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 14 - Saying goodbye
Haldir signaled Rumil to remain hidden. Celeborn had told them to expect Legolas and a second party, but seeing the Uruk-Hai at the Woodland Elf’s side had stunned them. The thing that baffled him most was the bantering, the teasing tone and the quick, stolen caresses whenever their horses got close enough for them to reach out and touch. Haldir worried about what this might mean. Why would Legolas allow one of their enemies this close? Why hadn’t Legolas killed the Uruk-Hai by now?
“Legolas, I feel eyes upon us,” whispered Lurtz softly, hoping only Legolas’ ears heard his words, but if these watchful eyes belonged to Elves their sharp hearing would also pick up on his comment.
Legolas nodded. He had sensed the gazes as well. “’Lorien’s guardians are watching us and will stop us shortly.” A wicked grin surfaced on Legolas’ face. “They are probably wondering if they should kill you now or wait until after they interrogated you.”
Lurtz growled. ‘Let them try to kill me. They won’t succeed.” His instincts had fully kicked in, making sure he wouldn’t be taken by surprise. “I do not like this.”
“Give them time to get used to your presence, melamin.” Legolas used that last word on purpose, hoping the ‘Lorien Elves understood Lurtz was a friend and not an enemy. Hadn’t Elrond told them about his new mate?
Haldir froze, hearing an Elf call and Uruk-Hai "melamin". He sat hidden behind branches and leaves, his presence unseen by the Uruk-Hai’s eyes, but Legolas’ gaze darted up the tree, revealing he knew Haldir’s whereabouts. /Melamin? Does this mean – Nay, that cannot be. No Elf would take a Uruk-Hai for a mate!/
“Haldir? They are nearing the talan. We should reveal ourselves,” said Orophin. His arrow was aimed at the Uruk-Hai’s heart and he merely waited for Haldir’s order to kill the foul creature.
“Put away your bow,” whispered Haldir. Seeing the disbelief in his brother’s eyes, he shrugged. “Celeborn told us there would be two messengers, Legolas and one other. It does not seem that Legolas is the Uruk-Hai’s prisoner, and he called him "melamin".”
Rumil shuddered. “I heard that as well, but I cannot believe that it is true!”
“We will find out,” said Haldir eventually. His brothers put away their bows as ordered, and Haldir soundlessly lowered himself onto the ground, following Legolas and the Uruk-Hai. Rumil and Orophin stayed at his side; their hands rested on daggers in case they needed to defend themselves against the Uruk-Hai.
“Halt,” said Haldir firmly, stepping onto the path and thus revealing himself. His gaze shifted from Legolas to the Uruk-Hai and back again. Legolas looked as confident and calm as always, but the Uruk-Hai was definitely jumpy and ready to draw his sword. “Lord Celeborn told us to take you to his talan, but...” His voice trailed off, getting a good look at the Uruk-Hai. There was no war paint on his body and no armor either. The sight mystified him.
Legolas glared at Lurtz, telling him with his eyes to remain quiet and to let him do the talking. “Haldir of ‘Lorien, may I present my mate to you? This is Lurtz.”
“Your mate?” Haldir, who prided himself on never showing his emotions openly, now stared at Legolas in shock. “Your mate?” He heard Rumil and Orophin whisper behind him and their tones mirrored his disbelief.
“He saved my life several months ago,” explained Legolas, “and he has changed his ways.”
Haldir forced himself to act politely whilst he was trying to deal with this new information. “I will take you to the Lord and the Lady.” Did they know about Legolas’ new mate? Had Elrond told them? If not, they would be equally shocked!
“Then lead on,” said Legolas in a light tone. He saw the disbelief and loathing in the ‘Lorien Elves’ eyes, but it was something he had expected. When he had accepted Lurtz as his mate he had known that they would encounter a lot of prejudice and that they had to fight to get accepted every time they went somewhere new. Now he had to show Lurtz that he stood at his mate’s side and would not desert him.
Haldir saw determination in Legolas’ eyes, and wondered about the Prince. “Dismount and leave your horses in my brother’s care. Orophin will look after them.”
