Hello again! I'm back on board with the sixth story in the Manyan series. This one has quite a load of angst, so don't tell me I didn't warn you! Ok, read on guys and don't forget to submit your death threats after that!
Summary : During a night of celebration in Mirkwood, Legolas had fallen ill all of a sudden. They must find the cause and destroy it quickly before Legolas faded away.
"Do I really have to wear this?" Legolas, the younger prince of Mirkwood grumbled hotly under his breath. He still had troubles with the silver royal circlet atop his head.
"Definitely." Keldarion came over and slapped his brother's hands away.
"Stay still and stop that silly noises, imp!" the elder elf said as he helped adjust the royal crown on Legolas' golden head.
Legolas sighed in resignation. "This thing is going to give me headaches. It's too heavy!"
"You exaggerated. Yours is much lighter than mine, see?" Keldarion pointed to his own silver circlet already placed atop his raven head. The design of both silver circlets was magnificent and intricate, with the motif of leaves and wind intertwined together. Keldarion's crown was a bit wider to distinguish him as the Mirkwood crown prince while Legolas' was much simpler, but impressive nonetheless.
"I know I've I asked this a hundred times, but why do we have to wear this thing?" Legolas muttered.
"Because we are attending the Autumn Sanction ceremony and it is a very formal event and that we are the noble princes of the realm. So keep your mouth shut for the remaining six hours and—for heaven's sake—stop fidgeting with your robe!"
If there was a time that Legolas ever regretted of being a noble prince, this was it. He hated the magnificent forest green robe because it hindered his movements. Besides, it made him felt too old, as old as his father. Legolas preferred his simple tunics and leggings, but his father had warned him that he had to wear the robes or they would burn all his daily clothes. He didn't know if his father was serious with his threat but Legolas was not eager to find out.
So, here I am, wearing this hated robe and this annoying circlet. Swell!
Finally satisfied with Legolas' appearance, Keldarion led the way to the grand courtyard where the ceremony would take place.
The Autumn Sanction was a millennial ceremony for the Mirkwood elves. It was the day when the nobles of the woodland elves would evoke the mystical energy of Mother Earth to keep the woods of the realm stay green even in autumn. The ceremony was held every thousand years at the beginning of fall. The sacred traditional ceremony had been practiced since Mirkwood had still been known as Greenwood, something that the Silvan elves would never stop practicing until they all sailed over the sea.
Thranduil was deep in conversation with Gandalf, the gray wizard, when his sons appeared. The king frowned in displeasure. "You are late!"
"Sorry, father. We had costume troubles," Keldarion said, glancing at his brother who kept pulling irritably at the high collar of his robe. Gandalf only smiled at the younger prince's antics.
Thranduil sighed. "Stop that, Legolas."
"But it's choking me!" Legolas complained.
"If you don't stop that now, I'll choke you myself!" Thranduil threatened.
Legolas stopped moving instantly.
Gandalf chuckled. "I think we should start the ceremony. The sun is about to set."
They proceeded to the middle of the courtyard. All the Mirkwood elves in attendance bowed in respect to the royal family and the maia. Some of the elves had already started singing an old song of the forest, calling the spirit of the earth in beautiful harmony.
Gandalf followed Thranduil and his sons to the three waiting elven lords near the courtyard fountain. It was not an ordinary fountain. It was a natural spring that had burst forth from the earth many thousand years ago just before the Great War of the First Alliance. The elves believed that the spray of the fountain helped the realm keep its green glory even after the day the dark shadow had descended upon them.
The three elves near the fountain were of noble status, though not as royal as Thranduil and his sons. They were a lot older than the king and had been his council members since the first day of his crown. They had vast experience in the ceremony.
As Thranduil and his sons surrounded the fountain, the three noble elves started to chant. Gandalf also joined in. At a signal, Thranduil dipped his hand into the fountain and scooped a handful of water. Then he brought his hand up, letting the water to trickle trough his fingers, so that the spray was carried away by the evening breeze. Thranduil voiced his own chant and echoed by the other elves. Next, Keldarion and Legolas followed their father's move.
The entire ceremony took about an hour. After it ended, the sun had already set, the wind was blowing softly, and the stars started to appear in the darkening sky.
Then they all moved to the grand banquet already prepared in the garden. Rows and rows of tables and chairs had been arranged, and hundred dishes of delicacies were already waiting to be consumed. The elves were in a very good mood, full with joy and merriment. They talked and laughed among themselves as they enjoyed the feast. The ceremony had managed to gather all the Mirkwood elves together in the same place in one night for the first time in a thousand years. It was a night of celebration indeed.
Several minstrels were singing by a corner, providing entertainment. When they took a break for refreshments, Keldarion suddenly asked Legolas to sing them a song. The other elves also agreed to this, as they knew that the younger prince had the finest voice in the realm.
Legolas tried to decline, as he was very self-conscious to perform in front of so many people. He flushed deep red in embarrassment when the urgings grew stronger. Some of the elves were actually pulling him off his seat. Thranduil and Gandalf were grinning in amusement while Keldarion was laughing uproariously.
The elves gave him a big and wild applause as Legolas finally stood in the middle of the gathering. He almost ran back to his seat when he heard Keldarion snort but one of the elves grabbed him. "Oh no, you don't, your highness! There's nothing to be shy of. Please grace our ears with your wonderful voice."
