"Mother, no!" Legolas watched her crumple with a flock of arrows through her chest. He fired as quickly as he could and killed enough of the orcs that they turned for the hills they'd come out of. He dropped to his knees by his mother's side. He checked for her heartbeat which was sluggish. The blood that stained her green tunic seemed deep blackish red against the fabric. He kissed her forehead and sang her to sleep. He lifted his eyes and summoned one of the birds his mother had always spoken to. He sent it with a message to his father, then pulled his knees up to his chest and curled his arms around them. His tears seemed to burn his face. He wasn't surprised when the trees murmured a gentle keening to accompany him. It was soothing. The winds rustled the tree leaves. And to his left was a tiny creek that would feed into the river that wended its way through Mirkwood.
A rough hand caught at his neck and pulled him to his feet and away from his mother's side. He looked up through his tears and saw his archery master. The older elf pulled him close and let him cry into the soft fabric of his tunic. Legolas didn't watch as his mother was carefully carried away and their bows were picked up by the youngest squire of the household. His teacher held him and gently stroked his hair. Then, he led him back to the palace, a guiding arm around his shoulders.
Legolas wiped at his tears almost angrily. A lament was beginning to rise around them. His efforts left a streak of bright red on his cheek that was recognized by the healer that was confirming his mother's death. She immediately gestured her apprentice to his side. "You're hurt, Prince Legolas. Let me help you."
"I am fine," he said dully. His arm began to throb. The healer pushed him to a seat and checked the gash on his arm. She frowned as she cleaned it out.
"Mistress!" The older healer came to his side as well and sucked in a sharp breath. She snapped out orders.
"You there, make sure there a clean sheets in the prince's room. You, get me hot water. Apprentice, I need to you to fetch some herbs." She rattled off a list. Her fingers were moving swiftly to remove his quiver and then his shirt. The fabric was bound to the skin with blood. She shook her head and felt his skin. He was starting to feel chilled and his stomach was roiling. The courtyard started to spin and he closed his eyes. "No, young one, you cannot sleep yet."
"I am merely keeping my head from spinning."
She laughed. "Open your eyes, Legolas," she commanded and he did as he was told. The air seemed strange and wavering and the summer breeze seem cold to his skin. Hot water on his arm made him jerk away. Strong hands clamped on his shoulders to hold him still, but he didn't bother to find out whose they were. "When was your arm hit?"
"I. . . I don't recall."
"Before or after your mother fell?"
"After or at the same time. I don't know."
"This is important. I need to know."
"I can't tell you!"
"Hush, child, hush," she soothed. She stroked his brow. "This will sting. Hold him," she ordered. The hands on his shoulders tightened and the young apprentice took his wrist in her hands. The herbs did more than sting and the courtyard swam before his eyes. He was laid down carefully after he passed out.
"What happened?" Thranduil demanded of his wife's guard. He looked down at her body, still riddled with arrows. "How did this happen?"
"She and Prince Legolas went out wandering, sir. She was showing him some new roost for her birds."
"And no one was with them? I had to get a message from a bird?!"
"The Lady did not wish to be disturbed, sir."
"So you tread carefully behind them!"
The guard looked down. "She requested they be alone, sir."
"Her safety was your responsibility," Thranduil said softly, dangerously. "And her death is therefore your responsibility as well. And if my son should die, I will not be willing to let the matter rest with your transfer from this position to the forge, am I understood?"
"Yes, sir." The guard faded to the side and Thranduil looked over to where the healer was binding his son's arm. And when he was carefully laid to the ground, the grief started to creep into his heart and tie it tighter than a bowstring. He pushed down his pain with ice and hardened his features. He picked up his son with gentle arms and carried him to his room. There, surrounded by the simplicity his son favored, he felt the ice take root in his heart and prayed that it would wall off the pain.
Legolas woke alone, several days later. His room was clean and neat. The sheets were soft against his skin. His arm ached a bit, but that would fade in the light of day. There was a ewer of water beside his bed and a delicate silver glass, etched with his mother's symbol of a peacock. He smiled at the sight of it. She always brought it to him when he was suffering nightmares. He sat up and saw her bow propped in the corner of his room and his heart skipped in his chest. "No," he whispered. "It was not real. It was not real," he told himself. "It was nothing more than a bad dream." But if there was one thing in the world that he was incapable of doing it was lying to himself. He'd seen her fall. He'd seen her body laid out. He'd felt the light leave her and return to its source. He curled in on himself and shook. The hall echoed with soft, sad music and it vibrated into his soul. He dressed and moved out of his room and made his way towards his father's throne room. He wavered with an odd sense of vertigo as he passed through halls he could scarcely recognize. It took him most of the journey to figure out what had happened.
He stopped and turned in a complete circle, fearful sickness growing in his heart. "No," he whispered. There was no trace of his mother anywhere in the halls. All of her weavings and carefully carved birds were gone. There was none of her devices left on the walls. He stood there stunned and lost for a long moment. A strong arm wrapped around his waist as he wavered and he looked up to find his mother's personal guard looking down at him as if from a great height. She had been on her vacation when Aewlos passed on. Now, she would stand by the young prince as long as he could. On her breast she wore a small peacock pin. The young elf she was supporting touched it. "It's all gone."
"It hurts your father too much to think of her." The young prince closed his eyes.
"Is he in the throne room or his study?"
"The throne room. He has surrounded himself with his counselors and they are creating battleplans."
"And the funeral? Or have I been cut out of that as well?"
"Aewlos made me promise never to keep hard truths from you, and in her memory I shall not. The funeral was held the day after her death. You've been asleep for five days. I made sure her bow came to you and her glass."
"Her carvings, her weavings, what has happened to them?"
"They have been returned to the earth."
"No," Legolas shook his head. "No."
"Yes." The terrible truth settled deep in his bones and Deluiel saw the reality in his eyes.
"I understand. I think I'll go listen to the woods for awhile," he said softly.
"See your father first, lest you raise his wrath."
Legolas nodded. He slipped unnoticed into the throne room. The counselors were all quiet and his father sat staring into the distance. He approached carefully, ever aware that his own flashpoint temper was inherited from his father. "Ada?" he said softly. Thranduil was on his feet in an instant, rage in his features. Legolas stepped back quickly. "I'm sorry, Father," he said softly, eyes dropping. "I didn't mean to startle you from your thoughts."
"No, Legolas, it is good to see you awake." His anger fled. His tone was cool, distant like a deep lake. "How is your arm?"
"It is healing, sir."
"That is good. Your mother was returned to the earth."
"And her name will never again be spoken in this realm. Am I understood?"
Legolas felt a knife twist in his gut. "Yes, sir," he said softly.
"Very well. And I will not have you traipsing about the woods alone, Legolas."
"Yes, sir. Deluiel will accompany for the moment, with your leave?"
"That will do for now."
"Thank you, sir."
"Now, leave us, child, we have things to do."
"Yes, Ada," he said as he turned to leave.
"And do not call me that again."
"Adar?" Thranduil shook his head.
"As you wish, my lord," he said formally.
"Thank you, Legolas." The young prince didn't meet any of the counselor's eyes as he left, but he did manage to slam the door quite spectacularly.
Thranduil smirked. "And that, my friends, proves beyond all reasonable doubts, that he truly is my son for those of you who once questioned it."
Years passed, but time didn't dim Legolas' memory of his mother or his love of the forest. And being restricted to his father's palace chaffed him horribly. He could often be found on the parapet gazing over the land, waving to the elves that lived in the forest or sharpening his already keen eye for archery. He was found there the day his father first met the elf destined to be his new wife. Legolas looked over the courtyard from his favorite perch, bored with picking off orcs long distance and watched his father greet the new company that had decided to move to Mirkwood from somewhere over Khaza dum. He watched with sharp eyes as his father smiled at the lady of the company. His heart twisted. Thranduil rarely smiled anymore. His heart was too pained and cold. He tasted something like ash in his mouth and realized he was jealous and angry. His mother was forgotten and his father was smiling at a new lady. He shook off such ideas. "Mother wants you to be happy," he whispered. "And I hope for the same, Ada." He looked up into the sky and saw the clouds rolling by. "And perhaps now I will be allowed to travel a bit, do you think?" he asked a sparrow that joined him on the parapet.
"My prince," called Sadorlien, "come in. The lord wishes you to meet the newcomers." Legolas slipped his bow into its sheath and followed his counselor down the stairs.
"What do you think of them?" he asked.
"I think they are very fair and have come very far and have suffered greatly. The dwarves have let loose a Balrog and it disturbed their rest."
"Then I shall endeavor to be as charming as I am told I can be." He winked at his counselor. "And do you find them fair of heart or fair of face, Sadorlien?"
"Both, my prince. Both."
"You called, my lord?" Legolas said formally.
"Ah, Legolas, come closer. This is Lady Cariel. She has brought a company of her people to live here, by our leave."
"I am Legolas. It is an honor to welcome you then, my lady," Legolas said with a smile. He bowed over her hand. "Your beauty and grace shall enrich this land."
"I was told that I should be on my guard for the sweetness of your father's tongue, they forgot to warn me of his son."
Legolas managed to keep the smile on his face, despite the terror that strangled his heart. Thranduil was content to ignore him most days. The king of Mirkwood laughed. "Our young Legolas has a charming tongue and a keen eye with his bow. He manages to hit all of his targets with clarity. You will join us for dinner, Legolas?"
"Yes, sir." Even when it was presented as an option, Legolas knew when he was being given an order. "By your leave, sweet lady, I will put up my bow."
"Please, my prince." She smiled at Thranduil as the young prince slipped away. "He is very charming and has his father's gift for sweet words." Her smile faded. "Yet I sense there is a tension here and I am wary of creating more turmoil."
"His mother died suddenly and violently. We do not speak of her, and rarely are the words father and son spoken in regards to the two of us. That is how it must be so that our hearts do not shatter."
Dinner was a success, but Legolas felt blood in his chest. He laid down on his back on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. He wished for a breath of the outside, but his room had always been among the most defensible, with no outside facing window. He could look into the courtyard from his room, but he kept a cloth drawn over that window. He didn't like anyone to watch him sulk. He drifted away into a dream and Thranduil slipped in unannounced. Legolas looked so peaceful. His features were so fine and in stillness, he looked so much like his mother that it hurt. Thranduil gently stroked over his son's forehead and down his cheek. The wide blue eyes blinked and Legolas started to sit up. A hand on his chest pressed him back to the mattress. Thranduil sat on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers slowly down the smooth chin and down the slender neck. He brushed a stray hair from Legolas' face. "My lord?" Legolas whispered. Thranduil pressed a finger over his son's lips.
"Hush, fair prince." Legolas' eyes grew large. He licked his lips. He didn't know what this was. His father's heart seemed to have thawed for a moment, to show the tenderness in his eyes. Thranduil cupped the soft cheek. He pressed a kiss to Legolas' forehead, then each cheek, then to his lips for a long moment. Then, Thranduil pulled back to place a gentle kiss on the now worried brow. "Goodnight, Legolas," he whispered.
"Goodnight, my lord." And he was gone, leaving more confusion than he would ever know. Legolas touched his lips and shivered. His heart burned in pain.
"Naneth," he whispered. "Please, I don't know what to do anymore. I can't continue to pretend my heart is not broken. I can't heal father's wounds. I don't know what to do. And I don't know who to talk to." He turned onto his stomach and cried into his pillow. The songs of others swirled above and around him. He swore he could hear his mother's voice, singing him to sleep.
