Hello everyone! OK, my family visitors have gone and I am alone again, free to read and write!
Guest 1345: keep smiling :)
What's a sticky bun? Have you never had a sticky bun? This must be remedied! It is a delight to the taste buds, a ball of fluffy, sticky sweetness that must be washed down with three cups of tea :))))
Ran Ran - yes, and I know I am not alone in imagining Legolas as Oropher
Sparky TAS - thanks for the help, much appreciated!
Rita Orca - sparring? Oh yes - yes, yes, yes - lots of that coming up
Chapter thirty-one: Second Awakening
Breakfast was over, but the stares and the whispering were not. Imladris was afire with gossip and hearsay, and everywhere Legolas went, silence followed, and then came the whispers and the lingering stares. Thranduil's bastard child was the subject of every conversation and a heavy weight settled upon Legolas' chest, for what would his king think? His secret was now common knowledge in a land that shared but cursory relations with The Greenwood.
With a deep breath, Legolas watched as Elladan knocked upon the solid, carved oak of Elrond's inner sanctum - his private study, and as the doors opened, Legolas found himself standing before the Lord himself, Glorfindel and Erestor at his shoulder. Behind, Prince Handir, Lainion and Commander Celegon stood together, and Elrohir who sat alone upon the window seat, looking apparently unconcerned, was soon joined by his twin brother, Elladan.
They looked regal, splendid and old, wise and all-seeing and for a moment his courage wavered. These Lords had fought in the Last Alliance, had known his grandfather, had seen the face of Sauron, had marvelled at the sights of the Hidden City - fought Demons of Morgoth… and here, was Legolas, Silvan warrior with no rank and no title, no family name to add to his own.
He bowed before Elrond silently, meeting the grey eyes squarely, allowing the lord to see his apprehension, for he would, Legolas knew. What good would it do to hide it save to make himself appear even younger and more inexperienced than he already was?
"Your first day of freedom, Legolas. How do you feel?" asked Elrond kindly.
"Well, my Lord, thanks to you and your household," he said, and Elrond nodded, before gesturing to a seat.
His eyes begged to wander, to relish the artwork that hung on the stone walls - paintings, murals, tapestries, carvings - his fingers itched to touch it, but Elrond had other plans, it seemed. There was nothing for it, this he had known from the moment Elladan had summoned him. He was uncomfortable, nervous, completely ignorant to how they would react to their newfound knowledge of his heritage, except for Glorfiindel, with whom he had spoken just the day before and had unexpectedly found a sympathetic ear.
"As you know, Legolas, it has come to our attention that you are the son of King Thranduil, born outside the bounds of matrimony. As such, it is important, from a diplomatic perspective, that Imladris should be made aware of certain issues that may affect our dealings with those of The Greenwood." He paused here for a moment, his eyes watching Legolas for a reaction before continuing.
"I want you to know that whatever is said here, today, will be done so with the sole purpose of adopting an official stance on your existence. I know," he added quickly, "that sounds a little cold and that is not my intention, Legolas. Indeed it is important to me - to us, that you understand the political ramifications of this situation.
Again, he paused but Legolas remained silent, his eyes fixed upon Elrond.
"We know that you have been aware of your heritage for a few scant days, and that perhaps you have not had the time to truly understand how this may change things."
It was only now, that Legolas reacted, and in no uncertain terms. "Change things? Why would it change things, my Lord? I want nothing from my father, I claim nothing…"
"You - do not, no. But what of your father, Legolas? What if he - claims you?"
Legolas sat speechless, for truth be told he had not thought of that at all.
"Why would he?" he asked simply, albeit a little insecurely. "I am the result of an illicit affair, my begetting will be deemed shameful - I expect nothing but scorn, my Lord."
He had riled himself, for although he had not raised his voice his intonation had become more acute. Was it not obvious that he would not be made welcome?
It was Elrond who stared back at him now, and when he answered, he did so carefully, yet the tone of authority was clear for all to hear.
