Warning: This is slash fiction and while I adhered as closely as possible to the canon timeline and storylines obviously the same cannot be said for some of the relationships recounted herein.
This story also departs from the popular interpretation of elven law and culture that purports that sexual intercourse automatically results in wedlock. Semantics being what it is, I thought that particular passage open to other interpretations. It could just as well have meant that elven marriage was validated by sexual consummation alone without need of a formal ceremony and the like. Hence the ability to forego rituals during times of crisis.
Personally, I find the concept of abstention from premarital sexual relations rather unrealistic for a race of immortal beings so passionate they rebelled against the Powers that be and defiantly went into exile over this, waged war against a Vala for several centuries as much on a point of honor as out of vengeance and knew desire to such a degree that some attempted abduction and/or coercive marriage to gain their ends. Besides, Middle-earth seems very much alike to a period in our world's history that was hardly known for moral or sexual rectitude, even among some members of the clergy (this is not meant to impugn the Church's reputation or integrity - it is just a historical fact) and I thereby wrote accordingly.
This being fanfiction I thought it permissible to apply alternative interpretations of certain issues so long as I did not change characters, places, timelines and events beyond recognition or credibility. If the subject matter or this take on Prof. Tolkien's work offends or disturbs you or if any divergence from convention is not your cup of tea, then cease and desist. Go no further. But if you don't mind stepping a bit outside the bounds of those conventions, welcome aboard and I do hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Summary: Most bonds evolve with time. But a precious few begin at birth.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to the wizard of storytelling himself, JRR Tolkien and/or his estate. No offense is intended or profit made in my use of them.
Author's Note: The true date of Legolas' birth is unknown but there is an argument that he was born during or right after the Watchful Peace. This story takes off from that supposition.
Mirkwood, ethuil T.A. 2063
The silence of the once magnificent green wood was fraught with foreboding. But how could it not be when in its southwestern bound, evil had taken root and waxed with every passing year. Who or what wielded the power in Dol Guldur, not even the Wise knew for certain but, from this black-at-heart stronghold, pestilence to riddle the spirit and body flowed forth and darkened the lushness and verdancy of the greatest surviving forest left in Middle-earth.
The brethren Elladan and Elrohir followed the elven path that would lead to the forest realm of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood and the cavernous halls of their Sindarin king. They bore a message from their father, Elrond. That the lord of Imladris should send his own sons in lieu of a courier bespoke the woefully fractious relationship between his people and the Elvenking's. Only by sending the twins could Elrond be certain that his message would get to Thranduil at all. Such a move averted mistreatment of the messenger and ensured that the lines of communication would remain open between the reclusive folk of the woodland realm and the people of the hidden vale of Rivendell.
It was a pity in these dark times that even amongst the fair folk such mistrust continued. But it was merely another far-reaching consequence of the last war against Sauron. One of many that had plagued all those who had joined the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and taken part in the battles that had brought the Second Age to a close.
This rift between Thranduil and the other Elvenlords sprung from the ill-advised charge of the king's sire against Sauron in Mordor. The deaths of Oropher and a ghastly number of his people had brought to the fore the ever festering resentment of the Wood-elves that they were little more than fodder for slaughter in the eyes of their Noldorin allies. The perceived slowness of reaction to the news of the ongoing massacre of Oropher's ranks had only exacerbated the sores. It did not matter that it had been nigh impossible for Gil-galad to come to their aid in an instant. What mattered was that at the end of the war, the Silvan Elves of Greenwood the Great had returned to their forest home sans their king and the greater part of the army they had set out with.
Since then, altercations had been wont to occur each time citizens of this kingdom came into contact with their kindred from other realms. Nothing so serious as kinslaying. But acerbic arguments, petty quarrels and the occasional brawl had been known to break out here and there when the more intemperate of either side met.
Neither Thranduil nor his Eldarin counterparts condoned such hostile encounters. But there was little they could do once their respective subjects engaged in their tussles save to reprimand the instigators and give them due warning not to sully the honor of their realms again. Naturally, the miscreants would be chastened but there were always more to take their places and so the less than amiable encounters continued albeit never on a scale that would have led to the slitting of throats and outright war.
