A Steadfast Heart
October 3018, TA
Legolas’ mount crested the rise and there spread out below them was Imladris in all its autumnal glory. But unusually for Legolas, he did not take in the vibrant golds and bronzes of the leaves or the way the setting sun glowed redly off the waterfalls. Instead he gazed blankly ahead, seeing not what lay before him but scenes from the past.
Midsummer 2516, TA
Elrohir snatched the letter from Legolas’ hands and flung it to the floor, his eyes glinting dangerously. “I cannot believe you would return to Eryn Galen just when we have received reports of a fresh incursion of orcs in the Misty Mountains. You promised to aid us!”
“Aye, I did promise and for six years I have fought by your side.” Legolas struggled to keep his voice even. Elrohir’s temper had become more and more volatile since that dreadful day when he and Elladan had carried Celebrian, raving and tormented, back to Imladris and it now took very little provocation indeed to spark a bitter quarrel.
These days they fought more often than they made love. Not that one could describe the savage couplings that Elrohir inflicted on him as ‘making love,’ Legolas reflected bitterly. There were times that Legolas felt as though his lover was merely using his body to slake his rage and hatred. Remembering his own grief when his mother had been slain on Shadow’s first appearance in Greenwood, Legolas had patiently borne with this treatment, clinging on to his love for the younger twin to see him through the worst of Elrohir’s rages. He had done his utmost to nurture the waning flame of Elrohir’s spirit, but after six years with no sign of an end to the madness that had possessed the brethren, Legolas was weary in body, mind and spirit. When his father’s letter had arrived, pleading with him to return to Eryn Galen to aid in thwarting the ever-spreading Shadow, Legolas had been almost relieved.
“All the orcs that occupied the dens where your mother was held captive are long since slain, and many more besides. What more would you have us do?”
“What more?” Elrohir paced restlessly up and down the chamber. “I would have the mountains free of Morgoth’s foul spawn once and for all. I would slay each and every one with my bare hands if necessary.” His eyes met Legolas’ and the prince shuddered at the light of madness that he could see shining out of them. “I want to see each and every one of the beasts suffer as they made my mother suffer.”
“But at what cost?” asked Legolas, desperately hoping that this time his words would break through the barrier of rage in Elrohir’s heart. “The orcs that have escaped the slaughter have fled into Eryn Galen, causing yet more strife for the folk of the wood. But I do not speak only of the cost to my people, but to you and Elladan. I love you, Elrohir. I cannot bear to see you lost to all but vengeance.”
“Then perhaps you should leave,” spat Elrohir. “Your skill with the bow and knife has been of great value to us on the war trail, but if you have grown too cowardly to use them then you had best return to the safety of your father’s caves. Elladan and I can manage without you.”
At that, Legolas’ rapidly fraying patience snapped altogether. “Is that all I have been to you?” He retorted. “Useful because of my skill with weapons? I stayed with you, despite my own duties to Eryn Galen, because I love you and I thought you would find my presence a comfort.” He clenched his hands, digging his nails painfully into the palms of his hands, willing away the tears that threatened to fall. “But all the thanks I get is for you to call me a coward? For years uncounted, Elrohir, I have fought a losing battle against Shadow. I have witnessed the death of countless friends and my own mother, yet I refused to despair; never have I given up the fight. I have always fought not for vengeance, but to free my woods from Shadow. This thirst for revenge that you have is eating you up from the inside like a canker. You are losing yourself to it and I can no longer bear to watch it happen.”
Legolas’ temper faded as quickly as it had risen and he now felt an agonising sorrow wash over him as he contemplated the wreckage of their once beautiful relationship. Elrohir had ceased his pacing and simply regarded him with an icy stare, seemingly unmoved by Legolas’ words. Legolas made one last attempt to reach him. “My people need me and I must return home. But will you not return with me? It breaks my heart to leave you like this. I think it would do you good to spend a season or two in the forest.”
Legolas crossed the room and lay a tentative hand on his lover’s arm. To his utter shock, not only did Elrohir shrug off his caress, but he lashed out violently, shoving Legolas away so that he struck the wall with a force that made him gasp.
“Go then, but do not expect me to come with you. I have sworn to cleanse the region of orcs and I do not renege on my oaths.”
Legolas knew that any further argument would be futile and his pride refused to let him beg. He staggered upright and walked out with all the dignity he could muster. “I will be gone come morning. I will return when I may,” was all he said.
Just as he reached the door, Elrohir spoke up. “I can’t think why. There is nothing here for you.” And something small and hard struck Legolas a glancing blow on the back of his head and clattered to the floor.
