Disclaimer: You know something? One day, one blessed day, I shall find a loophole, and I shall drag these wonderful characters through it without being sued. I'll keep you updated on its progress
A/N: Wow! Firstly, thank you to everyone who reviewed With A Little Help from My Friends, I was amazed at the response it got, you wonderful, wonderful people! And also thank you for encouraging me to write this. I don't write for reviews, but any writer likes it when they receive a compliment so thank you!
Now this chapter is strangely long even for me, so please bear with it till the end, dear reader, if you would.
Ok, anything you need to know… Names!
Lómë – Dusk
Rómen – Sunrise
And that's all you're getting for now, though more will appear
Oh, and thank you to Someone Reading who pointed out that number typo for me, its bee fixed and reloaded! Thank you!
Now without further ado I present to you – Lullaby of the Lily Flower!
Chapter One –The King Does Not Dance
As the musicians played vigorously in the far corner of the banqueting hall, Thranduil King of Mirkwood sat further back in his chair, a glass of honey white wine in one hand as he watched his people dancing happily before him. The long table at the head of which he sat was the only one left out; the many others that had only hours ago been groaning beneath the weight of the many dishes and delicacies they carried had vanished, to make room for a dance floor. Now maids and soldiers old and young sang and laughed and skipped in and out of one another, their cheeks flushed with the potent wine of their fair homeland and the night's festivities. A contented smile settled on his face, and he found his foot drumming in time to the beat with the music, humming absently to the tune.
In the very centre of the hall were six figures he watched the most; three elves with hair of gold, two with raven braids and the last, a young human man. Normally Thranduil would not feel disposed to the mortal one way or the other, but the wine tempted him to like the boy. Well he had arrived with the sons of Elrond had he not? Had Elrond not raised the child himself? Surely he could not cause too much hassle – and his son seemed to hold him in such high esteem already. For the moment at least, he trusted his son's judgement, and hummed merrily along to the songs. It had been long, far too long since Mirkwood had been given any reason to celebrate; but with the return of her Crown Prince after three years, Thranduil had set about preparing a grand feast in his honour. It was not one of Legolas' favourite pastimes, but if nothing else his people needed it; the Shadow from the south never lessened nor grew, and yet it remained steadily constant over all their hearts; so real merriment was a joy to them, to forget for a while their worries and concerns.
In the centre of the hall, those six whom the King had been watching were blissfully unaware of it; in fact, other than their own silly jokes and dances, they were oblivious to just about everything – including, as far as the twins were concerned, the beat of the music.
"Elladan – one, two; one, two, three!" Estel tried to impose upon his older brother the step, but fell about laughing when the Noldo elf tangled up his legs and crashed into his twin. A roar of laughter erupted around them as they swayed on the spot before regaining their balance.
"Estel, you never told me how easily wine affected them!" Prince Legolas tried to protest, but failed to remain serious about it as Elrohir collapsed in a fit of giggles on his brother's shoulder.
"I think that maybe they're a hopeless case, my friend!" one of the other golden haired elves chuckled, giving Elladan a steadying arm to lean on as he veered sideways.
"There never was much hope for themRómen; trust me, I've lived with them for twenty five years," Estel told the archer, and his sister laughed.
"Oh the pair of them!" she giggled, "I have hardly known them a day and I feel I could tell you all about them."
"We're not keeping them, Lómë," Rómenwarned, and she stuck her tongue out playfully.
All six danced around together – or rather, four danced and attempted to keep the other two on their feet – until the lively jig finally came to a climatic end, when everyone clapped and cheered for the musicians. Panting slightly and with rose flushed cheeks, they made their way over to the refreshments, dragging Elladan and Elrohir with them as the band prepared for the next piece.
"Your kingdom certainly loves you, mellon nin," grinned Estel as Legolas poured him some wine. The Prince rolled his eyes.
"Don't you patronise us Legolas!" scolded Lómë, tapping him lightly on the arm. "You ride off for three years doing all manner of heroic and courageous deeds, and then do not expect us to acknowledge them?"
Legolas laughed and handed Estel his glass. "I am not convinced they that they were heroics, Lómë," he said lightly.
"Not heroics? No of course not," grinned Rómenmischievously, "All in a day's work for the Prince of Mirkwood, I have no doubt."
Legolas half scowled, half smiled at him and turned to help Elladan lean on the table. "Estel, when was the last time your brother's drank anything with half the potency of my cellars?"
"In all likelihood my twenty-first birthday," the Ranger told him, "they didn't water any of their drinks down and had a splitting headache that even my father could not cure for a week."
