Disclaimer: Of course I do not own the characters that you recognise, because they belong to the ever brilliant Professor. I do, however, own the characters you do not recognise – Laerwen, Seregeth, etc. This story was written for enjoyment purposes only, and no money is being made from it.

Warnings: This will be quite different to my last story. It is very emotional and there is a lot of inner turmoil for the characters, but there is also physical pain. There will also be mentions of attempted rape later on in the story, although I will tell you now that I will not be going into much detail, and it will not be insensitive writing.

I hope you enjoy this story!

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The voice was incessant. How long had it been speaking for? It must have been ten minutes at least this time, without pausing for a drink of water, a few long breaths, or even an answer to its own questions. It went on and on and on, never stopping. The golden haired Elf who was victim to this torture, rested his head in his hands, closed his eyes, and counted to ten first of all in silent Sindarin, and then again, but this time in Quenyan. He had hoped that it would help to calm him somewhat – it did not.

'Valar, help me. Please let me come out of this never-ending, one-way conversation still possessing what small bit of sanity I have left,' he thought.

And it had not just been today. It had been every single day for the past week. To begin with, he had coped well with the endless discussions. After a few days he had tired of the very same words and questions. And now…now all he wanted was to disappear, for that seemed the only way of escape. The conversation had not changed once, the subject of talk always remained the same, and the- The Elf's thoughts were cut off as a hand pulled at his hair.

"Have you been listening to me?"

"Of course."

"That is a lie."

"Why should I want to lie?"

"Because you have not been paying attention."

"I have! You have given me little other choice."

"If you have been listening, prove it. Answer my question."

"Very well. Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes, I have been listening."

"Not that question. The other one."

"Ah. What was the question?"

Legolas Greenleaf, the golden Prince of Mirkwood, folded his arms across his chest, and tapped one foot impatiently on the floor. He had, after all, asked this particular question many times with no response, and to make an Elfling who wanted an answer wait, was quite an unthinkable thing to do. So, one could not blame the child. It was only natural for him to be at least a little bit frustrated.

King Thranduil sighed, and rested his head in his hands once more. "Legolas, I listened to every single word that you said, bar the few that made up your question. Please, forgive my lapse in concentration."

"I don't think you even know what I have been talking about," the Prince said, accusation in his childish voice.

"Of course I do. You have been speaking of the men who are due to arrive tomorrow to trade with us," Thranduil replied. "You have spoken of nothing else for the past week. Why should today be any different?"

Legolas gave a very small shrug of his shoulders. "You listened a little bit, then. Can I ask my question again?"

"If you must."

"What do the men look like?"

Thranduil opened his mouth to reply, but then he hesitated, and looked down at the Elfling in surprise. "You have seen men before, I am sure."

"No. The last time they came here, you said that I was allowed to see them. But then you confined me to my room for the whole day because I tricked that important lord who was staying into walking under the door with the bucket of water on top of it," Legolas replied. "And the time before, you said that I could see the men. But then you made me do extra history lessons because I caught a baby spider and let it loose in one of the council rooms. So I haven't seen them."

"I remember." Thranduil suppressed a shudder at the mention of the spider – he hated the creatures, be they large or minute - and instead fixed his attention on the child. "I suppose it is best behaviour from now until tomorrow, then. You do not want to miss them again."

Legolas shook his head violently. "Ada, will you please answer-

"I am very happy for you to meet the men tomorrow," Thranduil cut in. "But there is a condition."

"I know. Good behaviour."

"Two conditions, then," the Elven-king amended. "These men will be arriving in the late hours of tomorrow night, and if it was any other time, you would be fast asleep in bed. As it is, your mother and I are allowing you to stay up until they arrive. But we will only allow this if you rest in the afternoon, to make up for the sleep that you will lose."

Legolas' eyes widened, and he looked horrified. "Ada! But that is unjust! I had to do that when I was little."

"You still are little," Thranduil replied. "But it is your choice."

"Alright," the Prince said moodily. "Now will you answer my question?"

"No."

"Ada!"

The Elven-king hid a smile at the expression on his child's face, and gestured to a table at the side of the room. "Go over there and get that book, Legolas. It is all about the different men of Middle-Earth. It knows more than I do, and will probably be able to give you better answers than I can."

