Disclaimer: We do not own these characters.
By the Sinister Sindar Sisters
The spring day was wet and overcast. Lowering clouds veiled the land in a grey and dismal light and rain came down in a steady, bone-soaking stream, as it had been doing for days. The ground was sodden and mired in mud. An eerie silence wrapped around the trees, as few animals stirred in the forest. All were in hiding, keeping warm and as dry as they could. The trees were yet barren, only a few showing pale buds that heralded the returning life that this season normally brought.
The past winter had been long and unusually hard, beginning with harsh rains resulting in floods and then early snow that had lasted for far longer than many would have thought possible. Even now, the cold lingered in these woodlands far past the time spring's warmth was expected.
All sensible beings were still tucked up in their warm homes and only leaving if they absolutely had to. Even the spiders, a notorious danger in this area of Middle Earth, had all sunk into a stupor due to the extreme cold winter. Unfortunately, the respite from their danger would not last long with the recent onset of the warmer weather. Soon they would again be causing havoc with any unfortunate creatures they happened upon as they hunted.
All was silent and still, the only sound that could be heard was the murmur of the falling rain. Then, distantly at first, came the muffled sounds of hoof beats. Nearer they came, until through the veil of rain could be seen faint figures. A large party of riders slowly emerged from the silvery mists. Horses of various hues could be discerned. Their riders were not easily identified as all wore various shades of dark green cloaks with their hoods drawn over their heads and faces, making ideal, albeit unintentional, disguises.
The riders on the outer edges of the group were alert; their keen senses attuned to the slightest hint of danger, making sure their charges would be kept safe. In these uncertain times, it was much better to be overly cautious than sorry and those under their protection were far too important to leave anything to chance.
So far, there had been no hint of danger on this journey, but that could change at the flick of a finger.
Near the middle of the circle of riders were two persons, they both wore the same hoods and cloaks of strong cloth as the others to stave off the rain, but that was where the resemblance stopped. There was something indefinably different in the way that both sat on their horses, an air about them that seemed to radiate confidence and strength.
The smaller of the two suddenly spoke. "Are we almost there, Ada?" The voice was musical and sweet, but very young.
"Not yet, Penneth, it will be a few days travel yet." The taller of the two smiled at the ill-concealed sigh of disappointment that his son gave.
One of the other riders manoeuvered his horse closer to the elder of the pair so he could be heard without raising his voice. "Hir-nin, we should look for shelter, this weather looks to be set in for the night. Shall I send one of the scouts out to look for a suitable campsite?"
"Yes, Captain, we will need to find a suitable place to stop for the night. It will be dark ere long and I would prefer to be encamped by then." The taller figure turned to the younger. "Are you tired, Legolas?" He was aware that this was the longest that his son had ridden and he did not want him to get too fatigued. After all, he was still quite young even if he did protest at being reminded of that. If it became necessary, he would have Legolas ride before him on his horse.
"No, Ada, I am fine, this is fun. You see the trees, they are awake and budding! And the squirrels! Will we get to see more birds, Ada? I have read about many of them. Will we see Edain on the way? Where are we going to stop for the night? Do we need to go and hunt, Ada? It would be fun too!" He had to smile once more at his son as the questions came out in a rush, all breathless and without pause.
The party had been riding silently and Legolas must have been saving the questions for some time. Legolas had been quiet and subdued during much of the trip, but flashes of interest in the world around him were coming more often. It was good to once again see him happy.
The larger Elf, for this party was indeed a group of that fair race, laughed merrily. The sound seemed to tinkle in the air like crystal bells. "Legolas, Ion-nin, slow down! I can only answer one question at a time."
His son had been excited and anxious from the moment he had heard of the impending trip his father must make to Fornost in Eriador and that he would be allowed to accompany his father. Every day for the last month without fail Legolas had asked when they would be leaving. Normally, it might have irritated the Elven Lord, but that was before the loss of his wife and the near-loss of his only son; now he tolerated it with an indulgent smile. This was also Legolas' first trip out into the big world beyond the boundaries of their forest realm.
Shortly, the Captain returned. "The scout reports that there is a cave just a short ride ahead that is large enough to hold the party. Will that be acceptable, Aran-nin?"
"You must remember, Bremoline, that while we are on this journey I am not to be addressed as your King. This is going to be difficult enough without you telling the whole of Arda who we are."
"My apologies, A… Thranduil." It just felt disrespectful to not address the King by his title, as he had done for many hundreds of years or millennia as it actually was.
