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 15 - Helm’s Deep
/Lurtz, join me. I require your help./
Galadriel’s soft voice immediately pulled Lurtz from his dreams. Careful not to wake his sleeping mate, he eased Legolas onto his side. Lurtz rose from the bed and looked about, expecting to see Galadriel close, but she was nowhere in sight.
/Down here, Lurtz./
Hearing her voice in his head was a strange sensation, but he complied anyway. After putting on his clothes, he descended the talan and ignored the curious looks he was getting. At the foot of the tree, Galadriel stood waiting for him. The white apparition signaled for him to follow, and he cautiously walked toward her.
Galadriel stopped and reached for the carafe filled with water, which she poured into the bowl that would show her the future. “Look into my mirror, Lurtz, and tell me what you see.”
Remaining alert, Lurtz looked into the water. Instantly waves appeared, and images formed in the water. Thousands of Uruk-Hai, Orcs and Easterlings attacked, slaughtering young boys, old men and experienced soldiers. Legolas appeared as well, holding his own and counting how many enemies he had taken out, shouting the number to a Dwarf. Rumil was there as well, fighting bravely. Lurtz briefly looked at Galadriel, wondering why she had asked him to look at the future.
“A –possible- future,” said Galadriel softly. “Look again.”
Lurtz looked into the water once more and this time he saw Haldir, fighting alongside his archers. They were fighting a losing battle, but still Haldir refused to admit defeat. “They are greatly outnumbered.”
“Watch,” said Galadriel, but this time her voice trembled, already knowing what would happen next.
Lurtz growled when a sword slid through Haldir’s arm, distracting the Elf. Another Uruk-Hai came up from behind the ‘Lorien Elf, raised his sword and cleaved Haldir’s back in two. Lurtz sucked in his breath, seeing the agony in Haldir’s eyes. “He will die?”
Galadriel held Lurtz’s inquisitive stare. “You have the power to keep him alive; to change his destiny.”
“I should have known,” sighed Lurtz. “Why am I always the one to save these Elves?”
“’Tis your strength,” explained Galadriel. “You saved Legolas and later you cared for Glorfindel. Why not save one more Elf?”
Lurtz’s eyes narrowed in surprise. “You watched me?”
“My mirror shows me many things,” said Galadriel evasively. “I know that your love for Legolas is true and that you care for our kind. I would ask of you to keep one more Elf safe, for Haldir is very precious to me.”
Lurtz considered the request. “My first concern is for Legolas.”
“Look at the water,” said Galadriel, working her magic once more.
Lurtz stared and more images appeared. This time cheers filled the sky as the last members of Saruman’s army were chased back to Isengard.
“You will win this battle and Legolas will remain unharmed. He has honed his skills for millennia and knows how to keep himself safe. You do not have to worry about him in the upcoming fight.”
Lurtz smiled, seeing Legolas embrace him now that the victory was theirs. Relieved that his mate would come to no harm, Lurtz continued to watch as the vision changed, showing him Haldir’s corpse.
Galadriel took a step closer to him and inclined her head. “You are an unknown power in this eternal fight between good and evil. You hold Haldir’s fate in your hands. Will you keep him safe for me?”
Lurtz’s gaze shifted back to the water, which still showed him Haldir’s dead body. “I will do the best I can.”
Galadriel sighed relieved. “That is all I can ask for. Thank you, Lurtz.” She turned to leave, but then looked over her shoulder to meet his eyes one last time. “Many millennia ago, Elves were taken prisoner by the dark forces and changed into Orcs; and later into Uruk-Hai. I always wondered if some good survived the darkness and it seems it did. Your heart has been touched by love and you took the chance Legolas offered you. The two of you will be happy and live a long and fulfilled life.”
“Thank you, my Lady,” said Lurtz, feeling puzzled at hearing her words.
“You will always be welcome here.” Galadriel moved toward the talan, leaving Lurtz to ponder everything that he had just learned. She could only hope that Lurtz would remember to watch Haldir’s back when that horrible moment would arrive.