Legolas was not ill-pleased with the lady who was his father's new lover. She was quick of tongue and full of mirth. She did not have great skill with the bow and she could not weave unless desperate. Her bread was sweet though and her poems were exquisite. And she was nothing at all like his mother. She preferred the mountain to the woods and she preferred being home to traveling. The trip from her home to Mirkwood was the longest she'd taken in her entire life. Legolas wished to have had even that much adventure. The wedding preparations vexed him slightly, for he was cut out completely. Neither his father, nor his new lady, asked even after his health. He spent more time in the woods than before, for he had convinced his step-mother with sweet words to convince Thranduil to release his restrictions. He knew everyone who lived in the trees and was welcome at every home. He listened eagerly when they talked of his mother and laughed over the latest gossip. He knew who was interested in whom and who the next to wed would be.
He was often gifted with tastes of the sweetest wine and herbs. He found joy in the woods and his heart grew heavy when he walked with Sadorlien to the palace. "My prince?" the guard said hesitantly as they drew close. "What rests so heavily on you tonight?"
"Lord Thranduil will soon have a new bride. And my emotions are in tangle, my friend." The guard winced internally to hear the distance between father and son was so great that even in private Legolas would not call Thranduil "father." "I do not know what is to become of me. I hope to travel. I grow weary of these walls and I wish to see the world. My aim is true and I hear rumors of war. My heart tells me that I should answer the call and defend against the darkness and my mind reminds me that my lord may not let me go. How should I learn of anything in the world, when I am kept home like a child unable to walk alone? I am several centuries beyond that point, though my lord will never hear that. I beg you, Sadorlien, don't breathe a word of this. My worries and my yearnings are my own and this is to be a happy household."
"Yes, my prince."
Thranduil watched his son as he mingled with the community in the Great Hall. The slim figure actually wore his circlet for once. His hair was carefully pulled back and his face wore a brighter smile than usual. He held a glass in his hand of sweet wine, though he rarely sipped from it. He danced lightly with a woman from the village, then returned her to her husband. He avoided looking up at his father and his new mother. The problem was, she noticed. "It hurts him to see me here."
"Yes, it does, and I understand why that is. He loves his mother still and that is normal. And it does not hurt me, my dear one. He and I are friends, and that is more than I had hoped."
"Cariel, do not think me harsh, but he is as foolish as his mother. He wants to go to the battles. I hear rumors of it and see in his eyes that he would rush to war. He killed a battalion of orcs one day and even now he hunts them from the top-most towers of this palace."
"He is not like you and I. This palace wears on his soul. Can you not see the joy that suffused him when you let him into the forest?"
"I see only his foolishness."
"And his beauty. Is he much like his mother?"
"We will not speak of that, Cariel. There are some things that will not be done. His mother is dead. That is all there is to know." Cariel sighed. She didn't like the coolth of Thranduil's heart when it came to his son. She was fond of Legolas and he had done what he could to make her welcome. He had even found some soft fabrics for the walls of her study when he found out that she couldn't weave well. It had taken her over a week of delicate probing of the others in the house to find out that he had made them himself on his mother's loom which had been secreted away in a lower room, with what could be saved of her things. And there was such pain when the two met for brief moments over breakfast that she wanted to rock them both until the pain disappeared. It was her fondest wish that her union with Thranduil would heal him and through that healing, save his son as well.
Legolas retired from the party soon after his father and new mother. He carefully set the diadem of silver and burnished copper leaves onto his dressing table and changed into his more usual clothing. He stretched and settled on the edge of his bed. He was not tired and was too restless to read. He looked at the window he kept covered and frowned. Perhaps, he needed something to let in more light. He made his way down to the forge to look for shards of gemstones. He found a pile of them that had no assigned purpose and asked the master there for them. Laughingly, the old elf agreed and gathered them into a small leather bag. "And what shall you do with this, my prince?" he asked, eyes twinkling.
"That is yet to be seen."
Carefully, Legolas joined the shards with silver threads and formed a delicate cloth of jewels. He hung it gently in place and was rewarded as the multiple colors of the gems played off of the walls. He smiled, heart soaring like a child's. He folded the other cloth and put it into the chest at the foot of his bed. He gathered the shards that were left to return them to the forge. He hummed a light song as he wandered the halls for awhile. He joined the song of celebration for a moment, then found his way to the highest point of the walls. The palace guards watched him in amusement as he walked along the walls to his favorite perch and looked out over the forest.
Thranduil fingered the jeweled curtain his son had made. He shook his head. He would never have come up with the idea. He stepped back and smiled as he saw the subtle design of a green-leaf repeated through the apparently random colors. Legolas paused at the end of the hallway. "Yes, my lord?"
"Ah, the young prince has been coaxed indoors once again. I wonder what has done that."
"The call of my bed, sir, and nothing more." Legolas smiled and pushed a loose strand of hair behind his ear.
Thranduil's mood faded as the gut-wrenching memory of his first wife's body on the ground of the courtyard. Legolas' smile faltered. His eyes were large. "And where did this come from?"
"My hands and my mind, sir," Legolas replied mildly, "and the cuttings from the stones in the forge workshop."
"Ah. Clever." Thranduil's voice was cold. "Where do they keep her things, Legolas?"
"Sir?" Legolas' brows furrowed. "I've her bow and glass. And the loom has been taken by another, for it seemed foolish to destroy a well made tool. What do you speak of?"
"The things that were not destroyed with the rest."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Don't lie to me, Legolas. You don't have the eyes for it." Thranduil caught his son's arm in a vice-tight grip. "Show me where they keep the loom."
Legolas did as he was told, twisting sporadically, to see if he could get free. The faces of the elves they passed were pale. "In here, sir," Legolas breathed. Thranduil dragged his son into the room behind him. He pushed the younger elf away.
"I will not have my orders disobeyed," he snarled in anger. A red wave of pain and anger swept through his mind. Without a further word he started smashing the small bird figures to the ground and tearing the fabrics from the shelves.
"No!" Legolas protested. He grabbed his father's wrist and found himself sliding down the wall, blood on his lips and pain lancing through his head. He curled up on the floor as the destruction continued. Tears streamed from his eyes. Thranduil destroyed everything in the room except the loom and stormed out. Sadorlien was the first to enter the room. He went immediately to his prince's side.
"Prince Legolas," he called quietly and the blond eventually looked up at him. Blood trickled down his chin and a dark bruise was forming on the side of his face.
"Sadorlien, have them pack it away. There may be something that can be salvaged from this. Her fabrics may yet be usable. And there is no need to scrap the jewels. Perhaps, perhaps something good can be made of this. Blankets or clothing or something."
"Yes, my lord," the guard answered and relayed the message. "It will be done. Now, will you let me conduct you to your room and call the healer?"
"There is no need for a healer. I know I will survive this. It worries me not. I just do not wish to fuel my lord's anger once more. Perhaps it would be best for me to remain awhile down here."
"Spoken like one who believes he cannot yet stand," said Deluiel knowingly. "Get him to his feet and back to his room, young guardsman. Don't let him out of your sight."
Legolas made a face at her and she laughed once more.
"I just wish to go riding beyond the woods, sir. I won't go far."
"No," Thranduil said sharply once more. "You will not leave these woods. I will restrict you to the palace until you lose such thoughts."
"The more forbidden you make it the more my heart yearns for it, sir."
Thranduil's mouth tightened. "You will stay here, Legolas. In this room until I call for you." Legolas' jaw dropped. "Am I understood?"
"I will not have you questioning my actions again."
Thranduil slammed out of the room. He didn't look back to see the fury on his son's face. Legolas wanted to throw something at the door his father had just left through, but he didn't dare. He sat down wearily behind his father's writing desk. He stared out the window at the sky and sighed as a hawk wheeled looking for prey. The clouds rolled by and the stars blinked awake. Legolas let his mind wander a path of dreams.
Thranduil stood in the doorway of his study and just looked at his son. In the stillness, he saw the beauty of Aewlos in his face. He saw the bone deep longing for the wide open. He saw the stillness of the predators of the wood. He saw the wild in his son's heart and nearly wept. He couldn't bear the thought of his leaving. He could not handle the fear that perhaps Legolas would not return. He saw sadness and love that warred inside both of them. And he couldn't find the path to reach out to soothe it. He was adrift in the middle of a wild ocean and the only things that kept him from being swept away from the sight of the shore were his son and his wife. And he couldn't let either of them go.
He smiled to himself and stroked down Legolas' back. "Time for dinner, little one."
"Yes, F. . . my lord." Thranduil's heart closed in at the hasty substitution and as they walked to the dining room, his tenderness disappeared behind the cold mask that he usually wore.
Legolas' eyes caught sight of the visitors as they approached the woods. He climbed down from his perch and made his way down to the courtyard. He was waiting for Lord Elrond and his companions. He had rooms prepared and conducted them to his father's throne room. "Lord Elrond, my lord," he said softly. Thranduil nodded. And Legolas let the man in.
"Elrond. Celebrian. Arwen."
"Legolas, will you ask Cariel to join us please?"
"Yes, of course." Legolas went in search of his step-mother and found her in the kitchen. "Cariel? Thranduil would like for you to join him in the throne room to welcome our guests."
"How many shall I have the cooks plan for tonight?"
"At least three more." Cariel wiped the flour from her hands and went up the stairs on Legolas' arm. "Cariel, if you could see your way clear to convince *him* to let me just go on a short trip anywhere, I'd be so grateful."
"That I might get a new hanging for my window?"
"I think that could be arranged easily."
"Thank you, Legolas," Thranduil said. "Perhaps Arwen would like to take a walk through the woods." Thranduil's lips twitched towards a smile as Legolas blinked at him. He seemed suddenly to notice the Evenstar. She was wearing her riding coat still, and a faint smile played on her lips.
"With your leave, sirs?"
"Yes, of course," Elrond said. Thranduil nodded and Legolas offered his arm to Arwen and they left their fathers to arguing.
"So, you are the mysterious Prince Legolas of Mirkwood."
"If someone says I am mysterious they are sadly misinformed. I am the most transparent person I know."
"My brothers call you mysterious because they've only ever found your arrows."
"Two tall dark haired hunters?"
"Ah, then to them perhaps I seem so, as we have never met. Although our aims are often the same. I simply do my hunting from a different perspective."
"Are you going to introduce me to your shadow?"
"I suppose. Sadorlien, may I present Arwen Evenstar, daughter of Lord Elrond the Half-Elven."
"A pleasure, my lady."
"I don't stand on ceremony."
"Thank you, ma'am, but my lord does."
"I wouldn't have thought you so formal, Legolas."
"Not my prince, ma'am. Lord Thranduil requires that all rank relations remain formal inside the palace." They made their way to the outside forest.
"Would you have trouble climbing, Arwen?"
"No, not at all. As long as you don't expect me to be ladylike about it."
"Good. Because, if my nose does not deceive me, I think mother Ravenclaw has something sweet in her kitchen," he raised his voice a bit.
"Yes, she does, and she might be persuaded to share if the prince brings his guest up to visit her."
"Would you rather follow or lead, Arwen?"
She considered. "I'll follow and Sadorlien can catch me if I should fall." She winked at the prince who seemed rather alarmed at the prospect. "I shall endeavor to keep my feet." Legolas moved quickly up the tree with the speed of someone used to the journey. He looked down at her, then offered her a hand and led her onto the main part of the house.
