Title: The Promise
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his heirs, as well as the rightful right holders. I only own the plot of this story, and maybe not even that.
Summary: Legolas is injured during an archery training and all the evidence point at Aragorn. When the King of Mirkwood is convinced that Aragorn is guilty and sentences him for the attempted murder of the Prince, Legolas is hard pressed to save his friend.
A/N: Aragorn is 24 in this story.
Warning: I like King Thranduil best when he is nice and understanding, caring and a loving father. But, for the sake of the story, he is not. So, consider this story AU in this regard.
Chapter 3: Setting things right
Legolas blinked sleepily against the light that filtered through the half closed curtains. When had the sunlight become so bright? Yawning, he sat up gingerly. His chest hurt, but the pain was not as intense as he had feared; it seemed the healers had given him some pain numbing herbs.
When Legolas saw that the room was empty, he frowned. He had anticipated that his father would be with him when he woke. Given, as King of Mirkwood his father had many duties, but after this attack, Legolas had thought his father would stay with him for a while longer.
Suddenly, the door to his room opened. A healer entered, carrying a tray with various herbs and bowls; which he nearly dropped when he saw that Legolas sat upright in the bed.
"But, my Prince! You should not be up!" He quickly sat the tray down on a table and hurried over to Legolas, forcing him to lie down.
"Where is my father?"
The healer smoothed the blankets, and shook his head. "You Highness should not concern yourself with this at the moment. You need rest."
Frowning, Legolas tried again, "Where is he, then? Has anything happened to him?"
"Oh no. The King is dealing with the one who tried to murder you. He will pass judgement on him today." With that said the healer turned around and made his way over to his tray.
Legolas felt relief flood through his veins. So they had found the one who had tried to kill him, had even captured him.
"That is a relief to hear." Legolas said. "Who is it?"
The healer turned around, his face looking disgusted. "He will not trouble you again, my Prince. That human will get what he deserves, I am sure of it."
Human? Legolas blinked confused. A human had shot him? How could it have been possible for a human to enter the palace grounds unnoticed? Why had the guards not seen him? The thoughts were still racing through Legolas's head when the healer spoke once more.
"You should not concern yourself with that ranger, my Prince. The King will deal with him according to our laws."
Shock tore through Legolas. Ranger? That could not be. That was impossible!
"Estel? They are accusing him of shooting me?"
"Why, yes, of course." The healer said confused; he could not understand what had upset Legolas so.
"But, no! That is wrong." Legolas pushed the bedcovers away and swung his legs out of the bed. A sharp pain shot through his chest and the room swam in front of his eyes for a moment, but he got to his feet nonetheless.
"My Prince!" Immediately the healer was at his side and grabbed his arm to steady him. "You must not get up yet; you are too weak."
"No, no, you do not understand. It was not Estel!" Legolas practically yelled, trying to dislodge the healer's hands from his arm.
"But, the evidence…"
"I don't care. It was not him! Estel would never do that, he is my friend!"
Legolas made his way over to the door, forcing the healer to either follow him or forcefully drag him back to the bed. His fear and worry gave Legolas the energy he needed to reach the door and throw it open, thereby startling the two guards that stood in front of it.
"My Prince, what…" One of the guards began, but Legolas interrupted him.
"Where is the King? Where is he?"
"Down in the dungeons, my Lord. He deals with the accused."
Fear shot through Legolas; he knew the sentence for the attempted murder of a member of the Royal Family was death. He knew that he was too weak to reach the dungeons in time, so he ordered the two guards. "Go down to the dungeons immediately and stop the King!"
"But, my Prince, the King ordered us to guard you and to not let you out of our sight, no matter what."
Legolas groaned in frustration. "Please, he is making a mistake. You have to go there, on my responsibility."
"I am sorry, my Prince, but the word of the King is law and we are bound by it."
"No, no." Legolas pushed past the guards, the healer at his side. If he could not convince the guards to leave him alone to stop his father, then he would have to go himself.
The guards exchanged confused looks, but after a moment they followed Legolas down the hallway.
It had not taken long for Aragorn to realize that he could not convince the King that he was innocent. As soon as the guards had shoved him over the threshold and he had seen the wooden gallows that stood in the middle of the huge room, Aragorn had tried to talk sense into the King. It had not worked.
The feeling when the executioner had lifted the noose over his head had been one of resignation and defeat. And now, standing on the wooden platform of the gallows, looking down at the King of Mirkwood, Aragorn knew that he would not be able to find a way out of this. There was only one thing he needed to know, needed to make sure.
"Does Legolas live?"
The King took a deep breath. "You did not succeed in your attempt, human. The Prince lives and he will heal completely."