"That sounds painful," sympathised Lómë, patting Elrohir on the arm as he tried and failed to pick up his glass.
"It was," agreed Estel, "They wouldn't stop moaning about it night and day, and locked me in my room so I wouldn't disturb them – but I suppose they may have found it painful too," he winked.
"I was talking about them," she laughed, but just then another dance started up.
"Pair up everyone!" shouted an elf near the front, and Estel held his hand out for Lómë.
"Would you do me the honour of dancing with me, my lady?" he asked her graciously.
She chuckled and blushed slightly. "You have the most charming and polite of friends, Legolas!" she said, "I would be delighted."
Legolas shook his head at the young man as he led Lómë to the dance floor.
"Looking for a partner your majesty?" Rómen asked, his eyes twinkling, and before Legolas could even attempt escape had grabbed his wrist and was pulling him to the centre of the hall beside his sister.
"Beautiful dance partner you have there!" called Estel to the Prince, who just scowled at him, causing the Ranger to laugh.
Turning back to Lómë, he swirled her under his arm and caught her as she arched back. "So," he asked conversationally, "How long have you known Legolas then?"
"Prince Legolas? Oh years and years!" she answered as they twirled around. "He and my brother were already close friends when I was born, so he is almost another brother to me. When did you meet him?"
"About fifteen years ago," he replied, "But I'll wager he never told you the circumstance surrounding that meeting?"
"He never did speak of it, no; pray tell if you would?"
"How could I refuse such a request from such a noble lady?"
"Oh you are all compliments and politeness, Estel," she beamed.
"Believe me, its not a trait I picked up from my brothers," he murmured, as the twins went lumbering past as well as elves can lumber, each 'dancing' with a maiden they had managed to find; or rather, with maidens who had taken pity on their induced state. Lómë laughed at him and encouraged him to tell his tale.
Legolas meanwhile, was feeling very self conscious about dancing with his fellow soldier.
"Is this really necessary?" he said in a pained voice.
"It is the only chance I will ever get to dance with you my friend; the maidens are all queuing up for you, though you pay them no heed."
"I pay them heed as I will," corrected the Prince, then as an afterthought added, "And they are not queuing up."
"No indeed?" laughed Rómen, "Why, look over there! By the wine barrels."
Full of scepticism, Legolas glanced over his shoulder to see a line of about five or six house maids, all trying unsuccessfully to watch him with his noticing. He sighed, making Rómen scoff.
"I would that I was in your position, my friend," he admitted as they swirled together, Legolas still not too sure about the whole idea.
"My position?" he echoed. "They chase a warrior Prince who fights for his country, who does his best to please his father and remain part of the people. They do not really know me any more than they know the King; they know who I should be. People follow identities real or false"
"You are getting very deep for a feast thrown in your honour your majesty!" Rómen said lightly.
"You asked me a question," he shrugged as Rómen twirled under his arm.
"You could have just lied?" suggested his friend.
"I'm a Prince," stated Legolas.
"And I am a member of the Royal Guard; that does not stop me lying to you if it means you will stay away from a horde of Orcs."
Legolas stopped dead and turned to face his friend wide eyed. "You do that?"
"Occasionally, when you are being stubborn – which is all the time actually," Rómen realised out loud.
"You astound me friend; you will never cease to amaze me," the Prince grinned.
"I like to keep you on your toes," Rómen winked as the dance came to its end, and he turned to greet Estel and his sister heading towards them, Lómë with a look of great awe on her face.
"And what story has he told you now, Lómë?" Legolas asked, already knowing the Ranger had said something to the easily impressionable young elf woman.
"The manner of our first meeting, actually," Estel answered. "A story well worth the telling; I do not see why you have not told it before."
"You rescued him from a pack of Wargs?" said Lómë breathlessly. "A whole pack, all alone?"
Legolas glanced wordlessly at the Ranger, who just smiled. "Lómë, you must appreciate that he exaggerates greatly"-
"I did no such thing," Estel informed him, turning to retell the tale to Rómen. "I had run into the mountains when I was about fifteen, after a row with Elladan when he said I was too young to accompany them on a hunting trip. I remained there for three days, causing no end of worry to my family I am sure; but when I did decide to return home from hunger, a large group of large Wargs seemed to think that I would make a nice meal."
"It was not a large group Estel, there cannot have been more than twelve," Legolas cut in slightly exasperated.
"Only twelve?" echoed Rómen. "Legolas, by whose standards do you judge yourself by?" The Prince rolled his eyes. "They do usually hunt in packs of twenty, Rómen." His friend ignored him.