Lurtz returned to their guest rooms, finding Legolas awake. Large, azure eyes met his and he sat down on the edge of the bed, enjoying the feel of Legolas’ arms folding themselves around him.
“Where did you go? I was about to search for you when you returned.” Legolas felt worried.
“Galadriel wanted to talk to me. She made me look into her mirror.”
Legolas held his breath. “What did you see?” It was considered a rare privilege to be awarded a look at Galadriel’s mirror.
“You will survive the upcoming battle,” started Lurtz, leaning back into his mate’s body, “but Haldir won’t. She asked me to keep him safe and to make sure he survives.”
“Haldir will die? Aiya, if you can prevent it, please do.” Legolas’ heart twisted in anguish at the fought of losing Haldir. “He is a skilled warrior, renowned for his knowledge of wood lore and loved by many. If you can save his life, you should.”
“I promised to do the best I can,” said Lurtz, worried. “It would be easier if she stopped Haldir from leaving; then he would not face any danger at all.”
“It is not that easy. Haldir is ‘Lorien’s Guardian. It is his task to lead his men into battle.” Legolas rested his head on his mate’s shoulder. “Haldir would never agree to stay behind.”
“Then we do not have a choice,” said Lurtz, thoughtfully. “We must watch his back and keep him safe.”
Legolas pressed a kiss on his mate’s cheek, watching the dark eyes burn with passion. They had made love only hours ago, but it seemed like Lurtz wanted more. “Come here, nîn bellas, and make love to me again. The sun will rise shortly and these are our last private moments.”
Lurtz growled approvingly and claimed his lover’s lips. He would never tire of making love to his beautiful mate.
Haldir woke when Rumil struggled to sit upright. “Is it time?” he said in an emotionless tone. He would only be able to go through with this if he kept his emotions tightly controlled.
“Arien is rising, brother, and aye, it is time to get ready.” Rumil watched Orophin wake as well and smiled, saddened, at his brother. “It is time to say goodbye.”
Orophin’s eyes widened, fully realizing for the very first time that he could lose his brothers at Helm’s Deep. “Rumil, Haldir, I –” Searching for the right words, he grew silent when they didn’t come to him.
Haldir extended his hand and pulled Orophin to his feet. He enfolded his brothers in a hug and tried to bury this moment in time, to lock it away in his mind so he could take it out and relive it when he needed it most. “Orophin, our hearts will always be with you. Do not despair about us yet. There is a small chance that we will survive.”
“But my heart feels heavy with foreboding,” said Orophin as he fought his tears.
Haldir placed a brotherly kiss on top of Orophin’s head and then released them. “Rumil, get dressed and then join me. We will march within the hour.”
Rumil grabbed Orophin around the waist and hugged his brother tight, knowing very well this might be the last time he could hold him. “Do not lose faith, brother.”
Orophin allowed Rumil to pull away and wiped at his tears, feeling embarrassed at crying when his brothers needed his support. His heart bled, seeing Rumil and Haldir change their clothes and he helped drape Haldir’s cloak over his brother’s shoulders after adorning the armor.
Rumil, wearing a blue cloak over his armor, joined his brothers. “The moment is finally upon us. Orophin, brother, do not lose heart and believe we will return.”
Orophin grabbed Rumil’s forearms and held him in place. “Return to ‘Lorien. Please do not leave me behind.” Turning toward Haldir, Orophin drew in a deep breath. “I cannot lose you. Keep each other safe.”
Haldir nodded once. “I will watch over Rumil.” Realizing that postponing their departure would only add to their pain, he rested a hand on Rumil’s shoulder and steered his brother toward the corridor. He heard Orophin follow, but didn’t turn around.
Stepping outside, he looked at the gathering of archers, ready to leave ‘Lorien to travel to Edoras where they would meet their fate. His heart twisted in his chest, seeing Celeborn and Galadriel approach. Both looked saddened and troubled, and he wished he could fold his arms around his lover and hold Celeborn close one more time. It was true; their time together had been too short.
