Disclaimer: I'm just playing in the Middle-earth sandbox. If you recognize it from elsewhere, I don't own it.

Author's Note: I wrote this story just five months after being introduced to LOTR. I followed canon as much as possible, but I didn't know all the facts then. Also, my OC is called Lothiriel, the same name as Prince Imrahil's daughter and Eomer's wife. She and I have discussed this, and I have promised to return her name unscathed at a later date. ;)

Thank you. Please enjoy this unabashed Legomance.


Underneath the Stars

Prologue

"A Quest of One's Own"

The hall was silent on this day. For twenty-four hours, all matters of state and governance had been forgotten as Gollum was tracked through Mirkwood. The trail had been muddled by the Orcs that had some part to play in the creature's escape, and eventually had been abandoned. The city was nearly empty now, save for the maidens and their few children. Every elf able to bear arms patrolled the forest and prepared for the inevitable future attacks. The bravest had been sent to Dol Guldur, or as close as they may come, to spy on the enemy. Among those elves was Thranduil's oldest son, Calendan.

Standing before Thranduil now were his two younger sons, waiting to hear their orders. Faelon, the middle son, was the best warrior in the entire woodland realm. He was a strong and solid Prince, though not fearless. Then, there was Legolas. He was a true wood-elf in demeanor and thought, which also meant he was a terrible leader. His spirit belonged to the whispering trees and daydreams. Thranduil barely trusted him with a regiment of elves, let alone the monumental task he was about to assign.

He looked to his wife, who sat at his side. Before Oropher entered Greenwood the Great, it was Adonniel's father who ruled the scattered wood-elves. Like most Queens, she guided her husband's decisions with gentle words of wisdoms. She nodded encouragement to her husband, but said nothing.

"Mithrandir must know that Gollum has escaped. The problem lies therein, the Gray wizard is not found; he appears. Yet, he thinks Gollum is safely hidden in my halls, so he will not return until many of his other tasks are complete. I fear that this creature's escape has ill effects that spread beyond his own corruption.

"I am sending Legolas as a messenger to Imladris, to Lord Elrond. If Mithrandir is still not to be found, then Lord Elrond will know what is to be done."

Faelon out cried, before he had time to judge his words. "Father! You cannot be serious! You wish to entangle us in the affairs of High-elves! That is why grandfather left Doriath! It is bad enough that you accept Mithrandir into our realm. Next, you'll send us to Lothlórien to rekindle friendship with the elf-witch! Then, you'll be telling us we should sail West with the Noldor to live among the Valar!"

Thranduil held up his hand, "Peace, son. You do not know the reasons for the sundering of the Sindar, nor do you know Galadriel. And do as you're told. You are not the King of this realm, you will follow my command."

Faelon bowed tensely, "Yes, father."

Thranduil then turned to his youngest son, "And what say you, Legolas?"

"If you wish me to go to Imladris, I will go."

There was something kindled in Legolas's eyes that startled Thranduil. His son was not accepting out of obedience. His son wanted to explore the world beyond the borders of Mirkwood. He wanted to see the Noldor and the Dúnedain. It was very likely that he even wished to see Lórien.

For many years a shadow had laid on Thranduil's mind. When he returned to Mirkwood after the Last Alliance with only one-third of his soldiers, his world had changed forever. Now, as he looked into Legolas's eyes, he sighed sadly as a second shadow consumed him.

His youngest son no longer belonged to the forest. The sea would soon call his heart.


The sun shone brightly, but the world was dark.

The Bruinen and its waterfalls roared in the distance, but there was no other sound in Rivendell. No birds dared flight with the black terror lingering. No creature stirred in the treetops or ground burrow. The world was waiting with held breath while the unseen dread lie over the refuge of Imladris. The Nazgûl had been driven off the bridge three days before, but they still patrolled the road. They were waiting for the Ring-bearer.

This day, the twentieth of October, Lothiriel was drawn to the gates of Imladris. The sense of doom had grown to its climax. She feared for Glorfindel, the Ring-bearer, and the future. For a fleeting moment, she wished she had left Middle-earth to its doom and sailed to Valinor long ago, but she recanted quickly. As long as there was war, there was need of healing, and she was one of the most skilled in this art.

Beside her was Elrond. He felt doom smothering the valley more than any other. Glorfindel was in great danger. It penetrated his skin and invaded his mind. His closest friend would be tested this day, but he could not see if he would prevail. Mithrandir stood behind them, leaning on his staff. His eyes were closed, as if he was searching for a thought buried deep in his memory. The elves and wizard waited tensely for any sign of what the future may hold.

For years beyond count, Lothiriel had run the Houses of Healing in Imladris. For unknown reasons to all but Elrond, he had personally instructed her in the art of healing. Even before Gandalf the Gray had arrived in Imladris with news that the Ring-bearer was coming, she had felt a foreboding. She had sterilized the silver surgical tools, organized the anesthetics, and cut herbs, which she placed in water to keep fresh. She had folded down all the beds for patients, set up privacy screens, and prepared a surgical area. Little did she know that the very night a foreboding set upon her, Frodo Baggins received the wound she prepared to cure.

Elrond took a step forward and stared hard at the gates of Imladris. There was nothing to be seen, even with elven-sight, but the Lord of Imladris did not need vision to see. Within moments, a white horse charged through the entrance, carrying on his back a small mortal Lothiriel knew to be a halfling.

"Asfaloth!" Lothiriel cried, running to the horse and rider.

The halfling in the saddle looked at her with large, bright eyes glazed in pain. His left arm hung limply at his side, and Lothiriel knew at once that his wound was beyond her experience to heal. About him was terrible power and doom. And then she knew.

"You are the Ring-bearer," she said, in awe.

The halfling nodded once, before falling from the saddle into Lothiriel's arms. Elrond took a step backwards as this happened. He felt a wind blowing through his mind, and an image appeared to him. Lothiriel's fate was tied to the fate of Frodo Baggins and the doom that hung around his neck.