A Tumblr Crackfic Epic AU - A Study in Faerie Tales
Once, there was a boy who went off to war.
He was the youngest son of a great king, though his Kingdom was secret and hidden from mortal eyes. The King would have wished his youngest to stay home where he would be safe and protected from all harm.
The King knew, all too well, the grief and pain that came with the loss of a child.
Though this youngest son brought joy to his father and their Kingdom, it would have been well-nigh impossible to keep him home forever. It would only stifle and warp his spirit. And so the King, like any good parent, allowed his offspring his freedom, hoping and praying that his son would not come to harm.
The boy-Prince came from a long line of warrior-Princes and Kings, so he was eager to test his mettle in war. His fellow soldiers would tease him and call him pretty, for he was fair and beautiful in the manner of all his kin, though in this age, precious few could truly recognize them. But they respected his skill and his courage and he was well-loved among them for his bright, mischievous spirit and good heart.
But for all his skill and for all his gifts, he could still be wounded and struck down.
And so the boy thought that this was how he would meet his doom, bleeding out on the sands of Afghanistan.
The boy did not die that day.
Once, there was a boy who went off to war.
He thought of himself as ordinary and not very interesting. At least, that was what he said when asked outright. He does not like to think of his father, perpetually on and off the wagon, the way his mother tried to protect him and his sister from his drunken rages and the occasional well-meant interference from other family members that came later when his mother died, leaving him and his sister at a far too young age. His father tried, he did, to be better and sometimes, he succeeded, though his failures outnumbered those few victories that he spent free from drink.
The boy’s father died, eventually. The boy did not come to his funeral.
The boy did not like to think of his sister, who shows all the signs of following the same path as their father did. He loves her, of course, but he hates what she is becoming and he hates that he cannot help her, because he already understands that there is nothing for it, unless she helps herself.
It was inevitable, of course, that the boy, now a young man, would think of leaving, of going far away. He already knows that their family has been much talked about in their neighborhood, knows that he is considered to be, with his mother’s passing, the “one good soul in that bad lot.” It is a description that he feels ill at ease in.
He does not believe himself to be truly good. He only knows that he does not wish to be like his father or his sister.
He only knows that he wants something more, something better and perhaps, he will find it by venturing as far from his old neighborhood, his own country even, as he can get.
He ignores the whispers, when it is made known that he has chosen a rather odd mix of professions - doctor and soldier. Army doctors are not uncommon, of course - he is certainly not the first to enlist and use this to pay his way through medical school. But while he has practiced his healer’s craft on the battlefield and indeed, he is quite good at it, he also discovers that he is equally proficient in fighting. He is made a captain of men and he finds that he can kill, easily and without a qualm, if he must, in order to protect and defend the soldiers serving under his command.
Queen and country, they tell him and certainly, that is part of it, if only in a very abstract sense. In the end, it is simply this - they are all soldiers, mates and comrades. They will fight together, have each others’ backs, die to save the other. It is as simple and as wonderfully complex as that.
When he sees one of his men fall, the youngest of their group, considered the “baby” of the squad though he was easily one of their best fighters, the young Captain does not hesitate. He orders for cover fire, rushes to the wounded man’s aid. For now, he is the doctor, rather than the soldier and he will do everything in his power to save the wounded man’s life.
And then, a sniper’s bullet finds him, hitting him in the shoulder and he knows, with his medical knowledge, that the wound is bad, that he, instead, will die.
His last act is to fall protectively over the wounded man he’d risked so much to save.
His last thought is, Please, God, let me live.
Once upon a time, a good deed was done, an act of kindness was performed, a gift given away with no expectation or hope for a reward.
This is how it usually starts, in faerie tales.
A young woman is blessed when her kind words and kind deeds cause flowers and jewels to fall from her mouth. Her sister is cursed with having frogs and toads fall from her mouth because of her unkind words and actions. A soldier returning from war shares his last three biscuits with three beggars and in turn is given gifts that grant him good fortune.
Many of the Fair Folk, its best and wisest and most beautiful, have already sailed long ago for Elvenhome. When they passed on, much of what was fair and wondrous in this world went with them, leaving behind only the faintest trace of memory.
But some of them still linger here.
They still dwell in the forests of this world, in the mountains, in places still wild and untamed or beneath the very earth itself. They steal into the cities and walk amongst us as ordinary men and women. They are merry and mischievous, fey and terrible, wonderful and capricious. They enchant us, they trick and steal and bless and curse at their whim.
They are the Fair Folk.
They are the Good People.
It is best not to anger them.
They remember every cruelty and every slight and they will pay you back in kind. And sometimes, they simply play tricks, mischievous creatures that they are, for no other reason. But for the wise, the safest thing is to simply be kind.
They will remember kindness. They cherish it and they reward it.
The young Elf Prince who went to war has never forgotten the Captain who saved his life.
So when he sees John Hamish Watson walking in the streets of London, he cannot help but call out to him.
