'You Galadhrim are equally proficient with sword and bow, so we can use you in any part of the field of battle.'
'Indeed,' said Haldir. 'And your spear-men will be very useful. Perhaps if there is time you could teach us a little of this skill.'
'Of course,' said Saelon. 'So: we will join for weapons practice each day, until it is time for us to march to meet Mithrandir.'
Haldir stood up. 'You will find us ready,' he said.
Saelon pushed back his chair and, shoving a pile of papers out of the way, rested his booted feet on the table.
'We're on strict rations so have little to offer you, but you are welcome to eat with us,' he said, stretching his arms above his head.
Abruptly Legolas got up and went out. Saelon glanced at him, frowning, but said nothing.
'Thank you, but I have much to do,' said Haldir. 'Until tomorrow, then.'
Saelon covered his mouth with both hands to hide a jaw-cracking yawn. 'Until tomorrow,' he said almost inaudibly as Haldir went out.
Legolas was standing outside, cleaning the cut on his forehead with a scrap of linen and a drop of water from his flask.
'You were unlucky,' said Haldir.
'Careless,' said Legolas shortly. 'Your brother is an able fighter.'
'I hope so,' said Haldir. 'It's the only way to stay alive.'
Legolas gave him an unreadable look, then rummaged in his pocket and brought out some leaf-wrapped lembas which he broke, giving half to Haldir.
'Will you walk with me?' he said.
Haldir nodded, and they stowed their weapons near the council tent and eating the lembas, made their way to the edge of the camp. They stopped at the place by the river where Haldir had seen Legolas on the day his pursuit of him had begun. They made themselves comfortable, Legolas sitting with his back against a broad-trunked beech tree, while Haldir stretched out a little way away from him.
Haldir had decided it was time for Legolas to exert himself a little, so he made no effort to begin the conversation, and instead looked away from him and out at the dark green swirl of the river waters a few feet away, enjoying the sense of anticipation he was feeling.
At last Legolas began, his voice low and hesitant.
'Forgive me, I'm not good company,' he said. 'Sometimes after combat I'm a little abstracted, and it takes me a while to return to myself.'
'Take your time,' said Haldir lazily. 'There's no reason to hurry.'
Legolas reached out and laid a hand on Haldir's shoulder.
'Thank you, Haldir,' he said, squeezing his shoulder gently. 'You're most understanding.'
Haldir tilted his head so that he was looking at him upside down.
'Not at all,' he said, grinning at him. 'My work is over, and so I'm lazy, that's all.'
Legolas shook his shoulder lightly, then reluctantly let him go.
'Mmm?' said Haldir, eyes closed.
'I'm sorry I didn't tell you who I was when first we met. It's just…there are many who seek me out only because I'm the King's son. They see only my rank, and not the person behind it. And…I didn't want this to happen with you.'
'So…you wished to test me…' said Haldir, slurring his words a little as if he were falling asleep.
'No…only to avoid…misunderstandings.'
Haldir laughed softly. 'Why would I matter so much…I'm only a soldier of Lorien…'
'No,' said Legolas firmly. 'You give yourself too little credit. It is clear you are the architect of Lorien's defences, and that your warriors wouldn't hesitate to risk their lives on your word.'
'It's their duty,' said Haldir, yawning.
'But that is not why they follow you, Haldir. There is something more in you, something they can see…something I can see also.'
Haldir waited, breathing gently as if he were completely relaxed. There was a little rustling movement as Legolas came closer to him, and then he felt the prince's hand come to rest lightly on the bare skin of his arm just above his wrist, where the linen of his shirt had ridden up.
'I admire you greatly, Haldir,' said Legolas, and Haldir struggled to seem unmoved at the almost unbearable lightness of his touch, which was provoking the same curious reaction as before.
'Friendship is difficult for the son of a King,' Legolas went on, 'but I believe you understand that already, since you know something of the loneliness of the exercise of power.'
'Mmm,' said Haldir, wishing Legolas would remove his hand or, better still, put it somewhere more suitable to Haldir's desires.
