Little Nudge Out of the Door, A: 26. Those Words We Said

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26. Those Words We Said

Lord Elrond laid a gentle hand against Legolas’s forehead as the prince slept. Although still far warmer than an elf ought to be, his body no longer felt as if a fire raged within. King Thranduil, his daughters, and granddaughter watched anxiously until the Lord of Imladris turned to them and smiled. “I know this seems a slow recovery, but fear not; he improves by the day. His fever is much-reduced, and he sleeps peacefully.”

“But his eyes remain shuttered,” said Thranduil, voicing the subject of most worry.

“Have patience, my lord,” Elrond reassured him. “They will remain thus for some time until the poison has left his blood. Monk’s Hood is powerful.”

“But he will recover completely?” pressed Limloeth.

“He will, my lady. It will take some time, but he will.”

***

A few days later…

Legolas had to bite his lip rather hard as Eirien changed the dressings of his poisoned wounds. The fever had dwindled to a mild discomfort instead of the suffocating heat that had denied him true rest for so long. Even now, his body was still too weak to remain awake for very long, let alone rise from the bed. It was frustrating. But at least the cessation of fever would give him the rest needed to get his strength back.

On the other hand, although he could feel the ravages of fever lessening, his other injuries proved more persistent. The bruises and lacerations from avalanche and orc whips were irritating as they healed, but the wounds of poisoned thorns and arrow remained incredibly painful. The arrow wound in particular burned and throbbed mercilessly until he could hardly bear to have it touched. But it had to be cleaned and dressed to heal, so he bore it.

Despite the gentleness of her hands, Eirien accidentally brushed the hurt, and Legolas winced, stifling a whimper of pain and drawing blood from his lip. His father, in conversation with Berensul near the door, turned concerned eyes toward Legolas. This was the first day that Thranduil had left Legolas’s side for more than a few minutes, and it seemed that he had been reluctant to do even that much. But some realm business was troubling Berensul enough that he had at last persuaded the elven king to come away from his still-listless son to attend to it. (It was clear that Legolas was still listless since he did not attempt to find out what the matter was.)

Eirien at least finished cleaning the arrow wound and replaced the dressing. Legolas relaxed, feeling shaky and sick with pain. Lord Elrond eyed him, “How do you feel, Legolas?”

“Well, thank you, my lord,” Legolas lied. He did not see Limloeth and Eirien rolling their eyes at each other.

Elrond’s mouth twitched slightly. “Then I suggest you take some rest and speed your recovery still more.”

Though his pride stung, Legolas already was gritting his teeth with the effort of being in a sitting position. To observers, the young elf had turned as white as a ghost. Resigned, he nodded and lay carefully back down to avoid jarring his shoulder. No sooner had his head touched the pillow than a great weight began tugging at his eyelids.

*No! If I must sleep, I shall do so in the proper fashion of an elf! Not like a mortal…* his mind wandered as his eyes tried again to slide closed. He blinked them stubbornly open.

“Legolas?” Thranduil was beside him again. How he had gotten there, Legolas did not know. Berensul, Eirien, Elrond, and Limloeth had gone. “You must rest well if you are to heal.” He touched his son’s good shoulder and sat down in the chair next to the bed.

Legolas tried to speak, to tell his father that he need not spend every moment there, but fell asleep before he could get the words out.

***

A few more days later…

Eirien came into her brother-in-law’s chamber and gasped in surprised as a cold draft struck her. She recovered quickly and barked, “Legolas!”

Her husband’s youngest brother--still weak if greatly improved--was standing on his balcony in the frigid chill of January. He had only regained the strength to rise from bed three days before--and since then had proven the most trying patient Eirien had ever cared for. The crown princess and palace healer stormed out onto the balcony. “What do you think you are doing?!”

Turning rebellious gray eyes toward her, Legolas said, “I needed fresh air. That room is stifling.”

Eirien seized his good arm and snapped, “It is freezing out here! Are you TRYING to give yourself a relapse?”

Unrepentant, Legolas jerked away and fired back, “I begin to prefer a relapse to being driven mad by this constant nagging! I am fit enough to leave my bed without being fretted over like an invalid!”

Bodily yanking him inside and flinging the door closed, Eirien fumed, “But you are not fit to stand outside in the dead chill of winter with your wounds still healing.” She scowled furiously as she saw him suppress a shiver. He had probably been gritting his teeth against the cold for some time, but had been ruled by stubborn pride. *Silly, foolish, headstrong boy!*

Legolas shuddered again, and Eirien glared harder at him. “Undress,” she ordered curtly. “Put on a warm tunic and get into bed. AT ONCE!” she snapped imperiously when he started to argue.