The brethren were acutely aware of this state of affairs as they made their way along the shadowed path. Elladan never lowered the clenched fist he held up – symbol of their peaceful intentions. They had come not to fight but to parley on their father's behalf. The necessity for such outward displays became ever more acute when they espied the reluctant standing down of archers and warriors near hidden in the brush and treetops. Had there been the slightest trace of belligerence in the twins' manner, they would have been fortunate to arrive at Thranduil's halls unscathed.
The Wood-elves would not have slain them – they were not evil creatures after all. But they would have had no compunction about inflicting a wound or two upon them if they deemed a lesson in courtesy needed to be taught.
Their reception in the cavernous throne room was less threatening but noticeably stilted. Thranduil's sons Gilfaron and Denilos kept silent while their father went through the motions of welcoming the brethren. No word of warmth or hostility passed their lips. They were civil and well-mannered as was expected of them and that was all. But their sisters Tuilinniel and Celebrethil remained at a telling distance from the guests. Both eyed the twins with the faintest trace of suspicion. Neither Elladan nor Elrohir had anticipated anything more or less from the royal brood.
Thranduil swiftly perused the missive Elrohir had handed him. Now he glanced up, one golden eyebrow rising in question.
"If I am to allow the Wandering Companies safe passage through my realm, what guarantee have I that they will not instigate trouble with my people?" he coolly inquired.
Elladan glanced warily at his brother. It was not surprising that Thranduil was not too enthusiastic about permitting these nomadic Elves access to his woods. The most recent encounter between the Wood-elves and members of one of these companies had been far from pleasant. Not that anyone had actually misbehaved in any way. But trouble had a way of insinuating itself into a situation when the protagonists were all too willing to find fault with the other.
It had been a border dispute about whether the Mirkwood Elves had the right to police just so much acreage of land beyond the northern bounds of the forest. But tempers had flared swiftly and the opposing groups had nigh come to blows save for the timely intervention of the Elvenking himself. Now Elrond was requesting passage through Mirkwood for these same Elves - trespassers in the eyes of the Wood-elves.
Still, it was a reasonable request. The Imladrin lord was not asking for anything more than that the Mirkwood folk permit the Wandering Companies to take the relatively safe and secure elven paths that cut through the middle of the forest. There would be no contact at all with the citizens of the Woodland Realm except for accidental ones.
"Gildor Inglorion sends his apologies for that regrettable incident between his people and yours, my king," Elladan carefully replied. "He has given his word that his folk will never venture from the tracks or approach any Elves of this realm."
"Gildor's word is true, my lord," Elrohir added softly. "You may trust him in this."
Thranduil regarded the twins somberly. He was not well acquainted with the son of Inglor but Elrond did not vouch for the honor or veracity of others lightly. What Elrohir had meant but had not said was that the Elvenking could trust Elrond's word implicitly. He sat back on his throne, eyes flicking from one advisor or warrior to another, silently questioning them.
The brethren quietly awaited Thranduil's decision on the matter. They knew the king's counsellors and captains would oppose the request. But Thranduil was known to have a mind of his own and one seldom influenced that easily by others save perhaps for his wife and children. If he allowed his council some say in the matter, it was out of the courtesy due their positions in his court and not because he was beholden to them or in their thrall.
While they listened to the arguments for and against the proposal, they endured the scrutiny to which they were always subjected whenever they set foot in this cloistered realm. It was not surprising that they should be studied so avidly. After all they were Peredhil.
To mortal eyes, they did not look any different from the rest of their kindred and indeed, even amongst the Firstborn, few troubled to make any distinctions. Only the most observant of men noted the slightly broader shoulders, the wider chests, the more solid limbs that denoted their half-elven ancestry. But scarcely any realized that their features were also subtly dissimilar to most Edhil. Their eyes were more striking, their lips fuller and more sinuous and their skin was of a glowing alabaster that was certainly fairer than mortal flesh yet not as white as other Elves.
But they were no less graceful or swift or agile than their full-blooded counterparts. True, they were not as keen-sighted or impossibly sharp of hearing but they were, on the other hand, quicker of wit and further in foresight than many an ellon or male Elf. And they were stronger. The strength that simmered unseen within their deceptively slender forms was far more than was normal for the Firstborn. In them the primal vigor of the Edain mingled potently with the ageless power of the Eldar.
