Siege of Dread

Chapter 12: To Hold a Falling Star

by Cassia and Siobhan

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I watched the stars as they fell from the sky
I held a fallen star and it wept for me; dying.

I felt the shooting stars encircle me, now as they fall...
Now as they fall.


The prince had always considered wargs to be more or less mindless creatures set only on destruction, death, carnage and sating their own blood lust.  Now he found that was not entirely true.  Obviously they could be both cunning and cruel in their own limited way.

Mrdhdúk did not tear into him as one might expect of a wild beast.  Rather, she held him down firmly with one massive foot while she dragged the other clawed paw slowly along the elf’s side, cutting painful but mostly superficial grooves in the prince’s pale skin. 

Legolas clenched his jaw tightly in pain as the warg ran its claws slowly down his other side in the same manner, cutting him from armpit to waist.  Legolas grabbed the paw on his chest, desperation lending him the strength to force it upward enough to roll away.  But the two other wargs had joined the game by now and they did not let the elf go far.  A darker-pelted warg pounced forward, knocking Legolas sprawling again.  A third, smaller warg checked the prince’s forceful tumble, catching Legolas’ shoulder lightly in its teeth.  It did not bite down enough to do serious damage, but its fangs lightly punctured the archer’s sensitive skin as it shook him roughly back and forth.  Rolling its head with a snapping motion, the creature flung the elf back to the ground at its packmates' feet like a giant dog with a play toy. 

Legolas’ heart was pounding in fear and pain as he hit the ground yet again, his hurting body jolting painfully.  He tried to scramble to his feet, but the wargs were not about to allow that.  The elf was flat against the earth again in a matter of moments.  Legolas’ chin impacted hard with the ground, sending a ringing buzz through his head.  He tasted blood in his mouth at the same time that he felt one of the wargs latch onto his leg, dragging him backward in a slithering motion.  Legolas had no purchase, no control over the situation as he was bumped and scraped roughly across the jagged ground before the warg released him with a flick of its head, sending him rolling again.  Their teeth cut the elf, but they weren’t really biting him.  However, hidden behind each ungentle touch was the not so subtle knowledge and threat that at any moment they could stop playing and become earnest.  All it would take was one serious bite from those massive jaws when they were holding him and Legolas would never recover.  The prince realized with sickening horror that if the orcs intended to kill him, then they meant for it to be very slow. 

The wargs toyed with Legolas as if he were the object of a game, batting him back and forth between them, and pouncing on him whenever he tried to get away. 

Mrdhdúk leaned her revolting head down, lapping at the blood that was now flowing easily from the multiple lacerations the elf had been receiving from their rough treatment.  Legolas started as the beast’s saliva sent a new wave of burning agony through his torn body. 

He struggled against the warg’s cruel ministrations, but Mrdhdúk just growled and flipped him roughly over onto his stomach like a disobedient wargling.  The elf felt their claws again on his back and shoulders, tearing him teasingly as their combined weight held his weakened body helplessly against the rocks.  The hard earth dug into the cuts on his chest as the wargs scrubbed him back and forth when they moved above him. 

The wargs were still restrained, but their blood lust was obviously being whipped up to peak levels by their play and they were quickly becoming more vicious.  The prince gasped and squirmed, crying out softly, unable to remain impassive or silent as the beast’s claws slowly raked his already injured flesh again and again.  The pain and claustrophobia of being trapped under the creatures was making him desperate, but he could not escape. 

The orcs had formed a ring around the wargs, chanting and urging them on, obviously enjoying the sport.  Thranduil could barely see Legolas through their seething, churning mass and at the moment he couldn’t say whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. 

The smaller warg seemed to have enough of this gentle play.  He snarled sharply, pushing his claws down harder and tearing the elf’s back deeply. 

Legolas screamed. 

Thranduil fought the urge to retch.  He had given up struggling; given up cursing these horrible creatures for what they were doing to his precious child... none of it did any good.  All he could do was watch and listen in gut-wrenching horror as his heart was torn apart in front of him.  Tears flowed freely, but he was not ashamed of them.  If Legolas died here, in these cruel circumstances, Thranduil knew he would follow whether the orcs willed it or no.  He could not stand to lose the younger elf like this. 