Legolas glanced down and stopped dead, the blood draining from his face. If Elrohir had shot him with an arrow the result could not have been more devastating. There on the floor, gleaming in a pool of sunlight, lay a narrow mithril band, identical to the one that Legolas wore on his right index finger.
October 3018, TA
As Legolas and his escort made the descent into the valley, more memories of that terrible time flashed through his mind. Letter after letter to Elrohir had gone unanswered until finally a parcel had arrived for him via a messenger sent to Thranduil. His fingers trembling, Legolas had fumbled with uncharacteristic clumsiness to undo the knots that bound it, only to discover all his letters, unopened, together with the mithril betrothal ring that Legolas had left lying where it had fallen. There had been no other message, but that had been enough. With a breaking heart, Legolas had spent the ensuing years devoting himself to the defence of the Woodland Realm. He had never managed to bury his grief, but his desire to see the woods cleansed and flourishing was the only thing left that gave his life any meaning.
And now, after so many years, he was back in Imladris to report the escape of the Gollum creature. It seemed only fitting, Legolas reflected, that after his ignominious departure last time, he should be returning to report the Wood-elves’ failure. Legolas eyed the party of Elves who had assembled to greet him with a bitter smile twisting his lips. On the rare times he had allowed himself to dream of a return to his erstwhile betrothed’s dwelling place, he had never pictured a scenario remotely like this one.
His stomach knotted with tension at the sight of the tall, raven-haired figure that strode to the front of the group, but then it eased when he recognised Erestor. He dismounted gracefully and bowed to Erestor, sternly schooling himself to keep his eyes fixed on his face and not to look over the counsellor’s shoulder for a much yearned-for glimpse of the younger twin.
Erestor bowed in return and gazed searchingly into his face before greeting him with a warm smile. “Well met, Prince Legolas. It does my heart good to see you in Imladris once again. You have been dearly missed, even by those who would choose to deny it.” Before Legolas could even ponder his words, Erestor went on to answer the question that he had been burning to know the answer to ever since he had spied the Last Homely House in the distance. “I wish Elrond and his sons could be here to greet you, but Elrond is busy with a patient and his sons are on patrol with the Rangers. I do not know when to expect their return.”
Legolas swallowed harshly, unable to completely hide the wave of disappointment that struck him. However much he had tried to stop himself, he had whiled away most of the long night watches imagining a tender reconciliation between himself and Elrohir upon his arrival. Now those hopes were bitterly dashed. He couldn’t stay indefinitely in Imladris once his errand here was done and it didn’t sound like the twins would be home soon.
With an understanding smile, Erestor drew Legolas aside, indicating to a servant that he should see to the housing of Legolas’ escort. “Nevertheless, your arrival here is opportune.” He lowered his voice. “Great events are afoot and I sense that fate has drawn you here, just as it has brought even more unlikely visitors to this house. May I ask the reason for your visit?”
“Actually I have come seeking Mithrandir,” began Legolas. “It concerns a prisoner that he left in our care.”
“Ah, then say no more for now,” said Erestor. “Mithrandir is here, although he is also occupied with the patient I mentioned before. I shall not incur his wrath by meddling in his affairs. However there is to be a council tomorrow and we would welcome your presence. Much is to be decided there that will affect the fate of all the free peoples. It is only right that a representative from the Woodland Realm be there.”
Tired out from his long journey, Legolas retired to his chamber as soon as it had been prepared for him. He requested for a meal to be sent to his rooms, far too heart-sore to join in the feast that was being held that evening to celebrate the return to health of Elrond’s patient. Once he had sunk into a much-needed bath, he had even allowed himself to shed a few tears, unable to wholly fend off the pain of memory now that he was back in the place where he had experienced such joy and such bitter sorrow.
By the time the bell summoned him to the Council the next day, Legolas had managed to regain his usual composure. When the moment came for him to deliver his ill news, he did it without flinching and even managed to hide his annoyance at Glóin’s insistence on dredging up old feuds. Inside though, his mind was awhirl. The news that the One Ring had been found had shaken him to the core. He listened in amazement to Bilbo and Frodo’s tales, astounded that they had possessed the ring all these years. His mouth had gone dry when it had been decided to send the ring to the fires of Orodruin. It may be their only hope, but such a slender hope! How could such a quest ever succeed? But deep in his heart, he knew it was the only way for Middle-earth to be freed from Sauron’s yoke and when Frodo bravely offered to take the ring, Legolas resolved to accompany Frodo. If the quest failed then his lonely fight against the Shadow in Eryn Galen would be futile.
After the Council broke up, Legolas strode back into the house, determined to speak to Elrond as soon as possible to offer his services to the Ringbearer. So intent was he on his errand that he failed to look where he was going until he ran straight into the tall person who stood directly in his path.
