The final stage of the journey to Mirkwood was a pleasant one. Aragorn rode Legolas' horse, with Legolas perched in front of him, having to endure Aragorn's teasing. Legolas was now certain that the only reason Aragorn had pronounced him unfit to ride on his own was so that he could laugh at him. Emerin rode beside them, with Lenna in front of him. The little girl pestered them with questions about 'nelfs' and Legolas' home. The other elves in the party glared at her for her insolence, but said nothing, seeing the fondness their prince had for her.

They had decided on the second night, once Lenna had finally been convinced to go to sleep, that she should stay with Emerin until they could find out where her mother was. Emerin was fond of the child, and had a daughter at home for Lenna to squabble with. Much as he liked her, Legolas knew that a human child wouldn't be welcome in Mirkwood.

The only major incident on the return journey was when Aragorn asked if he could have his sword back. Tamil made a comment about not seeing why he would want it, since it was broken and useless.

"Broken?" Legolas asked, "Broken? You took us back to the slave market and put all our lives at risk for the sake of a broken sword?"

"It belonged to my father," Aragorn said, as though it was perfectly reasonable. Legolas was sorely tempted to hit the arrogant human. Hard. He only managed to restrain himself because Aragorn was the closest they had to a healer with them, and his side was still painful. Legolas didn't think beating him to a pulp and then asking for a change of bandages would be well received.

"Are you completely insane?" Legolas demanded.

"Lord Elrond sometimes claims I am," Aragorn responded calmly. Legolas' self-control was fraying rapidly, and was only saved by an innocent inquiry.

"Where's sane?"

Their arrival in Mirkwood was mixture of relief and welcome (in Legolas' case) and suspicion and anger (in Aragorn's case). Legolas was struggling to convince his father that he was fine, that Aragorn hadn't been the one selling him into slavery, that he didn't need immediate treatment by the healers because he was fine, that the humans shouldn't be locked away in the dungeon and that HE WAS FINE!

Aragorn muttered something under his breath that Legolas was glad he didn't properly because he had a feeling that if he had he'd have had to kill the human for it.

Legolas had finally managed to make his father understand he should be thanking Aragorn not executing him, though he was still struggling with making him understand he was fine, when two horses rode up to the palace from the other direction.

Legolas recognised the identical elves who were riding them. They dismounted simultaneously and bowed low before King Thranduil, before turning to Aragorn.

"In trouble again, Aragorn?" one of them asked.

"Actually, this time I was the one getting others out of trouble," Aragorn responded. One of the new arrivals went to the king.

"As you asked, your majesty, we can confirm that the human with your son is indeed an elf-friend, fostered to Lord Elrond." It was a shame they couldn't have arrived ten minutes earlier, Legolas decided, he wouldn't have had to talk himself hoarse convincing his father of the very same thing.

King Thranduil turned to one of the guards, "Have the other human released from the dungeons."

"If the other human in Halbarad," the second of Lord Elrond's son's said, "it might be better to leave him there. His brother's looking for him."


Lenna behaved herself perfectly at her first royal banquet, probably due to the hour Aragorn, Legolas and Emerin had spent with her, telling her not to ask impertinent questions of the king. Elladan and Elrohir had just laughed at their struggles, refusing to offer any assistance. They probably felt it would be funny if she acted improperly. Legolas was beginning to feel Aragorn had been right in describing them as twin demons.

Lenna asked something incomprehensible, and Aragorn was forced to reach out and take her thumb from her mouth. "Is he nasty?" she asked again.

"No," Legolas said, "but he's important. And little girls shouldn't ask important people questions. Little girls should remember the questions and ask Leggy later." Lenna nodded, and stuck her thumb back into her mouth.

An exasperated Aragorn removed it.

Elrohir and Elladan had been delighted to hear about Legolas' new name, and were teasing Aragorn about his.

"I wonder if Agorn will grow into an oag tree," one of them whispered to the other, just loudly enough to be overheard.

Apparently when King Thranduil had received Aragorn's letter he'd sent a message to Rivendell, asking if they could confirm the fact that there was a human fostered there. The twins had decided they might be needed to get Aragorn out of whatever trouble he'd found this time and so had come themselves. They might have missed the adventure, but they were perfectly happy to enjoy the party.

Legolas, on the other hand, didn't enjoy the banquet that his father had thrown in celebration of his safe return, but he endured it with princely dignity. Elrohir and Elladan sat either side of Lenna, talking cheerfully and generally behaving as though they were all children.

Aragorn made polite conversation with the king and the elvish nobles, having grown up doing the like in Rivendell. Halbarad had been released and was listening intently as Aragorn described the adventure. Nothing went wrong, and the king seemed pleased with Aragorn, but Legolas was still pleased when it was over.

Legolas was showing the guests to their rooms, simply so that he could speak to Aragorn. Emerin and Lenna were settled in the room that they were to share, since Lenna wasn't considered old enough to be left alone and Legolas didn't dare ask his father if he could take care of her. The others had continued on when Legolas asked Aragorn again, "Who was that man? Ackeran?"

"Ackeran?" Elrohir, at least Legolas thought it was Elrohir, asked in shock.

"He tried to drive me to kill him," Aragorn replied quietly, "He wanted to die by my hand, because he blamed himself for my father's death."

"He betrayed your father," Elladan said angrily.

"Not intentionally. He wanted forgiveness seventeen years ago, but now he just wanted to die."

"Did you kill him?" one of the twins (Elrohir?) asked.

"No," Aragorn said, "but he knew that he might well be killed once they found out Legolas, Emerin and Lenna were missing. He accepted death as justice." There was sadness in his voice that Legolas' didn't quite understand. If this human was really to blame for Aragorn's father's death, why should Aragorn be sad about such a fitting punishment?

"He was kind to me when I was a child," Aragorn went on, "because he thought that by caring for me he might earn some measure of forgiveness. When you took me home, he lost that hope."

"I will not feel pity for that man," one of the twins said.

"Then don't, but you will not stop me feeling it." By this time they had reached Aragorn's room and he went inside, closing the door pointedly in their faces.

"Who was his father?" Legolas asked, once they were out of earshot of Aragorn's room.

"His father was Arathorn."

Legolas might not know much about humans, but he knew that name. "Aragorn is Isulder's heir?"

"And the keeper of the Sword that was Broken."

Well, that explained some things, but Legolas had had no idea he was in the debt of someone who's lineage was as proud as Legolas'.

"You shouldn't underestimate him," Elrohir said, "He's a lot more than he seems."

The End

Author's note: I thought I probably ought to mention what had happened to Halbarad.

Thank you to everyone who's reviewed at any stage in this story. I LOVE YOU ALL!!!

Coming soon to a computer screen near you. . . some more random wanderings of thought processes created by my subconscious to prevent me doing my homework.