'With you I feel…a kinship,' said Legolas, 'a bond which I have felt with few others. Haldir…'
Haldir forced himself to open his eyes.
'Is there anything in you which…answers me?'
Slowly Haldir sat up, and to his relief Legolas' hand slid off his wrist. The prince was a shade paler than before, making his eyes seem intensely blue. Haldir did not answer for a long time, letting the tension draw itself out between them. At last he gave a deep sigh.
'Yes,' said Haldir. 'Something in me answers you.'
Deep in Legolas' eyes something sparked, and his lips parted. Haldir felt a lurch in his gut, but he stayed absolutely still, giving his whole attention to the prince. Slowly, very slowly Legolas leaned forward. Haldir watched him, watched for the moment when he would abandon himself, and when he saw it he closed the distance between them and kissed him carefully, without passion. Legolas sighed softly, reaching out to caress Haldir's cheek, but Haldir turned slightly, catching the prince's hand and bringing it down to lay flat on his chest. But now Legolas was deepening the kiss and his other hand was on Haldir's hair, sliding down from his brow to his shoulder, and curving down his left side, and now his hand was under the linen of Haldir's shirt, caressing the cool skin of his back.
Something was happening to Haldir, entangling him so that he was beginning to lose himself, and all at once he was desperate to get free. Even in this moment his warrior's mind came to his aid and his strategy was clear before him. Gently but with undoubted firmness he pushed Legolas back so that he was stretched out flat on the ground beneath the tree. Trustfully Legolas gave in to him, closing his eyes and opening his arms, but Haldir laid himself down full length beside the prince and seized his face in both hands, kissing him deeply.
This time Haldir was in control and the pleasure of the kiss flooded his body, with no sign of the strange discomfort he had felt before. He gazed down at Legolas like a craftsman looking down on his creation, and even while he felt himself moving closer to the edge there was a part of him that stayed aloof. The soft sounds Legolas was making and his flushed face pleased Haldir very much, but more because he himself was the author of the pleasure than because he cared whether or not Legolas experienced it.
So Haldir continued to kiss him, but at no time did he forget where he was or what he was doing, and every movement was made and every breath taken in the service of a single goal, the goal of conquest, for it was the submission of the other that gave him the greatest satisfaction, and without it no touch, however agreeable, could assuage the deep hunger within him.
Haldir longed to go further, to begin to undress Legolas and to touch him more intimately, but he knew it was too soon for that and that a little patience now would be repaid a hundredfold very soon. So when at last he felt Legolas sigh, carefully he drew away from him and let the prince push himself up on to his elbows.
'Haldir…' said Legolas, breathless and flushed. 'Why did you not say...?'
Haldir laughed gently. 'It wasn't the time,' he said quietly. 'And you are…'
'A King's son!' said Legolas. 'And being such might have deprived me of you, Haldir?'
Haldir shook his head. 'I was sure that at last we would come together,' he said, truthfully. 'Only the day has been in question.'
Legolas lay down again, gazing up through the leaves at the blue sky above them, his arm resting on Haldir's chest.
'Haldir, little did I think this war would bring me such a gift,' he said. 'Until you came, it seemed nothing but evil.'
'We are in the hands of the gods,' said Haldir, thinking wryly at the same time that the only reason he was here enjoying the prince's favours was entirely because of his own efforts.
For a long time Legolas lay unspeaking, his fingers tangled in the laces of Haldir's shirt, occasionally grazing the skin underneath. Haldir held his breath, feeling the intermittent touch like fire that both aroused and tormented him, but he knew this strange discomfort was the price he had to pay for his final victory over Legolas. So he endured it, casting around for something with which to distract himself whenever the sensation became too difficult to bear, and landing on the recent manoeuvres. Haldir passed a strange quarter of an hour, half his mind filled with Legolas and his nearness, while the other half worked point by point through the conversation he would have later with Rumil about the military preparations they must make before leaving for Dol Guldur.
'Well, we cannot linger here by the river,' said Legolas at last, sitting up and stretching his arms above his head. 'I promised Saelon I would discuss the manoeuvres with him. He knows I'm less than coherent straight after action, so we are to meet this afternoon.' He stood up, brushing grass and leaves from his clothes and picking them out of his hair.
