A/N: Well, here's chapter two! There isn't much action in this chapter, but I promise things will start speeding up soon!
Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed my last chapter! You guys are all amazing. I'd really appreciate some reviews for this chapter!
Oh, and thanks again to my wonderful beta, GreenWoodElleth. Without her, this story would be barely worth reading!
After Elladan left, Legolas got out of bed and walked out onto the small balcony adjacent to his room. The stars shone brightly in the cloudless sky, casting a pale light over the woods surrounding the house and reflecting off the shining silver surface of the river. A cool wind blew, whipping his blonde hair back off his face. He leaned wearily against the railing, gazing out at the dark valley.
He was tired of this. Tired of the nightmares that had plagued him ever since arriving in Rivendell. Tired of the memories that continued to emerge unbidden whenever he closed his eyes. Tired of his physical weakness, and the fragile state of his body that was still not fully healed.
He frowned, glaring down at his pale hands in annoyance. He was a warrior, not a helpless elfling who would succumb to his fears like this. Dwelling on the past would only lead to more grief. Still, he knew he would find no more sleep that night. Feeling ashamed and disgusted with himself, he slipped down over the railing of the balcony and dropped to the ground, landing steadily on his feet with agility born from a lifetime of springing out of trees. He made his way down the path and out into the forest, to wait out the long hours until dawn.
Thranduil sighed as he sat on his throne, staring up at the high roof, lost in his own thoughts. At any moment, the Rivendell elves were expected to arrive in the stronghold. Their arrival in Mirkwood was anticipated by all, as the situation was worsening.
The orcs had kept up a steady attack on the Elven kingdom. The raids were now coming at least twice a week, and the losses were steadily mounting. Patrols of warriors were being sent out to guard the borders of the realm, but they could not keep at bay much longer the endless hordes of orcs that continued to arrive despite the best efforts of the Silvan elves to stem the flow. As their peril grew greater, his people were beginning to lose faith. And, on top of everything, Legolas was missing.
Thranduil felt a lump rise in his throat at the thought of his son, but he swallowed violently and forced himself to maintain the calm, authoritative masquerade he had worn since the beginning of the attacks. Several weeks ago, Legolas had led a patrol out into the forest at his father's bidding. Ordinarily, the patrols were a routine affair. However, this time, something had gone disastrously wrong. Mere days after the patrol had departed, three Elven warriors had staggered back to the stronghold, all gravely wounded. They told the king that the patrol had been waylaid by a large band of orcs. The Elves were quickly overwhelmed by the numbers, and were slain mercilessly at the hands of their foes. Legolas, however, was surrounded and cut off from the rest of the group. Despite his valiant efforts, he was finally overcome, and the orcs dragged him away.
Now, three weeks after the attack, Thranduil was losing hope of ever seeing his son alive again. He longed to send out a party to search for him, but his duty to his people forbade it. Mirkwood was crumbling slowly, and they needed every warrior in the forest to be there. They simply did not have the numbers to send out a search for the prince. There was nothing to be done but wait, and pray to the valar for the best.
Suddenly the doors of the hall grated open, jolting Thranduil from his dark thoughts. The Rivendell Elves had arrived, and several of their leaders were now filing into the room. After the initial greetings had been observed, the newcomers wasted no time in bringing Thranduil up to date on current affairs around and outside the forest. He listened attentively, pushing all thoughts of his son aside for the moment. He would have plenty of time to grieve once this war was over. Right now, his people needed him.
However, shortly another Elf swept into the room and greeted the king. It was Erestor, chief councillor of Elrond. He greeted Thranduil briskly, before embarking on his tale.
"I have news of your son, my lord," he began.
Thranduil blinked, stunned. "My…my son?" he stammered, staring at the other Elf.
"He was found, alive and imprisoned, in an orc stronghold near the pass. The sons of Elrond found him, and took him back to Imladris."
Joy and disbelief began to bubble in Thranduil's chest, and he struggled to keep his composure. "He is alive, then? How is he?" he asked eagerly.
Erestor dropped his eyes, looking a little uncomfortable. "Not very well, your highness," he admitted at length. "When we found him, he was badly wounded and too weak to stand unaided. It would seem he was…" The Elven lord trailed off, staring determinedly down at his feet. He had always hated this part of his job.
Thranduil felt his euphoria replaced by horror and fear for Legolas. "He was tortured, wasn't he?" He managed to choke out.
Erestor bit his lip, uncomfortable. "Yes, my lord." It was all he could think of to say.
Thranduil closed his eyes. He had hoped that Legolas would never have to endure such a horrific ordeal. He had always promised himself that he would protect his son at all costs. He felt somehow responsible for this, as though he should have been able to prevent it from happening.
"Perhaps you should consult my captains," he said tonelessly. "They will brief you on the state of things here. Galion will take you to the conference room." He called for his butler, who was at his side in an instant. Galion led the Rivendell Elves away, and Thranduil was once more left alone in his throne room, his mind in turmoil.
