34. Chapter Thirty-Four
Elladan and Elrohir were at Legolas' side before the Elf knew it. They stood with their blades drawn. The Dwarf ran up a moment later, an axe in each hand. Rúmil, realizing the folly of trying to take on all four, stood back, breathing heavily.
Orophin ran up beside him. "What are you doing?"
"I am trying to save our brother."
"Rúmil," Orophin spoke softly, "we have no right, no longer. Haldirriel is his and she has decided. We must accept it. To do otherwise would result in banishment. Is that what you want? To be banished from Lórien?"
"If it would save Haldir."
"It will not. I saw the light upon him once, when he was with Haldirriel and Legolas." He almost smiled as Legolas raised an eyebrow at Orophin's disclosure. He was not a voyeur; he had just been in the right place at the right time. "It is a true bond. Haldir will survive and heal. I am sure of it. Put down your blade."
Rúmil looked at his elder brother in surprise. "I cannot stay and watch this. I cannot watch him fade." He thrust his blade into its sheath, turned and ran into the forest.
Orophin was dumbfounded. "Rúmil!" he shouted. "Come back."
Elladan put his hand on the Lórien Elf's shoulder. "He will return, once the anger passes. Our duty now is to bring the wounded home. It is almost morning. Let us away from here. Rúmil knows where we go. He will follow, in his own time."
Orophin stared into the forest, willing his brother to return. At long last, he turned and faced Elrond's son. "Bitter is this time. One brother fades as the other turns to madness." His voice caught. "Let us be away before I do something rash myself."
Elladan stepped to Legolas' side. He touched the wound and sighed. "It is not deep." He tore off a piece of his shirt and wrapped it around Legolas' throat. "When we return to camp, have it cleaned and re-bandaged. Mayhap Haldirriel would do it, to stave off the inevitable questions?"
Legolas nodded, still shaken by the depths of Rúmil's hatred.
Orophin watched for a moment; his cheeks blazed in mortification. He muttered something and left them, strode to the clearing and, as he walked, began shouting orders to break camp. The Elves scurried about, quickly damping the fire, folding their blankets, and picking up the wounded on their litters. Within moments, the camp was cleared and they marched towards the Golden Wood. Legolas and Haldirriel brought up the rear, carrying Haldir's litter between them. Haldirriel had not asked, when she cleaned and bound his wound, what had happened. She surmised it and wept. Elladan and Elrohir carried Siriondil's litter.
The company did not stop for the noonday meal nor even for the evening meal. Without a sound they marched, taking turns carrying the wounded. All had heard of the altercation between the Silvan Elf and their Marchwarden's younger brother. It had shaken everyone.
"Sauron, though passed from these lands, has the last laugh, does he not?" Legolas mused. Elladan nodded. "I would not harm Haldir's brothers for the world," the Wood Elf apologized once again, "but I cannot let them send him away."
"I know. I have missed my Naneth all these long years. The pain grows. I know Adar will leave shortly. He cannot bear the separation any longer. Imladris will fail as Lórien fails. Do you not note the trees?" He pointed up as they passed into the Golden Wood. "Scarred by all that has happened, they fade. Galadriel's Ring no longer serves her; it cannot protect her beloved land. It is as she feared."
"Will Elrohir and you go also?"
"Nay. Not yet. The land calls to us still. I know not when, or even if, we will leave these lands. They are dear to us. But we will not live as we once did."
"Then should I advice Haldirriel to let Haldir go? Should we send him West if Middle-earth is fading?"
"Ah, Middle-earth does not fade, only the Elves and those things they love." Elladan's voice carried such sorrow that Legolas turned towards him and saw tears streaming down his face. "But I will not leave it, not yet. Nor will my brother."
"Good." Legolas voice was firm and sure again. "We will also stay. We will help Haldir heal and help Aragorn heal the land. Only then, when our work is done, will we leave. And we will leave together."
"That is as it should be." Haldirriel smiled and took Legolas' hand in hers across the litter. "We are bound and we stay together." She smiled up at him. "I love you, Legolas Greenleaf, whether you are here in Lórien, or with Aragorn in Gondor. Never forget that."
He bent across and kissed her warmly.
"Orophin!" A voice cried out and a hundred Galadhrim surrounded the bedraggled warriors. "Welcome home!"
It was Celeborn, Lord of the Wood, and at his side stood Galadriel, Lady of Light. There faces shone with joy. "Welcome! Come and rest. We have a fire started and a meal ready. Our healers will tend to the wounded. Take your rest and be at peace, all of you." The Lord of Lórien swept his arm to encompass the entire company. He strode forward towards Legolas and Haldirriel. "Haldir?" he touched the Marchwarden's forehead and drew back in horror. "I am sorry," he whispered. "We will care for him," he took Haldirriel's hand in his own, "as if he were our own Elf-child. Trust me." She clung to him in gratitude.
After the healers had tended to Haldir and Siriondil, Celeborn and Galadriel, joined them. They sat beside the two partners and smiled warmly. "Though Haldir has suffered grievous hurt, he is fighting it. Our healers believe he will recover. It will be a struggle for you both, for he will need your love more than ever. I cannot even say how many years it will take for him to heal fully, but I believe in our Marchwarden, in his strength and his courage. He will heal."
Orophin stood behind them. "Forgive me," he said to Legolas and Haldirriel. "Forgive me."
"Naught to forgive. I just hope your brother will accept Celeborn's words and return to those who love him. Rúmil is yet young; he will learn to trust his Lord." Legolas took Orophin's arm in friendship. Gimli awakened long enough from his adoration of the Lady to growl low. His hand clenched his axe.
"I will throttle him if he does not," Orophin replied. "When he returns, and he will return, I will bring him to you so that he can apologize himself."
"Do not," Haldirriel spoke quietly. "It was grief and horror that drove him to act as he did. He has not to be forgiven for an excess of love."
"You are too kind," Orophin said, bowed and left them.
"You will sail West?" Galadriel asked.
"Nay. We stay here. Once you leave, we may travel with Elladan and Elrohir to Imladris. They are staying also. Legolas will return East to Aragorn. He promised to help heal Gondor; that work is not yet finished. Gimli will accompany him, though how Legolas is ever to drag him from your side..." Haldirriel laughed warmly. "Siriondil will return to Thranduil's service. When Legolas is able, he will return to us for visits. We," she blushed, "we have bonded, the three of us."
"I had noted it in your fëa's. I had not thought it possible. In all my long years," Celeborn mused, "I have never heard of such a thing, but I am glad. I can see that it is a true bond."
Galadriel smiled. "In the morning, we will return to Caras Galadhon. You will stay in the talan off of ours. I will personally visit you each day and mark Haldir's progress, if that is amicable to you?"
"Of course," Haldirriel smiled. "He is devoted to you."
"Then let us retire. The morrow brings a long march."
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