Mrdhdúk butted the smaller warg aside somewhat roughly.  This was her game and she did not appreciate others upping the ante before she was ready.  Master had given them leave to play, not to kill and she never disappointed her master.  The elf was bleeding freely now, too freely.  His struggles had weakened to the point of non-existence and he lay still on the stony ground, his chest heaving unevenly as he tried to curl away from them.  Her small but sharp mind told the warg that if they pushed much further, the smaller being under them was not long for this world. 

Roughly, Mrdhdúk nosed the elf back onto his stomach and Legolas tensed, hissing in pain as he expected it to start all over again.  Instead of claws however, Mrdhdúk lathered his torn back with her tongue, lapping up his blood and leaving a sticky coating of her saliva behind. 

Legolas only barely kept from shrieking as the abrasive substance filled his wounds and added a new level of agony to his pain.  Burying his mouth against the back of his hand he tried to not keep giving voice to his hurt as wracking sobs shook his shoulders.  He could not take much more. 

As paradoxical as it seemed, however, Mrdhdúk’s ministrations would actually help the elf in the long run.  Loathsome as it was, the warg’s saliva had a crude but remarkably powerful healing element to it.  This was necessary since wargs often fought among themselves and the bites they inflicted so often became almost instantly infected; the wargs needed something to counter their own destructive natures in order to survive as a species.  The odd healing power of the disgusting substance was something the orcs had discovered long ago and used often to their advantage.  Mrdhdúk restrained the elf firmly, not above hurting it a little more just for fun even while she assured it was going to survive for the present. 

Legolas didn’t have the strength to struggle anymore; it took all his energy not to keep crying out as Mrdhdúk savored the flavor of his blood, thoroughly licking his back clean until the bleeding had stopped.  Lifting him none too gently in her jaws, the warg padded over to Guruth and dropped the elf’s limp body at his feet, looking up expectantly. 

Guruth smiled and patted her shoulder in approval, whispering to her in their own language.  He knew it showed her fealty and fear of him that she delivered the creature uneaten and still alive.  Even if only barely. 

“Feed them,” Guruth ordered one or two of the other orcs, indicating the wargs with his head.  “You, pick him up,” he motioned a second group towards Legolas’ still form. 

Legolas could not stand on his own and the orcs had to hold him up.  Guruth took his hand away from his side, black with the orc’s own blood.  Striking out he punched Legolas right where two claw slashes crisscrossed against the side of his ribs.  Legolas winced sharply and moaned through his teeth, sagging a little further in his captor’s arms.  The orc smiled, satisfied that the elf had paid for what he had done.  Despite his earlier inclination to kill one of them, Guruth’s practical mind had begun to win out again now that his blood lust had been appeased and he knew that their chances were better with two than with one, if it were reasonably possible to keep them both alive.  Although after this... well, the young one wouldn’t be around long now, but maybe long enough to still be useful. 

Thranduil had been shoved to the back during the earlier excitement with the wargs and he could not see when Legolas was dropped at Guruth’s feet.  All he knew was that things had gone very quiet and he was mortally afraid of what that meant. 

Suddenly the dark mass of orc bodies parted and their prisoner was thrust forward. 

His heart stopped.  Time stopped.  Everything became suddenly deathly silent as the orcs threw the bleeding blond elf to the ground in front of him. 

“LEGOLAS!” the Elvenking’s heart screamed in sudden horror, but it was barely a trembling whisper on his lips as his son fell limply into his lap, the younger elf’s golden hair spilling across the elf king’s legs like tattered remnants of sunshine fading from sight in this darkened world. 

Legolas’ head came to rest against his knees, the prince’s glazed silver-blue eyes staring up into nothing. 

Thranduil thought his heart would never start beating again.  Cold dread washed through him in crashing waves as a horrible sense of deja-vu flooded his entire being.  His blood froze and goosebumps stood out against every inch of his flesh.  No... no... not this.  Not his nightmare come to reality.  It could not be.  It could not be! 

