14. Chapter Thirteen
Now that the shadow had begun to lift from this part of the wood, the elves who had been injured in the attack began to heal more quickly, and within a week Haldir was on his feet and approaching his full strength. Much to his annoyance the healers insisted that he could not use his arm and shoulder for some weeks, but fortunately his clothes covered up the bandages and the broad sling which kept his arm strapped across his body. Despite the inconvenience of the wound and the occasional nightmares that disturbed his sleep, he did what he could to put the battle and its aftermath out of his mind.
However the loss of so many of his warriors had hit him hard, and he often visited the shallow graves where they had been laid, tormenting himself over what he would say to their kin when he returned to Lorien. Rumil had already sent half a company of Galadhrim back to Lorien with news of the battle and expected their return any day, bringing medical supplies and provisions from home.
As he stood in the silent forest looking at the freshly-turned earth, Haldir wondered whether it was sadness which had touched another part of his life. He was starting to become concerned because although he was healing well in both body and mind, there was a part of him that seemed numb. Not once since the fever had broken had he felt the slightest twinge of desire for anyone at all. He had tested himself when he had visited those recovering in the healers' tent, striding between the rows of lightly-clad elves, those of Mirkwood and his own Galadhrim. He had admired their pale, suffering faces and their handsome bodies. He had looked at their finely-curved lips, noticing for the first time how many different shades of red and pink there were, and how delightful were the angles of cheek and brow and jaw, and how varied the wonderful colours of eyes and hair. But nothing had stirred within him, either physically or metaphorically.
He thought of helping his body to remember its appetites by drinking a bottle of Rhovanion, now that the reinforcements from the Elvenking's halls had brought a plentiful supply; but it did not mix well with poppy juice, and he still needed a fair quantity of that every day, without letting his brothers know too much about it.
At last he thought he was being impatient as usual, and that all would be well in good time. He began to look forward to the festival which the wood elves were planning as a farewell to the Galadhrim and which would take place a week from now. Surely then he would find someone who would kindle his desire, and no doubt there would be many who would seek him out also.
The time passed quickly, and on a day of gentle autumn weather Haldir and the other Galadhrim made sure all their gear was ready for a journey that would begin the day after the festival. Several wood elves were helping them and among them was Thalion, to whom Haldir had had such an interesting introduction several weeks before. When the task was complete Thalion said, glancing sideways at Haldir,
'We will miss you, brothers, when you leave for Lorien. We can't repay the debt we owe you, but at least we'll do what we can to thank you tonight.'
Haldir was as amused by Thalion's less-than-subtle suggestion as he had been the first time he had heard it.
'Well, Thalion,' he said, turning to face him, 'tonight you'll have a chance to prove you were well-named.'
There was a burst of ribald laughter, and Thalion coloured up but held Haldir's eye.
'If there's anyone who wishes to challenge me, I'll be waiting,' he said.
Haldir laughed, feeling more lighthearted than he had since the battle.
'Well, then, to a pleasant night,' he said, looking at Thalion from under his long eyelashes.
'Haldir!' called out a voice, and he turned to see Rumil running towards them, waving a parchment scroll.
'From Lorien, for you. The company I sent home has just returned.'
'Where are they?' demanded Haldir.
'The message, Haldir. Read it first,' said Rumil.
Quickly Haldir unrolled the parchment and read it through. It seemed to contain a great deal of news because it took him some minutes to finish it, and when he had he rolled it up briskly and tucked it into his tunic. He appeared calm and untroubled, but Rumil saw something in his face.
'Brother, what's happened?' he said anxiously.
Haldir turned to him slowly. 'Nothing,' he said, and began to walk away.
'Haldir!' shouted Rumil, running to catch him up.
They walked in silence until they were out of earshot of anyone else and then Haldir stopped, reaching for the parchment and handing it to his brother. Rumil scanned it feverishly then looked up at Haldir.
'Guardian of Lorien!' he said, in an awed voice. 'They have made you Guardian of Lorien, Haldir.'