"The cave is large enough to take us all? Will it hold the horses as well? I'm certain they will be glad to be dry for the night, as much as we will." Asked Thranduil, for that was who this person of great presence was, King Thranduil of the once green and peaceful Greenwood.
Times had changed and darkness was once more taking over Middle Earth and his realm in particular. Now mighty Greenwood was beginning to be called Mirkwood. It was slowly and surely being corrupted. Where there had once been tall green trees with lush foliage, now there was a creeping darkness with black trees. The evil creatures that appeared there now were the reason for the extra caution in this journey. There were Orcs and Goblins prowling everywhere now, it seemed, as well as the spiders, hence the large group of guards traveling with them.
Thranduil had not really wanted to bring Legolas along on this arduous but necessary trip, but equally he could not in all conscience leave his son on his own, especially after they had both been so recently bereft of his mother. Who in their right mind would leave a grieving Elfling of only twenty-five years on their own with only advisers to watch him? They would not be able to deal with the lingering nightmares that still seemed to plague his son at night. Thranduil had even conceded to bring along a healer, an Elleth at that, to help Legolas deal with the lingering pain from having been forced to watch his beloved naneth as she was killed by Orcs. It was a small hope and it had helped to certain extent, that a feminine presence would help soothe his son. Thranduil was also afraid. It was not yet a certainty that Legolas would not still fade from grief for his mother though it seemed he was now slowly recovering.
This council was expected to take some time to work through, so Legolas was here traveling with him. Legolas was also under strict instructions not to leave his side unless a guard had been assigned to be with him for his safety.
Legolas was never really naughty, he was just. . . lively and an exuberant handful at times, or had once been. If his mother had still been alive things would possibly have been different, but she was not and nothing would change that fact.
"Yes, A… Thranduil, the cave will shelter us and the horses quite easily. It is deep and well-situated away from the trail." Bremoline could not help but smile at the eager look of the small Elfling, Legolas, the Crown Prince of Mirkwood. His Prince was happy. It was nice to see him finally smiling again.
The Queen's death had been hard on both the King and his son. There were times Thranduil also missed her terribly. He had come very close to fading, himself, but the knowledge that his son needed him had given him the strength to remain. Yet, there would always remain this ache in his heart from her loss.
"How far is it now?" Thranduil asked, keenly aware that Legolas was more tired than he was letting on. So excited was he about this trip and not wanting to miss any part of it, that it was difficult to get him to sleep at night, for this and other reasons.
"Only ten minutes ride further, I believe." Bremoline answered.
"Good, it will be nice to get out of this rain. Hopefully tomorrow will be drier. Thank you, Captain."
The warrior smiled his acceptance of the praise. It just seemed wrong not to bow to the King and he had to fight the impulse strongly.
As the warrior moved away, Thranduil carefully moved his horse nearer to that of his son. He wanted to be near Legolas just in case he was too tired to continue on his own.
They were soon at the cave and Thranduil swung from his horse with the ease of long practice. Once dismounted, he rushed to his son and helped him down, noting the stiffness that the Elfling tried hard to hide from his father. Yes, Legolas was finding the riding hard. Tomorrow, Legolas could ride with him where he could rest against his father if he got tired.
The cave was large and dry. It had been used by travelers before because there were stacks of wood and kindling to be found inside, dry kindling that they could use for the beginnings of a fire and so keep their own stocks for later use. There was more than enough room for the entire party with its soft floor and hidden entrance. It was likely that even spiders would not even know they were about, so well hidden was it. They had not seen even one sign of the hideous creatures yet on the Old Forest Road.
"There you go, Ion-nin. We will soon have a fire going. Until then, just keep your cloak on for warmth, even if it is wet, it is better than nothing. Stay right here, I will be back with you shortly." Thranduil led Legolas to the area they would be using for the fire before leaving to talk with Captain Bremoline about plans for tomorrow's travel.
Legolas sat where instructed by his father, watching as some of the group began to make the cave comfortable for the night and others saw to the horses. One of the guards, Calandor, was gathering small dry tinder, like leaves and brush blown in by the winds, that littered the floor and the area just inside the cave mouth before moving to place it further back in the cave from where Legolas was seated. He then brought over an arm full of the dry wood they had found in the cave. They had brought bundles of wood strapped on each horse as well, but it was all damp from being in the rain, in spite of being well-wrapped.
Legolas watched with curious interest as Calandor quickly stacked the wood and placed the small tinder in preparation of starting the fire. He reached in a small pouch and pulled out a piece of flint that he would need to make the sparks to light the fire.