“NO!  Legolas!  What have you done to him?!  LEGOLAS!!”  Thranduil found himself shouting the familiar and hated words out of the utter devastation of his heart as he took in the sight of his son’s battered body and unresponsive eyes.  

At a nod from Guruth, the orcs holding Thranduil’s arms released him, allowing the Elvenking to lean forward and gather his injured child into his arms.  Guruth found something perversely enjoyable about this scene and did not hinder them.  His own injuries were hurting him, however, and he knew he needed to take care of that.  The orc leveled a threatening glare on some of his underlings. 

“Guard them.  If they so much as MOVE again I will have all your heads,” he threatened.  “And you,” he turned his dark gaze on Thranduil.  “If you want to remain free to hold him then don’t try anything.  If you so much as twitch wrong I’ll have you both tied up and staked out on the nearest wall.  AFTER I let the wargs finish what they started with him,” at this he kicked Legolas’ limp form dispassionately.  “Do you understand?” 

Thranduil’s burning, hate-filled eyes said that he did.  He would do nothing to endanger his son’s life at this moment.  It was probably a small mercy for both elves that the orcs did not know they were father and son; their cruelty would only have increased, if that were possible. 

Guruth snorted and moved away, calling for Mrdhdúk who was messily finishing whatever reasonably fresh meat the other orcs had scrounged up for her.  Sitting down and removing his rough, leather cuirass, the orc let her clean his wound. 

Legolas had started trembling and Thranduil pulled off his dark blue cloak, wrapping the younger elf up in its soft, enveloping folds, careful of the prince’s multiple injuries.  He gathered Legolas gently to him, pressing the boy’s head against his breast and holding the lithe, shaking body close. 

“Legolas?” he whispered softly into the prince’s matted hair.  “Ion-nín, le ah nin?  My son, are you with me?” 

Legolas responded with a shaky nod against his father’s chest, not trusting himself to be able to speak just yet.  

Thranduil breathed a soft sigh of relief at the response, however slight.  “Gohena nin, Legolas... forgive me,” he murmured.  His utter lack of ability to protect his son when his son needed him burned Thranduil.  It suddenly struck the Elvenking that he never had been able to protect Legolas and that thought cut deeply.  The look in Legolas’ eyes earlier, and the way he accepted pain with so much tolerance had brought that fact crashing home to the king in the most painful way.  Even when he was a child, Thranduil had not protected him from abuse that occurred right under his own nose, in Legolas’ own home.  Then he sent the young elf off when he wasn’t even of age yet to a place where he would sustain even more grievous injuries and have his innocence stripped brutally away from him.  And all that was only the tip of the iceberg... had he ever been there when his son needed him, even emotionally?  After Legolas’ mother left, had he comforted the boy, or had he withdrawn into his own private world of loss and further alienated his hurting son?  Thranduil shuddered at the sudden, self-condemning maelstrom that his pain and grief over what had just happened was whipping up inside him.

That brief look of vulnerability and jaded fear he had seen earlier continued to haunt him harshly.  Legolas had been frightened of the orcs... that was natural of course, but it was not a normal level of fear; it was something darker and deeper, something Thranduil could not reconcile with the soundless and accepting way Legolas had taken the subsequent beating.  No one as young as his son should have had so much experience in how cruel the world could be.  No loving father should have let his son suffer so much. 

The accusers in Thranduil’s heart did not let him rest as he rocked the injured younger elf gently back and forth, murmuring comforting words.  His son, whom he loved more than life, whom he had accidentally hurt so often, whom he had... exiled at one time for goodness sakes, how could he ever have done that?  How could he have failed the one he cared for the most so many times?  Even when he tried to keep his son safe, it usually ended up backfiring.  Then Legolas saw him as restrictive and overbearing and they would quarrel.  Thranduil had thought he was trying to keep his son safe by discouraging his friendship with Strider so many years ago, but by now he knew what a foolish and utterly futile attempt that had been.  He was a king and a leader, but he was also a father... why was it that it was only the last he could never seem to handle correctly? 

