Part 10

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Legolas had been thrown to the side of the cavern, away from his friend. He watched spellbound as the insect dropped into the main room and for a brief second was frozen in fear. Tairach was huge; he had never seen one of the evil creatures grow to her size before. She easily stood as tall as an elf when she raised herself up on all eight legs and her body was as thick as the trees that grew in the southern woods.
    When she advanced on the human, Legolas sprang into action. He rolled up into a crouched position, unslung his bow and stringing two arrows simultaneously, he let the projectiles fly. The shafts flew true and struck the spider through her thorax as she raised herself up over the form of the cowering human.
    Faster than the eye could follow, the elf re-notched his bow. The second volley pierced the spider’s small head and she toppled sideways, rolling over onto her back, her ugly black legs contracting slightly in the last throes of death.
    Legolas ran forward and pulled Aragorn away from the hideous creature. The fire from the inner lair was spreading, creeping across the ceiling of the main chamber like a living being, consuming the silvery prison cell that had held so many of Legolas’ people trapped.
    The elf ran his hand quickly over the human’s throat, feeling the tiny cuts for any barbs the spider might have left behind. The young ranger's eyes were huge as he stared at the elf.
    Legolas nodded in reassurance, "You’re all right."
    Nodding numbly in reply Aragorn glanced back at the advancing fire. The elf prince shoved the human’s sword into his hand and grabbed the man by his coat dragging him towards the entrance to the burrow, "We have to get out of here, its all going to come down!" Aragorn ran with the elf for the front of the cave.
    They gained the open ground as the passageway behind them collapsed, sending sparks of fire into the trees surrounding the destroyed nest. The webs of the spiders near Tairach’s lair quickly caught fire and spread throughout the canopy, filling the immediate area with soot and smoke.
    Legolas choked on the thick air as they led the freed elves out of the dark woods. Aragorn caught glimpses of Tairach’s brood in the upper reaches of the trees but the spiders were heading farther south, away from the perceived threat of the elves and in hopes of finding a new nesting ground amidst the empty towers of Dol Guldur in the black lands where the elves never ventured.

    Near the border of the northern woods Aragorn and Legolas quietly stole away, separating from the returning elves, and sought safety in the mountain hills on the perimeter of the forbidden elven territory. The refugees were so dazed and wearied that not even the elf warriors noticed the passing of the two friends. Once under the familiar woods they were able to find their own way home and staggered on without their rescuers.
    From a short distance away, the two hooded and cloaked figures stood atop a thickly wooded hill and watched the returning elves slowly making their way back towards their homes. A number of them were wounded, although on the whole it was nothing worse than hefty doses of spider poison. They would survive, but they would not feel well for some time.
    The palace itself had been turned into a temporary house of healing for the worst cases that had been accumulating during the long battle with the spiders and many of the wounded were being brought thither now. The great gates stood open to allow their passage and Legolas followed them with his keen eyes, a terrible longing pulling at his heart as he gazed upon his home. It was strange and painful to view it as an outsider, looking in. Even more painful was knowing that somewhere in there his father lay at death’s door, and yet if he ventured anywhere near the king, his own life was forfeit.
    Aragorn clutched his sword lightly, but warily, at his side, glancing at his friend out of the corner of his eye and wondering how the prince must feel being at the same time so close and yet so far from his home. He tried to catch a glimpse of Legolas’ eyes, but the low hoods they had donned to conceal their identity hid all but his friend’s tense mouth and jaw line. Still, the ranger felt he could read some of the emotions Legolas must surely be feeling.
    The young man remembered his own feelings and fears when they entered Rivendell, and he had even had the small comfort of feeling at least halfway sure that Elrond would not turn him away... Yet it was Legolas’ father that had pronounced this doom upon them and death awaited if they ventured nearer.
    "Look," Legolas gestured quietly to the ranger at his side. "There are so many going in, they do not watch the gate very closely. There will be many in the halls as well... one more could pass unnoticed..."
    Aragorn knew what Legolas was thinking. Indeed, he suspected that the elf had been considering it since they first returned to Mirkwood.
    "Legolas," Aragorn said seriously, his eyes searching his friend’s. "You know they’ll kill you if you’re caught in there." His voice was quiet. He was not actually trying to dissuade the elf, but he felt compelled to point out the consequences.
    Legolas nodded without hesitation, he was well aware of that. "I know. But it is a risk I will take. Aragorn..." He shook his head slowly, his eyes filled with sorrow and pain. "He is my father, and he is dying. I would speak to him again, at least one last time, even if my life is the price I pay. Would you do less if it was Elrond who was dying?"
    Aragorn sheathed his sword resolutely. He knew he would have done the same thing in Legolas’ position. "All right then, let’s go."
    "No, Strider," Legolas stopped his friend with a raised hand. "Not this time. This is something I must do alone."
    "But you might need help," Aragorn protested. He did not want his friend to go in there by himself, knowing what he faced. "I’ve come with you thus far, I know the risks, I’ve already chosen them. I will stay by your side."
    "Aragorn..." Legolas’ eyes were serious and firm. "You are a dear friend, dearer than a brother. But this is not your home. These are not your people, and it is not your father who is dying. There are some places where even you cannot follow me, Strider. I must go alone."
    "I’m not afraid to die, Legolas," Aragorn said quietly, although he could already see in the elf’s clear, sad eyes that this was an argument he was not going to win.
    "I know you’re not, my friend," Legolas squeezed Aragorn’s shoulder lightly. "But it is not yet your time. You have too much life in front of you to think about death, young one." The elf grinned softly, because he knew that it always irked Aragorn when he called him that. Yet it was true.
    Legolas turned and began to descend the slope and Aragorn had the horrible, sinking feeling that he was never going to see his friend again.
    "Legolas!" his voice halted the elf and Legolas turned back for a moment.
    "May your heart find peace," Aragorn bid the prince, wishing he could find the words he really wanted to say. He started to clasp his friend’s hand in parting, but then pulled the elf close instead. Legolas wrapped his arm around the young ranger’s shoulders, returning his farewell embrace.
    "Namárië, Aragorn, may the stars always shine on your path," Legolas whispered softly into his friend’s ear before they separated again. His hood had fallen back and they were able to meet eyes one more time. "And if I do not see you again under these heavens, know that I consider myself blessed to have counted you my friend."
    "And I you," Aragorn returned gravely, realizing for the first time that Legolas was not really expecting to return from this foray, which was probably why he did not want his friend to go with him.
    Legolas lightly flipped his hood back up, into place, and started down the hill again, leaving Aragorn standing alone on the slope. Aragorn watched the elf blend effortlessly in with the others in the distance. He followed his friend’s form until Legolas passed beneath the shadow of the great gates and was lost to his view. 