“I’m sorry, I…,” Legolas broke off with a gasp when he raised his eyes to see who he had struck. “Elrohir!” He reeled from the shock and looked away, not wanting to see disdain in the eyes of the one he still loved above all others. He bit his lip, desperately trying and failing to still its quivering. Utterly unprepared for the meeting, he was unable to hide the anguish that swept over him at seeing his beloved again after all these years. He scarcely noticed when his arm was grasped firmly and he was led to a sheltered alcove and made to sit down.
“Here, drink this.”
Legolas took the cup automatically and swallowed, recognising the drink as miruvor by the calming warmth that quickly spread through him.
“I thought you were abroad with the Rangers,” he managed finally.
“We were, but we arrived back yestereve. Forgive me; I only learned you were here this morning, else I would have sought you out sooner.”
Legolas finally dared to look up into Elrohir’s face, feeling a flood of relief when instead of meeting with the icy dislike he had been dreading, he found only warmth and concern. “You are not angry to see me here?” he whispered.
“Far from it,” came the swift reply. “Legolas, I must speak with you. Much has changed with me these recent years. I behaved cruelly towards you. I hope…,” but whatever else Elrohir might have said was cut off when Aragorn appeared abruptly.
“Elrohir, there you are! I have been looking for you everywhere. Father needs to see us urgently. He bids us to scout out the lands to the south to seek for tidings of the Nine.” Only belatedly did Aragorn spy Legolas. “Forgive me for interrupting, Prince Legolas. I hope you will excuse us.”
Legolas managed to hide his frustration. “Of course. The safety of the Ringbearer must come first now.”
Aragorn inclined his head and left, but Elrohir did not follow immediately. Instead he took Legolas’ hand. “I do not know how long I will be gone, but will you promise me to remain in Imladris until I have returned? There are still things I must say to you.”
Hope flared in Legolas’ heart, leaving him too overcome to speak. He simply nodded and squeezed Elrohir’s hand in reply before releasing him. They had been sundered for centuries; he could wait a few more weeks. The memory of this one touch would be enough to sustain him until Elrohir’s return.
As much as he longed for Elrohir’s return, there was so much to do that time passed swiftly in the days and weeks that followed. His days were filled with preparations for the Quest, for Legolas had held firm to his resolution and offered his services to the Ringbearer, never doubting that it was the right thing for him to do. Indeed, the prospect of a reconciliation with Elrohir spurred him on all the more. Unless the ring was destroyed, any time they might have together would be fleeting at best. In aiding its destruction, Legolas felt he was fighting for their future as well as for his people. He only hoped that Elrohir would understand.
Midwinter was rapidly approaching when the day of Elrohir’s return finally arrived. Legolas was sitting cross-legged on his bed, singing softly to himself as he polished his bow, when there was a knock on his door. Thinking it was the maid coming to set the fire in the grate, he bid her enter without ceasing his task. Only when he felt the mattress dip as someone sat down beside him, did he look up, startled, and found himself face to face with Elrohir. He swallowed nervously, his heart racing now that the much longed for moment was finally upon him.
“You are back,” he whispered, unable to think of anything more meaningful to say.
“Aye, we arrived back an hour ago. I waited only to make my report to Father and Mithrandir before coming to find you.” Elrohir took Legolas’ hand. “They told me you have offered to accompany the Ringbearer. That was a noble thing to do.”
Legolas opened his mouth to answer, but was cut off when Elrohir stiffened and held up Legolas’ hand to examine it more closely. Legolas bit his lip in consternation, realising at once what had drawn Elrohir’s attention. Despite all the years that had passed since the sundering of their relationship, he had continued to wear his betrothal ring. On a few occasions he had tried to go without it, mostly on his father’s advice, but each time he had felt so bereft that he had replaced it at the earliest opportunity. But now he berated himself for not removing it before making the journey to Imladris. He couldn’t imagine what Elrohir must think of him, wearing a symbol of a love long since dead. What did not occur to him was that Elrohir would put a different interpretation on the presence of the mithril band.
“You are betrothed,” murmured Elrohir. Was that pain that Legolas could see in his eyes? “Who to?”
“I…,” started Legolas, but Elrohir cut him off with a repentant gesture.
“Nay, forgive me. Forget I asked that. I have not the right. It just hadn’t occurred to me that you would have found another, but the Valar know you deserve another chance at happiness after the callous way I treated you.” Elrohir rose and would have left the room, but Legolas’ soft enquiry halted him.
“Then why did you cast me aside like that?”
Still with his back to Legolas, Elrohir answered in a voice scarcely audible. “I was afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” breathed Legolas, after a lengthy pause in which he felt his nerves stretch to breaking point.
