Mellon Chronicles


Chapter 1

by Cassia-(T) and Siobhan-(T)

"Betrayal" art by Cassia

"Betrayal" art by Cassia-(T)

Stories > Series > Previous story: "The Seventh Stone" > "Betrayal" > Next chapter > Next story: "Legolas' No Good Rotten Day"    

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Rated R for graphic violence

    Piercing pale rays of sunlight broke through the trees here and there at sporadic intervals.  The sun was warm when it touched the skin of the two travelers, but the air was chill and the signs that fall was fast fading towards winter were appearing everywhere.
    Fat grey squirrels, their cheeks bulging with last minute provisions to stockpile for the winter ahead stopped only for a moment on their way to gaze down at the two companions.  The pair could not have been more different in some ways.  One golden-haired, slender and dressed in soft tones of green and brown that fitted him well, the other with shorter hair bordering on the shade of night, wiry, but more sturdily built than his elven companion.  The ranger’s dark, well-worn overcoat obscured whatever else he was wearing underneath.  But the easy talk and comfortable silences that flowed between them belied whatever differences the eye took in, for the human and the elf seemed to be as close as brothers.
    Unconsciously Aragorn rubbed his arms, pulling his hands up inside the sleeves of his tunic and overcoat for some added warmth.  Their breath fogged and hung on the crisp air, and the dense canopy of foliage above them kept out the warming rays of the sun.  The weather had been taking a decidedly nippy turn the past few days and Aragorn was feeling it, even if Legolas was not.  They had expected to reach Mirkwood much sooner in the year than they were now arriving and Aragorn had not come prepared for a winter journey.  However, the little side-track they had taken to Eowioriand and the events surrounding their failed attempt to retrieve the Palantir housed there had changed their plans quite a bit. 
    “Winter’s coming early this year,” Aragorn remarked.  All the signs he saw foretold that it would also be an unusually harsh one.
    Legolas glanced sympathetically at his friend.  The cold did not bite him and he barely registered the change at all, but he could tell that his human friend was beginning to feel the creeping frost of the winter that was nearly upon them.  “We should make my father’s halls by nightfall, Strider,” he encouraged the young ranger with a slight smile.  “If nothing else befalls us first that is,” he couldn’t help adding.
    Aragorn laughed.  “It will be remarkable if something does not.  Truly, your father will think we kidnapped you I shouldn’t wonder!”
    It had been more than a fortnight since they left Isengard and parted from Gandalf and Gwaihir.  By now autumn had all but fled away before them.
    Legolas chuckled.  “Or that I ran away more likely.  He summoned me when it was yet summer and winter is all but upon us ere I return... I fear he shall not find my entrance timely.” The prince shook his head.  He was jesting, but Aragorn knew him well enough to know that there was a serious undertone to his statement.  Whether he wanted to admit it or not, the elf prince was not looking forward to his father’s reaction to his tardy arrival. 
    Aragorn squeezed his friend’s arm, catching Legolas’ eyes and giving him an encouraging smile.  “He’ll understand, Legolas. It’s not your fault.”
    Legolas smiled softly and shook his head.  Aragorn would probably never understand how things were between the prince and his father.  Sometimes Legolas did not understand himself.  There was love, oh yes, there was fierce love between them... but so often the details seemed to get in the way and make simple matters complicated. 
    “Do not be surprised if he does not see it that way; my father is not your father, Estel.  Thranduil is a king and he has the right to expect obedience from his subjects, including me; and when that does not happen... it’s not something to be taken very lightly.  But fear not, everything will be all right,” Legolas smiled quickly when he saw the concerned look growing on his friend’s face.  He didn’t want Aragorn to make more out of this than there was, that wasn’t what he had intended.  Indeed, he had not intended to speak of it at all, but the closeness that had grown between he and the ranger often led the prince to say things to Aragorn that he would not have mentioned to anyone else.  “I may be hearing about it for the next fifty years, but it will be all right,” he added with a rueful grin that made Aragorn chuckle.
    “Don’t worry. If it’s any consolation I am certain to have the same thing happen to me if the snows fall early and close the high pass back to Rivendell too soon.  Elladan will never forgive me if I don’t come back and they don’t know why.” Aragorn quirked his head to the side in amusement.  “Of course, he’d be even angrier if I tried to make it through the pass in the snow... and I’d get one of those lectures from father, you know the one...”
    Legolas’ grin widened knowingly.  “Oh yes, the ‘what were you thinking, you could have gotten killed, do you think you are indestructible and do you ever stop to consider the consequences before you act?’ one, is that it?” the prince spoke as someone with much personal experience.
    Aragorn laughed.  “Yes, that’s the one.  See?  Our fathers are more alike than you think!  Family...” he shook his head.
    “Unique, isn’t it?” Legolas enjoyed the joking.  It was odd actually, how much he and Aragorn seemed to have in common sometimes, considering that they were so different.
    “I see lights through the trees,” Aragorn stopped suddenly and pointed.  “I didn’t think we that close yet.”
