Weight Of the World
By The One And Only Skande
Summary: Legolas is a hurting young elven prince with the weight of his father's judgment heavy on his shoulders. Estel seeks to befriend the lonely prince, closed off inside of himself in a place he considers safe.
The Mirkwood Forest Patrol was quiet, cloaked in a thick blanket of gloom as they entered the courtyard of Mirkwood Palace. A brisk autumn wind bustled along close to the ground, sending leaves of bright red and orange flying high in wild flurries of sudden color, sharply in contrast to the solemn faces and slumped shoulders of the elves among them. The woodland folk wore uniforms of earth-toned brown and green, and carried slender wooden longbows.
The leader of the patrol stood out almost instantly as the only one among them with pale golden hair, whipped around his shoulders in the cold breeze. His face was drawn and gaunt with weariness, yet he sat straight on his stallion, supporting the slumped, unconscious form of the elf he held before him. Two of the other elves behind him also held bodies of companions, but by the grey, empty look in their eyes it was painfully obvious that these souls had already passed the mortal shores.
By wordless consent, the silent company came to a slow halt near the middle of the empty stone courtyard, and most of the elves instantly dismounted to aid in helping those who did not by cause of the fallen companions they held. Others merely sat, still upon their horses, heads hung low in the grief they had formerly reserved.
Their captain waited for no aid in dismounting, put swung down swiftly and without preamble, pulling his fellow warrior down into his arms. He knelt carefully, laying his friend gently down on the cold cobblestones. Slowly, almost hesitatingly, as if afraid of looking for fear of what he might find, he reached towards the elf's pale neck, his hands steady in spite of his rushing heart as he felt for a pulse beneath his fingertips.
There was a tense moment of apprehensive silence, during which the other elves who had gathered around waited with baited breath, praying that they were not looking at the day's third casualty, but knowing deep inside that they were.
After a time, their captain's hand drew back, his face betraying nothing of his inner turmoil as he struggled with himself and his emotions, fighting hard to keep his war-battered façade of control firmly in place.
When he was sure he had control of himself, he stood quickly and resolutely, looking to his Lieutenant.
"Narion." He said softly, but formally. "Please see that the fallen are taken to the healing houses. I will report to the King, and return to see to their burial."
Narion, the sharp-faced warrior with black hair, nodded at his captain, his eyes deep with emotion. Both for his fallen friends, and the other's grief. He did not envy his captain's position, especially since he knew that the other elf must now step out of the role of grieving warrior, and back onto the pedestal of perfect elven prince: Poised, invincible, and emotionless.
But as Prince Legolas of Mirkwood strode away from his silent patrol and toward the looming steps of Mirkwood Palace, he felt anything but.
Chapter One: I Walk Alone
I walk this empty street
Down the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one
And I walk alone
The only one that walks beside me
My shadow heart's
The only thing that's faded
Wish someone out there would find me
I walk alone
"Three? Three, Legolas? How did this happen?" His father's angry words still rang loudly in his ears as, almost four hours later, the elven prince fumbled for the door handle to his own room.
"If you had followed your patrol's usual route, this never would have happened!"
"Perhaps not today father, but the wargs would have slaughtered everyone in that village, yielding many more casualties than we have witnessed today!"
"We are elves, Legolas! We do not sacrifice our own to save the worthless lives of mortals!"
"So we stand by, watching as innocents die when we could have helped? Because of us, no-one in that village was killed!"
"No-one?" Thranduil stepped close to Legolas, who had to force himself not to take a matching step back. "No-one? What of Amongil? Naras? Indor?" Each word struck Legolas' heart like a blow, and he was forced to swallow and take a deep breath to keep himself from showing emotion. "Now they are no-one to you?"
The words hurt, they hurt deeply, but he pushed it inside, to feel it later if feel it he must. He didn't answer the King.
