DISCLAIMER: All characters and places belong to Tolkien and New Line Cinema. The great man is no doubt turning in his grave.
Author's Notes: This fic is a response to Catz's challenge posted on the HLA Slash list. Thanks to her for the inspiration and to Panthera for providing beta.
The Games We Play
Part IV - Lessons Learned and Paths Chosen
Haldir's tour of duty at the northern border was scheduled to last another week. Although Legolas would have preferred to return to Caras Galadhon and the company of the Fellowship, he agreed to remain with the Guardian and join his patrol. As professional and vigilant as the Prince and the March Warden behaved while they were on watch, it was clear to the other Elves present that they were really only interested in each other. It amused the Galadhrim to see Haldir behave this way; they could not recall the last time they had seen their proud and cunning Captain act so carefree and young. On the third day, Orophin decided that a talk with his brother was in order. He cornered Haldir at his talan just as his brother was sitting down for his midday meal. Legolas was not around as he and some of the Galadhrim had gone to a nearby stream to refill their water skins.
"Orophin," Haldir greeted him warmly with a wave of his hand, "come and join me."
"I'm afraid that I am about to go on watch," Orophin said regretfully, "but I shall stay for a moment. I wanted to speak with you," he added, sitting cross-legged opposite his brother and reaching for a slice of apple.
"You wish to speak with me?" the Guardian repeated, growing serious. "That does not bode well. Has something happened? Have you received a new report?"
"Oh, no," Orophin hurriedly assured him. "Everything is fine." He should have known that Haldir would automatically think of strategy and safety before anything else. "I wanted to speak to you about . . ." he trailed off, searching for the right word. "You," he said at last.
"Yes." Orophin paused. This was not going to be easy. Haldir was looking at him expectantly, a slightly amused smile on his face. The Guardian enjoyed watching his younger brother squirm. "Well," he began again, "we have noticed-"
"'We'?" Haldir interrupted.
"Myself and a few other Elves," Orophin revised, "have noticed that you have been rather preoccupied of late."
"Yes," Orophin faltered.
"Do you mean to suggest that I have been distracted?" Haldir questioned. "That I have not been fulfilling my duties as I should?"
"No! Not at all!" Orophin exclaimed. "You could never be faulted for your actions as our leader, our Captain."
"Then are you implying that my behavior when I am not your leader or your Captain has been inappropriate? That I lack discretion?" Haldir prodded.
"I am not implying anything of the sort!" Orophin replied, growing exasperated. His brother could be so difficult at times.
"Then what are you trying to say?"
"If you would allow me to speak . . ." H glared at his brother's maddeningly serene expression. "What I am trying to say," Orophin started again and then stopped. He wanted to wipe that smug, expectant smile off Haldir's face.
"This is ridiculous," he finally said. "You took this tour of duty because you wanted to get away from Legolas. Well, now that he is here and everything has clearly been sorted out, I see no reason for the two of you to stay!" he exclaimed. "You are both better off at Caras Galadhon where you will be free to enjoy each other's company without any constraints on your time. The Prince and his companions will be leaving soon. You cannot live in this suspended reality forever. You should make the most of what time you have left. What do you say?"
"I say that it is a splendid idea," a voice from behind the two Elves agreed. Orophin turned around to see Legolas step onto the talan carrying two skins of water. "But I do not believe that your noble brother would abandon his duties here so readily," he added, sitting down in between the two brothers and passing one of the water skins to Haldir.
"There are always exceptions to the rule," Orophin replied, causing the Prince to laugh at his stubbornness.
"This qualifies as an 'exception'?" Legolas asked lightly, also taking a piece of fruit from the food laid out on a blanket.
"If I didn't know you better, brother," Haldir added, "I would think that you are trying to get rid of me."
Orophin shook his head disbelievingly. "You two are impossible!" he exclaimed. "Any one else would be thrilled to have this time to themselves. But you're both too wrapped up in your duties and responsibilities. It is no wonder that you deserve each other." He shook his head again.
"Your brother makes it sound as though we lead dull lives," Legolas remarked.
"All work and no play," Haldir agreed.
Legolas cocked his head to the side and smiled seductively. "I think you play very well, Haldir."
"As do you," Haldir returned, placing his hand over the Prince's hand, where Legolas had begun to journey up the Guardian's thigh. He held it firmly, preventing Legolas from tempting him further, but that did not stop him from leaning over for a kiss.
Orophin was amused by their actions, happy that his brother had found someone so like in mind and spirit, but as the kiss deepened, the Lórien Elf found himself averting his eyes in mild embarrassment. The two lovers had become completely oblivious to his presence. He coughed loudly and said, "These sort of games are best played in Caras Galadhon, don't you think?"
The two Elves broke apart and looked at him.
"I do believe that your brother has a point," Legolas said thoughtfully. He turned to face Haldir. "Caras Galadhon is an excellent playing field," he said, "and we have yet to recruit another member for our next game."
"Ah, yes," the Guardian agreed, suddenly remembering their little plan. "He does not strike me as a team player."
"In general, he is not," the Prince admitted. "Unless of course, he is the team captain!" At this statement, the Mirkwood Elf let out a musical laugh and the Guardian could not help but smile. "I am sure that we can coax him to play," Legolas added mischievously. "I can be quite persuasive when I put my mind to it."
By now, Orophin had completely lost the thread of conversation and he shuddered to think about the poor soul who appeared to be the next victim on the two lovers' agenda. It was clear to him that the Prince of Mirkwood was just as cunning and skillful as his brother in this arena. They were well matched in more ways than one.
"I take it then," Orophin said tentatively, "that you will be returning to the city to join your 'teammate'?"
Legolas laughed again, throwing Haldir a questioning look.
"If we do return," the Guardian said seriously, "the patrol will be short one member."
"As difficult as it may be for you to believe," Orophin replied in a slightly testy manner, "we will survive lacking one member. If it distresses you so much," he added, "you can send a replacement or two when you arrive at the city."
Haldir looked as though he wished to tease his brother a while longer but thought better of it. He and Orophin had come to blows in the past regarding leadership responsibilities. Haldir was the senior Captain and Orophin still felt that his older brother was too protective of him, even though he was an experienced tracker and hardened warrior in his own right. The March Warden let this opportunity to grate on his brother's nerves go by. He knew that Orophin could handle the patrol on his own and it would be simple enough to send a replacement as his brother had suggested. It also helped that the idea of returning to Caras Galadhon greatly appealed to him. Meanwhile, Legolas flashed Orophin a winning smile.
"If you will excuse me," Orophin said, standing up. "I was due for my watch five minutes ago."
"Thank you for stopping by," Legolas said as he picked up another slice of fresh fruit that he brought to Haldir's mouth.
The Lórien Elf bowed slightly before turning around and walking to the rope ladder. As he descended the ladder, he couldn't help but notice that his brother had pulled the Prince onto his lap, even as Legolas continued to feed him another slice of fruit. Orophin suspected that he knew whom his brother intended to have for desert.
