3. A decision made
Posted here especially for Suzanne who took the trouble to email. Thank you.
Disclaimer - as usual. No money, pure self-indulgence
Thank you to those nice folk who drop a line reviewing and encouraging.
Warning: Very mild mention of sexual activity in this chapter- it's probably going to get a bit more explicit later, when Legolas gets to Rivendell, so if that is going to offend you, you might want to read something else.
Chapter 3: A decision made
With the warmth of good food and good wine mingled with singing and laughter, Legolas felt comfortable and relaxed and only in need of one more thing to make him replete. He looked for Theliel, for she had made a point of sitting next to him earlier during the feast and pressed herself against his body more than once, producing a very pleasant sensation in the pit of his stomach...and more importantly, his groin. He pushed himself off the tree against which he had been leaning and set off in search.
Around the clearing were lots of other groups of Elves, singing, laughing, eating, and some were dancing. Silver and white gems on necklaces and sewn onto clothes flashed in the firelight and music filled the air. The boar Laersul had brought down on their hunt was turning on the spit, so the smell of roasting meat filled the air, fat dripped onto the fire and spat and crackled. Galion had refused to bring out the deer that Legolas had brought down or the ducks, saying that the boar was quite enough and they needed to store food for the times ahead, but there was no shortage of delicious things to eat.
Galion was leaning across a table and gazing in drunken adoration at a lovely woman whose husband was sitting beside her but talking to his neighbour. She was blushing prettily and Legolas thought Galion looked positively lecherous. He wondered if he should drag Galion away before things got out of hand but he had his own interests to take care of: Theliel.
Flames leapt and danced from the bonfires, which were lit in four places in the clearing. Above his head were huge glimmering lanterns of glass, some were blues and silver for air, red for fire and green for earth and they swung from the branches of the trees. Above the glade, the stars were huge and bright and seemed closer to the earth as if they wished to see what the Elves were doing. All over the feast, different songs and different voices were raised, and they became louder and mixed with laughter as the different groups of singers competed with each other to be the loudest. Thranduil sent a wineskin to the loudest group and they were cheering him loudly.
At the head of one of the great circles of merry Elves sat Thranduil with a crown of autumn leaves and berries upon his hair. Legolas felt his breath catch for a moment remembering; he and Anglach had been children and his brothers had teased them that the berries were in case Thranduil got hungry. Anglach had stared at Thranduil with enormous wide eyes. He found himself constantly reminded of Celdir and Anglach and it seemed a betrayal not to think of them, to remember them. If they were here, all three of them would have been drinking and gambling together and he suddenly felt their loss so keenly it hurt his chest and his hand clutched the fabric over his heart for a moment.
At that moment Galion passed him and paused. Legolas dropped his hand back to his side and looked away nonchalantly for he was tired of being fussed over. But Galion merely caught his empty cup and poured more wine into it, smiling. 'You are not nearly drunk enough to come and carouse on my talan tonight, Legolas. I want to make sure we keep my neighbour awake until dawn. He might even come and see what the noise is about and join us!' Galion fixed him with a knowing eye until Legolas tossed the wine down his throat. 'It's not the good stuff,' Galion grinned too late to sip and the raw burning in his throat confirmed it was certainly not the good stuff. 'It's from the Edges and is made of moonlight they say. '
'It's from the Edges and made of dragon's piss!' gasped Legolas coughing. 'Give me some more.' It made him burn all the way down to his belly and groin and stopped him thinking. Galion filled his cup far too full and winked lasciviously strutting past a group of women, who laughed and called him over.
There were many Elves who looked up at Legolas too as he passed, met his eye with a glimmer of interest, and some he caught long enough and smiled to let them know he returned their interest. But he really thought Theliel had something about her that he liked. She was older than he was, Laersul's contemporary rather than his, and she had, he thought, been out to catch his older brother, but Laersul would not bite. She was intelligent and she made him laugh and he always sought lovers with whom he could laugh as well as love. Grey eyes and long black hair always drew him, as if a forerunner of something more lasting...Ah. He spotted her beneath the trees, leaning against it and with her hands behind her. Her eyes were cast down and she kept glancing up demurely into the face of the Elf who leaned towards her, close and making her laugh.
Hm. Legolas pursed his lips and thought for a moment. It was, of course, Thalos this time. But he knew how to get rid of him.
He sauntered over, casting his gaze about as if looking for something, someone and then drew close to Thalos.
'Ah, Thalos!' he said trying to combine cheerfulness and innocence with, he thought, some conviction. 'At last. The King has been asking for you this past while. He was most insistent.' Legolas had deliberately used the King to impress upon Thalos that it was in an official capacity that Thranduil requested him and not as his father.
Thalos looked up. His green eyes sparkled shrewdly. 'Really, Legolas? How strange. I was with him but a moment ago and he bid me go off and enjoy the feast.'
