Author: Mirrordance

Title: Return

Summary: Post-LOTR. Legolas always felt at odds with his home kingdom. Though it's King by birthright, he fled it, building a prosperous colony in Ithilien. Just when all seems well at last, great dangers in Mirkwood call for the return of THIS King home.

* * *

PART SEVENTEEN

* * *

      Thranduil had Torres brought forth from his quarters to the dungeons at the bowels of the palace-fortress.  The elf-leader carried a strange air of defeat and relief about him as he descended, that seemed to vanish the closer he came to the dependent eyes of his trusting people.  As he neared them, his stance straightened, his eyes regained its fire.  He knew he was being looked upon as a model, as a precursor of things to come, acts to be taken.  He no longer doubts that the attempted takeover of Eryn Lasgalen had been a grave mistake.  But his disappointment and hopelessness must not further dim the already battered spirits of his long-defeated people.

      ~Torres,~ Thranduil greeted him, and he stood mightily in front of Torres, flanked by his illustrious heir, his other son, the human King and that irresistible dwarf apart from other familiar faces.

      ~You've come to a decision,~ Torres guessed.

      ~I have,~ the King announced, and made his voice louder that the other prisoners may hear, ~I've decided to grant you all safe passage to the Undying Lands… where your hearts may find serenity at last.  Is this agreeable to you?~

      Torres glanced upon his people.  There was some confusion there, as if they were resigned to some other more dire fate.  And naturally, as his own heart felt, there was some hestitation to hold fast upon this meager offering of hope.

      ~Under what circumstances?~ Torres asked, his perceptive eyes narrowing.

      ~It is obvious I will not simply give you a ship and send you on your way,~ Thranduil stated plainly, ~The dangers of so reckless a course of action should be apparent, especially given the circumstances of your previous… misuse of freedoms once accorded.~

      ~Justly so,~ Torres replied evenly.

      ~I shall naturally have you escorted,~ said the King, ~by a group of my soldiers.  They will be lesser in number, which necessitates that you be incapacitated along the length of the journey.  Either in chains, or away in elven dreams.  The discomfort associated with the former are considerable.  You know I would recommend the latter.~

      ~Dreams?~ Torres asked, skeptical, ~Do you have some strange enchantments? You will understand the suspicion, will you not, my lord?~

      ~I do,~ conceded Thranduil, his years-hardened eyes glinting, ~But you should also remember that you are in no position to negotiate, argue, or indulge in your doubts.  At the same time… I know you see no point in all of my pretensions if I mean to kill you in the end.~

      Torres' brow quirked, ~Well-put.  Although the costs are high,~ he glanced at his people, ~I can ill-afford recklessness.~

      ~I shall give you a potion my own son once took,~ said Thranduil, ~It will keep you asleep for the duration of the trip.~

      ~I would rather see him take it again,~ Torres said.

      Legolas made a step forward and opened his mouth to volunteer, except Legardo placed a hand upon his older brother's shoulder and pushed past him instead. 

      ~I shall take it,~ Legardo said boldly, looking at his father, ~I mean to join them in Valinor anyways.~

      The only indication of the King's surprise was that his eyes widened, imperceptibly to the unknowing eye.  But Legolas saw it clearly, and he wanted to smack his younger brother deservedly over the head.  The King absolutely despised being caught off-guard. 

      Well, Legolas thought, resigned, We are brothers after all, and were very possibly put in this world to give headaches to an otherwise well-composed ada.  I know I've been doing my part…

      But the risks were high, and Thranduil would let Legardo do as he offered.  To deny him was to make the potion suspect.  The boy was set to leave and he will not be waylaid.  It was really rather cunning of him, to pick so opportune a moment that his formidable father was in no position to deny him.

      Andrada stepped forward, carrying a pair of vials.  She stood before Torres and Legardo.  The leader of the Forgotten Elves was released from his bonds at a subtle signal from the King, allowed to take the proffered vial into his own hands.

