PRINCES OF MIRKWOOD

Chapter 1 – Promises From Sons

King Thranduil of the forest realm of Mirkwood sighed deeply, and not for the first time. This was not turning out to be a good day for the ancient king. Massaging his temples with long, pale fingers he spoke quietly to his beloved wife, who was sitting by his side in a silky, flowing dress covered with swirls of embroidery.

"Remind me again why I am doing this," he muttered, his voice tense. The tips of his fingers continued to make small circles over his temples.

His wife, in the style of her husband, sighed. She gently rested a dainty hand on his shoulder, underneath the waves of polished golden hair, and gave him a small kiss on the cheek.

"You are doing this, as you put it, because we want a link with Imladris and Lord Elrond. You are doing this because we need more allies, quite desperately, as it happens. You are doing this because you want your sons to see how other highborn Elven children behave. That more than anything, I think," she wrapped her arms around her beloved husbands shoulders.

"I know, Imlammthien, I know. You don't need to tell me again," Thranduil pushed his heavy chair back and stood up, beginning to pace restlessly. The long, dark green robes he wore flowed around him regally, trailing slightly along the stone floor. Imlammthien let her hands drop to her knees and watched him for a moment.

"So why did you ask?"

"I suppose it was because I still can not quite get over my two youngest sons behaving like common children, running hither and thither causing as much trouble as they like, without even a 'by your leave'," the pacing continued, as it often did when the king was worried. The sound of footsteps on stone settled in to a regular beat.

"Thellind gets in to just as much mischief as either Nilwethion or Legolas."

"Only because he is always dragged in to it by his miscreant brothers!"

Queen Imlammthien smothered a giggle, covering her mouth with a small, white handkerchief. She turned away as Thranduil gave her a sidelong look and paused in his strides.

"I see no joke in our children behaving like wild animals!" The strides had now continued, and Thranduil had his hands clasped firmly behind him back.

The gentle queen let out a snort of laughter. She turned back to the great Elven lord, gazing at him in the way that only a wife can, her face lit up with a merry mirth. Her cheeks glowed a healthy, rosy colour in the flickering candlelight that lit up the large chamber.

"Oh but some of it is quite funny, you must admit. Do you remember when they set up that bucket of water over our bedroom door, and one of your captains opened it, and got soaked through? Oh, he was chasing after the three of them for hours, red in the face, as they were trying to run and laugh at the same time! You cannot say you did not find that funny. I know full well you were trying very hard not to laugh when we did finally catch them," she began laughing in to her hand again, her delicate shoulders shaking as she did so. Black hair fell over them, hiding her face. A smile crept across King Thranduil's own face at the memory.

"Yes, I must admit that was funny. However, they are princes, and princes of Mirkwood. There is a standard to be held. Why can they not try to be more like their brothers? At least they must be civil when Lord Elrond and his children get here. What would they think of us if they knew the truth? Any hope of allegiance with Imladris would be destroyed in an instant!" again, the king sighed and slumped back down in to his seat. He stared at the grey stone wall opposite blankly.

The queen finally stopped laughing, becoming serious once more as her husband did.

"I know how much this means to you. I'll go and have a word with them,"

Queen Imlammthien rose from the ornately carved table and glided smoothly towards the door as only an Elf can, her dark blue dress and cloak flowing out behind her. Just as she rested a white hand on the doorknob and turned it, Thranduil called out to her.

"Imlammthien?"

"Yes my darling?"

"Perhaps I should speak to them. I want a word with all of them anyway. Could you tell one of the servants to bring them in please?"

Imlammthien nodded.

"Shall I fetch Calensil also?"

King Thranduil nodded sagely.

"It would do her good to know what she may and may not do in such company as this. I fear her brothers are having too much bad influence on her,"

The queen nodded and left, shutting the great wooden door silently behind her.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Lord Elrond of Imladris and about forty elves from his household were travelling through the deep, dark depths of the gigantic Mirkwood to see the royal family, apparently because both sides needed more allies. All around him, the ancient branches of the forest twisted together in an almost threatening manner. Every so often, a pair of unsavoury eyes flickered in the light of the torches.

He sighed softly as he watched the dark trees pass by like an army of shadows from where he was seated on his proud white horse, listening to the rustling of the dark leaves and the occasional twitter of a black squirrel. This was sure to be a disaster. The lord could feel it in his bones somehow, like a promotion.

"What is it father?" asked Elladan, one of his identical, dark haired sons. Elrond frowned. He had not noticed the twins come up on either side of him. That should really be a good thing, he thought, because it mean they were improving the vital skills needed to survive in this world. It was also a bad thing however, because it meant that one could never be sure if they were behind you, planning to play their next trick and then run away laughing.

"I have been thinking," he began slowly. The twins blanched meaningfully, as if this was a bad thing. Again, Elrond glowered at them.

"I have been thinking," he repeated, slightly louder, and in a sterner tone of voice, "That it may not have been a good idea to bring you two. I should have sent you to stay with your grandmother in Lothlorien,"

The twins gasped, and looked shocked. Elladan drew back his hood and gave Elrond a very hurt look, tucking a stray strand of his long, black hair behind his pointed ear.