Legolas moved closer, maneuvered himself so he stood too close to Theliel and his brother, intrusively. 'You know how impulsive he is,' he said airily. '
'Then he could change his mind in a moment and he will wait.'
Legolas sensed a certain cynicism from his brother so he leaned forwards and whispered conspiratorially, 'He is in his cups, and he and Galion are arguing.'
Was Vairë smiling upon him? For it just so happened that as Thalos looked towards the King, Galion had indeed leaned across to Thranduil and called something that he responded to with a rather cross and grumpy expression on his handsome face, it made him look like you would not want to cross him. And even better, he caught his sons looking at him at that precise moment and beckoned them both over irritably.
'It's you he wants,' they both said at exactly the same time. Then, 'No. You!'
There was a stifled giggle and the last thing they saw was Theliel slipping away into the trees with her hand in Laersul's. Of all people!
'Dûrkë!' spat Thalos. Legolas raised his eyebrows slightly for he had only ever heard Thranduil say that word before and Legolas had had his ears washed out by Galion to make sure he did not remember it.
'He has been ignoring her pursuit for years. Why now?' Legolas complained. 'She was pressing up against me in a very enticing way at the feast.'
'She has been leading me a merry dance!' exclaimed Thalos in disgust but Legolas saw that he was already looking around the clearing for unattached Elves, much as he did himself.
'She will soon discover her mistake,' Legolas sighed. 'He is so old! She's been after him for years, and only now that she pursues me is he interested! He will not be able to keep up and soon she will realise younger is fresher and more eager.' He straightened and glanced at Thalos who was staring morosely around the clearing. Many of the unmarried Elves had coupled off or were in small groups.
'You are mistaken if you think she was pursuing you. I have wasted hours courting her,' Thalos said irritably and Legolas laughed.
'Hours! What a terrible waste in your long, long life,' he slid a mischievous glance at him, 'only to find that she prefers our big brother.'
'How can that be?' Thalos asked, outraged and Legolas laughed even louder and punched Thalos softly on his arm. Thalos laughed then too and they shared a grin.
'She used us both to ensnare Laersul,' Legolas said amused and lifted his eyebrow wryly. He saw that Miriel was sitting with Lossar and both were looking at him in an inviting way. He liked both of them and tilted his head to get a better look, and keeping their gaze he raised his cup to them in salute and promise.
'My heart too is broken,' Thalos said grinning widely and lifted his own cup to Legolas in a toast. 'Will we ever recover?'
'I am already in demand,' Legolas said smugly. 'And when I return from my journey there will be none who can resist,' he added, watching Miriel bend her head towards Lossar and say something that made them both laugh. Lossar's dark eyes cut towards Legolas teasingly.
Thalos snagged a jug of wine from a passing Elf who shook his head and laughed when he saw who it was. Thalos' eyes followed the Elf as he passed. 'He has always fancied me,' he said vainly and slid his hand sensuously along his long dark hair. 'What journey?' he asked without particular interest.
'The King will send me to Rivendell, of course,' Legolas said and pushed himself away from the tree he leaned against. 'Who else is there?' he asked as he moved towards Miriel and Lossar.
Thalos looked up astonished and grasped his sleeve, pulling him back. 'It will not be you, Legolas,' he said in concern. 'It will be me, or Laersul if he can spare him.' He threw his arm round Legolas' shoulder and Legolas stiffened. 'You are about as diplomatic as an Orc, Legolas. He will not even send you to Esgaroth!'
'He will send me this time,' Legolas said, feeling a little defensive. Surely he was not that bad? 'It is only as a messenger,' he added wondering how quickly his mood had changed from lustful promise to sulky childishness.. 'There isn't a council or anything, no trade to negotiate. And anyway, I have grown up a lot since then.' He wondered why he spent so much time with his family telling them he was grown up when he was so long past his coming of age and no one else ever doubted his ability.
'What is that Thranduil says about you in council?' Thalos clapped him on the shoulder. 'As subtle as a dwarf with a hammer?'
'With a hangover,' Legolas corrected him grumpily. He was not as skilled as Thalos, or Laersul but he was no fool. Surely Thalos could see the sense in his going? A strange yearning was in his heart, not just a youthful wanderlust to see beyond the Woods. True, he had travelled beyond the forest to Esgaroth, Dale and even the Lonely Mountain, but this was something more, something that drew him like a scent that once was familiar and now forgotten. It was something that almost called him, making him wonder what it would be like to see real mountains where the snow lay undisturbed and eagles soared high above. And if he was honest, in spite of what Laersul had said to him about burning brighter and not allowing the pain to turn inwards, there was atonement too; it was his fault. He had been amongst Gollum's guards that night they were set upon. And he had missed the milui-criss. Unforgiveable. That more than anything, he needed to atone.
'I can read your mind,' Thalos said warningly. 'He will say no.' Then his voice softened a little. 'Legolas,' he said, leaning down to look into Legolas' face, 'He is right in this. You are amongst our best archers, you know that, and you have fought at Erebor - you have nothing to prove. And we cannot spare you.'