'Perhaps you will be free this evening,' said Haldir, also on his feet, and somehow as elegant and unruffled as before. 'I have those letters from Lord Celeborn in my tent, if you wish to come and collect them…'
'Yes, Haldir, I will come to you tonight,' said Legolas, smiling at him with heart-turning sweetness. 'Stay here and take your ease if you wish, there's no need for you to follow me.'
Quickly he kissed Haldir on the lips, then gave his cloak a final shake before turning to walk towards the camp.
Haldir watched him, admiring his slim tight-muscled body and the beautiful graceful swing of his walk. When he had gone, Haldir sat down again with his back against the tree. Pressing his hand hard between his legs, he gave a deep groan of longing, but decided not to ease himself. He would save it for tonight, when he would achieve the success of his enterprise. A King's son! That would make it all the sweeter.
But that night Haldir was on duty, as was Legolas the next day; and the day after that, Saelon called Haldir in to discuss tactics, and that led to two or three further meetings; and after that nearly a week passed without the chance of the two seeing one another. With so much to do before meeting Mithrandir, the days were tightly organised, with weapons drill every morning and joint manoeuvres and other camp tasks every afternoon. In addition Haldir and Saelon met often with their captains to devise a plan for the assault on Dol Guldur, and so evenings were occupied also.
There was little time for rest and Haldir became noticeably quick-tempered, although he did not allow anyone but Rumil and Orophin to see it.
Rumil teased him gently.
'He's got under your skin,' he said, 'you're missing him.'
Haldir's reply was short and unprintable.
'Thank you for your kind words, Haldir, but that only proves my point. I can't remember a single lover who has ever had the slightest effect on your well-known cheerful disposition and yet here you are, moping like a lovesick girl.'
'Rumil…' said Haldir, a clear warning in his voice.
Rumil put an arm round his shoulders.
'I won't say any more. I know you're feeling particularly sensitive at the moment.'
Fortunately the nearest object to hand was only a wooden bowl, and Rumil thought the discomfort of a bruise on his shoulder was a small price to pay for the pleasure of baiting his brother.
On the seventh day after Legolas and Haldir had come together by the river, Saelon began to make plans for their journey to Dol Guldur. Haldir spent the afternoon committing to memory every map of Amon Lanc that Saelon possessed, and he and Saelon sketched out their first ideas for a battle plan. Haldir waited for Legolas to appear, but half-way through the meeting his name came up and Saelon said he was working with the ostlers and would join them later if he was able.
Haldir looked down again at the map, on the one hand considering yet again how to break through the defensive cordon that surrounded the dark tower, and on the other wondering if he would ever get his desire. Normally he was carefree about his attachments, if they could be called such, and on the very rare occasion when someone he wanted escaped him, he forgot about him instantly and moved on. But loath though he was to admit it, Rumil was right: this one had somehow upset his balance, and he felt nervy and unsatisfied. The fact that he hadn't been able to see Faron either hadn't helped. Haldir sighed, grinding his teeth. He was as tense as a coiled-up spring, and for that there was only one remedy.
Saelon had finished speaking. Haldir let the last map roll itself up, glancing out of the tent at the deepening darkness.
'May I take these?' he asked. 'I will work on the plan this evening, and we can talk again tomorrow.'
'Very well,' said Saelon.
Haldir thanked him and, saluting the Mirkwood officers, left the tent. He was half-way up the hill when he heard running feet behind him and saw Faron was following him.
'Haldir! Where have you been these last days? I've been looking for you, but missed you every time.'
'Faron,' said Haldir hoarsely. 'I'm very glad to see you.'
'Are you?' said Faron.
'Yes,' said Haldir, through clenched teeth.
Faron put an arm round his shoulders and in the darkness allowed himself the luxury of letting his other hand rove over Haldir's body.
'Haldir, I see that you're truly pleased to see me,' he said huskily into his ear when he had examined him thoroughly. 'I'd heard you were more bad-tempered than usual, but I didn't realise this was the reason for your black mood.'