"You did not really mean that did you Adar?"

"Actually, I did. You are always causing trouble, after all. You could ruin everything with your tricks and pranks and practical jokes,"

The Lord of Imladris noticed the look of mirth that passed between his two sons, although they seemed to think that he had missed it. He wondered vaguely what made offspring think that their parents were blind, or incredibly blind or stupid.

"Naneth!" called Elrohir suddenly, "Naneth, Adar wants to send us to Lothlorien with Arwen!"

A beautiful Elven woman on a white palfrey, almost exactly the same as the one Elrond was riding, cantered up. A white cloak covered her head and face. From under the hood came a peaceful tutting sound.

"You are a terrible liar, Elrohir. I am quite sure your ada would never say that,"

"He did Naneth, I am not lying!" Elrohir flushed red with indignation at the unfair accusation. His jaw stuck out and he tossed his fair head in the manner of one wronged.

"He is not, Naneth, honestly!" Elladan came in, as always, to the aid of his beloved twin.

The double act did not impress either parent, as it had been used far too many times, and nothing about the twins had ever changed. It was almost as if neither of them had ever grown up, but had only improved their skill with weapons. Weapons were the only thing that they ever took seriously.

"Actually, I said that I wish I had sent them to Lothlorien with their little sister. At least there they would be out of harms way,"

An identical cheeky grin passed across the faces of the twins. This time they did not even try to hide it as they had done previously. They had, after all, just proved themselves to be innocent.

"I thought you knew us better than that Adar. We are harms way, after all," sniggered one of the twins with a cheeky grin. The flash of white teeth in the dark gloom shone brightly like a star in the sky, only stars do not play pranks.

"Oh Ada, do not send us back, please. Think about it. This trip could be a great benefit to us. We could . . . we might . . . the royal children may rub off on us, and we may become well behaved, stuck up, arrogant creatures like them,"

Their father drew in his breath sharply and his nostrils flared and lost all their colour.

"Do not dare refer to the princes and princess of Mirkwood like that again, do you understand me? If you do I will send you strait back home and will send a message not to allow you out of your rooms until your mother and I return. SEPARATE rooms," he hissed at them.

The two young elves hung their heads, able to tell when they had pushed their luck too far, and terrified of being separated. They never separated by choice, after all.

"Sorry Ada," muttered Elladan

"Sorry Ada," muttered Elrohir, at the same time

"I want a promise from you both not to say anything foolish or insulting like that again whilst we are in Mirkwood. You will promise not to play any jokes or tricks on anybody. Not even from Imladris. You will promise to be under your best behaviour. Promise me. Promise your mother," growled Elrond. He nodded grimly as the twins repeated 'we promise Ada' quietly. He watched them drop back, and turned to his wife.

"By Elbereth, they had better keep those promises,"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Five of the royal children of Mirkwood were sat around a large oak table silently, watching their parents in something that could be called interest. Their parents were staring back at them solemnly. If the queen was solemn, the inhabitants of Mirkwood knew there was something very important either happening, or about to happen. The three youngest princes were uneasily exchanging glances and fiddling with the cuffs of their sleeves, shifting in their seats uncomfortably.

"Where are Oroweth and Astaler?" asked Imlammthien after a few moments of silence.

"They have not long returned from the skirmish with the orcs, Nana," replied the fourth prince, a smooth faced Elf with long, brown hair pulled back behind his ears to keep it from aggravating him, twisted in to a few small plaits. "They will not be long."

"They should be here by now, surely,"

The prince shrugged in an elegant way, and the green tunic he was wearing failed to crumple. The youngest prince glared momentarily, but then his eyes met with those of his father and he looked away.

"They will be here any moment. It will not take long, Naneth."

"Then we shall wait for them,"

The silence continued again, unbroken. At last the youngest prince leaned over to his closest brother. On his knee sat his sister, seemingly not paying any attention, but fiddling with a small piece of lace in her hands. She was unravelling, finding amusement in the destruction of the pretty object, as young children do.

"Nilwethion," he whispered nervously, "Do you think they know?"

"Do not be a fool Legolas, they can't know. Shut up before they hear you," the youth did not seem entirely convinced by his own words, however, and bit his fear. Both of them seemed to have the sinking feeling that all wayward children have when in trouble.

"But . . ."

"Hush!"

Prince Legolas leaned back in to his seat, avoiding meeting the stern eyes of his father. He did not notice his sister playing idly with his hair, having lost interest in the lace, until she tugged on a newly created knot. He let out a small 'ow' and pulled his hair away from her dainty fingers, sticky with something she had been eating, creating an even larger knot. The little princess giggled.

As the king opened his mouth to say something reprimanding, the door burst open revealing two travel worn princes, their clothes bloodstained but, at least, not ripped as they would have been had Legolas or Nilwethion been wearing them. The royal couple blanched openly.