"How can you do that? May I watch? I am not allowed to start the fires at home." Calandor smiled. Legolas was friendly to everyone, and they all adored him in return.
"I light the fire by causing a spark to jump from the flint. Would you like to help?" At the Elfling's nod he motioned him over. "What you need to do is this…" Calandor proceeded to patiently explain the process of fire-starting to Legolas. With Calandor's help, Legolas soon had the small pile of tinder alight and the look of wonder that appeared on the small porcelain-pale face as it lit up with a mixture of joy and amazement was a great reward.
Just then, Thranduil came in and noticed that Legolas was not in the place he had left him. He hurried further back into the cave, but relaxed when he saw his son sitting by the fire with Calandor, adding the small pieces of wood that would feed the licking flames.
Legolas looked up as Thranduil reached them. "I helped start the fire, Ada." The bright blue eyes were filled with the joy of achievement. Calandor stood from long habit of respect as Thranduil approached.
"I can see, Ion-nin. You have both done a good job." Thranduil nodded to the guard and smiled at his son, whose grin could be so infectious. "We will have some fresh rabbits to cook over your fine fire for the meal tonight. Would you like to help with that as well, Penneth?"
"I have never cooked a rabbit before, Ada." Legolas, unsure of what was expected of him, lost a little of his enthusiasm.
"It is not hard, Legolas and you like rabbit, do you not?" Thranduil smoothed some of the long blond hair that had escaped from Legolas' braids as his hair dried.
"Yes, I do like rabbit. I will learn how to cook it if you wish me to Ada." Legolas was so eager to please his father that it almost melted Thranduil's heart. Legolas smile was so much like his wife's that it pierced his heart sometimes.
"Good, I am sure you will do well and you will have help, I am sure." Thranduil had to smile as Legolas tried to hide a yawn, not very successfully. Every night Legolas would try to stay awake for as long as possible, they had decided that this was a mixture of not wanting to miss anything, but also not wanting to sleep because of the nightmares that still haunted him, at least that was what Legolas' healer, Doroniel, had concluded was the likely cause.
"Calandor has said I may light the fire tomorrow if you say I may. May I, Ada, please?" It would take a heart of stone indeed not to give in to that beseeching look.
"Yes, Legolas you may, but only if there is someone with you, do you understand?" Thranduil tried to look stern but the brighter smile from his child made it nearly impossible.
The group was soon settled for the night, sitting around the fire and talking. The talk was muted and calm in favour of the Prince and the three elleth who would not normally be present on such a trip. Thranduil had not wanted them to come at first and in fact felt he could very well do without them. Thranduil had even said as much to their 'leader' but it had been ignored and he had found himself reluctantly giving in to their reasons for coming.
Their 'leader', for want of a better description, could have been called beautiful, but for the habitual hard, some said spiteful, look in her eyes. Her face and body were perfect, but those eyes; they could be sharp and menacing when she was crossed.
Almost as soon as Queen Minerella had died, Ruthwen had tried very hard to set her hook into Thranduil. Once, before Thranduil had met Minerella, there had been talk of a possible arranged bonding between them. After he had met her, he was just as glad the arrangement had never been sealed. He was more than aware of what she wanted and he was even more determined it was precisely what she would not be getting. There was no possibility he would ever bond again and certainly not this soon after his beloved Minerella's death. He did not care for Ruthwen, at times even despised her, and that was certainly no basis for a marriage. At least that was what Thranduil thought after having had such a happy, loving relationship. Ruthwen would be disappointed in her aims and the only one who did not realise that was Ruthwen herself.
Thranduil was keenly aware of her gaze from the coziest corner of the cave which had been set aside for the three elleth, but he would not acknowledge it. It was a relief when her attention was drawn away from him.
Thranduil smiled down at Legolas where he had cuddled warmly into his side as the rabbits cooked. He had been a small help in preparing them for the cook pot, adding the seasoning he was given by Bremoline from a small pouch. To both Thranduil and Bremoline, this was one of the best parts of the day. Legolas would always watch them cooking the evening meal, but he would always cuddle up to this father. It was a precious sight, the two golden-haired Elves happy within each other's company.
As the two older Elves talked, Legolas was happy just lying as he was in his father's warm arms. He could say that he was too old for this in the light of day, but at night and in a strange place, it seemed it was a different matter altogether. No, at night he still needed to be with his Ada.
Finally the meal was ready and Bremoline dished up the first platter and handed it with a smile to Legolas. Legolas took it with a bright smile and with a little trepidation took a mouthful. All the Elves in the vicinity stopped to watch, this had become a part of the journey that acted as a small respite of the long day.
