Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien.
Author's Note: This is the sequel to 'Inside the Darkness'. The drawing was made by Nellas
Part 5 - Exposed
Thranduil shook his head. Nay, he didn't want to reveal himself just yet. Elladan would reveal his secret shortly, and in the mean time he planned to enjoy himself by walking through the streets of Imladris incognito.
Listening closely, he realized that Legolas and Lurtz were no longer talking; instead soft moans and whispers reached his ears. /Ai, I do not want to listen in on my son making love.../ Frowning, he quickly marched out of the corridor and into a great hall, where he had never been before. In one corner, looking out of the window, was Erestor. Thranduil decided to turn around, wanting to avoid Erestor. The dark haired Elf always was very perceptive and might realize his real identity.
Turning around, he chose another corridor, which led him outside into the beautiful gardens. The trees called to him and he sat down, resting his back against the trunk of a chestnut. Considering everything that had happened since leaving Mirkwood, he wondered about the absence of his anger, which he usually felt toward Elrond. For millennia he had blamed Elrond for the death of his father, but maybe the time had come to let go of his anger - especially now Legolas had found a temporary home here. /And after saving Elladan's life it will be hard to remain angry. I truly believe I developed a soft spot for that lad./
Hearing voices, he looked up. Legolas and Lurtz walked into the gardens as well, but they took off in the opposite direction, for which he was grateful. Now he had the chance to watch them unnoticed. Legolas' arm was wrapped around Lurtz and the Uruk-Hai laughed warmly at something his son said. Most of his worries had been laid to rest after watching them interact. He knew true love when he saw it. /Legolas, it is beyond me why you thought I would banish you from Mirkwood. Even if I did not approve of your liaison I would never stop you from coming home.../
The two men disappeared behind the trees, and Thranduil stopped spying on them. He might still be able to hear what they were saying when he strained his hearing, but he didn't want to invade their privacy.
The soft voice took him completely by surprise, but he had enough sense left to keep the hood in place. "Elladan?" But no, this wasn't the youngster he had saved; there was no gash above his eye. "Nay, Master Elrohir," he corrected himself. He quickly rose to his feet and bowed his head in greeting. "How may I be of assistance?"
"Would you join us for dinner this evening? Elladan wants to thank you in person for saving his life, and Ada wants to talk to you as well." Elrohir watched the stranger carefully, annoyed that the hood hid his features. "Ada was right; you are among friends here. You do not have to wear that hood. None will feel offended by your scars."
Thranduil smiled secretly. Aye, he did like the twins. But was accepting the invitation a wise thing to do? /Elladan will wonder about the hood and point out to them that my face is not scarred. He will expose me./
"Hynduil? Will you give us this opportunity to thank you? You did save Elladan's life." Elrohir clasped his hands behind his back, waiting patiently.
Thranduil realized that he wouldn't be able to keep his identity a secret much longer. "Aye, I will join you for dinner. How fares Elladan? I trust one of your father's healers saw to his injuries?" Elladan had been his responsibility for a short time only, but he still felt worried.
Elrohir nodded. "Elladan should feel well enough to join us for dinner. He might still experience headaches, but he should heal quickly. I will send a servant to take you to the dining room later this evening."
Thranduil almost pointed out that he knew the way to the dining hall, but he didn't want to make Elrohir suspicious. "I will be there."
Elrohir nodded once and walked toward the great hall where he hoped to find Erestor. Now that his father was confined to his room, they had to take care of urgent matters.
Thranduil watched the half-Elf leave and then settled down beneath the tree once more, enjoying the warm rays of the sun, which looked like liquid gold. He knew very well that his love for white gems and silver gave him the reputation of being greedy, but the pure and untouched jewels delighted him. Feeling at peace and comfortable, he allowed himself to drift off for a short nap. The trees would warn him should anyone approach.
