The Prince of Eryn Galen entered his house. He ran deftly up the ropes into his room, to where his weapons were kept. Esendri had packed them away neatly as he always did. Legolas opened the drawers and pulled out his long hunting knife. He took off his shoes, and replaced them with more supple and versatile hunting boots.
He rummaged about, and found his cloak. It was woven from plant matter, and was especially soft, helping him to blend in further with the vegetation. Legolas flung it around his shoulders and fastened it.
Walking to the side of his bed, he picked up his longbow and newly-refilled quiver, strapping them across his back. Esendri had made it for him using the very best materials. The bow was light but difficult to draw, and the arrows were tipped with carbon, to give them a more deathly edge.
Standing with the familiar feeling of the bow on his back, Legolas felt more alive than ever. The thrill before going on a Hunt was coming back to him. His senses were heightened as he left the safety of his home.
Once outside, he looked up to the trees and gave out a loud, piercing whistle. The sound reverberated through the trees, and carried through the forest.
The prince stood there, motionless, waiting for a response. It was not long before a little bird flew towards him from the south. A beautiful wren, it had a long slender bill that was turned down, and a brown, luxurious coat. Its tail was short and upright, the chirps it made lyrical. It landed on the outstretched hand of the prince.
He started speaking to the bird softly. The words at first were in Nandorin, but gradually softened, chirps and squeaks taking its place, as he gave himself over to the ancient magic. Legolas had learned how to communicate with nature as a very young child.
After a while, Legolas smiled and thanked the bird. He released it high into the air, watching as it flew off into the trees. It paid well to have eyes and ears in the forest, the prince thought appreciatively to himself as he started off towards the south.
As he walked along the paths, he heard a soft rustling. Barely audible, his alert ears were able to pick up light footsteps, pacing themselves with his own. He smiled. Esendri had probably decided to tail his master when he should have been preparing for the journey.
Night was falling over Eryn Galen. Twilight beckoned, and darkness enveloped all in its embrace. It was Legolas' favourite time of the day. It was then that Life was at its most radiant. Birds flew overhead, singing as they settled in cosy nests for the night. Squirrels scampered. A faint hoot could be heard as Owls and night beasts awoke, ready to start on their hunts. A singular cricket chirped, and was gradually joined by its kindred, as they opened their throats to welcome the night.
The prince walked leisurely, immersing himself totally in the atmosphere that twilight brought. Flowers closed, bees returned to their hives. His step was light and soundless, as Legolas started to sing softly to himself, a song extolling the beauty of the world.
Despite the sounds of night slowly creeping into the forest, Legolas was still able to discern his stalker behind him. Esendri should have known that the prince would have detected his presence. However, Legolas did not want to spoil his fun just yet.
He pressed on, continuing to sing softly to himself. Moonlight started seeping in through the leaves of the trees. Casting its silvery glow onto the forest floor, it made the whole place seem ethereal.
A bat flew past, close to his head, screeching as it winged near and swooped away. Legolas laughed. The animals were his friends and this one was greeting him. Indeed, he would miss them on the coming trip to Imladris.
A long time elapsed before he reached the place described by the bird. He recognised it immediately. A foul stench that spoke of death and hated things still lingered. The trees were tense, and when he touched them, Legolas could feel the shivers that ran through them. He closed his eyes and let the feelings run through from them to him.
A brief image of a creature darker than Orcs flashed before his eyes. He reeled back and broke away from the tree. Pain coursed through him.
He saw the red eyes that ran with hatred, the twisted smile on its face as it slayed the Orcs one by one. Yet, he could not work out how this had come to be their final resting ground. A shiver ran down his spine.
Legolas hesitated. He thought for a while before leaping deftly up into the trees, eyes and ears on the alert, speaking softly to the tree, stroking its bark, trying to heal it with his magic. The trees had endured a nasty shock. He moved silently from tree to tree, trying to give out a soothing calm to each, attempting to repair the damage done.
It was up in the trees that he spotted the damaged leaves, wilted and flattened against the trunks. There were many broken small branches.
The prince moved quickly towards the area. Touching the branches, he could tell it was the way the creature had come by.
His suspicions confirmed, the Elf thought hard. The natural thing would be to follow the trail of broken branches and wilted leaves winding through the treetops.
The creature had chosen to come through the trees to test him. To assess his intelligence and abilities. It challenged him, daring the Elven prince to come up with his own theories. It was strange, to say the least. He had never before come across such an adversary. One that targeted him specifically and exclusively.
Legolas had known all along that the Orcs were killed for a reason. To attract him, and true enough, he had been drawn to the mystery like a bee to honey. Now that he was here, he waited. He slipped silently into a hiding spot within the trees, his back pressed against the trunk. The leaves leapt up to conceal him. Eyes sweeping the area, he waited, as patient as a cat, every muscle in his body alert.
He readied his bow and notched his arrow. The realisation hit him suddenly then, that perhaps it was the intention of the creature to draw him out again. Alone. A wave of uneasiness swept through him. He felt foolish suddenly. It was a good thing Esendri was here to help him.
Esendri. His thoughts snapped into place with alarming clarity. He had not heard any indication that his friend was still present. Had the Elf decided to turn back?
