Author's Note: I wasn't even seriously planning to do this. But with the way the world is right now… well, we could all use a little escapism, right? So, here you go… a selection of cut scenes, not just from Dusk but from all of the arc, with some of my commentary to go with them. This isn't all of them by far – there are way too many, too many abandoned plotlines – but I hope it'll be a bit of fun to take everyone's mind off everything else that's happening. (They're all unedited, for the most part, so please forgive any errors.)
I hope you're all well and healthy, wherever you are. Stay strong, stay safe, and remember that we will get through this.
I never really found a place for this particular cut scene. I didn't even write it fully, it's just a snippet of what could have been. It was meant for the beginning of a fic exploring Celephindeth a little – but, well, I think I wrote enough of her in other fics that it wasn't really necessary. At the time I wrote this, I intended that the Elves would be able to recover Candnaur's body, though the fic didn't go that way in the end.
Candnaur's funeral was held on a balmy day in autumn.
The whispering of the trees was silent as the grave was dug and the body lowered into the welcoming earth.
Nobody spoke. Nobody had to. The Elves would sing their laments through the night, sing of their lost kinsman and sing for his safe passage across the Sundering Sea. But in the light of the afternoon sun, watching two of the archers plant an oak sapling at Candnaur's head, they had no desire to speak of their loss. The pain was too near.
Legolas was the first to move. The sun glinted on his golden hair as he bowed formally to Candnaur's mother, Lady Celephindeth.
"I am sorry for your loss."
She made no response. Legolas was grateful. She had said more than enough the previous day in court, when she had spoken out fiercely against the archers and their recklessness and barely stopped short of accusing Legolas of causing her son's death through negligent leadership.
More Celephindeth! I meant to have her flout Legolas' advice to go south – but that would have been stupid, and Celephindeth most definitely isn't stupid, even when she's angry.
Legolas was sitting back against the ancient oak, one leg curled under him, bow held loosely in his left hand. Clad in green and brown, he merged so perfectly into the forest that not even Elven eyes would have spotted him unless they had known precisely where to look.
He was not alone. The patrol had strung itself out, the archers climbing into trees nearly fifty yards apart, so that between the twelve of them they covered well over a quarter of a mile of the Elf-path.
They had been there nearly an hour. So far it had been a quiet watch.
Legolas' attention was caught by movement to his left. He turned. Triwath was signaling to him, a gesture that indicated that there were Elves on the path.
Legolas nodded his understanding, reaching a hand behind him to the tree.
"Who is it?" he murmured.
Friends, the tree assured him. Then it added, Foolish friends, for they mean to go south.
"South? How far?"
They want the yellow flowers by the stream past the green hillock with three beeches.
It took Legolas a minute to work out what the tree meant. When he had, he shook his head. It had been a quiet watch, and there was no reason why they could not go there, but his senses were tingling.
"Too far to go unarmed. Do they have an escort?"
Warriors? No, no warriors.
Legolas sighed. He did not object to patrolling, or training, or sorties, and he was willing to accept the occasional injury as the price he paid for keeping his father's people safe. But he hated dealing with the Elves – far too many of them – who insisted on going where Ellaurë advised them not to. Arbellason had said, more than once, that those who went past the line of Elven warriors went at their own risk; all the same, Legolas could not bring himself to let anybody walk into danger.
He leapt down, landing without a sound, and, indicating that the rest of the archers should stay where they were, he went to investigate.
With the trees guiding him, he found the group of four ellith just as they were about to turn off the path into the woods to the south.
He suppressed a grimace with difficulty when he saw his friend Saeldur's mother.
Celephindeth turned to him with a strained smile. Although the first shock of grief had faded, she had never quite been easy with him since the death of her older son three years previously.
"Legolas. We were going for marigolds. The healers are running low."
She waved a hand behind her, and Legolas saw three of the healers. It was with greater difficulty that he suppressed a second grimace.
"I would not advise it, my lady," he said, keeping his voice neutral. "It is not safe, as far south as you intend to go."
"We will be fine, Legolas," one of the healers protested. "I have been there often with my father."
"Going with Lord Thorontur is not the same as going alone, Calathiel," Legolas said.
