They felt eyes upon them, and sensed they were being watched, measured... by something, then the path took a long, meandering curve and the outside world disappeared as the strangely mute forest swallowed them.
They felt singularly alone, but the sensation of being watched diminished. Both breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short lived. As they turned another bend, a dark shape flew from the trees and swept Elrond from his horse. Thranduil! Before Glorfindel could draw his sword, they were gone, vanished into the depths of Mirkwood.
Glorfindel urgently reached for Arodon’s reins and spoke aloud, as he leaned into his stallion’s neck. “Fly, Asfaloth! Without Elrond, we must make it to Thranduil’s halls before nightfall!”
Glorfindel’s headlong flight was accomplished in near silence, but he felt something chasing him, something malevolent. His heart was filled with dread, but he kept moving, not even pausing for a moment to give the horses some rest. When the granite outcropping that marked the Great Gate into Thranduil’s halls finally loomed into view, even the mounts breathed easier.
Once through the Great Gate, Glorfindel noted the increased number of guards, all attired and armed identically with silver-bright blades and mithril-tipped arrows. Something was horribly wrong.
When he reached the top of the steps, his way was barred by more guards, their pikes crossed in front of the door, while still others pointed their bows at him. The Elda held up his hands. His arrival was apparently unexpected, but the large doors were thrown open and the guards stood down.
“Galion! Legolas!” Glorfindel greeted the two elves with relief and clasped their arms. “The king?”
Legolas shook his head, and looked around. “Where is Lord Elrond?”
“He was taken… I got here as quickly as I could.”
Galion and Legolas exchanged glances and came to a silent agreement.
“Follow me to your rooms, Glorfindel. Galion will join us shortly with a proper meal for you. Then we can talk.”
Legolas refused to answer his queries, so the pair waited in strained silence until Galion entered, followed by a servant with a tray of food. As he closed the door behind the maid, Galion waved at the tray. “Please, Glorfindel, eat.”
Glorfindel sat, looking intently at the others. “What has gone on and why was Elrond spirited away?”
Mirkwood’s seneschal poured three glasses of wine and handed them out. He took a sip and sighed. “None are allowed out at night, not even the warriors. Thranduil disappears, stays away, avoiding us all. He fears he might lose what sanity he has yet held onto.” Galion swirled his wine and stared as the burgundy glinted in the candlelight. “Mayhap he felt he needed to ‘save’ Elrond, to keep him safe, but I really do not know his mind anymore.”
“If it was not safe for Elrond to come, why did you send for him?”
Galion turned his head sharply, his brow furrowed in confusion, “I did not send for your lord. The king expressly forbid it.”
Glorfindel considered that Elrond could have lied to him. “What is really going on? Tell me.”
His shoulders sagged and the last years’ travails poured out of the tired seneschal. “It is as I said, but worse… far worse. Sercesíro moves with impunity at night, taunting the king… threatening to turn those he loves. He knows Thranduil’s weakness and exploits it. And now… the blood of animals no longer eases the king’s hunger, even when he hunts them himself.”
Glorfindel’s eyes widened, but Legolas forestalled his questions. “Aye, he feeds from me or a few, trusted others, but even that is no longer enough. I was beginning to despair.”
Glorfindel placed his head in his hands, feeling a great weight settle upon him. “I see your dilemma.”
Galion nodded, “We are losing the king.”
Legolas pleaded. “Help us, Glorfindel. We have to hunt Him. Now. Before it is too late for my father.”
Galion shook his head, “That is madness, your Highness!”
Glorfindel stopped them both, his eyes taking on a wicked gleam, “Wait, Galion. It just might work. We have the bait…” He regarded Legolas carefully, “Can you convince your father to cooperate?”
Legolas stood, “He would do anything to be free.”
“Good.” The three elves began to plan.
Thranduil paced, “Nay! I forbid it. If anything goes wrong, He will have everything!”
Awakened by loud voices, Elrond slipped on a robe and padded quietly into the sitting area. “What do you forbid?”
As all eyes turned to Elrond, Glorfindel carefully studied his lord’s state. He was ashen, his neck and torso covered with bruises, but his eyes were serene, and a soft smile tugged at his lips. With Elrond safe, the Elda was convinced their plan could not fail and he explained it to the half-elf, while Thranduil seethed.
Elrond took the king aside. Long moments of animated, hushed discussion took place, but Thranduil conceded. He could deny Elrond nothing, even this.
Anor set, and as darkness enveloped his realm Thranduil flew through the forest with Sercesíro hot on his heels. Though they had played this cat and mouse game too many nights to count, the other was unaware that this night was different.
The cave in the foothills of the Grey Mountains was easily found and the trap laid. Glorfindel and the rest of the guard retreated, knowing their heartbeats would reveal their presence. Elrond and Legolas sat in uneasy silence, their weapons drawn and ready, a dim lantern their only comfort in this place that reeked of death and unspeakable abomination.
Without warning, wind swept through the cave, snuffing the lantern and leaving a chill creeping up their spines. They tightened their hands about their mithril blades and arrows, but it was futile. Just as quickly as the flame was extinguished, it was re-lit and Elrond was caught standing, his blades drawn, crossed in front of him to ward off an attack. The light revealed Legolas held in Sercesíro’s arms, his head bent and sharp teeth gleaming against the carotid artery.
Eyes blacker than pitch met Elrond’s cool grey gaze. The fallen Maia tugged Legolas’ head back further and snarled. “Drop your weapons, Peredhel, or your princeling’s neck will be snapped and his blood drained before you can think to move.” Without hesitating, Elrond slowly placed his blades down upon the stones, his eyes never leaving the vampire’s. Smiling malevolently, Sercesíro licked Legolas’ neck. “Move to the wall, away from your blades.”
While the vampire’s attention was on the half-elf, the prince slid the dagger from his sleeve and stabbed backward and up, directly into the black heart of the beast. Howling in outrage, Sercesíro flung Legolas across the cave and pulled the lethal blade from his chest. Scrambling to finish the deed, Elrond quickly nocked a mithril arrow and fired. His aim was true, but he did not penetrate the heart nor sever the spinal chord. The vampire was wounded but not fatally and was now even more dangerous.
After pulling the arrow from his abdomen, Sercesíro stalked toward his attackers. Before he could turn their weapons against them, a dark shape flew into the cavern and knocked him to the ground.
“Take Legolas and run!”
Elrond half carried, half dragged the dazed prince toward the cave entrance. Hearing a pained groan, he turned and witnessed the brief battle. Just as Sercesíro seemed to gain the upper hand and was about to impale Thranduil, two arrows whizzed past his head, and both imbedded themselves deeply into the vampire, severing his heart and spinal column. Glorfindel had returned, just in time. A blood-curdling death scream rent the air, but the fallen Maia was not done. As he fell, he used his last strength to plunge the mithril arrow deep into Thranduil’s chest.
Elrond leaped forward to gather Thranduil in his arms. “Nay!”
Hot tears spilled upon the king’s face, and his eyes fluttered open. A bloody hand reached up to wipe Elrond’s cheek, “No tears. I am free…”
“By the Valar! No! Have I not lost enough?” Elrond’s anguished cries echoed through the cavern.
Legolas knelt beside his father, “Adar?” The silence grew oppressive, but then they both heard a faint chuckling. Confused, both elves looked down at Thranduil, and saw his eyes were open and he was smiling.
“I think I yet live… if my mate would be so kind as to deal with this pesky arrow…”