But his voice trailed off and he watched someone. Legolas turned and saw that it was Nauriel and that she was speaking to their father. Most of the Elves around Legolas had not noticed and the singing and feasting continued and he could not hear her words. She gesticulated angrily, throwing her hand out to indicate the feast it seemed, and Thranduil's face assumed the impassive mask of kingship, of stone.
Thranduil did not interrupt her, and when she finally finished, he turned his fierce gaze upon her and spoke so quietly that only she could hear and she staggered back, breathing hard as if she had been struck even though he had not lifted his hand. When she turned and fled, her face was white. Thranduil lifted his goblet and his hand was steady as a rock as he sipped the wine. He smoothly turned back to the Elves with whom he had been speaking before Nauriel came.
Suddenly aware that Thalos had left his side and that the singing around him had faltered, Legolas swung his gaze to Galion, who had focused all his attention on Thranduil's face and was intent. Galion pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the lovely woman he had been flirting with and was instantly at Thranduil's side, discretely topping his goblet. He slid into a seat next to him and smoothly took over telling some story which quickly had the small group laughing. Although Thranduil smiled along with the others in the group, Legolas could see his eyes were chips of ice and he wondered what in all of Arda Nauriel had said to make Thranduil so full of cold fury; he rarely was truly angry at anyone but the Enemy, and the Noldor...and Dwarves. He had certainly only been full of compassion for Nauriel until then.
Music flooded the glade then and one of the minstrels strolled into the clearing, strumming a harp. Everyone settled then to listen and Legolas looked about him. Many of the other Elves could not have heard what Nauriel had said and seemed unaware that anything untoward had happened, but some of the Elves nearest Thranduil had expressions of distress or concern on their faces. He saw Thalos returning to him, his face grave. 'She cursed him,' he said.
Legolas turned to him, shocked. 'What did she say?'
Thalos was quiet for a moment and then he rubbed his eyes. 'She said she wished that he would know what it was to lose a son.'
Legolas gasped, unable to speak and Thalos turned back to peruse the clearing.
'It is not often that someone wishes your death,' Thalos acknowledged rather too glibly. 'She should have her wish, for the Shadow comes. And there are three of us so the odds are good. So you must stay in the forest, little brother. We need you to guard our backs as you did Laersul. And even if no one else will say it, I am glad Laersul lives even it was at Naurion's expense. I still shudder at the thought that both of you were so far south.'
Legolas looked away and pulled at the cuff of his shirt slightly. He was not sure what he thought about this but there was, deep in his heart, a warmth and gladness that at least someone thought he had done right. But at the same time he was strangely unsettled by Nauriel's curse. He wondered what Thranduil had said in response for she had looked like the ghost of Smaug himself had appeared. He was about to ask Thalos but he found he did not really want to know; Legolas had seen the King in both hot rage and cold fury, but this had been worse than anything. He had glimpsed in his father a cold stone that was implacable, and that he had never seen before in Thranduil either as his father or his King.
'I have never understood why the Nazgûl and Orcs are so determined to travel into our realm to harass us when Lórien is so close,' said Legolas, He shook his head slowly for he and his fellow warriors had often pondered this. 'We should attack Dol Guldur now while the Nazgul are absent, Thalos. Lórien might even help.'
When Thalos did not reply, he thought his brother probably knew a lot more than he did, but it had never rankled him. He would prefer not to know. But if he was not one of the Wise, he was not a quite fool either. He turned to look at Thalos fully. 'Is that in the King's mind then, Thalos? Did you make a detour to Lórien on your way home?'
Thalos grinned and ruffled his hair so it was tousled and stuck out and though he tried to bat Thalos' hand away, he was taller and reached above him. 'You are not as stupid as you look!' said Thalos, grinning at him. 'But he will still not send you to Imladris. It will be Laersul he sends for I am going elsewhere.'
'Elsewhere? What does that mean?'
'There are strange reports coming from Dale and the King wishes to make sure our allegiances are secure.' For all of them when they referred to their father as Thranduil or the King, it meant official business, not family. Legolas wondered what was happening in Dale that made Thranduil order his second, and most diplomatic son there.
'He will let me go if you tell him to,' Legolas said determinedly. 'You know I am the best person. It's only to tell Mithrandir what happened, not like there will be any meetings or councils. It's not like I have to actually represent the Woods,' he pleaded. 'All I have to do is tell Mithrandir what it was like, what happened and then leave. I can do this.'
Thalos laughed then, but kindly. He gave him a sidelong look that was considering, appraising. 'Thranduil has decided to send Alagos,' he said then and Legolas gave an exasperated sigh.
'Am I never going to be allowed anywhere beyond Esgaroth?' he said.
'You have been to Dale and Erebor.'