Orophin cautiously moved closer and Lurtz noticed how the Elf’s hand rested on the hilt of his dagger. He decided against addressing it and dismounted. It was good to feel the earth beneath his feet once more.
Legolas joined them and then turned to face Haldir. “Take us to the Lord and Lady of the Wood. We cannot waste any time.” He wondered how much Haldir knew about the plan to aid Rohan. Had Celeborn and Galadriel already confided in him?
“Follow me.” Haldir turned, but didn’t feel completely comfortable, knowing an Uruk was this close to him. A look at Rumil told him that his brother felt the same way.
Rumil concluded the little procession, keeping a close eye on Lurtz.
They walked in silence, but Rumil noticed the silent looks Lurtz and Legolas exchanged. Walking behind them gave him a good chance to study the Uruk-Hai. To his amazement he found that the long, dark manes had been braided the way the Elves in Imladris wore their hair and the clothes Lurtz was wearing were definitely made by Elves as well. Puzzled, he wondered what had made Elrond accept one of Saruman’s creatures in his home.
After long moments of heavy silence they began to climb the talan. Legolas felt eyes upon them and locked gazes with his mate. Lurtz was doing his best to act unaffected, but the stares were getting to him. Acting on instinct, Legolas grabbed Lurtz’ hand and held onto it.
A murmur swept through the spectators at seeing the gesture. Some frowned in disapproval, others whispered softly that it was a disgrace for an Elf to act like that, and even smaller group stayed silent, watching and keeping back their judgment.
After reaching their destination, Haldir stepped aside. “The Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood,” he announced as a blinding light descended the stairs.
Lurtz’s eyes narrowed, but he stared at the light, never flinching away. The light was bright, but still pleasing to his eyes. Suddenly the light faded, revealing two forms. The Lady’s gaze was directed at him and he cocked his head, returning the look. She was beautiful, but her radiance also chilled his soul. It almost felt like there was too much power bundled in this fragile form.
“Welcome to Lothlorien,” said Celeborn, watching his guests curiously.
“We bring greetings and news from Elrond of Rivendell,” said Legolas, bowing slightly.
“We know why you are here,” said Galadriel. Her gaze still rested on Lurtz. When she had first seen him in her mirror she had feared he would end Legolas’ life, but the Uruk-Hai had nursed Legolas back to health instead. She had watched them during these last few weeks; her mirror giving her an insight into their love.
Celeborn however, didn’t possess his wife’s knowledge, and was at a loss for what to say. When his sentries had told him that an Uruk-Hai was in Legolas’ company he had almost given the command to have the foul creature killed, but Galadriel had stopped him. Now he was slowly beginning to understand why. The way Lurtz looked at Legolas told him there was much love there.
“Elrond and I agree that old allegiances should be honored, and we will fight alongside Men one more time,” said Galadriel, hearing Haldir’s sharp intake of breath. Turning toward him, she added, “Ask for volunteers, Haldir. Our army will leave in the morning. The people of Rohan are fighting an overwhelming force and many of them will die. When you ask for volunteers let them know that many of them will die as well. Do not accept any fathers; let them stay with their children instead. This army will march toward its doom. Let them know the truth.”
Haldir nodded, saddened. “I will tell them.” Raising his eyes, they fastened on Galadriel. “Who will lead this army?”
Galadriel’s eyes were soft and warm, hearing that question. “Who would you chose to lead them?” She already knew the answer.
“I will.” Haldir felt Rumil’s hand settle on his shoulder, and he sensed his brother’s shock. “I will lead them. If my men must face death, so will I.”
Galadriel’s eyes swam with unshed tears. She had known he would volunteer, but a part of her had hoped he wouldn’t, for she had seen his death at Helm’s Deep in her mirror. “Lead them well, Haldir.”
“Brother, I will come with you,” said Rumil firmly.
Haldir shook his head and locked eyes with his brother. “I ask you not to. I do not want to see you among the dead.”
“You cannot stop me. I volunteer.” Rumil gritted his teeth. “Orophin cannot come; he has a wife and child to care for. Let me come instead.”
“Rumil...” Haldir wished he could stop his brother from volunteering, but his hands were tied.
Legolas cleared his throat, discretely trying to draw Galadriel’s attention. “Lurtz and I will join the army as well.”
