Warning:If you liked the first story 'In Wonderland' and thought the ending was fine- don't read further. I would hate to disappoint anyone. However, if you felt the ending was lacking…. well, you've come to the right place!
A/N:As you all know by now, the king of Mirkwood lived in a great cave ( ref: 'The Hobbit' pg. 168) and most of his subjects lived in the open wood ( ref: 'The Hobbit' pg. 168.) Hmm. Not so in this story. The palace grounds in "In Wonderland" were out in the open. To keep with the flow, it is the same here.
Is this an AU? Of course it is! While I'll try to keep true to the world of Tolkien, I may deviate a bit from the facts.
This is post-RotK but before Legolas goes to Ithilien.
Disclaimer:All recognizable characters and names belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate. All quotes posted at the beginning of (a) chapter belongs to Lewis Carroll and his estate. I own nothing.
Through the Looking Glass
"Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through.
Why, it's turning into a sort of mist now, I declare!
It'll be easy enough to get through…"
-Alice Through the Looking Glass
It was the same dream.
She was brushing her hair in front of the vanity mirror. The silver brush fit perfectly in her small hand and indeed it had been carved especially for her use. It gleamed in the light of the candle, casting her pale face in sparks as she moved.
She smiled at her reflection in the mirror.
It smiled back at her.
Her eyes were pools of innocence. Gray misty orbs set against the smooth, untouched skin of a child. But she was not a child.
Her reflection nodded solemnly at the thought and put the brush down.
In shock and surprise, she dropped her own brush and it fell to the floor. Her pink lips opened and closed with unsaid words and her eyes grew wide.
Her reflection beckoned to her, smiling kindly. It could no longer be her reflection though, for it did not move as she did. Though its features were in perfect harmony to her own, they seemed to change slightly. Her eyes (or were they no longer her eyes?) grew darker and in turn, deeper than hers. They seemed to age without physically growing older. The reflection was no more a child and yet its appearance did not change.
Her reflection was no longer her own.
"Come," it whispered, holding out one perfectly formed white hand. "It is time to see. It is time to come home."
But her reflection was not looking at its owner.
It was looking at him.
Legolas rose up from his slumber quickly. There was no moment between wakefulness and sleep- consciousness came swiftly. Elves were not usually disoriented at the onset of awareness. Their senses were always alert and their eyes were always seeing, even if their minds were not.
Still, Legolas looked around his surroundings, trying to regain control of his body. His eyes felt moist and uncomfortably hot and his chest rose and fell with quick breaths.
The dream had come again like an unwanted visitor. Five weeks since it had first arrived, floating into his mind like an unbidden fog.
For a long time, he stared at the wide expanse of forest before him. At the seemingly never ending line of trees, all twisted trunks and dark brown bark. The scent of dying leaves, ready to fall to the ground, hung in the air. The night was not wholly silent but nor was it filled with chaos. It was not oppressive but neither was it altogether welcoming. For the first time in many years, Legolas felt the faint stirring of heartache become something more. Something larger. A shadow loomed over his soul and now he could no longer deny what it was-
And the shadow's name crept up on his tongue, pausing on his lips before it could escape into the night.
Legolas stirred finally and moved over to his companion, shaking him gently but firmly with one hand.
Gimli snorted and grunted before finally blustering into wakefulness. Legolas smiled slightly at the dissimilarity between him and his friend- how different they were and yet how perfectly they fit together! It was one mystery he preferred leaving alone.
The dwarf's eyes opened and instantly reflected a look of annoyance at the elf.
"I shall have your head for this, elf!" he said gruffly, rubbing his eyes ruefully with one heavy hand. "Well, what is it? What need do you have for waking me up in the middle of the night? It had best be good or….."
"Friend dwarf, I apologize," Legolas said smoothly. He sat back, allowing Gimli to get up from his bedroll. After a moment, Gimli looked at him strangely, a mix of irritation and… some other emotion on his rounded features. Worry? Trepidation? Legolas knew that Gimli thought himself to be Legolas' protector, though Legolas was far older than the dwarf. It was both amusing and annoying at times, but Legolas accepted it as Gimli's way of being.
"Something troubles you," Gimli said, his thick eyebrows sloping downwards in concern. "I can see it in your face. Speak up, lad. What is it?"
"The dream," Legolas said quietly. He lowered his eyes, suddenly feeling as if speaking of it in length in front of another was a blasphemy.
Gimli lifted up his head and his eyes grew round.
"Again?" Gimli asked. "You dreamt of her…"
"I can no longer ignore it," Legolas said, staring at the sticks and broken twigs that lay on the dirt beside his bedroll. "Nor can I ignore the calling in my heart. It grows stronger with each passing day and…"
Legolas' blue eyes flickered upwards, meeting the dwarf's apprehensive gaze.