The Prince and the Guardian left the northern border shortly after lunch. Haldir consulted with his brother and the remaining Elves one last time, never letting on that he was eager to be off. Indeed, if one listened to the March Warden's parting instructions, one would have thought that his departure was a burden rather than a moment of joy. But Legolas knew better. As he solemnly watched Haldir, the Guardian's subdued gray eyes would light with a flash of anticipation whenever their eyes met, and the barest fey smile would ghost Legolas' own lips.
The two Elves did not tarry on their way back to the city, stopping only once at the mound of Cerin Amroth shortly before dusk. This time Legolas sped up the gray rope ladder that led to the white flet in the center of the circle of crowned trees with Haldir in hot pursuit. Before the Prince could pull the rope ladder up behind him, the Guardian had already climbed it and tackled the younger Elf onto the talan floor. A friendly scuffle ensued that ended with Haldir pinning the Prince to the floor.
The March Warden leaned over his lover and said, "Why do you give in and act submissive when I know that you are not?"
"Because I do not wish to fight you," Legolas answered, leaning upwards for a kiss. Haldir obliged by meeting the Prince halfway and promptly found himself on his back. "Battle is more than just a physical fight. It is a psychological state and I enjoy matching wits with you," Legolas whispered before kissing the Guardian again.
"Then you must be truly fearsome in battle," Haldir said breathlessly when the kiss ended. He ran his hand down Legolas' back, pausing to cup a firm buttock and then shifted his attentions to the growing bulge in between the Prince's legs. "I see that you are already armed," he noted with a smirk.
"You have also drawn your weapon," Legolas replied, rubbing his knee against Haldir's straining member. "Shall I sheathe you with my sword?" he asked, licking the tip of a pointed ear. "Or drink you like a fine wine?"
"Must we rush into combat so quickly?" the Guardian playfully chastised, pushing the Prince away. "Before battle and celebration, there are preparations to be done."
"And what would those preparations be?" Legolas asked innocently as he allowed Haldir to roll on top of him, reversing their positions again.
"Do you not know?" Haldir questioned. "I did not think Mirkwood education to be so sorely lacking," he continued while nimble fingers undid the laces of the Prince's tunic.
"Who better to teach me then, than a master of the arts?" Legolas said, his own hands traveling onto the Guardian's clothed chest. "What should we do first?"
"Weapons must be sharpened and oiled," Haldir answered, pulling off the Prince's tunic, "ensuring the smoothness of entry. But first they must be divested of their sheaths and scabbards so the beauty of their craft may be seen and scrutinized." The Prince's silver-gray shirt soon followed and the Guardian's eyes roamed over the younger Elf's finely sculpted chest.
"Do my assets meet with your approval?" Legolas asked coyly.
"They are satisfactory," Haldir replied.
"Satisfactory?" Legolas had to suppress a laugh. "Very well, Lórien Elf. Let us see what you have to show." In a swift movement, the Prince had the March Warden on his back again, straddling his waist as his hands set to work on the laces of the Guardian's tunic.
"You are very good at that," Haldir commented, slightly winded as Legolas stripped him of his upper clothes. Then the Prince laid his body over the Guardian's and Haldir instinctively wrapped his arms around the Mirkwood Elf, sharing their body warmth as a cool autumn breeze blew through the trees.
Legolas rested his chin on Haldir's chest and smiled. "What do we do next, O wise one?"
Haldir chuckled at the Prince's sarcastic tone. "I should punish you for your impudence," he said at last.
"Punish me?" Legolas repeated, eyes bright with expectation. "That sounds delightful. But perhaps we should save that for another time. There will be more than enough 'punishment' going on tonight."
"Indeed," the Guardian agreed, sobering slightly. "You should save your strength for tonight's activities."
Legolas sat up in shock. "Save my strength?" he exclaimed. "Do you doubt the famed stamina of your race?"
"Prove it to me then," Haldir challenged.
The March Warden was considerably sorer when he passed through the great gates of Caras Galadhon a few hours later, mildly thankful that he would not be doing the bulk of the 'punishing' that eve. The two Elves returned to Haldir's quarters to freshen themselves, just in time for the evening meal. As the Guardian sat behind the Prince and braided his hair, he noted how calm and at peace his lover was. No nervous tension or apprehension emanated from the Mirkwood Elf. Legolas was ready, and Haldir felt that tonight's experience would be beneficial for all. When the last braid was complete, Legolas turned around and smiled at him. They were sitting cross-legged in the middle of Haldir's bed.
"You should go now," the Guardian advised. "Otherwise you will be late."
"You are not coming with me?" Legolas said in surprise.
"No," Haldir answered. "I think it would be best if I saw to tonight's preparations. There are some materials that I need to find."
"You mean you do not have a spare set of chains lying about?" the Prince asked in mock shock.
Haldir arched an eyebrow. "We need more than two, remember?"
"Yes," Legolas agreed. "Do not forget the rope, the robes and the wine, especially the wine. And you need to find someplace secluded, where screams cannot be heard, or at the very least muffled."
Haldir shrugged. "We could always gag him."
"True." The Prince smiled. "But he has such a lovely mouth. We should put it to better use."
"As you wish."
Legolas slid to the side of the bed, where he put on his lights boots and then stood up. "I shall see you later then?"
"Under the stars," Haldir answered. With a last smile, the Prince left the room.
The Fellowship was overjoyed to see their companion again, even though Legolas had only been gone for a few days. The Prince received a welcoming hug from each of the Hobbits and a small word of reprimand from Pippin, who chastised him for leaving so abruptly without giving leave.
"But I have returned just as quickly and unexpectedly," Legolas argued good-naturedly. "Doesn't the swiftness and suddenness of my return make up for my departure?"
Pippin thought this over for a moment and then said quite firmly, "No."
The Elf laughed. "Then I shall make it up to you, Peregrin Took," he declared.
The booming voice of the Dwarf greeted them from behind as Gimli said, "Our companion is an Elf of his word. I did not think that I would live to see the day!" The Dwarf stood in front of his fair friend with his hands on his hips as he appraised the Elf. Then he raised his bushy eyebrows. "I trust all is well?" he inquired.
"It is very well," Legolas answered.
"And who do you have to thank for that?" Gimli prodded.
The Prince bent down and dropped his voice as he said, "The weather."
The Dwarf let out a loud guffaw, while Pippin shook his head. He thought Elves and Dwarves were both strange creatures. The Hobbit was convinced that his two companions spoke their own language when they were together. It merely sounded like the Common Tongue.
Boromir approached the Elf next and greeted him with a firm warrior's handshake that Legolas returned; gently squeezing the Man's shoulder with his other hand.
"It is good to see you, Boromir," Legolas said warmly. "How do you fare?"
"I am well, Legolas," Boromir answered. "The ways of your people are still strange to me," he admitted, "but Lothlórien is both beautiful and mysterious, and here I have found a measure of peace."