"Luckily for me," continued Aragorn, "At that time Legolas was taking the High Pass to Rivendell on business for his father; and chanced upon my rather unfortunate mishap. Had it not been for your Prince, I would not be standing here today."
"As it was, I had to carry you back half-dead," admitted Legolas. "Quite a shock for your father I think when I turned up with the bloodied body of his youngest son in my arms – not exactly how I envisioned my first meeting with Lord Elrond of Imladris."
"I do believe I shall never understand how your mortals do not snap in half," laughed Rómen, though mightily impressed by the tale.
"We are more resilient than we look," Estel chuckled, his eyes twinkling.
"If not quite as intelligent," joked the Prince and Estel went to shove him, but the elf was of course too quick for that.
"You came off lucky in the dancing though, I do believe," smirked the young man. "You managed to find yourself one of the most talented dancers in the room!"
"Nay my Prince, do not speak!" Rómen jumped in before his friend could protest. "The pleasure was all mine," he assured him, waving his arms flamboyantly and bowing in an ostentatious fashion. While the others laughed the Prince once again rolled his eyes and turned to watch the twins, who were half-slumped against the wall. Drawn by the elf's half nod, Estel followed his gaze and shook his head helplessly.
"I simply cannot take them anywhere," he sighed. Rómen sniggered and Lómë began giggling again, their identical green eyes flashing.
"I think we had best help them," Legolas advised, "before they embarrass themselves and your father."
The Ranger could hardly find fault with this and together they went to peel Elladan and Elrohir up off the floor. As Aragorn pulled the younger twin to his feet with an arm around his shoulders, he couldn't help smiling at how much they were going to regret this tomorrow. Elrohir however was utterly and blissfully unaware of this fact and with his left hand began to puppeteer and mimic, as far as Estel could make out, their father.
"Do not take the High Pass, it is not safe yet!" he boomed in a deep voice, his fingers flapping out of time with the words. "I mean, honeschtly Eschtel," he added back in his own voice, his words now slurring, "You'd fink'n elf like'meh – and like Dan – where are you?" he asked absently, waving his hand gracelessly towards his brother. "You'd fink'weh could take care of ourschelves! But noooo…"
Legolas gave him a quizzical look as Elladan hung off of his arm, quite happily conversing with himself about the food that night.
"You do not want to know, my friend," Estel shook his head. "My father decided long ago that since they do everything else together, they must have been dropped on their heads together at birth."
Rómen snorted with laughter as Lómë hit him on the arm.
"You should not be so cruel!" she scolded. "Did you even tell them to water the wine down?"
As Estel and Legolas began partially dragging the twins back to the table, Rómen merely shrugged and followed.
"Elladan told me he was not as weak as to not hold his wine," he answered, "Who was I to argue?"
"You should have persuaded him! Besides, what about Elrohir?"
"I should not worry about them, honestly Lómë," Estel assured her. "Elrohir will follow wherever Elladan leads. I am afraid your brother probably never really had much choice in the matter."
"There, you see?" protested Rómen as they reached the end of the table. "It was decided before I even spoke."
Lómë didn't reply, but scowled at her brother through narrowed eyes.
"I did not do anything wrong!" he cried incredulously, holding his hands up in defence. Lómë continued to scowl and lifted her chin.
As the twins were deposited into chairs, Aragorn and Legolas seated themselves down, the Ranger picking at what was left of the grapes.
"I am sorry tonight has not gone quite as expected," the Prince apologised quietly.
"Sorry?" echoed Estel bewildered, a large red grape half way on its journey to his mouth. "It has been brilliant! Whatever are you sorry for?"
Legolas gestured wordlessly to the twins, and to the bickering siblings coming towards them.
"I had rather hoped to have a quiet gathering with my father and close friends," he said truthfully, "I never have been too fond of feasts."
"You always fared well at Imladris," Estel pointed out grinning, but the Prince shook his head.
"Aye, but the Hall of Fire is not made for celebrations such as this, I am sure you will agree. No – I prefer unobtrusive greetings – and I had rather hoped to introduce you to my father in somewhat more predictable circumstances," he finished rather evasively.
"Legolas," the Ranger whispered as though it were a conspiracy, "You worry far too much, my friend. Your people are happy that you have returned to them – you are their Crown Prince, it is hardly unexpected."
"I know – yet still," sighed the Prince, "My father… You must understand Estel," he began earnestly, "The only dealings my people have with mortals is for the most part with the men of Laketown – and even they are not held in high esteem. So I had thought"-
"I understand," Estel comforted him. "Truly Legolas, you need not worry. I promise not to give you father reason to dislike me, but we can do no more; as much as I want to please him my friend, if things are not meant to be, then the circumstance in which they are introduced will make very little difference."
