OK, so the last update coincided with you guys being on holiday, and I really missed you all! However, on with the story, and things are about to drastically change. I hope you enjoy this pivotal chapter.
Earthdragon: it will be a long time before Legolas dances the Qalma Liltie - it will come though :)
Rita Orca: wow - where to start! I am flattered to be contributing to your vocab! Spears - yes, I love the idea of Legolas wielding a double bladed spear - it is very exotic, I think. Fencing! I love watching fencing - it fascinates me :) Hope the next chapter lives up to your expectations.
Chapter thirty-six: Cry From The Other Side
Legolas' heart thumped uncomfortably in his chest. Just the mere thought of seeing the shock and fear on the faces of those around him, knowing it would be because of him, because of his eyes - it was enough to turn his stomach; but that was not the full of it. Legolas had always been unnerved at the thought of some other entity entering his mind. Indeed he did not even know if that was actually what happened, and therein lay the only reason why he had acceded to such an experiment.
The day had been granted to him, and whilst The Company toiled upon the training fields with Elladan and the Noldor, Legolas would spend the day with Elrond in search of understanding his newly-found gift. He still wondered at the term, for although it had been useful to him on the journey here, and before, during the fire in the forest, the very fact that he did not know where it came from, why it had been bestowed upon him - the knowledge that he could not control it, that it controlled him…
Soon enough, Legolas spotted Elrond sitting upon a bench together with Glorfindel and spite of his apprehension and nervousness, he smiled at the unexpected presence of his mentor, his friend.
"Good morning!" said Glorfindel jovially.
"Morning," answered Legolas sullenly, wondering why the commander was in such an enviably good mood.
"Today will be a great day, child. We will finally get to see what it is you are gifted with, and, we visit the smith, design a weapon for you."
Elrond smiled at Glorfindel, knowing he was enjoying himself as he had not done for many years. He had found a kindred spirit in Legolas and Elrond recognised that for what it was.
"Come sit, Legolas, gestured Elrond. "I have been reading, investigating similar cases to your own, reports of Silvan and Avarin Listeners and the likes."
"And what do they say?" asked Legolas, his vulnerability now clear for the lords to see. He was frightened, and it irked him that he could not hide it.
"While similar in some ways, what you have reported is, as yet, undocumented. This is new, whatever it is. What can be learned today will not only benefit you, Legolas, but any others who share this ability with you."
"How are we to go about this?" asked Glorfindel.
"I do not know, my friend. Legolas?"
"I have no idea, my Lord. Perhaps, if we just walk and I am left to my own mind - "
"Alright. Wander freely Legolas and we will follow. Clear your mind, think of nothing save for that which surrounds you. Focus if you can, on the trees, open yourself as best you can and if anything happens, do not startle, do not be afraid - you are safe with us…"
Legolas held Elrond's gaze for a while, before nodding, and moving away from the bench. With a deep breath, he cast his eyes around the gardens and then began to walk.
It was cold but the sun shone brightly upon his path. The air was laden with the smell of wet soil and the chatter of robins and wrens that flittered here and there.
Upon a branch, sat a wren, its beady black eyes resting on Legolas cooly. Legolas smiled at it before continuing along the path. Movement at the base of another tree caught his eye - a field mouse sat upon its hind legs, eyes watching Legolas as he passed by. He smiled again, blessing his luck this morning, for in spite of the nature of this apparently leisurely stroll, it was turing out to be enjoyable, as if Spring were already here.
He could no longer sense the presence of the lords behind him, albeit he knew they were there, watching his every move.
The wren flew past him then and he stopped in his tracks to watch its merry dance, scowling as his mind asked him how he had known - how he had known it was the same wren he had seen perched upon a branch sometime before. Yet the question did not fully register and Legolas continued to walk, his feet carrying him forward as his mind cast its attention here and there.