"It is time, Gimli," he said softly.
"I must go home."
Chapter One: Home
Legolas walked slowly, pausing every now and then to look up at the star filled sky. The night air was crisp and clean with the first snowfall of winter and snowflakes fell on his skin and melted instantly, making his face damp.
He felt cleansed by the small white flakes.
The smell of flowers grew stronger with each step he took, signaling that he was nearing his destination and so he slowed his gait, deep in thought as he moved.
Though he was alone, Legolas was not at all lonely. The woods were alive with whispers and murmurs- the voices of the living creatures there. The dark evil that once shadowed the forest had been lifted and now, even in the night, all seemed calm and peaceful.
Throughout the years that had passed since the destruction of the One Ring, Legolas knew that many things in his father's kingdom had changed. Despite his adventures with Gimli, he kept a close ear to those who bore news of his home and the alterations that had taken place there. For one, Mirkwood was no longer the name of his home. Eryn Lasgalen , the wood of Greenleaves, was now the rightful title of these woods. He also knew that his father had extended his realm to include all of the northern region, as far as the mountains. At this, Legolas was somewhat surprised. His father had never shown any want nor need for more land. The King had always seemed content to rule over what territory he had and was more inclined to add to his collection of precious stones.
Odd then, that he was now the prince of this new, larger province. He had been exploring the wood for days now, preferring to walk across the land towards his home instead of riding atop a horse. The chill of Winter did not bother him. He liked walking; he liked to feel the ground beneath him and he wanted to lengthen his time of journey.
Legolas paused and placed a hand on the dry, rough surface of a tree trunk.
I am the crown prince of this land.
He closed his eyes and sighed deeply, momentarily lost in his thoughts. Of all the changes that had occurred around him, none compared to those that had taken place inside of him. Before the Quest and the Fellowship, Legolas had never truly been on his own. True, he had traveled to the other elven realms in Middle Earth but he always had with him a royal retinue; companions to watch over him. As much as he did not want to admit it, he had lived a fairly sheltered life.
Now, so much was different. In the years that had passed since the fall of Sauron, Legolas had matured. He knew this and accepted it though it was with a faint sense of sadness that he realized he had changed. He had been in battles and seen death up close. He had watched his friends grow older and drift apart from him.
Even Gimli, who was now in his own home, had already begun to settle into a life that Legolas knew would not include him. Not really. They had made promises to meet once more, in the future, and although Legolas knew that Gimli was no longer wanting of a wife and family (for he had now a taste of the excitement found outside of caves and tunnels), their relationship would never be the same.
Legolas had begun to want more out of his life then adventure and travel. He wanted to settle down, to watch from his place as the world changed and moved around him. He wanted to watch things grow and flourish under his care.
Perhaps then, it was not a coincidence that the dreams had come to him at a time when the desire to return home began to grow in his heart. Those strange, haunting dreams filled with…
(.. her face, the sweet curves and lines of her face and her eyes like silver.. )
…images that left him feeling empty and forlorn. At first it had not been hard for him to keep his thoughts away from her. He had a purpose- to protect Frodo, and his entire being had been focused on his task and nothing else. But when all that they had set out to do was finished and Aragorn was on his rightful throne, Karalynn's face was all he could see and her voice was all he could hear.
Yet he could not go home. Not then.
And so he had traveled with Gimli, his unlikely friend, and for nearly forty years they had wandered the land, exploring every crevice and cave they could find, climbing every tree and mountain they came upon. They had encountered many new faces and cultures, seen things that only a few others had seen. Legolas had mastered the art of ignoring the pain that lingered in his heart and on some days he was able to fool himself into believing that he was strong enough to go home. He was aware of every year that passed because it marked another year that he had stayed away from her. He might have been able to keep his distance for a century more had it not been for those dreams.
He did not know where they had come from- if they had indeed come from anywhere at all. Perhaps they were merely the troubled thoughts of a wounded heart. Perhaps so. Legolas knew that a part of him was still vulnerable to such things. But he could not help but wonder if the dreams had not originated from him. What if they had come from another source, one that he had neglected for two score years?
What if the dreams had been a beckon from her to return home?
If it had been, then Legolas knew he could not refuse it.
He opened his eyes and patted the tree affectionately.
"Welcome home, elf prince."
The tree's soft, rumbling voice vibrated through his skin and into the very core of his body.
"Thank you, friend," he replied quietly. He stood up straight again, taking a deep breath and wiping the moisture from his brow. He looked ahead and blinked, surprised. Just ahead of him, barely noticeable in the dark of night, was the edge of the great stone gates protecting his father's kingdom. He had not noticed them before- so deeply engrossed in his own thoughts and musings that actually seeing his home was a shock.
"There are guards just ahead of you, elf prince. Three to your left and three to your right."
Legolas smiled and glanced back at the tree that had spoken to him.
