Hello!

Today's my birthday (though not my 111th one) and I thought I would celebrate it the hobbit way, which means I'll give you a gift instead of the other way around; so here is the first chapter in a new story!

This is the last piece in a mini-series of mine (some of you might have waited for it to be published). It's not needed to have read the first two stories, though if you want to be on the safe side, perhaps you should. Just like the other two, this story will have three chapters, but instead of focusing on one person's p.o.v, it will be three different ones. Since the first story ("Change of Heart") was published before I saw the BotFA, all three of the stories can be dubbed as a sort of movie-verse AU. Thought I should point that out. Also, a bit more emphasize on the 'hurt/comfort' than the 'romance' (it's the second genre after all).

I do not own any characters or places; J.R.R Tolkien or Peter Jackson and Co do.

Elvish's in italics.

Enjoy!


Chapter 1

"My Lord, there is a traveler coming."

Legolas snapped out of his staring into the golden fire and turned to face the one of his companions standing guard. The blond prince stood up and approached the guard. He pointed into the distance, down the hill where they had made camp. Narrowing his eyes, Legolas could make out a lone figure making its way through the green lands below. The figure was hooded, but moved with grace and determination. The sight was strangely familiar. Legolas turned his back and went back to the fire.

"No need to fear. We wait and see what will happen. Unless no signs of danger, we do not act."

The guards exchanged unhappy glances that did not go unnoticed by the prince. He pretended not to have seen them and sat down by the yellow fire, his bow in his lap just to be on the safe side. He fiddled with the bowstring, a frown gracing his brows. The autumn night was chilly and though the fire warmed, it was a too bright light in a world that was sinking into darkness quicker now than ever.

Greenwood – though now more known as Mirkwood by all – had been infested by a shadow a long time ago and everyone in the Woodland Realm had known it. It had begun with sick and dying trees down South, starting in the area of the fortress of Dol Guldur and then spreading further widely. Then, it had been the spiders; huge creatures, poisonous and of twisted origin. They had killed whatever life there was left in the forest, which had once been a green and thriving place. But the shadow from Dol Guldur continued growing in strength. It was one of the reasons why the King had sent Legolas and a couple of guards on a mission to Imladris. Lord Elrond needed to be informed of this threat that had risen more than King Thranduil ever could have foreseen.

Suddenly, his ears picked up a change in the still night. Someone was approaching. Light footsteps trampled down the grass. Legolas unconsciously took a firmer grip on his bow while the guards tensed around him. Their eyes gleamed in the light of the fire, wild and alert, ready to pounce. "No need to fear", he had told them, but fear was what they did these days. The world had changed and even vagabonds could now be a threat, a spy or an enemy.

The traveler stepped out from the shadows, dressed in a dark cloak and hood that hung close to the body and shielded the face. Legolas could make out the boots – dark and well-worn – and he let his eyes sweep the figure over, trying to detect any danger.

"Who goes there?" he asked in Westron, his voice polite, but even and chilly.

He got no reply at first. The figure stood completely still and the elven guards drew their bows. The figure was tall with slender shoulders beneath the cloak. At the first glance, Legolas might have thought it was one of the race of Men that had appeared in their camp, but a Man would not react the way the traveler did. Elves were a rare sight to behold, since they very seldom left their homes and any Man would be astonished at the sight of the fair and ethereal race. The traveler did not appear to be the slightest amazed and taking a closer look, Legolas could make out signs of that the hooded figure was one of them, but he could not figure out why a lone elf would be wandering the Wilderlands. The blond elf got to his feet.

"I nardh?" he said, the words of his own language falling easily from his lips.

"I have wandered for many years and I have been called many names, but to you, I have always been Tauriel."

Legolas froze. He recognized that voice, he knew her, though he had doubted that he would ever see her again. The guards muttered in between themselves and lowered their bows, but still ready to shoot. When Tauriel left, she had been dubbed a traitor to the Woodland Realm and that was not something her former fellow guards could forget. At the sight of their still drawn weapons, something inside Legolas snapped and he felt a spark of anger, a fierce emotion he had not felt in years.

"Lower your weapons", he ordered coldly and at his frosty glare, the guards did as commanded, though they did not look too pleased to do so. "She will do us no harm."

She had hurt him once before and no matter what she might do; it could never hurt like that; like the rejection and betrayal that had left him numb. Tauriel stepped closer to the fire – to him – as the guards went back to their previous positions. She removed her hood and he found himself looking at a face he had not quite believed that he would ever see again.

She had aged, he realized, but not in the way the race of Men did. Her hair was not grey nor did she have wrinkles. Her face was sharper, her cheeks more hollow and her brows set in a frown. There was a new elegance and determination in the way she held herself and her eyes, while still green, had a new wisdom to them that had put out some of the fire that had always been present in their depths. His heart clenched. She had never looked lovelier and she radiated tranquility that was a soothing presence in a world where shadows had begun to take over.

"Legolas", she said and her voice was soft, almost hesitant, but he could hear an underlying tone of happiness to it.