A finch, a thrush, a mole and and a squirrel, even a butterfly flitted close to his face and again, his rational mind surfaced for a brief moment - 'it is winter and yet…'
But his joy was too great to listen and he chuckled like a young child in the midst of a spring field, opening his arms and turning on his heel, his long hair fanning around him as he tilted his head to the sun and closed his eyes in a rare moment of bliss.
On he walked, passing a wooden fence that was only half open. Entering this, more secluded area, Legolas slowed his pace to study his new surroundings. It was darker here and for a moment it felt more like home for the darkness was not attributable to the shadows cast by the trees - it was a different kind of shadow that lived here.
His smile slipped and he closed his eyes. A feeling of dread was slowly settling in his gut, a sadness that was seeping through his skin. His eyes registered the overgrown gardens, the shrivelled bushes and the leaf fall that had not been cleared. These gardens were not well kept, he realised.
Something had happened here…
Legolas turned, his mind tingling with a nascent sense of alert - how did he know that?
Do not approach the tree - the sentinel.
He frowned and his stomach pinched in anguish, for that uncomfortable feeling of dread was back - was his mind talking to himself, or where these the thoughts of others - of the trees?
His breathing accelerated a little as he resumed his slow, now hesitant step, but then his head turned to the side as a strange noise came to his ears.
Distant at first, it sounded strange, like a tin whistle poorly played. Shaking his head his eyes now darted around him apprehensively, until they landed once more upon a small wren, perched upon the gnarled branch of a sickly oak.
Blood rushed in his ears, and he wandered if the sea sounded like that. His eyes latched onto the tiny bird and the sound that before had seemed to him like ill-played music turned to metal upon metal, louder and louder and Legolas began to breath heavily, resisting the urge to cover his ears with his hands.
Turning here and then there he no longer knew where to fix his gaze.
The gnarled oak, the shrivelled bushes, the leaf-strewn paths. The dark shadows, the sickly sentinel, the blank stare of a wren.
He gasped and finally succumbed to his own discomfort, covering his ears in a futile attempt to block out the grating, scraping sound that ripped through his senses, and then his eyes bulged in fear as he felt the back of his neck pop and he froze where he stood, the cacophony suddenly disappearing and his shoulders hunched as if he expected a blow.
I was once joyous…
Legolas' eyes slipped to the side.
I once felt the bliss of life…
A twitch of dark brows.
And then light was tainted by the shadow of darkness…
Legolas' eyes filled with tears as he listened, terrified now of what would happen next. He felt too light, as if he floated upon a summer cloud and yet his chest felt so heavy, as if he carried the burdens of the world upon himself.
I cannot waken, cannot forget the pain, cannot forget the tragedy of unconditional love…
Legolas gasped, and then staggered to his knees, his hands now upon the ground, bracing his body.
Not far away, Elrond and Glorfindel watched wide-eyed as Legolas fell, his back towards them, and only the lord's steadying hand upon the commanders arm stopped him from rushing forward.
"Who are you?" called Legolas feebly, tears now falling from his eyes and as he turned his head, the two lords gasped and stepped backwards for there, kneeling in the carpet of dried leaves, was an elf with shining green eyes and hair that snaked too slowly around his head.
I remember her - remember her plight…
Legolas pushed the crushing sadness down and struggled to his feet, moving now as would a blind man, his hands reaching out before him until he stopped before the sickly oak and looked up into its bereft boughs.
"You are a sentinel," said Legolas in awe as his palm connected with the branch and white light exploded behind his eyes.
He cried out in both fright and pain, for a burning lance of agony shot through his head and he suddenly understood what was being said, the story he was being told. He saw her face, saw her agony, her beauty, her light and her suffering, saw her strong body standing tall and proud upon white shores…
Gasping once more, his tears fell as the faces of Elrohir, Elladan and then Elrond flitted across his mind's eye, their expressions so full of crushing despair and utter grief they stole Legolas' breath and he struggled for air as his stomach churned, and before he could reason what it was he saw, his hand flew from the bark and he fell to his knees with a thud, battling the sudden nausea that crashed over him, the searing pain in his gut, in his chest.