"I know," he said. "I can feel their presence. One of them is a dear friend of mine- Fortinbas Silverfall. I will wait here for them, next to you if you will it."
"Of course, elf prince. Why, have you grown since you last passed this way? It seemed only a short while ago that you were a head shorter than you are now. So hasty, you creatures are! Always in a hurry."
Legolas chuckled softly and shook his head, not wanting to speak another word. He knew that Fortinbas and the others would be cautious, on their guard and any sound he made now would pose more of a danger to him than anything else.
He could not help but feel a tremor of nervousness and anxiety as they neared- not because he was afraid to see the guards but because each step they took drew him closer to being reunited with Karalynn.
I could run now and they would not be able to catch me, not with their arrows nor any other weapon.
I could run now and escape.
Legolas forced himself to still his pounding heart and cleared his mind of all chaotic thoughts. No, he would not run away now nor would he ever run away again. Not from Eryn Lasgalen; not from Karalynn.
"Who goes there?"
A disembodied voice drifted down from the treetops above him and Legolas raised his head, smiling faintly at the shadows that hid themselves from his gaze. He did not speak for he knew that the moon would cast enough light on his face for the guards to see that…
A sharp inhale of breath.
"Prince Legolas?" the voice said, incredulous and yet filled with joy. "By the Valar, is that you? Prince Legolas?"
His smile grew wider and whatever words he had to say were drowned out by the cheerful laughter and welcoming voices of his friends.
"You did not send word that you were coming home, Legolas,"
"I saw no reason for it," replied Legolas. He looked at Fortinbas and smiled slightly as they walked past the gates of Eryn Lasgalen. The other guards followed a few feet behind them, in respect to their friendship. After all, there was no reason to keep pace with the two friends; the woods had been cleared of dangerous creatures years ago. The King had ordered a massive cleansing of his domain so that his people would have no fear in roaming the lands again. The guards still patrolled the area to keep an eye out for foreign visitors or guests.
Fortinbas looked at him with wide eyes and blinked.
"But surely your father would have wanted to prepare for your return," he said. "This is a time of great joy, my friend! The Prince has returned! The King would have organized a feast… perhaps even a ball!"
Legolas chuckled and turned his eyes back to the path ahead of them.
"All the more reason not to send word," Legolas said.
Fortinbas shook his head, confused. "I thought you rather enjoyed such affairs, my Prince," he said. "Was it not you who requested an annual celebration at the end of each year? A formal celebration instead of the usual woodfire?"
Legolas laughed again.
"I did enjoy them, Fortinbas," he said. His eyes grew bright with memories. "But I did not ask my father to hold such a thing for my sake. Nay, it was not for myself. Karalynn used to enjoy dressing up in her formal gowns so much so that I…"
Legolas' voice faltered as he realized what he said. He stopped walking for a moment and looked around him. The guards also stopped walking and the air was suddenly still and quiet once more.
Everything around him was covered underneath a smooth, white blanket of snow but Legolas recognized the landmarks of his home. To the left of him were the stone creations that his father had carved when he had been a young elf. Thranduil had once been tutored in the arts by the royal artist, Gwynedd Autumnwind, and Oropher, bursting with paternal pride, had placed his son's work in the outer courtyard for all to see.
To the right of Legolas, was a large fountain. In the chill of winter, no water sprouted from its openings but it still proved to be an awe-inspiring sight. His father was a great lover of jewels and the fountain had been adorned with rubies and emeralds.
They sparkled at Legolas now, reflecting moonlight at him as if they read his melancholy thoughts. For a brief moment, as he spoke to Fortinbas, he had forgotten that he had left Eryn Lasgalen at all. None of the pain and anxiety that he felt when he thought of Karalynn weighed on him and her name had slipped from his lips without a care or struggle. It was a brief moment, true, but significant.
I am home,he thought. I am truly home.
"Legolas?" Fortinbas said his name with a tinge of worry. "Why do we stop?"
Legolas blinked and then shook his head slightly, clearing his mind of his heavy, brooding thoughts. He realized that there was no real reason for him to be so hesitant now. Surely this was a time of rejoicing and celebration, just as Fortinbas had mentioned. He was home and that was a good thing, a wonderful thing.
"I have not been home for some time, Fortinbas," Legolas said after a moment. He smiled widely and then put his hand on Fortinbas' shoulder. "I am simply taking a moment to reacquaint my eyes to the wonders of this place."
He glanced back at the guards behind him and then faced Fortinbas again.
"Tell me, Fortinbas, how fares your brother and Kythe?" Legolas asked.
Fortinbas smiled. "They are well, my friend," he replied. "Though they do manage to annoy me on a daily basis with their constant declarations of eternal love and affection. Even your father has rolled his eyes on occasion at the table when they are seated beside each other."