Legolas found the door handle, and pulled it open, his movements lethargic and his body numb as he stumbled towards the bed. He found it, and let himself fall onto his back, eyes slipping shut almost instantly as he enjoyed the comfort of something soft, warm, and familiar at his back. This at least was steady, the sanctuary of his own room that was always there for him. Unchangeable. Immortal.
He was bone-weary, but that was not surprising since he had not slept in over a week, when they had altered course to save a human village from a pack of hunting wargs. It had been the right choice in his mind, but nothing short of perfection would ever be right in his father's.
Two elves had been killed in the fight, and another, Naras, had been wounded. No-one had really held out on the hope that he would survive until they got back to the palace, but it was still a deep blow for Legolas to know that another few hours might have saved his life. They had run low on food on the way back and cut down the rations, and Legolas had been secretly giving his own up to Naras, hoping it would make the difference between life and death for the elf he had fought with for so many years.
It had not.
The "report" to his father, however, which had been mainly his father berating him for his lack of judgment and strong leadership, was nothing compared to the emotional trial of giving his fallen warriors a proper burial. It had been he who had gone to each of their families in turn, it had been he who had crumbled inside just a little bit more as he tried to comfort wives and mothers and children, wailing in grief for the loss of their family member. And it had been he who had helped the male elves of each family dig the grave where another friend and fellow warrior would find an eternal resting place.
And it had been he, with the speaking of ever elvish prayer over every elvish grave, who had known that deep down inside, his foolish choices had been the result of the abrupt ending of an immortal life.
And now he lay, safe on his bed, just as every warrior he had seen to the Halls of Mandos should have been laying on their own. It was now, too weary to even open his eyes, hurting in every part of his body, mind, and soul, that the grief broke free. It came out in the form of silent tears that streamed down his face, every drop full of deep hurt and sorrow and shame, full of regret for lives that had ended, a time that had passed, and hearts that were broken. Tears that came from a hurting soul.
Mirkwood forest was lush and green in the face of an approaching autumn, and birds and beasts alike roamed freely and without fear among their boughs. The road was safe and open due to the strict vigilance of the Greenwood Border Patrols, and the sun shown brightly down to pierce the canopy of thick foliage overhead.
Lord Elrond half-elven of Imladris, astride a tall chestnut stallion, sat with his eyes fixed on the road ahead, glazed and distant thought despite the mayhem around him.
The "mayhem" consisted of two horses and their elven riders in mounted chase of a third horse and its human companion. The three, all sons of Elrond, galloped madly back and forth along the road, laughing and shouting as they traded places after catching the human and began instead to chase one of the elven riders.
Estel, his 19 yr. old human foster-son, had said that human children called the game tag, but they did it on foot. Elrond didn't mind that they had modified the game for the journey to Mirkwood Palace, seeing as they were not now far from their destination and the horses were enjoying the game almost as much as their riders. He had become used to the noise, for one must when raising a young Edain and two fun-loving sons.
Estel, for one, had yet in his young life to see the amazing forest that men called Mirkwood, but that was not the reason the Elven Lord was here.
He was here to see Legolas, the young prince who he had befriended many years ago when the Sindarin elf had been in Imladris. The Prince had seemed strangely distant, pushing away prospective relationships with anyone he did not already know. Elrond had broken past the barrier the young elf had thrown up around himself, and had found a warm, complex personality hidden within a hurting soul, subconsciously afraid to trust because he was afraid of being hurt again, and starving inside for the love he did not know he was missing. Elrond had known all too well who was the cause of this, for King Thranduil, although a good King and Ruler, was straightforward and sometimes even downright cold when it came to relationships. Even though Legolas might not consciously realize it, Elrond knew that the elven Prince was afraid, more than anything else, that his father did not love him.
Elrond himself had known Thranduil well at one time, before the death of his wife, and had been somewhat surprised at how little the Prince was like his father, both physically and emotionally. They thought differently and felt differently, which, by Legolas' own hesitant words, often resulted in conflict.
