39. Chapter Thirty-Nine
Haldir ran; his heart was broken, destroyed by the filth that had touched him. He had thought he was healed, but now, he knew he never would be. Never again would he be Haldir, but some maelvûl 'waur. He could never let another hold him; his filth would cover them too: Haldirriel and Legolas. Finally, his legs gave way as his mind battled the revolting thoughts that assailed him, and he fell forward. His mouth filled with dirt. "Fitting," he sobbed, and began to cover himself with the earth about him, rubbing it into his body and over his head, covering every strand of his hair. "I am filth." He bent down again till his head leaned against the earth and wailed piteously.
After a time, his weeping quieted. His head hurt, pounded mercilessly, but he just shook it. "I deserve nothing more; I should be tormented all my days." He tried to stand, but found his legs were as weak as a babes, so he began to crawl. He kept his head held down; he wanted no one to see him. Suddenly, he yelped as his hand was rent and blood flowed; he had crawled into a forest of gorse. The pain brought him to full awareness. He slowly stood, his legs seemed to have strengthened, and looked about. He had been so engrossed in the shame of his memories that he found he was well into the bushes. His legs and thighs were bleeding profusely. Looking about, he found a small path, probably made by rodents or some such, and followed it. At last, he was out of the prickly thorns.
He fell to his knees again, sighing heavily. 'I must find shelter,' he thought distractedly, 'and clean these...' He had nothing with him; he was naked. What could he clean himself with? He struggled forward, still on his knees, but keeping his head up to avoid another such calamity. Making a great effort, he finally reached a small copse of trees. Wearily, the Lórien Elf leaned against one. He felt its comfort and began to weep again. He touched the tree and ordered it to cease its efforts; he told it he was not worth it. His head fell forward as sleep overcame him. The tree sat in silent watch.
An hour passed and then two. Legolas suddenly screamed in frustration.
"Listen to the trees. Mayhap they know where he is." Haldirriel strode to his side.
"Not enough about. If we walk further towards the mountain," his hopes were lifted by her words, "we might find some who have felt his passage. But we must continue in this direction. I am sure this is the way he went."
She nodded and they began to move forward again. "Ai!" Haldirriel cried. "Gorse. Take care, Legolas!"
"I will. There is a path. You lead the way; I will follow." He stopped and cried out, "I hear something. The trees are sad. Ahead of us. Only a short distance." He began to run, pushing Haldirriel aside in his haste. "Haldir!" he cried, "Haldir!" He ran toward the tree and sobbed, "Haldir." Blood and dirt covered his lover. "He is dead," he screamed. "Haldirriel! He is dead!" He knelt at the Marchwarden's side and wept bitterly.
Her hand was on his shoulder. "Haldir," she whispered and bent over him. "Legolas! He is not dead. It seems he ran," her brow furrowed, "or crawled through the gorse. They are just scratches. He sleeps."
Legolas looked up and realized what Haldirriel said was true. Haldir did, indeed, sleep. He fell forward, against his lover, and held him tightly. "Haldir," he whispered as tears streamed down his face, "Muin nín, come back to us. Do not leave us here, alone and miserable."
"He is not fading, Legolas. He merely sleeps. But we must help him. How he deems himself dirt, I know not. Nay," she shook her head in sorrow. "I fully understand. Yet, he listens to lies. We must help him see that. Our time at the hot springs must be given up. We must return to Lórien and let Galadriel help him."
"Yes." The Wood Elf stood and picked Haldir up, wincing at the lightness of his lover. "He still does not eat rightly. He is skin and bones."
She smiled. "We will work on that, too." They walked carefully through the gorse bushes and towards the hot springs. "We should spend the night, let him sleep, and then feed him well, if he will take it." She touched Legolas' shoulder. "You go ahead. I will hunt and meet you back at the springs."
He nodded, not taking his eyes from Haldir's face.
She wept as she left them, turning towards the right and the stream that flowed near their camp. It was getting near to dark and animals would be coming out, looking for water. When she reached the stream, she pulled her bow and nocked an arrow. She waited for only a short time. A small deer stood on the other side, its ears perked up, listening. Haldirriel held her breath. The doe bent its head to drink and fell, instantly dead. Haldirriel splashed across the small stream and removed her arrow, cleaned it in the stream, dried it against her leggings, and replaced it in her quiver. Gutting the dear, she buried the entrails, laved her hands and face, taking care to remove all the deer's blood, and then picked the carcass up and slung it over her shoulders. Still, she wept as she walked back to their camp. When she arrived, she found Haldir sleeping peacefully in Legolas' arms, a cloak thrown over his naked body. A fire was blazing.