"That is as it should be," Legolas said, holding the Man's gaze for a moment. He saw nothing but kindness and nobility in the gray eyes and was pleased. He released Boromir's arm and turned to face Aragorn who stood a little to the side.
As Legolas walked towards the Ranger, Aragorn extended his arm in the same warrior's greeting that Boromir had just done. Once again, the Prince grasped the proffered forearm, but instead of maintaining the formal cordiality, the Elf pulled the Man into a warm embrace. The Ranger was completely taken by surprise and it took a moment for him to return the gesture, hesitantly at first, then with genuine sincerity.
"We should talk later," the Elf whispered as they broke apart.
Aragorn was disarmed by the Prince's enchanting smile. There was something different about Legolas tonight, as though the friend he once knew had come back to him. It warmed his heart and he nodded in return.
The evening meal proved to be quite entertaining as the Company was in high spirits. It dawned on each member of the Fellowship that they only felt whole when they were together; that the bonds that had been forged among them were deep and strong. For the first time, Legolas sat next to Aragorn. This, together with the Elf's unusually affectionate greeting should have raised the Man's suspicions, but the Ranger was too happy in the Prince's change of demeanor to care. It also helped that Legolas kept refilling his wine goblet before it could even become half empty. At the end of the meal, as the others went their separate ways for more food and song or to retire for the night, the Elf and the Ranger found themselves alone at the table.
Legolas sighed in contentment and glanced up at the twinkling canopy of stars. They succinctly reminded him of something and he smiled to himself.
"You have had quite a bit of wine tonight," the Elf commented, but this remark did not prevent him from refilling the Man's goblet yet again. Then he poured the remainder of the wine into his own goblet before turning to face the Ranger. "I think a walk would be a good idea for us both," he suggested, standing up elegantly and waiting for the Man to follow suit.
"Mustn't forget the wine," Aragorn added, picking up his goblet as he stood up. "We should not let it go to waste."
Legolas smiled inwardly. It was working to his advantage that the Ranger had grown so fond of Lórien wine. He is also fighting old demons, the Elf concluded as the pair made their way into the woods. However, the Prince would see to it that his old friend no longer faced his demons alone.
When the March Warden entered what he now considered to be the infamous clearing of revelations, he found the Prince and the Ranger exactly where he expected them to be, sitting at the base of the large mallorn tree where the three of them had met on that first night in Caras Galadhon. Haldir shook his head as he approached the two. So much had changed since then, but it still strangely felt the same. Perhaps it was because he brought a bottle of wine with him, another one of his 'special' home brews; perhaps it was because Legolas was still carrying out his dastardly plan and this time he had a willing accomplice; perhaps it was because he knew that the game was not finished yet, but after this night, the rules would be forever changed.
"Haldir!" Legolas waved him over, eyes shining brightly.
"I have been looking for you," the Guardian replied as he joined them, sitting down next to the Prince.
"Well, you have found me then. Us," Legolas corrected, glancing at the Ranger. "It is fortunate that you have found us," he continued, "because Aragorn is in need of more wine and I do believe that you are carrying a bottle of his vice."
"A bottle of my vice?" Aragorn repeated, laughing. "It shall not be for long, I assure you. Since you have brought it up, Legolas," he continued, "you have been remarkably helpful in keeping my cup full tonight. One might even say that you are trying to get me drunk."
The Prince arched an eyebrow. "What a novel idea," he commented, giving Haldir a sideways wink as he opened the bottle.
"Is this another one of your home brews?" Aragorn asked the March Warden as Legolas filled his cup to the brim.
"As a matter of fact, it is," Haldir answered, watching intently as the Man sipped the wine. The taste met the Ranger's approval and Aragorn took a deeper draught. "It is more potent than the previous wine you sampled," the Guardian added, glancing at Legolas.
The Prince was also watching the Ranger intently and his smile grew wider as the Man took two more deep gulps, emptying almost half the goblet.
"Aye, that is true," Aragorn agreed, "but it is a fine wine. I thank you for sharing this with us. You are truly an Elf of many talents, Haldir," he praised.
"An Elf of many talents," Legolas repeated mischievously, quickly refilling the Man's goblet.
Aragorn continued to drink his wine as the Elves carried on the light conversation. He was too content to notice that Haldir had not brought a glass for himself, or that Legolas did not touch the wine. It was not long before he felt his eyelids grow heavy. He wished to excuse himself from their company, but his mouth refused to co-operate. Sleep was rapidly coming over him. The last thing he remembered was Legolas' lovely face and the Elf's concerned voice drifting from far away to ask if he was feeling all right.
When the Ranger came to, he was greeted with a throbbing head. The evening's events came rushing back to him, in particular the amount of wine he had drunk and he inwardly groaned. He did not know what had come over him; he was normally very disciplined when it came to that sort of indulgence, but Lothlórien had a way of bringing down his defenses. He would merely sleep this off and probably feel considerably worse in the morning.
Aragorn meant to stand up and return to the pavilion, but found that he couldn't. In fact, he was no longer at the clearing he vaguely remembered. Instead, he was in a room that he did not recognize, sitting in a chair with his ankles securely bound to the two front chair legs and his arms tied behind him. After futilely struggling against his bonds for a moment, he opened his mouth to call out, only to discover that he had been gagged. The Man groaned in frustration. Who would be devious enough to do this to him? he wondered. The answer came quickly -- Legolas.
As if on cue, the Elf appeared from somewhere to his left and stood in front of the glaring Man. Aragorn's consternation only served to widen the devilish grin on the Prince's face.
"Aragorn," Legolas said in his loveliest voice, "you look most displeased. No doubt you are wondering where you are and what you are doing here. This," he said with a wave of his hand, "is Orophin's bedchamber. He does not know that we are borrowing his room for the night, but Haldir assures me that his brother will not mind. It is further away from the heart of the city and we are less likely to be disturbed." Legolas walked towards the Man and eased himself into the Ranger's lap, placing his hands on the backrest on either side of Aragorn's head. He leaned forward and whispered, "I wanted someplace secluded for tonight's activities."
"Teasing him already?" a voice behind them asked.
Aragorn could not see the March Warden, but he could feel the Elf's presence. Legolas' eyes lit up at the sound of the Guardian's voice and he looked up with an impish smile on his face.
"I cannot resist," the Prince admitted. "It is a rare sight to see the King of Men bound this way and at our mercy. Rather delightful, if I do say so myself." Then he returned his attention to the still-seething Man. "Now that you know where you are, I shall tell you why you are here."
Legolas paused for dramatic effect and Haldir had to stifle a laugh. Who knew that the Prince could be so theatrical? Together they would put on a memorable show.
"I wish to make my peace with you," Legolas began gravely, eyes growing serious, "as I should have done many years ago." Then he leaned forward again and whispered in the Ranger's ear, "But before peace comes punishment, and I have not forgotten the bargain that you made upon entering the Golden Wood."