Sighing, pulling at his collar in nervousness, Legolas stared back at the crowd.
I'll kill you for this, Kel! he thought as he glared at his brother who still couldn't stop laughing. Then they all went silent, patiently waiting for him to start.
The first note that came from Legolas' voice was so low that the elves had to strain their ears to listen. But then, his voice grew stronger as he sang the old ballad of the Great War. The song told them the story of valor and glory, despair and tragedy, hope and destruction, pain and gain. It was a very powerful song that Legolas' voice would rise and strain dramatically but never lost its sweetness, and the contrast was incredibly overwhelming.
Nearly everyone had tears in their eyes, including the king. Many of them recalled the battle several thousands years ago that had happened before Legolas was even born. Thranduil, who had been in that war, still remembered that day as if it only happened yesterday, of how his father Oropher had fallen under the bitter sword of the enemy. He might not have died that easily if not for the betrayal of Tamascus, Thranduil's great-uncle, who had supplied information of Oropher's war strategy to the Dark Forces. Oropher and his sons, along with his army, had been ambushed even before they could reach their defense position.
It had been a great tragedy. Thranduil was lucky that he had survived. But he had lost his father and all his brothers that day. To hear his son sang that song was a painful reminder of the shadow that surrounded his realm and the Dark Forces that was heard re-arising from Mount Doom. He knew the days of the elves were closely coming to an end.
Still, he never lost hope that good would overpower the evil once more. The younger generation of elves would make sure of it. Legolas was the great example—so resilient for someone so young, so passionate for someone so gentle, and so regal for someone so beautiful.
And Keldarion, his heir. The crown prince of Mirkwood. The ever protector of his younger brother. The elder prince already had the credibility to be king. He was smart, sharp, a great warrior with the highest skill, and—most importantly—very strong at heart.
Thranduil would not have to worry when the time came for him to sail over the sea. His two sons would keep the goodness above all others. The realm would be in very capable hands until they joined him in the Undying Lands.
It took Thranduil a few moments to realize that Legolas had stopped singing. The crowd was very quiet but the echo of Legolas' magnificent voice could still be heard whistle by the wind above their heads. One by one, the elves got to their feet and gave Legolas the biggest applause ever.
"Excellent, my prince! Excellent!"
"Magnificent, Prince Legolas! Totally magnificent!"
Legolas was blushing as he received the standing ovation. He shyly walked back towards his seat beside his brother. Keldarion was grinning at him.
"That was…hmm…heart wrenching, dear brother. Care to sing us another?"
"In your dream!" Legolas growled as he pushed his brother away. Then he became aware of his father's eyes on him.
"That was wonderful, my son. I'm so proud of you," Thranduil said.
Legolas blushed even redder. "All I did was sing."
"Sing? From the way your voice sounded just now, I couldn't help but imagine you wielding a sword, fighting with the enemy! It was very powerful, Legolas," Gandalf also commented.
Legolas' face was almost purple in embarrassment now.
Keldarion laughed out loud. "I think we had better stop before his face explodes! He looks like a ripe tomato!"
Thranduil and Gandalf also laughed. Legolas grinned sheepishly before a mischievous glint appeared in his silver eyes. He stood up suddenly and announced, "My brother, Prince Keldarion, is pleased to sing to us 'The Maiden'!"
Keldarion blanched and stopped laughing instantly. "What?!"
"The Maiden," Legolas answered, intentionally misunderstanding his brother, his face the expression of total innocence. The guests were already crying out for Keldarion to come forward. Like what happened to Legolas before, several elves were dragging the crown prince to his feet.
"Why you…!" Keldarion made a grab for his brother but Legolas managed to dodge him.
"That was nasty, Legolas," said Thranduil, chuckling. Legolas only laughed, clapping his hands with glee, as Keldarion was left in the middle of the gathering. The crown prince just shrugged.
"As my dear brother had announced, I give to you, 'The Maiden'," Keldarion stated, and flirtatiously winked at the blushing elf-maidens nearby. With his soft velvety voice, he started to sing,
The maiden, she's so fine,
She has drunk a lot of wine,
She dreams of flying in the sky.
Then comes a naughty prince,
Who kicks her pretty shin,
She wakes up and pokes him in the eye!
The maiden, she's so fine,
So beautiful, her heart so kind,
They all love her, yes they do.
But the prince does not agree,
He thinks she's dumb like the trunk of a tree,
So she grabs a club and hits his toe!
The crowd had exploded into wild laughter as Keldarion kept on singing. It was a very humorous song indeed. Keldarion had changed some of the verses spontaneously. Originally, the romantic song was about a prince's infatuation with a maiden, but the crown prince had turned it into something absolutely hilarious, much to the elves' delight.
Hence, the joyful celebration went on throughout the night.
It was midnight. The full moon was directly above, surrounded by the stars. The guests started to take leave. Before they left, the Mirkwood elves met the royal family to bid them good night and offered their gratitude for the grand feast.
Legolas and Keldarion were laughing at one corner with several young elves. Obviously they were still discussing Keldarion's famous version of 'The Maiden'.
Legolas suddenly stopped laughing. He abruptly grabbed the back of his neck, crying out in pain. Then his eyes rolled as he slumped backward.
Keldarion was startled but he managed to catch his brother before he hit the ground. Cradling Legolas' limp form in his arms, the elder prince called urgently, "Legolas? Come on, wake up! What's wrong with you? Legolas!"