His attempted scowl was made less threatening by the visible shaking of his jaw. Had he opened his mouth, his teeth would have begun to chatter. With a quiet oath, Legolas did the healer’s bidding. After a moment, as Eirien brought the braziers closer and stirred up their fire, he was beneath the blankets trying to hide the betraying tremors of his body. Eirien looked at him then and found a smile threatening to quirk her lips. *Just like your brother,* she thought, her ire lessening. She tossed another blanket onto the bed and hurriedly made him a cup of heated broth. Though he looked decidedly sulky, Legolas drank it without further protest.

A short time later (after the olgalas in the broth had done its work), Lord Elrond entered the room to find Eirien taking the cup from Legolas’s limp fingers. Noticing the lingering chill in the air, and the Mirkwood healer’s frustrated expression, the Lord of Imladris asked, “Problems?”

Eirien looked at him for a long moment, then heaved a massive sigh that made him chuckle. “NEVER have I had so impossible a patient! He is determined to give himself a relapse.”

Guessing from the evidence what Legolas had been up to, Elrond felt the sleeping elf’s face carefully. Though his nose and ears were a bit cold, there was no sign of the heat of fever returning. He smiled at Eirien. “Patience is a quality seldom found in the sons of Thranduil, my lady, as you well know.”

She chuckled in agreement, “Until you have been married to one, my lord, you cannot possibly imagine!”

***

A week or so later…

Legolas walked silently through the corridors of the outer palace, carefully avoiding any place where his family might happen to be. The end of his affliction by the Monk’s Hood poison had only led to him being subjected to a new torment:

*Fathers, sisters, brothers, elven lords, and wizards!*

He leaned against the wall, balling his fists. *So little time has passed since my one thought was returning to them.* But now, after weeks of their incessant fretting, hovering, and pestering, Legolas thought he might gladly brave the blizzard raging outside if it meant getting away from them.

Once Legolas had been up and walking, his father had returning to holding the court of Mirkwood. But that had only led his siblings to hound him still more, either of their own accord or at the elven king’s instigation. (Probably a combination of the two.) And Legolas was always the first thing on Thranduil’s mind as soon as he returned from the court.

*I begin to miss the days when we were not on speaking terms,* he thought. Then he sighed, repentant. Of course, his father was concerned about him. It was not as if Thranduil did not have a right to be. *You spent thirty-five years running from him and nearly got yourself killed coming home. Why does his worry surprise you?* he asked himself. It was amazing, really. Thranduil was not the type to let grievances go, but Legolas’s condition must have shaken the elven king badly, for he had not demanded any kind of satisfaction for the manner of their last parting. In fact, he had not mentioned it at all. At times, Legolas was grateful for this, but other times he felt the weight of debt still heavy on his heart. Yet another thing that added to his frustration and irritability.

As for the rest of them…Legolas remained obstinate. Every elf in Mirkwood acted as though he would shatter like glass if left alone for five minutes. Even now, he could hear them searching for him. True, he was still not fully recovered, but their prodding wearied him more than anything. *I would be able to recover far more quickly if they would but leave me in peace!*

Berensul seemed to have appointed himself (or had been appointed by his father) to the task of hovering over Legolas when Thranduil was otherwise occupied. Limloeth was even worse, sticking to his bedside as though attached by a chain. She seemed to have taken the illness as a call to mother Legolas at every opportunity, and if he tried to escape the smothering attentions of either of them, Eirien would immediately dose him unconscious. Though Elrond did not drug him (at least not as often) the elven lord’s penetrating gazes and knowing half-smiles grated on Legolas’s nerves still more. It was the same with Mithrandir.

Footsteps startled Legolas out of his brooding, and he stepped quickly into another doorway as Eirien passed by. This little escapade was likely to end with him being hauled back to his chamber and drugged again. *The poison’s fever did no lasting damage to my mind; why do they persist in making me sleep my life away?*

It was true that he still tired easily; in fact, he was beginning to weary now. *Which means if any of them find me, I will not be able to put up much of a fight before I am dragged back to my rooms like an escaped fugitive. Eirien I might stand a chance against, but Berensul or Lim would drop me.* Why oh why did his family not trust him to look to his own health? *I would not mind resting in my chamber were it not for their plaguing!* He sighed, then pressed himself silently against the wall as yet another searching elf passed. He knew he should return soon before weariness truly got the better of him and gave them all one more reason to fuss. Perhaps it would not occur to them to search in his room. With that in mind, he stealthily made his way back to his chamber.

