1. Chapter 1
Disclaimer: Obviously, anyone you recognize didn't come from my imagination, but from the amazing talent that belonged to Mr. Tolkien. No infringement or offense is intended.
Summary: How far will one go for love? Haldir/OFC/Legolas
Author's Aside: Movieverse for the most part, with a heaping helping of bookverse thrown in for good measure. Haldir dominates the first half of this story, while Legolas features more prominently in the second half.
AU Note: This story was previously published in censored form at FFN. It is posted in its entirety here.
"Love must be as much a light, as it is a flame." ~Henry David Thoreau
Chapter 1: Arrivals and Lamentations
January 16th, 3019
The huntress stepped lightly through the forest, senses attuned to her prey. There was no good shooting angle from the ground, but as she cast her eyes into the canopy above her, she realized that she could get the perfect shot from a wide branch hanging over head. Noiselessly, she slung her bow over her shoulder and quietly shimmed up the trunk of an ancient mallorn. She climbed nimbly through the branches until she reached her perfect perch. When she checked to make sure that her victim was still in the clearing, she noted with satisfaction that it had not moved.
Her target stood there glowing softly in the moonlight, large and white except for the circle of color at its center. It was completely unaware of its impending doom, as she looked down upon it through a softly rustling screen of golden leaves. The quarry seemed to taunt her to release an arrow and try to hit her mark. She had been on the hunt for hours and had suffered miserable luck, missing every single shot she had attempted.
'But this time will be different,' she told herself sternly. 'I can do this if I must and when he returns home he will see that I have improved and stop being such a nag.' She took a deep breath to steady her nerves as she thought through each of the steps her mentor taught her: Sight the target, notch the arrow, draw the string, inhale a steadying breath, align the tip of the arrow just above the center of the target, exhale, relea…
"Ai!" So focused was she on her target that she was caught unaware when she was grabbed abruptly around the waist. She lost her footing and would have fallen into thin air had the arm around her waist not tightened to a mithril-strength as she was snatched backward against a wall of muscle.
Her bow and arrow clattered uselessly down through the branches to the forest floor. As she started to struggle and drew in a breath to scream, a deep voice chuckled as the arm around her waist loosened and she was turned around to face her tormentor. Her face flushed with anger as he smiled happily down at her. She hit his chest as hard as she could with both hands, causing her to slip again upon the bark. His arms caught her once more as he effortlessly maneuvered them to a wider part of the branch where their footing was more secure.
"Haldir, you scared me!" she reprimanded as his shoulders continued to shake with mirth.
"Little one, if all targets held their place as quietly and steadily as that practice board does, you would be a wonderful shot. Unfortunately, the orcs do not tend to stand quite so still. And if one does," he added smugly as he tugged on the thin braid that kept her hair off her forehead, "there is probably another one sneaking up behind you."
"Do not be obnoxious," she scolded the older elf. "I am doing the best I can to learn what you have tried to teach me."
"And tried, and tried," he said, tapping the end of her nose with his forefinger. She glared at him, her mouth fixed in a firm line of disapproval. He grinned at her in a way that was most unfitting for an elf of his stature and age, she thought. And yet it was worth it to let him mock her a little, just to see the way his smile lit his features and his eyes glowed silver as he enjoyed a moment of levity. His reputation was that of the stone-faced leader of the Forest Guard, but with her he allowed himself to laugh. It was but one aspect of their long friendship that she treasured.
She sighed as she sat down upon the branch and dangled her boot-clad feet over the edge. "Since I have proven to be such an inept pupil, can we not agree to put an end to this ridiculous exercise? I will never be an archer. I do not want to be an archer. I have no talent for it. You and I both have better things to do with our time, and I would think that with all the talk about the growing Shadow, my grandfather has more important tasks for his Chief Marchwarden than to try to make a soldier out of me."
"Isilmei," Haldir began patiently for what seemed the thousandth time as he sat down beside her, "your guardian has no desire to see you on the front lines of any battle. Neither do I. But he and I are in agreement that should the need ever arise; you must be able to defend yourself." He brushed back the curtain of hair she had allowed to fall between them and laid it gently over her shoulder so that he could see her face. His tone was softer when he continued. "Amdirben informs me that you are improving, yet you seldom practice with your fellow trainees. Might I ask why?"
She felt like a petulant elfling as she looked down at the ground below, too embarrassed to meet his penetrating gaze. She thought of him, and the respect and admiration she had always held for him. And she thought of her grandparents. Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel had nearly lost their only daughter, Lady Celebrian, in the same attack that killed Isilmei's parents. Her father had been Lord Celeborn's grandnephew. In spite of his grief, he and his Lady had chosen to take in the orphaned elfling and raise her as their own. They had ever been as loving and kindly grandparents to her, keeping the memory of her father and mother alive as they nurtured and cared for her. She loved them so dearly, and wanted so much to make them proud. Her lack of prowess in any area was something she felt almost as a physical pain, but it was hard for her to put her feelings into words.