His eyes burned and he turned them momentarily to the wren, perched upon a leafy branch… the same branch it had sat on before and yet not so.
Warm hands held him from behind and a wave of such relief hit him so hard he sagged into the comforting arms. His body lost its muscle tension and he allowed himself to be pulled back, until he looked straight up, into the shining grey eyes of Elrond.
"Peace," came the distant voice, a voice laden with magic and he was compelled to listen as it echoed through his mind, and sure enough, the sounds and sights and smells that had so brutally taken him not moments before, began to recede, until only the sounds of nature around him existed and he closed his eyes in utter relief.
A warm hand rested upon his forehead and a sense of well-being took away the last vestiges of anxiety that had clenched his gut so fiercely. He relaxed as the nausea receded and he no longer felt the ripping pain in his body.
A long, slow breath escaped him and he opened his eyes once more.
"Better?" asked Elrond kindly, Glorfindel's shocked face appearing over his shoulder.
"Elrond," said the commander and the lord turned, drawn it seemed, by the low urgency in his friend's voice.
"Look," was all he said.
Legolas watched Elrond as his eyes moved and he stilled, frozen as the irises shone in incomprehension. Frowning himself, Legolas' head feebly moved in the same direction until his eyes registered just what it was the two lords were looking at.
Sitting up, he turned to face the sentinel. No longer sickly and weak but strong and vibrant, bright green leaves impossibly open and it seemed to Legolas that all the birds in Imladris now sat amongst its reborn limbs, chattering excitedly.
It is mid winter, it cannot be…
Nay - it is Spring, a Spring I have not felt for a thousand years…
His blood froze and his skin prickled. He staggered to his feet and swayed unsteadily, drawing the attention of the two lords once more.
Legolas shook his head once more
To the forest…
He gasped, could no longer see Glorfindel kneeling before the tree, Elrond rushing towards him in concern, for he himself was moving… moving away from them, from the strange garden, from the grounds of the manor and beyond, through the tree line and into the woods.
A cold winter sun dappled upon the crisp, brown leaves of the forest floor. The soft crunch of footsteps reached his ears and Lorthil turned, smiling brightly at his colleague, Erthoron of Broadtree.
The two Silvan and one Avarin village leader greeted each other with wide smiles and shining eyes. They shared a sense of muted excitement they had not felt for centuries, and as the forest caravan settled for the evening amidst the welcoming forest, the sound of crackling fires and soft singing lent the perfect setting for their long-awaited reunion.
"Finally," began Lorthil, "the time has finally come," he said, his bright grey eyes latching onto Erthoron's brown irises and then sparing a flitting glance at the Avarin Barhon.
"Yes. But caution brothers, for while there is reason to rejoice, things may yet turn sour - keep this in mind, for the consequences of what we now do may be disastrous, to our people and to him."
"I know, Erthoron. But allow me this one moment," said Lorthil slyly, before turning his eyes to the trees. "I wonder, I wonder how things have been for him. I wonder if he knows, if anybody knows…"
"Who can say, said Erthoron thoughtfully. We are woefully lacking information, but the king's summons is indicative that something important has transpired. The summit has been called in haste, that much is obvious, and of course Amareth's summons is all too telling. I would wager he knows, that the boy's face has not gone unnoticed. The king's hand will have been forced."
Lorthil studied Erthoron carefully, before slowly nodding his agreement.
"I wager you are right, Erthoron. It is not coincidence, I think. The question is - how will he take the news… Amareth will surely have been obliged to speak - will she have told it all, do you think?"
"Perhaps, and that would not be a bad thing. At least that way the king will know there is a traitor in our midst."
"Aye," said Lorthil thoughtfully, "yet who can say how Thranduil will have reacted. Amareth may be in danger, and not only from the king, but by those who seek to conspire against him."
Erthoron sighed deeply, worry clearly etched upon his face.
"You are not wrong - and so you see our joy must be cautious, we cannot walk into Thranduil's court showing anything but mild interest, it is not in our favour to do so, or his."