He was thoroughly pleased with himself to reach his door without a single elf catching him. *They think me feeble, but I can still evade the lot of them!* Legolas heaved a soft sigh of relief and entered his room, only to jump a mile at the sight of Limloeth standing by the window. His elder sister wore an expression of combined irritation and maternal patience--both of which irritated Legolas greatly. “I knew you would try to sneak back here,” she said smugly, turning to where Eirien kept her sleeping draughts.

Intense, defiant anger burst from within, actually making Legolas tremble. “Do not bother, Sister,” he said in a tightly-controlled voice.

“It is Eirien’s orders,” she replied, pretending not to notice his fury as she held out the cup.

“I need it not,” he said furiously, but keeping his voice low to avoid bringing the entire palace down on him.

In a condescending tone, Limloeth pressed, “You must rest if your body is to heal, Legolas--”

“--Oh, by the Valar, ENOUGH!” Legolas exploded. “You treat me like a sickly, mind-addled child who has not the wits to care for himself! I know what my body needs, Limloeth, and I would rest more easily if you, Berensul, Eirien, and all your minions would leave me in peace!”

Becoming angry in her turn, Limloeth answered, “Sometimes, Legolas, I do not know if you have the sense the Valar gave a dwarf! We are your family, and we want what is best for you--”

“--I will be the judge of what is best for me now; I am no longer delirious!” Legolas shot back.

“Legolas--” Limloeth’s eyes flashed, but then she seemed to gain control of herself, resuming that pose of patience that only irritated her brother further. “You have been very ill and you still are not fully recovered. It need not be so difficult.” She held out the cup again, her eyes earnest and caring.

Legolas took it with a scowl. Resisting the urge to either fling it through the window or into his sister’s face, he settled for pouring it out and slapping the cup down hard upon the table. Limloeth glared at him. “I said,” he repeated in a low, cold voice. “I need…it…not.”

“Brother, stop being so childish!” she said. “You cannot imagine how we have worried about you. You were near death when you arrived and then delirious for weeks--”

“--I know!” Legolas exclaimed, wanting to throw up his hands in frustration. “I was there, if you recall! But I am delirious no longer, and it is high time you ceased this absurd mothering. I am fit to care for myself again; I do not need you and Eirien waiting on me hand and foot!”

“Legolas, you have hardly shown a moment’s rational thought in thirty-five years! Sometimes I wonder how long it will take you to discover an early death if someone does not protect you from yourself and your endless rebellion against us all--”

That did it. Before Limloeth knew what was happening, Legolas seized her arm and propelled her out the door, so hard that she stumbled when he released her. Berensul and Eirien, alerted by the raised voices, had been coming down the hall, but were also knocked off balance when Limloeth careened into them. “Get out and stay out!” Legolas snapped at the trio, then slammed the door.

***

Berensul untangled himself from his wife and sister and headed for the door, fully intending to force it open and crack his brother over the head if necessary. But he was stopped short by Legolas’s voice, speaking in Quenya, commanding the door to hold fast. It was a magic that all the House of Thranduil knew, but rarely used by any. The door upon which the spell was placed could only be opened now by Thranduil, or the one who had cast it, namely Legolas. Berensul turned to the others with a helpless expression.

“He has completely taken leave of his senses!” whispered Limloeth.

“What now?” Eirien murmured. “None but Legolas can open the door.”

“Father can,” said Lim, lifting her chin resolutely. “I suggest we pay him a visit.”

***

King Thranduil was discussing recent orc activity with Lord Elrond and Mithrandir when Berensul, Eirien, and Limloeth requested an audience. The moment the trio entered the Great Hall, looking as if their beds had been short-sheeted, Thranduil suspected he knew what it was about. Lord Elrond’s lips quirked and Mithrandir discreetly hid his smile behind his hand. The Lord of Imladris and the Maia rose. “I think we had best leave you now, my lord,” said Lord Elrond.

“No indeed, Lord Elrond,” spoke up Eirien. “Your help might be of use as well, Mithrandir.”

Shooting Thranduil a meaningful look, Elrond replied, “Nay, my lady, something tells me this is a matter best kept within the House of Thranduil.”

“I quite agree,” said Mithrandir, and the two departed the throne room. The faint sound of laughter floated through the closing doors.

Thranduil motioned for his attendants to leave as well, and when they had gone, turned to his children. “What is amiss?”

