Legolas sighed and frowned at his friend. They were waiting outside the throne room, for the guard to let them in. It always annoyed him that he had to wait for permission to see his father.
Before he could open his mouth to make a remark, Glorfindel appeared behind them. The prince's face lit up as he saw the older Elf, his troubles temporarily forgotten.
He turned around and beamed sincerely. "Have you been summoned by my father too? It seems like he has reached a decision. That comes as a surprise!"
"Indeed, the King has sent for me, my fair prince. And think it is a good idea not to speak thusly in front of your father!"
"I try my best!" Legolas grinned ruefully. "Esendri can vouch for me!"
Glorfindel stifled a laugh as a member of the Home Guard stepped out from the throne room.
The Home Guard motioned for them to enter. He did not question Esendri as he walked in, as if the servant's presence was expected.
Legolas braced himself, and squared his shoulders. Taking in a deep breath, he reminded himself to remain calm. He thought darkly about how lucky Esendri was to not have a father, how lucky he was to be a servant. He wished again that they could switch places.
Chasing the thoughts from his mind, the prince maintained an expressionless face as he walked up to his father.
All three bowed low in front of the King sat upon his throne.
"Thank you, Glorfindel, for appearing at such short notice. I apologise for having disturbed your rest," Thranduil said.
"Your Majesty, a task is at hand, one that I was given to by my lord, and I have rested well. Many thanks for your concern."
Thranduil nodded in acknowledgement. His eyes drifted towards the servant. A frown leapt to his face.
"Father, Esendri is to follow me in the mission." Speaking quickly before he could be questioned, the prince's voice was quiet and determined.
To his surprise, Thranduil smiled.
"I did wonder when you would tell him. You have held up well. I expected you to yield long before. The strength in you is great, my son!"
Legolas blinked. It was the second time in past days that his father had praised him. He felt his confidence waver. His father was springing surprises on him with an alarming regularity, and that annoyed him. He caught the pride in the voice however, and fell silent. His brows furrowed as he contemplated the significance of the words.
"Thank you, Your Majesty, for allowing me to aid Master Legolas. He has been strained greatly by the circumstances. His Highness has been put through much, this past year, and there is only so much one can bear," Esendri said differentially, but his words were piercing.
"You are right, Esendri. But I did not invite you here to speak of how I treat my son. A report has arrived from my Hunters. They have found the Orcs that ravaged the trees in Eryn Galen."
An audible gasp broke its way out of Esendri's lips. The other two, however, had more subdued reactions. Legolas raised an eyebrow, struggling to maintain a polite look of interest that would not betray his eagerness to hear more while Glorfindel nodded with a puzzled furrow of the brows.
Legolas quickly filled him in on what had happened. He spoke of how it had come to the King's notice that Eryn Galen was being invaded, stealthily by a shadow. Of how he had tracked a dark creature for five days without rest, speeding through the forest. Of how it had ended abruptly in the clearing.
He finished speaking, and glanced at his father. The King was listening to him intently, an odd expression on his face. Longing, tenderness, and anger were all present. Legolas felt frightened for the first time as he beheld his father. The passing of his brother had changed the old Monarch in ways that were still incomprehensible.
The room was filled with silence. It clung on to their backs like excess water vapour after a storm, awkward and uncomfortable.
"Indeed, it is as my son has put it," Thranduil broke the hush. "I do not know any more myself than what he has spoken of. I do believe, that Lord Elrond would be able to aid us. Glorfindel was sent to inform us that he has been aware of a threat to Arda emerging beneath the boughs of Eryn Galen. A request was made of me to attend a council. I am told that Mithrandir's council will be sought. Sadly, I cannot leave my people. They need me. The threat will worsen. An attack on my people is imminent. In my place, I would be sending my son, Legolas, for he knows the circumstances better than any other."
The news did not come as any surprise to the three Elves present. It was only natural that the prince be sent in his place. They knew in their hearts that Thranduil had made a correct decision.
Legolas felt his heart soar. He would be leaving Eryn Galen. His heart longed greatly to see Imladris again. The name brought about a great sense of comfort that he could not find elsewhere. He would be meeting Elrond and the twins. Just thinking of the immortal face of the Elflord and the cheerful faces of his sons brought some form of relief to his tormented mind.
"Father, I must insist that Esendri accompany me. His friendship and advice would be required on this journey."
Thranduil considered the matter for a while, before nodding.
Legolas beamed delightedly at his friend. He had longed to show Esendri the beautiful realm for many years. The opportunity never came to chance before, and it now presented itself. There was even the possibility of meeting the great Mithrandir himself.
Esendri grinned back, and thanked the King gladly. He was happy to be given the honour. For the first time in his life, he was contributing to something of solemn and uttermost importance. Something that could determine the fate of his kingdom. It was a far cry from the past adventures that he had with his master. Those were just little escapades, in which they derived the most joy from annoying as many as could be. He felt grown-up, important, excited.
Glorfindel nodded. He could see that the King was wise. Letting Esendri go along on the journey was his way of keeping his son contented. Also, he knew that son's life would be fiercely and savagely guarded by the servant. Esendri would unhesitatingly sacrifice himself for his master, and he provided a great source of comfort and relief from his worries.