The next morning, Estel woke early and, finding he could not get back to sleep, went for a walk out in the forest. He wandered aimlessly about for a while, enjoying the fresh morning air. He began to play a game, pretending he was an Elvish warrior, sneaking through the trees in pursuit of deadly and dangerous foes. He crept along as noiselessly as he could, until he reached a small glade. Drawing his imaginary sword, he stood against his non-existent foes in a fierce battle. He fought long and hard, but eventually managed to slay the last of his enemies. Wiping the imaginary blood from his sword and sheathing it, he continued his stealthy trek through the woods.
Shortly, he came to the stream. To his surprise, he found that he was not alone in the woods that day. Sitting still and silent on the banks of the creek, facing the water, was Legolas. He did not turn around as Estel emerged from the trees, but spoke quietly with his back to him.
"What are you doing out here at this hour, Estel?"
Estel jumped. "How did you know it was me?"
Legolas gave a short laugh. "Who else could have made such a racket approaching?"
Estel flushed. "I was trying to be quiet," he said defensively.
Estel stood there awkwardly, shifting from side to side. Why was Legolas so hard to talk to? It was as though he did not want company. Still, Estel did not leave. Legolas was a guest in their house, and it was his duty to be hospitable and friendly. Besides, he was still immensely curious about this strange Elf, and wanted to learn more about him.
"Why are you out here so early?" He asked at length. "The entire household is still asleep."
Legolas shrugged slightly, and Estel did not miss the stiffness in his shoulders. "I like the mornings," he replied. "When all is peaceful, and I have a chance to be alone with my thoughts for a while."
Estel bit his lip. "I despise the mornings," he muttered. "Getting out of bed is always so hard. I definitely prefer the evenings."
"What drove you to rise so early this morning, then?" Inquired Legolas.
"I could not sleep," Estel complained. "I assure you, I would much rather be in bed if I weren't so restless."
Legolas rose to his feet. "It must be nearly time for breakfast," he said decidedly. "Should we perhaps begin to make our way back to the house?"
The two walked along in silence together. When they reached the house, they found Elladan waiting impatiently outside for them.
"Where have you been?" He asked Estel. "Ada has been searching for you all morning. What possessed you to rise so early this morning? It is not like you." He said, a hint of amusement in his voice.
Estel mumbled something incomprehensible, and plodded off to find Elrond.
Elladan turned to Legolas. "I see he has been keeping you company."
"He is a strange lad," Legolas mused thoughtfully. "So quiet and shy."
Elladan snorted. "Estel, quiet and shy? I have met drunken dwarves quieter and shyer than he!"
Legolas shrugged indifferently. "Well, he always seems nervous when he is around me."
"Perhaps it is you that makes him nervous."
"Truly? I do not mean to."
Elladan rolled his eyes and changed the subject. "Come. Let us go and get some breakfast."
Legolas shook his head. "I am not hungry. You can go."
Elladan eyed the prince suspiciously. "You have hardly eaten for days. Surely you must be hungry by now?"
Legolas bit his lip and made a attempt at humor. "Perhaps your constant fussing is killing my appetite."
"Just go and eat, Elladan. I am going for a walk, I will eat if and when I am hungry." He replied, instantly somber. He turned on his heel and walked away. Elladan stared after him for a second, confused, before sighing lightly and making his way back to the hall for his breakfast.
In the hall, he found Elrohir already seated, enjoying a hearty breakfast. Elladan sat down on the bench beside his brother, smiling slightly in greeting.
"So, where has Estel been all morning?" Elrohir asked. "Did you find him?"
Elladan nodded. "He and Legolas have both been out in the woods. I don't know what possessed him to rise so early." After a pause, he added. "Legolas is going insane trapped in the valley."
Elrohir raised an eyebrow. "When has Legolas not been insane?" he asked with a slight smile. When his brother did not respond, he sobered up a little. "It isn't as though he has a choice. Like it or not, he cannot leave Imladris until he has recovered properly. There is no way father is going to hear of his leaving in his current state. He would not be able to defend himself properly."
"Perhaps if we went with him?"
The suggestion caught Elrohir completely off-guard. He turned to stare in disbelief at his twin, who was looking back at him with an unreadable expression on his face.
"We were planning to go to Mirkwood anyway," Elladan explained. "Why not make our trip several weeks earlier? Legolas will have no peace of mind until he is back in the forest. Come, brother, do not gape at me like that! Besides, if we continue to keep him here, I am afraid he might decide to do something stupid."
Elrohir was still uncertain. "Will father allow it?" He asked, chasing a piece of egg around his plate with his fork, a dubious expression on his face.
"He can hardly oppose us. If we are with him, there is no reason why Legolas should not make the journey home. He is well enough to travel by now; the only real risk was that he would be unable to protect himself if he were attacked. If we go, that risk is irrelevant."
Elrohir sighed, defeated. "Very well," he consented. "I warn you though, it is dangerous. If we die, I will kill you."
Elladan smiled victoriously. "Aye, brother, I have no doubt." Elladan replied dryly with a wink. "I shall go and inform father of our plans," he said. Rising from the bench, he strode out of the room. Elrohir raised his eyes to the heavens, exasperated. Between Legolas and his rather reckless brother, he doubted he would get a moment's peace for the whole trip.