“Legolas!” spat Limloeth in an utterly exasperated tone. “For every day that his strength returns, he rebels against the healers’ orders still more. Today he escaped his chamber for three hours and now has locked himself inside alone and used the old spell to seal the door!”

The elven king blinked, and then felt a sudden urge to laugh. The outrage on his son, daughter, and daughter-in-law’s faces was comical. *That is the most willful Legolas has ever been.* He kept his composure, but smiled as he said, “I think perhaps Legolas is well enough to care for himself. We need not stand over him every minute like an unweaned babe.”

All three of them began protesting at once. “But, Father--”

“He is not yet fully recovered--”

“That boy is going to sicken himself again if someone does not look after him--”

“--Limloeth!” Thranduil held up a hand sharply, cutting them all off but glaring chiefly at his daughter. To Berensul and Eirien, he said in a calmer voice, “Leave us. And do not go knocking and harrying your brother’s door. Leave him be.”

Indignation on their faces had been replaced by puzzlement, but they obeyed him. Limloeth watched them go, then turned back to Thranduil with equal confusion in her eyes. “Father?”

“I know you mean well, child, but Legolas is neither a boy, nor a cripple. He will recover better if he is left in peace.”

“I am only trying to--”

“Help him, protect him, shelter him. Keep him from hurting himself with his youthful inexperience and impulsiveness. I know, Daughter. I know well. But your brother clearly does not look favorably upon such treatment anymore.”

“That he has made clear,” she muttered with a little shake of her head. Then she took on that expression of patient understanding that reminded Thranduil of his wife (specifically, of her not-so-endearing habit of thinking herself right in all things.) “But I fear Legolas does not always know what is good for him.”

“And you do?” Thranduil fixed her with a penetrating stare. “Be wary, Limloeth, for that is dangerous ground to tread where Legolas is concerned.”

“I--” Limloeth started to object, then faltered. Thranduil saw many thoughts run through her brown eyes, and when she met his gaze again, he felt for a moment that he had looked into a mirror. Looking down again, she murmured, “These are such hard years. I only wanted things to be easier for him.”

“As did we all. But we cannot face the trials of the Warrior’s Coming of Age for him. You can manage him no longer, my dear. We must all stop attempting to usurp and second-guess his decisions. Let him make his own choices, and mistakes, if necessary. That became his right thirty-five years ago. I realize now that it is high time we all recognized it. ”

Looking a bit sheepish, his daughter said, “I fear he is rather put out with us.”

Chuckling, Thranduil beckoned to her and headed out of the throne room. They found Berensul and Eirien waiting outside. “I will go and speak with Legolas--WITHOUT an entourage,” he told them firmly. Then he left the cave under the mountain and returned to the outer palace.

The elven king could easily have commanded the door of his son’s chamber to open, but instead lifted a hand and knocked. “Legolas? May I enter?”

“Yes, Father,” came the quiet reply, and he heard his son’s voice speaking in Quenya, releasing the spell on the door.

Legolas opened the door to admit his father, and Thranduil noticed his slightly bleary eyes. “Forgive me, my son. I did not realize you were asleep.”

“It is unimportant,” said Legolas, not meeting Thranduil’s eyes. With a wry smile, he added, “I feel I sleep too much as it is.”

Thranduil smiled. “How do you fare?” he asked, indicating Legolas’s shoulder.

“It aches at times, but that is all. You need not worry,” his son added, looking slightly defensive.

“I am pleased to hear it, and still more when I see you back to normal again. These last weeks have been a fearful time for us all.”

Legolas looked quite startled. *Expected a scolding, didn’t you?* Thranduil thought with amusement. But his son’s eyes lowered slightly, “I should not have been so cross with them. I know they only desire to help.”

Nodding, Thranduil added, “And two of them are now parents, while the other has mothered you and Belhador for much of your lives. Such habits die hard. But fear not, Lord Elrond and I agreed you no longer need a healer at your bedside at all hours, nor confinement to your chamber.” The intense relief on Legolas’s face nearly made him laugh aloud.

Legolas smiled, “I promise not to start practicing with my bow just yet.” He and Thranduil shared a chuckle then, and it seemed as if thirty-five years of vexation and resentment fell away for a moment.

Almost. Smiling, Thranduil told him, “Have patience, my son, you will have time to restore your archery prowess in the coming days, and soon you will Mirkwood’s champion once again. Now you are home and all is forgiven.” He saw a shadow come over his son’s face just then. “Legolas?”

“Nothing, Father.” Though Legolas was clearly dissembling, Thranduil caught himself and managed not to press the issue. *He is grown. I need not know all his personal affairs if he does not wish to share them.* Nonetheless, the admission made him ache inside.