Legolas' eyes widened in surprise as he took the first bite, this was good. Another mouthful followed quickly.
"Do you like it, Penneth?" Thranduil had to smile at the enthusiasm with which Legolas ate. His answer was a nod as the Elfling was more interested in his food than talking. It made Thranduil laugh. Yes, his little Leaf was growing up. It was also good to see his appetite was returning. For a time he had practically refused to eat in his grief.
He was unaware of the cold eyes that were watching him from the back of the cave. Ruthwen glowered at the Elfling while all the others smiled. Lately her jealousy had seemed to consume her like a fire burning in her mind. Trust the Prince to get and keep all the attention of his father. It was always the same. Every night it was the same, Legolas getting the King's attention when he should have been gazing at her.
Yes, she should have been Queen; and she would be making sure that she would be Queen. All she had to do was get the King alone and then she could begin to work her charms on him. She did, after all, have the next week to go before they reached their destination. Then she had the awful, dull weeks of meetings to get through. His attention would be focused on other matters.
To say it was expected to be tedious for her was an understatement. She would be coming back from this journey as the new Queen-to-be or she would not be coming back at all. The idea had grown more urgent to her over the last winter, overriding all else in her mind.
The group all settled for the evening, sitting in groups and talking with muted voices. Normally, there would be singing as well, but not on this trip. There were too many eyes and ears possibly watching their movement. All the other representatives of the Elven Realms would be there; Elrond, with his young sons, as well as Galadriel and Celeborn of Lothlorien.
The meeting was primarily for trade. The people of Fornost needed aide after the harsh winter, the flooding before the early snow had washed away many crops. They had called for help and that call had been answered on the basis of old friendships and alliances. Thranduil also had news of the fearsome Smaug, a Dragon who hunted these lands at times. This was another reason that Thranduil was attending this meeting, to give news of the new threat.
Thranduil suddenly became aware that the small body nestled close to him had become heavy. He looked down; Legolas' eyes were half-lidded in the way of elven sleep. Thranduil had to smile when the Elfling blinked and shook himself.
"Are you sleepy, Legolas?" The words seemed to have a magical effect. With wide eyes, the small Prince sat up. "No, Ada, I am awake." Every night this happened now, Legolas would not give in to sleep unless he absolutely had too. It was becoming a small game with them, to see how long he could stay awake. Thranduil knew the struggle would not last much longer as Legolas' eyes drifted half-closed again.
The next time the small body lay limp within his arms he said nothing, but softly sang a lullaby. Soon many of the others in the cave joined in and sang softly with him. It was so quietly sung that no one on the outside of the cave would even know they were there. It could not be heard above the steady drip of the rain.
With a sigh Legolas settled deeper into sleep.
The weather had cleared a little the next day as they continued on their way. It still rained, but it was a gentle mist, not a deluge like days previous. Legolas was still sleepy after the morning meal and Thranduil was certain that his son had no idea what it was that he had eaten. He was unaware and did not protest when Thranduil had mounted and Legolas was handed up to him. Within minutes of settling in front of his father and being wrapped in his cloak, the horses were urged forward and Legolas was once more asleep as they began the morning's journey.
Thranduil again found himself discussing the travel plans with Captain Bremoline. "It should not be difficult to traverse the High Pass, by now it should be clear of snow, and then we will join the East Road. We will bypass Imladris, as Lord Elrond has already left. He and his sons planned to travel with Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn."
By the time that they stopped for the midday meal, they had reached the Eastern borders of Mirkwood. They had been following the Old Forest Road, choosing to stop before crossing the River Anduin at Old Ford. It seemed like a very good idea. It would give them a short break so that the horses could rest and graze for the first time in days, for more than minutes at a time.
Legolas was very much awake now, and very lively. Indeed, he was full of the energy that human children and Elfling's alike share. To give direction to some of this boundless energy, Calandor asked if the Prince could gather fallen wood for the fire with him. As soon as Thranduil gave his acceptance of this, they were off.
No sooner had Legolas left than Thranduil found he had a visitor. "He is a lively child, Hir-nin." It was Ruthwen. Thranduil felt his heart fall.
"Indeed, My Lady, but I would not have him any other way. It is a joy to see him taking an interest in life again." Thranduil would be polite as etiquette demanded, though he would like nothing better than to simply ignore her and walk away.
"As it should be. The journey is going well?" She smiled at him and Thranduil saw that the smile did not reach her eyes. For some reason that he could not fathom, that bothered him more than anything else about her.