It was strange to hear his name fall from her lips after their time apart. Rare it had been before that she had called him by the name given to him by his mother, preferring to use a title instead, which marked that they were more different than they already knew. He felt at loss for words and simply said:

"You are back."

"I promised you, did I not?" Tauriel asked half-smiling.

Legolas felt as if the necklace safely secured in his inner pocket burned its way through fabric and skin to reach his heart. He resisted the urge of wanting to place his hand over it.

"You did", he acknowledged and his voice was just as soft as hers; careful, as if not to break the illusion of no time passing.

Then there was silence between them. Legolas felt the guards eyes rest upon them both and the privacy Legolas wished for them to have was a fool's wish, for the Guards of the Woodland Realm were well-trained and seldom failed their duties.

"Come", he said and hesitantly placed a hand on Tauriel's elbow. "Let us speak elsewhere."

She did not flinch away from his touch nor did she question him. Legolas led her away from the fire, sending the guards a look that promised ill things to happen should any of them interrupt or disturb them. They all stayed where they were, but they looked grim and did not let go of their weapons. Legolas had more and more taken after his father when it came to convey emotions, something he rarely did anymore. He had not felt truly happy in years and sometimes he almost thought he had forgotten how to smile. But he had had no reason for happiness or smiles. Not only because the wall around his heart, the fear of a broken heart, but because his kingdom was falling apart and the forest was ill beyond what the Wood Elves could cure.

Legolas led Tauriel to the edge of the hill, still within view and earshot of the guards, something that irked Legolas but could not be helped. They would never let him wander away alone with an edlenn.

Tauriel sat down in the grass at the edge of the hill, her legs dangling from the edge. She seemed slightly nervous, biting her lower lip, a habit he thought she had lost many hundred years back. The familiar sight sent a pang of warmth through his chest, a long-forgotten affection.

"What are you doing here?" he asked her and hesitantly sat down next to her.

"I could ask you the same", she shot back, though there was no challenge in her voice, just curiosity. "I had not expected to meet you here of all places."

Legolas did not reply immediately, thinking over how much he should reveal. She had not been his confidant for years and though cracks had appeared on the surface of his heart at the sight of her, he did not know if he could ever truly trust her again. He played with a couple of high strands of grass, taking his time.

"We are on our way to Imladris", he eventually decided to tell her. "I bring words to Lord Elrond from my father."

They were dark words; the forest was sick, the shadow in Dol Guldur grew and the strange creature – Gollum – that Aragorn had brought to them a few months back had managed to escape and orcs had attacked, killing some of the guards. Dark words indeed.

Tauriel studied him intensely and Legolas thought he could see concern in her eyes. He raised a dark brow inquiringly.

"Your turn."

Tauriel's eyes searched his face for something she appeared not to be finding, before turning her gaze away out over the lands around them. She placed her hands on the ground and leaned back.

"I have been to Imladris", she confessed, her lips twitching at the coincidence of it all. "And perhaps I would have dwelled there a little while longer, but Lord Elrond advised me to travel while the roads were still somewhat safe. He said…." She paused and Legolas had not realized how much he had missed her voice until now. Tauriel glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and he waited, keeping his expression guarded, but not unwelcoming. The red-haired elf drew a quick breath and said softly: "He said that I was needed back home."

Home.

It was strange to hear the word fall from Tauriel's lips. She had never used the word to describe the Woodland Realm and it was there she had spent most of her life. Legolas knew that Greenwood had been her home, but never truly the Realm. Yet he was surprised when he realized that she spoke of the castle, of a life that seemed to belong in another age, when she had grown up to dislike the lack of freedom the King and the castle gave her. More surprised he was to find that there was a look of longing in her green eyes as she stared out into the night.

"I have missed you, Legolas", she whispered and smiled sadly. "Even though I had no right to do so."

His mouth went dry and he did not know how to respond. Missed her, he had done, but he had pushed that part far away in the deepest corners of his heart and mind. The truth was hesitant to fall from his lips and there was doubt gnawing at his heart with razor sharp teeth. Another question slipped into his mind and formed in his throat.

"What of the dwarf?" Legolas asked, the words slipping reluctantly from his lips.

Tauriel did not look at him, but continued with her staring down at the Wilderlands below them and then gazing up at the dark sky with the few shimmering stars.

"I brought back his stone to his mother", she said and there was only a hint of sadness in her voice. "She accepted it, but even though dwarves are made of harder stuff than us, their hearts are no less fragile. The Lady of Ered Luin is fading, her world slowly falling apart and her with it."

"And you?" Legolas inquired, having not let her go with his eyes. "What of your heart?"

Tauriel threw her head back with a sigh, her long, red hair falling effortlessly over her shoulders. Her pale face was a mask of concentration and her eyes were shining with memory. Legolas waited, letting himself hope which was a foolish thing to do. He had guarded his heart well since he had last seen her, since she left him at the remains of a battlefield with a promise and a necklace that they would see each other again. That had been sixty years ago and he had not let himself hope since then.