"Have you had the time to come to that conclusion? - to honestly think on it? Or are you speaking from the heart, Legolas?"
Legolas startled at the question, but he held his tongue and forced himself to think. He looked to the floor for a moment, clearly struggling to collect himself and reason through the fog of rising emotion.
"No - no my Lord. I have not had the time, and aye," he smiled ruefully, "I spoke from the heart. My apologies," he added.
"There is no need for apologies, Legolas. We are all here sympathetic to your predicament, are we not?" asked Elrond as he cast his eyes around the room. It was Lord Celegon who spoke though, realising perhaps, that it would take one from the The Greenwood to assure the boy.
"Legolas, it is as Elrond has said. I only realised myself a few days ago…"
Legolas frowned, "you knew?" he asked incredulously.
"Not at first, no, but your resemblance to Oropher is astounding. But it was when I saw you fight - that I knew…"
Legolas remained silent, and Glorfiindel straightened - intrigued now at Celegon's words, for although they had spoken extensively over the last two days, Glorfindel had been unable to draw out the Sindarin general on his thoughts on Legolas.
"How?" he all but whispered.
"I could not be sure, but when Lieutenant Galadan put it to me, I could not refute his reasoning. The resemblance, the skill with which you wield your knives, in spite of your age, your friends that protect you; all this and - and something else we cannot quite define…" said Celegon, his eyes wide and challenging.
Legolas swallowed, and then looked around the room, only to find all eyes upon him once more. He finally looked to Elrond, silently imploring him to continue, for he had no idea of what they spoke.
"So," continued the Lord of Imladris. "We know that your - the King, has been informed of your appearance during your journey here for it seems he believed you to be in Valinor with your mother…"
Legolas stared back, not quite sure what to say, for this much he knew, if nothing else.
"Alright, so am I right in saying you know no more?"
"You are right, my Lord." There was a defensive note in Legolas' tone that none failed to perceive.
"The question is," continued Elrond, "how will the king react?" he asked, and then waited.
"My father," began Handir, rising from his seat, "has spent the last centuries inside a shell, distancing himself from his surroundings. We thought it due to the departure of the queen, and the ensuing scandal, for the king's infidelity became known. We thought it was for shame that he had precipitated her departure, abandoning her adolescent children," he said, addressing them all as he spoke, but his eyes - his eyes were riveted on Legolas'.
"Now that I know, I believe his grief was due to something else - the loss - the loss of his soulmate - your mother…" he said quietly.
Legolas' eyes had grown wide and round, the green irises shimmering beautifully, in quiet empathy with his half brother. Lassiel had been the reason Handir's mother had sailed…
"And yet," continued the Prince, "and yet it was not my father's infidelity that sent my mother away…," he said softly, before turning to face Legolas, "it was not Lassiel - it was you - it was because Thranduil had conceived a child…"
Legolas' eyes filled with unshed tears before he stood abruptly, turning his face away from them for he could no longer stand the shame..
Someone had come to stand before him, between him and the door that now called at him to flee, to escape the unbearable weight, the shame, the guilt…
His eyes slowly travelled upwards, past the jewelled belt and the blazing sun upon a silver breast plate, and then to the face of Glorfindel who looked back at him meaningfully. 'Turn and face them,' he seemed to be saying.
And Legolas did, in spite of his swimming eyes and a face that felt too hot.
"Legolas," came the soft voice of his brother again. It was mellow and strangely beguiling and Legoals felt compelled to lift his face and meet his gaze, Glorfindel now behind him.
"It is what you represent, that hurts, Legolas - not you - brother."
Legolas' eyes rounded in utter surprise - the shock of being called a brother leaving him speechless, and had he looked around him, he would have seen the soft smile of Glorfindel, the intent stare of Elrond and Erestor, and the bright, hopeful eyes of Lainion.