"Thranduil, Cariel, we had to learn from Galadriel that you had wed. Many congratulations. I do regret that we couldn't be here for the wedding."
"Why did you come, Elrond?" Cariel was not surprised by her husband's coldness any longer. He was rarely emotional anywhere but the bedroom. It was still a comfortable marriage. He was tender towards her, and she really didn't like the things Elrond was implying. He thought the marriage over-hasty she supposed, but it was logical.
"I came to make an attempt at reconciling and therefore, I apologize for my words. I understand things have been difficult in Mirkwood. My sons have, during their travels found orcs multiplying on the outskirts of your lands."
"They do not venture into Mirkwood often," Thranduil said softly. "There seems to be a curse on their approach. They get picked off by archers while still on our borders. They have nearly given up trying."
"One particular archer, from what my sons have found."
Thranduil raised a brow. "Indeed? I wasn't aware of anyone that focused."
Elrond produced an arrow. "Unless I am mistaken, your people make their own arrows?"
"And whose might this be? For almost all of the orcs have had one." Thranduil's face darkened.
"No, you shall not have him."
Elrond blinked. "Thranduil?"
"Those are Legolas' arrows."
"Then he would be the best to train my archers. That is all I wish. He would be perfectly safe in Rivendell."
"He will not leave Mirkwood."
"Thranduil, beloved, if I might have a word with you," Cariel interrupted sweetly. Celebrian's lips twitched. She recognized the tactic.
"If you will excuse me for a moment."
"Of course," Elrond said with a dip of his head. He glanced at his wife. They carefully did not listen to the resulting argument. Thranduil returned to the room after a long moment. He glared at his wife, but it lacked heat.
"I have, it would appear, been over-ruled. If you can leash him long enough to get him to Rivendell, you may borrow him. No more than two years, Elrond."
Elrond smiled. "I will ensure his protection."
"I would rather send his guards with him."
"As you wish."
"Thank you for a wonderful tour, Legolas of Mirkwood."
"You are most welcome, Evenstar of Imladris."
"You missed dinner," Cariel chided.
"I couldn't eat another bite, however, Lady Cariel," Arwen said with a smile. "Your people are very generous."
"Have you been begging from tree to tree again, Legolas? You would think we starved you."
"Not often," Legolas said with a smile. "And how have the enemies faired?"
"They are not at one another's throats, thanks to the level heads in the room."
"Then it was for the best that I was not present."
"Unfortunately, you do tend to be as stubborn as Thranduil. Come, though, you owe me a weaving." Legolas looked at her oddly, then his eyes widened.
"You did it? He agreed? Oh most wondrous and beautiful lady, you surpass yourself this time."
"You've not asked for details."
"Do they matter?" He smiled and hugged her. "Thank you," he whispered into her ear. "Come, Beautiful Evenstar, let me conduct you to your rooms. Then, I shall join you in your study, Cariel?"
"Yes, I'll show you which window I'd like jeweled."
Arwen watched with amusement and pleasure. It was good to see that Legolas' step-mother was a good friend. She had known him nearly one night and she already felt protective of him. "And what feat of daring has your step-mother completed?"
"She has convinced Lord Thranduil to let me out of the palace for awhile. And here, my lady is your room. Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrian are next to you."
"Thank you, Legolas."
Thranduil watched his son leave with a face of granite. Legolas rode like he'd been on a horse for his entire life. With his son's face hidden, all he saw was long blond hair, a slender body, a quiver and arrows, and bone handled knives. He didn't wave and had barely said two words in farewell. Cariel looked at him in concern. "Are you all right, beloved?"
"I am fine."
"He will be back sooner than you can imagine."
"Who will?" Thranduil looked at her. "It doesn't matter. He won't return here. This is the thing I have most feared. He will be given taste of freedom and he will never return here. There are some details I have to go over about that new accord with Lorien."
Cariel didn't speak as he left. She kept her eyes on Legolas until she could no longer see him or the rest of the company. "Come back to us, for his sake and for your own, Greenleaf."
"So, Legolas, when was the last time you went traveling?" Elrond asked.
"Sir? I was at Imladris once, I believe when I was quite young, but I scarcely remember anything except waterfalls."
Elrond was taken aback. "You've not left Mirkwood since that meeting? You were barely talking then."
"Yes, that sounds about right."
"I thought Aewlos would have taken you out more often." Sadorlien's breath caught.
"The queen did not take me beyond the borders of Mirkwood, in keeping with my lord's wishes."
Celebrian blinked in surprise. "Really? I thought she loved traveling."
"She spoke of traveling, but she loved Thranduil too much to leave him for long, and he prefers to stay home." Legolas spoke hesitantly.
"You look very much like your mother."
The prince did not reply to that. "You said you wished me to teach your archers. How many do you wish me to train?"
Elrond ceded to the boy's wishes and focussed on the making of plans as they traveled through the country.
Legolas looked around Rivendell in wonder. There were soaring arches and waterfalls and pools of clear water. He had never seen anything like it except in his mind's eye. Arwen gave him a tour of the place and he feared he would be hopelessly lost, but that didn't happen. He looked around the room they had set up for him. "This is far too much, Arwen," he said stumblingly. "I don't know what I'm to do with this much room. Conduct classes?"
"Nonsense," she chided him. "You deserve this for your prowess with a bow if nothing more. And I would have thought that Thranduil's son was used to excess."
Legolas looked at her oddly. "My lord and I do not share the same taste in lifestyle. And where am I to teach your archers?"
"The courtyard to begin I believe. Is this all you brought?" She blinked at the small amount of luggage.
"It is all I need. I will be able to make arrows aplenty. And I have a few small entertainments. What else should I have brought?"
"Did you bring something formal for the introduction tonight?"
"Hmmmm. And something to wear when you teach."
"And perhaps a book or two?"
He shook his head. "I doubt that I will become so bored with exploring Lord Elrond's realm so quickly. Where are the horses stabled? I should brush down Sweetgrass."
"She has been attended to, don't worry. Elladan and Elrohir would like to meet you. They've been tracking your arrows for awhile."
"Are they here then? I assumed they would still be out wandering."
"Yes, they came back to beg Father to bring them a new archer to play with. I do not know if they've been let in on the secret yet or not. They do have a way with the kitchen staff."
"Secret? What secret would that be?"
"Your name." She smiled at his confusion. "You really have no idea what a wonder you are."
"I do not know why you think me a wonder. I'm nothing special. My archery master would have been a better choice for this."
"Father spoke with him as well, but was informed that if we wanted the best that you where the person we should seek." Legolas' cheeks burned.
"That is very high praise that I hope I can live up to."
Elladan and Elrohir were twins and, therefore, they seemed to blend in Legolas' mind. He lost track of which one of them was teasing him this time as he took up his bow for some practice shots. He closed his mind to their chatter and set himself a task. On the target of hay and plain fabric he'd set up for himself he created a bird of arrow shafts. It was one of the things his mother had come up with as a training exercise. He could create anything from an orc to a peacock with his arrows when he was of a mind to do so. He studied his work critically. "I'm pulling to the left," he said to himself. He checked his bowstring and realigned it. He set a second arrow next to the one that was creating the eye and nodded. "Better. You are getting lazy, Legolas. You should have noticed earlier."
"Talking to yourself is a bad habit," Arwen told him. She caught his arm before he could begin to take the arrows out. "Please, leave it. My father needs to see this."
"But it's just a practice routine. Nothing unusual." He looked at her with a confused frown. She led him back to where he had been shooting from. He was aware suddenly of many eyes upon him. He looked around nervously at the crowd that had gathered. "Tell me this isn't the number of people your lord wishes me to train."
"No, silly, they want to watch you shoot. You managed to shut the twins up. That in itself deserves commendation."
"For a silly shooting trick? It merely makes practice more interesting."
Elrond joined them. "That is impressive, Legolas. Very impressive."
"Did your archery master teach you this? If so, I really must drag him from Mirkwood as well."
"No, the queen, sir. She made it a game so that I would not be bored during practice."
"A game? I take it, then, that you can create other shapes?" Elrond was as eager as a child with a new toy.
"Yes, sir. Any creature from Mirkwood, orcs and trolls a specialty." Legolas smiled for a moment. Then, he shifted uncomfortably.
"It seems, young one, that you have something to teach every elf here."
"Evenstar, don't make such a fuss. I don't think there's anyone left in Rivendell that didn't come stare at me this morning." Arwen ignored him and redid the braid over his left ear.
"Then there's even more reason for you to look impressive, isn't there?"
"I'm not impressive. Unlike you, I can walk into a room and be ignored."
"There is no reason for that." She saw Deluiel's smile. "See. She agrees with me."
"Two against one is not fair, ladies. Sadorlien, save me."
"I'm sorry, my prince, but I must join with the ladies in this point. There's no reason why you should be ignored except that you choose to be."
"Stop fidgeting or I'll never get this straight."
The prince of Mirkwood closed his eyes and resigned himself to his fate.
"Will you walk with me, Legolas?" Elrond asked after the party wound down in the early hours of morning.
"Of course, my lord."
"Perhaps your shadows could be convinced to leave you to my care. Rivendell is well protected. And I will personally assure your safety."
"I may be able to convince them, but the decision has long since been out of my hands."
"My lord, you will not notice our presence, but we will not be easy enough to leave him yet. Perhaps before the year is out," Deluiel said with a smile.
"And there, Lord Elrond, is your answer. You will get used to them as easily as you do your own shadow. And they are models of discretion. If they will not leave me to sulk in Mirkwood alone, I doubt a walk in Rivendell will meet their standards." Legolas shrugged. "What wonders will you show me, lord? What tales will you impart?"
"Nothing so spectacular as the deadly beauty of your bow. And nothing so boring as the history between your father and myself." Elrond settled an arm companionably around the younger elf's shoulder and guided him onto one of the many paths that sloped gently up towards the ridge. Legolas fought the urge to shake off the touch. "Tell me, Legolas, what do you think of Arwen?"
"She is beautiful and her hair lovely like a midnight sky. Her wit is engaging and her sword a work of art. Her fingers are deft and quick and her riding form perfect. However, my lord, she is a lady and my mind cannot comprehend her ways any more than it can the One's will."
"Ladies are confusing folk for all of us. I guarantee you. Will you tell me of Aewlos' passing and Cariel's arrival? Your mother and I were good friends."
"Cariel came from near the Moria mines with a small contingent of people. It seems the dwarves loosed a Balrog."
"Is the marriage of politics then? She seemed to love him."
"She loves him well and we are friends. It would be foolish to make an enemy of her when there is no reason."
"She is very different from Aewlos."
"She is different from the queen, yes," Legolas said carefully.
"Will you tell me of your mother's final day?"
Legolas gripped the once poisoned wound that had nearly taken his own life. He bit at his lip and gathered the memories close. They continued to walk as Elrond let him gather his thoughts. "She was killed by orcs," he stated softly, "on the edges of Mirkwood, a days journey from the edge of the last home in the woods. And her son was not adept enough to save her life."
Elrond was quiet. "But he managed to save his own and has killed more orcs than his father knows about."
"You won't tell Thranduil, will you?" Legolas asked eyes bright with worry.
"He knows already."
"And still he let me leave the palace? Perhaps I should have asked for your assistance."
Elrond shook his head. "Why do you not call him father?"
"Because he wishes me not to."
"And he does not call you son."
"And you don't speak of your mother."
"The queen is not to be spoken of."
"Your mother was a great woman."
"The queen was that indeed."
"What happened to her hangings? Her carvings? Her devices?"