***

Three days later…

Legolas knew that despite the insistence of his father and Lord Elrond that he be given his freedom, Lim, Eirien, and Berensul would be on him like dwarves on a mithril vein if they caught him. So, although his body still felt weaker than he would have wished, Legolas fled the outer palace as soon as the opportunity presented itself. He had languished long enough in his rooms. Too long. For all that time, his heart had burned with the amends yet to be made until he thought he might go mad.

It would be folly to go far from the warmth of the palace in February, but Legolas did not intend to be outside for more than a few minutes. For his destination was neither the stables nor the training fields, but the inner palace within the mountain. Specifically, his father’s Great Hall. Even for that short walk across the green and over the bridge, he donned his winter cloak, grinning to himself as he imagined Limloeth and Eirien’s voices admonishing him.

It had been nearly a year since Legolas had crossed the bridge over the Forest River into the cave to speak to Thranduil, but this walk did not have the air of dread that he had felt then. Rather, a sense of determination, bound by honor and a good measure of guilt, drove his steps this time, and there was no urge to retreat. There would be no flight this time. He paused by one of the warming braziers in the main tunnel until the bite of winter left him. His siblings would eat him alive if he took a chill.

He hesitated for a moment outside the wooden doors of the Great Hall, gazing up at where they touched the ceiling. The throne room still seemed vast, but to the child who had first beheld it, it had seemed massive. He snapped back to reality as the doors swung open. “Prince Legolas!” announced the herald.

King Thranduil, wearing his winter crown of evergreen and holly, rose from his throne. Legolas had deliberately waited until near the end of the day so as not to disrupt the regular court business. As it was, only the elven king’s attendants were in the Hall. Sounding faintly surprised, Thranduil beckoned him in. “My son?”

The elven king’s family were granted certain liberties when it came to addressing him, but today, Legolas took advantage of none of them. He advanced and stopped well before the throne, as any subject would who sought a favor from the king. But then, instead of merely bowing, Legolas dropped to one knee in the fashion of a supplicant. Over time, such a position had come to have a more serious meaning: that the petitioner was one who had committed some wrong and sought the king’s mercy. Raising his eyes, Legolas spoke quietly, but steadily, “If I might have a word, my lord.”

The soft intakes of breath behind him and the way Thranduil stiffened indicated that none had missed the prince’s extreme formality. Thranduil stared at Legolas for a moment, obviously confused, then looked up at the other elves and said briskly, “Leave us.” Legolas heard them go, but did not move or take his eyes off his father’s face.

***

Along with great puzzlement, Thranduil also felt a sense of sudden panic even as the doors closed on his servants. What could his son’s strange actions mean? Looking down again, he forced himself to calm, and said evenly, “Rise, Legolas.” His son did so. How to address this…he could think of no response except for directness. “What is it you ask of me?”

Never his son’s face been so composed, but when Legolas met Thranduil’s gaze, his eyes told the king all he needed to know. The remorse in them nearly made Thranduil step backward, and his mind cried, *What is amiss now? I had thought it was over!* Legolas’s reply confused him still more. “I ask your forgiveness. As my father and my king.”

*What?!* Feeling an unpleasant tightness inside, Thranduil answered, “My son, I realize that your illness made it difficult for us to speak long of our…past conflict, but be assured, you received my forgiveness then. Unconditionally. You need not apologize again. I need no formal repentance.”

Now Legolas looked puzzled in his turn. “Again?”

Thranduil stared at him. “I thought we had…made our peace…when we spoke several weeks ago.” Though he made a valiant effort not to show it, Legolas was clearly confused. A nagging suspicion in Thranduil’s mind came out in a half-hopeful, half-fearful question. “You do not remember?”

His son’s eyes dropped as though searching through the jumbled memories from his illness for some remnant of their talk, but when he looked up again, there was still-deeper sorrow in their gray depths. “Nay. I do not.”

Thranduil’s mind whirled with many thoughts. Some were grievous at having lost the memory of those all-important words with Legolas, when they had bonded as they had not since Legolas had been very young. And he cursed himself, for a part of him could not deny feeling relief that Legolas could not remember seeing his father at his weakest. It was not Thranduil’s nature to display emotion as he had when Legolas had been near death, and yet…*What sort of a father is ashamed of caring for his son, ashamed to admit fear even in the face of his death?*

Legolas was watching him, so Thranduil said, “I am sorry that you do not recall it, but your fever was still very high at the time. We did speak, and made our apologies. Our grievances were forgiven.”