'I have been to Dale, true. And I have been allowed to look at the Dwarves but not stare! And I was not allowed to speak in Dale.'
Thalos smiled and nudged him. 'Do not be in such a rush. Perhaps he will send you to Lórien instead.'
'He will never let me set foot in Lórien,' Legolas slurped wine gloomily. 'He wouldn't trust me.'
'It's not just you he wouldn't trust,' Thalos said cryptically, glancing at his brother's sweet face and his long flaxen hair.
Some of the Elves had begun lining up to begin the Fire-Leap. More dry wood was being thrown onto the fire to build it higher and the flames leaped and danced and the women joined hands and made a large circles around the bonfires. They were not so foolish to take part. It was for the young men to show off.
'Look, Laersul's going first!' Thalos nudged Legolas. They laughed for he was definitely showing off to Theliel.
Later, flushed with wine and exertion, there were only five Elves left still leaping. One was Legolas, and Thalos had just bowed out. The flames cast a red-yellow glow around the clearing and lit up the Elves still passing bowls around, pouring wine, singing, laughing. Firelight glinted on the green and white and silver gems on their collars and belts and on the necklaces of the women. Legolas was about to take his next leap. The fires had been stoked higher so flames leaped and flared and the smoke rose into the sky through the cleared area between the trees.
Suddenly he felt the world tilt and he thought the smoke was yellow, and instead of singing, there was screaming. They were running, not dancing and it was steel glinting instead of gems...
The world righted itself and he looked around himself startled. There was Thranduil, watching, waiting for him to leap and Galion leaning against him, arm thrown around Thranduil's shoulder, drunk and slurring affectionately at the King. Laersul stood nearby with Thalos, their heads bent talking quietly, and some sweet maidens waited for him on the other side of the fire, even cheered for him. Miriel and Lossar were there too.
He shook his head slightly, took a few long strides and leaped into the air, flew over the bonfire and crashed into the maidens, tumbling over and landing at Miriel and Lossar's feet. There were excited giggles from the maidens and he was showered with small white flowers they had been holding in their hands and he looked up at their lovely faces smiling beatifically.
'Oh, I think I am hurt,' he grinned and let them drop to their knees around him in consternation, their hands fluttered around him, and he basked in their concern.
Legolas let his hand trail over the silvery bark of the beech trees and looked up into their high, graceful boughs. These were Thranduil's favourite trees and this was where he had his talan, near the river, near the Keep. After the feast few Elves had felt like returning to the stronghold in spite of the recent attack, not even the king. Legolas heard a small harp's fluid notes high up in the trees, an old silvan love song, and he knew the player was his father, for Thranduil was a very skilled musician, even amongst the Woodelves. He wondered if Thranduil had played it to his mother.
A small group of Elves passed and greeted him. They strolled along the river bank. He saw that Miriel was amongst them and she gave him a smile. 'We are joining Galadhon and his family for evening meal,' she told him. 'Come with us.' Others joined their voices to hers but Legolas shook his head seriously.
'I have something I need to ask the King,' he told them. They laughed and tried to cajole him further and Miriel caught at his hand. 'Maybe later,' he agreed, remembering the night before and her silken skin, the fragrance of her body roused and lost in desire.
He watched them for a moment as they wandered away between the trees to the glade where Galadhon lived in his small cottage on the ground, for not everyone lived on talans. Where there were children, often the cottages had more room. He was a little surprised though that Galadhon was one of the Elves who resisted the safety of the caves, for he had small children. But Legolas understood too for he loved being in the Woods and slept best on his high talan amongst the oaks. Miriel turned to look at him as they disappeared between the trees and he hoped she understood there was no more to their coupling than there was. He chewed his lip slightly. There had been no such misunderstanding later on, with Lossar, but he would be surprised if there had been.
He set his hand on the lowest bole of the beech and began to climb, swiftly making his way up into the topmost branches where a more substantial talan was built. It was not grander or larger than any other Woodelf's talan, but like all the oldest talans, it had been built over many years, and with grace and elegance. The carvings were ornate but not ostentatious and the sweep of the curved edge of the talan was bevelled and carved with vine leaves. The way onto the talan was no mere hole in the platform as Legolas' own talan was; it seemed the wood had fashioned itself around a space and the silver wood of the talan merged to become part of the tree itself. There was no furniture, just a woven rug, cushions and a cloak hanging over the branches. Yet in spite of the simplicity, it felt sumptuous. He saw an earthenware jug of wine, a platter of rare meat, pewter goblets shining dully, a wooden board with creamy cheese and a carved bowl of apples. Above, the autumnal canopy filtered the sunlight coolly and dappled the shade. A simple woven reed screen had been secured to shelter Thranduil from the westerly wind that brought tales and dreams from distant shores. Those were unwelcome.