Staying true to his role, he bowed slightly and locked eyes with Galadriel. “We are ready to leave, my Lady.” Stealing a look at Celeborn, he saw an unreadable expression in his Lord’s eyes. His attention was drawn away from Celeborn when Legolas and Lurtz appeared. Galadriel had assured him that the Uruk-Hai could be trusted, but in his heart he wasn’t convinced yet.
Haldir managed to hide his own raging feelings when Celeborn rested a hand on his shoulders. Their eyes met and spoke of things which had to remain unsaid between them. He was ‘Lorien’s Guardian, and Celeborn the Lord of the Wood. Galadriel would always stand between them. In public they could never show their true feelings.
“Haldir,” started Celeborn, “it will take you two days to reach Edoras. You must leave now, for they are running out of time. Fight bravely and keep as many of our kin as possible alive. I trust you to lead them well.” But his eyes spoke differently. /Haldir, carry my love with you, and I pray it will sustain you in your darkest hour. Please return to me unharmed./
Haldir inclined his head. “Their lives are safe with me. We will fight well and make you proud.” His eyes met Celeborn’s, hoping his love understood. /I will always love you, Celeborn, but my heart is heavy for I fear I will not return to you. I wish we could share one last kiss./ But kissing his lover in front of his archers was impossible. Haldir straightened his shoulders, nodded respectfully while keeping Celeborn’s gaze and then signaled Rumil to follow him to the head of the army. At his signal, the archers marched forward, following their leader.
Galadriel placed her hand on Celeborn’s and cradled his fingers in hers. “Darkness has come over your mind, my husband.”
“I fear losing him.” Celeborn sighed, distressed, knowing he could not keep this from his wife any longer. “When Lurtz looked into your mirror I saw Haldir’s death as well.”
Galadriel’s eyes filled with compassion. “Then you also know that Lurtz and Legolas will do their best to keep Haldir safe. You must have faith, my husband.”
Celeborn nodded, and his shoulders slumped forward in defeat. “My heart is leaving me and I do not know how to deal with the loss.”
“Let me comfort you,” offered Galadriel. “We will sit and talk, and I will look into my mirror on the morning of the third day, after the battle at Helm’s Deep has been fought.”
“And you will tell me if he survived or not?” Celeborn’s eyes filled with hope.
“I will tell you, meleth-nîn. Now come with me and we will talk about Haldir and Rumil. Maybe talking about them will ease our pain.” Galadriel gently squeezed his hand and led him back to their rooms, hoping Haldir would return to ‘Lorien shortly.
Haldir’s heart was heavy with loss and regret, and when Rumil’s hand settled on his shoulder, he forced himself to leave his musings behind. What good was it to dwell on the past when the future held such pain and terror? He should face his fate and accept that they were going to die.
Rumil sensed how hard this was on his brother. Haldir had never kept his love for Celeborn a secret to his brothers and Orophin and he had found out at an early stage. He had rejoiced for Haldir, having found true love, but now the separation hurt Haldir deeply. “He will wait for you to return to him. Hold onto your love for him.”
Haldir’s face seemed carved out of marble, bereft of any emotion, but when one looked closer, the eyes simmered with tears and regrets. He had to forget about Celeborn and the love he bore the Lord of the Wood. His men depended on him and he had to make sure the casualties were as few as possible.
“Haldir, you can talk to me. I am your brother. I know your heart, your love and your doubts.”
Haldir looked about; making sure none of his men could hear him. “Rumil, I will need your support in the next few days. The fact that many of us will die weighs heavily on my mind.” He didn’t dare mention missing Celeborn’s love, for their relationship had to be kept a secret; none of his men could find out.
“I will be at your side,” vowed Rumil passionately. “I will be there when you need me.”
Legolas stayed close to Lurtz, aware of the curious and sometimes hostile looks his mate was getting. It would take the ‘Lorien Elves some time to get used to Lurtz’s presence, and he wasn’t sure they would ever trust him. Two days wasn’t nearly enough for Lurtz to prove himself to the Galadhrim.
“They don’t trust me,” said Lurtz softly. “I cannot blame them for being alert, but I do hope they won’t attack me in the back during the battle.”