Galadriel nodded. “Your presence is needed at Helm’s Deep,” she said thoughtfully. “What remains of the Fellowship needs your eyes and ears, and your mate’s power will greatly aid the people of Rohan.”
Legolas and Lurtz nodded. “Thank you, my Lady,” said Legolas softly.
“You should rest now,” added Celeborn, “Rumil, take them to the guest rooms.”
“Please follow me,” said Rumil, who still kept a close eye on Lurtz. In spite of what he had heard he still didn’t trust the Uruk-Hai. He led them to their guest quarters and asked a maiden to bring food and tea. “We will march at sunrise.”
“We will be ready.” Legolas nodded once and watched Rumil leave. Turning to face Lurtz, he saw the dark expression in his mate’s eyes. “You cannot expect them to welcome you with open arms. Remember what I told you? You will have to prove yourself over and over again, but I will never leave your side. You always have me.”
Lurtz cupped Legolas’ chin in the palm of his hand. “Will you make love with me tonight?” He needed his lover’s touch.
Legolas smiled warmly. “Aye, we will make love tonight and fight tomorrow.” Leaning in closer, he claimed Lurtz’s lips and was delighted when those lips parted. He knew the healers had finished smoothing Lurtz’s teeth and although they were still sharp, it now enabled Lurtz to kiss him without the fear of hurting him. Lurtz answered the kiss with a raw hunger which made Legolas take his mate’s hand, leading him to their bed. Tonight they would make love.
Haldir raised his gaze and met Galadriel’s. “This is a suicide mission. How many of our kin will die? I dare not ask for volunteers.”
Galadriel inclined her head. “I agree with you, Haldir, but how many more people of Rohan will die without our support? Elrond is right; we have let Men fight too many of our battles.”
Celeborn let go of her hand and walked over to Haldir, placing a hand on the Guardian’s shoulder. “I remember a time when Elves died in battle alongside Men. For too long we remained safe at Men’s expense. That must change. If I could I would lead this army, but Galadriel will sail for Valinor shortly and someone has to look after ‘Lorien.”
Haldir’s eyes widened. “You are sailing for Valinor?” Within seconds his world had been upended.
Galadriel nodded. “The time of the Elves is coming to an end and I will join Elrond when he sails for Valinor. Many of our people will follow. My husband has decided to stay here, and I already mourn losing him. Your destiny lies in Edoras, Haldir.” An immensely sad tone slipped into her voice, recalling seeing his death. “I always loved you like you were my own flesh and blood, Haldir, but you cannot change your destiny and neither can I.”
“I will do as you command, my Lady,” said Haldir softly. “But my heart is slowly dying at hearing that you will leave our beloved land.”
Galadriel was losing the fight to keep back her tears and slowly turned away from them. “Fight bravely, Haldir and take good care of the lives entrusted to you. One last word, my son; you can trust the Uruk-Hai. I saw his heart in my mirror and it is true.”
Haldir watched her climb the stairs, and for the first time in his life she seemed old. Her movements were slow and a great sadness emanated from her being. How heavy this decision must weigh on her, sending her people into certain death.
Celeborn’s hand still rested on his shoulder and he sought out his Lord’s eyes. The blue in them seemed clouded by sadness. “Can’t we stop this madness?”
Celeborn shook his head. “I do not want them to die either, but I agree with Elrond and Galadriel. It is time we accept our responsibility and joined in the fighting.”
Haldir looked at Celeborn; in his heart he agreed. “But the price will be high.”
“It is already high, but so far we have been spared, Haldir.” Celeborn drew in a deep breath and pulled Haldir close, bestowing one last embrace on his lover. “You must be strong now, meleth-nîn. We will be separated and I do not know if we will ever meet again in this lifetime.”
Haldir rested his head on the elder Elf’s shoulder. “Our time together was too short. If I fall in battle I hope the Valar will allow me to be reborn, and I pray I will find you again.”
Galadriel’s eyes finally released their tears, hearing the dedication in their voices. She stood watching them from atop the stairs, hating the fact that this war would separate them. Her heart went out to them, knowing the pain they were in.