"I have her bow. I have her favorite glass, and her loom survived. And there are none of her carvings left."
"Her weavings?" Elrond feared the answer.
"With patience they will make beautiful quilts for the winter." Legolas looked out over the waterfall they were passing by. "And they will shimmer as the water."
"Her clothes were destroyed," the elf-lord stated sadly. "All her work was reduced to shards? How did this happen?" He let his arm fall and noticed a tension leave Thranduil's son. Legolas still gripped his arm.
"Thranduil wants no reminders of his pain." They paused to look over the calming water. Then, he led the young elf further up to watch the sunrise.
"Not even his son?" Elrond whispered, mostly to himself.
"Not on his worst days. On his better days, he acknowledges my existence. More often now that Cariel has acted as a balm to his heart." Legolas shrugged. "He hurts so deeply that my soul aches."
"And what of your pain?"
"What do you mean, sir? Oh, my, is that the sun that shows her face through the mists?"
"Yes." Elrond smiled as Legolas seemed to melt in the sun.
"Thank you. It is indeed splendid here."
"Lift your arm a bit here," Legolas guided Arwen's bow arm up. "What do you see? Tell me everything."
"I see the hay, and blanket. I see the trees beyond and the song glinting off of a stone in the ground."
"What in all that is your target?"
"The blanket center."
"Then, that is all you see."
"So easy for you to tell me. I prefer my sword."
"That may be so, but there is a use for each weapon. Pretend it is a song, Arwen. Attend to the voice of your target, sight it by that sound. Narrowly now, the world is nothing but the voice calling your arrow to it." His voice was a song in itself and it wrapped around her mind carefully blanketing it until she could focus. She hit her mark true. She found that if she kept hold of the nearly missed song beneath his words she could hit it every time. Her speed increased. Her brothers watched carefully. They would not see her harmed by anyone, especially a wood-elf with a silver tongue. They stared as she outpaced their records for speed in shooting. "Do you still prefer your sword?"
"It depends upon the day. If the changes are lasting, I may come to use both of them. Will you use the same technique on my brothers?"
"Perhaps, I use what I need depending on the elf." He smiled at her and she was glad to see it. He didn't smile nearly enough. He was far too quiet. He tended to fade into the wood when too many people showed up.
"Will you paint me a picture?"
"I suppose. Go fetch your arrows and I will see if I can convince Deluiel to join me." He looked over his shoulder at his guard. She shrugged and pulled her bow to the front and ready. Her arrows were fletched with gold, his with green. They had trained together for years. "Have you enough arrows for a bird?"
"Even the special one."
"Then let us do that," he said to her. She was slight, although perhaps an inch taller than Legolas. Her hair was the light brown of a beech's bark. They took position next to one another and in a blur of movement painted a peacock with feathers at rest on the blank slate of white fabric. Arwen and her brothers couldn't help but applaud the effort. Legolas smiled sadly at the peacock. "It has been too long."
"Yes, it has. She lingers yet in memory, my prince," she said for his ears only.
"She is dead and the past with her. What was will never be again," he said harshly.
"Even your heart? Do not let it bleed. She would hate this wreck of a family you've become a part of."
"Then, she shouldn't have left. Or she should have let them kill me instead." Legolas strode across the grass quickly to gather his arrows up. Deluiel shook her head.
"Ignoring my words will never unmake them, Legolas," she said firmly.
"And forgetting Lord Thranduil's will only hurt all involved," he snapped back. "The past is dead by his decree."
"The past lives still. I see it before me if not in its original form. I hear it in the musical wind of the night. And I see it in the sunrise. I see it in blood-red stains on silver that cannot be washed away with water," she said as she paced towards him. "Let go of the pain, Legolas. I would not see you trapped," she whispered into his ear. She rubbed his shoulder. He didn't respond, but she saw the glimmer of a tear in the corner of his eye.
"And where is Legolas?" Elrond asked as his children joined him and his wife for supper.
"Up a tree last I saw," Arwen replied. She shrugged. "He said that he wasn't hungry."
"He's upset about whatever that guard of his said," Elladan stated.
"Whatever it was, it was private," Elrohir said firmly. "He's a wood-elf. They're odd folk."
"He grew up inside a mountain, how much of a woodsman can he be?"
"He is more comfortable up a tree than sitting in a palace," Arwen said with a smile. "And if you're desperate to find him, just look for one of his shadows. They're taking turns watching him. I think it is Sadorlien's turn."
"And why does he have guards inside Rivendell? Does his father think us so untrustworthy?" Elladan pressed.
"He has guards in Mirkwood as well," Arwen informed them. "He never goes unattended."
"A pampered pet like Haldir claims?"
Arwen's face went still and she thought. "Beloved of his people and the heart of the palace. But he is not pampered. His chambers are plainer than a ranger's sleeping rack. He doesn't hunger for things. And he hides a pain so large that it's trying to swallow him up."
"He witnessed his mother's death," Elrond said softly. His children looked at him with wide eyes.
In the night there was a new voice heard and all paused to listen to it. It sang no familiar hymn or history. It raised itself in strange, off-beat rhythms and twisting melodies. Still, it was pure and simple underneath it all. "Gold and green does my lady's desire call to her, blues and purples does she sing of, and when she has woven a dream so dark and terrible and beautiful then she will call for light, and in the night she rides through the sky, her arrows form a new constellation in crimson hues and golden streams. And in the crest of moonlight, she formed a new son and gave it life on earth, and in gold it was painted and in green was it clothed. And her heart resides in the gold and green as it once desired beyond all else."
And Legolas attended to the words of the lady that told him his fate and a trail of tears slid over cheeks that shone like gold when the first rays of the sun caressed them.
"You have a black eye and a split lip and only the gods know what else? I am not going to let the matter rest," Elrond snapped. He didn't notice the instinctive flinch until he turned again. Legolas did not meet his eyes, but stood, hands behind his back, resigned. "Have you seen a healer?"
"Yes, my lord," he said softly.
"And why were you fighting?"
"I'm sorry, sir, I cannot tell you that."
"And whom were you fighting?"
"I would rather not say."
"Legolas, this is not negotiable. Tell me what happened."
"I got into a fight."
"No one. We were broken up by outside parties."
"Who broke up the fight?"
"Elladan and Deluiel." Elrond pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Just tell me who you were. . . Oh, no. Don't tell me." The elf-lord laughed. "Arwen, tell me how this started."
"I insulted Thranduil. He asked for me to recant. I refused and ended up taking a swing at him."
"How was I to know it would degenerate?" she asked innocently.
"By going for my groin," Legolas said with a sharp smile. He looked like a predator to her then and she made sure to say out of the range of his hands. She could see them in tight fists behind his back.
"This isn't his fault, Father."
"And I was worried about bringing another boy into the household. What am I to do with you two? I thought you were getting along."
"We do for the most part. My aim and speed are better than Elrohir now."
"He would be better if he practiced, but he is under the mistaken impression that speed is a gift from above and he doesn't need to hone it," Legolas said firmly.
"Then what sparked this debate?"
"I would rather not say, Father." Elrond blinked once, then twice.
"And if I were to order you?"
"I would ignore you." She met his eyes with clear blue. "Let this go. We are both adults."
"Then act it."
"We were. At least we didn't start a war because we were upset with one another," she informed him. "And I don't have a long standing grudge against Mirkwood because of something long past."
"Not far enough in the past for the two of us."
"It should be," Arwen told him. She laid her hand on Legolas' hands and eventually managed to ease one down to hold hers. "It won't happen again. At least not when we can be caught."
"Then I suppose I should assign you a guard as well. Not that it seems to keep Legolas out of trouble."
"You would be surprised what trouble one can convince his guard to cause if they have known each other for a long time."
"And how long have you known your guards?" Elrond asked with a smile.
"I have known Deluiel since before my birth," he said with a small smile. "She was the queen's guard. And Sadorlien grew up with me and has been my companion since I was a child."
"Then, perhaps I should request that Deluiel stay more closely near you."
"Then you misunderstand the danger," Legolas grinned. "Sadorlien fears Thranduil. Deluiel does not." Elrond laughed.
"Go on, both of you." He shook his head. "And Legolas?"
"Don't fear my anger. I will not harm you, even in anger, despite what tales you may have heard."
"I will endeavor to remember that, sir," the prince said softly.
"Arwen packs a mean punch," Elrohir said, looking at the fading black eye. "You're lucky she wasn't truly angry at you."
"I'm lucky I'm fast enough to avoid her feet." Legolas closed his eyes and leaned back, gripping at his arm. Elladan looked curiously at him.
"Did she get you in the arm as well?"
"Hm? No, just nervous habit," Legolas said, forcing his hand down.
"I was caught by an orc arrow," he said softly. "Poisoned. It should have killed me, but the healer caught it in time." He shrugged. He picked an arrow out from his quiver and smoothed the head to a sharper edge.
"Really? What happened?"
"I don't recall it well."
"Come on, just tell us what you remember."
"I'd rather not." Legolas demurred. Taking it for modesty they pressed him further. He looked up with fury in his eyes. "Let the matter rest."
"I watched my mother die. I killed as many of the creatures as I could, but she still died there in the forest, with no one but me to comfort her. And at some point I was shot. I don't know when, or how deep the wound was. I barely remember anything but pain and chillness. When I awoke she was still dead. Leave it alone." He left the room as quickly as he could. The twins, silenced, looked at one another.
"What did you do?" Arwen asked when she came upon them. She ran to find the wood elf. She looked around the courtyard and then up towards the cliffs. He wouldn't be so stupid as to go up alone? She asked herself. Then, she shook herself, he was born to the rocks as much as the trees. Of course he would climb if there was someplace high. She ran for the mountains forgetting that she was wearing a skirt and not caring in the least when it got snagged on random branches.
She scrambled up towards the young elf she often teased about being his master's shadow. "Where?" He pressed a finger to his lips and she listened, hearing a soft voice lifting up in song:
May the light
Illuminate the night
The way your spirit illuminates my soul
Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you see me?
Papa, can you find me in the night?
Papa, are you near me?
Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you help me not be frightened?
Looking at the skies, I seem to see a million eyes
Which ones are yours?
Where are you now that yesterday has waved goodbye
And closed its doors?
The night is so much darker
The wind is so much colder
The world I see is so much bigger now that I'm alone."
Arwen felt the tears swim up in her eyes. There was such terrible pain there and she wished that she could ease it. A tear fell, streaming over the purple of her cheek. She sat and waited for the wood-elf to tire and come down.
Arwen combed her hair back and fastened it back with a silver clasp. "Arwen! Come quickly!" her brother called.
"What have you done?" she demanded when she saw the blood on Legolas' tunic.
"Nothing. Damn him."
"I'm fine," Legolas muttered.
"If you were fine, you'd be walking and Sadorlien wouldn't be supporting you."
"That would depend on how much I paid him. I wasn't aware that someone was doing knifework. I merely wanted to see trees for awhile."
"Don't pout," she told him. She cleaned the wound and shook her head. "Didn't you hear anything?"
"Nothing that I don't hear every day of my life, Evenstar."
"He was by the borders. The guards didn't recognize him without one of us with him."
"And so they attacked an elf with no warning?"
"The darkness is growing, Evenstar."
"Greenleaf?" His eyes were very far away.
"It's growing in the East. And the orc armies grow greater every day. There is war in this land. And war marches towards Mirkwood."
"And knowing this you walked into a border guard? What were you thinking?"