Haldir stopped suddenly just outside his tent. 'What do you mean, more bad-tempered than usual?' he demanded.
Faron gave him a slow smile.
'I was teasing you; your self-control is well-known…'
'Stop talking,' said Haldir incongruously, dragging Faron inside. At once he dumped the maps in the corner of the tent and kissed him hard, immediately disproving Faron's last statement.
'Haldir,' gasped Faron, but straight away he was overwhelmed by the force of Haldir's desire. Their coupling was swift and earthy, and orchestrated entirely by Haldir. Despite being granted full mastery over Faron, he felt little pleasure, and when it was over, Haldir lay stretched out on his rumpled quilt, arms hanging down on either side of it as if completely exhausted.
'Haldir, I can tell you honestly, I've never met anyone like you,' said Faron, fastening his clothes.
'Mmm,' said Haldir, eyes closed.
Faron knelt down beside Haldir and leaning over him, kissed him gently. Haldir brought one hand up to hold the back of Faron's head, and now that he was relaxing, felt the uncomplicated pleasure of the kiss.
'Faron,' began Haldir when at last they moved apart, but before he could say any more the flap of the tent shifted to reveal Legolas standing in the opening.
'Haldir, at last I've found you,' he said, his voice full of relief. 'I thought…'
It was only then that he saw Faron kneeling by the bed, his face close to Haldir's, one arm resting carelessly across his chest. There was a single moment of absolute stillness, and then Faron stood up hastily.
'Sir,' he said to Legolas, and with a swift glance at Haldir, pushed past the prince and went out.
Haldir raised his head but the effort of getting up was too great and he fell back on to the bed.
'Forgive me,' he said drowsily, looking away, 'you've found me slightly indisposed.'
Legolas said nothing. Haldir knew the signs. He sighed softly and waited, expecting anger, reproach, even punishment, but the silence went on and at last he turned back, pushing himself up on to his elbow, and looked at Legolas. He was standing in precisely the same place as before, one hand lightly holding the canvas of the tent. He was just as tall and straight and beautiful as usual: in fact he seemed even more beautiful. Haldir didn't know why this was: normally those who found him in flagrante, and there had been many, lost all their charms as they cursed and raged at him. But Legolas was completely calm, almost as if he had expected this moment, even girded himself against it.
Slowly Haldir swung his legs round and sat up, tidying his dishevelled clothing.
'Legolas,' he said, smiling gently at him. 'Sit down here beside me, and tell me what you have been doing these last days. I've looked for you many times, but failed to find you.'
Legolas said nothing but instead gazed at him steadily, a deep resigned weariness growing in his face. Haldir began to feel slightly uncomfortable. He was not used to having to explain himself and he didn't intend to begin now. He stood up slowly and took up a stoppered bottle from his pack.
'I have no wine or ale,' he said, 'but Rumil has made this herbal concoction, if you are thirsty.'
'No,' said Legolas, softly.
'What, then?' said Haldir, but Legolas turned away slowly and began to leave.
'Legolas,' said Haldir, closing the distance between them and taking him by the arm, 'I don't understand you. Why take everything so seriously? Now that we have time together at last, let's not waste it in pointless quarrelling. Rest a moment, and then we'll go out and sit by the fire and warm ourselves.'
'Is that your remedy?' said Legolas quietly.
'What remedy? Where there's no sickness, there's no need for remedy,' said Haldir, half-laughing. 'The world turns, Legolas, and we change from the innocents we were, and find how much there is to please us if only we can see it with the right eyes. Legolas, pleasure harms nobody! Why cast away something which we both desire for such a little scruple?'
Legolas' hand tightened for a moment on the canvas door, then immediately relaxed. His face softened in a half-smile, but Haldir saw the pain begin to bloom deep in his eyes.
'Haldir,' he said, laying his hand gently on the other's cheek, 'your words are madness, but I know you are afraid.'
At once Haldir shook off his hand, unbearably disturbed by the tenderness of his touch.
'What is there to be afraid of?' Haldir demanded, but Legolas had already turned away, and this time Haldir did nothing to hold him back as he went out of the tent and strode away down the hill.