Legolas blinked once. “Not on purpose, but –” Legolas paused briefly. “In the heat of battle they might mistake you for one of the attacking Uruk-Hai. Maybe we should stay close to each other.”
Lurtz nodded once. “And the two of us should stay close to Haldir. He doesn’t trust me either and I wonder if he will even let me get close to him.” But he had promised Galadriel to keep Haldir safe. “We know what will happen during the battle…” mused Lurtz. “Legolas, keep an eye on Haldir as well in case I fail.”
“I will watch him closely.” Legolas exchanged a look filled with longing and affection with Lurtz. “It will be a massacre.”
“They will be slaughtered. Ten thousand against a handful of archers and inexperienced soldiers. Will our presence make a difference?”
”We must believe that,” said Legolas thoughtfully. “You told me that you saw victory in Galadriel’s mirror. Cling to that. Somehow we will survive and claim victory.”
Lurtz recalled the images in Galadriel’s mirror. “You are right. We will be victorious.”
“And we must make sure Haldir stays alive,” said Legolas softly. “Much depends on you, Lurtz.”
“I will not fail him.”
Erestor slowly entered Elrond’s study, surprised to find Elladan and Thranduil going through several papers. Elrohir had hinted that Elrond had asked Thranduil to perform his duties while recovering, but seeing the blond Elf-Lord seated behind the desk was a rare sight. Softly clearing his throat, he announced his presence.
Elladan looked up first. “Erestor!” Seeing his former tutor, he got up from his seat in the windowsill and handed the dark haired Elf some documents. “We do not know what to do with these; maybe you do.” Suddenly, Elrohir’s words returned to him and he had to fight to keep the emotions from showing clearly on his face. Now that he knew the truth, Erestor’s expression looked haunted to him and the advisor’s hands trembled slightly as he accepted the papers.
Elladan’s heart went out to the elder Elf, but he managed to hide his concern. Questions swirled in his mind and he wanted to ask Erestor how the elder Elf had coped after that fateful night, but his vocal chords refused to voice those questions. /I cannot ask him. Erestor does not even know that Elrohir told me! I must act normally./
Thranduil looked up from behind the desk and recognized the chief advisor. “Erestor, your help is most welcome.” Ruling Imladris differed greatly from ruling Mirkwood.
Erestor inclined his head. “How can I help?” Elladan’s gaze met his and he flinched, seeing the expression in them; it mirrored Elrohir’s when the half-Elf worried about him. Did Elladan know as well? /Elrohir and Elladan are close, and they cannot keep secrets from each other. Of course Elladan knows./ That thought saddened him. For so many decades he had managed to keep this a secret, and now everyone seemed to know. Did Thranduil know as well?
Thranduil noticed the tension building between them, but couldn’t explain why the situation felt strained. “Could you look at those papers for me?”
Erestor stared at the papers in his hands, recognizing Elrond’s plans for adding trees and statues to the gardens. “I will take care of it. How else can I be of assistance?” He had come here, hoping to work quietly, but now Thranduil and Elladan’s presence made him uncomfortable.
Thranduil was about to ask Erestor to look at other papers as well, when Elladan spoke first.
“Nay, there is nothing that cannot wait until tomorrow,” said Elladan, concerned. “You look tired, Erestor. Maybe you should rest for a little while?”
“Maybe I will.” Erestor’s tone was suspicious, knowing almost certain that Elrohir had confided in his brother. He lowered his gaze, unable to meet Elladan’s gaze any longer. Why couldn’t this have stayed a secret? He felt so ashamed!
“Would you join us for dinner later? I know that you prefer to eat in your rooms, but now that Ada and Glorfindel are gone it will be lonely for all of us.” Elladan cringed privately at the way Erestor was avoiding his gaze. /Aiya, I showed too much; he knows I found out./
Erestor’s mouth became awfully dry. “I will try to join you for dinner, but I do not feel well.” Seeing Elladan’s alarmed look he realized he had said the wrong thing.