With a look of real dismay, Legolas murmured, “And I remember naught of it.” He seemed almost angry with himself.

“Legolas,” Thranduil spoke urgently. “It was the first time you had awakened without being delirious. The fever was no fault of yours.”

Smiling humorlessly, his son replied, “I doubt if my words were very coherent.”

“I understood you perfectly,” the elven king said even as his throat tightened with the memory.

Legolas looked away, uncertain. After a long moment, he looked back at his father with eyes bright with determination. “All the same, Father, I fear I cannot be easy until I have made you a proper apology for my failure in my duty as your son. One that I can remember,” he added wryly. Before Thranduil could protest, he went on, “Nearly every time we have met over the past thirty-five years, I have treated you in a fashion unfit for either a son or a prince. My childish resentments gave me no right to forget the loyalty that I owe you. My behavior when we met on the plains and when I returned was inexcusable.” Dropping his eyes, he murmured, “I am deeply ashamed. I beg your forgiveness.”

It took Thranduil an even longer moment to trust his own voice. At last, he replied, “Then you have it. As I already told you, I forgive you freely. You owe me no further penance.” He could have dismissed Legolas then, knowing that his son’s conscience had been eased and his sense of honor intact, but his own would not so easily end the conversation. *He remembers nothing. We each wronged each other, but he does not remember my words to him. His honor would not let him rest until he apologized to me…* Before he could change his mind, Thranduil said, “If indeed you remember naught of what we said, then I must also repeat my words to you. I too have been burdened by the wrong I did you…and Tathar’s memory.” He pretended not to see the way Legolas flinched. “I dishonored you both with my words, and for that I must ask you to forgive me.”

In a very soft voice, Legolas answered, “Yes, Father.” Lifting his chin, he added, “And I pledge to never forget my duty to you, my father and lord.”

Thranduil placed a hand gently on his son’s shoulder. “May we never part on ill terms again.” Their eyes met again, and at last, there was a clarity in them both. The past words could not be altered or erased, but now they might finally look to the future. “I am very glad to have you home, my son. I have missed you.”

“And I you.”

“Come. The day’s work is done; let us return to our family.”

***

Any who thought that the elven king and his youngest son would be free of conflict after that were sadly mistaken. For although the quarrels of the past were forgiven, it was not the last time Thranduil and Legolas would find themselves at odds.

Quite the contrary.

For they remained of different minds, yet with a similar temperment, and consequently clashes of ideal and will became a regular occurrence in the elven king’s halls.

***

Not long afterward…

“It is not unreasonable, Father, nor dangerous!”

“Legolas, you know well my feelings concerning men. I would not have dealings with them under such circumstances as you propose.”

Legolas leaned against the wall of the hallway outside the royal chambers and mentally cursed his father’s narrow-mindedness. Then, why did it surprise him? He had always known Thranduil’s opinion of men. *It is because I have had dealings of my own with them.* His experience in Haloel had convinced him that men varied as much as elves, and no generalization could describe them all. Certainly no condemnation. *I wonder how Father would react if he knew I spent much of the past year in the sole company of Isildur’s heir.* The thought threatened to make him laugh aloud even as his father glared at him.

Thranduil was speaking again. “Silivren is thirty years old. She will soon be tall enough for a horse, and then she can learn to ride. You were able to wait until then.”

“Sili has no friends her own age as I had. If she is forced to amuse herself alone she shall only get into trouble. Trading for a pony will not threaten our security.”

“It is out of the question. She shall have to find other ways to amuse herself until she comes of age.” Thranduil glared harder at his youngest son. “Do not defy me in this. The subject is closed.”

With a curt nod, Legolas turned and walked away, rebellion still flashing in his gray eyes. But he had known even as he broached the subject that it was a very long shot. Thranduil watched him go, fuming at his impudence. A soft chuckle made him turn. Berensul had evidently come out of his chamber when they were arguing and heard much of the exchange. More irritating still, he looked rather amused. “Legolas seems well restored to health, my dear father.”

Thranduil sighed and shook off his vexation. Such a silly thing was not worth being in a ruffle for the rest of the day. Why Legolas had even attempted it was beyond him. But he did remark, “That boy is impossible!”

“Really, Father, I caused you much more grief when I came of age. Why does Legolas surprise you?”

Smiling in spite of himself, the elven king replied blithely, “You were a trying child all your life, so your misbehavior throughout your coming of age came as no surprise. Legolas has not always been thus.”

