General author's note: Welcome to The Worry Stone! Characters that are mine only include Lunian, Lenaith, Calmacil, Nalinalla, Silomern, and maybe one or two other random elves you may meet. It is a Legolas romance, but hopefully one with a few surprises. I DO NOT own or claim to create anything that could be familiar from any of Tolkien's works. I have based these on his world, and I admit it gladly.

On to the story.

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"I SHALL NOT!!!! THAT IS FINAL!!!"

Legolas winced as he heard a door slam from within the room the yelling was from. At least she had stopped screaming. And had gone out a different way than he and Aragorn were planning on entering through, so they didn't have to worry about avoiding her.

Aragorn chuckled and shook his head, moving slightly closer to Legolas's side. "It sounds like Lunian has heard what Elrond had planned for her."

"Lunian? His mortal charge?" Legolas asked softly. When Aragorn nodded he glanced back at the still closed door. "What was planned?"

"An engagement, with one of the Rangers." Aragorn shifted before smiling. "A distant cousin of mine, actually. Two or three times removed." He frowned slightly, trying to think up the exact relationship, but failed and shrugged it away.

"Surely she is not old enough to wed," Legolas murmured with a frown, his mind pulling up an image of a small girl with tousled dirty blond hair, torn, muddy leggings and laughing hazel eyes.

Aragorn laughed aloud, his eyes taking on a teasing grin. "My friend, she is old enough, which you yourself have noticed."

Legolas blinked and turned his eyes back to his friend. "What do you mean?"

"Lunian was the maiden who warned us off of the path last night."

Legolas's eyes widened as his mind tripped back in time to the evening before.

He and Aragorn were riding in through the mountain path, having met at its base from their separate directions, when a figure, hooded and cloaked, stopped them simply by standing in their path.

"My lords, the path is blocked. Lord Elrond wishes you be informed to take the higher path, despite it's possible dangers." She tilted her head back, letting the last rays of the sun linger lovingly on the skin made smooth and pale in the waning light.

"Thank you. Need you a ride back?"

Aragorn shifted in his saddle with a grin. "Don't spoil her fun, Legolas."

She laughed merrily. "It's going to be good to have you home, Estel," she informed him, before turning and fleeing quickly, the cloak flowing wildly behind her.

The two riders raced along the higher path, seeing several rocks tumbled over the path they would have taken, mingled with fallen trees. The maiden ran over the rocks and ducked under the trees before a bend in the path took her from view.

When their journey ended, Aragorn looked to one of his 'brothers,' who grinned and nodded. "She returned a short while ago," Elrohir assured him, getting a fond smile from Aragorn.

"That was Lunian?" Legolas asked, surprise lifting his brows. "Then she has…grown, since last I saw her." In fact, since he had been assuming her to be a she-elf, he had planned to seek her out, see if the slight stirring he felt when confronted by such a spirit would grow into something more with time.

Aragorn chuckled softly, watching the wind play in some trees just beyond where they were standing. Slowly, as neither said something, the humor in his eyes faded, replaced by a slow melancholy. "You must ignore it, Legolas. There is too much in the world to see for you to cut your life short. As Arwen does hers."

Legolas's head jerked to see Aragorn's face in the noon sun which managed to filter through the leaves above them. Slowly he smiled. "You know the elves too well, I think. You see that which is hidden to ourselves."

Aragorn shook his head. "I see only what I never shall know. It would be enough, Legolas, for me to simply watch the seasons change if I had eternity to do so. Love changes that."

"I have long watched the seasons change." So long the span of a childhood among men seemed as but a moment.

"I hope you shall enjoy them all, which will not happen if you proceed with the idea you were formulating when you did not know she was mortal."

"She is interesting, mortal or no." Legolas found himself slightly annoyed Aragorn could read him so easily on such a matter.

Aragorn sighed, closing his eyes. "Interesting, yes. But would you risk your life to know her?"

"If she is meant for me, I would rather die having truly loved her than to live the rest of time without knowing that love." Legolas shook his head at the uselessness of the conversation. He had hardly spoken to her, and Aragorn was warning him not to love her. "Why do you argue with me? You know well the hearts of elves." How they could be given in an instant or kept apart for all time.

Aragorn sighed again, one hand reaching idly to the pendant which still hung about his neck. "And I often wished someone had warned her away from me. Then she would be able to live forever, as she was meant to."

"Arwen has the wisdom of her years. It was her choice to follow her heart."

"Was it a wise one?"

Legolas frowned faintly for a moment, but was stopped from answering by the opening of the door to Elrond's study. He looked a little drawn, but greeted them cordially, apologizing for their wait. After gathering the normal news, they dismissed the formalities, arranging quickly for Elrond and his sons to visit Aragorn and Arwen in Gondor before too much time had passed.

