Legolas fell onto his bed in exhaustion. The first day of his increased studies had been a hard one and he hadn't had one moment of free time.
The morning had been quite ordinary. A servant had come to clean up his room and wake him in time for breakfast which took place in the Great Hall, where every elf that lived in the palace ate their morning meal. He had set to his father's right, as always. But when he had finished with eating there had been the first perceptible change. Instead of going outside for his horse riding lessons, Eregur had taken him to the extensive library of the palace. There they had started with geography. For an endless time Legolas had brooded over maps of distant regions of middle Earth or listened to Eregur drone on and on about the people of those distant lands. Later the prince had been busy with translating texts into different languages, with Eregur leaning over his shoulder and correcting him. From Quenya to Sindarin to Commom to Dwarvish and to the different languages of Men.
Those hours had been a hard trial for Legolas' determination, for he had been bored out of his mind. He couldn't care less for those lands so far away from his home, and he was certain that he would never have anything to do with them and consequently not be in need to converse in their languages. But he was determined not to show his boredom and let his father think that those longer and harder lessons did not bother him.
Instead of having a break, which would normally have followed his first lesson in the morning, he had then been sent outside to the practice fields. When Legolas had heard where his next lesson would take place he had hardly believed his luck. Finally he was to learn how to use all the different kinds of weapons! How long had he waited for this moment? He and Aronas had often played with their practice weapons, which were nothing more than branches they had found on the forest floor and used as swords. One time they had even built bows from thin branches and their own long hair, but their improvised bows had soon broken. Now he would hold a real sword, a real bow and real daggers in his hands and be allowed to use them. This new increased studying wasn't all that bad. So, with a swing in his step that it had been lacking all morning, he had made his way to the practice fields.
When Legolas had entered the large clearing that served as practice field he had taken a look around. In front of him had been a wide field of trampled grass with many elves shooting, duelling, fighting…and riding? The elfling's eyes had been immediately drawn to the galloping animals and their riders. What were they doing on the practice fields?
To his astonishment the riders had had bows in their hands and, as they had ridden past a row of targets, they had shot at them, hitting every single one. Legolas had watched them with wide eyes. Never had he imagined that one could shoot this quick. They had moved so quickly that not even he with his elvish sight had been able to see all their movements. At one moment the arrows had still been in the quivers on their backs, the next moment Legolas had heard a 'plock' and seen two arrows quivering on the targets. And the warrior elves had done all this while sitting on galloping horses!
Soon Legolas attention had been drawn to the elves practicing sword fighting to his left. There had always been three who attacked one other elf. As the three attackers had circled their opponent, Legolas had thought the lone elf would not stand a chance, but as the single elf had been attacked, Legolas had amended that opinion. All four of them had moved as fluidly and gracefully as dancers working their way through a beautiful, intriguing but also dangerous dance. All four of them had never stood still but always moved to the side, back or forward, ducking and jumping, attacking or defending themselves. While the three attackers had worked together and tried to divide the fourth' attention and attack at the same time, the single elf had used each attacker against the other attackers. He would shove one into another, use him as a shield or manoeuvre him into inadvertently shield him from the sword of another.
However, they had held back, and even Legolas, someone who had never before fought in earnest, had realized that. Whenever a sword had reached an elf it had been slowed down and only had nicked him. It had been a little disappointing, but it had not hindered the beauty of the fight.
As Legolas had looked around a bit more, he had seen another group of elves which had been practicing hand to hand combat. They had not used any weapons but only their bodies, arms, legs and momentum. They would use a canny move, shove or pull to throw their opponent over their shoulder, but sometimes the opponent would grab them and pull them to the ground as well, which led to some rolling around and wrestling on the ground.
Legolas had been so engrossed with watching the different fight styles that he had not heard another elf approaching him. He had been quite startled when the elf addressed him.
"My Prince?" Legolas had jumped a little upon hearing his title. To his left a tall elf had been standing. He had long hair, as every elf, and it was braided in the typical Mirkwood warrior fashion with two little braids at the side of the head and one thick, intricate one at the back. His hair was blonde, but of a darker shade than Legolas' and also longer, reaching down to his waist. He had been wearing green and brown clothes, the colors of nature, and Legolas had been sure that if this elf had been standing in the woods and he had been looking for him he would not have him. But since the elf was standing in front of Legolas on a clearing Legolas had not had any problems discerning him. However, as he had moved, he had exhibited an exceptional grace and fluidity of his movements. More so than all the other elves Legolas knew. Must be because he is a warrior, Legolas had thought.
"My name is Dalentar. I will be your teacher in the arts of combat. If you would follow me..."
Dalentar had turned around and started to walk towards the edge of the clearing. The young prince had watched the fighters a moment longer and then followed the older elf. When they had reached the first trees Legolas had watched his instructor walk to a group of big stones piled on top of each other and so forming a small hill. You could sit on several stones that stood out a little bit and could choose between several heights.
Dalentar had climbed to the top of the little hill from where he could watch everything happening on the clearing, and Legolas had followed him. After they had been sitting on a huge and well worn rock for a moment Dalentar began his first lesson, and the elfling next to him had listened carefully.
"Take a look at the warriors here. They are all only practicing to keep up their skill. You see there are different kinds of fighting: hand to hand, with long knives, with swords and with bows. Each warrior, and you as well, has to know all and be able to fight in any way. However, every one will and may choose their favorite weapon and fighting style. But in order to do that they have to know all, the advantages and disadvantages."
"Disadvantages?" Legolas looked at Dalentar questioningly. "I did not know that a fighting style can have a disadvantage. I always thought, the only disadvantage a warrior can have, is his own inferior skill."