      He glanced at his vial suspiciously, and then at Legardo's.  They looked identical, yes, but what if his was poisoned…

      Haldir pushed his way forward, and stayed Legardo's hand as the elf-prince was only too eager to have a taste of his freedom.  Coolly, the Lothlorien soldier reclaimed both vials, switched them around and around until no one could keep track of which was which, and handed one to Torres and the other to Legardo.

      Legolas' and Aragorn's eyes met, regarding the practicality as hideously typical, as Haldir stepped back beside them.

      ~Well,~ Legardo breathed, looking at the glorious liquid, and then looking at his father, ~Thank you for the chance,~ he said quietly, the chance to leave… ~I shall see you there, ada.~

      He raised the vial, as if in salute to Torres, before he downed it in a gulp.  Legolas, knowing the results would be quick, stepped up behind his brother and caught him as he sank to the ground.

      ~That was very clever,~ he murmured gently to Legardo's ear, ~Now you leave me to explain to ada.~

      ~Didn't we decide long ago that it was I who had the cunning, brother?~ Legardo said weakly, as his eyes drifted close, ~I'm sorry, Legolas.  I shall see you there too, if you stay out of trouble long enough to survive…~

      Legolas' lips quirked into a smile, as his brother drifted into his deep sleep.  He looked up at Torres expectantly.

      Torres watched the exchange with a wistful expression on his face.  What could he say, really? The younger elf before him was one of the greatest he had ever met in his life.  He had a curious fire, as if his life was so short it was inexhaustible.  From Legolas did he receive the first shafts of hope and infinite possibility in his life. 

      A salute to you, he thought, not so much finding the humility to say it aloud.  He raised up his glass in a wry toast at the prince, and he downed it in a gulp.  The guards behind him caught him cleanly.

      Thranduil looked upon the Forgotten Elves watching quietly in their cells. 

      ~Does this satisfy you?~ he asked, his eyes resting particularly upon Yasmina, who looked bedraggled and manic in a cell of her own, apart from the rest of her kin.  She was kneeling upon the ground and clutching at the bars, looking at her husband's resting, quiet face, almost enviably.

      ~I think,~ she said quietly, ~I think it might.~

* * *

      Aragorn caught his old friend in his quarters, packing his things.  The human King stood against the door, watching Legolas wordlessly.  He knew the elf knew he was there, but Legolas said nothing, as if prompting him to break the silence himself.

      "Where might you be going?" Aragorn asked.

      "I mean to take the entire group to Valinor," Legolas said, pretending to be preoccupied with his things, his graceful hands adroitly gathering and folding his clothes, "The party must be escorted by a capable commander.  My delinquent brother needs looking after.  And I am eventually headed that way anyway.  It really might as well be me."

      "I think you misinterpret how the entire situation has revised your responsibilities," Aragorn told him evenly, "It requires you to remain here.  As your father's heir."

      "He's going to be the King forever, Estel," Legolas said, "They have no need or want of me, here."
      "Well," sighed Aragorn melodramatically, "If you are as blind as this and therefore hopelessly, addled, you really might as well leave after all."

      "I'm not blind," Legolas retorted, halting his work and looking up at his old friend at last, "Nor am I addled.  It is just the way things are."
      "When does the party leave?" Aragorn asked.

      Legolas glanced out the window, "Within the hour, I believe."

      "You did not leave me much time to say goodbye," Aragorn said, a tinge of sadness in his voice striking a regretful chord in the elf's burdened heart.

      "We do not need time to," Legolas said, smiling, "because I'm not saying goodbye to you.  I never will."

      "I know, I know," chuckled Aragorn, "You despise them."

      "Well yes," said Legolas, "but also because parting is an impossibility.  I shall always have you in my heart, mellon," when Aragorn's eyes glistened, the elf laughed to hide his own tears and added, "Not to mention all our memories in my scars."

      Aragorn blinked, and laughed as well.

      "Now begone with you," Legolas said, "I'm trying to pack--"

      A commotion by the door caught their attention, and a panting Gimli appeared.

      "Elf, don't kill me," he gasped, "I ran as fast as I could."

      "What happened?" Legolas asked.

      Gimli caught his breath, and glanced at Legolas' things, "Where do you think you're going, hm?" his eyes widened accusingly as he looked at his friend's faces, "Why do I see some blasted tears in those eyes? Something is happening here and no one is informing the dwarf."