“What ails you, Erestor? I may not have Ada’s gift of healing, but I do know which herbs he uses to cure certain ailments.” Elladan reached out instinctively, resting his hand on Erestor’s shoulder and noticed the tremors coursing through the elder Elf. He was tempted to pull back, but didn’t, needing the physical contact. He had never realized how close they had come to losing Erestor. /And until now I did not know how much I cared for him./ Erestor was a trusted friend, and he would not desert the elder Elf whilst he was struggling with his past. “You can tell me.”
Thranduil had placed the quill on the desk and watched Erestor closely. For the first time he noticed how pale and gaunt Erestor had become. “I might be able to help as well,” he offered. “Elrond is the true healer among us, but I too know a great deal of herb lore.”
Erestor suddenly felt cornered, and forced himself to hide behind the mask he usually wore. He couldn’t show them his distress or pain, and had to make up something that would satisfy their curiosity. “I have trouble sleeping,” he said eventually, opting for a half-truth, knowing very well that Thranduil was perfectly capable of detecting a lie.
“I can remedy that,” said Thranduil. “I will prepare a sleeping potion for you. I will give it to you at dinner.”
Erestor sighed deeply. “Thank you, Thranduil.” He knew better than to dismiss the Elf-Lord’s offer. It was better to give in.
“Now return to your rooms and rest. Elladan and I can manage,” said Thranduil firmly, dismissing the chief advisor. Now that he had studied Erestor extensively, he realized that the dark haired Elf hadn’t slept probably for nights. “Maybe you will sleep better during the day.”
Erestor nodded once, indicating he understood and moved toward the doorway. Would his misery ever end? He had made a fool out of himself in front of Elladan and Thranduil, and now he had been dismissed like a sickly child that refused to rest properly.
Erestor headed for his rooms, but halted when he reached the doorway. He could hear Elrohir rummaging about, probably unpacking his belongings and putting them away in the closet. After drawing in a deep breath, he opened the door and stepped inside.
He hadn’t thought it possible, but seeing Elrohir’s personal belongings sit on the table, cupboard and nightstand made him relax. It definitely looked like Elrohir planned to stay for a longer period of time. His cold, empty rooms now felt warm.
Elrohir turned to face him and a content smile appeared on Erestor’s face. “Pen-neth, you warm my heart.” Acting instinctively he opened his arms and wrapped them around Elrohir when the half-Elf pressed his body against his. “Amin mela lle, pen-neth.”
Elrohir beamed at hearing Erestor’s admission, but, pulling back, he got a good look at the dark haired beauty, and he disliked seeing the dark circles under Erestor’s eyes. “Would you like to rest?”
Erestor moistened his lips, feeling oddly nervous. “I do not dare to sleep, pen-neth. The nightmares have been upon me for so long.”
“They seem to stay away when I am close,” observed Elrohir. “I would love to hold you in your sleep.”
Erestor hesitantly met Elrohir’s eyes. “I do not feel comfortable taking up this much of your time.”
“I would rather stay close to you. I would worry constantly, not knowing how you are doing.” Elrohir guided Erestor to the bed and they lay down facing each other. Wrapping an arm around Erestor’s waist, Elrohir adoringly gazed into the other’s black eyes. “You have no idea how good it feels to hold you in my arms. There are no words to describe the contentment running through my soul.”
Erestor still had trouble believing Elrohir enjoyed his company. /I need to stop crying and feeling sorry for myself. Eventually he will tire of this behavior -- and then I will be alone again.../ Erestor rested his head against Elrohir’s shoulder, relishing the other’s closeness. His eyes widened, feeling Elrohir press a kiss on to his dark hair.
“Arato-nin, stop doubting yourself,” said Elrohir in a kind tone. “You are much stronger than you think. Please look at me.”
Erestor gathered his courage and looked into Elrohir’s eyes, seeing only affection and concern in them. Luscious, red lips hovered close to his and a sudden urge overcame him; he wanted to possess those lips, to kiss them long and tenderly.