Berensul grinned at him. “Such are the woes of fatherhood, as I’ve no doubt I am about to experience first-hand.”

“Indeed, Sili is yours to rear. I look forward to seeing you wrestling with all the decisions that must be made over her upbringing, for the prerogative is yours,” Thranduil said, teasing slightly.

But Berensul looked downright smug at those words. “Just so,” he said. “That established, if you will excuse me, I need to see a man about a horse. Or a pony, that is.”

“What?!”

***

A little while later…

With a resounding “thunk,” the last of Legolas’s arrows embedded itself in the dead center of the target. Beside him, Candrochon cursed and shook his head. “Only weeks since you were on your deathbed and already you are outshooting us all.”

Eregdos, the archer captain who had replaced Langcyll as leader of the warriors of Mirkwood, laughed from the sidelines. “I am glad to see him returned, for he keeps the rest of you on your toes.” Though a strict novice master Eregdos was wise and well-liked by all the warriors. At the moment, he was assembling patrol parties. “I will need a company of twelve to scout south for three weeks--no, Legolas, do not bother volunteering for that one.”

As it happened, Legolas had not intended to, but the smirk from Candrochon and his other friends irked him nonetheless. Since his return to the ranks of the warriors, he had chafed at the restrictions that remained upon his movement, and his companions greatly enjoyed rubbing his nose in it at every opportunity. Eregdos assembled the scouting party, and continued, “Lady Limloeth’s party leaves tomorrow at dawn. Four of our warriors shall escort them to the border. I shall be one of them.”

“For that I shall volunteer,” Legolas spoke up resolutely.

Eregdos smiled (he had expected the prince would.) Merilin and Candrochon also joined. “Someone has to look after you,” said Candrochon.

“Ignore him, Legolas, he is merely jealous that you are beating him again.”

“Of course,” laughed Legolas.

“A fine day when my own wife mocks me!”

“Hah!”

***

The next morning…

Limloeth swept her gray Lórien cloak back as she came into the palace foyer. Her brother Berensul was waiting for her. “How did Sili like her present?”

Berensul grinned. “She is beside herself. Gwilwileth is going to begin instructing her today, once Baran gets used to his new home.”

“Did you have any trouble in Lake Town?”

“Nay, though the men were a little surprised to see me after all this time. But they were more than happy to give me a good pony for my gold.”

The princess sniggered, “Does Father know you paid them in gold?”

“Nay, and I’ve no intention of telling him.” They both laughed. Hearing footsteps, the two turned to see their younger brother coming, dressed for winter riding in his brown cloak. “Good morrow, Legolas. Eregdos finally let you off the leash, I see.”

Pulling his mouth to one side, Legolas replied, “To some extent, though he himself leads the escort.” Berensul chuckled and Legolas shrugged amiably. “I shall see you outside; the escort is readying their horses.”

“So you finally picked a replacement mount?” asked Limloeth.

His bright eyes darkening, Legolas replied, “There was no replacing Lanthir.”

Watching Legolas go, his sister murmured, “He still mourns.”

“Lanthir was a noble steed, a gift from Lady Galadriel at the start of the Great Gathering. Legolas has a right to miss him. It explains why he was so forceful on the subject of Sili’s pony.”

“And Father just as stubborn. Why do you suppose Legolas manages to vex him so? As you said, you were a far more difficult youth.”

Berensul fixed her with a knowing gaze. “You need not ask questions to which you already know the answer, Sister. We both know why Father reacts to Legolas as he does.”

It was an inevitable truth, but one that Legolas’s elder siblings could acknowledge without bitterness. Smiling at each other, they came out onto the outer palace steps where the rest of the elven king’s household waited.

***

King Thranduil had little doubt that Legolas had somehow persuaded Berensul to disobey his edict against dealing with men. And he was none too happy about it, though he had at last acquiesced when it was clear that Berensul’s mind was made up. Such a matter was hardly worth calling the palace guards, though the thought had seriously crossed Thranduil’s mind. Looking back, he half-wished he had done it rather than permit his sons to undermine his authority, but it was done now. And Silivren was quite thrilled to have a pony, but that did not alter the facts.

That line of thought abruptly stopped when he spotted Legolas leading his horse over to Limloeth’s escort. After adjusting the gray mare’s pack, he turned and came nimbly up the steps to where the rest of the family was assembling to bid Limloeth farewell. Seeing Thranduil watching him, Legolas tensed ever so slightly. The elven king sighed inwardly. “I did not know you were joining the escort, Legolas,” he said in a forcibly calm tone.