Thranduil sat cross legged and lounging slightly against large blue velvet cushions and in his hands the small harp Legolas had heard as he ascended. The sunlight brushed Thranduil's deep golden hair and it shone. Then he raised his green eyes to Legolas and it looked like all the colour from the Woods had been absorbed into them; it was uncanny, but Legolas knew of the King's deep connection with their forest, that the trees knew and acknowledged him somehow, that the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth knew him and bowed...and the liquid notes of the Woods thrummed his heartstrings and he felt the Song resonate deep in his blood and bones and sinew and muscle.
'You hear it. It was always strong for you. Most Silvan of us all you are, my leaf.'
Legolas smiled in spite of the childish nickname- it had always been affectionate. He sat on the cushions, close to his father, and felt his warmth while Thranduil let his long fingers drift over the harp strings a moment longer before he set it aside and rose to his feet. 'Wine?'
Legolas nodded, Thranduil always had decent wine and watched him pour wine into a pewter goblet, its soft silver gleam reflected the ruby ring Thranduil always wore.
Thranduil sank back onto the cushions, leaned on one elbow and looked out over the tops of the trees, for his talan was very high and the tree in which it was built was on the side of the hill beneath which the palace and stronghold were. The evening wind played in the treetops and the purple emperor butterflies danced in the tops of the oak and beech trees. It amused Legolas no end that Galion's talan was in the next tree, too close to be quite polite in silvan society, and below the King's. Sometimes Thranduil had complained about the noise. And sometimes, not that Thranduil knew, it had been Legolas who had been making the noise.
'A lovely evening,' was all Thranduil said and Legolas shifted, wondering how to broach the subject he wanted to raise. He did not want his father to think he had only come because he wanted something, and he knew that he would get no favours from the King because he was his son. 'Did you end your evening well yesterday?' Thranduil asked and a smile lifted one corner of his mouth.
The feast had indeed ended well and Legolas grinned.
Amused, Thranduil lifted an eyebrow. 'It ended well for all of you I think. I have not seen Laersul all day.'
'I feel used,' said Legolas but he smiled too.
'Yes, I can see how upset you were,' Thranduil replied drily. 'You showed misery in every line of your body as you danced with all those maidens. And then the fire-leaping. Galion was most concerned.'
'Galion was most occupied,' Legolas said and his grin widened.
'Galion was carousing most of the night,' said Thranduil mildly.
'Did you not go and join him?'
Thranduil lifted an eyebrow wryly and they both smiled at each other and turned back to the evening sky that was deepening from the sunset to dusk. A small bat whisked over the treetops.
Although neither spoke of Nauriel, it hung between them. It was too raw a wound for both of them, Legolas thought.
Thranduil sipped his wine and looked at Legolas over his goblet. His green eyes had flecks of gold in them, like a falcon, and was as piercing and astute. Legolas had never been able to hide anything from his father even if he had wanted to.
'Are you much recovered now, child?'
Legolas dipped his eyes, half smiling. Child? That hardly boded well for the request he intended to make.
Thranduil did not have to see the mild annoyance to know it was there. He raised an eyebrow, amused. 'You will always be my child, whether you fight in the battles or love in the treetops, Legolas. Whatever you do, when I look at you I see that tiny body that I could fit in the crook of my arms and for whom I whittled a pony when he lay belly-down in the long grass wheedling.'
Legolas smiled, remembering that long Summer day he had had his father all to himself...
…sawdust and shavings lay on the grass around him and Legolas looked up wonderingly at his tall father, so big and sometimes stern, sitting quietly, cross-legged on the daisy-scattered grass. His long, clever fingers lightly held a silver knife and pale slivers of wood peeled away under his skillful hands.
'What is it?' Legolas' own childish voice piped up. He was lying on his tummy on the grass next to Thranduil, chin in his hands and legs swinging behind him. He had been watching an ant wrestle a breadcrumb into its strong jaws to take home to its family. Legolas wanted to help but he knew now that sometimes when he tried to help, it did not help at all. Laersul had said to him only that morning that sometimes he had to let Nature win. So he was trying to do just that and not interfere.
Thranduil had slowly raised his eyes to look at his youngest son. A slow smile eased across his strong noble face.
'It is a horse, child,' he said and Legolas felt a spurt of excitement.
'Is it Mithren?' he asked, thinking of his father's big grey stallion. Legolas was a little afraid of Mithren. His hooves were enormous, and sometimes when he shook his head the whole world seemed to shake.
Legolas watched a little while longer. Of course it was not Mithren, he realised. This was much smaller. Shorter. He knew it could not be either of his brothers' horses either for they were big like Mithren. If either of their horses had such short legs, they would have their feet dragging on the ground. Legolas snorted with laughter at the thought of Laersul or Thalos riding short ponies and being able to stand up as the ponies trotted off from under them.
Of course! 'It is a pony,' he realised. And then he sighed heavily but did not speak his desire because his father would be cross if he whined and he was enjoying having this peaceful time with him. But he really really wanted a pony. One that would run on the grass under the trees and stars. Star. That's what he would call it. Or Starlight.