There was a sudden movement in the undergrowth beneath. He drew his bow, aiming at the spot where the rustling came from, careful not to shoot until he made sure of its identity.
Silence. The shadowy figure that he thought he could make out amidst the undergrowth had vanished. The prince blinked.
A sudden feeling of being watched swept over him as eyes bore into his skin. The direction from where they came, unknown.
The trees behind him shook suddenly, and a silent scream of warning erupted. He let loose his arrow. It flew off, embedding itself in a tree trunk further up. Already, another was stringed onto the bow, on the ready.
Legolas leapt to the tree his weapon had hit. Yanking out the arrow savagely, he sent waves of healing energy into the knobbed trunk.
His heart filled with remorse and self-loathing. He had harmed a tree.
There was more shifting in the trees.
"Esendri!" He called out, for he had recognised the presence this time as something familiar and close to his heart.
Shock filled his limbs, as found himself staring into a face of another.
She was a distance from him. Motioning at him to follow her, she moved quickly with great speed and agility from tree to tree.
Strange emotions flooded the prince. He stood there, unable to move. She turned again and gestured again, the urgency in her movements clear.
Compelled by her distress, Legolas left the tree, and followed her quickly through the leaves.
She increased her pace, and they continued in this manner for a few minutes before she dropped to the forest ground, silent as a wraith, still on the alert.
Legolas followed suit. She was standing in the moonlight, the silver beams illuminating her face. It enhanced her features and the look of strong concern in them. Her face was partially hidden by the darkness, and gave it a mysterious feel.
Questions worked their way to his face, as he stood there, struck by her appearance. For once, he could not come up with words.
She walked up to him.
"Legolas. That creature. It was hunting you." Her voice was low and trembling.
He nodded mutely, eyes still fixed upon her face. Emotions swelled in him as he recalled what they had gone through together, and lamented that it was no longer to be so.
Caeriel closed in and took his hand.
"Legolas," she whispered.
"Why did you follow me?" He released himself gently from her grip, on the pretext of returning his arrow to his quiver and strapping his bow to his back. He did not trust himself to control his emotions any longer, and backed himself against a tree and sank to the ground.
"I waited at your house. I wished to speak with you, for my behaviour today left much to be desired. You seemed in a hurry, and I followed you here. The creature is evil, Legolas, and it wants you. I did not dare to call out, and so made the noise at the foot of your tree." Her tone was anxious and nervous, still unable to be certain of matters.
"Have you any idea what it was?"
She shook her head and knelt beside him.
"Do you not think then, that it was the creature that killed the Orcs?" she said.
The question surprised the Elven prince. "How came you to know about the Goblins?"
"A Hunter spoke to me of it. The rumour of trouble grows strong. The King cannot keep it secret much longer. This is what has been troubling you. Please forgive me, Legolas. I did not know it was this serious."
"Nay, it is I who should beg for your forgiveness, for being curt and abrupt. I apologise for any worry or hurt I have caused you."
She lifted a hand and pressed it softly against his lips. "Please. Speak no more of this matter. It is forgotten. Nothing you say can change the past." Tears flowed down her cheeks as she thought of what her friend must have gone through.
He took her hand in his own, removing it from his lips.
Caeriel looked up into the fair face of the prince. She saw hurt and anguish, love and loss. The numerous emotions made him look tired, but beautiful at the same time. She reached forward and stroked his cheek.
"Legolas. There is no need for you to hide in the shadows anymore. It is not like you to shirk from trials. We are here for you. As your friends, it would hurt us more than anything, to see that we have failed in our duty to protect you."
For once Legolas seemed to be listening. There was an internal struggle in him, one that she did not understand.
"I am sorry, Caeriel. For I leave tomorrow at daybreak," said Legolas awkwardly.
"So I have heard. It was my intention to bid you farewell. Much as I wish it were so, there is no place for me in your upcoming journey."
She moved forward and leaned into his body, hugging him, pulling him close to her. They stayed there for what seemed like eternity before Caeriel broke apart gently, in her hand she held a carved talisman.
"Lithroleah and I would like you to have this. We fear it will be a difficult one. Keep it close as a reminder of your friends."
She pressed the carving into his hand, and whispered, "Miss you, I will, Legolas."
And she was gone. A sudden realisation dawned on Legolas that she loved him. As a sister would a brother. And he knew that he returned her feelings. It explained why he had felt so guilty about pushing her away, about distancing himself from one so dear to his heart.
He stared down at the talisman. It was carved intricately but in a hurry. A joint gift from both herself and Lithroleah. He tucked it deep within his tunic, its weight against his bare chest a new source of comfort.
Rising from the ground, he stood and surveyed the spot where Caeriel had been just a moment ago, it had all been so surreal, like wisps of a dream.
"I will miss you too, gwathel " he whispered into the wind, as he turned and made his way back to where his duty beckoned.
***** Sindarin Translations: Gwathel - (sworn) sister
A/N: Legolas' native tongue is not Nandorin, as postulated by some, and is in fact Sindarin (FOTR). His family is of Sindarin origin, but his grandfather Oropher came to rule Eryn Galen and the Silvan Elves sometime in the 2nd Age. The details of how it happened are sketchy, but some interpret a falling-out with their Lorién kin.
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