He had kept his tone mild; all the same, Calathiel showed no signs of going back. "We must replenish our stock, Legolas, and we do not want to deplete the flowers near the stronghold. Lady Ellaurë gave us leave."
Before the incident with Candnaur, that might have given Legolas pause. But if that disaster had taught him anything, it had been that he should trust his instincts in the field, and trust to Ellaurë's good sense to understand why he had considered it necessary to rescind permission she had given.
This was meant for a flashback in Loyalties, but it didn't really fit. So the setting for this scene is before Lindariel's death.
Arbellason stopped short at the sound of voices. He had come outdoors for a stroll – it was a beautiful night – and, until now, there had been no sound save the whisper of the wind in the trees.
A moment's listening told him it was only a group of young ellyn who had probably had the same idea as he had. He laughed softly; this close to the palace, there could be no doubt of who it was.
He moved on silent feet, rounding the building but staying in the shadows as he watched the group of four young Elves. Legolas, Saeldur, Eredhion and Voronwë, he guessed. They were walking in the shadows, and other than their occasional snickers there was nothing to give them away. He might not have known they were there if he had not heard them –
Until they passed through a pool of moonlight.
Arbellason laughed to himself, waiting until they parted in the rear courtyard – they were obviously returning from illicit revels they did not want their parents to hear about – and Legolas was standing on the grass beneath his balcony, about to leap up onto it.
Arbellason stepped up behind him and cleared his throat.
Legolas uttered a startled sound that was almost a squeak, whirling to face him. "Lord Arbellason!"
"Good evening, Legolas," Arbellason said cheerfully. "Have you been out?"
Legolas studied him for a moment, apparently gauging his mood, before he laughed and nodded. "It is a beautiful night. You will not tell my parents?"
Arbellason shrugged. "You are old enough to be out at night if you choose, so long as you did not stray too far from home." He paused expectantly, and Legolas quickly shook his head. "Good. Then as long as you are in time for training tomorrow, I see no reason for either of your parents to hear of this." He cocked his head. "If you are not tired, walk with me."
"Of course, my lord."
"There are some things you should know," Arbellason said as they walked, "now that you are growing up. How to slip out of your room at night without being caught, for instance. Stealth is a vital skill for a warrior and there is no better way to practise it than avoiding an overly protective father." He gestured in the direction of the courtyard. "To begin with, remember to be silent when you are leaving and returning." He smiled to take the sting out of the rebuke. "I remember how difficult it can be to be silent when you are young and excited by the results of a night time archery contest. Though, in all honestly, when your father and Thorontur and I had them, Thorontur invariably won."
Legolas' eyes sparkled with mirth.
"So make certain," Arbellason went on cheerfully, "that you fulfil the promise Master Bainion claims you have. I, for one, am eager to see Thorontur finally outdone."
Legolas laughed outright. "I will do my best, my lord."
"Good. And one last thing."
Arbellason stopped Legolas with a hand to his elbow, turning the young Elf fully to face him. As he did so, he realized with a start that Legolas was very nearly as tall as he was, now. It felt like only yesterday that Thranduil, grinning like an idiot, had been walking the halls with his newborn Elfling, showing him off to all who passed.
"This," Arbellason said, brushing back a strand of Legolas' golden hair, "is a beacon in the moonlight. Always remember, Legolas: if you do not want to be seen, cover your head."
He saw Legolas' eyes flicker to Arbellason's warrior braids, such a pale silver they were almost white, and laughed again, nodding.
"Yes," he said. "That was a lesson I learnt the hard way – and so did Thranduil along with me. Thranduil never learnt to widen those blue eyes quite as innocently and effectively as you appear to manage, so he suffered far more punishments for his misdeeds."
This, too, was originally written for Loyalties. I think I wanted to give Arbellason more of a role there, but a lot of his scenes ended up cut. Poor Arbellason! I meant to build up his relationship with Legolas, in the early days, far more, but it didn't really happen.
"Wine?" the Elven-king asked, but he did not wait for an answer before he began to pour.
Legolas smiled his thanks as he took the goblet from his father. He sipped, and could not hold back an appreciative smile.
"The 1973 Dorwinion. What are we celebrating?"
"A peaceful watch."
"And the warriors who have given it to us," Arbellason added, raising his own goblet to Legolas.