"He wants to be a captain," smiled Erthoron kindly. "It is all he has ever wanted," he said as he sat before the nascent hearth that Golloron had set for them.
"Aye," said Lorthil. "But I wonder, I wonder if he will set his sights a little higher - I mean, when he hears what we have to say, what we have discussed…"
"You know as well as I do, Lorthil, that he may wish for nothing of what we offer. He is a warrior, the wiles of court will not interest him."
"I know, but our proposition is not exactly one that would keep him at court - it is more a representation, if you will - it will not interfere with his calling as a Captain. Besides," he said, poking a stick into the crackling fire, "if he does accept, he will be more than just a Captain."
Erthoron held his friend's gaze for long moments before he spoke again. "I have spoken to the rest and they are in agreement in one thing at least. The idea is a good one, yet they hold back for they all wish to speak with him before they make a decision and sign our petition."
"I had thought as much," said Lorthil. "But it is a good start, a very good start. Long has it been since the Silvan leaders have gathered and spoken on such important matters - his very existence has brought this about; there is magic in the air, Erthoron, magic and excitement; a sense of optimism I have not felt for centuries. We must make him see the merit in this, it is paramount to our people, his people."
Erthoron nodded in agreement at his friend's words, and then smiled. "Well, first we speak with Thranduil, pave the way and get a measure of the Sindarin purists - they will not agree of course, but I wonder if they are still in the minority."
"Yes, we must not precipitate matters more than is strictly necessary. We tell him of our qualms, our requests, our demands," said Lorthil passionately, "and then we present our petition - we do not say who we are proposing, only that we wish for this new, political structure."
"Aye, but Lorthil - I cannot but help think we are stumbling forwards too quickly. Our enthusiasm is spreading, the people are jubilant and it shows - I wonder at the king's reaction."
The three leaders returned their gazes to the fire, listening to the forest and for a moment they sat a little straighter as they tuned their senses.
"The forest is alive this night," said Golloron the Spirit Herder, and the others regarded the strange, dark haired Silvan whose gaze was now lost to his own musings.
It was true, realised Erthoron. There was something upon the air, as if the forest held its breath, as if something important was about to happen.
Elladan sat in the field just before the tree line, The Company beside him in solemn silence. He watched them all as they simply waited, waited for Legolas to emerge from the forest, for it had been two days since he had left.
His father had been sparing with the details, saying only that Legolas had been summoned into the forest and that he would appear in his own time, that they should not worry. Elladan had been suspicious of his father's apparently confident words, because where his father was often mercurial, Glorfindel was fiery passion and he had not been able to hide his concern. Something had happened that morning in the gardens, and whatever it had been, had deeply affected him.
Morning turned into afternoon and still they sat in silent vigil. Glorfindel had visited not an hour past, sharing their silent repast, silent that is, until Lainion could no longer stand it and he turned to the commander.
"My Lord. I must insist you tell us the circumstances of Legolas' - disappearance," he said seriously and Elladan admired the Avari's courage as he watched the rest of the Silvan's heads turn expectantly to Glorfindel.
"I understand your concern, Lainion. But I am not at liberty to discuss it - it is not for me to tell."
"Then I and The Company will search for him…"
"No," said Glorfindel simply.
"Give us one reason, my Lord, and we will gladly stay," he said challengingly.
Glorfindel held Lainion's gaze for a moment as he considered his next words.
"All I know is that Legolas was summoned, and my Lord Elrond has forbidden us to follow him."
Glorfindel stared blankly at the Avari, who clenched his jaw in irritation at the obviously insufficient words.
"And do you agree with your Lord? deem his words sufficient?" asked Lainion impertinently.
"I would be out there searching for him with you, make no mistake, Lainion. But I trust my lord. He is gifted, this you know. I cannot pretend to understand his words, cannot imagine what he knows and does not say. What I will tell you," he paused, watching and waiting until he had the attention of the entire Company, "is that Legolas' gift has manifested itself, and I believe Lord Elrond has a measure of it, may suspect what it is our friend is capable of, and if Legolas is in danger, here in the Valley, he will know - and he will send us out to find him."