Elrond dotingly looked at his eldest son, still resting in his arms. Glorfindel had excused himself when the sun had set, claiming he needed to check on the preparations for dinner, as this evening was special; they celebrated Elladan's safe return, and would honor the young half-Elf's savior. "Elladan? It is time for you to wake up. You might want to wash up and change for dinner."
Elladan's sleep had been a healing one. The gash above the eye was beginning to close and a shallow cut showed beneath the bandages around his arm. He expected Elladan to have dizzy spells for some time, but his son should be able to take care of himself once more. "Elladan?"
Elladan stirred reluctantly, burying his face in his father's robes. "Do not wake me... sleep..."
Elrond smiled warmly. "You can go back to sleep after dinner, Elladan. But now you must wake up."
Elladan's eyes came alive and they focused on his father. "Ada..." How had he gotten back home? The last thing he remembered was Hynduil telling him to stay awake. Elrond's eyes sparkled with happiness, but he sensed his father had been sad, crying. "Ada, I regret scaring you like that. I never expected that party of Orcs and Uruk-Hai to show up."
"Thankfully Hynduil came along," whispered Elrond, brushing back strands of black hair behind his son's ears.
"Aye, I was very fortunate..." Finally fully wakening up, Elladan stretched lazily. "But enough about me, how do you fare, Ada? Are you still in pain?"
"My ribs still feel tender, but they are healing." Elrond smiled saddened.
"And your ankles?"
"It will be weeks before I can walk again." Elrond stroked his son's hair. "Elladan, never scare me like that again! I feared I had lost you."
Elladan returned the smile. "Ada, you won't lose me."
Elrond placed a paternal kiss on his son's brow. "Now take a bath and change into clean clothes. I asked Hynduil to join us for dinner so we may properly thank him. I take it you approve?" Frowning, he wondered about the blush that spread on Elladan's face.
"Aye, I approve..." Elladan suddenly felt nervous. Hynduil had saved his life and maybe it was a case of ill-timed hero worship, but he was falling for the other Elf. /Stop it. Why should he be interested in me? He is a skilled and experienced warrior judging by the way he handled those Orcs... He probably thinks I am nothing but a child.../
"Elladan?" The frown deepened. "It is normal that you feel grateful, for Hynduil saved your life... Or did something else happen that you did not tell me?"
Elladan cringed, unable to reveal his feelings just yet. /What do you want me to say, Ada? That I was lost after looking into those eyes? For a moment I thought I was walking the heavens and that the stars surrounded me./
Elrond took pity on his son. "Elladan, clean up and change your clothes. Dinner will be served in a few moments and you do not want to be late."
Elladan locked eyes with his father. "Will you attend dinner as well?"
"Aye," said Elrond softly, "Glorfindel offered to carry me."
"I would gladly carry you as well, Ada," he said adoringly. Elrond was very important at him. His father had practically raised them, whilst Celebrian had spent a lot of time in 'Lorien. Elrohir and he had grown up, loved by their father, Erestor and Glorfindel. Although they hadn't been able to take their mother's place, Elrohir and he had never felt like they were missing out on something. Their unconditional love had made them into the men they were today, and Elrohir and he loved them for it.
"I know that, Elladan... You always make me proud."
Elladan shuffled his feet at hearing his father's praise. He hugged Elrond gently, careful not to put any pressure on his father's ribs and then got to his feet. "I will see you at dinner then..." Elladan reached the doorway and looked over his shoulder at his father. "I do not know about you but Hynduil certainly intrigues me. I never saw stars shine from someone eyes before, and although he looks like he is younger than me, he feels ancient. I am looking forward to talking to him some more!" Elladan dashed into the corridor and headed for his rooms.
Elrond gasped in surprise at hearing Elladan's words. "Stars in his eyes? He looks young, but feels ancient? By Elbereth, I only know one Elf who..." His voice faltered, suddenly growing worried. "It cannot be him. Why would Thranduil leave Mirkwood? And why would he save my son's life? Maybe he did not know it was Elladan when he saved him, but... Why look after him and take him here? It would explain the hood; he would not want me to recognize him. By the Grace of the Valar, this is bad... What is Thranduil up to? I..."