Legolas laughed and even a few of the guards chuckled lightly. Legolas suddenly realized how much he had missed his friend. He had missed all of his friends.
"And what of Karalynn?" Legolas asked, still smiling. He longed to hear of some news of his beloved, no matter how small or insignificant it may be. "How does she fare?"
To his surprise, Fortinbas stopped smiling and stood still. A flicker of… of something, some emotion, darted across his features and disappeared before Legolas could discern what it was. Legolas stopped in front of him and frowned.
"She is…" Fortinbas looked uncomfortable and a feeling of dread settled back onto Legolas' shoulders. He glanced at Fortinbas, who looked away quickly. "She is sleeping now. It is late, after all. She… she is resting."
"Fortinbas," Legolas said. "Tell me, friend, what is wrong with Karalynn? Has something happened?"
Fortinbas sighed and shook his head. "Legolas, there is nothing wrong with the child," he said. "But I feel that it is a matter best spoken between you and Kythe. She is… well, it is of no consequence really and you will find out soon enough. But be satisfied in knowing that Karalynn is safe and sleeping in her room as we speak."
"Fortinbas, tell me now. Please, my friend," Legolas said. He felt his body tense and though it was a familiar feeling, he did not enjoy it. "What will I find out? What is of no consequence? Have I been away too long? Has she forgotten me? Is she angry at me? Have they…"
Fortinbas held up his hand and sighed again. "Sometimes I wonder if Karalynn inherited her babbling from you though you are not of the same blood. Oh, I suppose it will do no harm to tell you," he said. "Karalynn has not forgotten you, Legolas. What a foolish idea! Rest your fears in that matter. No, what I meant to tell you was that she is just a bit… ill, at the moment. It is merely some human affliction that she catches around this time each year. The people of the Lake have the same illness and really, it is of no concern."
But Legolas was concerned. Karalynn had never gotten ill when he had been in Mirkwood. Elves did not carry diseases like humans did. Karalynn had been safe from sickness under the protective watch of the wood elves, just as Estel had been when he still lived under the care of Lord Elrond. Legolas had seen to it that she was healthy, he had always made sure that she ate good food and stayed away from games and activities that could cause her injury.
Surely Kythe would have continued to protect Karalynn in this way while he was gone.
"The people of the Lake?" Legolas said suddenly. He looked at Fortinbas, confused. "Why would Karalynn be afflicted with an illness that humans suffer? How would she have come into contact with them?"
"This is a matter that you should discuss with Kythe," Fortinbas said, clearly uncomfortable. "But as I see it, she rather enjoys playing with other children. Our people have only now begun to turn their minds towards having offspring and there is a considerable lack of playmates for Karalynn. The illness… well, it is nothing really. She has a bit of a cough and a fever but as I understand, it is not at all fatal. It only lasts for a few days at a time. Lohr himself does not worry about it and he is the royal healer."
Legolas started at the news.
"Lohr is the royal healer?" he repeated, incredulous. "But what of Nuratar? And Rinwethiel? Have they stepped down from their place of duty?"
"Aye, my prince," Fortinbas said. "Nuratar and his family left for the Undying Lands shortly after the Ring was destroyed and your quest was completed. Nuratar wanted to bid you farewell before he left and he would have stayed for a few years more but the call of the Sea was too great."
Legolas let out a loud breath and shook his head in disbelief. "Nuratar is gone," he said quietly. "And my brother in his place. What other changes have taken place in my absence?"
Fortinbas smiled. "Not much else, Legolas," he said. And then he gestured towards the palace entrance. "This is not the time to dwell over such sad things. It is true that many of our people have left but so many more still remain! Come, my friend, see what has changed in such a short period of time but see also what has remained the same. Come and reacquaint yourself with your friends and your family- we have missed you."
Legolas looked at his friend and then shook his head again, this time to clear his thoughts. He knew Fortinbas was right. There would be time later to brood over lost friends and sad memories. Perhaps he had spent too much time with mortal creatures- time for them was short and filled with the tumultuous changes of life itself. As an elf, he knew that there was no real constant in the world yet that in itself was a stable thing. It should not have surprised him then- to learn that some of his kin, his friends had left for the Undying Lands.
As for the matter concerning Karalynn and her mingling with humans… well, he would take that up with Kythe.
"You are right," he said. "I have missed all of you too. A good meal and clean clothes beckon me, as well as the warmth of a fire. I have been gone from this fair wood for too long. I wonder how my father will greet me- with tears or curses?"
Fortinbas grinned as he and Legolas began to walk towards the palace entrance again. The guards followed silently behind them, scanning the wood beyond the stone gates.
"He will probably kiss you tearfully and then knock your ears," Fortinbas said cheerfully. "At least that is what he claimed to do once you returned."
Legolas' bright, surprised laughter filled the night air.
It felt wonderful to be home.