"Yes, Dúnadan," Haldir's silky voice whispered in the Ranger's other ear. "You remember our wager and the gauntlet that you threw down to me. Would you like to see the consequences of your actions?"
Aragorn felt that he had little choice in the matter as Legolas stood up and Haldir joined his lover, both Elves standing no more than five paces from the bound man. The Prince stood facing the Ranger, as calm and regal as the Man could ever remember seeing his old friend. Behind Legolas stood Haldir, a familiar glint in the Guardian's eye that Aragorn recognized from that first fateful day.
"This," Haldir said, hands running down the Prince's slim frame, "was the price that you paid for passage through the Golden Wood. It is easy to look upon such beauty and be overcome with a desire to possess it, to objectify it as another conquest. That was my mistake."
Legolas remained silent, giving no indication that Haldir's words had affected him in any way. Distant and aloof, the Mirkwood Elf directed his full attention at the Man and Aragorn felt the weight of his gaze.
"But your crime, Dúnadan," Haldir continued, "was far worse. I have been punished for my shallow narrow-mindedness, but you - you betrayed the trust of one of your companions, the trust of your first love. I know that it was desperation that lead you to do it," the Guardian added. "We are not here to judge, but to learn from the consequences of our actions." The March Warden paused and a wicked smile graced his golden features.
"Lesson number one," he began, "you must see what it is that you bartered."
With these words, the Guardian undid the laces of the Prince's tunic, discarding the forest green material. Legolas held him arms to the side as Haldir unfastened the clasps on his leather gauntlets and the arm braces fell to the floor without a sound. Then Haldir slipped his hands under the Prince's silver gray shirt before pulling the light fabric over his head. Legolas' hair fell perfectly back into place, settling over his shoulders and back as though they had never been disturbed. Haldir rested his hands on the Prince's waist and caught the Ranger's eye.
"Lesson number two," he continued, "you must remember that beneath this beauty, there is a being capable of great love and passion."
The March Warden pulled the Prince's flaxen mane over his left shoulder and kissed the column of exposed neck. Legolas titled his head and closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of Haldir's soft lips against his skin. Hands roamed across his chest and torso; Legolas' heartbeat quickened as Haldir traveled deeper, drawing lazy circles on his pelvic bone, massaging the sensitive juncture between pelvis and thigh, finally resting his hand on the growing bulge in between the Prince's legs.
"Lesson number three," Haldir said, cupping the straining flesh in his hand, "there is no shame in submitting to those you love."
Then the Guardian moved in front of the other Elf and knelt before him, opening the Prince's breeches and taking Legolas' length into his mouth. Legolas gasped as the moist, warm mouth surrounded him, and his hand inadvertently fell on the Guardian's shoulder as Haldir increased his pace, alternately massaging the shaft with his tongue and teasing the slit at the tip. The Prince's grip on the Guardian's shoulder grew painfully tight and Haldir reluctantly stopped his actions. The Lórien Elf looked up and met the Prince's indigo eyes and knew exactly what Legolas wished to do.
Haldir stood up gracefully as Legolas took hold of his hand. He did not remain on his feet for long as Legolas pulled them both to the floor, lying lengthwise to ensure that the Ranger had the best possible view. Haldir crouched at the Prince's feet and removed his lightweight boots, then moved up the Elf's slender frame to pull the breeches off the Prince's raised hips. Legolas turned his head to meet Aragorn's eyes. The gray orbs had turned black with desire, devouring the naked figure before him. Legolas had not changed since their time together and in the candle-lit room the Elf's body became even more enticingly beautiful.
"Lesson number four," Haldir said, drawing the Man's attention to the Guardian's actions once more, "pleasuring the one you love is a reward in itself."
Haldir lifted the Prince's left leg and began nibbling on Legolas' ankle, working his way up with gentle kisses and nips as he draped the Prince's leg over his shoulder, finally reaching his desired goal. He paused for a moment to give Legolas a wicked smile before diving down and engulfing the neglected organ with his welcoming mouth. The Prince arched into the tight heat of Haldir's throat. The Guardian had taken him impossibly deep and he knew that he would not last for long. He reached down and ran his hands through Haldir's silky hair. The Lórien Elf did not need guidance; he knew exactly how to please his lover, but Legolas wished to prolong the experience and so he attempted to slow the pace.
Aragorn watched their intimate activities with a growing desire to participate, or at the very least, to relieve himself of his own passion. But the Elves had bound him securely to his chair, making his struggles ineffectual. Heat had pooled in his groin as the Guardian had slowly stripped the Prince of his clothes, and by the time Haldir had taken Legolas into this mouth, Aragorn's own erection had grown uncomfortably tight within his breeches. Watching the golden Elves now, the Ranger would have cried out with frustration, if only he had not been gagged. As it was, his breathing sounded harsh and heavy to his ears. He ached to be touched. To his over-sensitized flesh, a single touch would have granted him release.
Legolas was also nearing his peak and as Haldir increased his pace, the Prince could hold back no longer, spilling his seed into the Guardian's mouth as he murmured nonsensical Elvish phrases. He continued to run his fingers through Haldir's hair as the Guardian released his softening flesh, patiently licking him clean, before moving up to kiss the Prince. Legolas welcomed the kiss, running his hands up and down Haldir's clothed back, even as he tasted himself in their kiss.
"You have not yet relieved yourself," Legolas whispered when the kiss ended, feeling a distinct hardness against his inner thigh.
"Later,' Haldir said in return. "We must take care of Aragorn first."
The Man in question had not seen the Elves kiss; shutting his eyes the minute Legolas had reached his peak. The scene had become too unbearable to watch. He sat with his eyes still closed, concentrating on curbing his own ragged breathing. Therefore, the image of the two golden Elves was the last thing he remembered before a strong acidic smell was placed under his nose and he lost conscious for the second time that night.
When Aragorn regained consciousness, a feeling of déjà vu washed over him. The softly lit candle-filled room attested to the fact that it was still night, but instead of being strapped to the chair that he vividly remembered, he was lying stark naked on a large, soft bed. His limbs felt numb and when he tried to move, he discovered that he was still bound, spread eagle fashioned onto the four posts of the great bed. It appeared that the punishment was not yet over. Aragorn continued to test the strength of his bonds in order to find out how much mobility he had been given this time.
"Do not struggle," a familiar voice said gently. "You will only hurt yourself. They are mithril chains."
Legolas came into view wearing one of the silver-gray Lórien robes that highlighted the tiny flecks of silver in his clear blue eyes. He sat on the bed next to the chained Man and smiled.
"How do you feel?" the Elf asked.
"As well as can be expected," the Ranger replied, "for someone who has been drugged, bound to a chair, forced to witness a lascivious act, drugged again and now chained to a bed." The Man ended his rebuke with a fierce glare.
"At least I have removed your gag," Legolas said in his calm manner, unperturbed by the Man's hostile response.
"How very kind of you," Aragorn said sarcastically.
"Aragorn," Legolas said, lilting the Man's name, "your punishment is over. You need not be so upset. I am making my peace with you."