"Elrond? Meleth-nīn?" Glorfindel was startled at hearing his love ranting and quickly hurried over to Elrond's side. Sitting down, he clasped the half-Elf's hands in his. "What is wrong?"
Elrond shook his head. "Nay, I must be wrong. It cannot be Thranduil. He would never look after one of my sons..."
Glorfindel grew concerned, seemingly unable to stop Elrond's monologue. "Melme?" He placed his hands on either side of Elrond's head and forced his lover to look at him. "Why are you talking about Thranduil?" What had happened during his absence?
Elrond shivered. "Elladan described his savior's face to me... An ageless face with starlit eyes. Now whom does that remind you of?"
"Thranduil." Now Glorfindel understood. "I already wondered about his voice, which sounded familiar. How will we proceed?"
"He saved Elladan..." Elrond felt at a loss. "Though I wonder why. Dinner must go on as planned, and we will pretend ignorance."
"Does Elladan know who saved him?" Glorfindel soothingly rubbed Elrond's back, trying to reassure the half-Elf. Every time when he thought Elrond was growing stronger, something happened that upset him. It would take Elrond a long time to heal that way.
"Nay, I do not think so... By Elbereth, he blushed..." Elrond's heart raced. "Elladan cannot fall in love with him; he cannot!"
"Love?" Glorfindel slowly pulled Elrond against his chest. "You think Elladan fell in love with Thranduil because he blushed when you mentioned the King's name? Are you not a little hasty?" He felt worried himself now. "You must be wrong." Hynduil had acted nothing like the Thranduil he remembered. "Maybe he changed?"
"Who? Thranduil?" Elrond laughed bitterly. "He will always blame me for his father's death, meleth-nīn. He will never let go of his resentment. Thranduil probably did not know who Elladan was when he rescued my son..."
Glorfindel waited for Elrond to calm down. The half-Elf leaned against him, resting his head against his shoulder.
"What are his plans? Why did he come here? And why am I incapacitated at a time like this?" Elrond briefly closed his eyes. "If it is truly Thranduil, we have a problem on our hands."
"Let us see how dinner goes," advised Glorfindel calmly. "Maybe it is not Thranduil and you are worrying for no reason at all."
"But it -is- Thranduil," said Elrond, frustrated.
Glorfindel soothed his love, rubbing Elrond's back and stroking his hair. "I will help you change into your ceremonial robes and then I will carry you to the dining hall. I will not leave your side, melethron."
Reassured by his lover's promise, Elrond sighed wearily. "I must protect Elladan..."
Glorfindel tucked Elrond's head beneath his chin. "Elladan reached maturity long ago, Elrond. He can make his own decisions..."
Elrond knew Glorfindel was right, but... "They will always be the little ones; the babies we cared for. I will always worry about them."
"I understand," soothed Glorfindel. "Now let us get you ready for dinner."
"Elrohir!" Elladan dashed into his brother's room and dropped onto Elrohir's bed.
"How do you fare?" asked Elrohir, turning around after finishing braiding his hair. Studying Elladan, he caught an unfamiliar expression in those mischievous eyes. His brother had bathed, changed into brown robes, and was now staring at the ceiling.
"Elrohir? You have been in love before..." He rolled onto his stomach, and smiled at his brother. "Did you also have such a... tingling feeling in your stomach?"
Elrohir nodded. "Aye, I did... Are you in love then?"
"I might be..." Elladan sighed deeply, smiling fondly. "Did you see the stars in his eyes?"
Elrohir felt lost. "-Which- stars in -whose- eyes? Elladan, who are you talking about?" He moved over to the bed and sat down next to his brother, sensing Elladan's happiness.
"Hynduil's!" Elladan shook his head. "How could you not notice? I have never seen an Elf more beautiful... My blood sang when he looked at me, and his voice..." Dreamily, he stared at Elrohir. "Seriously, how could you not notice?"