    Legolas slid silently through the familiar passages of his home. He had been right about the number of people in the halls and since he carried himself as one who was well aquainted with the place, no one took any notice of him.
    Still, the elf kept his hood up and his face down, because he knew that here of all places, the danger of being recognized was most high. Several winding hallways finally led him to the familiar door of his father’s chambers. Here, Legolas finally hesitated. How many times had he passed through these doors in his long lifetime? And yet now he stood outside them, afraid to enter, a fugitive in his own house.
    A sharp pain wrapped itself around Legolas’ heart and squeezed tightly. He was not afraid to face the consequences of this visit... if he had to die, he could accept that. What he was afraid of was that he would go in to his father and the older elf would reject him. That the king would keep his vow and even on the verge of death refuse to look upon the son that had defied him. That, Legolas did not think he could bear. Yet this was something he had to do, whatever the outcome.
    Slowly, the elf prince pushed the door open and let himself silently into his father’s chambers. There was no one in the lush, beautiful anti-chamber where Thranduil entertained his guests, and where Legolas had spent so many restful evenings simply talking and laughing with the older elf about everything and nothing at all.
    This place held too many memories for Legolas, and he padded quickly over the thick rugs without making a sound. Ahead on the left was the doorway to his father’s sleeping chamber and he could hear soft, muted voices from within. One of the voices approached the partially open bedroom door and Legolas quickly pressed himself back into the shadow of a draping curtain as the door was pushed open from inside.
    Elrynd, one of Thranduil’s faithful servants whom Legolas knew well, exited the room. The elf’s fair face was grim and sad and Legolas read there all the things about his father’s condition that he did not want to fully accept.
    The young prince waited until Elrynd left on whatever errand he had been sent before making his way back towards the bedchamber. The door stood ajar and, through the crack, Legolas could see that there was no one else present save the sad figure of his father on the bed. The Elvenking lay with his back to the door.
    Silently admitting himself into the room, Legolas’ heart pounded loudly in his ears as he approached his father’s bed. He was perhaps more frightened of this meeting than he had ever been of anything else he had yet encountered in his life.
    Thranduil lay motionless against the pillows and a deadly pallor like a frost lay upon him. His ageless features looked infinitely older and sorrow creased every line of his care-worn face. It broke Legolas’ heart to see his father in such a state.
    "Elrynd?" Thranduil asked weakly when he sensed that someone had entered; his voice slurred slightly. There was nothing physically wrong with him, but his own feelings of despair had eaten away at him until he was very literally letting go of life all together, his body wasting away with his spirit.
    Legolas froze, momentarily unable to speak.
    Thranduil rolled over with an effort, his eyes lighting on the cloaked, hooded form of the stranger at his bedside. The king blinked hazily as he attempted to focus on the newcomer, his brows furrowing in confusion. "Elrynd?"
    Legolas swallowed hard. "Nay, not Elrynd..." with a quick flick of his wrist, the elf prince let his hood fall back, "...Father."

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