He realised the soft sound had ceased and glanced up to find Thranduil looking at him with concern but too quickly smoothed away when Legolas saw him. He wondered what his father was worried about. He knew Thranduil had been very angry about the Orcs but that was not Legolas's fault. He thought hard to see if he had done something that would annoy or upset his father. He could not think of anything but sometimes grown ups seemed to get upset over nothing.
Legolas breathed through his nose, but his eyes were soft with memory. 'I am much recovered, father.' It was always Orcs.
There was a comfortable silence. A smell of leaves and late sumer grass. A blackbird pinked the evening and robin joined in.
'This is how it should be.'
Legolas hummed agreement and let the warmth of the sun soothe him, the memory of the previous night's long, passionate loving had left his limbs soft and body sated and the wine in his hand was mellow. He felt himself soothed, drifted.
'In Imladris and Lórien, it is like this all the time,' Thranduil's voice went on dreamily. 'There is never danger or attack. There the Shadow does not penetrate.'
Legolas frowned slightly. He knew this of course; it was one of Galion's favourite diatribes to complain sarcastically that for all their wisdom, the 'Sit-On-Your-Arse-Wise' were only any good for sitting on their arses. But once when he was small and young he had asked Galion why the Wise were the Wise and Galion had said it was because they were not Woodelves and therefore more Wise by birth and that the folk of the Wood were more dangerous and less wise, but they had a lot more fun. Galion had gone on to explain too how being Wise meant that you became too damn clever by half and ended up fighting and killing people. Legolas mused that he was no clearer now than he had been then.
'And Orthanc?' he wondered aloud, for there dwelt Saruman, the Head of both the White Council and the Wizards' order.
Thranduil made a noise in his throat that was almost a growl. 'Orthanc is not immune to the Shadow,' he said cryptically.
Legolas frowned a little. 'I asked Thalos why Dol Guldur leaves Lórien untended,' he ventured, not expecting an answer for he had never had one before.
Thranduil seemed to ignore the question, looking down at his fingers running over the strings of the harp, tilted his head to consider the melody and his long, deep gold hair slipped over one shoulder. Legolas watched his hard-edged profile, sculpted lips, straight nose, his eyes downcast. Laersul favoured him most, he thought.
'Thalos would not tell me either,' he said wryly. 'I suppose that is wise considering I am not trusted to go anywhere or do anything but fight or hunt.' He knew it sounded petulant and was annoyed with himself for sounding like the child they thought him.
Thranduil paused then. Glancing up at Legolas, he lay his harp to one side. Still he did not answer but instead sipped wine and stared out westwards over the trees; his eyes narrowed and his face looked sharper, hawk-like. Legolas bit his tongue, chiding himself for his outburst and followed Thranduil's gaze, trying to see beyond the Woods, far, far into the West where the Hithaeglir reached and broke the back of Middle Earth into two; Rhovanion and Eriador.
'That way is Imladris,' Thranduil said eventually, almost in a dream, seeming to ignore Legolas' petulance and question in equal measure. Then he turned his deep green eyes to Legolas who could never hide anything. It always seemed to him that Thranduil reached into his heart and understood everything, knew every secret thought, every wish, every disappointment. He understood, and right now, that hurt unbearably.
'That way is Imladris,' Thranduil said again, turning his head back towards the West. 'It is the First House West of the Mountains. I fear for you if you go there as I know you wish.'
Legolas felt his heart sink. He should have known. He bowed his head. 'I will do as you wish, father.' He did not see his father's sorrowful smile that was full of pride too.
'You have nothing to prove. Legolas,' Thranduil said gently and reached out to stroke away his hair from his face. 'I have watched how you dealt with this...terrible thing. And you grieve for your friends, I know.'
Legolas lifted his eye to meet his father's. He tried not to pull his gaze away but there was such compassion he could not bear it and he dipped his head to look at his hands. He missed Anglach unbearably.
...laughing, slapping his thighs in delight at Legolas' misfortune, pulling his hand to come and join them drinking on the riverbank...running as children and hurling themselves from the riverbank into the deep pool...Anglach's body, slumped against the tall beech where Gollum was allowed to climb, crusted in blood, hacked about by thick orcish blades, his arms cut off, his face defiled, flies crawling at the corner of his open eyes...
Legolas blinked and swallowed the heave in his stomach. He rubbed his hands over his eyes and stared upwards where the last sunlight played on the still green leaves, aware that Thranduil watched, that he knew what Legolas struggled with, for had he not experienced that so many times himself?
He heard Thranduil shuffle a cushion towards him but he shrugged it away, not wanting comfort of any kind; he did not deserve it. At least he could rely on his father not to give any platitudes, he thought and was not bitter about that but grateful. He had long ago come of age and seen too many deaths to not understand. He twisted the cup in his hand thinking that he had not yet visited Anglach's family and he should...He wondered if his desire to take the message to Mithrandir was running away...