Haldir said nothing.
'No-one has had that title since the last Age. You're the first to be counted worthy since the Lord and Lady came to us. Brother, they accord you much honour.'
'Yes,' said Haldir.
'But if you accept, you must make your oath to Lorien and to the Lord and Lady for life, binding yourself to their service. Is that what you wish, Haldir?'
'Of course,' said Haldir quietly. 'Where else would I go?'
Rumil pushed the scroll into Haldir's hand and put his arm round his good shoulder.
'Haldir, I'm truly glad for you,' he said.
'Should I be so honoured, when so many will not be coming home?'
Rumil sighed. 'Didn't you read the words of comfort the Lord and Lady have sent you, knowing you would ask that? Haldir, without your leadership many more would have lost their lives,' he said.
'I will do everything I can to serve Lorien,' said Haldir, looking down at the ground, but not before Rumil saw the tears in his eyes.
'That's why they chose you,' said Rumil.
The news that Haldir was to be Guardian of Lorien, with responsibility for all its defences within and without the realm of the Golden Wood spread quickly around the camp. Saelon sought him out to congratulate him and Faron, standing behind his commander, gave him a wink of encouragement which promised more congratulations later on. Haldir thanked them both formally and winked back at Faron when Saelon turned away but despite this, his second invitation for tonight, he felt no answering spark.
Cursing quietly under his breath he told himself it must be the poppy juice which was dampening his appetites and resolved not to take any this evening. That way he could try some of the new wines which would be served this festival night and they would deal with any slight twinges of pain from his shoulder. Feeling cheerful again Haldir went to prepare himself for the festival.
After the healers had put a clean dressing on his wound and bound his arm across his chest again he went to wash and clothe himself, doing as much as he could one-handed. He chose his dark blue tunic and breeches, and some scented oil from a new flask which had come from Lorien among the medical supplies. He combed his hair but had to wait patiently while Rumil re-braided it, imagining not for the first time what it would be like to wear the Guardian's braids. He barely remembered the last Guardian who had died two thousand years before at Dagorlad. Suddenly his mind was full of battles, of Dagorlad itself and all those since, ending with the most recent in which he had got this wound. For a moment he felt unutterably weary, and would have liked nothing better than to curl up on his bedroll and cover himself with his blanket and sleep until morning. He actually began to consider the possibility, but then a voice within him said that he was Guardian now, and that he must be with the Galadhrim tonight, even if he had barely slept these last days because of the pain in his shoulder.
So he pulled on his cloak and called out for Rumil, who helped him fasten the gold clasp and checked the lacings of his shirt and breeches for him, because he was less than skilled at securing them one-handed.
'You'll find many who wish to undo these tonight, I expect,' said Rumil self-pityingly.
'And you'll find the same, if you don't count yourself a loser before the contest even begins,' said Haldir. 'Let me look at you, brother.'
Rumil stood before him, looking down at the ground.
'The green suits you,' said Haldir. 'You look very fine, Rumil. Only smile, and carry yourself with an air! Then all will look on you with desire.'
'Truly?' said Rumil.
'Of course,' said Haldir. 'Now let us go, or they'll think we wish to make a grand entrance, and name us arrogant.'
'And of course that would be completely untrue,' said Rumil, laughing.
Haldir gave him a reproachful glance and took his arm, and they walked towards the centre of the camp where a great fire burned high and bright. Already many elves were singing and dancing to the music of a harp, and others were tending the cooking fire on which several haunches of meat brought south from the safe parts of the forest were turning on spits. The smell of roasting meat was mouth-watering and fragrant herbs had been cast into the great fire so that the forest seemed full of incense. Haldir took a deep breath of the spiced air and felt the subtle effects of the perfumed smoke on his mind.
Many elves greeted him and Rumil, and then Saelon asked for silence, and he and Haldir remembered by name every elf who had given his life in the fight for Dol Guldur. There was a long pause filled with sadness, and then Saelon thanked Haldir and the Galadhrim for coming to their aid and dedicated the evening's festival to them. The mood lifted then, and soon after that food and drink began to be passed round. Someone put a cup of Rhovanion in Haldir's hand and he drank from it deeply.