Elrohir frowned. "Hynduil refused to remove his hood, claiming his face was scarred."
Elladan, startled, sat upright. His eyes had widened at Elrohir's words and he shook his head. "His face is not scarred. It is ageless, beautiful, bewitching. I could not tell how old he was... He -looked- even younger than me, but those eyes..."
"I do not like this," whispered Elrohir. "Why would he lie to us? He also told Ada that he was scarred."
Elladan's cheerfulness faded quickly. "I do not understand." Was Hynduil playing games? Why hide from his father? Elrond would never mistreat an Elf, let alone one who had saved his son from certain death.
"Elladan," said Elrohir in a soft, compassionate tone, "be careful with your feelings. You might be falling for an imposter." He hated seeing the disappointment on his brother's face but he had to dampen Elladan's enthusiasm. "Did you tell Ada about the stranger's eyes?"
"Aye, but I hurried out of the room and I do not know how he reacted..." Suddenly, he seemed to shrink into himself. "Stupid me, why did I fall for him? I thought..." Elrohir's hand squeezed his shoulder, offering comfort, but he still felt disappointed and lonely. "I was falling in love with him."
"Guard your feelings well," advised Elrohir, "and do not despair. You will find love when the time is right."
Listlessly, Elladan nodded his head. He had been looking forward to dinner, but now he dreaded it.
Thranduil sensed the tension in the hall when he approached the dinner table. Elrond was already sitting at the head of the table with Glorfindel close to his right. The twins now seated themselves as well and he marveled at their likeness, but yet he easily identified Elladan. He would never mistake one for the other.
"Please sit down, as you are our guest of honor," said Glorfindel calmly, knowing Elrond didn't trust his voice. His lover had acted nervously since Elladan had told him about the stranger's eyes. What if it was Thranduil?
"Thank you." Thranduil sat down opposite Elrond and scanned their expressions. Elrond looked haggard and suspicious. Glorfindel carefully masked his feelings, but he read mistrust and disappointment in Elladan's eyes; the half-Elf was still too young to carefully hide his emotions. /They found me out... They know who I am./
Elrond gave Glorfindel a thankful look when the blond gently entwined their fingers beneath the table. Clearing his throat, Elrond prepared himself for the dreaded confrontation. "Maybe you should remove your hood, for my son tells me that you do not bear any scars that might offend us. Instead he speaks of starlit eyes... Why?"
Thranduil sighed resignedly and pulled back the hood, revealing his features. He heard Elrohir's surprised gasp, and Elladan averted his eyes when he tried to make eye contact. Glorfindel and Elrond didn't seem surprised; they had expected this, but he did feel like he owed Elladan an explanation.
Elrond was about to say something, when Thranduil spoke first. He swallowed his words, hearing Thranduil address Elladan.
"Elladan? I regret misleading you, but I was unwilling to reveal myself to you..." Thranduil saw even more questions in Elladan's eyes.
"But I do not understand," whispered Elladan. "Why hide your face, Hynduil? Why tell Ada and Elrohir you are scarred?"
"Ai..." Thranduil's fair features briefly contorted. Looking at Elrond and Glorfindel he said, "You did not tell them who I am?"
"We were not sure," admitted Elrond. "I could not believe you would care for one of my sons... considering our past." Searching out Elladan's eyes, he wished there was a way to not hurt his son with this revelation. "Hynduil is not his real name..."
Elladan's eyes widened in surprise. "What?"
Elrohir reacted instinctively, claiming his brother's hand and holding it tight to show his support. His gaze traveled from his brother to the stranger. He had to admit that Elladan was right; the unknown Elf possessed a haunting beauty. /But who is he? Why not use his real name?/
Elrond locked eyes with Thranduil. "Will you tell them, or must I reveal your identity to them?" His fears had come true. For some elusive reason Thranduil had left Mirkwood and had saved his eldest son. Why?