"That there is something wrong at home. My heart begs me to go back, though I am shy of the two years promised to Lord Elrond." He pushed her hand away from the wound in his side.
"You need another keeper."
"What would that matter? Why do you care whether I live or die?" he demanded, sitting up with the strength of anger.
"That is what friends do, or do you have no such thing in Mirkwood?" she snapped back, eyes glinting.
"You can have no friends when your heart is as changeable as a summer storm," Legolas informed her coldly. "Those that think they know you, know nothing about you."
"And yet, you are the most transparent elf that you know. That does not bode well for you." Legolas shook his head.
"Your sister is mad. You knew that?"
"Yes, we have often accused her of the same, but in this madness she is well joined. Lie still."
"I wouldn't want to deprive the Evenstar of her practice," he said dryly. "I wonder what evil will be afoot the day I meet her with no sparring involved."
"Perhaps only love," Elladan said with a smirk. Legolas raised his brows.
"Oh, have you found a Chosen then?"
"It was not to myself I was referring."
Arwen rolled her eyes. "Ignore them, Greenleaf. They are an odd pair. Let me bind your side. Move your shirt aside."
"I wonder if my virtue is safe in this house." Legolas sighed and moved his tunic up. Arwen ran her fingers down a scar on his chest.
"This is also a bad sign, my wood-elf. The orc arrow marking you is probably due to the poison. But this is a knife wound."
Legolas didn't respond for a long moment. "Perhaps I merely wish to remember more clearly why I should be wary. Perhaps memory is why I bear the other scar as well. For memories are tricky. Even moreso among our kind who have no sense of the passing time. The years have rolled away so quickly that I cannot count them, yet the scar remains to remind me of what once was."
"How did you get this one?" Arwen asked as she bandaged the wound carefully.
"I would rather not speak of it. It is not a good memory for sharing. And are you done fussing now?" He looked to Arwen's brothers for rescue, but found only further curiosity.
"I am cursed. Sadorlien, can you not turn them from this path?"
"You wish a greater power on me than the gods have provided."
"Wipe that look off of your face." Sadorlien looked innocently at his prince. Legolas shook his head. "Sometimes I fear you take your duties too seriously."
"And if I should let you wander out of my sight, look what happens. Deluiel shall have my head for this."
"She will indeed," came a far too familiar voice from the doorway. "And I see that once again you have conspirators around you. What would you have them hide from the world this time? The last came at too great a price for my taste." Aewlos' guard stepped closer and saw the bound wound. "What have you done?"
"Startled a border guard." Legolas shrugged. "It will heal."
"And what of the day when it does not?" She shook her head. "I would not see another scar upon you."
"What is going on here?" Elrond demanded. Legolas dropped back to the cushions of Arwen's couch. "Legolas? What has happened? Arwen? You haven't been fighting again have you?"
"No, sir. I startled a guard and paid the price for it." Legolas spoke calmly and quietly, eyes closed. "That is all."
"Which guard? And where?" Elrond asked his sons. They shrugged of one accord.
"Please, my lord, I would not be the cause of contention in this household. Enough to say that I was lost in my dreams and not thinking about where I was. It was my fault for startling him."
"As he will say about the hand that cuts him down in battle," Deluiel said sharply, reminding all present that she was not one of the young ones. Legolas' eyes flashed. "My lord, I would speak with you about this," she said to Elrond. "And I would do so away from foolish tongues." She nodded at the young ones. Elrond nodded and they went to his study.
"Now you have to tell us where you came by that scar."
"We'll not let it rest," Elrohir supported his twin.
"My father," Legolas said. Then, he folded his hands over his chest. "Now, my Evenstar, how have your speed trials been going?"
"It's time," Legolas said as he finished closing his bag. "I promised my lord that I would not be away longer than two years. And I will not be forsworn." He looked up at Arwen and smiled gently. "You know the way to Mirkwood. And I know the way here. But I must return home."
"I had almost hoped that you would consider this home as well."
"I am glad of the offer, but my home is Mirkwood and the forest calls to me. Rivendell is beautiful, but it is your home and I am still a guest here."
"Not for long, I trust. I call you brother now," she informed him. "And I warn you not to trust the twins on the road. They will try to get you into trouble."
"That is their aim in life." Legolas' smile turned sad. "I will miss the pranks, but that can't be helped."
"Legolas, you don't have to go back. You have been smiling so often. And the sadness was nearly out of your eyes."
"Even though I cannot forget the pain for a moment. It is with me when I breathe. And I will never be free of it, if I merely hide here in Imladris."
"And it will not ease in Mirkwood either if you will not confront your father."
"Would you have me dead then, Evenstar?" He pressed a hand to his chest. "Would you have him use his blade in more than mocking?"
"Do not forget your own pain in your need to ease his. You are ever welcome anywhere I may be. Here or Lorien."
"Thank you, Arwen, sister." He kissed her cheek.
"Legolas!" Cariel waved at him from the front door. She had an infant cradled in one arm. "I told him you'd come back."
"I gave my word. And what is this?" Legolas tickled the baby's nose with one of the feathers he kept in his pouch for the making of arrows. The baby reached for the blue feather and giggled.
"This is your brother," she said smiling. "I've held off naming him. I wanted you to be here to witness it. Come in. Your father has been worried."
"When is he not?" Thranduil looked up from his papers when the door opened. Cariel came in with their new son. And a pace behind her was a face he'd not thought to see again.
"Legolas! I didn't have word that you'd arrived." He smiled at his son. "I didn't think you would leave the Evenstar."
Thranduil laughed at his son's confusion.
"My lady Cariel, what are you going to name him?" Legolas asked. He stroked the infant's cheek. "He can't be more than a month."
"I knew you would be punctual, that is why he is not yet named except in the silence of my heart."
Legolas looked shyly at his father. "And what will you name him?"
"You will see at the ceremony. It will be tomorrow night, to give you rest from the road." Thranduil gently touched his son's arm.
"Rest, Legolas. I will see you in the morning."
"Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir, Cariel." Legolas slipped out of the throne room and to his own chamber. It stood unchanged, except for clean linen. He assumed that the palace guard had seen him in the forest. Sadorlien appeared not a moment later.
"The child is very like Lady Cariel at the moment."
"Perhaps it will be lucky and not take after Thranduil in the least," Legolas said.
"We name you Gailduil young one." Thranduil kissed his youngest on the forehead. Legolas felt himself smile. He did not see the sharp pain in his father's eyes. His eyes and ears were instead drawn to the sight of a small bird perched in the rafters, singing with a voice as beautiful as an elf's.
"Welcome, little one," Legolas whispered. He placed a kiss on the child's forehead as well. Thranduil settled his hand on the back of Legolas' neck.
The naming was a private ceremony. Now, it was time to announce the name to Mirkwood properly. The songs lifted through the night and into the morning and on through the next day. Legolas found a way to slip away. He sorted through the scraps of fabric left from his father's rage. He assembled them into a quilt for the young prince. Then, he slipped to the nursery and tucked it around the babe. "Thank you for bringing some of the light back into my lord's eyes, little one," he whispered. "I have not seen him smile in far too long. You have his heart in your hand and do not yet know what a wonder that is. I pray that you never will understand it. Sleep well, little one."
Deluiel watched with a sad smile. Legolas would never understand how much of his father he carried in himself. Perhaps Aewlos' lessons would take still. If only the boy could find his way into the forest without homing back in on the palace like a tamed dog, perhaps he would find a way to heal his own heart. She sent a silent prayer that Thranduil would not destroy them all with silence for much longer.
Cariel looked down at the quilt and stroked it. Legolas was in the window, looking out to the woods. "This is beautiful. Is it your work?"
"Only in part. The fabrics were the queen's."
"Legolas, sweet Greenleaf," she pressed a hand to his chest. "You can speak her name, call her mother, you won't offend me."
"But my lord's anger is too great. Best that I am not tempted by habit to say the wrong thing in his presence."
Cariel sighed. "Will you help me with the child? Teach him those things I can not?"
"I will do whatever is in my power, Cariel. Whatever is in my power."
It was several years later that Legolas spotted familiar riders coming to the woods. He closed his book gently and went to greet them. "Arwen Evenstar, you bring beauty with you where ever you may wander. And your brothers bring terror. Perhaps the two are united?"
"And already they begin," Elladan sighed. "Perhaps you could conduct us to your father before you insult us all?"
"I thought I already had. I shall have to work harder." He offered his arm to Arwen and led them all to see his father. "Lord Thranduil? We have guests from Rivendell."
After seeing the lord of the woods, and his lady. They met his youngest, who was beginning to speak at a precocious speed. "He picks up anything anyone says around him," Legolas said. He was holding the child in his arms. His smile was bright.
"I'm glad to see the light in you," Arwen said. He set the child down. Gailduil scampered off to find someone else to entertain him. Legolas shook his head.
"He brings light to many people. Let's get you settled, then." He led them to their chambers.
"And where will you be?" Arwen asked.
"My room is down one floor, under the nursery. I'll let you get cleaned up. Call if you need for anything."
"Whom shall we call?"
One of the house stewards stepped seemingly from the shadows. "There is often someone in the shadows. You came without attendants I hear?"
"That will never do. I'll assign you each one of the footmen. They are quite clever, if horrid with their arms work." The steward bowed his leave and Legolas nodded to him.
"I thought you were spoiled. Now I am sure of it," Elrohir stated. Legolas looked at him blankly. "Never mind. Come on, Elladan, let's change and get the dust off."
Arwen nearly missed Legolas' room altogether. If he hadn't had the drape over his window pulled aside, she would have. As it was she wasn't sure she was in the right place. She knocked on the door.
"Come in," Legolas called to her. "Oh, Arwen, is there something I can do for you?" He stood up from his desk. There was parchment and multi-colored pigments on it. He neatly made sure that she couldn't see what he was working on and steered her to a seat.
"This is your room?" She looked around in wonder. And she felt shamed for her teasing in Rivendell. He lived more simply than she could have believed.
"Yes." His tone didn't indicate anything. She looked around. And he let her indulge herself.
"I thought you'd at least have a bed for your shadow," she teased.
"Perhaps he sleeps where all good shadows do?" Her eyes widened. "In the barracks when his duty is ended." He grinned at her. "Have you eaten? Dinner will be served shortly. Thranduil and Cariel will wish you to join them."
"But not you?"
"I don't attend dinner when I can avoid it. I am taking watch duty tonight. One of our guards is going to have a child. I've been taking her shifts for a time. I'll take you down to the dining hall. And the twins as well I suppose. Then, I shall be up on the roof if you have need of me."
Elladan and Elrohir would not be dissuaded. They enjoyed the tour of the woods Legolas was giving them while their sister spent some time with Cariel. Yet, the darker woods beyond the bounds of the village called to them. "What harm can it do? Perhaps we can even route a few orcs back to their master," Elrohir said.
"Elrohir, Elladan, don't go past the edge of the village. There is no protection beyond these bounds."
"But we have a native guide," Elladan pointed out and clapped Legolas on the shoulder. The prince shook his head.
"Don't do this. I beg you."
"We will. You may come or not as you choose. We can find our way back," Elrohir said firmly. They weren't but a few yards in when Legolas stole up upon them.
"I would rather you did not do this, but I will not let you walk alone in these woods. There are things you do not know." He carefully steered them through what he knew to be a safe part of the woods. He checked up at the sun. "We should head back, lest we miss dinner."