“Afraid that I would lose you. Afraid that I was becoming so repugnant to you that you would leave me. Afraid that you would stay with me, but you would be slain or taken during one of our frequent skirmishes.”
There was another long silence and then in a hoarse whisper, “Afraid that I would hurt you myself when the battle madness was upon me.” Elrohir shook his head helplessly. “I can offer no rational explanation for my behaviour; I was not wholly sane, I can see that now. I just knew that I had to get you away from me and ensure you didn’t come back, so I provoked that quarrel.”
Elrohir turned and Legolas was shocked to see tears glinting in his eyes. Elrohir never wept. “It is only recently, since we fostered Estel, and I was forced to learn once more what it was to care for another, that the madness waned and I began to understand what a treasure I had let slip through my fingers. I hope you can forgive me for the way I treated you and I hope that if the Quest prevails that you will find true happiness with your mate.”
Legolas’ throat was so swollen with unshed tears that he could scarcely speak, but seeing that Elrohir was on the verge of leaving, he whispered, “Do you still love me?”
Meeting Legolas’ gaze squarely, unashamed of the tears that now trailed down his cheeks, Elrohir replied, “Aye. Even at the height of my madness there was always a part of my soul that was untouched by bloodlust and was yours alone. And now that I have seen you again, I know that I will never cease to love you, even though you belong to another.”
With a misty yet radiant smile, Legolas rose to his feet and held out his right hand to Elrohir. “Then take a good look and you will see who it is that owns my heart.”
With a puzzled frown, Elrohir cast his eyes once more upon the ring. After only a few heartbeats he gave a wild exclamation and looked up, his eyes blazing. “It is inscribed with our initials!” he cried. “It is the one I gave you.”
“I could never bring myself to remove it,” Legolas explained. “I always knew I was yours alone, even if you did not want me. I…,”
But whatever else he might have said was cut off abruptly when Elrohir seized him in a fierce embrace and sealed their lips together in a kiss so heated that soon Legolas was trembling violently. Elrohir only drew back reluctantly and pressed their brows together. “Forgive me,” he pleaded. “Forgive me for hurting you so. It pains me to think of how you must have suffered, all these years apart.”
“Willingly,” said Legolas. “You had my forgiveness from the start. I knew it was your grief and rage that lashed out at me and I have survived on the hope that one day you would emerge from it and reclaim our love.”
“Praise the Valar for your steadfast heart,” said Elrohir fervently. “I do not deserve such happiness, but I shall do everything in my power to demonstrate my gratitude for all the remaining days of your stay.”
Legolas clutched him in an even closer embrace at the mention of his impending departure. “I do not know how I will find the strength to part from you, just when we have been reunited,” he murmured sadly, breathing in Elrohir’s musky scent with a sigh.
Elrohir pressed a gentle kiss to Legolas’ brow and then gazed earnestly into Legolas’ eyes. “Bind with me. Today. If our spirits are joined then we can never truly be apart.”
Legolas’ exultant cry and the subsequent frantic kisses were all the answer he needed.
Much later, the moon cast its soft light upon the couple lying entwined upon dishevelled sheets. Sleep was beckoning, but both fought its pull, unwilling to lose even a moment of this glorious night. Legolas, his head buried in the crook of Elrohir’s neck, was idly tracing patterns on his mate’s chest with the tips of his fingers.
“Do you think your father minded us leaving the feast so early?” he asked, punctuating his words with a trail of kisses just below Elrohir’s collarbone.
“Nay, it is customary for the newly bonded couple to leave early,” replied Elrohir easily, sweeping his hands up and down Legolas’ sleek back.
“But not before the main course has even been served!” Legolas broke off with a yelp as Elrohir flipped him over onto his back and straddled his waist, pinning his wrists to the mattress.
“I do not recall you being exactly reluctant,” growled Elrohir, his eyes darkening with lust as he gazed down upon his mate.
Legolas gave a rueful grin. “I know. Are you very sore?”
“No more than you will be by the time I am finished with you,” replied Elrohir, shifting his position so that his rapidly hardening shaft rubbed against Legolas’. Legolas moaned and instinctively arched up to increase the friction.
“Have me as you will,” he gasped. “I want to still be able to feel you when I set out on the quest.”
Elrohir chuckled. “You know, before the ceremony this evening, my father took me aside and explained that the more we coupled in the coming days, the better able I will be to succour you through our bond when we are apart. So prepare yourself for a week abed, beloved, because I intend to lavish you with care when you are upon the quest.”
Then he lowered himself over his eager mate and did his utmost to ensure that however many leagues lay between them, Legolas would always be assured of his love.