The Elfling picked up the book, and flicked to a random page. He stared hard, trying to decipher the sentences – he couldn't. "Ada, I cannot read this. I don't know what half of these words mean, and the other half, I can't even say."

"It is not just a written book. It is also illustrated," Thranduil replied. "But you will find it easier to read than you think."

"You trust me with one of your books?" Legolas asked doubtfully. "Are you sure?"

The King smiled as the Elfling climbed up onto his lap. "I was going to give it to you anyway. Your fascination in the race of men has not escaped my notice. And besides, I am sure that you are tiring of only having reading material given to you by your tutor to study for your lessons. This will make a change."

"Really?"

"Of course."

Legolas wrapped his arms around his father's neck, and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, Ada. I will look after it, I promise."

"I do not doubt that," Thranduil replied. "And now that you have something to amuse yourself with, maybe I can get on with my work. Only, a certain Elfling disturbed me, and I was prevented from continuing with it."

Legolas smiled as he slid down to the ground and ran over to the door of the study. "Sorry Ada. Goodbye!"

With that, the child tore from the room and down the corridor. On his journey, he passed servants who smiled at him and slipped him little sweet things to eat; advisors to the King who frowned disapprovingly but then smiled fondly as soon as he looked away; and even a healer or two who warned him that, should he break an ankle, there would be no sympathy from them, only this: "it is your own fault for running so fast."

As he rolled his eyes good-naturedly at them, the sound of two female voices reached his ears from just around the corner. One of them he recognised immediately, the other he was unsure of whose it might be. Not that that mattered much, for he was interested only in the first voice: it belonged to his mother.

"I must return home. My family will be waiting."

"Mine also, no doubt. I will see you tomorrow."

As the conversation between the two Elven-ladies came to an end, and they went their separate ways, Legolas broke into a run, and dashed around the corner so that he could catch up with his mother. He would very much liked to have crept up on and surprised her, but even his soft footsteps were not quiet enough for the Queen's sharp ears. She turned quickly, and caught the Elfling in her arms before he could get much further.

"Nana," Legolas giggled, as she tickled him. "You weren't supposed to hear me."

"I do not think that you could have made more noise unless you had trumpets to announce your arrival," the Queen replied.

The Prince pouted as his mother straightened up once more. "I didn't make that much noise. That was an ex….ex…"

"Exaggeration, I think, is the word you seek."

Queen Laerwen pushed a few strands of silver hair back behind her ears, and smiled down at the Elfling. Violet eyes sparkled in a face that was flushed with the exhilaration of seeing her young son, the child who had the power to bring great joy to her, at any time. Subtle freckles were dotted across her rosy cheeks and patterned over her nose, a feature that was not common among the Firstborn. But it only served to enhance the Elven-queen's beauty.

"Who were you talking to?" Legolas asked.

"Líndariel." Laerwen laughed softly at the blank expression on her son's face. "I do not think that you have met her. She is a friend of mine. Perhaps you know her younger brother? Saeldur?"

"He is a few archery classes above me."

The Queen nodded. "I thought so. Now, where might you be off to?"

"I am going to read this book somewhere. Or at least, I'll look at the pictures," Legolas said. "Ada gave it to me. It is about men. But I don't think I'll be able to properly read it for a while. There are some long words in there."

"I may be wrong, but I believe that book was your father's when he himself was only an Elfling," Laerwen said slowly. "Look at the very first page. If I am right, his name should be written there."

Legolas turned the book over, and flipped it open. His mother had been correct: scrawled in the top left corner of the first page was "Prince Thranduil Oropherion". As the child gazed at the words, he could not help but laugh softly. He had become so used to seeing his father's elegant and ordered script, that the messy and smudged writing before his eyes was quite a surprise.

"Nana, how old was Ada when he got this?" he asked.

"Your grandfather gave it to him when he was…well, he must have been the same age as you are now," Laerwen replied. "You see, he had never before seen men either, so Oropher, who had grown tired of his constant talk of them, gave him this book to keep him quiet."

"Just like today," Legolas said in surprise.

"Exactly. And I will let you into a secret." Laerwen bent down, and whispered into her son's ear: "Ada was no better than you at reading the words. If anything, he was worse."

Legolas laughed, and nodded towards the page with his father's name written on it. "Nana, don't tell Ada this, but his writing was even worse than mine is now."