      "I was leaving," Legolas gulped, knowing the wrath that would soon come, "I was going to tell you."

      "Oh really?" Gimli retorted, then he shook his head in remembrance of why he was here in the first place, "Oh never mind, you're not going anywhere anyway."

      "What?" Aragorn and Legolas asked at the same time, just as they heard another commotion from outside.  Legolas ran to his window and looked upon the activities below with widened eyes.

      Thranduil was leading a column of riders and carriages, bearing the unconscious Legardo before him.  The King was glorious upon his horse, and though there was nothing truly new about that distinct aura, he exuded it even with his head naked and devoid of his crown, one that seemed bound to his head by mithril.  Or possibly a crown that fit him so well he was probably born with it.  Legolas hasn't seen his father without it in years and years.  And yet he remained his fiery spirit, and he was fully-armed and seemed fully-decided on his task--

      Not to mention fully-packed

      Blast it, ada, Legolas thought, panicking, hoping what he was thinking was wrong, that cunning had to have come from somewhere.

      The people or Eryn Lasgalen were gathered about their King, who held his youngest son closely and protectively.

      ~This shall be my last order as your sovereign,~ Thranduil declared, and it sent a spear through Legolas' heart, ~Our years together have been hard.  And yet here we find our strength not merely undiminished by all the things we have weathered, but heigntened by the faith we have found in each other,~ he looked upon Legolas' bedroom window, meeting his son's stricken face, ~And the faith we've found in ourselves.~

      ~This life of mine at last calls me to very distant shores,~ he continued, ~But it is with great pride, and profound pleasure, that I entrust you in the surest of hands in all of the world and all that lies beyond it.  Hands that will not fail, hands that will not disappoint.  Because they are powered by a heart that is strong and true.  And a heart that always has, and always will, belong only to you.  His people.  His destiny.~

      ~Such are the makings of a King,~ Thranduil declared, ~The makings of your greatest servant,~ he raised his sword to the air, pointed it in Legolas' direction, ~Behold, there stands your King.  And I… I shall depart.~ he sheathed his sword and held Legardo close, ~Our people has no need of two kings, but my son… my son needs a father.~

      Legardo will get the surprise of his life as well, Legolas thought with sympathy.

      ~Well,~ Thranduil grinned at his people, and glanced at Andrada, who was riding beside him.  She nodded, as if indicating she was ready. ~Farewell,~ he said to his people.  He looked up at Legolas, and if he blinked he'd have missed his father's mischievous wink, ~Now I must fly!~

      He tugged upon his horse's reins, and it reared back on its legs and pressed forward, as Legolas pushed away from his window and fled from his room, his feet pounding upon the ground as surely and loudly as his heart thundered inside his chest.  His eyes burned. 

      Not even a decent goodbye…!

      He burst out the courtyard, but the dust of the departing party was all that was left of his ada.  His people turned to face him, and bowed in great reverence.

      He stood stock-still before them, breathing heavily, gathering his nerve, gathering his composure.  Thranduil left them a King.  And Legolas was never one to disappoint.  They will get one.  They will get the best, if only because he was his crazy-mischievous-scheming-father's son.

      The Kingdom beheld him in awed silence.  He heard Aragorn and Gimli running up behind him, and the three of them were probably spared the embarrassment of mauling over the new King of Eryn Lasgalen and falling into an unglamorous heap by Aragorn and Gimli's sudden halt and quick reflexes.

      Lord Sala rose and stepped forward, bearing the crown of Eryn Lasgalen in his old, spindly hands. 

      ~The King Thranduil entrusted this to me,~ he said, his voice loud and clear, ~To place upon your head, my lord.  Welcome back.~

      The people lifted their faces to watch as their golden prince was crowned.  Legolas held his breath, kneeling in symbolic service as the gracefully-wrought ring descended slowly over his head.

      What a long road this was, he thought, And the road is longer still…

      But it felt right, it felt true.  It held promise. 

      The crown fit surely over his head, though not as surely as his heart that at last found its rest, and its place here

      The Kingdom erupted into a welcoming cheer.

