Disclaimer: not mine, Tolkien's, bless him.

Author's note: written for the Henneth Annun on-list Friday 13th challenge; to write a superstition. I believe this is the first thing I've written concentrating on Legolas and Elves - astonishingly. The superstition (my own invention) involves firing an arrow into the trees as the Mirkwood Elves leave the forest. If the arrow holds in the branches, the Elf will return home. If it falls, then the return is in doubt. Mirkwood will not be "home" any longer.

THE PARTING ARROW

"You have little time to spare," Thranduil said, passing him a bundle of arrows. "I would not have Mithrandir say that we failed in our guard."

"I will make all haste," Legolas replied, pushing the arrows into the top of his pack and tying it closed. "Keep good watch, my lord." He put the pack on and made sure his quiver and bow were easy to reach. "Shall I send word once we reach Imladris?"

Thranduil shook his head, as they left the chamber together and started up towards the gate of the halls. "No. You will be back, soon, I pray."

Legolas smiled briefly, and fell silent.

The horses were already waiting, Legolas's own grey and two others from the small Mirkwood stables. Two green-clad Elves waited also, and they bowed as the King arrived.

"Is all ready?" asked Thranduil.

"Aye, my lord," one of the Elves said.

Thranduil turned to face his son. "Ride well, and may you soon return to the leaves that await you."

"Be well, and tell the trees I will not be long," Legolas replied, as custom dictated. His father embraced him briefly.

"Go, then."

Legolas bowed, and mounted his horse. "To Imladris!" he said, and they were off. He glanced behind him briefly and saw his father standing with a hand raised in parting.

They made good time through the forest, following well-known paths. None of the three said much, their minds occupied with memories of the past few turbulent days. The news, first of the creature Gollum's refusal to descend from his perch, then of the attack by Orcs, and finally, of the escape of their captive and the deaths of several guards, had struck the very heart of Mirkwood. Thranduil had spent hours alone in silent thought, even as the dead guards were prepared for their journey to Mandos.

As the Sun began her journey across the skies, and the ashes were dissipating in the breeze, the King had emerged from his rooms and ordered that three would ride immediately to Imladris. News of Gollum's escape had to reach Elrond Peredhel, and through him, Mithrandir. And such was the gravity of the situation that Thranduil was sending his son and heir on the perilous journey, accompanied by two of Mirkwood's best archers. Legolas had packed a few belongings and the horses had been prepared within an hour of the decision; a map had been found showing the High Pass over the Hithaeglir; and now they were on their way.

Night fell, and the three rode on, needing no light for this part of the journey. Around them the trees rustled murmurs of discontent, feeling the haste of the travellers and the tension in the air.

Legolas wrapped his cloak a little tighter around his body, and urged his horse into a canter. The unease of the forest was far from comforting, and for once he longed to be out in the open.

They rode through the night, and came out from under the eaves of Mirkwood at dawn. Now, for the first time, they paused. No word was spoken. Legolas dismounted and, taking his bow from his back, strung it quickly. He chose an arrow, checking the feathers and the sharpened tip before nocking and drawing, aiming at the topmost branches of the highest tree on the edge of the forest.

He shot. The arrow flew silently through the air, and the three watched its progress; watched it touch the branch, shudder, and then instead of holding fall slowly through the leaves. It should have caught on a lower branch, trapped in a net of twigs, but somehow it found a way through and finally landed point down in the ground at the base of the tree.

Legolas crossed to pick the arrow up, and replaced it in his quiver. He mounted, and silently they continued the journey. Only once did Legolas look back at his home, wondering what the future had in store for him. The parting arrow had always held before, secure in the tree, a sign that he would return. Never before had he known it fall to the ground, and with that fall, his own certainty had faded. In its place was anticipation, and fear. Legolas knew that the journey ahead would be quite unlike any journey he had ever undertaken before.

He turned his face towards the Hithaeglir ahead of them, bidding a silent farewell to Mirkwood, and the past.