Over coffee, they speak of old friends and memories both good and bad. It is easy and mundane and blessedly ordinary, the man and the Elf-Prince, sitting in a London coffee shop. Of course, no one sees the Elf Prince - they only see an unusually attractive young man, fair-haired and bright-eyed, graceful in his movements, easily mistaken for a model or an actor, perhaps. Of course, no one realizes that the short, sandy-haired ordinary-looking man that the Prince is talking to was once a soldier and a war hero. For those who are up to date on their news, they might recognize the sandy-haired man as a certain famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) Consulting Detective’s blogger.
Most people do not see. Most people do not observe.
The Prince looks at his Captain, at the man who saved his life and sees him bowed under the weight of sorrow and grief. Such things are most keenly felt by Elves - they have seen too much death, too much loss, too much pain. Their history has long been marred by this - from the First Age to this Time of Men - and there are those who have grown cruel and bitter because of it.
He knows the story behind his Captain’s pain - everyone knows now, in this age of television and the internet. And while John Watson has finally cleared the name of his friend, Sherlock Holmes - he cannot bring a dead man back to life. His friend cannot be restored for him.
The Gift of Men - so Death was called - and the Prince has never completely understood that, immortal creature that he is. He only understands that a good man, a man who has once done him the greatest kindness of all, is suffering.
The Good People always remember kindnesses and good deeds.
The Prince is more than willing to return one good deed for another.
Once upon a time, the King of the land once called Mirkwood, remembers when his land was not a city of brick, stone and steel. Once it was one of the greatest forests in all the world. Once it was feared, for it had fallen under the Shadow and yet he and his People lived here and fought against it and prospered.
When the Shadow lifted, for a short, sweet time - a thousand years or more in the count of Mortals but a mere season for Elves - his land was called the Wood of Greenleaves.
The Wood is no more.
But the Elven King remains. He is part of the land and the land is part of him. He should have heeded the call for Elvenhome long ago but he has never felt the Sea-longing and his love of the land has remained unchanging.
He knows that he is one of the oldest creatures in this world still living that remembers the First Age of the World. He remembers Tinuviel, fairest of all the Elves to ever live and her lover, Beren Erchamion. He remembers the Fall of Numenor and the coming of the Sea-Kings to this land. He remembers the Quest of Erebor undertaken by thirteen dwarves and one hobbit and the last of the Great Dragons.
He remembers a great many things.
He remembers many acts of cruelty and has taken vengeance and dealt justice at need.
He remembers kindnesses too.
When his son, the only child of his now remaining here by his side, brings to him the man named John Hamish Watson, he is prepared to give the mortal a great reward. His son is young but is wise in his own way and does, indeed, have the gift of seeing clearly into one’s heart. The King expects a mortal with a good and gentle heart and a brave spirit.
He does not expect what he finds in John Watson.
The Gift of Men - the Elves call Death, the inheritance due to the youngest children of Iluvatar, that they would be able to go beyond the confines of Arda, this very world. The King finds himself smiling as he sees the Gift so plain and clear in this one particular man.
"You are more worthy to wear the armour of elf-princes than many that have looked more comely in it," The King tells John Watson and smiles when the man startles in confusion and then sees the light of recognition in those dark blue eyes.
"You’ve said this to me before. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but I am sure of it," Watson tells him.
The King smiles. This is a truth.
There are other truths that he sees. That once, this man wandered into an enchanted wood and watched, rapt, as the fairest of all the Elves to ever live, sang and danced underneath the stars. That once, this man had held in his hands one of the Jewels that contained the First Light to ever touch the world.
That once, he held the cursed ring of the Great Enemy and kept it safe.
That once, he faced a Dragon in its Lair.
So many lives lived, so many stories this man has gone through. And now, the King recognizes grief and pain, a weight too heavy to be borne. This man believes that with the clearing of his dearest (and perhaps beloved)friend’s name, his task is accomplished, his mission done. There are things that he regrets, things that he has never spoken of, that haunt him to this day.
The King understands this.
So, he offers what reward that is in his power to give. This man, John Watson, desires no power, no wealth, no glory. What he truly wants is painfully clear and the Elven King has no power to bring the dead back to life.
Though he is not all-knowing, something in the Elven King’s heart whispers to him and he offers John Watson a different choice, a different path to take. A place, where he can forget, for a time and heal. A life, to live where he is not continually haunted by regret and burdened by grief.
A time that never was. A life that was never lived.
A time long in the past. A life lived before.
The Elven King is old, though he does not look it and in all his long years he has taken on great wisdom and great power.
He offers John Watson the choice.
A reward. A kindness. A gift for ensuring that the Elven King would not lose his only remaining son, the last born to him, cherished beyond everything.
John Watson accepts it with a grateful heart.
Note the First: Like I said, this series suddenly developed a CRACKTASTICALLY TWISTED EPIC Plot. FML. *headdesk*
Note the Second: For the sharp-eyed Tolkien nerds, I realize that current timelines show Thranduil born near the end of the First Age. They mention that he did live in Doriath with Thingol and Melian. So I’m taking a leap of faith here or doing some creating tap-dancing and saying that Thranduil may have been old enough to remember Luthien Tinuviel and Beren Erchamion.
Note the Third: I found the Watson picture from sc.aithine.org and the Thranduil picture has been on a few websites now but this specific picture was found on http://www.nznoldor.com/