Elrohir saw the hesitance in Erestor’s eyes and kept perfectly still, letting the elder Elf make the first move. He sighed blissfully when Erestor’s lips covered his in a sweet, undemanding kiss. The fact that Erestor had taken the initiative pleased him, and he deepened the kiss.
Erestor gasped slightly at the sensation and stared into Elrohir’s eyes, noticing the dilated pupils. Did he really see passion and need in them, or was it, which was more likely, just his imagination?
When Elrohir released his lips, Erestor could no longer keep quiet. “Pen-neth, you can do so much better than me.”
“Nay,” said Elrohir, shaking his head. “You are the best.”
A lump formed in Erestor’s throat at hearing the sincerity in Elrohir’s voice. A wave of gratitude washed through him and he claimed Elrohir’s lips once more. Feeling the half-Elf’s tongue nudge against his teeth, he parted them, allowing Elrohir to explore his mouth. The entire time his eyes were locked with Elrohir’s; he feared the dark memories would return the moment he closed his eyes or averted them.
Pulling back, Elrohir smiled smugly. From what Erestor had told him, he had gathered that the elder Elf feared intimacy, but Erestor’s reaction to his kisses encouraged him. Erestor loved and trusted him, and that love assured the elder Elf that he wouldn’t be hurt. “My kisses do not make you uncomfortable?” Elrohir fought to keep the knowing tone from his voice.
Erestor shook his head. “Quite the contrary; I feel more than comfortable when you are close. I trust you, pen-neth. I know you could never hurt me.”
Elrohir smile brightened. “I am honored you trust me, Arato-nîn.” He raised a hand and caressed the other’s face. “When I look at you I see wisdom, love, pain and suffering. I want to ease your pain and end your suffering, Erestor. You say you trust me…” His voice trailed off as his hand tangled in the long, black hair.
“Aye, I do,” whispered Erestor, entranced. Elrohir’s eyes seemed to pierce his very soul and the soothing caress to his hair worked miracles, allowing him to lower his guard and -really- allow Elrohir in.
Elrohir saw the change in the dark eyes and smiled lazily. Touching his lips to Erestor’s, his tongue traced the inside of his lover’s lips and then dipped into the wet warmth, coaxing Erestor to join in the sensual duel. Soon their tongues were wrapped around each other, moving in a slow cadence.
To his utter surprise, Erestor felt relaxed and he did not flinch when Elrohir’s fingertips touched his face in a gentle caress. The kiss took his breath away and he panted softly when Elrohir released his lips. “I never thought…”
“What?” Elrohir smiled pleased, having a fairly good idea of what was going on in Erestor’s mind.
“I thought I would never again enjoy someone’s touch,” admitted Erestor shyly. “But I am not ready to…” His voice faded, hesitant to voice his doubts.
“I understand, Arato-nîn.” Kissing didn’t make Erestor feel threatened and the elder Elf was not yet ready to take the next step. Neither was he. Slowly, his feelings were starting to change, and newly found love was taking the place of concern and affection. For the first time, he whispered, “Amin mela lle, Arato-nîn.” The words and sentiment were true. “I am falling in love with you.”
Erestor looked at Elrohir with tired eyes. /What is there to love, pen-neth? Why would you fall in love with me when I have so little left to give? Maybe it would have been better if we had stayed friends instead./ Doubt nagged at his mind, making him feel listless. “Pen-neth, I am not sure about this.”
“But I am,” said Elrohir firmly. “All we need is time. Give yourself the time to heal.” He refused to let Erestor run away from this. “I am not yet ready to take this any further either. We can take our time getting in touch with our feelings.”
Erestor hoped Elrohir wasn’t making a fatal mistake in wanting to pursue this. Elbereth knew he wanted this to work! Raising a hand, he caressed Elrohir’s face. “You are my salvation, pen-neth.”
Elrohir smiled brightly. “We have all the time we need, Erestor, and we will not rush this.” Pressing a kiss onto Erestor’s forehead, he held the elder Elf tight. A content feeling washed over him, telling him that eventually everything would work out between them. But they still had a long and hard road in front of them.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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