Legolas laughed and returned the toast, though he could not summon up more than a little enthusiasm for the wine. It had been a quiet watch; all the same, he was exhausted. He had looked in on his father, intending only to bid him good night, but he had found himself being drawn into a discussion of military tactics with the Commander of the Army. It was now nearly midnight.
As though sensing Legolas' thoughts, Thranduil laughed ruefully. "The Healers will be horrified if they learn that I am keeping you from getting rest."
"Thorontur will be horrified," Arbellason said, with a wry smile. "So if he should hear of this, Legolas, and ask who was responsible for making you discuss the placement of light cavalry in the middle of the night –"
"Blame Arbellason," interrupted the Elven-king.
This was originally written for Betrayal – I was going to have Saeldur bring Legolas back himself, in defiance of Legolas' orders. But – while I don't think Legolas would really have been angry with him – I realized that if Saeldur had been there, he would have realized that something was wrong far sooner. I needed him (and Thranduil) out of the way for a few days – and so Rochendilwen and Thorontur took over this part.
It was called the warriors' courtyard, although in fact it really only was the back courtyard of the stronghold. It was conveniently located, backing up onto the entrance that was closest to the Healing Wards, with the stables to the right and the practice ranges and sparring-grounds close by on the left with the warriors' quarters just beyond them. The ground was unpaved, meaning that horses could gallop in and out without their hooves clattering against cobblestones and rousing half the stronghold.
Thranduil stood in it, barely acknowledging the greetings of the Elves hurrying up and down. He had been standing in the same spot for what seemed like hours, listening.
When he finally heard the hurrying hoofbeats he had been waiting for, it only increased his anxiety. For a couple of minutes he could not see the source of the sound, and his fingernails dug into his palms as he waited in growing fear. Then the horse was in sight, Saeldur jumping it over fences and walls and even Elves instead of allowing even a second's delay. Fortunately the Elves in this part of the stronghold were all warriors themselves; they knew what the haste meant and they held themselves perfectly still, ducking slightly when the hooves sailed over their heads but showing no other outward reaction.
Thranduil ran forward, his eyes on the bright head resting on Saeldur's shoulder. There had been no sign of life from Legolas, not even a grimace at the jolts of the horse's hooves thudding onto the ground.
"He is alive," Saeldur said hoarsely, drawing rein. Thranduil saw that both Elves' tunics and cloaks were bloodstained; an enquiring glance at Saeldur drew a shake of the dark head. "Legolas. All Legolas. He needs healers."
"Are you –?"
Thranduil nodded and held up his hands. Legolas did not stir as he was lowered from his friend's arms to his father's. The Elven-king held him as gently as he could, forcing himself to calmness because somebody had to be calm and Saeldur seemed to have reached the end of his tether.
"You should see the healers as well, penneth," he told the young archer gently. "You do not seem yourself."
Saeldur laughed, aiming for lightness but sounding unwontedly bitter. "I am fine, my King. It has just been a... trying... ride." At the raised eyebrow that greeted that statement, he flushed and went on, "Legolas and I are not precisely on speaking terms just now. He thinks I should have let him die instead of bringing him back."
Despite the gravity of the situation, despite the blood now staining his tunic, Thranduil could not help but bark a short laugh. "So long as that is all it is... I must say, I saw it coming. The two of you have not had a serious disagreement for years. Go and get some rest, and stop brooding about it."
"If anything happens... And the last thing I said –"
"I told you to get some rest." Thranduil's arms were full, preventing him from patting Saeldur's shoulder, but he shot the young Elf a look of sympathy and understanding. "You are not the first Elves to have a disagreement in the midst of a battle. You will certainly not be the last. It is a difficult situation, and nobody reacts to anything as they should."
"But I told him –"
"It does not matter. Go and get some rest." He hesitated, and then added, "You will not know, of course, but when Thorontur, Arbellason and I went to the Dagorlad, there were times when we did nothing but quarrel for days on end. We were frightened and tired and we were not being entirely sensible. Whatever you said, Saeldur, Legolas will know it meant nothing when he is feeling himself again. No doubt he said plenty of regrettable things himself. Now go. Your parents must be anxious. I do not want to see you in the healing wards until you have rested and eaten."