"They are all much more gifted than I," she finally admitted. "I feel…ashamed. I bring dishonor to my grandparents, and to you, and to anyone else who has tried to teach me."
"No, sweetling. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If my duties allowed, I would continue to train you privately so that you were not distracted by other students; but you know that there is too much trouble at the border for me to be home as much as I would like." He paused, and then sighed deeply. She looked over and saw that his gaze was focused in the distance as though his mind were still at the northern edge of their realm. "When I think of that trouble, and all of the dear ones here at home, it becomes imperative to me that all our people learn some sort of self-defense. The times in which we live are too dangerous to afford willful ignorance of the military arts."
The worry in his voice caused her to turn toward him, and it was then that she noticed the faint darkening of the skin underneath his deep gray eyes, the ever-so-subtle slump of his shoulders that most would fail to notice. But he had been a steady presence in her life for as long as she could remember, so she noticed. Her sharp eyes saw the signs of fatigue her dear friend and mentor could not obscure with his strength and carefully controlled expression. She reached out to place one hand on his forearm. "Haldir, are you all right? Are you well? I thought you were not due back for two days yet. Has something happened?"
His expression brightened as he took her hand in both of his. He stood and pulled her to her feet. "Come with me," he said with a wink. "We have visitors that will interest you."
Together they climbed down to the forest floor and he led her through the trees until they came to Caras Galadhon. She was surprised when he led her up a side staircase instead of the one toward the home she shared with her grandparents. Any visitors to Lorien would be presented immediately to the Lord and Lady, so she assumed he was taking her there. Instead, he took a less traveled path that wound around the eastern side of the city.
Haldir glanced back over his shoulder and favored her with a fleeting smile when he caught the question in her eyes. "Our guests have already spoken to your grandparents. They were assigned the east glade to rest and refresh themselves before dining with the court later this evening. I thought you would want a peek at several members of their company."
He stopped midway across a swinging bridge connecting a series of telain in two neighboring trees. The canopy was thick, but there were several breaks allowing a view of the east glade. It was a large open space ringed by mellyrn. The prominent roots of the primeval trees created small pockets of seclusion in the meadow, and it was into several of those spaces that they now peeked.
In the clearing moved two tiny figures that were busily their traveling packs underneath golden awnings erected among the protruding mellyrn roots. Their clothing was homespun, and looked as though their road to Lorien had been rough. Both of the little people had a head full of curly hair – one nearly black, the other a light red-brown; but it was their large, hairy feet that marked them as the Halflings she had heard about in stories. Until that moment, she had thought them more legend than actual beings.
She gasped, one hand flying to her mouth as the other grabbed Haldir's elbow. He grinned as he covered her fingers with his warm hand. "Periannath!" She exclaimed. "I did not think I would ever see such creatures."
"I know how fascinated you have always been by Halfling lore, so I knew you would want to see them. There are four of them in total. The party entered the edge of the Wood at dusk yesterday and was being followed by orcs. They spent the night on the border with my brothers and me until we could bring them to the city."
"Ai, Haldir. They are wonderful! They look like grown-up children." She shifted on her feet to get a better look at other figures still half-obscured by the screen of leaves. "How many others are with them?"
Haldir's expression darkened as he tightened his grip on her hand. She felt her excitement at seeing the little people fade as she saw the amusement vanish from his face and the sadness that quickly replaced it. "They arrived with four others – the Prince of Mirkwood, Aragorn son of Arathorn, a man of Gondor, and a dwarf."
Given the longstanding acrimony between their people and the dwarves, she was taken by surprise that he had led one into the very heart of Lorien.
"A dwarf? Here? I thought…"
"Isilmei, they bring ill news. There will be a full council meeting later tonight, but we have already informed the Lord and Lady that the travelers set out from Imladris with Mithrandir. He fell into shadow as the company made their way through Moria."
She felt as though the air had been knocked out of her lungs. The wizard had sought counsel with the Lord and Lady several times during Isilmei's life. When he came to Lorien, he often stayed a month or more, and was as popular with the elflings as he was with the adults. No matter the nature of his business in the council chamber, he always made time to tell stories and set fireworks for the young. Isilmei counted a small wooden carving of a horse given to her by Mithrandir among her most treasured possessions.
As she stared in shock into the clear gray eyes of her oldest and dearest friend, she suddenly understood why he looked so tired and worried. Mithrandir's loss was a heavy blow to all those who valued wisdom and peace. She stepped forward and wrapped both her arms around Haldir's waist and hugged him tightly as she fought to hold back her tears.
He returned her embrace and pressed a kiss onto her hair before resting his cheek on the top of her head. They stood that way for a long moment, each drawing solace from the other, until her sense of duty nudged her out of Haldir's arms. "Grandmother will need help with plans for a memorial," she sniffed.