"You would think you were a dwarf. Come along, Legolas." Legolas shook his head firmly. He turned and headed back to the boundaries of the village. The twins looked at one another and held a conversation in seconds. They followed him back. They were unprepared for what they found. Legolas had gone chalk white. "What is wrong?" Elladan asked.
"I have to see Lord Thranduil. If you will excuse me, sirs." Legolas moved quickly from the front hall to the throne room, his shadow close behind and the twins following the two. Sadorlien squeezed Legolas' shoulder. "Sir?"
"Come in, Legolas." The twins had never heard so icy a tone. Legolas' shadow kept the door open, but did not go in. He kept the twins in the hall so that they could watch but not interfere. "It comes to my attention that you disobeyed my command today, Legolas."
"In what manner, sir?" Legolas probed delicately.
"You were beyond the community bounds." Thranduil stood and he was impressive in his anger. He stalked towards his son. Legolas looked at him with wide eyes. His hand crept up to grasp the scar on his arm. "Why did you disobey me, boy?"
"Our guests wished to explore and I was indulging them."
"And would you kill them as you killed the queen?" Legolas seemed to crumple. His shoulders pulled in, but he lifted his chin.
"I could not let them wander alone."
Thranduil's hand flashed out and the prince staggered under the blow. He went to his knees, eyes down. "Did you or did you not go beyond the limitations I set on your wanderings?"
"I went beyond, sir," Legolas admitted.
"Very well. You are restricted to the palace until further notice."
"And I will see those scraps burned. Now. Get the boxes. I will see them burn." Legolas shook.
"My lord, please, don't. . ."
"Yes, my lord."
"All of them. Do not try to hide them from me again."
Legolas didn't acknowledge the twins as he went by. "Steward," he said.
"I need someone to carry the boxes to the forge."
"Sir?" The steward's face was shocked.
"Yes, I mean those boxes. To the forge. Now. By order of the king, they are to be destroyed." Legolas went to his room and grabbed the small box from beneath his bed and sighed. He stroked the fabric, a tear escaping his strict control and slipping down his cheek to splash on the fabric. He went to the forge, oblivious to the fact that his number of shadows had grown. Thranduil made his way to the forge to watch the destruction. He wanted no scrap to remain. Cariel and Arwen weren't far behind. Arwen looked to her brothers who could not answer her. Cariel put a hand to her mouth.
"No, Thranduil, you cannot do this," she said, anguish in her voice.
"Hold your tongue, Cariel. Do not cross me in this matter."
"You wish me to watch as you torture your son?"
"I would not hurt Gailduil." Legolas bowed his head as the barb hit its mark. "At least the child heeds me. The queen's son needs to learn that lesson."
"I have learned lessons you cannot imagine, my lord," Legolas said, an underlying of steel in his voice. "And here we have the valley's greenest fabric yet to be made. Look at the color of the spring caught in the weft and warf of its weaving." He dropped it into the fire. "And let us follow that with the richness of the bluebird's wing. And the grey of the mountains of the north. And the color of mist in the morning. And the rich beechwood bark." The fabric burned in the intense fires of the metal-working fires. And the crowd that watched, those who remembered Aewlos, they wept as the colors of her loom were destroyed. "And gold, and silver, and the orange of the autumn leaves, the yellow of the Mallorn, and the deepest red of the fire, and this one is best gone, the blood of the doe killed in the fall. Here we see mushrooms, and there we see starlight. Oh, look here is the green of the peacock's feather and the purple of its crest. And here we have the summer's sun upon her hair. Look, the blue of an infant's eyes. And thus the brown of the forest's edge. Here is one as black as midnight. And one as murky as an orc's blood. And the horse she loved so much. And the night she first met her husband. And the night she celebrated her son's coming of age. And look the quills she used to write her songs. And here the spring's youngest leaf." Legolas continued to name the hues as they burned. "And now we see the white of her wedding day. And here, here is the color of her Chosen's hair. And this the color of his eyes. And now the color of his cheeks in anger. And this was once his smile. But all that was lost so long ago that few now remember those hues." Thranduil's posture became sterner, but his anger was turned to sorrow. "And here are the wildflowers her son once gathered for no reason at all. And the butterfly's wing that she admired so much that he tried for a week to lure it closer with sweet honey. And this is her favorite sparrow's underbelly that she rubbed to thank him for bringing news. And here is her favorite hunting companion. And the shaft of her arrows as they sped through the air. And the metal of her knife as she wove it in the deadly dances. And her laughing cheeks when she rode through the forest on her fastest steed. And here was her bridegroom's favorite robe that she renewed every year so that he would never know it was getting worn. And here is the color of the shell comb she used to hold her hair back. And here is the cover of her journal. And this the pillowcases on which she laid her head on her bridenight. And there burn the clearings she loved to sit and read in."
"Naneth? What's going on?"
"A purging, little one," Legolas stated. "All traces of that which Lord Thranduil despises are being burned." Thranduil shook with fury, but he could not contradict the words in public.
"What he loves too much or what he hates too deeply?" Gailduil asked with the sharp insight that made his age at once dangerous and beautiful to behold.
"They are often one in the same. But that is not something that can be explained, only felt," the prince continued. "Would you help me put the rest on the fire and show me with your eyes what you see here?"
"I see a beautiful cloth, like the one from my crib blanket. And there is a piece of this one as well, to create the star in the center. And this makes the small bird in the upper corner. This one here is the green leaf on the bottom. And this blue is the waterfall that runs down the front. And this is the grey that makes the tower standing high. And this is the apple that hangs in the tree." And the boxes were finally all emptied.
"Thank you, little one." Legolas kissed him fondly on the cheek. "Perhaps you can get a special treat from the cook if you sneak in now. As I recall, she normally makes those little caramels, the color of your hair, early on days such as this."
Gailduil ran off in search of sweets.
"Has the duty been done, my lord?"
"How dare you involve a child?"
"How dare you pretend that he is not to be involved? These scraps you hate. These memories you despise. He shall be the one to replace them with something you can bear. If you have no further need of me, my lord, I have the watch tonight."
Thranduil's eyes shined with tears even as his face suffused with anger. Legolas' hair shone like his mother's in the light of long-ago fires. His face in cold anger was Aewlos in battle. His tenderness, her first days holding him. Cariel touched her husband's arm and was shaken off. Thranduil followed his son to the roof of the palace, but found his way barred by Deluiel.
"You will hurt him no more tonight, Thranduil. I am sworn to his mother, not to you. I will not see him harmed by your pain any more than he already is. Leave him to the watch. Maybe you will find in your heart to look kindly upon him once more."
"You forget your place, guard."
"I came from her father's people and I can easily return to Lorien." Thranduil left and his subjects scattered before him.
Arwen mounted the stairs alone. Her brothers agreed to keep watch for her. "May I pass, Deluiel?"
"Did he not tell you where to find him? Go on, Evenstar. Ease his heart if you can. Arwen," she said suddenly, putting a hand on the younger elf's arm, "He is more fragile and more strong than anyone in this castle knows. He aches with a pain that no one can take from him and wounds that cannot be healed any further than they are by any magic I know. But he is much loved in these woods. Do not let him lose sight of that. Do not let him join his mother."
Arwen nodded. "I will take care of him." She stood at the foot of the parapet where Legolas perched and called his name gently.
"Arwen? Have you come to see the stars?"
"I have come to see you."
"Why would you want to do that? I've got enough soot from the forge that I doubt I'll get this shirt clean again. I am sure that there are streaks of ash in my hair."
Arwen shook her head. "And when the sky rains down in fire will you still jest?"
"I will try. If I don't laugh, I'll be sobbing, or raging, and that is not the way I wish to live."
"Will you tell me what that was all about?"
"My father was upset that I wandered out of the area he wishes me to be penned within. And he used it to his own ends, to erase something more of the queen that he did not think he could order on any other day. And were it any other day, I don't know if I would have obeyed him. There's only three of her things left, perhaps four. And there are things in the village, but they don't show them when he is about."
"Those fabrics were your mother's?"
"Yes. At least Gailduil's blanket will remain." Arwen sighed and climbed up to sit beside him. She blinked at the view.
"You can see nearly to the misty mountains. I can almost imagine seeing Rivendell."
"The night is not clear enough over the mountains. They haven't been in many seasons. If you look to the left perhaps you can see the edge of Lorien."
"Have you ever been there?"
"No. Rivendell's the farthest I've been from the forest. The queen took me riding south for awhile, but she didn't like to stay away for too long. She missed Lord Thranduil greatly."
"Legolas?" Arwen said after a long silence.
"I will always be there for you, should you need to talk to me."
"Thank you, Arwen. Perhaps you should go down to your brothers and tell them that it wasn't their fault they judged Thranduil to be like Elrond. This would have happened were they not around as well."
"I will let you tell them that yourself. They will not listen to me. And I won't leave you to sit here alone, no matter how you try to push me away."
"I've still got a shadow."
"She is guarding the hall against your father."
Legolas looked down at the forest. He could hear the tears of his people. "I wish that there was something I could do to take the sadness away."
"From your father or your people?"
"All and myself as well, but there is nothing to be done, except to wait for time to pass and their lord to re-find his happiness. I hope so much that Gailduil will bring the light fully back into my lord's heart."
"His views are piercing."
"That they are. And his aim is as bad as yours." He looked sideways at her and she felt a smile tug at her lips.
"I thought I was trying to cheer you."
"Don't bother. My moods don't last too long."
"You worried Deluiel today."
"Of course I did. I got in trouble with Thranduil. She hates that. It tears her in two."
Thranduil looked down at the sight of his sons curled up together in the large chair in front of his fire. He carefully moved the book from Legolas' hand and set in on the table by his chair. Gailduil would soon be too large for sitting in someone's lap. It would be a shame when that happened. His hand rested on the edge of the table, his eyes focussed on his eldest son. The stillness of sleep hid his wildness, his sorrow, his anger, and showed only the light that shone from within him. With the delicacy of a butterfly's landing, Thranduil stroked over the soft blond hair, then shook himself.
Legolas saw the guests as far as the front door. "Sadorlien, go with them to the end of the forest."
Sadorlien did so reluctantly. Thranduil frowned at his son. "Legolas," he said firmly.
"What on earth do you expect to happen here? Or were you planning to get rid of me as well?" Thranduil's eyes narrowed and Legolas stepped back from him.
"Speak quickly and tell me what you meant, boy."
"Only that you seem to thrill in being rid of anything that was once the queen's." Legolas shrugged. "That list grows shorter with every turning of the leaves."
"You tread a delicate path today, Legolas. You would do well not to anger me."
"What more can you do to me?" Legolas asked bitterly. "Do you want her bow? It's yours for kindling. You want her loom broken? That can be arranged. You want to burn your son's crib blanket? Feel free. You are the lord of this palace."
"Yes, I am lord of this realm. And as such, my will is your law, is that not so?"
"Yes, sir, it is."
"And my will is that you keep a civil tongue in your head." Thranduil's voice was icy. Legolas bowed formally.
"As my lord wishes. Shall I see to those papers now, sir?"
"Yes." Thranduil waved his hand in dismissal and went to seek out his wife.
It took only two hundred turnings of the leaves before things became unbearable. Legolas watched in stony silence as Thranduil took his sword to the wood of Aewlos' loom. He slipped away from the room and ran towards his room. He wrote quickly on a sheet of parchment and left the note on the bed. He folded the book of his mother's life in a protective cloth and slid his knives and bow into their sheathes. He tucked the small silver cup into the pouch on his side and slipped unseen through the halls to leave a small package on his brother's bed.