    “We’re not,” Legolas shook his head, glancing the way that Aragorn indicated.  “That’s some of my people making merry, a hunting party it looks like,” he added, although Aragorn could see nothing but lights from here.  “Let us see what news they have.”
    They turned aside towards the lights in the trees and Aragorn walked somewhat swiftly because the thought of being near a fire was a welcome one.  As they drew closer they saw that the light of the fire seemed to illumine a perfect circle around the wood-elves in the middle of its glow, one that did not move or extend any light further than their immediate area.  It was odd really, but Aragorn had been in the middle of such fires here before as Legolas’ guest so he did not think much of it.  He outdistanced the prince slightly in his haste but, before he could enter the circle of lights, Legolas called his name and caught up with him quickly, holding the ranger back. 
    Aragorn looked at the prince, puzzled, but Legolas just smiled and shook his head.  “It is not wise to walk into the middle of a wood-elves' party unless they know you or you are one of their kind.  You would not be harmed, but I have no wish to have to wait around for you to wake up from the enchanted slumber that would come upon you.”
    Aragorn blinked and nodded.  “Oh.”  It seemed there was always something new to learn about elves, even when you lived with them your whole life.  And the Mirkwood elves by and large seemed to be quite a bit different than the ones he had grown up around anyway.  He sighed slightly.  “And I suppose one of these days I may be able to actually go somewhere and do something without nearly making an idiot of myself and sticking my foot in it completely.”
    “Perhaps someday,” Legolas replied with a devilish grin that earned him a light punch in the shoulder from his friend.
    They stepped into the circle of lights beyond the trees, Legolas in the lead.  The low buzz of the wood-elves’ conversation stopped as they all looked up.  It was a small group, only half a dozen at most and, although they were eating and drinking a fine fare, the group seemed decidedly subdued and Legolas picked up on it at once.
    “Your Highness,” the hunters rose.  “You’re back!”  They were sincerely glad to see him, but several of the elves glanced at one another as they rose.  Legolas could not read what was behind that look, but whatever it was bothered him.
    “Please, join us,” the elves offered quickly as Aragorn moved over to stand near the fire, rubbing his hands together over its warmth. 
    Hot spiced wine was poured for the two newcomers who both accepted it gratefully as they settled down around the fire.  The road had been long and hard and their journey wearisome.
    “Well, it seems that the quality of our wine has not diminished during my absence,” Legolas smiled after he had drunk.  The wood-elves were all very fond of wine and, although they made none of their own, the stock they kept on hand was better than that kept anywhere else in Middle-earth.  “What news is there since I last walked beneath these trees, Umdanuë?” he addressed the elf sitting next to him.  “How was the yèn festival?”
    “It was well,” the elf called Umdanuë answered slowly.  “...Your Highness, have you met with your father?”
    Legolas did not like the timbre of that question.  “No, I have not yet been home.  Why?”
    “No, I meant, met with him on the road.  He left to look for you some days ago,” Umdanuë informed.
    “Left?” Legolas rose quickly to his feet.  “Why would he leave?  I sent Raniean with the news that we would be delayed...”  It didn’t make sense.
    “I don’t know about that, but I know he’s gone... I had hoped he’d be with you.” Umdanuë shook his head.
    Aragorn and Legolas exchanged looks.  What did this mean?  Could Raniean have not arrived?  And if so, what had befallen him?
    “Who is in charge during my father’s absence?” Legolas inquired.  “Lord Celemir?”  Usually the succession would have gone to himself and if he were not present then either to Raniean, as captain of the largest segment of Mirkwood’s warriors, or Celemir, Thranduil’s most trusted advisor and member of the court. 
    Umdanuë did not speak. 
    “Nay, not Celemir,” one of the other elves said reluctantly, obviously reticent and somewhat confused.  “He appointed a different regent...”
    “Who?” Legolas was getting tired of having to drag every scrap of information from these elves. 
    “Your Highness, you had better get home,” Umdanuë said quietly, his gaze locking with Legolas’.  “I don’t pretend to understand your father’s actions, however I will not speak against them either.  But I think you need to be home.”
    A chill that had nothing to do with the weather ran up Legolas’ spine. 
    “What do you mean?” Aragorn inquired, almost as disturbed as Legolas, but the elves did not want to answer and Legolas was already on his feet. 
    “Strider, I must make haste,” Legolas said, his face showing his concern.  He would not waste any more time here. Obviously something was wrong and it was wrong at the palace.  Therefore that was where he needed to be, and swiftly.
    Aragorn rose quickly to his feet.  “I’m with you. Let’s go.”
    Legolas’ gait was swift and Aragorn matched it.  “What do you think all that was about?” the ranger asked once they had left the other elves far behind.
    “I don’t know and I’m almost afraid to guess.” Legolas shook his head in dark frustration.  “Raniean should have been back already... and why would father leave to search for me himself?  Always before he has sent our guard or some of our warriors... it does not make sense, neither does the ill ease I felt in Umdanuë and his companions.  They are afraid... but of what?”
    Aragorn didn’t try to answer because he knew that his friend did not expect him to do so, but he agreed that these events were disturbing. 