Remembering the first time he had eaten with the elves of Mirkwood, Haldir found himself looking round for Legolas, and was not surprised to see him in the shadows, helping to serve the food and drink. He still found it impossible to understand why he took on such menial tasks when as the King's son, he could require service of every single elf in the forest.
This was in fact the first time he had seen Legolas since he had recovered from his fever. Despite his brothers' protestations that the prince would wish to help them care for Haldir, Legolas had not been near him, nor had he sent him any message of congratulations on becoming Guardian. Haldir supposed he had still not been forgiven for his dalliance with Faron, and expected he and Legolas would not talk again before the Galadhrim left for home. He felt a twinge of emotion: a mixture of anger and disappointment, and, yes, Rumil was right, a hefty dose of arrogant self-belief. It was the prince who was missing what could have been a memorable encounter. If only it were possible to persuade him, just for tonight…
Haldir glanced round again. This time Legolas was standing back a little and the light from the great fire fell on him, illuminating his long graceful body and his corn-coloured hair. Haldir drew in a quick surprised breath: how could he have forgotten how beautiful he was? For the first time since Dol Guldur he felt a stirring of desire, and without thinking he began to walk towards Legolas, deciding his cup of wine needed to be immediately refilled.
Legolas had returned to his work and it was only when Haldir had reached his side and spoken his name that he noticed him. Very gently the prince moved away from him, his forehead creasing into a frown of what looked very like pain. Haldir felt it like a blow in the gut but he maintained his confident posture and held out his cup, glad there was no-one else nearby.
'I swear you must believe that work is a good in itself, so often do you engage needlessly in it,' said Haldir, much too heartily.
Legolas took the cup and, turning away wordlessly, began to fill it with red wine. Hoping to have created some emotion in him Haldir was disappointed to see that Legolas' hand was completely steady, both as he poured and as he handed the cup back. Haldir tried to touch Legolas' fingers as he received the cup but the prince carefully moved his hand away and avoided the contact.
'I understand you helped my brothers care for me when I was wounded,' went on Haldir, trying not to show his frustration at the prince's lack of response. 'We owe you a debt.'
'No,' said Legolas. 'You owe me nothing, Haldir.' His voice was calm and quiet, but there was such a sense of refusal in his words that Haldir felt a flame of anger flare up within him.
'Is that so?' he said. 'You would throw away everything that we had because I sought a fleeting moment of pleasure?'
'What did we have, Haldir?' said Legolas sadly. 'Nothing but a misunderstanding.'
He gazed at Haldir, his limpid blue eyes like deep pools of water. Haldir gazed back, and slowly the familiar flush of colour rose to Legolas' cheeks. Haldir felt the desire in the air between them, and yet it was clear the prince was rejecting him. The contradiction pushed him almost to madness.
'Legolas,' said Haldir, barely controlling his anger. 'This is not the end.'
'This is the end,' said Legolas, and turned away from him.
Haldir stood mute for nearly half a minute, staring at his back as he busied himself with serving two or three others who had just arrived. Then mindful of his own dignity, he turned and strode back to the fire. Never in his life had he been so uncompromisingly refused, and it burned like gall. He wished he could say it was simply the pain of a failed conquest but something else was stirring in him, the same thing that he had felt in the council tent when Legolas had stood next to him: an irresistible pull, an energy that drew them towards each other. At last he was forced to admit it: it was not only Legolas who was drawn to him: he was equally drawn to the prince.
Haldir took a great gulp of wine. This simply did not happen to him. Others sought him, were prepared to do whatever he wished to have him; but he wanted no more than pleasure: their bodies for a time, their company for a while, but absolutely no more. Haldir drank again and by the time the cup was empty he had made up his mind. This was not happening to him. It must be the wound, the poppy juice, the loss of so many of his company, the news of being made Guardian. Whatever had caused this strange need in him, it would soon pass. If he could not slake his thirst with the prince there were plenty of others who would be fit for the task.