"You are kind Estel – but I am afraid he will not even give you a chance to prove yourself," the elf Prince smiled back. He was touched by the warm-heartedness of the Ranger but whereas he knew no better man lived, he got the distinct feeling the King of Mirkwood would not see it that way. He had a stubborn streak and was proud, but while that make him a good monarch and father, Legolas also knew it meant that once his mind was made up, it would not change. If he did not like or even approve of Estel now, he never would.
"It will be well, mellon nin," grinned the young man encouragingly. "Try to have an optimistic outlook for once."
Easy for someone called Hope, the Prince inwardly smirked. "Just like you, grubby mortal?"
"Just like me, stubborn elf," Aragorn winked.
By now, the musicians across the Hall had put their instruments away for a few moments' rest and after a brief applause, those filling the dance floor were wandering towards the wine or breaking up for the gardens.
"Legolas!" A rich voice called the Prince from the head of the table. "Come, talk to the father that has missed you these past years."
Legolas grimaced slightly at the effect the wine also had on his father, but knew better than to say anything about it.
"Ada," he smiled brilliantly, lighting up his whole face as he rose to his feet and headed up table.
For there he was – the Elven King in all his glory. Layers of forest green silken robes flowed around him where he sat on an oaken throne, and a crown of autumn leaves and red berries rested upon his fair golden hair. His blue eyes sparkled merrily with the light of the evening as he gazed at his only son. Legolas knelt down before his monarch, and Thranduil gently kissed the top of his head.
"I beg forgiveness for my leave, your Majesty," he said, looking up into a face so like his own and yet different, "Other deeds and events beyond my control called me far from my home."
"Yet it matters not now, for you have returned," the King beamed, his cheeks ever so slightly rosy. "Yes, you are home… Now be seated here beside me, and tell me of your travels – and your friends must come too!" He motioned for Estel and the twins to come forward.
Estel stood up awkwardly before glancing at his brothers, who were snoring happily leaning on one another. Giving up on them, he came to King Thranduil alone and bowed.
"Your Majesty," he addressed him formally, "Estel, son of Elrond of Imladris at your service and your Kingdom's. I must speak on the behalf of my brother's as well; for I fear Elladan and Elrohir have had more of your spectacular wine than I believe they can hold."
The King laughed and Estel found himself wondering what it was Legolas had been so worried about.
"Indeed! So, you are the infamous Ranger then?" he confirmed with mild interest. "The mortal child of Lord Elrond I believe?"
"Ada," said Legolas quietly, his words for Thranduil's ears alone, but his father paid him no heed.
"Aye, that is true; I am his youngest son. Though I fear that I may not yet claim infamy, my Lord," he smiled confusedly, glancing at Legolas.
"Word has reached my halls from many sources, young Estel," the King said knowingly, "You may find that we have heard more of this Strider than you give us credit for Legolas!"
The Prince forced a smile, and shot an apologetic look at his friend.
"Come now! You must take a seat, and recall some of your tales. I fear my son has rather a dislike for the things."
"Nay father; I merely do not wish to flaunt my own stories," Legolas assured him.
"That sounds like the Legolas I have come to know," grinned the young man. "Many times he has saved my life, though he would not boast it."
"And many times you have saved mine," his friend pointed out. "You merely have a freer tongue than I."
"This coming from he," whispered Estel conspiratorially, "Who is the one keeping count."
"I am not keeping count!" The Prince protested. "Although," he added more to himself, "You do seem to have an unexplainable attraction to cliff faces…"
"I resent that comment," Estel sniffed, crossing his arms.
"Many a true word is said in jest they say," winked Thranduil, as the musicians began to take their place up once more on the stand. "And alas! As fast as I get you here, you no doubt will leave now to dance."
"Ada, we can stay"-
"No, no, I would not have you do that," the King brushed the comment off. "I would have you enjoy yourself, for tonight is for you."
Legolas nodded gratefully. Estel's meeting with his father had been very brief and he had seemed to have impressed him; but he wasn't taking any chances.
"Come then Estel!" he smiled, "And this time, I am dancing with Lómë…"
As the pair rose to their feet, an idea struck the Ranger; it may have been that the wine had dulled his sense, but he felt more confident around the Elven King than he probably should have been.
"My Lord, forgive me for my boldness, but will you not join us?"