Handir, realising he had left the boy incapable of uttering a single word, took a step forward, his eyes riveted on the strange green eyes that watched him carefully, that shimmered like green moss below the crystal waters of a forest pool - so different from his own. But the face, the bone structure, the color of their skin and the set of their mouths was similar. It was the first time that Handir had truly allowed himself to look, and he saw his own fascination mirrored on the face of his brother as he, too, seemed to be mapping his face, noting the similarities and the differences.
When Legolas did speak, it was quiet and mumbled, and his sudden vulnerability sent a lance of pain through the hearts of the Noldorin lords that watched.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I am so sorry I - I never had a mother to lose but you - "
"Don't," began Handir, but he could not continue, for Legolas was muttering again.
"I am sorry for sending her away, for your pain, for every time you look at me you must…" he cut off, his voice wavering as a tear finally escaped his eye.
Handir took a step towards his brother and brought up his soft, manicured hand, touching his brother's tunic tentatively, just over the heart. Legolas turned his eyes to his brother once more, fascinated, it seemed, by the soft touch. He lifted his own, rough, calloused hand and tentatively, returned the gesture.
"All I need is time, Legolas. Time to disassociate my own misery with your presence. Remember, it is not personal, it is not you that I despise for the loss of my mother and the decline of my father. You are brave and beautiful, courageous like no other, or so I have heard, there are many that love you and that is due to your own merits, Legolas. I am not your enemy, and in time, perhaps we can become the brothers we should always have been…"
Another tear dropped from the green eyes and Legolas met his brothers' eyes squarely.
"Brother," came the word, alien to his tongue, "you call me brother, in spite of it all?" asked Legolas in puzzlement.
"In spite of it all…" confirmed Handir with a soft smile, his own eyes now too bright.
A tentative smile dawned on The Silvan's face, and the shadows that had hung over his face seemed to lift a little, and the potted plant upon Elrond's centre table sat up and straightened its stems, unfurling its leaves…
A gasp split the air and the magical moment was gone, flying away into the early afternoon rays of sun.
They all turned to Celegon, Commander of the Greenwood's militia. Mighty warrior that he was, the startled, high-pitched sound that had escaped him did not fit his body at all, but the Commander was too busy stilling his frantically beating heart to feel embarrassed.
"What is it?" asked Elrond with a deep scowl.
Celegon ripped his eyes away from the innocent plant and faced Elrond. "That plant, upon your table - it - moved," he whispered, his face twisted in utter disbelief at his own words.
Elladan's head whipped towards the commander, the words echoing in his head as the image of the uprooted tree was back before his mind's eye.
"There is magic at work," he said so softly that some had not heard him at all. "Is there not, Legolas?" asked Elladan challengingly, as if only now realising what it was that had escaped him about The Silvan.
Legolas stared back at him, for what to say? Was it magic?
"I do not know, my Lord," was all he said, for it was the truth.
"Legolas," ventured Elrond, stepping forward. "Do you have an idea, of what Elladan speaks?" he said, his eyes searching Legolas' for the truth of his words.
After a moment of silence, Legolas answered.
"Yes - I have an idea."
Another silence, long and awkward. This time it was Celegon who broke it.
"What happened, before we were ambushed, when Silor all but dragged you to Lieutenant Galadan claiming you had assaulted him…"
"I did not," said Legolas.
"I believe you," said Celegon. "My point being that you then claimed there was an attack on the way, one from the East and another from the back of the line, gainsaying our scouts."
"Yes," said Legolas again.
"How did you know?" asked the commander, taking another step forward.
With a deep breath, Legolas looked to the floor for a moment, before answering.
Some months ago, I came to realise that I am, what the Silvans call a 'listener', he began, his voice introspective but strong as he began his story. "A listener is one that is more sensitive to the voice of the forest - and yet," he paused, "I have come to believe this is not what my - ability - entails."
"You see," he continued, "it is not a voice that I hear - it is - emotion, emotions that my own mind puts into words, it is as if I speak to myself - indeed when all this first started, I thought myself on the road to insanity. It was Narosen the Silvan Spirit Herder that told me otherwise…"
"How," began Elrond, "how does this - ability - manifest itself?" he asked, his intellectual curiosity setting his eyes to shining.