Ruthwen was small and lily pale, with long black hair which was pulled back into the intricate braids that the elleth were currently wearing. But it was her eyes that were the most unnerving. They were a deep black, not brown, but a true black. She was also so thin that it looked as if a good wind would snap her in two. The one thing that Thranduil was certain of was that he did not even like her, would never like her.
"Yes, very. We will cross the river in a short while. We should make good time today."
"And yet you pretend to your son that you need him to gather wood for the fire?" Her tone was slightly condescending.
"Legolas may be young, lady, but he also knows that a fire will not catch in wet wood. The wood will be used later in the journey, after it has dried. At all breaks wood will be gathered for just this purpose. I can see that you have never traveled before or you would know this." Thranduil moved to walk away before turning back and saying. "I would also appreciate you not advising me how to bring up my son. My Lady." With that he moved away to talk with Bremoline about a likely place to camp for the night.
Behind him Ruthwen glowered at his retreating back. So, this was going to be harder than she had thought. She just had to get his attention. She could watch and wait a while for her opportunity. All she needed was a little patience.
By the time Legolas returned, he had muddy stripes along his face and his clothes were in disarray. Thranduil had to smother his laughter. He had never seen his son like this. Normally Legolas was spotlessly clean. Legolas also had a pleased and satisfied look on his face.
"What have you been up to, Legolas?" His smile was broad as he took in the loosened braids that hung around his son's face.
"Finding wood, Ada. Calandor told me I was the best Elfling he had ever met at being able to get through into the small places to find the wood." Legolas was beaming, behind him Calandor winked at the Prince before he nodded at his King.
Calandor was unbonded and had never taken care of Elfling's before, yet he seemed to have a talent for knowing just what to say to cheer Legolas. Thranduil would have to thank him for taking Legolas under his wing.
"I am proud of you. Did you get much wood?" The latter was aimed at Calandor.
"Yes, we have replenished our stocks, thanks to Legolas' help."
"Good. We will be moving in thirty minutes. Legolas, come along now, we need to get you cleaned and tidied up so that you can eat. Thank you, Calandor." There were more than just the usual thanks in his reply. Thranduil knew all too well how lonely it could be to be a lone Prince and Crown Prince at that. He had been there; his youth had been rather lonely as well.
All the way down to the river Legolas talked non-stop. Even when washing in the cold water he did not stop. He finally stopped talking only because he knew that speaking when your mouth was full was rude.
The wet days soon fell into a pattern, each morning Legolas would ride sleepily with his father, and then he would help Calandor gathering wood, with the older Elf giving the small Prince lessons on the new exciting world around him. It was the best kind of teaching, for the Elfling was unaware of being taught.
As the trip wore on Legolas was soon able to distinguish between the different trees and bushes, could tell which tree the wood they gathered came from. It also pleased Thranduil; Legolas' formal lessons were normally told in class in the palace and never in the forest, at least not for a few years yet.
So, in the afternoons as they rode, Thranduil would question Legolas on the trees and plants around them trying to gauge his knowledge. As the journey wore on it became more like a game and even the guards joined in, as long as it would not distract from their true purpose of bodyguards.
There was only one in the group who was not enamored by the Elfling, she was meant to be the Prince's tutor. That was her reasoning for coming on this dismal journey in the first place. Perhaps, no formal tutoring could take place during their travel but she could have gotten closer to the Prince and pretended to like him. That would have got her closer to Thranduil. But no, they had to play this foolish game and that foolish guard had to take over her position and tutor the child.
She would have to change that; this could not be allowed to continue. She intended to be in Thranduil's party before they got to this Valar-forsaken place they were heading to. She had no interest in going there, other than to become close to the King and for the sake of propriety she had agreed to bring along a friend as chaperone. She had chosen one who was quiet and meek and would follow her lead without even a squeak of protest. The other elleth in the group was known to her vaguely, she was the healer that had been chosen for the trip.
Ruthwen had very little to do with her and usually kept away from her. In her mind you never knew what you would pick up from working in the healing rooms.. In regards to that, Ruthwen and her friend, Imles, kept well away from Doroniel, being civil to her, but in a cold and uncaring way.
As they crossed the Misty Mountains Legolas surprised everyone, he had not been afraid to see that the Stone Giants were awake and throwing boulders at each other, it actually had made him laugh.