Then, he slipped out the window of the nursery onto the rocks of the wall and climbed down to the trees. He disappeared from Deluiel's view and she whispered a blessing in his wake. Then, she went to pack her things.
"Legolas!" Gailduil's voice called vainly in the halls. "Legolas, where are you?" He clutched the book to his chest. He burst into his brother's room, unconcerned. He saw the parchment and picked it up.
"Gailduil, Cariel, Sadorlien, Deluiel, all my dearest family, I can take this no longer. I will remove the thorn from my father's side and remove what is left of the queen from his sight. I will be in the woods, and if the need arises I will return to your sides. Protect him for me and nurture the light in him, Gailduil." The signature was the delicate twining of Legolas' name with a leaf.
Gailduil ran to the roof and looked out into the woods. The guards looked at him in surprise as he tucked the book into his belt and climbed up to the highest point. "Where has he gone?" he asked the winds, but they did not answer. He watched late into the night, but saw no sign of his brother.
Cariel set the letter down on Thranduil's desk and glared at him. "Is your heart glad now, husband?" she demanded.
"What is this?" Thranduil looked down at his son's writing. His heart twisted in his chest as he realized that he wasn't even acknowledged in writing. Yet, that is what he had wanted from his son after all. "Gone? Fetch Deluiel," he ordered his page. "He would not disobey me like this."
"He has been bleeding as long as you have, but with no one to ease his pains in the middle of the night. The healer told me of the wound on his arm that will always pain him. He cannot escape the memories of his mother's death. And he thinks he is responsible for it. Don't punish him for needing to heal, Thranduil. He is your son."
"He is the queen's son."
"With your temper and sharp tongue. I never knew his mother. And he is not my son. I see you in him. And you are blind to cut him out like this."
"Deluiel, where is. . ." Thranduil stopped in mid-thought. "Are you going to follow him?"
"If you will excuse me, I am making preparations."
"Where would he go?"
"He is safe, Lord Thranduil. He has his mother's temperament. He is connected to these woods in a way that no one could understand. He loves this land more than anything in the world. He will stay in Mirkwood, he cannot find it in his heart to be that far away, but he is dying in this palace. The walls close further in upon him every day. I was not surprised that he left today after you destroyed what was left of Aewlos in this palace. It is his right to remember her and he can not do that here. He loved her as strongly as you do, Thranduil." Her face softened. "Thranduil, we rode together into battle. Aewlos and I fought along side of you against the Enemy's army. And in that barren wasteland the two of you found a love that survived the tempest of the storm. But Aewlos' soul always yearned for the woods, not the hills. She found rest in the song of the forest and sang of her love to you to the birds that none of them would forget that you were her Chosen. And she was beautiful haloed in that light. And you remember that well. And I fear for you, Thranduil. I fear that you have forgotten all that you once loved. And if you have forgotten your love, then I pity your wife and your youngest. Gailduil's heart is breaking now, Thranduil. His beloved brother has gone away and left him alone. He has never been to the forest alone. He needs his mother and his father to love him."
"You forget your place."
"You forget yours," she snapped, angry once more. "You are Legolas' father. Do you hear me? Father. He is your son! I let this foolishness go on too long. I should have said something sooner, but I promised Aewlos that I would stand by her son. And I have seen him spread his wings and take flight. I have done what I said I would. Do not lose your young one as well, Thranduil." She turned and left without waiting for a dismissal.
Thranduil's face was suffused with rage. He looked to his wife. "I am going to check on Gailduil." She left the room and carefully shut the door behind herself.
"Naneth? Why did Legolas leave?"
"The pain was too great for him to stay."
"He left me a book."
"And what does it say?"
"It is the history of his mother. I am almost afraid to finish reading it."
"May I see it? I have long wondered about her."
"Certainly. Perhaps we could read it together?" Cariel heard the need in her son's voice and nodded.
"That would be good. Come, let's go to my study."
Arwen Evenstar did not look her best. She was covered with dust from the road and her eyes were ringed with sorrow. She looked in surprise as the door of Thranduil's palace revealed Gailduil. "Gailduil?"
"Arwen Evenstar. Welcome. I haven't seen you since I was a child."
"You are still a child," she said, arching one brow. He laughed.
"I am nearly four-hundred."
"As I said, a child. Where is Legolas?"
The young elf's face fell. "Legolas is in the woods. He has not been back in nearly ten turnings of the leaves."
She stared at him. "Is there any way to send word to him? I would greatly like to speak with him."
"Let me get you settled in a room and some respite from the road first. Then I will tell you what I know of my brother."
Arwen combed out her hair with a grimness that Gailduil did not remember in her. "What has happened Gailduil? What made Thranduil change his mind?" She worked in small braids.
"Father did not change his mind. He destroyed Legolas' mother's loom and he couldn't stand it any longer, so he went to the forest. Deluiel and Sadorlien are with him I think, but they may just have left. It has been much harder here without him. Father's grief is sharp and cold."
"I must find him."
"He comes back on occasion, but he has no fixed home in the woods. He doesn't want anyone to find him."
"Then I shall have to go looking for him." She fastened her hair back with silver pins.
"Perhaps someone in the village knows. Mother Ravenclaw might. They still feed him on occasion."
"I had hoped the worst would be over for him."
"What troubles you, Arwen Evenstar?" Gailduil put a hand on her arm.
"Don't trouble yourself, Gailduil." She gave him a tight smile. He poured her a glass of sweet wine. "This is blessed."
"Thank you." He smiled impishly. "That was my first attempt at wine-making. I think it came out rather well."
"It did. I had best see your father, now that I'm somewhat presentable."
Gailduil rolled his eyes at the politics. He escorted her to the throne room. "Arwen Evenstar, Father."
"Come in, Arwen. How can I help you?"
"I came to see Legolas," she stated. She folded her hands in front of her. "And I have been informed that he is in the woods. I will look for him there. Thank you for your hospitality."
"What has happened, Arwen?"
"My mother has sailed to the Grey Havens. The pain of the orc wounds she bears were too much for her to stay here."
"You have my sympathies, Arwen. Please convey them to your father when you next see him."
"I will." She took her leave of him. "Will you look after my horse for me, Gailduil? I think I would rather walk."
"I will take him to the stables and have one of the hands take good care of him." He saw her to the village. "Mother Ravenclaw!" he called up. She looked down and smiled, then jumped lightly to the ground.
"Arwen, you must come up for some dinner. Prince Gailduil, will you join us?"
"No, thank you. I'll go see to your horse. If, if you find him, will you tell him I miss him?"
"I will." Arwen kissed the young prince's forehead and he left her there.
"You're going to look for Legolas?"
"Come up. I'll try to call him back." Ravenclaw let Arwen go first up the tree and followed quickly. "Tea?"
"Yes, please. Thank you."
Legolas peered out at the road and frowned. He knew the new hunters, hidden by the blood of their orc victims. Then, his eyes widened. He followed them along the road. He moved through the treetops as swiftly as their walking horses. Elladan looked up at the trees in suspicion. He was pleased to see an elven figure there. He glanced at his brother who nodded to him. "Hey, you, come here," he called.
Legolas smiled to himself. "Why should I answer such a hail?" he called back.
"Because we don't wish to harm you."
"I should like to see you try. I'm sure I can still beat your speed."
"Who do you think. . . Legolas?" Elladan gaped. Elrohir laughed.
"Come out, friend."
Legolas jumped lightly down to the ground. "And what brings you to Mirkwood?"
"We were hoping to rest in Mirkwood before returning to Rivendell with Arwen."
"The Evenstar is about? Hiding under a rock perhaps?"
"She was riding directly to the palace from Lorien."
"Was she?" Legolas sighed. "I suppose that means I should see if she arrived or not." He fell into step next to the horses.
"I was wondering how you managed to slip your leash."
"I climbed out the window of course. But that was nearly two hundred turnings of the leaves. It has been nearly ten years since I returned to the palace. You have been hunting orcs."
"Don't worry. We saved a few for you."
"Good. You certainly have made a mess of yourselves. A hot bath would serve you well. Come, there's a spring this way."
"Yes, underground. You'll have to pretend to be dwarves, but it is lovely to gaze upon and the water is warm and self refreshing."
"Lead on, Legolas. Lead on." He led them through the forest, always making sure there was enough room for the horses. He directed them into the opening and took the reins of their horses. He whispered softly to the creatures. Then, he turned to his friends.
"Go on. I'll brush down these two. They'll appreciate getting the tangles out of their manes." Elladan and Elrohir settled into the hot water with a sigh.
"So how much do you think he will tell us?"
"Us?" Elrohir questioned. "Nothing. I think he may talk to Arwen, but even that isn't likely."
"True. He seems lighter now though. It's a good change."
Legolas shook his head. They acted as if he couldn't hear them. Of course, considering they would never say anything of the like to his face, perhaps that was the point. He let his arms fall into the familiar rhythm of stroking. He looked up when he was finished putting a small braid into each one's mane and adorning them with wildflowers. He nodded in Deluiel's direction. She nodded back and set up a perimeter with Sadorlien on the other side. The twins would be safe enough for the moment. He slipped off to get them something to eat.
The twins were surprised when they were greeted with fresh fruits and nuts. Legolas cocked his head to the side. "You seemed hungry. Rest awhile and eat something. Then, we'll continue on."
Arwen smiled at the elf that was heaping sweets onto her plate. "I really shouldn't."
"Why not? Legolas hasn't been around to eat up my sweets and I love making them. Besides, they let me see your smile. That is all for the best. Tell me of your travels, if you will?"
Arwen sighed, then nodded.
Legolas hummed softly as he led the twins down the road towards Thranduil's palace. It was a hymn of praise that his mother had always loved. He walked beside the horses, with one hand on each neck. The twins were tired. They probably didn't know about the orcs that Deluiel and Sadorlien killed along the way. He wanted to join them in the fighting. Mirkwood was getting more and more dangerous. And there were rumors that the Dark Lord himself was in the woods, gathering his strength before he attacked. There were orcs infesting the Misty Mountains and they kept trying to get into the forest. They'd lost three good fighters already because they were sloppy.
Suddenly, Legolas dropped the reins, spun and threw one of his knives. It killed the orc that had broken through his shadows' guard. The fight was truly joined and he started picking off the rest of the small group. It was the policy of the outer woods that no orc unit returned to their master if they attacked. They hoped to cut off the Enemy's source of information. Soon, there were no orcs left. Legolas went to scrounge his arrows and his knife from the bodies. The twins watched in quiet fascination. They weren't quite sure if they liked the new Legolas. He seemed happier and colder at the same time. He'd become a killer, a hunter, which he hadn't been, despite his prowess with the bow.
He'd become an adult.
Arwen was startled when she heard the voices of the trees whispering about the return of the spring leaves. It was autumn and the leaves of Mirkwood were brilliant in their array. "What are they talking about, Ravenclaw?"
"The return of the Greenleaf," she smirked, enjoying the joke on a stranger. "They are talking of Legolas, Arwen," she explained after a moment. "He is returning and the woods speak of his journey. They carry his messages, as the birds did for his mother, as they do for me. Come on, let's meet him on the road."
Arwen followed Ravenclaw. She liked the dark-haired elf. Her sweets were delicious, and her protection of the children admirable. She also had battle-scars on her cheeks that made Arwen think that she was not as light of spirit as she seemed. She seemed to sense the question in her guest and looked over her shoulder. "I'm the Captain of the Guard and the leader of this land should the lord and his princes fall." She laughed at Arwen's stunned expression. "Come along, young one." She took Arwen's arm.