The young elf had been on Elrond's mind almost constantly of late, and although he had no understanding of why this was, his heart told him it would be a good time to pay a visit to Mirkwood, or more correctly, to Thranduil and his lonely son.
He had allowed his sons to accompany him to Eryn Lasgalen only as an afterthought, for it was his hope they might find a friend in the Prince, and perhaps he in them.
Valar knows he could do with a good friend or two… Elrond mused. He watched with disinterest as a line of three charging horses ripped by, failing to unsettle his own steed in the slightest, and mentally added, or three.
"Welcome to the Palace of Eryn Lasgalen, Lords of Rivendell."
A tall, brown-haired elf greeted the four travelers once they had reached and passed through the Palace gates. "The stable hands will take your horses." As predicted, the four horses were instantly whisked away by elven servants, and the tall elf led the company into the Palace.
"Elrond, my old friend!" Thranduil greeted with the closest thing to a smile that had passed his lips since the death of his wife, "It is good to see you!"
Elrond smiled back and embraced the other Elven Lord, arms clasped.
"And you have brought your sons?" Thranduil noted, glancing past Elrond, "It has been many years since I have seen them. How do you fare?" He nodded by way of acknowledgment.
Both twins nodded and murmured that they were well, thank you, but Estel, busy taking note of his surroundings, missed the question. It mattered little, for Thranduil ignored the human, thinking him but a servant.
"Come, join us for dinner, for 'tis but a half-hour till'." Thranduil offered, "We have much to speak of, so long has it been since last we met."
"Thank you, my friend." Elrond nodded, waiting for their host to lead the way, but Thranduil hesitated, looking past his old friend to the door.
"But where is Legolas?" The elven Lord finally asked his friend a moment later when his son did not appear.
"I know not, mellon-nin." Elrond spoke hesitantly, afraid to put Legolas in the elven King's ill will.
"Did not my son greet you when you arrived?" Thranduil's eyes flashed darkly.
"It matters not." Elrond smiled quickly, anxious to take Thranduil's mind off the subject. "Estel will go find him ask him to join us for dinner."
"Estel?" Thranduil repeated, confused.
"Forgive me my friend—" Elrond laughed. "It has been long indeed." He gestured to the human, now under scrutiny. "This is my foster-son, Estel of the Dunedain."
"Forgive me, Estel." Thranduil nodded politely. "I was not aware Elrond had a third son or I would have greeted you properly."
Estel nodded politely and murmured a thanks and acknowledgment. "I will find Legolas, Adar." He nodded to his father with a smile, inwardly eager to explore the Palace. It was huge even from the outside, and once in, he held no doubt that its halls must be a wonderful place.
"Thank you, young Estel." Thranduil nodded with a sigh. "Forgive my son's rudeness. He has yet to learn that as Prince, he must think of others before himself."
Estel wanted to frown at these words, but did not. He had heard good things about the Prince from his father, but he supposed everyone had their faults. He only smiled in return and bowed out of the conversation, before turning and heading off to find a Prince he had never met.
Well, hello again everybody! Yes, the crazy Skande is back with (gasp—) another story? Yep. I am actually very interested to see how this one will turn out, but let me warn you: It will be moving very slowly. It's currently at the very bottom of my priority list. My horse was killed just recently and I'm still trying to recover from that. Lucky thing I've had this written up for several weeks now.
Originally I had this all planned out to be really more Medieval style than Middle Earth style, just because. So if some things seem a little off, it's because I had them that way and then changed them back because it really wasn't even that much different—Palace was castle, and so forth. No big deal.
Oh, okay, and let me get this straight right now: I am not a mean-Thranduil fan at all! I believe Thranduil was a great father and King. However—in this story it was convenient to have him be the antagonist. So no-one flame me—this will probably be the only mean-Thranduil story I ever write. Get it? Got it? Good. I mean, Legolas needs the angst and the angst needs Legolas: Anyway to get to that is good, right? Lol, alright: I'll let y'all get to your favorite little button down there in the corner! You know you want to!