They were two days ride from their destination when Ruthwen got a good opportunity to get near to Legolas. They had just stopped for the night. Thranduil was deep in conversation on the other side of the camp. Legolas, who had become quite adept at making the fire, had just done so in Caladorn's presence, but Calandor had been called away at the last minute. While everyone was distracted, she made her way to the Elfling's side.
"Hello, Prince Legolas, and how are you tonight?" Ruthwen did not wait to be invited but moved close to Legolas and sat beside him.
Legolas looked up to her with surprise. None of the Elleth's, apart from Doroniel, had spoken much to him or even acknowledged him and he really wanted to keep it that way. He knew that this elleth was going to be his tutor, but he did not like her. He much preferred his usual tutor, but he had been unable to come. Ruthwen had been present during some of his lessons before they left, but he really wished he did not have to be alone with her. She made him feel uneasy and he could not tell why.
All he could do was be polite, just as his father and tutor had taught him.
"I am well, thank you. I hope you are well?" It took all his focus and energy to stop in this place when all he wanted was to run for his father.
"I am well too. It will only be two day's travel now. I will be pleased to sleep in a proper bed once more."
Ruthwen's comment caused Legolas to blink in surprise. He knew that small roll-up beds had been brought with them for the Elleth's use. They were similar to the ones that he and his father brought and used. They were as comfortable as his bed back home. He blinked at her in query, but she never saw and just kept speaking.
"We will soon be able to begin our lessons together. That will be fun, I think."
Legolas wanted very much to say 'no, it would not be', but instead found himself agreeing with her.
"We will have to get together and plan our lessons. I know that your father is busy, but could you let him know that we need to talk?" At Legolas' nod, she smiled, a cold smile. The look in her black eyes was cold and caused him to shiver. It reminded him of a serpent's gaze. "Good." She looked up in time to see Calandor crossing the clearing to them. "I will leave you now and will speak to you tomorrow. Pleasant dreams, Penneth."
With that, she left, leaving behind a worried Elfling. Calandor noticed the frown that graced the Prince' brow and hurried to reach him.
"Are you alright, Legolas? Did she harm you?" Calandor really did not trust Ruthwen. He had dealt with her on a number of occasions and her manner had chilled him. There was just something... not quite right with her. He could not put his finger on it and it concerned him.
"No, Calandor she just wanted to speak to me about our lessons. She wants to speak with Ada."
Calandor could not quite read the look that flashed across the small face. "Very well, but if she ever does anything that you are worried about, you can come to me. I am always here for you, at any time, My Prince." He meant it as well, for as the trip had progressed he had become very fond of the small Prince.
"I will, I promise. Thank you, Calandor." Legolas smiled at him, albeit a small smile and the older Elf smiled back.
"You are more than welcome. Your Adar approaches. I must go groom the horses now, so if you would both excuse me?" At their nods, he stood and walked away, deliberately closing his ears to their conversation.
"Ada, Lady Ruthwen says she wants to speak with you about my lessons. She asked me to tell you." Legolas told his father straight away, before he forgot.
"Thank you, Ion-nin. I will speak with her later. I am glad that the trees are sheltering us tonight, it means we will stay a little drier." Thranduil managed to stop a sigh, this weather really was incredible, it had not stopped raining at all only varied in its speed. The rivers they had passed were very close to spilling over their banks, for this reason they had chosen to camp for the night on a small hillock that the water should not reach, should the rivers rise higher.
Thranduil had asked the trees to help shelter them from the storm unaware that small, curious eyes were watching him do this, intrigued as to how his Adar was getting the trees to do his bidding.
The evening passed and dinner had been prepared and eaten before Thranduil felt he could face Ruthwen. He was not intimidated by her, he just wished he did not have to deal with her. Unfortunately, she had been the only person to seek a place on the journey to keep Legolas up on his education so that he would not fall behind the other Elflings when they got back to Mirkwood.
"I will be back soon, Tithen Las, I need to speak with Lady Ruthwen." This time he did sigh, but he also knew he could no longer put this talk off. He moved to where two of the Elleth were sheltering, covered in blankets as if cold. That amused Thranduil, although it did not show on his face. Elves rarely felt the cold. That was when he realised that there was only two Elleth and not three. He looked around the camp site. Ah, there was Doroniel, speaking with Calandor and Bremoline.
Meanwhile, across the campsite a small figure made its way to the nearest tree. No one had noticed that he had moved from his spot. after all his Ada had not told him to stay where he was and he was still within the camp. He remembered what his Ada had done and stood in the same position. Legolas closed his eyes and lay his hand on the branch. Not sure what would happen, he just stood there.
Hello, little One.