She had married Celeborn out of love, and her love had been returned. Celebrian was born and their love had deepened, but the physical attraction had been lost some time during the millennia they had shared together. When Celeborn had first shown an interest in Haldir, she had encouraged it, much to his stunned surprise. She had made sure the two Elves met, talked and revealed their attraction. She had never feared losing her husband’s love, knowing they were tightly tied together emotionally, but she had felt saddened, knowing he still craved the physical side of their love when she could no longer give that to him.
Haldir had always been one of her favorites and she found that watching them together made her happy as well. There was much love in their eyes and gestures when they held each other.
Now she waited patiently for Celeborn to join her. They had much to discuss. Later that night Celeborn would return to his own private rooms; they’d had separate bedrooms for centuries now and she liked having her privacy restored. Although she loved Celeborn deeply, she was turning more solitary with the passing of years.
Celeborn held Haldir close a little longer and then broke the embrace. “Always remember I love you, Haldir. And I pray you will return to me after the war.”
“I will stay alive for you,” vowed Haldir passionately. His eyes briefly left Celeborn and locked with Galadriel’s. Seeing the pain in them, he released Celeborn. “You should comfort her; she does not deserve to feel like this.”
“You are strong, Haldir,” said Celeborn, regretting having to let go of his lover. “But you are entitled to comfort as well. Do you want me to seek you out tonight?”
But Haldir shook his head. “Being together one last time would only add to our pain and I will be busy gathering the volunteers. Stay with her tonight. I will find comfort with my brothers.” He longed to be with Celeborn, but knew tonight was not theirs. “We will say our goodbyes in the morning.”
Celeborn sighed, distressed. “I do not want to lose you. Please take good care of yourself. You are very precious to me.”
Haldir raised his hand and caressed his lover’s face. “We will meet again,” he vowed, but somehow the words felt wrong. Was he destined to die at Helm’s Deep? His heart cried out at the injustice and an ominous feeling washed over him. Would he ever feel his lover’s touch again?
Celeborn slowly climbed to stairs to join his wife, but his heart stayed with Haldir, hoping his love would return to him.
Haldir’s gaze was infinitely sad when he looked at the nearly two hundred sentries that had stepped forward when he had called for volunteers. He had made sure they knew there was little chance they would return to ‘Lorien, but still they volunteered. “Say your goodbyes to your loved ones and join me at dawn.”
The volunteers left to join their family and lovers for one last time, and Haldir bowed his head in defeat.
Orophin moved closer toward him and wrapped his arms around Haldir’s shoulders. “Brother, they made their decision knowing what lies ahead of him. Do not feel guilty for leading them to Helm’s Deep.”
Haldir turned in the embrace and locked eyes with Orophin. “At least you are spared.”
“If I could I would join you, but Rumil will accompany you. You must look out for our brother.”
Haldir nodded. “Where is he?”
“He went to gather his things. We will spend the night at your quarters, brother. I do not think you should be alone tonight.”
“How very right you are...” whispered Haldir in a choked tone. “I will lead my men into death and –“
Orophin stopped him and hugged him close. “Come with me.” Orophin led his brother to his rooms where Rumil was already awaiting their arrival. “We should sleep tonight.”
Haldir allowed himself to be guided to the bed where the three of them lay down, holding each other close. Soothed by his brothers’ presence Haldir managed to drift off into a restless sleep.
Rumil and Orophin’s stares met. Orophin lay behind Haldir, hugging his elder brother close and Rumil had settled in front of Haldir, stroking the silver hair.
“Rumil, this weighs heavily on him.”
Rumil nodded, but continued to stroke his brother’s hair. “I will be his shadow.”
“Many of us will die and I am afraid Haldir will be one of them. I cannot explain this feeling.”
“I feel it as well,” agreed Rumil. “I will see to his safety.”
Orophin still felt worried, but also realized the situation was out of his control. He had to believe Rumil and Haldir would keep each other safe.
Elrohir rocked Erestor slowly, while whispering softly to him. “You kept this inside for so long, Arato-nîn, let it go now. I do not think less of you because of these scars. You will always be my champion. Do not feel ashamed.”