"Oh yes, every fighting style has its disadvantage compared to another. The bow may have a wide range, but as soon as the enemy is close it is useless. The time to notch an arrow and aim it is too long. When you are ready to release your arrow your enemy is already upon you. The sword is the heaviest of all the weapons. Even an elf's arm can tire, and as soon as that happens, you are helpless. Also, you can only swing your sword in one direction and to one side. Swing it to the right and your left is unprotected, swing it to the left and your right side is unprotected. If you choose the long knives, you can protect both of your sides at one time, but your reach is not as long as with a sword. So if you fight an enemy who uses a sword he can easily reach you while you can not reach him. If you fight without any weapon, you are most vulnerable, of course, but you have to learn that as well, for it can always happen that you loose your weapon or do not have it near for some reason."
Legolas had listened carefully as Dalentar had taught him many things about the different fighting styles and weapons. Then he had pointed out things about the way the warriors had fought: how they had placed their feet, how they had held their weapons, how they had moved their whole bodies with their weapons or against their weapon's momentum to not be unbalanced. Legolas had been astonished how much you could learn about fighting without actually doing it yourself. He had thought he would be given a weapon and then instructed how to swing and how to aim it. This had been much more boring and at the same time interesting. Boring because he had just been sitting there doing nothing except watching others, and interesting because there was much more to being a warrior than he had thought.
Before, he had wanted to become a warrior because then he would be respected by his father and friends, because he then would be able to impress many others with his skills. But as he had sat there on the hill of rocks, watching the warriors practicing and learning much more about fighting than he ever had thought possible, he had realized, that learning to be a warrior was interesting and fascinating in itself.
However, the eager elfling had still been disappointed when Dalentar had announced that the lesson for this day was over. Legolas had then been sent to the Great Hall where he had taken his lunch, and then he had accompanied his father to the hall where he held court. Legolas had sat to his father's right and listened to the boring talk about politics, agreements with a town of Men, the situation in Mirkwood with Dol Guldur and news of observed orc movement in the Misty Mountains. This part had been so boring that Legolas had had trouble staying awake and focused on the discussion. He had managed to stay awake, but only by letting his thoughts wander to other topics. His time at the practice fields had been replaying in his mind, and he heard Dalentar's voice again, teaching him about the different weapons. But instead of watching the warriors he had been one of them, putting his teacher's advice into practice. What he had not been allowed to do in reality he had then realized in his mind. He had been one of the best warriors, throwing his three opponents over his shoulder, grabbing a sword, defeaing two others, taking up two knives and twirling them through the air, shooting an arrow at a far away aim and hitting it dead center…and being crudely shaken awake.
Legolas eyes had focused as he had woken up from his daydream. To his horror he had found himself sitting to his father's right and in front of the nobles from Greenwood. All the nobles from Greenwood. And they had all been staring at him. To avoid their stares he had turned his head, which had turned out to be a mistake, for now he had been facing the furious glare of his father. He had cowered in his seat, which had suddenly seemed too big and at the same time too small for him to hide in. He had expected his father to shout or to at least reprimand him, but the King had only curtly ordered his son to leave but wait in his chambers.
Legolas had done just that, and he had had to wait quite long. Apparently his father had not been inclined to cut his court short in order to end his son's torment. When his father had finally entered his chambers, Legolas had been surprised that the sun had still been in the sky, for the time he had spent waiting for his father had seemed much longer than it had actually been to the elfling.
Again the King had not shouted. His voice and his expression had been calm, too calm. Somehow Legolas had known that he was only holding his anger in check, and barely at that. But even though his expression had not changed, his words had expressed his anger. They had been clipped as if he had not dared to linger on one word too long and then loose his tight hold on his emotions.
"You embarrassed me. You fell asleep at court in front of Greenwood's nobles. You are the Prince, you cannot allow that to happen. Your people count on you, they expect you to care for them, to look after them, even though you are only a prince and not King. In times like these, when Shadow is spreading from the east, we do not have the luxury to sleep during court. By many people Greenwood is already called Mirkwood, and even though I do not like that name, it is true. The wood becomes darker, evil creatures have settled into Southern Mirkwood, and they, too are spreading. We have to protect our people, and therefore can not rest but be always on our guard. I cannot allow you to sleep during important lessons or waste your time. You have to grow up and learn so you can protect your people."
Thranduil had paused and Legolas had raised his eyes from the floor to look at his father. "It is boring to listen to all the nobles, to debates about weather we should keep contact with a town of Men." The King's expression had not changed, so Legolas had tried one last argument. "And what about me?"
"You are the Prince." His father's voice had not been furious any more; he had just been stating a fact. "The son of the King. It does not matter that you are Legolas, that you are an elfling. You have to fulfill your responsibilities to the best of your capabilities, and at the moment that is to learn. I expect you to do no less."
With that the King had turned around and left the room without another glance at his son.
Only now, that he was alone, standing in his room and staring at the door his father had just closed, had Legolas realized that he had missed his horse riding lesson. But he could not change that anymore, for the sun had been nearing the western horizon and dinner would have been served soon. So he had quickly changed into new clothes and made his way to the dining hall. He would think about what had happened this day when he was alone again
After dinner he had made his way back to his chambers. Now that he could finally lie down he was exhausted. Shortly he wondered how that could be, for he had not done any hard work. Mostly he had sat in a chair or on a rock and listened to someone or waited for his father. But having to listen and learn all day without respite was tiring enough, he thought and fell into a blissful sleep, forgetting his troubles.