    When they finally came in sight of the palace it was a momentary relief.  Everything looked deceptively normal and if there were ought amiss inside, it was not readily apparent to the eye or the senses. 
    Legolas paused only a moment before the huge, magically sealed gates that guarded the entrance to his home, holding his hand up quickly and bidding them open.  “Edro!”
    At his command the gates swung open and the two friends hurried inside.  At the entrance to the palace itself, however, they were stopped by several guards who crossed their spears across the doorway to bar their path.  Legolas did not recognize any of them, which was odd because he thought he knew all the palace staff and guards to some degree.
    “Halt, you may not enter without permission.  Who are you and what is your business?” one of the guards inquired.
    Legolas looked from one elf to the next incredulously, to see if they were joking.  They were not.  “I am Prince Legolas and I will thank you to get out of my way so I may enter my home,” he said somewhat tartly.  “Who are you?  I don’t recall seeing any of you around here before.”
    The guards exchanged looks quickly.  “Wait here,” they told the prince and the ranger while one of them hurried inside, leaving the other two at their posts by the door.
    Legolas had no intention of waiting there or anywhere else, but when he tried to move forward the guards once again blocked his path.  “We said wait here,” they repeated darkly.
    “I heard you.” Legolas was quickly losing his patience.  He did not understand what was going on and it was starting to frighten him, which was a feeling he did not like.  “But you have not told me who you are or why I should listen to you.  I would advise that you let me pass or you may not like the consequences.”
    “Legolas, for shame... you’re too old to be losing your temper,” a voice from behind the guards interrupted.  A tall elf with a golden circlet upon his brow came into view and motioned to the guards who quickly pulled back to let him out into the courtyard.  The elf was fair-haired, but the gold of his locks was many shades darker than Legolas’, bordering on a somewhat ruddy light brown.  Yet Aragorn found that there was something uncannily familiar in the lines of his face... although he had certainly never seen this elf before.
    The moment he heard the voice, Legolas froze and Aragorn thought he almost visibly saw the color drain out of his friend’s face before the prince pulled his composure back into place once more.
    The strange elf looked lordly enough and smiled at the two friends, but the smile was edged with flint and did not seem to reach his eyes.
    Legolas regarded the newcomer with a mixture of shock and displeasure.  “Doriflen.  I thought you were dead.”   The prince’s voice was carefully flat.
    The elder elf laughed lightly, but Aragorn did not like whatever was dancing behind his eyes.  “My brother seems to have been remiss in your training since I left, young prince. He should have taught you better manners.  Come nephew, have you no greeting for your uncle?”
    Aragorn looked in bewilderment between the two elves.  He had not known that Thranduil and Legolas had any other family still living, although he realized that that was the familiarity of features he had felt when he first saw the elf, for Doriflen held a certain resemblance to Thranduil and Legolas that clearly marked them out as related.  Yet there was obviously something wrong here, because Legolas did not seem at all pleased to see his uncle.  In fact, if anything, Aragorn thought that he sensed his friend was alarmed and trying hard to hide it.