'It gets no easier.'
He dipped his head in agreement and pressed his lips together, heard his father swirl the wine in his cup and inhale the scent of it.
He heard Thranduil take in a long breath through his nose and out, and then the clink of the earthenware jug as he filled his cup again, and then filled Legolas', but only half way. He found himself smiling in spite of everything.
'Oropher used to say; You must let this make you burn brighter. Do not turn it inwards and let it consume you. Turn it outwards against the Enemy.' Thranduil said softly. Legolas leaned slightly towards him for Thranduil rarely spoke of Oropher though Galion was full of stories. 'It is too easy to lose yourself in the Shadow, to seek personal atonement.'
He winced. That was it. He would not be allowed to go now for he knew his quest was at least in part personal atonement even though he tried hard not to let it be. Guilt so often engulfed him.
But Thranduil seemed lost in memory, gazing into the distant West, cup hanging from his fingers and his long deep gold hair lifted in the breeze that ruffled the beech's still green leaves.
'That way lies the madness that has taken the Sons of Elrond. I do not wish that for you.' He smiled at Legolas' wriggle of discomfort. 'But it is not in your nature I think,' he said softly. 'We will fight the Shadow with every breath, every bone and every drop of blood. But we will still sing, and feast and dance under the beech trees, run in the open fields and plains and make merry. For that way the Shadow cannot defeat us. And if we are feasting beneath the hill in the caverns, the Shadow can still not defeat us.'
He turned to Legolas and there was a sparkle of joyful fury, passionate love in those long green eyes flecked with amber and gold, like a falcon. 'We will never despair. The Noldor talk of the Long Defeat. Never think of that, never believe it.'
In his heart, Legolas felt the Song then, distantly at first and then rushing towards him like an eagle's plummet, it rose and soared and rose and soared so that the notes lifted him and he felt such tremendous easing in his heart that he looked at his strong, handsome father, the King and smiled. Thranduil stared a little and then pulled Legolas' head onto his shoulder, and though he could not see, he knew that Thranduil grieved a little for the resemblance to his own long-gone wife, beloved of his heart.
Above them, the first stars appeared. Around them, first one and then another voice rose from the trees surrounding them as the Elves greeted the Star-Kindler.
As if no time had elapsed, Thranduil continued. 'I hope Mithrandir will be in Imladris. I hope he has not gone to Curunír for I do not trust him; his Song is discordant and he is proud and vain...If he is not there, you must find Aragorn instead. He is the Man who brought Gollum here and him I do trust. Alagos will go as my envoy.'
Legolas had stopped listening, focused entirely upon one word: you. You will find Aragorn instead...But he had also said Alagos will go as his envoy...
'Father, do you mean...? I am confused. Did you not just say that I will find Aragorn in Imladris,' he asked hesitantly, hardly daring to look at Thranduil for he knew his eyes shone with hope.
'I will say it again so you are clear. If Mithrandir is not in Imladris, you must find Aragorn and tell him. I trust him. Alagos however, is my envoy. You are going as a witness so that they understand what Gollum cost us.'
'You mean I will go to Imladris as your messenger?' he squeaked, yes, it was a squeak but later he admitted to Thalos it may even have been a squeal.
'Elbereth, no! Listen to what I have said, Legolas!' Thranduil looked at him alarmed. 'Alagos is my envoy. He is in charge. You go only as the witness,' he said insistently. 'Legolas, I love you, you are my son and a superb hunter and tracker and archer, warrior, but I would rather kiss Aulë's hairy balls than let you be my messenger or envoy.' He reached out and stroked Legolas hair to take away the sting of his outburst which was heartfelt. 'And that is all you are to do. Alagos is in charge and you must do whatever he tells you; he knows the ways of these Noldor and he will make sure you come to no harm or get yourself into any trouble. Your task is to make sure that Mithrandir, or if he is not there, Aragorn, knows exactly what this has cost us. You must tell ...'
'Yes, yes. I understand,' Legolas interrupted laughing because he was so delighted to be going to Imladris that he did not mind Thranduil's shocked response.
'You remember Esgaroth,' Thranduil said, looking at Legolas meaningfully.
'It was not so bad,' Legolas said playfully. 'It ended well.'
'It ended well because Thalos intervened.'
Legolas knew that was true and resolved to be good. 'I promise I'll be....' he began but Thranduil held up his hand.
'Legolas. I love you. I love even your faults and they are many, as are mine. I love that you are about to make a promise you could not keep anymore than you could stop breathing. So please, just do as Alagos tells you and then you can stay true to yourself in every other way.' He pulled Legolas' head down to kiss the top of his head as he could not do to Laersul or Thalos. 'And I would not wish you to be anything but.'