There was such intense determination in the blond warriors eyes that Lainion immediately nodded, and the others settled, turning their eyes back to the tree line, to wait.
And Elladan waited with them, for truth be told there was nowhere else he would rather be. This Silvan child had worked his way into his soul, had become a pivotal part of his life for reasons he could not even begin to explain. All he knew, was that this is where he should be, and, should it be granted to him, wherever Legolas went, so too, would Elladan.
Four scrolls sat upon Elrond's desk but the Lord did not sit at it, rather he stood before the bay windows that looked out over the jagged rift of rock and to the trees beyond.
"I wonder what it is he does there…" he murmured.
"Who can say, Elrond. You have much to discuss with me…"
"Aye," whispered Elrond. "Yet where to begin, my friend - that is the question."
"At the beginning would be the obvious answer, yet I suspect you are unaware of that…"
"Yes, I am unaware…" he said absently.
"You are troubled," said the old man.
"I am - unnerved, is perhaps a better word."
"Strong word for an ancient Elven lord - you have my entire attention," said Mithrandir, his glowing face turning to meet Elrond squarely, his deep blue eyes shining with an energy that was not reflected in his wizened body.
"Walk with me," was all Elrond said, and so the lord and the wizard walked the paths of Imladris, and Elrond spoke of all he knew, and by the time he had finished, the wizard wore an expression he did not rightly know how to interpret.
"What are you thinking, Elrond finally asked.
"I am not yet sure, Elrond. However, if what I suspect is true, things are about to get - interesting."
"What do you mean?" asked Elrond, suddenly alert, his eyes searching the vibrant blue eyes that stared back at him.
"I cannot rightly say, Elrond, not yet. We must wait for the boy to emerge, and then speak with him. Only then, can we call a council to discuss the contents of those scrolls - there is no point in doing so until all those involved are present, and now I suspect the priority is on Legolas and his predicament. We must hope he arrives soon, for there is much to be done," he said as if to himself.
Another day had passed, and the sun was slowly navigating its steady path towards the horizon. The sky was a shocking orange, flecked with vivid reds and blues and all eyes were turned to the West, where soon enough the star would wink goodnight and mark the fourth night of Legolas' absence.
"I am worried," said Lainion to Handir, who stood beside him.
"He will surely not have ventured far on his own, Lainion. Elrond would know if there was any danger."
"He did not take his weapons…"
"Still, he can fend for himself…"
"He is not invincible, Handir."
The prince simply nodded at that and then turned his face to the group of warriors that always seemed to follow Legolas wherever he went; The Company, they were known as, or so he had been told.
They were an odd bunch, all of them exceptional to look at in one way or the other. Some for their towering build, others for their hair or eye colour, others for their fierce miens and yet they all shared a common expression now. Worry, devotion… How strange, mused the prince, that one so young, so inexperienced, should garner such a following, such loyalty.
He spotted Elladan sitting amongst them and he wondered, for Elrond's son had struck a singular friendship with Legolas, indeed he sat together with the Silvans rather than with Glorfindel and Elrond, accompanied now by their new visitor - Mithrandir.
The various groups of elves talked quietly, for there was a strange note upon the air and tension was slowly coming to a head. The Company, however, sat in utter silence, oblivious to the quiet murmuring of those nearby, unaware of the surreptitious glances they were receiving.
The Sun finally touched the horizon, sending a golden flare of light blazing across the forest and for a moment, their hushed conversations were stilled as they looked towards the beautiful sunset, and the now dying flare.
Idhrenohtar stood, his head held high, as if he smelled something upon the air but his eyes - his eyes peered into the distance, for a silhouette had appeared where the sun had kissed the land and now, the others saw it too and joined the Wise Warrior upon their feet.
Slowly, the dark blotch became the hazy figure of an elf, until the somewhat undefined body began to take shape and the world of those that looked on - was inexorably changed forever.