"Mother Ravenclaw!" Legolas smiled widely. "Have you been taking good care of the Evenstar?"
"Yes, my prince." He kissed her cheek familiarly. "You've got orc blood on your tunic."
"There was a unit that attacked us on the road. You'd best ask Deluiel the full story. She took the first ones herself." Legolas shrugged. "Arwen," he smiled. He gave her a light hug, conscious of the blood on his clothing. He looked at Ravenclaw again. "What's the mood?"
"Gailduil wants to see you. I would assume that his mother does as well. I have no idea what the king is thinking. I never did."
Legolas nodded. "Well, I'll risk it."
"And we worry about you facing orcs," Sadorlien muttered under his breath. Legolas just bumped him with his shoulder.
"Just remember, his aim pulls to the left."
"Oh, no, sir. I'm sorry. You may be my responsibility, but if he starts firing arrows, you are on your own."
Legolas gave a theatrical sigh and shook his head. "Now, where is, ah, here the brat comes now."
"Legolas!" Gailduil hugged him excitedly. "I'm glad you came back. I'll take the horses in. Father's in his office. Don't disturb him if you can help it. Just send a page."
"Thank you. Are there rooms enough for these three?"
"Yes, I had them made up just in case. The barracks are set up for Sadorlien and Deluiel if they'd like. And your room is clean too."
"Thank you again." He tugged at his brother's simple braid. "And you've been working in the forge."
"I'm good at it." Gailduil shrugged.
"At least your face isn't black with soot."
"Nor does my hair have orc blood in it." Legolas ran a hand over his hair. Gailduil snickered. "You are paranoid. It's fine. You look almost presentable. I'll have the steward set up some dinner."
"For our guests only. I'll get something myself, later."
"When you don't think Father will find you you mean."
"Are you surprised?"
"I've been stuffed by Ravenclaw, Gailduil. Thank you." Arwen turned from greeting her brothers and slid her arm through Legolas'. "I'll walk awhile with you, if you aren't too tired, Greenleaf."
"I will never be too tired to walk with you, Evenstar." They made their excuses and moved through the village, followed discretely by Deluiel. Sadorlien took care to follow Arwen's brothers as they were shown to their rooms and set a fine dinner.
"What has happened that disturbs your rest, Evenstar?" Legolas asked as they paused in a quiet glen. It was well protected by the inner guard, so Legolas took the time to sit and look up at the sky. He could see the moon starting to rise. Arwen settled next to him.
"My mother has sailed to the Gray Havens."
"Oh, Arwen," he said softly. He held her as she cried, his own eyes tearing at her pain. He sang softly to her and eventually she calmed.
"I feel like a child."
"You are her child. That is why. Why did she leave? I thought she and Elrond were still deeply in love and you've not mentioned his leaving."
"Father remains in Rivendell. Mother was captured and tortured by orcs on the way to Lorien. My brothers saved her, and Father healed her. But there are some wounds that cannot be healed and the pain was too great for her. She remembers everything so clearly. She hoped that by leaving, her memories of this place would fade, and with those memories, her pain. She was so sad and scared and hurt. She wasn't the mother I remembered. When she said goodbye, I was almost relieved. The hurt ran so deep." Legolas nodded gently. "I am shamed that I wanted her to leave."
"You wanted her to be happy and in no more pain. There is no shame in that. Only kindness."
"But perhaps, if she had waited longer, the pain would have eased."
"The pain never eases. The wounds never heal. That is their nature. And if the wounds were deep, the memories would be too much to bear."
Arwen looked at him for a long moment. "You carry an orc wound."
"Yes, but it was not so terrible. The chillness, the fever, the pain, even the fear was better than the memory that accompanies it. It does not mean that I have never thought that it would have been for the best if I had died as well. Then, the pain of this forest might have been healed. There is no time for healing now. We are continually at war. Thranduil has many concerns. Arwen, you need not hear this. You need to rest. Will you do so now? I'll watch over you and sing you to sleep if you like."
"That would be nice. Thank you." She laid her head in his lap and he settled one hand on her forehead. She fell asleep to the sound of his voice.
"So, do you really think Father would let her marry an elf from Mirkwood, prince or no prince?" Elladan asked idly as he stretched out the kinks from his back.
"I don't think Arwen wants to marry him. I don't think Legolas even understands the concept of flirting."
"They're courting, I'm telling you. It starts with friendship, then things get muddled up."
"They are not. I don't think he'll open his heart to her. I worry about that boy."
"So does she. And she was the one that decided she had to come to Mirkwood before riding home. And it is a bit off of the path. It's a good thing that we move at top speed. Can you imagine what might have happened if those orcs had gone after her instead?"
"Then Legolas wouldn't have left any for us."
"He wasn't anywhere near the area when she went through or he would have seen her."
"True. That could have been ugly. Can you imagine what Father would have done to us if something had happened to her?"
"Unfortunately I can. We had better take him the news tomorrow. He's not going to be happy at all. He's going to be even less happy that we didn't come straight home."
"He'll understand hunting for a little while. He'd have gone with us if he didn't have things to do."
The sun caressed Arwen's face and she opened her eyes with a smile. She felt much lighter than she had in ages. Legolas smiled down at her. "How are you?"
"I will survive. I am not ready to leave for the West at the moment."
"We'll get you some provisions. I assume you need to go to Rivendell to talk to Elrond?"
"Yes, Father doesn't know yet." She remained in her position for awhile, just soaking in the sun. Then, she stretched and stood. Legolas followed her. He offered his arm and they walked through the forest. He stopped her for a moment and climbed one of the trees. He returned with some of the brightest orange and red leaves she had ever seen. He sat her on a tree stump and twined them into her hair.
"There. That's better. I'll make a wood-elf of you yet."
She laughed, surprised to hear the sound pass her lips. "Wood-elves are an odd lot."
"The same could be said of those with mortal blood, could it not?"
She winked, not giving up the point and they continued on. Deluiel smiled and shook her head. They were such children even now. It was pleasant to see them that way.
"Will you ride to Rivendell with us?"
Legolas considered. "I would like to, but in that matter I will still defer to my lord. He can no longer restrict me within these woods, but going to Rivendell is a political matter and I will not contradict him on it."
Arwen and her brother were not exactly enthusiastic about seeing Thranduil. He was not on the top of their list of favorite people. Yet, it was expected, so they went to see him. Legolas accompanied them. "Come in," Thranduil said absently from behind his desk. His glance ranged over the group quickly. "And what brings Elrond's children to Mirkwood?"
"We were in need of some rest before continuing on to Rivendell with our news," Arwen said calmly. "Our mother has chosen to sail to the Gray Havens."
Thranduil sighed. "Please convey my condolences to your father," he said coolly. "Legolas, what are you doing here?"
"I met the twins on the road and conducted them to the palace," Legolas said. He stood straight, with his eyes high, but looking past his father rather than at him.
"And why did you come to see me?" Thranduil asked. He rested the tips of his fingers against one another.
"I would ask leave to accompany Lord Elrond's children to Rivendell."
"Permission denied. You will remain in Mirkwood."
"May I know why, my lord?"
"I will not have you riding those roads. They are dangerous."
"I beg to differ, sir. The road to Rivendell is no more hazardous than the path by the river." Thranduil's eyes flashed. He did not take kindly to being contradicted.
"The answer remains no, Legolas. You are a prince of this land and would do well to remember your responsibilities."
"I would not stay long, my lord," Legolas said, voice dropping in volume and softening. His eyes dropped as well. Thranduil saw through the trick.
"Do not anger me, Legolas." Legolas' eyes flashed and met his father's boldly.
"Give me the real reason why I am not allowed to go with them," he demanded. His voice was just as icy as his father's could get in times of anger.
"I will not have you leaving these lands. Your safety is not assured."
"My safety is not assured sleeping in the bed you occasionally provide in this jail," the elf-price stated.
"These walls kept you safe as a child. It has always been, and will always be those woods and beyond where the danger lies. I will not give you leave of these woods," Thranduil stated, voice dropping a few more degrees. "And if you will not heed my orders, I will have you restrained."
Legolas' eyes narrowed. "You would not do that, sir."
"Test me if you will. Do not disobey me. You may see them to the edge of the woods. That is all. Now, speak truly, Arwen Evenstar, if one of your blood can, why did you come to Mirkwood from Lorien when Rivendell is closer?"
"I came to see Prince Legolas, my lord." Her eyes flashed in warning. "I thought only to find some comfort from him before dealing with the grief of my father. It was a decision my brothers and I came to, to delay the imparting of grievous news for a moment or two."
"And you wish to steal him away with you when you leave. That will not happen."
"I can steal nothing from your realm. And I would not have him locked away for caring to come with us."
Legolas' eyes widened and he sighed. "My lord, perhaps it would be best if such condolences as you send to Lord Elrond arrived with a more personal attendant. The treaties could be taken as well as the report of the latest activities of the orcs in the mountains and the rumors of the Dark Lord's return?" Thranduil circled on his son, but found only a thoughtful frown on his eldest's face. "And it could do no harm to unite our communities with war looming so close to Mirkwood."
Thranduil was caught by something in the speech and his mood altered drastically. "Rumors of the Dark Lord? Where are they centered?" Thranduil pulled a map to the top of the stacks of papers on his desk and Legolas began to describe where the most active areas were.
"We think the Dark Lord is gathering strength in Dol Goldur, but of course we have no proof and none can get inside. We need a sneak-thief for that sort of work."
"Which we will not find here. I will approach the rangers for that. I will consider your request. You will have my answer in the morning. This is most disturbing news." Legolas gave his father a small bow.
"Yes, sir. Shall I inform the guard to pull in the borders?"
"Not just yet. But I want a watch set on Dol Goldur. Inform Ravenclaw."
"I will do so, sir."
They received their dismissal and left the room. Arwen was angry and her brothers weren't about to get in the middle of things. "Legolas, he has no right to threaten you like that."
"He is my king."
"That does not give him the right to lock you up for no reason."
"He wishes me protected. It grieves him that I can no longer be restricted to the palace. I have long since stopped asking permission to leave here. But he is still my king and if he commands me to remain in Mirkwood, I will do so."
"Your loyalty is touching, but he was talking of restraining you. I can not believe that that is right."
"I understand your concern, but it would not be the first time he has kept me in." Legolas shook his head in amusement. "He finds me in turns more precious than his gold and an anathema to his sight. The longer I remain in the woods, the more protective he becomes of me. The longer I remain in the palace the more he rages at my presence. He will not lock me in with his horde just yet. And I think he is disturbed enough by the latest news to allow me accompany you to explain the situation to your lord."
"Legolas, he is your father."
"Watch your mouth, sister," Legolas said mildly. "The words 'father' and 'son' are never used in conversation about my lord and his prince."
"Legolas, he is your father."
"I would have you take heed of my words, Arwen. They are not just for my own amusement. There has been a decree that those words will never again be spoken in reference to the two of us in the palace. I will not have you causing an incident with my lord if I can help it. Please attend to my words," he pleaded.
"Very well. Lord Thranduil. Price Legolas. I understand. But Legolas, no, that is something to be dealt with if you come with us to Rivendell. We will discuss that later. Have you eaten?"
"Not yet. Shall I accompany you for a late lunch?"
"Yes, that would be nice."
Child's Play Part 2