Looking Elrohir in the eyes, Erestor slowly dropped the blanket, revealing more bite marks that had left him scarred for life. “Are you sure you still want me? You should know what you are getting yourself into.”
Elrohir swallowed hard and stopped Erestor from dropping the blanket even farther. The elder Elf’s hands shook; Erestor wasn’t ready yet to take this step. Pulling the blanket back into place, he pulled the other close. “Your body has healed and although it carries scars I will not love you less because of them. They are a part of you, and I want all of you.”
Erestor hesitantly met the half-Elf’s gaze. “How can you be so sure?”
Elrohir smiled. “Because you have a wonderful spirit, Arato-nîn. Being with you is a precious gift.”
“Even when I break down in tears constantly?”
“That will pass, Erestor. You will grow stronger and more confident, and the past will lose its hold on you. Give it time.”
Erestor nodded slowly. “I never thought this would ever happen. I had dreams in which you spoke those words, but to actually hear them, I –” Speechless, he cuddled up to Elrohir, who slowly lowered them onto the bed. He expected himself to panic, but he felt safe and treasured, as Elrohir stroked his back. “I dreamt of it during lonely nights, but to actually feel you this close and to know that you will stay... I cannot believe it yet.”
“I understand, Arato-nîn.” Seeing water drip from Erestor’s hair, he pressed a chaste kiss on the other’s brow. “Stay here whilst I fetch a towel and comb to attend to your hair.”
Erestor nodded once, and regretted that Elrohir was leaving the bed, but a moment later the half-Elf returned and nudged him to sit upright. He allowed Elrohir to towel dry his hair, and sighed blissfully when gentle fingers began to untangle the long locks. The comb slid easily through the dark strands and Elrohir braided them skillfully. Recalling that the half-Elf had mentioned walking the gardens earlier, he looked over his shoulder, meeting sparkling brown eyes. “We can go for that walk if you still want to.”
Elrohir smiled enthusiastically. “I would love to.” Realizing that Erestor was still naked beneath the blanket, he left the bed and selected burgundy colored robes from Erestor’s wardrobe.
Erestor shyly dropped the blanket and quickly slipped into the soft robes. He felt a little more confident now that had Elrohir had seen the scars and not left. After fastening the robes he rose from the bed, joining Elrohir and taking the half-Elf’s hand in his. “I will try to overcome my fears and doubts,” he promised softly. “But it will not be easy. I lived with them for so long that it is hard to fight them.”
“We will fight them together,” said Elrohir in a doting tone. “Let us now venture outside and enjoy the sun set, Arato-nîn.”
As they walked toward the gardens, Erestor tried to sort out his thoughts and feelings. Elrohir seemed determined to see him recover, and the younger half-Elf was giving him all the strength and courage he needed to face that horrid night. For Elrohir’s sake he had to try.
“You are brooding,” whispered Elrohir as they stepped into the gardens.
Erestor followed as Elrohir led him toward a bench, where they both sat down. His hands were cradled by the half-Elf and Erestor finally sought out puzzled brown eyes. “I was thinking back to that dreadful night.”
“You can confide in me about that faithful night. I won’t shy back from it. Maybe talking about it will ease your burden.”
“You are right, I must face the past before I can look toward the future.” Erestor drew in a deep breath, hoping his strength would not desert him. “At first they beat me. They used their fists, sticks and their swords to beat me into submission. I remained defiant though, knowing it would enrage them further. Celebrian was at the back of the cave, and saw everything.”
Elrohir sucked in his breath. He couldn’t imagine how hard reliving that night was on Erestor.
Erestor sighed, determined to see this through. His eyes remained locked with Elrohir’s and he drew strength from their connection. “When they turned their attention to her, I called them cowards. It infuriated them, and they concentrated on me instead, leaving her alone again. I had achieved my goal, but--” Erestor swallowed convulsively. “They stripped me, ripped the clothes from my back, and their sharp fingernails dipped beneath my skin. I thought beating me was the worst thing they could do, but I was so wrong...”
Elrohir sat silently, giving Erestor the time he needed to tell this horrid tale. He showed his support by gently rubbing the elder Elf’s knuckles.