Meeting his father’s eyes evenly, Legolas replied, “Forgive me. We only assembled last night.”

“How long will you be gone, my son?”

Legolas relaxed, and his voice softened, “Two days at the most.”

Thranduil nodded. “That is well.” Just then Berensul and Limloeth came out of the palace, followed by Eirien and Silivren. Touching his son’s shoulder, he said quietly, “Take care.”

“I shall, Father.” Then they turned so the rest of the family could bid farewell to Limloeth. When all had taken their leave, Legolas took his sister’s hand and escorted her down to the waiting entourage. Thranduil watched with a deep ache inside as his eldest daughter and youngest son mounted their horses and rode from the palace courtyard, waving back to their family. Limloeth, now wed and a Lady of Lothlórien. Legolas, a proven warrior of Mirkwood.

*It has come at last, however long I sought to deny it. All my children have grown.* But then, just as a sense of dreadful loneliness threatened to overwhelm him, the childish pleading of his granddaughter reached his ears. “May I go and see my pony now, Mother? Please?”

A smile coming at once to his face, Thranduil turned to his daughter-in-law. “I shall take her to the stables, Eirien, by your leave.” At her warm nod, he held out his hand to Sili. “Come, little one. There is much now for you to see.*

***

Fourteen years later, in the Lonely Mountain…

“I still have my worries about this undertaking.” Glóin and Dáin eyed the assembled company of dwarves, both feeling doubts.

“As do I, my friend, but we both know Balin would have gone whether I gave leave or no, and I would not see our people torn asunder by such a conflict,” said Dáin.

Glóin sighed, “True, but I prefer that to mourning our people if Moria defeats them.”

A great number of Dáin’s folk had elected to go with Balin, and at the foot of Lonely Mountain, they were preparing to depart, bearing the great stores of weapons and supplies they had been preparing for nearly twenty years. Balin and Óin stood at the front, Ori at the back, shouting orders to the company.

Dáin watched the activity for a moment before answering Glóin, “It may not be so bad. Balin is a fine dwarf, and fate willing, a worthy lord of Moria. We have worked hard these past years to give them all that they will need. They may well prevail and take back our ancient realm. It would be a great triumph for the dwarves.”

“I hope you are right.”

Balin, Óin, and Ori came up then to where Dáin and Glóin were standing. “All is ready, my lord. We beg leave to depart.”

Dáin nodded gravely and gripped each of their arms in turn. “Safe journey, my friends. We shall be awaiting word.”

“Farewell, Dáin, Glóin.” The three leaders returned to the company of dwarves, who cheered a tribute to their leaders and also to the King Under the Mountain, who they were leaving behind.

Glóin and Dáin watched them until the party vanished from view. “Well, my friend,” Dáin said briskly. “I am glad you remained here.”

“I would not choose to cast my son’s and my lot with any other,” Glóin replied.

Dáin laughed, clapping Glóin on the back as they went back into the halls. “I appreciate your faith. Here, come.” He walked into a small storeroom as they went deeper into the mountain. It was one of many treasure rooms that housed the wealth of the Lonely Mountain. Rummaging around in one of the boxes, Dáin beckoned Glóin over. “A token of that appreciation for your loyalty, son of Gróin.”

The King Under the Mountain handed Glóin a large, lusterous black pearl. “Brought back by Naldin from the mountains near Moria. Keep it, my friend.”

Glóin took the gift and bowed, then held it up admiringly. “May treasures such as this be all that Balin’s folk find in the old mines.”

“May that come to pass,” agreed Dáin fervently.

“Naldin found it in the mountains, you say? Odd; looks more like a sea pearl.”

“Hmph. Strange. Wonder where exactly it was.”

“Shame we can’t ask him. But Naldin went with his father back to Moria,” Glóin told him.

“Did he? Don’t recall exactly--any others of Naldin’s party go back with Balin?”

“Two of them. Sothi, son of Dwalin, and Tili’s eldest, Sháin.”

“But Tili and Dwalin didn’t go?”

“Nay, and neither were especially pleased that their sons did,” Glóin chuckled. “I am glad Gimli chose not to.”

“He was tempted?” asked Dáin.

“Thought we’d have a fight on our hands, but in the end he decided to stay,” Glóin replied.

Dáin laughed. “Tili and Dwalin did have a fight on their hands, but couldn’t change Sháin and Sothi’s minds. Hmph. Ah, well. Who can explain fathers and sons?”

*****

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Jocelyn

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 03/15/04

Original Post: 07/09/02

Go to Little Nudge Out of the Door, A overview

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