"Yes. And I must gather up supplies for a return to the border with more guards. Lord Celeborn has ordered we double our sentries."
Isilmei's forehead wrinkled with disappointment. "Will you be coming home again soon?"
"I should return within the week," he assured her. "Orophin and I will be assisting the visitors as they prepare to continue their quest." A mischievous light reached his eyes as he raised one dark eyebrow. "And based on what I saw today, you and I desperately need to spend some time on your archery training. The sooner the better."
She tilted her head to one side as she regarded him. "I suppose having you home will be worth the torture of training." Without waiting for his response, she rose on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek before turning and running swiftly for the talan she shared with the Lord and Lady.
Far into the night the Elves of Lorien sang the praises and adventures of Mithrandir. For a time all the members of the Company listened mournfully as a chorus of haunting voices lamented the Grey Pilgrim's passing from Middle-earth; yet one by one, hobbits, man, and dwarf fell prey to sleep's insistent demands.
Aragorn and Legolas kept each other company far into the night, each sitting in silence, lost in his own musings and sorrow. Finally, even restless Estel had to close his watchful eyes, cloaking himself in slumber's warming shroud and the protection of Lady Galadriel and her people. Only Legolas found rest unattainable.
Sighing, he crept from the glade in which his companions slumbered; mindful at first not to wake them until he realized that if Gimli's snoring did not disturb them, nothing else would do so. He was unsure where his restless feet would lead him, but the winding, leaf-shrouded path eventually opened into a larger clearing. He stepped into the open space, breathing a sigh of relief at the richness of the green grass under his feet and the opening through the mellyrn through which he could see the many bright stars overhead. He wondered as he stood there admiring their stark beauty if Mithrandir now counted among their number. When he was able to tear his eyes away from the night sky, he looked around the garden and was surprised to realize that he must be standing before the famed Mirror of Galadriel. Legolas touched hand to heart and bowed his head in a small gesture of reverence toward the Mirror's pedestal before advancing any farther into the glade.
On the far side of the dell, a small stream whispered its way toward the Celebrant just underneath the shelter of the trees. Legolas was born with a fascination for water, as were many of his kind. Sometimes during carefree moments, he daydreamed of following one of the great rivers along its path until it joined with the ocean on its journey toward the Undying Lands. He sank onto a bench next to the stream and watched the water hurry along as he wished he could recapture some of that lighthearted spirit now.
So lost in thought was he that Legolas was unaware of another presence until he glanced up and saw a young elleth standing in the shadow between two trees, half-hidden by the gold cloak of the mellyrn. She appeared as though a spirit, silent and still at the edge of the glade. The light of the moon slipping through the forest's canopy caught in her fair hair and cast a halo of radiance around her. He started, disbelieving for a moment that his warrior's instincts had deserted him so completely, even in this place of serenity and peace. As quickly as she appeared between the trees, she vanished.
"Hello?" he called, not desirous of company but not wishing to be rude this first night in the Lady's realm. "Are you there? Please show yourself."
He held his breath, wondering if his adventure in Moria had left him somehow mad, when she stepped into the open. As she moved from the shadows in which she had stood enough light found her face for him to recognize her.
Earlier that evening, as the company was ushered into the banquet hall for the first good meal they had enjoyed since leaving Imladris, they had been hastily introduced to key members of the court. Standing before him in a pale blue gown with her bare toes peeking from underneath the hem was the Lady Isilmei – adopted granddaughter of Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. Aragorn had explained to him during the meal, in response to the unspoken question in his eyes, that she had been taken in by the Lord and Lady when her parents were killed by orcs. The young lady's father was kinsman to Lord Celeborn. That much was obvious, he realized as he gazed at her now. The thick, straight sliver-gold hair trailing down to her waist and the regal set of her shoulders were entirely reminiscent of her guardians.
What was not reminiscent was the shyness with which she regarded him. He gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile and gestured for her to join him on the bench.
"Am I disturbing your meditations?" she asked quietly.
"No," he answered with a shake of his head. "I find sleep elusive this night."
She nodded understanding as she slowly crossed the glade to perch next to him. He immediately identified with the air of sadness that seemed to hover over her, for his own heart was heavy indeed with sorrow.
When she did not speak he allowed his gaze to return to the stream. After a long moment, her quiet voice drifted to his ears. "Had you known Mithrandir for many years?"
"In truth, yes, many years," he said. He leaned down to retrieve a golden leaf that fell at his feet. Once again he felt the landslide of his worries and sorrow settle about his shoulders as his thoughts returned to the darkness of Moria and the balrog's violent fire. He sighed heavily in hopes of releasing some of his frustration and sadness.