"You have an odd way of making peace, Legolas," the Ranger answered, jerking one of his chains to emphasize his point.
"What have you learnt?" Legolas asked, ignoring the Man's previous comment. "The lessons," the Elf prodded when the Ranger did not respond. "Lesson number one," the Prince started and then stopped, waiting for the Man to finish his sentence.
"I must see what it is I bartered," Aragorn answered in spite of himself.
As if obeying a command, the Elf stood up and untied his robe, allowing it to slip to the floor and pool at his feet. He too was naked underneath it.
"Lesson number two," the Prince continued.
"Beneath this beauty is a being capable of great love and passion," the Ranger finished, waiting with baited breath as the Elf slid onto the bed and straddled the Man's waist.
"Lesson number three?"
"There is no shame in submitting to those you love."
Legolas lay down and rested his chin on top of his clasped hands as he looked intently at the Man.
"That is the reason behind the chains, Estel," the Prince explained, reverting to the name that Aragorn had gone by in his youth. "Tonight you will submit to me and everything I do, I do to please you. Lesson number four: pleasuring the one you love is a reward in itself."
"Do you love me, Legolas?"
"I never stopped," the Elf whispered.
The Man closed his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat. For too long had he wondered where the Elf's affections lay. How he wished that he could relive the past and forget about the quest that was before them. His time with Legolas had been short but it had been pure bliss. He wished that it had not ended that way. He wanted the Elf to know that he had never taken the Prince's love for granted, nor thrown it away so thoughtlessly, though his actions conveyed otherwise. As if reading the Man's thoughts, Legolas placed a finger over the Ranger's lips.
"We will not speak about that now," he said. "Tonight is about remembrance. It is about celebrating what we once shared - a love so strong and pure that it consumed and ultimately ruined me. Do not fret, Estel," Legolas assured, seeing the worry in the Man's eyes. "From the ruins of our past, a new foundation is being built and it will stand the test of time. In a way," the Elf chuckled softly, "I have your indiscretion to thank for it." Legolas smiled warmly and let his head rest on the Ranger's broad chest. "Do you still think of us?" he asked.
"I often think of us," Aragorn answered. "Our estrangement has been a constant distraction during this quest. I have missed your friendship, your counsel and your comforting presence."
"You shall have them again," Legolas promised. "I am here to help you, Estel, not add to your burdens. But tell me," he said, "do you remember how it once was between us?"
"I remember vividly."
"What do you remember?"
"I remember long summer days and warm winter nights. I remember archery lessons and hunting trips; sleeping under the stars and bathing in clear pools."
"It is good to know that you do remember that," the Elf cut it, "for I have found your personal hygiene to be sorely lacking during our quest. To make matters worse, you have acquired that filthy habit of smoking pipe weed!"
The Man began to laugh. "Yes," he agreed. "It is very relaxing."
The Elf looked up with an expression of clear distaste. "I doubt that it is more relaxing than one of my massages."
"Ah," the Ranger sighed, drifting into another pleasant memory. "I do remember those."
"What else do you remember?"
"I remember waking up beside you and being showered by kisses. I remember your scent, the smell of fresh spring and morning dew. I remember your touch and how you could arouse me with the slightest action."
As Aragorn spoke, Legolas lifted himself off the Man's chest and began kissing a line across the Ranger's collarbone.
"I remember your hands," the Man continued. "Such skilled and knowing hands that caressed and mapped every part of my body."
At these words, the Elf sat up and ran his hands down the Man's chest, traveling back up his sides, bending over to lovingly massage the Ranger's pinned arms.
"I remember your mouth," Aragorn said, "and your soft lips grazing over my body."
Legolas smiled as he kissed a chained wrist and then worked his way down the Man's right arm, pausing to rub his cheek against Aragorn's rough beard.
"I remember that you were fascinated with my facial hair," the Ranger mused, "and the hair on my body. You called it fur!" he said, laughing gently.
The Elf also chuckled lightly as he kissed the Man's neck and then moved downwards, skimming over the nipples with his teeth, letting his tongue tangle with the slight 'fur' on Aragorn's chest. All the while, his hands continued their exploratory actions, quickly remembering all of his former lover's sensitive spots such as the point just above the Man's left hip, the minor pressure extended on his right shoulder blade and the small of his back, making Aragorn pliant and willing under his touch. Legolas smiled to himself as he took a nipple into his mouth and sucked gently, causing the Man to let out a long moan. He had not even gone below the Ranger's waist yet!
"Tell me, Estel," Legolas breathed, releasing the nipple and shifting lower. "What else do you remember?"
"I remember how you liked to tease," Aragorn said with a sigh as Legolas nipped his hip bone and moved lower, purposely avoiding his now aching shaft. The Elf's hands followed, running along the Ranger's muscular legs, easing the knots in Aragorn's calves as Legolas continued to kiss the inside of the Man's thigh. Aragorn shifted underneath him, trying to bring his erection into contact with the Elf, but Legolas persistently paid attention to any area but the Man's straining organ.
"Legolas," the Ranger said urgently.
"I remember," the Man continued breathlessly, "that when I could take no more of your teasing, you would relieve me."
Obeying the unspoken command, the Elf swiftly took the large organ in his mouth, sucking gently. Aragorn arched into the wet heat, feeling the mild pressure of Legolas' hands on his hips as the Elf pushed him back onto the bed. Just as quickly as Aragorn had been engulfed, the Elf pulled away and the Man cried out in disappointment.
"Why do you stop?" he exclaimed.
"How can I continue when I do not know what it is that you remember?" Legolas asked, arching an eyebrow.
Aragorn wanted to laugh. How he had missed this playful lovemaking! It was so unlike the chaste kisses and peaceful moments that he shared with his betrothed. Legolas had always been fire and passion and both had not cooled with the passing of seasons. A wicked smile of his own crept across the Man's face as he spoke again.
"I remember how you would take me into your mouth," he began. "A little at a time, until I could feel silky hair brushing against my thighs. I remember your tongue as it wrapped around my flesh, milking it with your motions. I remember how you would start slowly and then increase your pace."
Legolas followed the Man's instructions as he gave them, making it increasingly difficult for Aragorn to think, let alone speak.
"Teeth," he murmured, "I remember the gentle scrape of teeth, threatening pain but only giving pleasure. I remember that tightening feeling as I neared my peak. Your throat," he whispered, as the Elf took him even deeper. "I remember spilling so deep within you that you had no choice but to swallow my seed."
Indeed, Legolas had taken the Man impossibly deep, almost to the point of gagging. He knew that Aragorn would come soon and timing it perfectly, he let the Man's seed slide down his throat, not even tasting its salt and bitterness.
Aragorn lay panting on the bed, dark brown hair moist with sweat against his forehead and face. It had been too long since he had been pleasured in this way. Legolas moved up the bed and rested his chin on the Ranger's chest, resuming his former position and smiling at the contented Man.
"You remember well, Estel," Legolas said approvingly.