* * *

      The festivities of the new King's welcome lasted for the rest of the week, and Legolas almost never found himself alone during this time.  Naturally there was the bevy of older elven matrons shoving an even greater bevy of their unmarried daughters his way.  Naturally there were offerings and congratulations from neighboring realms. 

      At last did he find peace and quiet late in the night (or probable already very early in the morning) of the week's end, sitting in his father's study, staring at the fire that warmed it.

      The room held many memories, especially with the dangers of the recent days.  But what held his mind and heart the greatest was the very presence of his father that still lingered in the room.  Strong, straightforward, powerful.

      For the first time since he was a child playing games without the greatest understanding of what it meant, Legolas sat upon his father's desk.  Decisions were made here, and lives were changed forever by words that suddenly had more weight, hands that were heavier.  He sighed, wondering what business his father left him that he had to take care of.  He glanced at the sheaf of papers upon the desk, and found an envelope addressed to him in his father's graceful hand.

      His breath caught, and his eyes burned with his tears and that familiar, longing ache.

My son,

      I suppose by now you have realized that your… tendencies for mischief must have come from me and not your mother.  I know, when you were younger and managed to get yourself successfully into the direst straits I would often look up to the heavens where we both know your mother watches and ask her 'What has your son done this time?' As if you were her fault and not mine.  It was grossly unfair of me, because we both know my beloved could not have spoken to defend herself.  But, well, she understands, as she always has.

      I apologize.  I digress.  Leaving provokes the most curious memories.  Things I did not even know that I held in such high regard.  Things I do not even recall remembering.  Like this old desk and its imposing seat.  You were young, and you sat upon it, and you said it was so big it was like widing a howse.  For a being so proud you had a rather terrible time with your r's-- a great displeasure to your tutors, although Lesandro had a lot of fun teasing you about it.  And this was about that time you acquired that proud jutting of your chin, coupled with a distinct glinting of your eyes as if daring them to say mowe.  I'm sowwy.  It is hard to resist.

      Our Kingdom and my reign was rife with terrors, but I am finding it is the kinder memories that I recall best, and most quickly.  Never forget, Legolas, that great though your power and stature may be, great though you realm, it is simply made up of individuals, sharing the same loves as you, sharing similar memories and values.  Loves and memories you must create, nurture and protect.

      Although I have a feeling I am being redundant and useless.  These are things you've long known.  I suppose a King's pride is justly pricked by the idea that he could teach you nothing that you do not already know although… although, I guarantee you, my father's heart swells with the strength and wisdom of your heart and ultimately, a father is what I am most.

      I apologize for the secret departure.  I know you are going to want to wring my neck upon our next meeting.  But it seems your aversion to goodbye's came from me as well. 

      You will do good by our people, Legolas, even if you do nothing else other than the things you've already done.  I find peace in this, that I have left Eryn Lasgalen into so great a pair of hands.  But I find the greatest peace not merely in that my realm has found its King.  But that my son has found himself at last.

Yours Always,

Ada

p.s.

I've found stranger, long-lost parts of myself too.  I've commandeered Andrada.  As you may have guessed.  I hope you don't mind.

      He smiled and breathed, imagining his ada's voice, feeling him still so near somewhere, cooking up some fantastic new scheme, as if he will appear at any moment

      Only he didn't, and it was Aragorn, Gimli, Haldir, Elladan and Elrohir who stepped into the room, bearing glasses of wine.  He smiled at them.  His heart was wonderfully more at ease.

      "We are shamelessly exhausting your winery reserves, sire!" Elrohir laughed, wielding a glass merrily.

      "Why should we feel shame?" Haldir said, and Legolas noted that he was lording over his own bottle, rather than a glass, "With lives so long, it is but once in a blue moon that a new elven King is ushered into place.  I shall have my fill until I get so sick of this wine I will not want another until the next ascension."

      "Most of my men have come to the same conclusion," laughed Aragorn, "I am considering leaving early tomorrow to make them regret it."

      "Oh don't," Elrohir said, "I will shamelessly weild my brotherly privilieges.  I can't travel tomorrow, Estel, and I'm in your riding party, remember?"