This was written for a bit of fun with Éowyn before things got serious. I do plan to write some more stories of her and Faramir with the Elves in Ithilien, because I love it as a concept.
Éowyn could not hold back her smile as she dismounted. There was something about the Elven settlement in Ithilien that brought peace to her spirit as nothing else had ever done. The trees were putting forth new leaves. The forest was green and strong and alive with birdsong sweeter than any harp.
Time seemed to have stood still, the woods no longer young or old but as ageless as the Elves who walked among them.
She laughed when she felt cold steel at her back. The Elves might be ageless to her, but among their own kindred they were young, and playful, and sometimes had the most decidedly odd sense of humour.
"I have no need to be on my guard," she said. "I am here by your prince's leave."
The steel was withdrawn, accompanied by the pure silver sound of Elven mirth, and then Aeroniel was before her. "You are nearly two hours behind the rest of your party."
"They must have told you they left a day before I did. I had business to attend to."
"Lord Faramir is deeply distressed that you insisted on riding all this way alone," said Rochendilwen, appearing on Éowyn's other side.
"I cannot abide the men of court. Elboron is nearly a year old, but the way they treat me you would think I was still in confinement. One of them tried to tell me I should take a carriage. A daughter of Rohan take a carriage!" She glanced from Rochendilwen to Aeroniel. "I hope neither of you intends to tell me I should take a carriage."
"Not I," said Rochendilwen, with a shake of the head. "When Legolas was much younger than Elboron, no more than a few weeks old, I asked the Queen if she needed my help to climb a tree. Believe me, I learnt my lesson."
"She challenged Rochendilwen to Esgalorne," Aeroniel explained.
"With only two people? Is it possible?"
"It is. And Queen Lindariel was no warrior, but the trees so loved her that they led Rochendilwen a merry dance for a day and a half, while the Queen sat at her ease in the tallest of them teaching Legolas the names of the stars."
Éowyn laughed again. "I have something for you," she told Rochendilwen.
"An Elf arrived from Eryn Lasgalen just as I was leaving. He would not stay – he said he had urgent business elsewhere – but he gave me a letter for you, and a package for Legolas." Éowyn drew the letter from her cloak and handed it over.
I didn't put the final scenes in court into the fic – I didn't even write them fully, because I figured out fairly early on that it wouldn't matter. Arahael's fate isn't really a matter of conjecture; and as for Saeldur… well, he never was too worried about what Thranduil thought.
The hush that descended was absolute. For once, nobody in the room, save Thranduil – and, perhaps, Legolas, at whose impassive face Saeldur dared to cast a quick glance – knew what was going to happen. That Arahael would be exiled had been all but certain. He had long made it his life's work to destroy the Elven-prince.
What his own fate would be, even Saeldur could not conjecture. Even if the King believed him, he had still risked Legolas' life for the sake of his own pride. It would be an offence against the realm if anyone else had done it, but Saeldur was – or had been – Legolas' friend, the most trusted of his captains –
His punishment might be far more lenient than Arahael's. Or far worse.
"Saeldur." Thranduil had the expression of one who was having to perform some distasteful duty. "The acts to which you have admitted constitute, at the very least, a grave error of judgement. At the worst, you are guilty of high treason."
Legolas was deliberately avoiding his eyes. Saeldur felt an icy hand clutch at his heart. If Legolas could not even stand to look at him…
"I will be honest," Thranduil went on. "If I were to follow only my own will, I would name you traitor. What you have done is unforgiveable." Saeldur felt a faint glimmer of hope – he hardly cared what his punishment was, but in such a matter only one Elf in all of Arda could have persuaded the Elven-king not to follow his own will. Thranduil's next words proved Saeldur right. "However, at Legolas' request, and in recognition of the service you have rendered the realm, you are acquitted of treason." There was a pause, and then he said, with a hard note in his voice, "I warn you, I will not be so lenient another time."
"Yes, my king," Saeldur mumbled, because he was expected to say something, but he kept his eyes on Legolas. There was more to be said, he knew.
This scene was rewritten for the fic. It didn't make any sense at all to put Legolas in the Healing Wards again, and also it made it difficult to bring the last couple of chapters together, because I felt like if it had gone this far, Legolas probably wouldn't have held his ground on Saeldur not staying in Ithilien.