Legolas delivered the message he had carried for his father, and asked one be sent back which would inform his father he would remain in Rivendell until his friends departed for Gondor, and if allowed, would accompany them there to see Arwen again. Soon he was free to do as he pleased, as their messages were dispatched to the east and south.

Which of course meant he went straight to the gardens. Such places in Mirkwood were few, and he always enjoyed the gardens of the other elven dwellings. They were so peaceful, serene. The other elves would give him his solitude, discretely avoiding him as he would avoid them.

So, needless to say, he was a bit perplexed to come upon someone pacing quickly back and forth before the small stream he had unconsciously headed towards. He started to back away, but she muttered something softly to herself, her hands clenched into fists as she spun around again.

"Milady?"

She whirled, the honey colored hair flying behind her as she faced him. She was breathing quickly, her eyes wide and startled. She put one hand to her throat, slowly closing her eyes as her cheeks flushed. "Do you need something, Prince Legolas?" she asked after a moment, opening her eyes.

Hazel eyes, he mused to himself, and a human voice. Though she spoke the language of the elves, her voice was naturally a bit harsher, abrupt compared to the tinkling rhythm of elven tongues, though still softer, more gentle than that of the humans he had encountered before, excluding Aragorn. The difference must have something to do with being bought up by elves. "I was going to ask why you were in such a state, but I believe I know, if you are indeed, as I believe you to be, Lunian."

"I am," she agreed with a sigh, the fingers of her left hand still closed as if over something as her right slowly tucked her hair behind her non-pointed ear. "Estel told you, am I right?" She sighed and rolled her eyes to the sky when he nodded slightly. "When will he learn there is a reason for silence?"

Legolas couldn't help but smile faintly. "You were not so silent not long ago."

Color swept over her cheeks again, and she lowered her eyes, before laughing ruefully. "Half of Rivendell probably heard me," she murmured softly, watching some of the water as it swirled over and around the smooth pebbles that could be clearly seen at the bottom of the stream.

"I doubt that, milady. I was standing at the door you did not escape from with Aragorn, and we heard little."

She smiled at him. "You're a terrible liar." She looked back at the water, slowly sinking down to sit one of the large stones that stood out from the bank to the water. She reached her fingers into the cool water, letting the water flow in rivulets past her. A soft sigh escaped her, and for a long moment she seemed to forget he was there, whispering to the water. "Why can't I just flow around all the obstacles thrown at me like you? Why must I endure toil and strife to simply enjoy my life? It shall be short enough without it being difficult. Why can't I simply enjoy it?"

He felt a bit uncomfortable just standing there, because they hadn't actually said anything to dismiss themselves from the conversation. "Everyone finds troubles at some time, milady." He spoke only when the silence stretched too long.

As she looked up, a flicker of gold seemed suspended in her eyes before she looked away. "Some more than others." She pulled her fingers from the water and pushed herself up from her slightly reclined position after flinging the droplets of silvery water back into the stream. "You know my name, Prince Legolas. You may use it." Slowly she got to her feet. "I am no elven lady who needs or wants a title."

He tilted his head at her, slowly smiling. "If I recall, you used to get a kick out of being called milady."

Her head turned sharply to see him, her eyes quickly searching his face. A slow smile tilted her lips and warmed her eyes. She laughed softly, disbelievingly, walking slowly towards him. "I had given up on you visiting again," she murmured softly, her eyes tracing his features. Being so close he could clearly pick up on small hints of gold in her mostly green eyes. "Why didn't I recognize you? You haven't changed."

"Perhaps that is why, Milady," he teased.

Her eyes darkened, her countenance becoming much less cheerful. "Perhaps." She shook her head and the cloud lifted, dispelled completely as she smiled again. "And what did I call you, I wonder? For I think I would remember being forced to get my mouth around such a name as Prince Legolas."

He chuckled softly, recalling indeed she had had trouble with many words at the time he had last seen her. "Egola, I believe it was."

"Egola, hmm? You did better than Elrohir. I nearly always called him something that sounded too close to horror, and for some reason he was unable to get me to correctly hear his name for quite a while." Delightedly rueful, she chuckled softly. "Elladan was Ladan. He didn't mind that nearly as much as Elrohir minded his."

His laughter touched the air again, combined with her smile to brighten the small glen that had seen a great sorrow in times past. "How old must you have been?"

A faint smile touched her lips for a moment. "Three or four, I believe. Still at that cute, entirely senseless stage when anyone will forgive you anything after a short while." She lowered her eyes away from his and sighed softly.

His ears wished for her laughter again, his eyes for the merry sparkle in hers. But they were gone, and it did not look like she felt like letting her spirit lighten again soon. "Elrond will not force you," he murmured, assuming her argument was the cause for her silence.