They were both earthy and ethereal, evincing their dual heritage in both form and manner. And they were beautiful. That was one undeniable fact about Elrond's sons. They were surpassingly comely and possessed of a sensuality that was generally muted in pure-bloods. They were coveted in every elven realm from Lothlórien to the Grey Havens. Were it not for the present reserve between the Greenwood folk and Rivendell, it was highly likely Thranduil's people would have been smitten as well.
A long-winded advisor was finally ending his diatribe against the less-than-constant Noldor of Imladris when a distraught Elf-woman burst into the chamber. She ran straight to Thranduil and flung herself on the floor before him.
"My lord! The queen is in labor!" she wailed. "The healers fear for her and the babe!"
Thranduil paled and leaped to his feet. "Nay, 'tis not possible," he exclaimed. "She is still three months before her time!"
His shocked children gathering around him, he hastened from the throne room with nary a word to anyone.
The brethren glanced at each other, concern limning their eyes. It was indeed too soon for Queen Alphaieth to bear her latest child. But such cases of premature birthing or, worse, the dying of unborn children while still within their mothers' wombs, were becoming increasingly frequent in Mirkwood.
It was the ever-encroaching malignancy that spilled from Dol Guldur that wrought this evil on the Wood-elves. Just as their forest home steadily fell to decay and stagnation, so were the Elves themselves affected, their bodies' natural cycles corrupted to some extent. Already fertility in the woodland realm had decreased alarmingly and many pregnancies were as apt to end in stillborn babes or prematurely birthed infants as come to full term.
The twins hesitated at first. It was not their place to intrude or interfere in this kingdom's affairs. But they were Elrond's sons and the healer's need to give aid was strong in their blood. The fear and anguish in Thranduil's eyes had been all too real. They hesitated no more and swiftly followed the Elvenking to the Healing Halls. None dared bar their way when they glimpsed the determined set of their grim mouths or the warning flash in their grey eyes.
The stench of panic reached out to them ere they entered the birthing chamber where the laboring Elf-queen lay. They stared in shock and pity when they saw her.
Queen Alphaieth writhed in agony, clutching her distended belly, her dark hair clinging to her sweat-soaked face and neck in unruly tendrils. Saliva frothed between her chapped lips as she whimpered and moaned with every spasm that wracked her bloated frame. Thranduil was by her side, his hands atop hers, murmuring words of encouragement and love to her as she struggled to rid her body of an infant not yet quite ready to face the world.
"What is wrong?" Elladan asked of a hovering midwife. "What impedes the child?"
The Elf-woman, horrified eyes riveted on her mistress, replied: "Her womb is forcing the child to descend but the birth passage is not opening up."
The twins frowned. Such cases of the birth canal refusing to enlarge were extremely rare amongst the Firstborn. The only recourse was to forcibly widen the passage by cutting it open. There was always the risk of death from too much blood loss but, so far, those that they had witnessed had gone smoothly enough. However, there was something else here…
Ignoring the frowns of the other healers, they bent over the queen and, with gentle hands, examined her. Their eyes met across the lady, dark with apprehension. Thranduil noted their dismay at once.
"What is it?" he demanded. "What ails my wife?"
Elrohir looked at him. "She is bleeding profusely within," he explained. "And her heart is unnaturally weak." He drew a deep breath. "She and the babe may not survive."
"Nay!" the queen suddenly cried out pantingly. "You must save the child!" She looked frantically at Thranduil. "He must be born, husband. Do what you must but save our child."
Thranduil looked at her in anguish. Before them, the chief healer stood ready, a thin knife in hand. The king bit his lip then nodded and held his wife close.
Another healer hurried to mix a sleeping draught. But Elladan shook his head. "The child must be delivered now if it is to live," he shouted.
He bent once more over Alphaieth and cupped her face in his hands. "Look at me, my lady," he commanded. "Hear only me."