"I may not have the perfect memory of the Eldar," Aragorn replied, "but that is not all I remember."
"No?" the Elf inquired.
"I remember your kiss," the Man said seriously, watching as a shadow flitted across the Elf's clear eyes. Knowing what this simple gesture meant to Legolas, he did not expect a response. Therefore, nothing could have pleased him more when the Prince leaned forward and pressed his lips against the Man, gently at first, and then with greater pressure.
Open for me, Aragorn thought silently, not wishing to frighten Legolas away. The bold flick of his tongue was all the incentive Legolas needed to open his mouth and slide his tongue against the Man's. The kiss deepened and Aragorn pulled his chains in his desire to wrap his arms around the Elf. To his disappointment, Legolas broke away.
"You will hurt yourself," the Elf said with concern.
"I want to touch you," the Man insisted.
"Later," Legolas promised, eyes dark with renewed passion and Aragorn knew that the Elf was not yet through with his game. "Do you know what I remember?" Legolas whispered hotly into his ear. "I remember what it was like to touch that part of you that no one else had touched before; to show you pleasure that you did not think existed. I remember what it felt like to be inside you, driving to completion, filling you, burning you, making you scream. Do you remember this?" The Elf drew away to look into the Man's eyes and gauge his reaction.
"I remember," Aragorn replied. It had been many years and he had not lain with another male since his time with Legolas.
The Prince could see the slight apprehension in the gray eyes and guessed the reason behind it. The Ranger would not refuse him, but he did not want the Man to feel pressured. The Elf decided to try another avenue.
"Do you remember what it felt like to be inside me?" he asked, brushing his lips against the Man's. "To be welcomed by tightness and heat unlike anything that you have experienced before; to touch the core of my very being? To be one with me?" Legolas paused. "Should I remind you?"
"Perhaps you should," Aragorn said softly, hesitantly, his voice nevertheless laced with desire. He had grown hard again while listening to the Elf speak, images of their time together filling his mind. He understood that this would be their last night together; that when the Fellowship left Lothlórien they would journey together not as lovers, but as friends - the closest and most loyal of friends. This was what Legolas meant by making peace with his former lover and Aragorn would not deny them this final union. "Let me come inside you, Legolas," he asked tenderly. "Will you grant me this last gift?"
"Yes, Aragorn. I will."
The Prince reached over and picked up a small corked bottle on the bedside table. He opened it and poured a lavish amount of oil onto the palm of his hand. With a fey smile, he kissed the Man again and reached in between their bodies to grasp the Ranger's firm shaft. Legolas coated Aragorn liberally with smooth and even strokes as their tongues continued to tangle. At last, the Elf pulled away and locked eyes with the Man as he shifted downwards, preparing to impale himself on the hard shaft. He knew that this would hurt for Aragorn was well-endowed and there had been no opportunity to properly stretch his narrow passage, but he pushed these thoughts aside. They were unimportant given the significance of the act. It seemed fitting somehow, that his last union with Aragorn would be marked by pain - the history of their relationship was shadowed by it and would continue to be. Pain at their bitter parting, pain at the knowledge of the Man's mortality, grief at Aragorn's eventual passing. Legolas had chosen a bitter love, but he would not abandon it.
Grasping the Man's hips, Legolas eased himself down. He looked away, golden hair hiding his face. He did not wish for Aragorn to see the grimace that marred his features. He lifted himself and pushed down again, repeating the motion several times until Aragorn groaned when he was completely inside the Elf. Legolas leaned forward for another kiss, giving his body time to adjust to the considerable girth within him and Aragorn met him as far as his chains would allow. For a moment, the Ranger considered asking the Elf to release him from his shackles, but decided against it. There was something unbearably erotic about being completely at the Prince's mercy. It had never been this way between them before and it would never be again. Deep down inside, Aragorn knew that this was Legolas' ultimate gift and punishment. The Dúnadan was being offered the forbidden fruit and after tasting it for the last time, his future with Legolas would be sealed.
The Prince could see the torn emotions in the Man's gray eyes and he said softly as he drew away, "Do not be sad. We are ending, but we are also starting anew. I will always be with you, Elessar."
The Elf drew out the Man's name and Aragorn could feel the weight of his destiny surrounding and enveloping them. Never before had Legolas spoken that name, and to hear its syllables caressed by the Elf's beautiful voice gave him strength. Whatever challenges remained on their path, they would face them together and the Ranger took comfort in that.
Legolas had begun to move, instantly setting Aragorn's body aflame. The Elf set a deliberately languorous pace, removing one hand from the Man's hip to stroke his own shaft in time with his movements. The pressure of an added weight made the bed sink deeper.
"Let me do that for you," a voice whispered in the Prince's ear.
Legolas let his head fall back on the Guardian's shoulder as Haldir pressed his body against the other Elf, one hand taking up the actions on the Prince's shaft, the other wrapped around his waist to steady him. Legolas was driving deeper now, seeking that spot inside him that would make him scream. When the Elf cried out, both his lovers knew that he had found it.
Aragorn watched the two Elves as though from a dream. His senses were heightened and Legolas' sweat-sheened skin seemed luminescent in the candlelight. The slighter Elf was being embraced by the Guardian, who was nibbling along the column of the Prince's neck, never ceasing his actions on the Prince's shaft. They were so beautiful together. So perfect. No jealousy clouded his heart, only love. He felt his sacs tighten as his orgasm steadily built within him and with a great shout he came. Legolas came soon after and he let himself rest against the Guardian, turning his head for a kiss. Aragorn was completely spent, still trembling from his release. He felt very tired and the desire to sleep was overwhelming him. As his eyelids closed, he could see the Elves kissing tenderly and he felt at peace.
Aragorn turned over in his sleep. There was a warm body next to him and he instinctively snuggled against it, wrapping his arm around it and pulling the person closer. He buried his face in silky, long hair and inhaled deeply. A woodsy fragrance mixed with the fresh scent of morning dew entered the Ranger's nostrils triggering a familiar memory. Legolas.
Instantly, Aragorn opened his eyes. It was still dark and this was no dream. The Prince indeed lay beside him, sleeping peacefully. The Man tried to piece together his fragmented memories. The evening had begun with Legolas' welcome return and the merry dinner; a walk, Haldir's appearance, a bottle of wine. Events quickly degenerated from there. He remembered the chair and the bonds, the Elves' little show, the bed and the chains. Now he laid here, the soreness around his wrists and the dull ache around his joints, a testament to their previous acts. None of that mattered as long as Legolas lay in his arms. He wished that he could suspend time and live in this moment forever.
"I cannot bear to have you leave me," the Man said so faintly that he thought he had only mouthed the words.
"Where am I going?"
The Ranger smiled ruefully. The Elf was awake. He should have known better.
"We will be separated one day," Aragorn answered sadly. "Whether it is through my mortality or the call of the sea."
Legolas turned around so that he could look at his lover. "The Sea does not call me, Aragorn."