    “What are you doing here?” Legolas did not respond to his uncle’s display of familial warmth.  His voice remained guarded and his eyes suspicious.  “Where is my father?”
    Doriflen laughed again.  There was something in his tone that was just... wrong.  Aragorn couldn’t place it, but it was beginning to make him extremely uncomfortable.
    “Dear Legolas, always so serious!” Doriflen gave the younger elf a friendly little shake, but Legolas pulled away quickly, almost flinching at the elder elf’s touch.  Doriflen gave a show of looking hurt as he turned away.  “Ah well.  It must be the strain of your journeys.  Come, come in and take your ease.  You and your friend surely must be hungry and thirsty and tired. Come, come!”
    “Doriflen, where is my father?” Legolas demanded again, his voice icy and edged with concern.
    The elder elf rolled his eyes.  “Well don’t stand there looking as if I had done something to him!  Honestly nephew, where are your manners?  Living with coarse company has obviously made you uncommonly rude.”  He glanced at Aragorn when he said this and his meaning was entirely clear. “Your father’s gone away for a while.  I do believe he went to look for you.  He was very worried,” Doriflen shrugged carelessly.  “I’m watching over things while he’s away, since he had no son to leave in charge.” The statement was pointed and meant to bite.
    “Well I’m back now,” Legolas said flatly, trying to resist feeling the stab of his uncle’s barb.  “But why would he go looking for me?  I sent a messenger some time ago with the news that I had been detained, but was on my way home.  And where did you come from?”
    Doriflen’s eyes widened innocently.  “No such messenger ever arrived to my knowledge.  As for me, I have been dwelling on the other side of the Grey Mountains, near Carn Dûmo and Forodwaith with my faithful companions here,” he nodded at the grim looking armed guards who surrounded Legolas and Aragorn.  “I decided it had been far too long since I paid my dear brother a visit.”  There was a hint of a malicious gleam in his eyes when he said that that made a chill run up Aragorn’s spine.
    “You were banished from here, Doriflen.” Legolas caught and held his uncle’s eyes. 
    Doriflen’s smile frosted a little harder, but he remained pleasant.  “So were you as I understand it, nephew.”  The smile became a smirk.  “Must run in the family, hm?”
    Legolas’ jaw muscles tightened, but he refused to respond to his uncle’s taunts. 
    “But as you must know, my little brother revoked those laws to bring you home.  They no longer stand and I may come and go as I please, here or anywhere else.  Now, are you going to stand out there all day with this silly interrogation?  Or are you going to come in and be welcomed home?”
    Reluctantly, Legolas finally allowed he and Aragorn to be escorted into the palace.  “We have had a long journey. Strider and I wish to wash up a bit.  May we go?” the prince glanced coldly at the guards who were flanking them on every side in a not very unobtrusive manner.
    “But of course!” Doriflen gestured his men away.  “You may do as you wish, nephew. This is your house and you are not a prisoner here!”
    “I wish I believed that.”  Legolas nodded once and turned on his heel, walking away with Aragorn following closely behind.  The young ranger looked over his shoulder and saw that Doriflen’s gaze was following them.  A cold, dead glare.  The Dùnadan shivered.  He did not like this at all. 

