Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, places, events, and concepts are the property of the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate.
Author's Notes: Hi all! This story follows both "The Light of Sons" and "Ardent Shine the Stars". To be able to fully appreciate any references and to know the characters well, you should read both of those fics first. However, if you feel that you must read this one right now, you might be able to hack your way through if you read Chapters 2 & 4 of "Light" and Chapter 7 of "Ardent".
Rated for possible angst.
For those interested, this directly follows the end of "Ardent", meaning that Legolas is still about 6 years-old (human equiv.). His older brother is a good 200 years his senior, making him a fairly young adult, compared to other adult Elves.
Comments and questions are more than welcome!
Responses to reviews will appear with the next post.
The next update will probably be in a week or so.
Moonlight filtered through the leaves of oaks and beeches, creating shadow-broken patterns on the forest floor below. The trees of King Thranduil's gardens were not as thick as those in the further areas of the forest, and it was a good time for a leisurely walk in the cool of the evening. The king's older son was strolling home just now, his steps a little shorter than usual, his mind deep in thought.
It was good to walk among these trees when one's mind was clouded with wisps of thoughts that blew softly away before they could be seriously dwelled upon. The trees' voices were mumbling calmness, rather like a soothing and repeated melody played slowly on the strings of a harp. Aldandil smiled, staring at the shards of a pale moon through branches bursting with the green leaves of early summer. Yes, these trees had developed their comforting abilities expertly. Perhaps it was from long years of stilling his father's troubled heart, and his grandfather's before him.
The shift of a few small fingers in the young Elf's light grasp steered his thoughts in a more focused direction. He glanced down at his younger brother, returning the Elfling's smile. This did not seem to be an evening for tosses in the air or tickling on the ground, but for walking silently…for pondering something that this very child had said only a moment ago.
They had stumbled upon a butterfly early this morning…not a butterfly, exactly, but its chrysalis.
"Look," Aldandil had sat cross-legged on the ground, allowing his younger brother to settle onto his lap. He pointed to the splitting shell, "It will be coming out soon. See? You can already see its' wings through the chrysalis."
"How long has it been in there?" Legolas eyed the bright wings through the shiny coat.
Aldandil took a long look at the case, trying to determine what species of butterfly this might be, "Several years, I think. Most break out after only a few weeks, or one winter, but this kind is special."
Legolas had widened his eyes slightly, a little surprised, "Why?"
"It just takes longer," Aldandil scrutinized the gwilwileth now. Its head had just dropped from the sheath, and it appeared to be struggling inside.
"Is something wrong with it?" Legolas leaned closer to the twitching cocoon, his expression worried.
"Nothing is wrong with it," Aldandil responded evenly, though it was somewhat difficult to watch the small insect wriggle and squirm.
"But it can't get out! Shouldn't we help it?" Legolas refrained from touching the shifting chrysalis, but his concern was quite obvious.
Aldandil was quiet, looking at his younger brother's compassionate look. "We can't," he finally said, meeting the child's confused expression, "A gwilwileth must struggle like this so that everything turns out right. If we helped it, it would never learn to be strong enough to pump out its wings. If it could not do that, then it would never be able to fly."
"Pump out its wings?" Legolas stared into his older brother's face.
"Just watch. See, it is coming out now." The insect slipped out, clinging to its split chrysalis. It took a few carefully placed steps, hanging itself wearily.
"There is something wrong with it," Legolas sounded disappointed, and nearly worried, "Its wings are too small. Look, they're all crumpled! It can't fly like that."
And so they waited. After half an hour of nothing, his younger brother grew restless, ready to give up. Aldandil held him in his spot, "Be patient."
"How long will it take?"
"Maybe a few hours," Aldandil grinned at the Elfling's shocked response, "Maybe even overnight. It needs to rest. Coming out is hard work."
"This is a very slow gwilwileth," the child complained, "Are you sure it's all right?"
"It is fine," Aldandil responded, "As soon as it is ready, it will fly away like any other gwilwileth."
"Will it fly as high as the others?" Legolas seemed intent on getting an answer to this particular question.
"Yes," Aldandil nodded, watching as the insect fanned its wings slightly, "Just as high."
They sat there all morning, and when they returned after lunch, the insect was still there.
"Look carefully," Aldandil pointed, "Its wings are not so little anymore. It is pumping blood into them, to make them strong."
His brother was quiet then, silently watching the slow beatings of the brightly colored wings. Aldandil began a long tale in anticipation of a lengthy wait, launching into the exploits of an adventurous warrior. When the watered-down battles shifted into the hero's return to peaceful gardens and a welcoming home, Legolas had already slipped into a quiet sleep.
Aldandil had returned his focus to the resting butterfly, its wide wings now spread over its back, hardening and drying for flight. So much work for the same privileges of the rest of its kind...nothing less, nothing more. How could one gwilwileth slip out of a cocoon and dart away only hours later, when those like this one had to stretch the wait?
The sky had grown dark, and dinner was long past. The light of stars began to poke through night's dark blanket over the sky. Aldandil shook his brother's shoulder softly, whispering, "Look. It is ready now."
"It's so late," his brother returned, glancing at the sky.
"But it is ready, nonetheless," Aldandil smiled, somewhat proud of the small insect. His faith in it had proved sure, and the bright butterfly sprang up in flight, testing its now ready wings. It dipped slightly, learning quickly, and lighted on a new branch for night's sleep.
Legolas watched the short flight carefully, allowing his brother to lift him in order to obtain one last look at the insect that he had watched for the better part of the day. Aldandil marked the child's final interested look, setting him on the ground. He took the Elfling's hand, ready to lead him home. There would be a fast meal, and then Naneth would splash the child in and out of the bath, hurry him into clean nightclothes, and fold him between the light sheets of his bed.
It was then that Legolas chose to speak, to send his older brother's mind into a flurry of comparisons and questions. The Elfling not even looked at him with one of his usual complicated expressions, but had mentioned the thing quietly, as though he were only reflecting.
"I'm like that gwilwileth."