"Perhaps not at this time," the Ranger conceded, "but it may in the future. I have heard that once the sea-longing strikes a chord within the heart of a Wood Elf, they will not find peace until they heed its call. To ignore it would drive them to madness and despair."
"That shall not be my fate," Legolas assured him.
"No," Aragorn agreed, "but neither do I believe that it is your fate to fade in these lands with the last of your kin. Your beauty and light must live on, Legolas. One day you will sail over Sea."
The Elf thought for a moment before speaking. "I promise you, Aragorn," he said solemnly, "that day shall not come until you leave these lands. Should the sea-longing reach my heart, I shall silence it to remain with you. It will not drive me to madness for I will only find peace when you are at peace. That is the path I have chosen."
The Prince brushed away the moisture that had gathered in the Ranger's eyes with his fingers before leaning up to kiss him. "Sleep now," he whispered, holding the Man close. "I will be here when you wake."
Aragorn soon fell into a deep sleep, wrapped in the arms of a being he loved dearly. Though the road before them was dark and uncertain, hope still remained. The burden of his destiny had been lightened and together with it the burden on his heart. Whatever the future held for them, he knew that Legolas would always be there.
Legolas was indeed there when the Man awoke and the Elf was not alone. The Prince had let the Ranger sleep in after the Man's exhausting night, but the enticing smell of smoked ham and fresh fruit juice began to invade Aragorn's dreams. As the breakfast aroma continued to urge him to consciousness, the sound of soft, musical voices could be heard. He shifted restlessly, finally opening his eyes and immediately focusing on a small plate of fruit. He reached over and picked up a berry. Legolas loved berries.
"Finally awake?" a voice asked teasingly.
Aragorn looked up and saw the Prince's lovely face. Legolas was leaning against the carved headboard, wearing the silver-gray Lórien robe from the night before, picking from the plate of berries that he had placed on the pillow beside the Man.
"He is entitled to sleep in after last night's activities," another voice answered, "especially since you are the cause of his fatigue."
Aragorn did not have to turn around to know that Haldir sat on the other side of him.
"Then he must regain his strength," the Prince declared, picking up an ornate tray that had been placed on the bedside table and putting it before the Man. The tray had been the source of the delicious morning smells.
"What is this?" the Ranger asked in surprise.
"Breakfast in bed," Legolas answered. "It was Haldir's idea," he added, giving the Guardian a warm smile.
Aragorn sat up and examined the contents of the tray before saying to Haldir, "You will spoil him."
"He is already spoiled," the Guardian said dryly.
Legolas narrowed his eyes slightly. "Eat up," he told the Man, slipping out of bed. "There is still time for a late morning walk and Gimli is expecting us."
"He is also used to getting his own way," Aragorn remarked, ignoring the Prince.
"The youngest child of a royal Elven family," Haldir agreed. "It is not surprising."
Legolas stood by the bed looking at this two loves with his arms crossed. "I am going to bathe," he announced, "and then I shall meet Gimli for a walk. You may join us if you wish," he said, his tone and expression leaving them with little choice. Then he turned around and left the room.
The Ranger and the Guardian exchanged amused looks. They knew that the Prince would get his way again this morning.
The Fellowship's last few days at Caras Galadhon were spent peacefully. Although each knew that their time at the fair Elven city was drawing to a close, none spoke of it. Legolas and Haldir often disappeared for long periods of time, reemerging for the evening meal looking flushed and content. The Prince still went on his morning walks with the Dwarf, with the Guardian and occasionally the Ranger, joining them.
On the eve of the Fellowship's departure, they were called before the Lord and the Lady once more. The choice was put before them whether to continue their journey or remain in Caras Galadhon to wait for the final end. It was resolved that the Company would go forward, though which course they would take, onwards to Minas Tirith or across the Great River's eastern shore to Mordor, remained undecided. In order to help them as much as possible, Lord Celeborn gave them swift, light boats for the river Anduin now lay on their path and this gladdened the Company's hearts; while Lady Galadriel bid them to rest and not to worry overmuch about the road ahead.
Nevertheless, after the Company left their presence, they called a council of their own. They debated long over what they should do and what would be the best means to fulfill their purpose, yet still came to no decision. At long last, Boromir declared that he would go to Minas Tirith to aid his people, alone if need be. Silence greeted this statement and at length, the Captain of Gondor spoke again in a hushed voice as though he were speaking to himself. The Man was deeply troubled and he broke off his train of speech before he could finish, realizing that he spoke his thoughts aloud. Only Frodo and Legolas heard his words, for the hour was late and the others had already drifted off to sleep or were preparing for bed. The Halfling looked hard at the Man, seeing something strange and new in his glance. Legolas turned his attention to Aragorn, who remained deep in thought in his own divided mind and had not heard Boromir's words.
When everyone else had gone to sleep, the Elf tapped the Ranger on the shoulder and beckoned the Man to follow him. Aragorn stood up silently and the two companions left the pavilion.
"Where are we going?" the Man asked when they were out of earshot of the others.
"To a place where we can enjoy the beauty of Lórien one last time; a place where you may smoke in peace," the Elf couldn't help but add cheekily. "Come," the Prince encouraged, grasping the Ranger's hand firmly, "do not be troubled tonight. It is as the Lady Galadriel said. Our path has already been laid out before us, but we cannot yet see the way. It shall be revealed to us in due time."
Legolas led them to the eastern part of the city through silent paths and walkways until he came to a magnificent tree, whose boughs were crowned by the moon's pale light. Legolas began to climb the tree, expecting Aragorn to follow him.
"There is no ladder," the Elf said, "but the way is not difficult. The branches are wide and the footholds secure. Come!" he called again.
Aragorn had climbed many trees in his youth, usually at the encouragement of a certain Elf whom he was following now. Legolas climbed quickly above him, heading for an especially large branch on the left where a figure sat leaning against the tree's broad trunk, one leg dangling over the side. The Elf held out his hand as Legolas neared him and the Prince grasped it, easily sliding into Haldir's lap. The Ranger looked about him and decided to settle on a large branch beside the two Elves. He eased himself onto it and relaxed against the tree trunk, legs stretched out on the wide branch. He turned his head to the right and smiled at his companions.
The view was magnificent. The city of Caras Galadhon was stretched out before them, lit with myriad lanterns and crowned with soft twilight. Gentle voices filled the air as though the inhabitants were serenading their visiting guests to sleep. A contented Ranger pulled out his pipe and lit it, blowing a series of smoke rings into the night. Legolas leaned over and squeezed the Man's shoulder comfortingly. It almost felt as if Mithrandir were watching over them that night.
The following morning, while the Fellowship readied themselves, Elves who could speak the Common Tongue came to them bringing gifts of food and clothing. Gimli was delighted to discover that the 'cram' the Elves brought turned out to be a wonderfully delicious form of waybread that the Galadhrim called lembas.
"This is better than the honeycakes of the Beornings," the Dwarf declared, eating his cake with relish. "That is a great compliment indeed, for the Beornings are the finest bakers that I know of. You are generous hosts."