This was the reason for Saeldur's dream in Afterwards – I wrote this scene from Saeldur's point of view as well (and in fact from Legolas' and Feredir's point of view, it took a lot of trials), before finally writing the version that made it to the fic. Éowyn's PoV was important here because I was also going to have Saeldur see Éowyn and Faramir on his way to Ithilien in the last chapter of Dusk.
Éowyn felt her breath catch. She could not have moved if her life had depended on it. It looked as though nobody would move; as though nobody could move save Arahael.
The exiled Elf seemed wild with anger, past all reason, as he waved the dagger in his hand. Saeldur stood alone; and, despite all he had done, Éowyn felt a throb of pity. She believed him when he said he had only been trying to help Legolas; however terrible his actions, his motives had been true. And he stood among those who, only weeks ago, had been his brothers and sisters in arms. Now they looked on as though watching a tableau, and made no move to help.
"You betrayed us all," Arahael snarled, "and this is my vengeance."
He drew his hand back to throw the blade he held.
Saeldur did not move. He would not touch a weapon – he had sworn not to until Legolas himself put one in his hands, and Éowyn knew he would keep that promise. He would not get out of the way, lest someone behind him be struck instead.
There was a silver flash and the blade flew.
Éowyn could not look away, could not close her eyes –
And there was movement, faster than any mortal could move – or even think of reacting – and Saeldur was stumbling back –
Someone screamed. Perhaps it was Éowyn herself.
Saeldur was kneeling on the ground – unhurt – with his arms around Legolas, who was slumped against his shoulder, red staining the front of his tunic. Someone was moving to restrain Arahael. Feredir was pushing through the crowd. He dropped to his knees beside Saeldur and Legolas.
"Get his tunic off," Feredir ordered.
Before Saeldur could obey, Arahael broke free of his captors and ran forward.
"I could have planned no better revenge than this," he said, approaching Saeldur, Legolas and Feredir. "I thought killing you would be sweet, but this…" His eyes were wide. Febrile. Éowyn shuddered. "Seeing your face as Legolas dies in your arms and you are unable to save him –"
"Legolas will not die," Feredir said tersely. "Why is nobody restraining the lunatic?"
Arahael whipped out another knife. "If anybody moves, Legolas will die." His tone was matter-of-fact. "I am far closer to him than the rest of you are to me."
"You have lost your mind." Saeldur looked up at Arahael, although his arms stayed around Legolas. "Legolas did not harm your father. If you must blame someone, blame me."
"Oh, I do blame you," Arahael assured him. "But Legolas seemed to think his life for yours was a fair trade – and who am I to refuse the wishes of our Elven-prince?"
The knife came down.
Legolas never moved.
Legolas never had to. Inches from his chest, there was a spark and the clash of steel on steel.
Saeldur had snatched one of Legolas' knives from its sheath and was holding it up, while his other arm supported Legolas.
Arahael laughed. "I thought you swore on your honour to touch no weapon until Legolas gave you one."
Saeldur's grip never wavered.
"If you think my honour matters more to me than Legolas' life, you know nothing." With a sharp twist, he sent Arahael's knife clattering to the forest floor. "It is over, Arahael."
This bit was supposed to go in the last chapter, but, really, it didn't belong there. I was going to have Saeldur see Faramir and Éowyn on his way to Ithilien, so there would have been more of them (especially Éowyn) at the end.
Éowyn was brought up short by the sound of voices. They were too soft to be recognized, barely discernible above the wind in the trees.
Then she saw them through a gap in the leaves, Saeldur and Legolas in the little clearing by the river. Legolas was seated on a fallen log, Saeldur on his knees before him, his gaze on the ground as he spoke. Legolas was looking at something above Saeldur's head, or perhaps not looking at anything at all; Éowyn would almost have believed they were unaware of each other's presence if it had not been for the tightly clasped hands resting on Legolas' knee.
Éowyn stepped back. She was not meant to bear witness to this confession.
This would have gone after the last chapter of Dusk – or perhaps as an independent ficlet, but, really, it didn't seem to fit in either place. So here it is. I realize I never did spend too much time on either Rochendilwen or Legolas reacting to Bregolien's death – Rochendilwen because I truly do believe that he had been dead to her for a very long time, and she saw it as a chance for him to redeem himself after a time of reflection and repentance in the Halls of Mandos.