"Oroweth, Astaler, must you make an entrance? You are as bad as your younger brothers sometimes,"

The two princes choose not to hear the remark, or at least not to dignify it with an answer, and sat down in their seats around the large table.

"Is this about the, um, thing, ada?" asked Nilwethion tentatively just as Thranduil was about to open his mouth to say something.

"The guests from Imladris, yes. That is, I take it, what you were referring to?" the king fixed his son with a questioning look, as if he knew that some trick or other had been recently played. Legolas suspected that his parent could smell fear, but this suspicion had never been proved.

"Err, yes, of course. What else could I possibly mean?" the prince's voice was a little shaky, but full of relief. His brothers, or at least two of them, also sighed with relief, and exchanged thankful glances. Thranduil's eyes narrowed.

"What else DO you mean, Nilwethion? Legolas? Is there something you want to tell me?"

"No father, really there isn't," Legolas spoke, his voice slightly higher than any of his brothers, but perhaps due to rising fear and not his more youthful age.

The eyebrow rose, as paternal eyebrows so often do when they suspect something. In the case of Thranduil, this was most of the time, as his sons were so often guilty of something.

"There will be trouble when I find out what you are not telling me, little Nilwethion. Now that we are all here, we may begin," He began to drone on about behaviour of princes, and how they must act as though they were well brought up and respectful. The three brothers looked at each other.

"Close one," mouthed Legolas. The other two gave faint nods, their skin having paled subtly since they had entered the room. The flicker of torchlight highlighted the light of fear crossed with relief in Legolas' eyes. They turned their attention back to their father just in time to hear him say, "Promise me, otherwise there will be trouble,"

The four children who had been paying attention said loudly, "We promise Ada, we promise Naneth,"

"We promise Ada, we promise Naneth," repeated the three others, quickly, wondering what it was they were promising to.

"Good, good. Now, Legolas, what is it you are promising to?"

Legolas felt himself burning up, pinned down. Caught like a fish in a net. He did not have a clue what the promise was, having not heard any of the lecture, but he heard his sister whispering in low tones, "To be on your best behaviour when the guests arrive,"

"Um, to be on our best behaviour, um, when the guests arrive?"

The king glared, annoyed that he had not managed to catch his son red handed, but Legolas noticed his mother smiling at him with what he suspected was pride as well as love.

"You are lucky to have your sister on your lap to tell you what you have promised to, little Greenleaf. Perhaps next time you had better try listening,"

"Yes Adar," he muttered, apologetically

"Thellind, Nilwethion, that goes to you too,"

"Yes Ada,"

"Yes Ada,"

"Now off you go. The guests should be arriving sometime this evening. Oroweth, Astaler, please get changed quickly; we do not want them to think that we are about to be overrun with a full scale war on our doorstep. Understand?"

The princes nodded, grateful to be let free and ran for the door, the small Calensil insisting to be carried by Nilwethion.

"One more thing," called Imlammthien. Her children paused and turned around, "Please do not go running off in the forest, and do not under any circumstances go playing tricks on the lords and ladies from Imladris, and do not run everywhere like you usually do. Please act like the fully grown and mature adults that you are...except you, Calensil, but I still expect you to be on your best behaviour anyway," she dismissed her children with a smile, as one who knows that their word will be listened to and respected.

She was greeted by a chorus of 'yes Naneth' and her children all disappeared through the door. The couple sat back in their seats.

"Why do I get the feeling at least one of them is going to break their promise?" sighed Thranduil.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

A door slammed somewhere in the stone halls of the king of Mirkwood. On the other side, three princes and a princess checked to make sure nobody was listening, and then burst in to hysterics.

"Well behaved?" laughed Nilwethion, "I will bet you anything they will all be a bunch of stuck up snobs!"

"Elrond and his sons will be the worst. Do you suppose those two half blood twins will truly be as snobbish as Lord Elrond made them seem in those letters he sent to Adar?" Thellind said thoughtfully

"Of course, brother. What reason would he have to lie about them, after all? Do you seriously mean to tell me that you think they will be at all like us?"

Thellind wrinkled his nose at the very thought of the idea. "Like us? Of course not. They are half bloods, and Noldorian, if I am not very much mistaken. How could they be at all like us? Legolas, you are keeping very quiet for once. What do you think?"

The young prince bowed gracefully but kept whatever thoughts he may have had inside his own, blonde head. He sat down on to the bed and picked up his giggling sister, tickling her mercilessly.

"I cannot believe we have to behave like Oroweth and Astaler and Nuryävié for three whole months! We must plan something very big for the second the Imladris guests leave."

"Really, really big!" giggled Calensil, speaking for the first time in her high pitched little voice, as soon as Legolas stopped tickling her to let her catch her breath "Big, big, big, big, big!"

"Big, big, big indeed," agreed Legolas, almost solemnly, but his eye twinkled

"May I be part of it this time, please?" she begged, "Oh please Legolas, can I? Please, please, please Legolas, please! Nilwethion? Thellind? Pretty please?" she had her brothers wrapped around her little finger. Using her sweet, doe eyed look on them sealed it instantly. She would be part of the plot.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*