"Well," said Legolas a little self-consciously now, Lieutenant Lainion has seen it happen, as have my closest comrades - even Silor has seen it - he called me spawn of morgoth…"
Elrond's eyebrows rose to his hairline, and Legolas continued as best he could. "My eyes - my eyes shine - from the inside…" his voice dropped off, his eyes apologetic.
"Well!" gasped Celegon, but Elrond needed to know more. "What is the relation to what Celegon just saw?" he asked.
"I believe, I believe that I share an energy with the trees - it is inside me but more than this, I too am inside them - does that make sense at all? They feel my distress, my joy…"
"Valar," whispered Glorfindel while Handir blew out a long breath.
"I can say no more, my Lord, for I do not understand it myself, but what I do know, is that it seems to be advancing. Every time it happens the feelings are clearer, the words they evoke more precise, and the physical manifestations of my emotions become clearer."
"I would like to research this, Legolas, if you do not mind. It may help you to understand it - would that be helpful to you?"
"Of course, my Lord. I would be - so grateful for I confess I am still - somewhat fearful of this - thing I have no name for."
"It is a gift," said Glorfindel. "You could have avoided that attack, if your gift had been known, had you been believed. That is an asset to any army, Legolas."
"Yes, I know, my Lord. It is also a potential threat to my integrity, as Silor's reaction proves.
"Silor is a fool," spat Celegon. "Whatever happens, Legolas, whatever our king decides, I will always be glad for your service," he said with conviction. "I will help your cause, in any way I can," he said, his eyes seconding his words.
Legolas' head rose and he bowed to his Commander General. "You honour me, Commander. You will always have my service, to whatever end."
Celegon smiled. "I will remember that," he said.
"Well, we are still left with the question of how Thranduil will react to all this - any insight, Handir?" asked Elrond, redirecting the conversation.
"As I said, the king changed when the queen left and as to whether this situation has changed that I cannot say. There are, I believe, two possibilities. One - that he sinks further into grief, for I would wager Legolas' appearance suggests the death of Lassiel. If that should be so, I fear he may resent Legolas, see him as perhaps having precipitated her demise. Or, the opposite may happen. He may see in Legolas, a son that will speak to him, that will respect him, that will forgive his transgressions and not judge him every single day of his life…," it was Handir who now turned, battling with his own emotions, for he had spoken of himself and his brother, Crown Prince Rinion.
"Is that what it is like?" asked Elrond. "Is that the short of your relationship with your father?" he asked carefully.
"Yes," he said quietly, "that is the short of it. The love and the laughter died the day our mother abandoned us. She just - left - left us because her husband had conceived a child with another lover…"
"And yet you blame your father…" coaxed Elrond.
Handir stared at him for long moments, before he spoke once more. "Yes. I blame him because had he loved her and not Lassiel - my mother would still be here, we would still be a family."
"You blame your father for not loving your mother, then? Is that it?"
Handir checked himself again, helped by the steadying hand of Erestor at his side.
"Yes!" he said, his voice loud and resentful. "Why did he marry her if he did not love her? And if she knew that he did not, why did she accept? It was a farce, perhaps? One they camouflaged as a happy marriage?"
"It was an arranged marriage, Handir. Created for the good of The Greenwood, for the good of the people - it is what they expected of their king, it was what King Oropher expected his son to understand…"
Erestor spoke for the first time then. "So, King Thranduil married a Sindarin Lady of noble descent, to content the people - the Sindar - for I doubt the Silvans would have minded he marry a lowly elf with no heritage," he said rhetorically.
"No, but perhaps, Erestor, it was a bargaining tool. The Sindar minority, those close to Bandorion, Oropher's brother, would have pushed for that, in exchange perhaps, for political concessions," explained Glorfindel.