'Haldir, take some of this venison,' said Rumil from just beside him, making him jump. Haldir took the piece of stale bread which would act as a plate and helped himself to a large slice of meat from the pile which his brother had collected. It looked succulent and was dripping with fragrant juices, but his appetite had gone. He glanced around the camp, looking for something to divert him and his eye fell on Thalion who was sprawled full-length round the other side of the fire, surrounded by other Mirkwood elves. He must have been seeking Haldir because he caught his eye immediately.
Still carrying the meat, Haldir began to walk slowly round the fire, stopping often to talk to those he passed. It was probably a quarter of an hour before he reached Thalion and, leaning back so that he could better see Haldir standing above him, the Mirkwood elf said,
'So now you are Guardian of Lorien, Haldir?'
'I am,' said Haldir, feeling a twinge of renewed pleasure at the thought. 'But the responsibility seems to have taken away my appetite.'
Just for an instant Thalion glanced over at where Legolas stood, still serving wine at the other side of the fire.
'Indeed,' he said, raising an eyebrow. 'That is unfortunate, since you'll need to keep up your strength if you're to perform your duties well.'
Haldir caught the innuendo, both the one about Legolas and the other, and in that moment almost decided to drop Thalion. But his need was sharp, so he leaned over and let the meat fall carelessly into the other elf's lap.
'My performance of my duties is always assured,' he said in a voice of velvet and steel. 'I think it may be you who will need a little extra nourishment.'
Thalion snatched up the meat and began to get up, but Haldir pushed him gently back down.
'Please, enjoy your food, with my compliments,' he said.
He turned away, but not before he and Thalion had exchanged a look which confirmed their purpose. Haldir wandered off, feeling Thalion's eye on him, and as he walked he looked around for a place where they could meet. He made a wide circuit of the camp, stopping deliberately to refill his cup of wine and behaving as though Legolas, who didn't serve him this time, was completely invisible.
At last he found a store tent which was crammed full of weapons, tools and other supplies. At the back was a small hidden space created by a pile of longbows and other objects leaning against the canvas, and Haldir smiled, thinking this was just what he needed for his purposes. Thalion came in almost at once.
'You must have been watching me like a hawk,' said Haldir.
'Who would take his eyes off the Guardian of Lorien?' said Thalion, his voice already a little roughened by wine. 'Haldir,' he groaned, reaching for Haldir's injured shoulder.
'Be careful, you fool!' hissed Haldir, moving away just in time. 'And remember what I told you last time. I'm in charge.'
'All right,' said Thalion. 'Where do you want to begin?'
'Here,' said Haldir, harshly, and put his one good hand between Thalion's legs. Thalion gasped but seemed to have no objections to Haldir's preference. Soon he was groaning so loudly that Haldir told him to be quiet.
'I like to take my pleasure discreetly,' said Haldir, impressed by how hard Thalion was after such a short time but still feeling little answering response within himself. The Mirkwood elf seemed incapable of discretion so Haldir had to stop his groaning by kissing him. He tasted of meat and wine, and was so forceful that Haldir had to stop and hold him back with one hand on his chest.
'Thalion, have you no self-control?' he whispered, as he pulled open the laces of the Mirkwood elf's breeches.
'How can you ask me that when you're just about to….Valar!' gasped Thalion.
Haldir's skilled hands brought Thalion almost to the peak of pleasure but just before he reached it, Haldir squeezed him hard at the root and slowed him down.
'Get yourself ready,' ordered Haldir, and Thalion obediently finished undoing his breeches and let them fall around his ankles. Haldir was still not hard but had no doubt he would become so once he came into closer contact with Thalion. Haldir walked round to stand behind him, his hand still working Thalion at the front. He had just realised that he couldn't unlace his own breeches one-handed while still pleasuring Thalion when the flap of the tent was flung open and someone came in with a candle and started looking for something.