The Elves laughed and thanked the Dwarf, while Merry and Pippin examined the cakes skeptically. They had sampled some of the lembas earlier and found the bread to be tasty, but not overly filling. Legolas approached them and said with a wink, "One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man." The two young Hobbits exchanged looks of concern, certain that the stomachs would burst before noon.
Next the Elves unwrapped the clothes they had brought, which consisted of a hood and cloak made according to the size and shape of each member of the Company. It was made from the light silken material worn by the Galadhrim, taking on the green of the leaves or the gray twilight hue of the trees as the cloak was shifted in the morning light.
"You are high in the favor of the Lady," one of the Elves said as they fastened the cloaks onto the members of the Fellowship, "for she and her handmaidens made these clothes themselves."
"Never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people," another Elf added.
The Galadhrim stepped away from the Company once their cloaks had been fastened, except for the Guardian who remained in front of the Prince. Haldir's long fingers lingered over the broach at the base of Legolas' throat. Unlike the other Lórien broaches shaped in the form of delicate green leaves with silver veins, Haldir had given Legolas his own broach of green and gold with a jewel set at its center. The Prince covered the Guardian's hand with his own and squeezed it, leaning over to press his lips against Haldir's. They did not mind that the others watched and when the chaste kiss ended, Haldir stepped back in line with the Galadhrim and together the Lórien Elves bowed before their guests.
After the morning meal, the Fellowship gathered by the fountain to say farewell. Haldir came striding across the wide lawn, for he would be their guide once again to the river's shores. He slipped his hand through the Mirkwood Elf's and much like the time when he had led the Company to Caras Galadhon, two golden Elves walked at the head of the line through the city's green ways. The paths were empty, but above them could be heard the sound of murmuring and singing voices. Haldir led them down the southern slopes, past the great gate and across the white bridge onto the paved road. Eventually, they turned away from the road and entered a deep thicket of mallorn trees and passed on through rolling woodlands leading ever southwards towards the Great River.
The Company had walked some ten miles and noon was at hand before they came upon a high green wall. Passing through it, they entered a long lawn of shining grass studded with golden elanor. Before them the lawn ran out into a tongue, dividing the Silverlode on the right and west of the shore from the Great River that ran on the left and east. On the bank of the Silverlode, some way further up, was a hythe of white stones and white wood. Here boats and ships of all sizes were moored. Beside them, three small gray boats had been prepared for the travelers.
The Fellowship was arranged so that Aragorn was in one boat with Frodo and Sam; Boromir, Merry and Pippin in the second; Legolas and Gimli in the third, where most of the goods and packs were stowed. When all was prepared, Aragorn led them up a trial run up the Silverlode. Haldir had warned that although the boats were light-built and would not sink though laden with heavy goods, they were crafty and likely to be wayward if mishandled. The trial run proved to be successful, despite Sam clutching the side of his boat in anxiety, and soon the Company was on their way, following the swift current. As they rounded a sharp bend, they saw a magnificent swan moving regally towards them, its beak of burnished gold and eyes of jet-black. They discerned that it was a boat fashioned in the likeness of a swan being steered by two Elves with black paddles. In the middle of the vessel sat Lord Celeborn and beside him stood the Lady Galadriel, strumming a harp in her hand as she sang.
Galadriel finished her song as her boat drew alongside Aragorn's and she said, "We have come to bid our last farewell and speed you with blessings from our land."
"Though you have been our guests," Celeborn added, "you have not yet eaten with us. We bid you to join us in a parting feast here between the flowing waters that will bear you far from Lórien."
The Swan passed on to the hythe and the Fellowship followed; Legolas secretly glad that his parting from Haldir had been delayed. The Guardian was of a like mind as he helped the Prince out of his boat. A feast had been laid out on the green lawn and the Company ate and drank their fill in a sedate mood. Legolas and Haldir sat a little apart from the rest of the group, seeing only each other. Aragorn marked how the two lovers seemed strangely present yet remote, living in their suspended reality, seemingly free from the constraints of time. There was no sadness in their looks and gestures and the Ranger wondered if they saw their parting the same way as Men do when they say farewell.
After the meal, Galadriel called the attention of the members of the Fellowship and asked them to drink from the cup of farewell. Then she presented each of them with gifts on behalf of her husband and herself. To Boromir she gave a belt of gold; to Legolas she gave a bow of the Galadhrim and a quiver; to Gimli she gave three strands of her golden hair; Merry and Pippin each received a Noldorin dagger; Sam the Gardener was gifted a small box filled with earth from Galadriel's own garden which when sprinkled would bloom unlike any garden on Middle Earth; and to Frodo she bestowed the light of Eärendil, the Elves most beloved star.
Among all the gifts presented to the Fellowship, it was Aragorn's gift that touched Legolas the most. Appointed the new leader of the Company, Galadriel had called the Ranger before her first and they had spoken in soft, elvish tones.
"What have your learnt during your stay here?" she asked kindly.
"I have found my peace and my strength in your fair land," he answered. "Whatever paths I walk, I know that I shall not tread them alone."
"Then I am glad," Galadriel replied. "Here is the gift of Celeborn and Galadriel to you, leader of the Company." Then she gave the Man a sheath for his sword, overlaid with a tracery of flowers and leaves. On the sheath, in Elven runes composed of many gems was the name Andúril and the lineage of the sword. "In this hour," Galadriel continued, raising her voice and speaking in the Common Tongue so that all would understand, "you must take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil!"
Aragorn stood before them then and in the eyes of the others, he appeared changed. They had not noticed before how tall and kingly he stood, how noble his brow, how wise his gaze. All wondered at this change, except for Legolas, who had long known the destiny placed before his friend and the Prince's heart swelled with the knowledge that they had both chosen well. Aragorn sheathed Andúril into its new home, his eyes briefly meeting the Prince. The two friends knew that their paths would remain entwined until the end.
As the Company steered their boats down the Silverlode to join the fast-flowing Anduin, Galadriel had spoken her own words of farewell into the Prince of Mirkwood's mind. "Stay true to your heart, son of Thranduil. It will not lead you astray. You will see him again."
Legolas took comfort in her words. All foretelling was lost in these dark days, but nevertheless, he believed this to be true. In their boat, Gimli openly wept before him and he placed a hand on the Dwarf's shoulder to reassure his friend, while the others watched as the Lady of the Golden Wood faded from their sight. Legolas could only think of his lover and their final moments together. Haldir had braided his hair that morning, infusing the delicate knots with all that he held dear until the Prince could feel their shared love flowing through his very veins. Their parting kiss had not been filled with sadness or sorrow, only love and strength. Legolas steeled himself with renewed hope as he pushed his leaf-shaped paddle into the water. Their Quest would succeed and Sauron would be defeated. He would fight for this, for his family and his people, for all the free lands of Middle Earth, but most of all; he would fight so that he would be reunited with Haldir again.
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