Legolas jumped and leapt back without realising he had lost contact. The tree spoke to him! Legolas, his heart thudding with joy, went back to the tree. "Hello, my name is Legolas."
Hello, Legolas, it is nice to meet you and the other Wood Elves. It has been long since we saw any of your people. We are happy that you and the King have taken time to talk with us. Are you wet?
The conversation went on and Legolas was keenly aware that the air was suddenly full of song, a song that came from the trees, the grass, even the river. He had never noticed it before, it was beautiful! He was unaware that nearly all conversation behind him had stopped, apart from two. All heads were turned in his direction, watching him, their faces showing their utter surprise.
Calandor quickly rose and made his way to Thranduil, who was deep in conversation with Ruthwen.
"Hir-nin." His voice was soft and urgent.
Thranduil looked up, secretly pleased at the interruption. "Yes, Calandor?"
"You need to come and see to Legolas, Hir-nin." Calandor's voice was again soft and urgent.
Thranduil turned, his eyes automatically seeking the spot by the fire where Legolas should be seated. It was empty. Heart thumping with sudden fear, he looked around the camp before finding the small Elfling, standing before the tree he had spoken to earlier. He recognized his son's stance before he heard the tree's joy at the Elfling's touch. Legolas was talking to the tree! But, how? Most Elflings did not begin to hear the song of Arda until they were nearing maturity. Even he had been forty-nine before he began to understand what was happening about him and what the whispers were that he sometimes heard.
He hurried over to Legolas, aware that Calandor and Doroniel were following him. He was pleased; he may have need of both of them. Sometimes, with the first communion with the trees, Elfling's found they could not stop themselves from getting lost in the thrall of nature's song.
But as they reached him, Legolas turned to them, his eyes bright and sparkling with joy and a wide smile on his face. "Ada, the tree is speaking with me. He is nice and he thanked you for bringing us to him."
A stunned silence filled the campsite. Thranduil himself was dumfounded. Never in all his long years had he seen anything like this! How could Legolas understand so completely?
"I am glad, Ion-nin, but how did you…?" He vaguely gestured towards the trees behind Legolas.
"I watched you, Ada." Was his honest reply.
"You watched me...?" All Legolas could possibly have seen him do was lay his hand against the branch, and nothing else. By the Valar! How he wished that either Elrond or Mithrandir were here to counsel him. Still, two more days and he could speak with Elrond, but until then he had to react to this calmly so as not to alarm his son.
"Yes, Ada, I just did what I saw you do when you talked to the trees. The tree says that tomorrow the rain will be very bad and that we will need to be careful as we go." Legolas broke off to try, unsuccessfully, to hide a yawn.
Thranduil was content that Legolas seemed unharmed by this new experience. "Come and sit by the fire, Tithen Las. The tree will be here in the morning and you can speak with him then." He led the unresisting Elfling back to his place at the fire while the others in the party went back to what they had been doing. However, now they were talking about what had happened in small incredulous whispers.
Ruthwen was furious. The Prince had done it again! Just when she felt she was making some progress with the King, he had to do something to take him away again. She was dividing her glare between Legolas and Doroniel. It had not escaped her notice that the healer was speaking with the King more often and that they seemed to be very much at ease with each other.
Unaware of what was going on behind him, Thranduil settled Legolas into his bed. This night it was not long before Legolas was lost to his elven reverie. His communion with the tree had been unusually long for a first time and it had exhausted him.
Once Legolas was asleep, Thranduil wrapped him in the blanket that Legolas used at night and carried him to his small bed near the fire. His own bed was next to Legolas, in case his child needed his comfort. He then sought out Doroniel to talk about what had happened. Unfortunately, she was just as astonished as he was.
A frustrated Thranduil returned to sit beside Legolas, worry filling him once more. Why could things never be simple when it concerned his son?
As he sat thinking, one by one the others made their way to their own beds, until finally only those on watch remained. With a sigh, Thranduil settled himself down facing Legolas. Soon, he too was wandering the paths of elven dreams.
All was still, the soft crackling of the fire and the steady patter of the rain could be heard along with the slight whispers of the guards making their reports. So far the night had been calm with no disturbances. Soon dawn would begin to brighten the eastern sky, or at least she would have if she had been able to pierce the clouds. Outside the leafy canopy, the rain was again falling in a steady sheet and all remembered the Prince's warning from last night.
Then from behind them came a small moan, the guards all turned as one, swords in their hands. No one was about in the camp. The sound came again and this time they all knew where the moan came from. It was by the fire, by their King.