"It got better," Laerwen replied. She paused, and smiled at the Elfling. "Go on, you can go and read that book now. I will see you at the evening meal tonight. Please, be on time."

"I will."

"No, I mean it," the Queen said firmly. "You were late last night, and the night before. Promise me that you will be on time."

The Prince looked up, and held his mother's eyes with his own. "I promise, Nana. I won't be late."

"Hmm. I will believe that when I arrive in the dining hall and you are already sat down and ready to eat," Laerwen replied. She reached down, and gently ruffled her son's hair. "Your father thinks that you will be late again. Try and prove him wrong."

Legolas shook his head slightly as the Elf-lady walked past him. His lateness was not his own fault. Last night, he had been kept behind in his lessons because he had struggled to understand a mathematical concept, and the tutor had not let him leave until he had grasped it. And the night before….well, that was his fault. His toy soldiers had been in the middle of a violent war, and at the time when he was supposed to be making his way down to the dining hall, his best warrior had been injured.

He shook himself mentally, and made to carry on down one of the corridors which led towards the Royal Family's private rooms. But then he stopped, and glanced to the side. There was a door in the wall - a door he knew to be a shortcut which led out onto the archery fields. He hadn't been outside for a good few days, and was beginning to miss the trees.

'I could go into the forest,' he thought to himself. 'Not far, just to the clearing where Ada and Nana take me sometimes. It's nice there. And I could be back for the evening meal. No-one would ever know."

His mind made up, Legolas slipped through the side door, and found himself almost immediately on the archery fields. He watched in wide-eyed amazement as warriors fired arrow after arrow into targets far away, practiced battle moves and strategies, and fought each other with long knives. If truth be told, he was envious. He had not even started on blades yet, and probably wouldn't for another few years. Where the bow and arrow was concerned though, he took pride in knowing that he was called the best archer in his class.

'Ada said he would talk to the weapons master about moving me into a higher age group,' the child thought happily, as he ran across the grass. 'I hope I am moved up. Then no-one will be able to call me little any more.'

"Prince Legolas!"

The Elfling froze and looked up. Standing in front of him was Ithilen, a newly joined soldier of the Mirkwood troops. He was being looked at suspiciously, and he tried hard not to look guilty. "Hello," he said.

"Hello. Where are you going, little one?" the Elf asked.

"Oh, I am going into the forest," Legolas replied.

Ithilen arched an eyebrow as he glanced at the trees. "Not on your own, surely? That is not allowed. The forest is far too dangerous."

"I have permission to go in there from my father. He trusts me not to go too far in. I have promised that I won't," Legolas said. He felt awful for lying, but sometimes it had to be done.

"Is that so?" Ithilen asked slowly.

"Yes. You can go and ask Ada if you want to. But you'll just look silly, because he'll tell you what I have," Legolas replied. "I will wait here while you go to him."

Ithilen was silent for a moment, but then he shook his head. "Go on, then. Be careful to keep your promise, though. Do not go too far in."

"Of course." Legolas smiled as he turned and disappeared into the trees.

The soldier watched the Prince leave, doubt gnawing painfully away at him. He had half a mind to follow the child, and make sure that he was kept safe. But what if it transpired that Legolas had been telling the truth, and the King was fully aware of where he was and what he was doing? Ithilen exhaled deeply and turned back to the training field. He would not follow the Elfling. But he would inform his Commanding Officer of what had just happened.

"Ithilen! Come, it is your turn to fight me!"

"Oh, is that so? Prepare to be severely beaten!" The young soldier laughed as he ran back to his friend and pulled a long knife from his belt. As he fought, the mental note that he had made to speak with his commander was erased. It was gone, and would not be remembered until it was too late…

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And, there is my first chapter. I think I've done fairly well with my time management with this story! I said at the end of BHSL that I would start posting after summer, and I've done just that!

Thank you to Elven Hope for helping me out with choosing a title for this story, and also thank you to Legolas-gurl88 for always being there to listen to me talking about what I'm writing!

Does anyone know if the ban on replying to reviews has been lifted yet? If it hasn't, leave me your e-mail address (I may well have it already, mind) and I'll e-mail you with a response!

Chapters will be posted every Sunday. I would post more often, but I've recently started Advanced Animal Care at college; I'm learning to drive; and I'm looking for a job – so posting weekly will give me time to write more.

That's it, I think. See you next week!

Misto

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