"Yes, that is very possible," said Erestor as he turned to Handir. "You cannot blame your father for marrying one he did not love, not if it was an order. Your mother would have known this - would have accepted it. It was, perhaps, her pride that suffered the most when she heard of the child…" he added carefully.
"She would not have left for pride, Lord Erestor, she would not have left her children for pride!" said Handir, his voice louder now as his anger at the implications began to break down his defences.
"You cannot know that, Handir. You loved her and I do not doubt her love for you, but she DID leave, or her own accord - she left. Your father did not send her away…"
"And what would you know?" said the prince cuttingly, turning on Erestor, who looked back at the now irate prince with sorrow. "You dare to make conjectures on something you cannot know?"
"I do, Prince Handir, because these conjectures can be inferred from the facts - it is not necessary to have lived the events to conclude thusly."
Handir stared back at him, as if he wished the councillor would continue so that he could give free rein to his anger, but Erestor had been clinical in his approach and Handir stepped backwards, as if he had been burned, for the realisation that his anger had been ill directed, the mere possibility that he had blamed his father all this time when he should have blamed his mother, or Bandorion. Had he truly been wrong to treat his father as he had? Hold his own father's head under the mirky waters in which he already swam.
"So what now?" asked Glorfindel. There are two ways for the king to react. Lose himself in grief at the implied loss of Lassiel and do nothing, or react and accept Legolas as his son," he said.
"Rinion," interjected Celegon. "Prince Rinion will never accept Legolas as a brother," he said confidently, sure of the truth of his words and Handir could only nod in agreement.
"Rinion is not king, Thranduil is. He will do as his father decrees," said Glorfindel.
"Either that," said Handir, "or he will rebel, turn to Bandorion - my father may not wish to risk that."
"The conundrum is deep," said Erestor. "I believe," he said, "that we should wait. We have six months here, to work with Prince Handir and Legolas. Surely news will arrive from the forest before that time is up."
"That is wise council, I think," said Elrond. "It is decided then. We will wait for news and speak again. For now, Legolas, I would like to work with you for the next week on this gift of yours. It will give you time to heel before you begin your training with Glorfindel. And," he added almost as an afterthought, "Legolas - whatever happens, whatever news comes from your home, you will always have sanctuary here, should you wish for it."
Legolas turned to the lord and bowed. "How can I thank you for all you have done for me? How can I be of service to your family?" he asked.
"All in good time, Legolas. One day, when you are captain and the Silvan people have regained their place in the forest. One day I may call upon you," he said, his voice distant and his eyes unfocussed.
Legolas watched in fascination as the lord's eyes sharpened once more and he smiled reassuringly.
"This meeting is adjourned," he said formally, before nodding to them all and walking away, alone with his thoughts.
Glorfindel nodded at Legolas, before following Elrond and soon, all had left - all except Handir and Legolas.
Legolas turned and sat heavily in a chair, a soft sound of pain escaping him as he did so. Too long on his feet and in tension had set his wounds to aching.
Handir turned from where he stood at the window. "Are you well?" he asked softly.
"Aye. It is just - that was - "
"I know," came the soft answer.
"Legolas. I wanted to - apologise too. This must have been hard on you…"
"It was, but that is not your fault, my Prince."
"Handir, just Handir here, brother, when we are alone with nothing to condition our behaviour…"
"Alright," came the soft response after a moment.
"Legolas - what do you remember? I mean, do you remember her? Your mother?"
Legolas held his brother's gaze for a moment, before his eyes moved to the side and unfocussed.
"No. I remember nothing of my early childhood, Handir. I have no recollection of a time before I could walk and talk. It is as a blur - opaque glass behind which there is only light."
"It is strange," mused Handir as he listened.
"I know. And yet - the other day when I lay in bed with a fever - a dream came to me," he said, as if he had only just remembered it. "I was a babe, lying in the arms of a sentinel - It was bliss, pure, unadulterated joy and when I looked up to the gnarled bark and the infinite trunk that reached up to the sun itself, I remember calling it 'mother'…"
Handir's brow furrowed minutely as he stared out of the windows.