    Once they were safely inside Legolas’ quarters the prince shut and bolted the door, turning both catches. 
    “Legolas what in the name of mercy was all that about?  Who is that elf?” Aragorn wanted to know.  “Is he really your uncle?”
    “Yes,” Legolas sighed slightly.  “Unfortunately, he is.  Older brother of Thranduil, firstborn of my grandfather Oropher, and exiled from Mirkwood and the elven world these past two millennia.”
    “Exiled, you mean...”
    “Yes, like we were, although for a different reason.  Banished and forbidden any elven refuge... until now.  I had not realized when my father and yours struck down that law... that it would free Doriflen as well, but of course, laws must apply the same to everyone.  I doubt father considered it much either.  We all thought he was dead,”  Legolas explained, obviously greatly troubled by these events.
    “But why was he exiled?” Aragorn wanted to know the full story.
    “You recall that I said he is my father’s older brother?” Legolas wished to sum the tale up as simply as he could.  “Normally the eldest son would be heir to the throne, but from his youth, Doriflen had an... unstable personality,” Legolas tried to put it somewhat delicately.  “Sometimes he seemed perfectly normal, and then others... he could be very cruel and very twisted.  Oropher, my father’s father, was very concerned about his eldest son.  He tried to find a cure for whatever ailed him, but it was to no avail.  Oropher began to realize that should anything happen to him, he could not leave his people to the mercy of Doriflen’s changing moods and unstable disposition.  So he bypassed tradition and handed the title of Heir-apparent on to my father.  Of course, this put Doriflen in a rage, but there was nothing he could do.  He and his friends and followers left Mirkwood altogether, vowing revenge.   This was shortly before the end of the last Age, so I tell you as it has been told to me, I was not yet present to witness these things. 
    "Then came the Last Great Alliance of Men and Elves.  Oropher and a grievous number of Mirkwood’s best fell in that battle.  My father came home as king of a badly damaged realm.   It was then that Doriflen came back.  My father tried his best to make peace between them, for a time he even lived in the palace with us...” Legolas closed his eyes for a moment before continuing.  “But it was no use.  He stirred up the people, faulting my father and departed grandfather for leading them to ruin in the battle, pressing his own claim as eldest and, he thought, rightful heir to the throne. Quietly at first, but then more and more openly.  The people began to divide and civil war was imminent.  My father tried to reason with his brother, but Doriflen would be content with nothing short of the throne and that my father could not give him.  Eventually it did come to war.  A brutal, terrible thing that lasted many years.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching war parties ride out the gates... many never returned.” Legolas’ voice was soft.  “It was not a safe world to live in, or grow up in.”   Indeed, it was that fact that had made Thranduil so incredibly angry at his young son for running away during the yèn festival that first time, so many, many years ago.  Legolas had not bothered trying to explain that to Maraen when he told her about the incident some time ago, but his father had been terrified at the thought that his brother might have gotten his hands on his son.  Unfortunately, through no fault of Legolas’, Thranduil’s worst fears had indeed been realized not long after.
    “It was a war that not even children escaped,” Legolas continued his story with a faraway look in his eyes.  “Eventually my father started to gain the upper hand as Doriflen’s unstable tendencies began to make some of his followers desert him and see him for what he truly was.  As a last resort, Doriflen... kidnapped me to use against my father.  I was still a young elf at that time.  He threatened to kill me if my father did not hand over the throne.  He very nearly carried out his threat, but my father found out where he was hiding me and there ended up being a large battle.  Doriflen was captured and his forces surrendered. 
    “Although he had more than earned death by his actions, my father could not bring himself to order the execution of his own brother, for they had been very close once.  Besides, the kingdom was still in an unstable state, and there were those who yet had serious doubts about Thranduil’s right to be king.  Killing Doriflen would only make him a bloody usurper in their eyes.  There had already been so much damage and so much war, my father merely wanted it to stop.  Mirkwood needed peace desperately and he knew better than to give those who would like to keep the war going a martyr to rally around.  So instead he exiled Doriflen and his followers in disgrace, using the ancient law to ban them from all elven lands on Middle-earth.  In doing so he hoped to nullify the threat that letting his brother go free posed.  Doriflen and his people left and we saw no more of them.  Mirkwood recovered and eventually the entire conflict was all but forgotten as the people found what a just and wise king my father was.  Many, many years ago we received news that Doriflen and his men were killed in a conflict with some of the wildmen, but obviously, that was not so.  Understand you now, Aragorn, why his reappearance causes me such concern?” Legolas finished quietly.
    Aragorn nodded, thinking he understood completely.  Legolas’ obvious alarm over his father’s well-being upon finding Doriflen occupying the palace made frightening sense as well.  “Then what you mean is we’ve fallen into the hands of a madman who has reason to hate your father and yourself and yet has somehow managed to set himself up in the palace, playing regent, with the apparent cooperation of the people,” Aragorn summed their situation up with raised brows.
    Legolas nodded, rubbing his temples.  “That’s about the shape of it.  However, I do not understand yet how this has come to be.  Or where my father truly is, although I fear the answer to the last.” Deep worry plagued the elf’s silver-blue eyes. 
    Aragorn squeezed his friend’s shoulder.  “Well then, these are the things we need to find out.”