As soon as the words had left his mouth, Estel knew it had been the wrong thing to say. Legolas froze mid step, glancing fearfully at his father, who was suddenly glaring at the man as though he were a murderous traitor. The whole atmosphere between them radically changed, as fleetingly as a devastating flash flood.
"My Lord I am sorry, I meant no offence"- he apologised quickly, but the damage was already done.
"Kindly remove this mortal from my sight," Thranduil said to his son coldly. It was not a request, it was an order.
Estel glanced from King to Prince hopelessly. Where mere moments ago Thranduil had been laughing with the Ranger, now he seethed at him, icy blue eyes poring in. Legolas gently took his arm and moved away to the dance floor.
"First rule of banquets," he ground out through clenched jaws, "The King of Mirkwood does not dance."
Estel could not catch his friend's eye and stammered apologies all the way across the hall and out into the gardens. He could tell he had asked something unbelievably wrong of the King, but he could not understand why, and now his friend would not even look at him!
"Legolas please, I meant no offence, you must believe me," Aragorn pleaded at the prince sat him down on a bench while kneeling in front of him. Looking deep into the grey eyes, Legolas could easily see the fear and worry his friend thought he had caused.
"Hush mellon nin," Legolas soothed gently. "I know you meant no more than what you asked. But I warned you… My father…"
"But you are angry with me!"
Legolas was shocked. "No Aragorn, no I am not. This is not your fault – if anyone is to blame, it is my father."
"But you warned me, you said it yourself, and I"-
The Prince shook his head helplessly, his face momentarily an unreadable expression. "Something – happened," he swallowed hard, forcing the words out, "A long time ago. It – my father has never fully recovered in – some aspects."
"But I don't understand, he hates me, I could see it"-
"No," Legolas cut in softly, "He does not hate you. He… Do not blame yourself, Estel. You were not to know." He sighed heavily. He did not want to lie to his friend but in all honesty… He would be surprised if next morning his father did not want him taken from the Kingdom.
Inside, another merry jig had started up.
"I do not think I want to join the feast anymore," Estel said brokenly. How could he have been so stupid? He should have known his place! Now he had ruined all chances all of any kind of respectful relationship with the King, with one swift and stupid comment!
"No," agreed Legolas. "Perhaps that would be best."
"I want to go to my room," he said just as quietly. He knew he was acting younger than he was and he felt it, but he suddenly felt ashamed in the presence of a friend who had been so worried of what he had just caused, with his blundering antics.
Legolas nodded. The Ranger's room was far from the festivities, in a chamber next to his own. He would not hear the noise for the most part he hoped.
"Come, I will take you."
"No," started Estel at once. "No – I would rather have some time to think – alone. Perhaps I could find a way to earn forgiveness from your father; stranger things have happened." He smiled weakly.
"They have indeed," the Prince agreed, squeezing the man's shoulder reassuringly. "Good night, Strider."
With a final nod, Estel turned away and disappeared into the darkness of the gardens, crossing to another entrance near the living quarters. Legolas watched him go with a heavy heart, though he did not quite understand what his friend was feeling. He would speak with his father, but not tonight; the morning would serve him better. With another long sigh, he returned to the Hall, though remained seated in the corner for the rest of the evening and joined no more dances.
In his room, Estel lay fully clothed on his bed. His mind was reeling; he knew not all Elves thought as kindly of men as those in Rivendell did, but he had not expected that… The glare the Elven King had pierced him with had been so severe and biting and – something he could not identify, but that did not trouble him. He did not wish to solve a riddle that would only hurt more. He closed his eyes tight shut. Tonight had been so good… Legolas' best friends had accepted him without question, something he had feared the entire journey to Mirkwood; and to have been so close to being approved by the King, and to have thrown it all away.
The young Ranger balled his fists, and turned onto his side. Tomorrow, he would seek his brothers' advice, and ask them how he should proceed. Contented only slightly by that thought, he tried to slip into the realm of sleep, while across the grounds the distant sound of music continued. He breathed deeply and tried to block it out, but the softest of sounds caught his attention; it was faint and wavering, like a flower in a spring wind, but resilient and did not stop. Ignoring the feast, he focused in on it and found an unexplainable peace in the gentle song. He could not make out the words, but he could tell it was a child's tune of some kind; and listening to the balmy voice, he sent a silent prayer to the singer as he relaxed into a well earned sleep.
So… What say you? I'm going to apologise for any typos, because I have a habit of making them constantly, so I beg your forgiveness my friends.
Remember, that shiny button is your friend! Lol, and I said I don't write for reviews… sigh
Loadsa love, Estel xxx