"You are full of surprises, brother."
The spontaneous huff that left Legolas made Handir turn to face him. "Unfortunately, that is so - I scare myself sometimes," he said truthfully. It is unnerving to have this - thing - and that it should change and - progress in ways I can never foresee. I wonder if Elrond really can help me with it…"
"He will, Legolas."
There was silence again but this time, it was comfortable - relaxed. "Handir… what you said, about Rinion…"
"Yes," said Handir, his eyes sharpening once more.
"Perhaps if he knows I am not a threat - that I want nothing…"
"That first, yes - but it will not be enough, Legolas. He is under the influence of his great uncle, Bandorion. It will not be easy to pry him from their greedy embrace. They have worked hard to win him over; they will not give him up lightly - he is their ticket to power."
"Then," said Legolas, "we have our roles so clearly before us, do we not?" he asked with a smile. Handir cocked his head in curiosity.
"I will stand for the Silvans, in the field, in the forests and you, you stand for justice - for everyone - in the council chambers. Perhaps we can achieve great things, brother," said Legolas carefully, the strange word leaving his tongue experimentally, indeed his green eyes watched for his brother's reaction.
Handir smiled. "Yes - that is a good plan. I will learn from Erestor and you, from Glorfindel and when we are done - The Greenwood awaits her prodigal sons!" he exclaimed a little playfully.
Legolas' smile was wider now, before it dropped a little with his next thought.
"I wonder too, what the king will decree. I admit I do not know what to think. Will he resent me, do you think? Be ashamed - even, banish me?" he asked in mounting alarm as the possibilities came to him.
"No - no I do not think so, Legolas. And yet I cannot be sure - I want to write letters but I believe it will be the king to do so first. We should wait, for soon enough he will send word - for good or for bad."
Legolas nodded thoughtfully, and then startled somewhat when Handir spoke again.
"Just remember what I said. You, are my brother, whatever the king dictates - and Elrond has offered you sanctuary here, should you need it."
"Yes," replied Legolas. "But I could never stay away - away from the forest, Handir - she is the only family I have ever known."
Handir's eyes were bright when he replied. "I know, and for that- I am truly sorry."
That night, Legolas sat with The Company and told them of what had happened during the council, and in another, distant room, overlooking the main waterfall that ran through the valley, Elrond sat with Glorfindel and Erestor.
The soft trickle of wine proceeded an appreciative sigh. "This bottle is extraordinary," mumbled Glorfindel before drinking once more.
Erestor smiled but Elrond remained introspective.
"I must speak with Galadriel about the boy…" said the Lord of Imladris distantly.
"Legolas? About his gift, you mean?" asked Erestor.
"That and more, yes," he said, finally focussing his eyes on his two closest friends. "There is a greatness in him, veiled yet by youth and inexperience."
"Yes," said Glorfindel, sipping again on his wine and savouring it upon his tongue as he gathered his words.
"He is Oropher's grandson in every way, Elrond, and yet there is more…"
"Yes," said Elrond softly. "There is something inside him, something too old to belong to him…"
"What do you mean?" asked Erestor with a scowl. "You are surely not implying he is a reborn?"
"No, no - that is not what I meant at all," clarified Elrond. "There is something - arcane - in his soul, a presence or perhaps it is this gift - it is attractive, irresistible, it is what others see in him that they cannot explain. There is deep empathy in him and yet it does not turn him to pity and sorrow but to rebel and to fight - to protect…"
"I can achieve great things with him, of this I am sure," said Glorfindel. "By all accounts he is an excellent warrior, in spite of his inexperience, and his mind is well-suited to command. I will make a leader of him, teach him of warfare and strategy…"
"And I," said Erestor, "will make of Handir a fine statesman. He is sharp and will learn quickly. He speaks his mind and is not afraid to show his emotions."
"I believe," said Elrond, "that in these two we have the makings of a new Greenwood, a stronger and wiser ally, a second awakening, perhaps…