"Me too." When he glanced up at her he felt a surge of empathy as she obviously shared some of his feelings. "He had been visiting us since before I was born," she continued. "No matter what his business, he always made time for the elflings, and always had a song or an illusion or a game for us. I remember an afternoon – ai, I could not have been more than a dozen years old at the time. There were several other elflings with me, and Mithrandir whistled a merry little tune and the next thing we knew we were surrounded by butterflies. They perched on our fingers and in our hair – one of them even landed on my nose – until he whistled again and they fluttered off along their way. I have tried again and again but have never been able to replicate the effect."
He favored her with a small smile. "Mithrandir's heart was that of an elfling in some ways, was it not?"
She studied him for a moment before she responded, yet he found he did not mind her steady, gentle gaze upon his face. "One can be both very wise and very young at heart, yes?"
"I suppose so," he said with a quiet chuckle, "though I have yet to meet more than one being who managed it."
The whisper of a smile in her eyes vanished. "He was special," she sighed, turning her eyes toward the water.
"I do not know what will become of us now that he is fallen," he admitted hoarsely.
"How do you mean?"
"He guided us in more ways than we knew," Legolas confessed, finding it surprisingly easy to tell this stranger his innermost cares. "Despite my years in Middle-earth, and the experience Aragorn and I have gained in battle, none of us has ever faced a challenge like the one we must now confront. We are tasked with delivering the One Ring into the home of its maker while fending off the armies of Orthanc and Mordor, and preventing the Deceiver from obtaining that which he desires most."
As he continued, Legolas heard his own voice rising in intensity as he recounted the seeming folly of their mission. "There were nine of us when we started, and while we have yet to even approach Mordor's borders, we have already lost our most powerful companion. Mithrandir not only led our Company, he inspired us to bravery beyond that which we would have thought ourselves capable. Aragorn must now lead a company half-composed of Shirefolk who had never tasted the heat of battle until recently."
"Do you doubt the courage of the Periannath?" she asked without judgment.
"No," Legolas was quick to assert. "They have all shown their valor in the depths of Moria. But that does not account for the increasingly heavy burden that Frodo carries, or the Halflings' lack of experience."
"And you think that one or more of them might falter," she inferred as the dread of the situation seemed to weigh upon her.
Legolas shook his head, sighing heavily as he looked down at the golden leaves that continued to waft their way toward the ground. One broad leaf dropped from its supporting branch as though it merely gave up hope and floated through the air until it met the water's surface. The rushing stream snatched the leaf from the air, hurrying it along toward the roaring Celebrant in the distance. He felt a little as if his own heart were being carried away with the golden leaf, and felt his frustration rise like a living thing.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is not the Halflings that we need worry about, but one or more of the rest of us. This is a trial unlike any of us has faced aforetime. Mithrandir's wisdom provided the light that kept us from darkness." With that he raised his hooded eyes to briefly meet the worried but sympathetic blue gaze of his companion. "Without that light I fear I will stumble, and will know not how to rise again."
Though his own gaze had returned to the water, he felt her eyes linger on his face. When he glanced toward her once more, he saw tears of sympathy brimming in her eyes. A single drop fell from her long lashes and slid slowly down the graceful curve of her cheek. He felt a wave of guilt wash through him for putting such heavy concerns on her slim shoulders. It had made him feel better to unburden himself, but obviously his candor had upset her when she was already mourning the loss of their mutual friend.
"I apologize," he said as he lifted a hand to gently wipe the moisture off her cheek. "I had no right to burden you with…"
A stern voice from the far side of the clearing interrupted them. "My Lady Isilmei."
Legolas and his companion both turned to see the Chief Marchwarden striding briskly toward them. There was something in the older ellon's eyes that caused Legolas to lower his hand from Isilmei's face.
"What is wrong?" He demanded as he reached them and extended a hand to her.
It rankled Legolas that as soon as she placed her slim fingers within his grasp, the Marchwarden swiftly pulled her to her feet and wrapped his free arm around her shoulders in a most possessive gesture. Legolas was about to object, but her quiet voice stayed him.
"We were speaking of Mithrandir," she said with a sniffle.
"Come," the Galadhel said, though his tone was somewhat gentler as he looked down at her and gave her shoulders a squeeze. "It is late and you need rest. I have come to see you home."
She nodded in agreement but was barely able to say goodbye before the harsh Marchwarden had hurried her out of the glade, his arm still firmly about her shoulders.
Legolas watched after them for a moment, trying to discern the reason for the other ellon's overbearing behavior. Was he upset that he had found the elleth in tears? 'Of course, she could be quite pretty if she smiled,' he thought. If the reason for his journey to Lorien had been less heavy, it would have been an interesting puzzle to solve, but as it was, he had too much weight on his heart to give much thought to grumpy Marchwardens and their sad maidens. With a sigh he put the encounter behind him and continued to watch the water scurry along its path, wishing it could carry him far away from his troubles.
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.