"I will tell them..." Thranduil once more sought out Elladan's eyes, which simmered with suspicion. "I am Thranduil and I reign in Mirkwood. Legolas is my youngest son."
Elladan gasped, shocked, and jumped to his feet. Elrohir tightened the hold he had on his brother's hand, making sure Elladan couldn't run. "You are Thranduil?" His eyes narrowed in distrust. "But you hate Ada!"
"Hate... Hate is too strong a word," soothed Thranduil. "We had some differences in the past, some arguments, but I do not hate him." Suddenly he realized he was babbling and he composed himself again. He felt angry with himself for misleading Elladan. The trust he had seen earlier in the youngster's eyes was gone now. That hurt.
"Why are you here, Thranduil?" Elrond hated being unable to rise from his chair. He would have preferred to have this conversation while glaring down at Thranduil. Now he felt at a disadvantage.
Thranduil wasn't surprised to see the distrust in Elrond's eyes. They hadn't parted as friends. "I came here because I am worried about Legolas. He wrote me about Lurtz, about taking him as his mate. I had to make sure my son had chosen a worthy mate."
"Legolas," snapped Elrohir, "is your son and he does not know you are here? Do you know how worried he has been? Ever since sending that letter he has been losing weight!"
"I will talk to Legolas tonight." Thranduil got to his feet and began pacing the hall; eyes stung his back and he no longer felt welcome. "I should leave now."
"Wait!" Elladan jumped to his feet and marched over to Thranduil, losing himself once more in those star filled eyes. "Why save my life when Ada and you do not get along?"
Thranduil smiled saddened, and he returned Elladan's probing gaze. "I did not know who you were, but I would have saved you, even had I known you were Elrond's son."
Elladan took a step away from Thranduil and promptly bumped into Glorfindel who stood behind him, glaring at Thranduil. He felt confused, sensing that Thranduil was sincere, but at the same time his father radiated a hostility, mirrored by Glorfindel. "Ada?" Lost, he looked to his father for emotional support.
Elrond bit his bottom lip, trying to rise from his chair, but Elrohir immediately appeared at his side, gently pushing him down.
"Do not dare to rise from your chair, Ada," warned Elrohir. "You are to rest, not walk!"
Glorfindel feared the situation might escalate and quickly stepped in front of Elladan, blocking the twin's line of sight. "Thranduil, Imladris is eternally indebted to you for saving Elladan..."
Thranduil politely inclined his head. "As I said earlier, there is no debt. Elladan fought bravely but was greatly outnumbered. I was honored to help him."
Elrond's expression softened at hearing the sincerity in Thranduil's voice. Maybe he had judged too quickly. "Dinner is about to be served... Will you stay?" It was a peace offering he hoped Thranduil would accept... for Elladan's sake. His eldest son looked confused and his heart went out to Elladan. /Thranduil, accept... please./
Thranduil stared at Elrond, receiving a faint echo of those thoughts. "I accept. I will stay for dinner..." /But only because of Elladan./ Maybe he would find a way to explain to Elladan why he had decided against revealing his identity.
Elladan returned to his seat and Elrohir released the grip he had on his father's shoulder. His eyes silently begged forgiveness from his father for stopping him, and when Elrond smiled, Elrohir sat down once more, staring at Thranduil.
Thranduil took his seat again and they remained silent whilst the food was being served. Once they were alone again, Thranduil sought out Elrond's gaze. "I decided to see for myself what kind of... man Lurtz was and I did not want Legolas to know they were being watched. I feel satisfied that their bond is true, but I had to make sure myself. I hope you understand, being a father yourself."
"That does not explain why you remained silent when you returned Elladan to me," said Elrond slowly. "You told me your face was scarred."
Thranduil expected that question. "I was not sure I would be welcome here, so I kept silent. I needed time to observe Lurtz and my son."
Elrond had to admit Thranduil's words made sense. "You approve of his choice? I must say that surprises me..." Fatigue was growing on him. Sitting upright put pressure on his mending ribs and his ankles throbbed with pain once more. He craved lying down, but he couldn't leave now.