      "You seem to be well-involved in a great deal of parties," laughed Legolas.

      "He's compensating for you," Elladan cuuckled, "closeted in here.  But I think it is the dwarf who is having the most fun."

      "I do not like being pinched and prodded and looked upon as some wild curiosity by your crazy women," Gimli grumbled, "Although one of them bears a striking resemblance to the Lady Galadriel—"

      "No one is to do anything unwarranted in my court, master dwarf!" Legolas exclaimed with wide, dancing eyes.

      "Then you had better step out of there and take control of the situation," laughed Aragorn, "Spread some of that kingly discipline."

      "Everyone seems to have forgotten that I'm supposed to be running a kingdom," Legolas smiled helplessly, "There are things to be done.  As a matter of fact if you really think about it, I'm running two.  How I could possibly spread my time between here and Ithilien—"

      "I will gladly divest you of a colony," Elladan said jauntily, "I find I have to share Rivendell with my brother."

      "Oh don't leave me," Elrohir teased him, "I would rather you run things and I simply reap the benefits of being a lord."

      "You know you don't mean that," Aragorn said evenly, "You just don't want him leaving because it is going to make you very lonely."

      "Oh don't begin talk of tearful goodbyes, Estel," teased Elrohir, "Why I heard from this reliable source that you and Legolas—"

      Legolas rose from the desk and looked at Aragorn gamely, "You were saying something about restoring order."

      "Advice from one King to another," Aragorn told him with sham gravity, "It begins with control."

      "Does it?" murmured Legolas thoughtfully, "Such as, of course, getting to the bottom of this perpetrator of lies about you and me."

      "I'll give you a clue," laughed Elladan, "Our informant was a dwarf."

      "That doesn't leave room for much mistake, does it?" Legolas asked Aragorn, as the two of them turned Gimli's way.

      "Oh this is unfair!" the dwarf exclaimed, "I'm sedated by drink, I've not my axe with me and I am being attacked by two kingdoms!"

      "I don't know, Master Dwarf," said Haldir, "I like the odds."
      "Does Lothlorien declare alliegance with the dwarf?" Elrohir asked with a chuckle, "Because Rivendell is neutral."

      "We share a love for the Lady Galadriel," said Haldir gamely, "Why not?"

      "Unprecedented alliances!" Elladan laughed, "Let the games begin!"

      They took each other to the ground, laughing helplessly.  It was one of the poorest wrestling matches any of them had ever seen.  Just terrible, and pathetic, and clumsy.  For a roomful of the world's greatest warriors, it was a sad sight indeed.  But for a roomful of the greatest friends and the happiest, most content of folk… it was just right.  It was home.

THE END

April 9, 2004

Original Character Guide:

Lesandro was the much-beloved heir to Mirkwood and Legolas' older brother, until he was murdered in the 2800's. 

Legardo is Legolas' younger brother, and was the murderer of Lesandro, as Legolas finds out in "Exile."  He tries to kill Legolas too, but fails and is imprisoned.

Lord Sala is the cowardly but opportunistic Mirkwood politician who tried to take the throne from King Thranduil by accusing Legolas of Lesandro's murder.

Lady Andrada is an old elf woman who fell in love with Thranduil but staged her own death to escape her unreturned love and subsequent despair in Mirkwood.  She staged Legolas' death as well, to keep him from being a pawn in Sala's ambitions.

Torres – the leader of the Forgotten elves

Yasmina – Torres' beloved wife, also one of the Forgotten elves

SOME IMPORTANT NOTES

Massive thanks to all who read and reviewed.  I'm just really very wildly grateful.  Every time I begin to wonder how long writing the next post is going to take and worrying over how bad it could be or how risky the gamble of certain parts, I check my inbox after 24 hours and find the most wonderful and encouraging people.  So just GREAT, GREAT thanks.  This is a story that belongs as much to you guys as it does to me :)

On the series.  "Return" is the last of a three-story series that began with "Exile" and was followed by "Escape."  Most italics in "Return" are 'memories' which were actually taken from the previous two stories.  The theme of the series is basically about going places (as the titles may suggest).  "Exile" is being sent away, "Escape" is a more willing version of leaving, and "Return" is coming back.  I like the idea of going full-circle, so I tried to have that 'round' feeling even in the titles.