'Be still,' hissed Haldir into Thalion's ear, and the Mirkwood elf did what he could to obey.
Whoever had come in had not easily found what they were looking for and was searching methodically round the front of the tent. Thalion's breathing was so loud that Haldir was sure it would be heard, and to make things even worse he felt a cramp begin in his injured shoulder and begin to spread across his back into his good arm. At the front of the tent something fell over with a crash and Haldir and Thalion both jumped. A sharp pain lanced through Haldir's shoulder and involuntarily his hand tightened on Thalion's most sensitive flesh. Considering how severe was his discomfort, Thalion's muffled cry was commendably restrained, but it was loud enough to be heard by the searcher who was in the tent with them.
'Who's there?' said a voice they both recognised, and the candlelight moved quickly to the back of the tent, illuminating Thalion with his breeches around his ankles, and Haldir behind him with his hand between Thalion's legs.
'So it's you,' said Legolas, in a strange, slow voice, making sure he looked only at their faces. 'I was trying to find some wine my father sent.'
For no more than a moment his eyes met Haldir's, but it was if he had cried out his pain into the air. Haldir stifled a gasp.
'Legolas…' he said, but the prince had already turned away.
'I'm sorry I disturbed you,' he murmured, and then the tent was in darkness again.
'Thalion, I'm sorry…' said Haldir.
'Where are you going?'
'I must speak to him. Diplomacy, you understand. We cannot allow a breach between our two realms.'
'Why would he care what we do together?' demanded Thalion, rightly fearing that Haldir was about to leave him unsatisfied.
'I'm sure he doesn't,' said Haldir, 'but it would be a courtesy to apologise to him.'
'Haldir!' wailed Thalion, but Haldir had already done what he could to make himself presentable and was at the door of the tent.
'I'll try to come back so that we can finish later on,' said Haldir but Thalion's reply, muffled on the other side of the canvas, was unprintably lewd.
Haldir strode out into the firelight, his cloak streaming behind him. Legolas had only left moments before so he expected to catch sight of him soon. He made his way unhurriedly round the camp, taking up a cup of wine to slake his thirst and accepting the congratulations of those who had not seen him since hearing that he was now Guardian of Lorien. But despite glancing round him discreetly all the while, he saw no sign of the prince. A strange disquiet began to rise within him and he drained his cup and put it down carefully, then began to disentangle himself from the conversation in which he was engaged and to search a little more thoroughly.
Legolas was nowhere in the centre of the camp, nor was he at the horse lines or by the blacksmiths' ground or the healers' tents. Haldir even strayed into the Mirkwood elves' personal quarters but the prince's tent was empty. At last, wondering why he was doing this, he turned his back on the camp and made his way out into the forest. For a long time he could hear the sounds of festival but at last they faded and he walked in a silence lit only by moon and stars.
Haldir told himself he would not look for much longer; his shoulder was beginning to ache and he had no poppy juice with him, and he needed to be fit for the long journey home. In any case it was not really important whether he found Legolas or not: he was simply trying to avert any possible cause of trouble between their two realms. He walked on, carefully calculating how far and in which direction he had travelled, but the longer he walked, the more unusual his mood became. The whole story of his pursuit of Legolas began to play itself out in his mind, and one moment he was burning with the desire to conquer the prince, to take his revenge on him for his rejection; and the next he was shaken to the core with the remembrance of the look in Legolas' eyes when he had found him with Thalion. Again he felt that strange energy dragging him towards the prince, and he told himself that it was fortunate that he was known for his levelheadedness, or else he would begin to believe that it was that which was guiding his feet at this moment towards this particular part of the forest.
It was deep night now and his shoulder was aching fiercely, and still there was no sign of the prince. Drained and confused, Haldir was about to give up when he saw the faint white glow of a travelling light a little way in the distance. With a tracker's stealth he made his way closer to it, and there was Legolas, sitting wrapped up tightly in his cloak with his back against a white birch tree, looking out calmly on to the water.
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.