Thranduil surveyed the excited looks of both his son and the servant, so reminiscent of himself in his youth. Innocent. Ready to save the world. Ready to die for what he believed in. But a distant and wispy memory. He fought himself to keep from thinking how different things would have been if his older son were still around. Dwelling in the past would not help matters. His son had left him. There was to be no bringing him back.
"Father, what of the Orcs. They have been found?" Legolas abruptly recalled the earlier conversation.
"Indeed. A band of Hunters have found the Orcs. Dead."
"Dead?" The reply was incredulous. "How can that be so? I do not think the Hunters would attack them! What else in Eryn Galen is capable of killing a whole band of Orcs?"
"If you would hear me out, my son, the Hunters did not attack the Orcs. It was curious. Their bodies were found in another part of the forest. Throats all neatly slit. Eyes, staring open, full of horror and fear, surprised too, caught off-guard. No tracks were found, and the Orcs numbered about three dozen. It was unclear as to whom they served."
"Are you sure about the tracks, Father? Perhaps I should take a look?" His fair face was racked with uncertainty and anger, Legolas shook at the thought of the damage the trees suffered.
The King shook his head balefully. "I am sure, Legolas. The Hunters made a very thorough search of the place. They did not find even the slightest trace of a trail. It was as if the bodies had dropped out of the trees."
"Ai! Ai! The trees! Perhaps the killer carried the bodies and passed through the trees ere leaving them there!"
Thranduil looked up sharply. He had not considered that. The Hunters were too focused on searching the ground. It was a possibility worth considering.
"I would send my Hunters back. You must follow Lord Glorfindel back to Imladris. It is vital that you get there as soon as possible."
"And the bodies of the Orcs?"
"They have been returned to their people. The bodies have been brought over to the East. Whatever is done by their kindred to the bodies is beyond us. Hated they may be, they are still living creatures who deserve dignity in death."
Glorfindel was amazed by the words of the Elven King. He could not believe that an Elf would order the return of dead Orcs to their people. The two were archenemies. He viewed the King of the Silvan Elves with newfound respect in his eyes.
Legolas caught the look and gave Glorfindel a fleeting smile. That was his father, always so concerned with dignity and pride. His son felt that he went overboard at times, for Orcs were constantly at war with their own people. Still, he held his tongue, and showed no outward signs of disagreement.
"Is it possible that you leave tomorrow?" The question was directed at Glorfindel.
"Yes, my lord."
To his son, he commanded, "Prepare yourselves. Mithrandir and Elrond would be waiting. Perhaps a message could be sent by one of your birds. It would be polite to inform them of your coming."
The Silvan prince nodded at his father. His mind seemed to be elsewhere, and he wore a faraway expression on his eyes. His father recognised the glazed look and decided against speaking any further. It would be pointless, as his son's mind had wandered.
"Esendri, prepare two horses. Ensure that they are fleet and can bear you through the High Pass of the Misty Mountains, for that is the route you will be taking. Bring along an abundance of weapons, for as there is evil afoot. Food you would be able to procure along the way."
The small Elf nodded excitedly.
The King dismissed the three, and they left the room, each wrapped up in his own thoughts.
Once outside, Esendri turned to Glorfindel, "I am sorry we were not able to show you more of our home. It seems the King has decided haste is needed in this matter. Perhaps a visit when all of this is over is in order!"
"It is a regret that I share too, Esendri. There appears much that needs exploring. For indeed Eryn Galen is beautiful beyond anything I have ever imagined! However, our journey is imperative, and we should attempt to set off at dawn."
"Indeed. I am excited at the prospect of being able to set eyes upon the blessed realm. How long would the journey take?"
"The better half of a month, I would expect. It depends on the weather at the High Pass. The horses will be hard-pressed in the blizzard-like conditions which dominate the pass, rendering it virtually impassable in the winter."
"I think we should be back long before that, Glorfindel!"
"Do not speak too soon, my young friend!"
"Perhaps. An opinion, Master?"
The prince nodded absently at being addressed.
"Master?" Esendri enquired again, louder this time, "Is anything the matter?"
"Nay," Legolas muttered, still frowning, "Nothing."
Esendri marched over to his master, and slapped him playfully on the back. Legolas jumped, and grabbed Esendri's arm tightly. Esendri winced, and tried to pull clear. To his surprise, the prince let go.
"The trail," Legolas blurted out.
"Not again, Legolas! We are leaving tomorrow!" Esendri knew immediately what occupied the other's thoughts.
Legolas smiled at him, "Perhaps. But this cannot wait. Do the packing. I will be back on time!"
And with that, he turned and sped away after giving a wave to the amused high-Lord, not casting a second glance at his resigned servant.
Esendri knew it was no use arguing the matter with him. He recognised that all too familiar hard line in his master's face, the squaring of the jaw.
He sighed and looked at Glorfindel before watching the departing figure disappear into the trees, slipping easily from sight, blending into the surroundings.
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.