Then the prince began to thrash and mumble, caught in his nightmare once more. One hurried to wake the King but as he reached him, the King sat up and tried to wake Legolas as he began to cry for his mother. "Baw! Naneth!" ("Don't! Mother!") It was all that Thranduil could do to stop his own tears from falling.
The guard near to him hurried to wake Doroniel. After one of these terrible dreams, Legolas always needed a calming draft. Luckily there was already water heated for the guards to have hot drinks. Soon Doroniel, with Thranduil's help, had woken Legolas and fed him the draft. She then moved off to give them the little privacy that she could.
"Hush, Legolas you are safe. I am here." Over and over Thranduil reassured his son until at last the shuddering sobs stopped and Legolas lay calm within his arms. Red rimmed, drowsy eyes looked at him.
"Ada?" The voice was hesitant and so very young and scared. "Monsters gone?"
"Yes, Ion-nin the monsters have gone and even if they were here they will come nowhere near you, I promise."
Legolas gave a loud yawn before falling to sleep once more. The others in the camp settled down once more, apart from a select few. Thranduil sat cradling his young son, wishing he could help him more, but only time and distance could help. He would have to be patient. It was not one of his best talents.
Doroniel had returned to her own bed after making sure the Prince was alright. She was not aware of the angry, calculating glare that was leveled at her in the dark.
Morning came and the camp began to wake. Thranduil sat where he had been left, still cradling Legolas in his arms. He was awake, having not settled back to sleep. He accepted the tea from Bremoline with a small smile and the same with his porridge when that came. No one disturbed Legolas and he was left to sleep.
They quickly broke camp and prepared to move out, but not before Thranduil thanked the trees for their shelter and advice.
Unfortunately, Legolas had been right when he said the weather that day would be bad. The wind was rising and rain fell from the sky in sheets and showed no signs of stopping. By the time Legolas awoke, they were all soaked.
Thranduil sighed, they could not continue in this heavy rain. "Captain, have the scouts search for a suitable spot to spend the rest of the day. We will not travel further, the weather is against us." At the Captain's nod, they carried on; even slowly the pace would help.
All was going well until one of the horses slipped in the quagmire taking it's rider to the ground. Luckily neither was hurt apart from their pride; the ground was way too soft for that. Once they were on their way once more, they were all more careful with their footing. Legolas had been lying quietly in his father's arms, not wanting to leave the safety after the nightmare, nor did he wish to ride in this weather.
They had not gone far when Legolas stiffened in his father's arms.
"Legolas? What is it?"
"The trees say monsters are near." Legolas could not hide the fear in his voice.
"There are none about, Legolas. You are just un..." Thranduil stopped speaking as he and every other Elf in the party finally heard the trees' warning. Legolas fretted and wrapped his arms tightly around his father's neck. "No! Ada, they will eat you, don't let them find us..." Legolas began to sob, frightened. This was just too much like what happened to his naneth.
Thranduil gently unclasped his son's hands and gave them a gentle shake. "Legolas, stop, Ion-nin! I will not let them get you and I promise the monsters will not have a chance to eat me. I want you to climb into a tree and keep safe so that I do not have to worry about you while I fight."
Legolas, though shaking, tried to compose himself and nodded to his father. "Promise, Ada?" Tears still welled in his wide eyes.
Thranduil hugged Legolas to his chest. "I do promise, Ion-nin."
They barely had ten minutes to prepare, vital minutes in which Thranduil made use of a good strong tree to hide Legolas, away from the trees his archers were hidden in. He watched fascinated as the tree cocooned Legolas and hid him from view after he had urged Legolas to climb into some high branches. It was another surprise for the King to consider later. Thranduil turned and readied his own weapons for battle.
Within minutes, the Orcs came into view. With a battle cry all the Elves joined the fight. A group surrounded each Elleth so that they were safe, even though they had their own knives and if necessary could take up bows as well. It was the way of the Wood Elves of Greenwood that every subject had been taught some way to defend themselves.
Thranduil lost track of how many Orcs there were, or how many he killed, but they just seemed to keep on coming. The wind had risen during the fight, until it howled around them, it was an eerie sound that caused the hackles to rise on the backs of their necks. Blinding rain still fell steadily, whipped up by the wind. Debris flew around them making it incredibly difficult to see. Finally they were down to only a handful of foes when Legolas' scream from the trees caused Thranduil to spin around.
To be continued. . .
Well, we hope that you like this. Please let us know. Chapter two is already in the works.
The Sinister Sindar Sisters...