On Legolas.  Obviously my favorite character, lol.  But I wanted to feature a side of him that I've never delved so much into before.  The side that was a royal.  I wanted him to feel powerful, in control.  In the book he ends up as a leader of a colony and yet it's a side that was not particularly developed, so I wanted to see if I could.

On Aragorn.  The direction his character took in this piece is less of a mover of events.  I wanted to put him in a position similar to Legolas' in the Lord of the Rings… the man who was always by his friend's side.  And I think I mentioned before that I tried to make "Return" is to Legolas as "Return of the King" had been to Aragorn, if just at a far-lesser scale than Tolkien's mind-blowing pieces.

On Gimli.  A character I've never written so extensively before.  I tend to focus on Aragorn-Legolas friendship stories, but one absolutely (at least to me) should have the delectable dwarf around at some point.  I suppose since I'm not used to him yet, I took the safe route… the strong, stable warrior, incredibly brave, and also the comic relief.  I love him to pieces :) I hope that came out! :) Btw, I had as much fun giving him Legolas' bow as I gave Legolas Gimli's axe.  The switcheroo was an amusing thought, so I had fun with it.

On Thranduil.  I've always had a partiality for showing him as an outwardly powerful figure with a great love of his son and his country.  I wanted him to be imposing, but gentle on closed-doors.  He is intelligent and just, a role model for Legolas.  Although this series also tackles a conflict from his end, a Thranduil-mini-conflict that I think I tackled in one of my older stories, "Broken Alliance."  The conflict between being a father and being a King.  I think these are two personas that have different priorities.  The father, in "Broken Alliance" as in "Return" always wins out for me, though.

On Andrada.  I loved the idea of a stunning old elf-woman in the fold.  I wanted her to be stern, with a strange mysterious back-story and a love tragedy.  Initially, she was only supposed to be in "Exile" but since I wanted to finish in circles, I placed her in "Return" as well and gave her peace.

On the twins and Haldir.  Always a joy to read and to ride.  They do not have as great a part here as in "Exile" and "Escape," but I felt somehow compelled to place them in the story because I find these characters to be addictive.  As I always have, I somehow end up making Elrohir the more flashy one and Elladan more subdued.  And then Haldir, who is like a king to me, he just goes of and does and says everything that he wants.  I have fun with him because he seems so imposing and cool.  I really hope that no one seems out of line character-wise because I'm really very careful with them.

On my NEXT POJECT.  I mentioned it was a tragedy.  I was thinking along the lines of my old fic "Estel."  But after watching "Return of the King," I've been dying to place Eomer in a fic… so my next project is going to be featuring him and Legolas.  But since I also said  I was going to create a Legolas-Aragorn parting story (after the "Exile" trilogy which began with them meeting), I came up with a strange idea. 

      My next fic will be a Legolas-Aragorn friendship story without Aragorn.  Huh? The theme is Legolas' ultimate loneliness, so Aragorn will not be a mover of events in the story, rather, he is often depicted in memory or thought… the idea is to spread the feeling of loneliness.  If you've ever heard of the medium being the message, that's what I will be trying to do… the message is missing a friend, and throughout the entirety of a fic that contemplates that friendship, that friend is not present at all.  It is yet untitled, which means it will be awhile before I release it.  But I'm bound to, since I've been kind of fixated with this plot since it hit me:

Author: Mirrordance

Title:

Summary: The battle at the Black Gate leaves Legolas strange wounds that do not heal. He knows he is slowly dying & keeps it a secret, as he tours the fleeting mortal pleasures of the world before his last breath. He finds an unwilling coconspirator in Eomer

      The fic will be set in Rohan.  The plot struck when I was listening to Sting's "Fields of Gold" so it kind of stuck, with all those horse plains.   These plans are, of course, subject to change.

ANYWAY… thanks for taking the time to read… I hope it was all right because I really tried my best :) 'TIL THE NEXT FIC!!!