Thranduil inclined his head, sensing Elrond's exhaustion. "Aye, I approve and I will tell him so." Eating some of the fruits and lembas, his attention remained focused on Elrond and Glorfindel, catching a glance of them holding hands. "You seem tired; would you not prefer to retire and rest?"
Elrond raised an eyebrow in surprise at Thranduil's tone. /He sounds worried!/ "I am fine," he said stubbornly, ignoring the disapproving look Glorfindel gave him. He was tired, and his lover knew it as well.
Glorfindel cradled Elrond's hand in his. "Maybe our guest is right; you look tired."
Elrond shook his head; he disliked them teaming up against him!
"Ada, you should retire," said Elrohir concerned. "Will you allow me to take you to your rooms?"
Glorfindel moved faster and lifted a protesting Elrond in his arms. "I will carry him, Elrohir... But you may accompany us and tend to his injuries."
Elrond scolded his lover, but Glorfindel continued anyway. Looking at Thranduil, Elrond cringed at the amused expression in the Elf's eyes.
Thranduil smiled, nodded once and then concentrated on Elladan.
As they disappeared into the corridor, Elrond was still protesting, but Glorfindel effectively silenced the half-Elf by kissing him. Elrond moaned softly, resting a hand at the back of Glorfindel's neck. "You should not have done that," said Elrond chidingly once Glorfindel had released his lips. "Thranduil will think me weak; you lifting and carrying me like that..."
"Does it matter what he thinks?" asked Glorfindel.
Elrohir opened the door to his father's private rooms and let them pass. He uncovered several soothing balms and clean bandages to wrap around his father's ribcage. Elrond and Glorfindel were kissing, touching, moaning, and Elrohir blushed, quickly moving back to the door and closing it; he could tend to his father's injuries later. /I draw the line at watching them make out.../ he thought amused. /Now, how fares Elladan...?/
Unable to stay seated any longer, Elladan rose and paced the hall, occasionally glancing at his savior. /Thranduil... Legolas' father rescued me... And it is obvious Ada and he do not get along.../ What was he supposed to do? Butterflies still tickled his insides and he tried to ignore the sensation, but one look at those starlit eyes made his heart flutter in his chest. /I cannot fall in love with him.../
"I wish you had told me who you were..." Elladan felt cheated.
"I regret not speaking the truth," said Thranduil, getting to his feet and walking over to Elladan. "But I needed to observe Legolas whilst my son was unaware of my presence. I knew you would expose me quickly because you had seen my face. My eyes set me apart from other Elves and..." He grew quiet, seeing the thoughtful expression in Elladan's eyes. "You have become very dear to me in a short time. I would like to earn your trust and friendship, but..." He had to return to Mirkwood shortly and he wasn't sure there was enough time to mend the friendship that had formed between them. "But I am willing to try if you are."
Elladan felt truly lost. Thranduil confused him; when looking at the ageless face he had a hard time seeing an ancient Elf. He saw someone his own age, someone he really, really liked, but... /He is of Ada's age and the ruler of Mirkwood. I cannot lose my heart to him, no matter what he looks like./
"Elladan?" Thranduil involuntarily held his breath, awaiting Elladan's answer. "Or would you rather see me leave as quickly as possible? I understand if you feel betrayed."
Elladan sighed depressed, but then he lifted his eyes and looked at the sparkling stars in Thranduil's silver orbs. "I would like to try again as well, but no more deception."
Thranduil smiled relieved. "No more deception, Elladan, son of Elrond."
Elladan wondered if he had made the right decision. How would his father react?
"Elladan? Do not worry too much." Thranduil slowly raised a hand and rested it on Elladan's shoulder. "We will speak again tomorrow, aye? I need to seek out Legolas now and talk to my son."
Elladan nodded once. The tingling sensation had intensified at Thranduil's touch. "Aye, we will talk tomorrow."
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
Return to Archive | next | previous