"Your father said that what I felt for him was not real", she started to say and smiled humorlessly. "A passing fancy. I despised him for it at the time, but as the years have gone by, I have come to realize that he was right." She let her gaze fall from the sky and looked at Legolas instead. "A part of me will always grieve for Kíli, but my world did not fade when he died." Her full lips twisted themselves into a crooked, slightly bitter smile. "It simply paled."

Legolas did not move a muscle, though his heart pounded furiously in his chest so that he thought everyone must hear it.

"I have missed you as well", he admitted and it felt as if something heavy had been lifted from his heart.

Before Tauriel turned her face so that he could not read her expression, he caught a glimpse of what seemed like a smile that could not believe he had spoken those words. He thought her eyes had been a little bit teary.

They sat together throughout the night, talking and falling very easily into old habits. Tauriel told him about her journey across what seemed to be every corner of the world. She had walked through the mountain halls of the dwarves of Ered Luin, she had stayed in Mithlond where their people would sail into the West and she had wandered through the Shire, travelled along the great river Anduin and crossing the deserted lands of the South of Gondor. It was fascinating tales she told and Legolas could have listened to her forever, about the different places and people she had met. They spoke little of the great forest they had grown up in, but Legolas told Tauriel of the changes, of the darkness and she paled at his words. Her lips thinned, but they did not speak of it further for their spirits had risen after not having seen each other for years.

Dawn came too soon for Legolas's liking and just like every other good thing; it must come to an end.

"The sun will soon rise", Tauriel said, her eyes fixed on the pale line of gold in the horizon. "We should be on our way, though it is different paths we yet again shall wander."

"It seems as if fate has other plans for us than those we might prefer."

Tauriel smiled, but did not say otherwise. Neither of them was keen on leaving the other after having reunited so soon. Shoulder against shoulder they sat and watched the sun rise above green lands and Legolas could believe for a moment that darkness and shadows were nothing more than a bad dream.

It was over too soon and Legolas was reminded of his duties. One of the guards came up to them, speaking carefully of that they needed to continue their journey. Tauriel did not show any signs of leaving, but Legolas nodded to the guard, knowing that it was true. Satisfied, the guard returned to where the rest were packing to leave at any moment.

Legolas sighed and got to his feet. Then he thought of something. Unbuttoning the top buttons of his tunic – much to Tauriel's surprise and she looked as if she was not quite sure what he was doing; her eyes had gone wide and her brows pulled together in a frown – Legolas fished out the silver necklace Tauriel had gifted him with sixty years ago. Not a day had passed without him having looked at it, wondering where in the world Tauriel might have been. Now he would not need to wonder anymore.

At the sight of her necklace, Tauriel's expression turned to one of wonder and there was a look in her eyes that Legolas could not describe. It moved him to the core and he had to swallow once before he could speak.

"This is yours. You kept your promise. It is not mine to keep any longer now."

He held out the hand with the necklace to Tauriel and she stared at it for a long time, but did not take it. Legolas felt worry. So many different emotions flashed in her eyes as she eventually raised them to look at him. He could not remember if he had ever seen her look as vulnerable as she did in that moment.

Tauriel took the offered necklace. Her fingertips lingered ever so slightly against his skin before she drew back, taking the necklace with her. He watched with fondness in his heart as she secured the silver chain around her neck. The tiny stone glittered in the hollow of her collarbone.

Legolas bent down and placed a kiss upon her forehead, hoping that it would convey everything he had not said. Tauriel sat as still as a statue under his touch and when he straightened up he noticed that she looked deeply troubled by something. He frowned. Without warning, Tauriel reached out and grabbed both his hands in hers. She kissed his knuckled and her lips were warm against his skin. It made him warm inside, melting away yet another layer of ice he had kept around his heart for years.

"Namárië, Tauriel", he said, offering her the softest of smiles.

"You speak as if we shall never see each other again", said Tauriel, letting go of his hands and she looked pained at the prospect of it.

"I hope with all my heart that we will", he told her honestly before turning away to join the guards that were waiting.

He accepted the reins of his horse one guard was handing him and mounted. The horse did not make a sound. He glanced back and saw that Tauriel had not moved, but was still sitting. However, her eyes were fixed on the horizon and the dark outline of Mirkwood. She did not look back and Legolas knew in his heart that she would be fine. He drew a shaky breath and pressed his legs softly to his horse's sides, whispering quietly for it to leave. It obeyed and confidently made its way down the twisting path of the hill. The guards followed on their horses.

Before breaking out in gallop, Legolas took a last look over his shoulder and saw Tauriel high up on the hill, her hair shining like fire in the light of the sun. His heart clenched. Then he fixed his eyes on the road ahead and he set off with his followers to whatever would await him at the end of it.


I nardh - Who are you?

Edlenn - Exiled

Namárië - Farewell

So, that was the first chapter! What did you think? Constructive criticism's welcomed/appreciated if written in a helpful way!

I cannot guarantee when the next chapter will be up (school has started, so I'll be a bit busy), but it will probably be sometime next week or the week after that.

Thanks for reading! :)