Legolas smiled up at her. "Good hunting, I see."
"Yes. I will make a hearty stew; Haldir never could refuse venison." She smiled and wiped the tears from her face as she dressed the deer. "We need water. I will return shortly." She did not wait for Legolas to reply, but ran swiftly to the stream and filled one of their containers.
When she returned, she cut part of the remains into small pieces. "If we were staying, I would dry the rest; sadly, we must leave it here." Throwing a portion of the meat into a pot, she added dried vegetables and some herbs from her pack.
"Dry it anyhow," Legolas said quietly. "We may yet be able to stay."
"Nay!" Haldirriel said furiously, but quietly. "He must return to Galadriel. She can help him more than we can."
"She cannot, Haldirriel. Think upon it. It is we who love him. It is only love that can heal him now. His body is healthy, though weak and his limbs spindly, but his heart needs healing. Do you doubt our love for him? Do you doubt we can heal him? If so, we must take him to the Grey Havens and put him on a ship for Valinor."
She shuddered and sat hard in the dirt. "I thought he was healed," she sobbed. "I cannot think what further we can do to help him."
"We hold him, stroke him, tell him of his worth, let him see our need for him. He will respond, though it take another year."
She collapsed next to Legolas, and held Haldir's hand in her own, the other was held by the Wood Elf. After a time, she rose and slid the pot of stew to the side of the fire; it would cook slowly during the night. She then cut the remaining meat into strips and laid them on sticks, carefully placing them near the fire to dry.
Night passed quietly; Haldir did not wake. Legolas finally rested; Haldirriel took Haldir in her arms and wept quietly.
He felt so warm and... loved. Haldir looked up into the sleeping face of his bond-mate and smiled. Then, remembrance came and he stiffened. He cursed, for she felt it and woke. "I am sorry. You were sleeping so peacefully. I did not mean to wake you."
She put her finger to her lips and he silenced. "You are so beautiful," she whispered, smiling brightly. "Even with leaves in your hair and scratches on your face. Next time you run from me, make sure you go clothéd and avoid gorse." She giggled slightly and he loved her even more.
He blushed, not in shame at lying with her unclothed, but at the memory and reason for his flight. "You mock me?"
"Nay, muin nín, I love you. Naught of why you have suffered makes one twit of difference to me. Because you are in pain, I also suffer. As does Legolas. Do you not know we feel all that you do? Our bonding makes your very thoughts part of ours, your every emotion burns our minds and hearts. Do you not feel - here?" She touched the space above his heart. Her brow furrowed and he felt her panic. "Do you not hear my thoughts, feel my emotions?"
He was staggered by the pain he did feel: it was not his own. "My own thoughts have been too blinding to see anything else. Will you forgive me?"
"Only if you see the light that you are to Legolas and to me. Only if you see how truly beautiful you are. Look into my heart, Haldir, delve its depths. Do you not see it? My love for you?"
He drew in a long, shuddering breath as his mind touched hers. He began to weep. She held him close and wept with him. Slowly, he moved his head closer to hers. With some small trepidation, he lifted his lips to hers. She bent lower; he caressed those lips with his tongue. She opened her mouth; he pushed forward and took her mouth, greedily.
"I have never before felt such love. Or is it pity?" he gasped when he finally pulled away from her.
"Not pity. But my love has grown more this year than in all the years I have known you. Haldir, your courage in this battle that rages within you, endears me to you. Your inner strength overwhelms me. I knew your virtues before we mated, but now, I find myself even more in love with you. I do not quite understand it myself."
"Your every touch calls me to deeper love, Haldirriel," he shivered. "I cannot imagine life without you. And yet, Legolas and you have spent a year without me. Truly. For I have been lost to myself. I want to be found, Haldirriel. Will you help me?"
She smiled through her tears. "Feel this," she pulled his hand to her heart. "It is already yours. Every once of love I have is yours. I cannot live and not help you."
He kissed her again, deeply, feeling all the time the eyes of Legolas' upon him. When he broke the kiss, he turned towards the Wood Elf. "You wake."
Legolas smiled. "I hope not too late. But I am selfish. I have already had a portion of you just a short time ago and Haldirriel has been patient. I will tend the horses. When I return, perhaps I may again taste your sweetness?"
Haldir smiled warmly as Haldirriel shooed their lover away.
"Leave us be. He is mine, for the nonce," she giggled.
Legolas smiled, kissed both of them lightly, and left.
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.