Tears spilled down the elder elf’s face as he buried his cheek against his son’s head, hugging Legolas closely to him.  “Gohena nin, gohena nin...” 

Legolas felt his father’s inner turmoil and anguish throbbing against him even as the older elf tried to be comforting for his sake.  He could not begin to understand the reasons for Thranduil’s consuming guilt, but he did not want the older elf to be suffering so on his account.  A shaky hand reached up and Legolas’ slender fingers pressed against his father’s lips, silencing the heartbroken words.

Ú-moe edhored, Ada,” he whispered faintly, still afraid to talk too loudly less his voice betray him and quaver.  “There is nothing to forgive.  This... this isn’t your fault.  I... I’m sorry.  I should not have reacted so shamefully.  I didn’t mean...” 

“Shh, no, no, Legolas,” Thranduil shook his head firmly, taking Legolas’ fingers from his lips, kissing them and wrapping his hand around them, pressing them tightly to his breast.  He couldn’t believe that Legolas would think he might be ashamed of him in any way.  Always, he knew, that had been Legolas’ fear, one he had never seemed to be able to fully assuage.  “You are very strong, Legolas.  I am proud of you, my son, very proud.  I always will be.  I’m sorry if I have not made that clearer to you over the years.  I love you, Legolas,” he whispered, abandoning his natural emotional reserve in the face of nearly having lost the younger elf... and the fear that he yet might.

Legolas smiled; a warm, genuine smile despite his weary, pain-laden body.  He gingerly burrowed a little closer to his father’s comforting warmth, wincing as even the slightest movement pulled against his torn body.  “I know, Ada,” he whispered quietly, his drained voice conveying a surprising warmth and confidence in that fact.  “I’ve always known.  Sui im cared le.” //As I do you.// 

Thranduil just held Legolas for a long while, rocking the younger elf gently.  He desperately wished that he had Elrond’s healing abilities at this moment, because although he could feel Legolas’ weakened body struggling to maintain a viable balance between pain and survival as he pressed close into his father’s warm embrace, Thranduil could do so little to help.

To Legolas however, just having his father there was help in itself.  Thranduil was not an emotionally demonstrative person and Legolas could not stand being perceived as in need of coddling in any case.  He knew his father cared.  Thranduil may have been a very private person emotionally, but he had always made sure that his son knew he was loved.  Yet for the most part theirs was a strong, but formal and emotionally distant bond.  The prince could barely recall the last time his father had been this gentle and tender with him.  As ridiculous as he supposed it was, Legolas realized that some corner of his heart craved that kind of easily obtained affection, the kind he watched flow so freely between Estel and his family.  In truth it was something Legolas had always desired, but after the deep wounds he took to his spirit in Mordor it was not simply a fond wish, but a deep, bone-aching need that he had scarcely even realized existed until he found it being filled now. 

Legolas’ hurting body pulled him from his pleasant thoughts and he moaned softly.  He felt dizzy and ill.  His limits, incredibly high though they were, had been pushed too far, too fast and even the antiseptic quality of the warg’s crude care was foreign and painful to him.  He kept his eyes closed and pressed his forehead tightly against his father’s chest, rocking back and forth in small, distressed movements in an attempt to distract himself from the overwhelming sting of his injuries.  It was too much, his body was not springing back although it was trying hard. 

“Your ketrals missed you while you were gone, Legolas,” Thranduil said softly, hoping that conversation would help take his son’s mind off his pain.  “They tore up Trelan’s house so badly his father brought them back to me and said under no circumstances were they going to watch them for you when you were away ever again.” 

Legolas chuckled softly.  He and Thranduil had clashed heads about his pets more than once, but he could tell his father was speaking with good humor this time. 

“I’m surprised they’re still alive,” the prince murmured.

“They should count themselves lucky, I can assure you.  If I had not been assured that their flavor was foul they would have ended up the appetizer for Lady Bethlia’s reception feast,” Thranduil deadpanned and Legolas had to look up to catch the glint in his eyes that said he was joking. 