His tone was compelling. Despite her pain, the queen was caught by it and soon their gazes were locked. Elladan began to murmur to her, his voice mesmerizing, his eyes bewitching. Thranduil watched in awe as his wife's eyes glazed over and the twitching of her body slowly stilled. Her countenance took on a serene cast, as the pain seemed to recede. Elrohir signed to the healer to do what was necessary.
Under Elladan's hypnotic spell, Alphaieth did not feel the slash of the knife, did not feel the brutal sensation of her wounded flesh giving way before the inexorable downward progress of the child within her, did not note the frightening gush of blood that preceded the tiny form the healer drew from between her gory thighs. She took a shuddery breath, then another weaker one. Elladan's mouth tightened and he looked at Thranduil in sorrow.
The king caught his wife to him and implored her to stay, to fight on. Her eyes flickered with awareness for one instant. She whispered something to him. And then she slumped into his arms, her body limp and unmoving.
Thranduil hoarsely cried out her name then clutched her tightly in his arms. Their children came forward, the daughters weeping, the sons white with grief.
Elrohir sighed dolorously then glanced down at the child that lay between its mother's legs. A male child. It lay as still as she. A bloodied rag doll to all appearances. The healer had not troubled to swaddle it and present it to the king. Elrohir sighed again.
He bent over the poor thing and stroked its cheek with a finger. The infant was tinier than normal, shockingly pallid and cold to the touch. To the untrained eye, he would have been deemed lifeless ere he emerged from his mother's womb. Indeed, to the healers of the Woodland Realm, the child was beyond recall. The Halls of Awaiting would play host not only to the late queen but also to the youngest prince of the kingdom.
But Elrohir, child of Elrond, did not make assumptions that easily or quickly. Something caught his eye and he leaned down closer to study the babe. And then, to the midwife's surprise, he snatched up a blanket, wrapped the little body in it and lifted the child into his arms.
To the Elf-woman's puzzlement, he held the still small form close, as if warming the babe's body with his own. He snuck a finger into the blue-ringed mouth and extracted a coil of mucus that had blocked the child's air passage. And then he pressed his mouth to the infant's.
Over and again, he breathed into the child's mouth while his fingers lightly but purposefully palpitated the unmoving chest. The midwife stared at him, frowning at what she considered his folly. The babe was no more. The Peredhel was wasting his breath and time on a corpse. She shook her head disapprovingly when Elladan made no move to stop his brother then turned her attention to the sad business of cleaning up the dead queen.
It was then that a thready wail rent the air. Heads jerked up in shock and eyes homed in on Elrond's younger son. Elrohir did not cease in his life-giving ministrations but only lifted his lips from the infant's mouth occasionally to allow the latter to draw breath on his own. And draw breath the child did.
Fitfully at first and with many a wheeze and sputtering cry. But each cry became stronger and longer and the wheezing slowly diminished until, with one heave of his tiny lungs, the babe let out a lusty wail. The healers stared in shock, first at the child and then at Elrohir. The twin had done the impossible in their eyes. He had battled Námo himself for the life of their king's last-born. And won.
Elrohir looked across at Elladan and smiled. The smile that mirrored his was just as relieved and triumphant.
Thranduil approached the Elf-knight with a look of utter disbelief in his eyes. He stared at his little son. The babe's eyes blinked open to reveal irises the color of purest sapphire. They alighted awhile on the Elf who held him ere moving on to the Elf who had sired him. And then the infant wailed once more, the timber of his cry informing one and all that he was in need of sustenance and soonest.
The midwife ran off at once to fetch a wet nurse while Elrohir gently handed the precious bundle into the befuddled Elvenking's arms.
"Have you a name for him?" he quietly asked.
Thranduil gazed down at his child, eyes gleaming with grateful tears. "Aye, his mother named him with her last breath," he replied. He looked at Elrohir and said: "She wished to call him Legolas."
Elrohir smiled faintly. "May this forest one day be as blessed anew, my lord," he murmured.
Thranduil studied the younger twin, aware of the meaning behind his words. He nodded in acknowledgement. They both looked down at the now fussing babe. Mirkwood's little Greenleaf gazed back at them, his eyes like the most brilliant of jewels.
ethuil – Sindarin for spring
Edhil – Elves
To be continued…