I also don't think Legolas would have been too angsty about it, because by this time he has the maturity to realize that he had no choice and did what he had to do. Still, he couldn't have been entirely unaffected.
Legolas stared at the canopy of leaves overhead.
He had not lied when he had told Saeldur that storms would no longer bother him. It appeared that rest was unlikely to be his friend, either.
He got out of bed. There were going to be no dreams tonight in any case.
He opened his bedroom door soundlessly, padding into the sitting room that took up most of the talan. There was no light shining under Saeldur's bedroom door. That was good; at least one of them was getting some sleep.
Legolas debated going outside, but decided against it. The last thing he wanted was to have whichever archers were on guard tonight deciding his sleeplessness was caused by the lingering ill effects of his ordeal. He knew they meant well, but he could not face their solicitousness.
He sat by the window, letting his gaze flit around the view it provided of the settlement. He could see a couple of moonlit figures standing by the clearing where they lit their bonfires when they had feasts. Duvain and Ornil. There were telain all around, candlelight glowing from the windows of some. Somewhere on the ground, someone was singing.
Ithilien was at peace.
Legolas ought to be at peace. Bregolien was dead. The nightmares that had plagued him since his mother's murder were at an end. There was no more need to worry about assassins and knives in the dark.
Nothing could change the fact that he was now responsible for the deaths of the brothers of two of his closest friends. He would have avoided both if he could have done. Neither Saeldur nor Rochendilwen bore the slightest grudge against him.
But there was Elven blood on his hands.
He was startled from his thoughts when he felt a cloak drop around his shoulders.
He looked up at Saeldur, whose grey eyes were very serious as they met his.
"Do you trust me?"
"You know I do," said Legolas.
"Then, if you are not going to sleep, we are going to talk."
"There is nothing to talk about." Legolas returned his gaze to the scene outside.
"I will be the judge of that." Saeldur glanced out the window. "We cannot go out, somebody will see us. This will have to do."
He went to the side table, retrieved the flask of wine that was kept there, picked up a couple of cups, and returned. He settled down on the floor, his back to the wall, and looked up at Legolas expectantly.
Legolas knew Saeldur would not be content unless he played along, so he sat on the floor next to him, stretching out his legs. Saeldur put a cup of wine in his hands.
Legolas was suddenly, irresistibly reminded of the night several months after his mother's death when Elladan and Elrohir had returned to Imladris, Legolas had been attempting to return to his normal duties but had barely been able to shoot to the standards of a first-year novice, and Saeldur had cornered him in his bedroom, dragged him out to the balcony, and refused to leave until Legolas unburdened his heart.
They had spent hours on that balcony, huddled under a cloak to keep the guards from noticing the telltale glint of starlight on Legolas' hair.
Legolas bit his lip.
"You will not talk to your father," said Saeldur, repeating his own past words, "because you do not want to worry or grieve him. You will not talk to Eredhion and Voronwë because they will feel guilty for having failed to keep you from harm. You will not talk to Rochendilwen because Bregolien was her brother. You will not talk to Aeroniel because, even after all this time, you fear she will blame you. You might talk to the sons of Elrond, but they are not here."
Legolas chose not to respond.
"I am here," Saeldur went on. "Bregolien was not my brother. Nothing you say can make me feel guiltier than I already do. You know I will not blame you, no matter what you had to do." Saeldur's voice was steady and even, soothing something in Legolas' soul. "Talk to me, Elfling."
"I am not an Elfling," Legolas responded automatically.
"Talk to me."
"Saeldur, please. Do not ask this of me."
Saeldur's arm slid around his shoulders. Despite himself, Legolas relaxed into the comforting touch.
"You do not truly think I will blame you?"
"How could you not? I blame myself."
"That is because you are a fool. Legolas… if you will not trust yourself, at least trust me. I will not blame you, not for anything. I swear it. Tell me." Saeldur squeezed Legolas' shoulders lightly. "I am sworn to share the burden of your duty, Legolas. If you will not tell me, you do not let me keep my oaths."
Most of these – well, there's a reason they didn't make it into any of the published stories, and, as I said, they're unedited. But I hope, just for a while, they gave everyone something else to think about.