"He has tried already. He knew Estel would be coming to ask for them to visit, and planned to take me with him to wed and remain in Gondor." She returned to her rock, sitting upon one leg while drawing the other to her chest, her arms wrapped around it. She rested her head against her knee, watching the water swirl once more.

"Is it that you refuse, or the man?"

"Both. I have lived here in all my memory. As long as Lord Elrond remains, I wish to. Besides, my heart does not lie with any, so why should I marry? Why should I become a housewife when I do not wish to be a wife or a mother? I do not plan to ever do any of them."

"It is said the quickest cure for such sentiments is to fall in love."

She lifted her head and met his eyes for a long moment. "It is said," she agreed quietly. "But never by those who do not themselves know love."

"Everyone knows it, even if it does not know them."

A faint smile played across her lips for a moment, as she resisted retorting what he could see within her. She was not planning on loving anyone in such a way, either. "It is a shame I was so young the last time you visited. I would have very much enjoyed your company."

"You have it now." He shifted his weight, leaning back against a tree.

"And I am poor company for any save the murmuring brook, who hears all that is said but repeats nothing." She rested her chin on her knee once more, watching him for a moment. "How long shall you stay?"

"I hope to accompany the group to Gondor to see Arwen again."

"Known her long?"

"Most of her life, though we only met briefly through the years. She spent a few hundred years with her mother's people, but I had not traveled there until a few years past."

Her eyes searched his as if looking for something, before taking in the rest of him. She sighed softly and shook her head. "At one instant, I could see you to be no older than I. In the next it is obvious you are older than any mortal could ever be."

"Such is the way of elves," he murmured softly, frowning faintly.

"Yes," she agreed, "and it is no less disconcerting for knowing that, for having seen it, or even for having spent my entire life around it. As a leaf slowly grows in the spring, gathers light in the summer, then withers and falls in autumn, and is swept slowly away by the wind or water, I have changed. Though perhaps at the beginning of my summer, another score of years may see me at the end of it, or perhaps already in the stream, being carried out to sea." She shook her head. "You never shall know the same, for as you are you will always remain."

"I may never truly grow old, but I do not remain the same. Nothing does."

She lifted her eyes from watching a small leaf swirling beside the rock she was on. He could tell she'd been around elves all her life, for her eyes caught his, looking into him for a long moment. She frowned and dropped her distressed gaze. "I'm sorry," she whispered, seeming to sense the sorrow he held, the changes he had undergone that he would gladly be rid of if he could. Then she got up from her perch and once again ran from him, quick, graceful if not exactly silent bounds carrying her across the stream, using the small stones protruding from the silvery water.

He opened his mouth to call out to her, to stop her, but closed it again after his initial hesitation, dropping his hand to his side. She didn't want him to stop her, nor to follow. She wanted to be alone, as he had, when he started walking.

With a slight frown he realized he didn't so much want to be alone just then, so he retraced his steps until he was standing in the halls of Elrond's house, listening carefully for Aragorn or Elrohir. A soft chuckle escaped him.

"What's funny?"

He turned and saw Elrohir glance up at him from a book. He shook his head slightly. "I ran into Lunian in the gardens."

Elrohir grinned, the corners of his eyes crinkling as affection softened the slate blue. "Were her eyes still shooting flames?"

"For a while. Then she recognized me."

Elrohir lifted a brow. "I'm surprised. She was a small child when you were here last…well, when she was up and about at the same time."

"How did I miss her before?" he asked, pretty sure he would have noticed her despite the escape of Gollum and the threat of Sauron that had been looming over them the last time he visited. It had not been four years, though it often seemed like longer.

"She was very ill, confined to her chamber." Something in Elrohir's eyes betrayed there was more to it than a mere sickness. However, Legolas knew he would be told if it was felt important. Elrohir shook his head, clearing away the darkness. "To see her now, you'd never know it."

"No," Legolas agreed, smiling faintly. "I assume Elrond has given up the match?"

Elrohir frowned in displeasure. "Not entirely. He plans to take her to Gondor and introduce them. He thinks they will be a good match. How, considering he met the man once for a handful of seconds, I don't know. The meeting was not in the best of circumstances besides. Of course, his ideas in that department don't always go according to plan…"

A rueful smile tilted Legolas's lips as he thought about Aragorn. "Plans made in haste without forethought never bear sweet fruit."

"That saying should have been declared dead ages ago, Legolas. Sometimes the greatest things in life are what come unexpectedly, without warning." Elladan entered the room, biting into an apple.

Legolas thought about the hooded maiden that had appeared on the path before them without warning. "You may be right about that." Then he bowed his head slightly to them and took his leave.