Erestor was no longer able to maintain eye contact and lowered his gaze. “They started to touch me. I managed to remain silent, knowing my defiance angered them; they wanted to hear me scream instead. I fought to maintain my silence, thus keeping them away from Celebrian.” Erestor shook violently, reliving those horrific moments. “I had never had a male lover and was completely unprepared for what was going to happen.”
Elrohir swallowed hard. Erestor’s fingers felt icy cold in his and he rubbed them, trying to warm them again.
“It took five of them to make me scream. I was hurting badly at that point and bleeding.” Erestor’s voice deserted him momentarily and he forced his quickening breathing to slow down again. “They forced themselves on me until I fainted. Then Celebrian’s screams for help made me regain consciousness, and I yelled at those cowardly dogs to leave her alone, knowing only too well how they would punish me. But Celebrian was safe once more.”
Elrohir’s mouth had gone dry, hearing Erestor’s pain-filled tone. “You kept Nana safe, but you paid a terrible price.”
“Thankfully Glorfindel arrived, and whilst Elladan and you were busy seeing to your mother, he wrapped me up in his cloak. I was close to dying when he found me.”
Elrohir frowned. “I was always told that Elves who were violated died-- but you did not, and I thank Elbereth for that, but I wonder what kept you alive.”
A faint blush appeared on Erestor’s pale face. “You did.”
Erestor stared into the distance, avoiding meeting Elrohir’s eyes. “I have loved you for many years, pen-neth, but you were so young. I could not reveal my feelings to you, and even now you seem too young to be tangled in this web of emotions.”
Elrohir placed two fingers under Erestor’s chin and lifted the elder’s face gently so their gazes could meet. “Seeing me tend to my mother and completely forgetting about you must have hurt.”
“It did, but I understood that your first concern was for her. She is your mother.” Erestor briefly closed his eyes now that he could not look away. “I clung to my love for you when Glorfindel placed me on Asfaloth’s back and took me back to Imladris. Whilst Elrond tended to my injuries, it was your face I saw, not his. I did not know I was hallucinating and close the Halls of Mandos, but once I was recovering I understood my mind had deceived me, making me think it was you who was looking after me.”
“I am so sorry,” whispered Elrohir, feeling miserable.
“Once I began to recover I longed for your presence, but I also understood that I had to distance myself from you and the others, for I did not want you to know what had happened to me. Keeping my distance was the hardest thing I ever did. There were so many times when I craved a touch or a word from your lips, but I could not have it.” Erestor sighed tiredly. “I never wanted you to find out.”
“I never thought I would say it, but I am glad Ada told me about that night.” Elrohir moistened his lips. “It made me seek you out. If he had not told me, I would not have found out that you loved me.”
Erestor finally met the half-Elf’s gaze, which was filled with affection and compassion. “And now we are sitting here, holding hands.”
Elrohir reacted at once and brought one of Erestor’s hands to his lips, and pressed a kiss on the palm. “I feel honored that you confided in me, Arato-nîn.”
“You deserve to know what they did to me.” Erestor felt oddly nervous when Elrohir leaned in closer to plant a butterfly kiss on his lips. His skin began to tingle with warmth, and it coursed through him, driving away the perpetual cold that had taken up residence inside his soul since that dreadful night. “What are you doing?” he whispered against Elrohir’s lips.
“I am kissing you,” said Elrohir in a gentle tone, realizing how lost Erestor felt. “You never expected me to return your feelings and now that you have me, you do not know what to do.”
It was true. Erestor briefly closed his eyes and nodded once. “I do not know how much I can give you, pen-neth. I feel maimed for life.”
“It does not have to be that way,” whispered Elrohir, resting his hand at the back of Erestor’s neck, gently pulling the elder Elf closer. “Let go of your fears and enjoy the kiss and my closeness.”
Erestor opened his eyes, needing to make visual contact with the younger half-Elf. “I want to let go of my fears, but I am not sure I can.”
Elrohir gently claimed Erestor’s lips, keeping the embrace and kiss light. The dark haired beauty moaned softly, melting against him and a smile stole onto Elrohir’s face. /He trusts me and wants me. In the end, he will overcome his fears. Our love will prevail./
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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