When Legolas clattered noisily and unelvishly down from Thranduil's talan he could not wait to tell his brothers and ran along the forest path to Laersul's talan first and called up to him. Laersul did not answer and when he listened, he could hear his brother was not there. Still with Theliel, he guessed and grinned inanely. Thalos however, was striding along the river bank and greeted Legolas before he even saw him.
'So you are going to Rivendell,' he said before Legolas even had time to tell him.
'How did you know?'
'Alagos is going to Rivendell with you and is under strict orders not to let you speak or step out of his sight for the whole two days you will be there,' Thalos announced while ignoring his question.
'Two days? How do you know?' Legolas did not know why he ever bothered asking any of them any questions, for they were never answered. But he was just an archer in one of the companies so he did not think on it for too long.
Thalos pulled him down to sit upon a mossy boulder by the river. 'I am going to Erebor and Laersul is needed here.'
A small bat whizzed past and Thalos' hand shot out. He opened it slowly and within, the little bat was cradled trembling. 'Good evening little sister,' he said. Its eyes regarded Thalos beadily and it stopped trembling and instead crawled along his hand and nestled in his sleeve. He smiled down at it, stroked its fur lightly and then held up his hand. It seemed reluctant to leave but a juicy moth whirred slowly past and its hunger proved too much. It leapt into the air and was gone.
Thalos pursed his lips for a moment and watched the small flies on the river. The bat whizzed between them, swinging one way then another and turning in impossibly tight circles. 'Erebor has been visited by messengers from Sauron,' he said slowly. 'They have been told to throw in their lot with the Dark Lord or to risk obliteration. They have been promised a Ring.'
'One of the Dwarf Rings of Power.'
Legolas gasped. A Ring of Power was a blighted gift surely? But the Dwarves were a strange folk and who knew what they would give for gold and treasure. He remembered them in the Battle of the Five Armies, how they fought, how they sang, their deep voices in battle cry and his father had called them berserkers, like the strange fighters from the South he had seen in Dagorlad, and who had no fear. For the Dwarves to fall to the Enemy would mean Dale and Esgaroth would fall too, and then the Elves would be trapped between the Mountain and the Tower. He shuddered.
'They will not fall,' Thalos said confidently. 'They sent a delegation to Thranduil whilst we were away to warn him. The Enemy has not bothered with us, it seems. But we stand between Sauron and the Mountain and he cannot reach Dain except through us...or if Dain surrenders. But if the Mountain should fall, there is nothing left but us.'
Legolas felt suddenly afraid. The end seemed bitterly close and he was carrying one more message of failure. And yet...he was torn. He would have loved to go with Thalos, to go into that secret realm of Erebor, to see the great Hall now lit up with globes of light and molten jewels, to hear the strange, deep chant of the Dwarves' Song... Thalos suddenly laughed.
'Now I see you wish to go to Erebor as well. You cannot do both, little brother.' He sobered. 'The journey over the Hithaeglir is long and arduous. It is full of goblins now since they started to creep back from the Battle of Erebor. And the road that Gil-Galad took to cross the Mountains is long fallen into disrepair.' His green eyes suddenly caught Legolas and he looked uncertain. 'My heart suddenly misgives...you will not be unchanged.'
A shiver crept down Legolas' spine for his brother sometimes had these moments and he thought far off he heard a strange call and a scent just on the edge of his awareness and it reached down into him and pulled at his core.
But he said quietly, 'You are too fanciful, Thalos. The air is full of strange noises and the forest is restless. There is nothing else.'
Thalos lifted his hand and pushed a tendril of hair back from Legolas' face in an uncharacteristically intimate gesture. 'Be careful, little brother.'
Legolas tilted his head and looked at Thalos in strange mixture of bemusement, puzzled and concern. 'And you, Thalos.' He shook himself for the moment was too intense and grinned. 'Galion owes me a very nice mithril engraved knife,' he added. 'I bet him I would be sent to Imladris. He did not believe me.'
'That is why I am going to Erebor and you are going to Imladris,' Thalos nudged him cheerfully. 'Thranduil would rather you fleeced Elrond than our neighbours. And he would rather your...indiscretions remained far from home so they do not come back to haunt you, or us,' he said. 'But be warned, little brother. Elves do not go away and anything you do in Imladris is likely to have consequences.'
Note: Gloin tells the Council of Elrond that they have received an emissary from Sauron. It seems likely that they would have at least passed this on to their closest neighbours in the Mannish and Elvish settlements. If nothing else, they would have asked Thranduil for safe passage through his Woods I think. And after the Battle of the Five Armies, although Gloin is still sore, Thranduil behaved very well to the dwarves and put Thorin's sword on his tomb.
Laersul - oldest son of Thranduil
Thalos- second son of Thranduil
Theliel- a maiden courting Laersul
Celdir and Anglach- two of the elves killed in the Orc raid
Nauriel - mother of Naurion
Naurion - one of the elves taken by Orcs in the raid
Miriel and Lossar - two Elves who have caught Legolas' eye
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.