Thranduil could not help but smile gently at his son’s almost alarmed look.  He smoothed Legolas’ hair.  “You must know I wouldn’t do that, Legolas.  Lock them in the cellars yes... make them suffer through Lady Bethlia’s company, even as an side dish, no.” 

Legolas laughed at that but quickly had to stop when it turned into coughing and made a few tears squeeze unbidden from his eyes.  He hurt so badly, and there was nowhere he could go to escape the pain. 

Thranduil stroked the hair on the back of Legolas’ head absently.  “They are very prolific, however.  You have three new grandbabies waiting for you at home.” 

Legolas smiled faintly.  “I did not realize I had been gone that long.” 

“You have,” Thranduil’s voice was soft.  “They weren’t the only ones who missed you.” 

Legolas blinked and looked up again, moving only his neck since anything else hurt too much.  The prince searched his father’s eyes and was surprised by what he found.  It had been such a short time really; he had barely expected his father to even notice he was gone. 

Thranduil smiled sadly.  Ordinarily, he would have shared the thoughts that he could see written clearly in his son’s silver-blue eyes, but this separation had not been ordinary somehow and he did not know how to explain that. 

“I... worried for you, Legolas,” Thranduil admitted.  “I had horrible nightmares.  You...” he hated to speak of it aloud.  “You were asking someone to end your life because you could not carry on.”  His voice was fearful.  Seeing Legolas as he was now, Thranduil dreaded the possibility of seeing the rest of his dream come to reality. 

Legolas stiffened in his father’s arms.  For a few moments he thought he was going to be ill.  He had never intended for his father to find out about that, ever.  That Thranduil had in some way seen that moment of ultimate defeat in his life horrified him. 

Thranduil was still speaking.  “And then I saw this, now, what has happened...” His grip on his son tightened.  “Do not leave me, Legolas,” he whispered.  “I promise that whatever happens to us I will not let you face it alone, but do not give up.” 

Legolas realized that Thranduil had it backward and feared that what he had seen was a glimpse of the future, rather than an all too uncannily accurate depiction of the past. 

“Fear not father, I promise I will do no such thing,” Legolas said seriously, but he smiled, trying to assure his father of the truth of his words.  Indeed, Legolas had already decided that no matter what happened in the future, or how hard things became, he would never again give up the will to live.  He realized now how cruel it would be to those he loved and left behind. 

Thranduil believed the sincerity of his son’s promise, but he did not miss the uneasy way Legolas had stiffened against him when he spoke of his dream.  There was something he had not yet been told here. 

“Legolas,” Thranduil asked presently.  “What happened while you were away?  Lord Elrond said only that you and Strider returned alive and well after many trying journeys.” 

Legolas did not look up to meet his father’s prodding gaze.  “I know,” he murmured.  He had begged the elf lord not to say any more, preferring to leave the retelling of the necessary parts of the story for later.  Much later.  Or perhaps not at all if he could get away with such. 

Thranduil could read more from that statement than Legolas intended.  Injured as he was, Legolas was not as guarded as usual. 

“It was unusual for him to be so vague.”  Thranduil tipped Legolas’ head up gently, meeting his son’s pained eyes with concern.  “Legolas... what happened?” 

“I...” Legolas swallowed hard.  He fidgeted tensely, but the movement and tension sent new flames of agony shooting along his torn sides and back.  Intense pain flashed across his face, and Legolas was glad for the excuse of his physical suffering to hide his discomfort.  With a small gasp he let his head fall back down against his father’s breast.  “I’m sorry, I can’t talk about it right now, Father.  Please understand...” 

Thranduil was already hushing him.  “Then don’t, my son, don’t.  I had no wish to cause you more pain.  We will speak of it another time.  Shhh, rest, rest Legolas, ‘tis all right.  Rest my son.” 

Legolas sighed slightly, glad the issue was so easily laid aside for the present at least.  He let his father soothe him back into a relaxed state.

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