Aragorn closed his eyes in relief. His friend was alive. He would heal. But, there was another thing that still bothered Aragorn. "King Thranduil, even if you do not believe me, I am innocent. The true killer is still out there. Legolas needs to be guarded. He needs to be protected."
"With you gone, he will be as safe here as he was before you entered our lives." The King nodded in the direction of the guards who still held Aragorn's shoulders to keep him from running away. They released him, and stepped back, but still near enough to react should Aragorn try to escape.
These chamber had been built during a time, when it had been too dangerous to hold open executions. But, it had been out of use for centuries now, for there had been no need for it in Mirkwood.
The executioner stepped towards the handle that would open the door on which Aragorn stood. Gripping the handle, the elf gazed at the King, waiting for the command.
Thranduil, convinced that Aragorn was guilty, lifted his voice, "You are accused of attempted murder of the Prince of Mirkwood. Your excuses have been heard and dismissed. The sentence for this crime is death. Do you have any last words?"
Aragorn felt his breathing hitch. He wished that he could say something to change the King's opinion, but he knew that it was over. He had tried to reason with him. Breathing deeply, Aragorn nodded.
"Aye, I would ask you to tell Legolas that he must not forget the promise he gave me."
"That is all?" Thranduil asked, clasping his hands behind his back.
His throat felt too tight to speak, and so Aragorn simply nodded. He was certain that Legolas knew which promise he meant. There was nothing more to say.
Nodding, the King made eye contact with the executioner, and when Thranduil nodded his head once, the elf pulled the handle and the trapdoor under Aragorn's feet opened.
Panting, Legolas wiped the sweat from his brow. For a while he had tried to talk the guards into leaving him and running ahead, but they refused. By now, he had not enough breath to talk. His chest hurt with every step he took, and his head pounded rhythmically. Still, he went on, determination shining in his eyes. The healer at his side had by now given up his attempts to stop him.
With one hand pressed against the stone wall to keep him steady and the other holding his aching chest, Legolas rounded the last corner. There it was, the door leading to the dungeons' executive chamber.
Trembling from fatigue and whiter than the snow outside, Legolas opened the door. In horror he watched how the trap door opened and Aragorn fell. The rope around his neck pulled tight, and Aragorn stopped moving.
"No!" Legolas yelled, stumbling into the room.
"Legolas!" The King whirled around, eyes wide in surprise when he saw his son enter the room. With two quick steps he was at Legolas's side, catching him when Legolas legs gave out beneath him.
"Ada, no! Estel is innocent! Ada!" Legolas could not believe that his friend was dead. That could not be true.
"But, Legolas…" The King began, but then paled visibly. He ordered sharply, "Cut him down, now!"
The guards standing on the gallows reacted instantly, pulling out knives and cutting the rope on which Aragorn hung. With a dull thud the ranger fell to the floor, where he lay unmoving.
"No, please, Estel." Legolas whispered, clutching his father's arm.
The guards had by now reached Aragorn and lifted the noose from his neck. A moment later, one of the guards checked for a pulse, obviously unsure if the neck had snapped. His surprised voice echoed from the walls, "He lives!"
Thranduil wiped a hand across his weary face; he could not believe what he had almost done. Had he been so blinded by his distrust of humans that he had misinterpreted the evidence? Had the ranger not told him that he was innocent? Why had he not believed him? Had Legolas not come, he would have executed an innocent. And the real killer would have gotten a second chance to try and kill his son.
Thranduil sighed deeply. They had brought the ranger and Legolas back to the healing wing, where the healers had taken care of the both. The trip down to the dungeons had exhausted Legolas, and he had fallen asleep as soon as the healers had declared that the ranger would live. That had been hours ago.
Of course, Thranduil was glad that the ranger would make it, but right now he was more concerned wit his son's well being. If the ranger was innocent, then who had tried to kill his son? The only possible answer was that it had been an elf, for no other human had entered the realm. Why would an elf want to kill Legolas? Legolas was well loved by the elves of this realm, there had never been any serious trouble.
For as long as it was needed the Prince would be guarded. Even now his most loyal guards were stationed in the healing wing with the order to let no one near the Legolas beside the healers and friends.
And seeing that Legolas had insisted on sharing a room with the Adan, the ranger would be guarded as well.
Thranduil sighed once more. He would have to talk to the guards once more, take a look at the evidence, speak with the witnesses. But before he would do that, he would check on Legolas. Getting to his feet, Thranduil left the cosy armchair and walked over to the adjoining room, where his son and the ranger –who was still unconscious- rested.
Upon reaching Legolas's bedside, he saw that his son was awake. Smiling, he bent down and placed a kiss on his forehead. "I am sorry, ion nin. But I thought I was doing the right thing."
"Could you not have waited a bit longer before hanging him? Have you not thought about my own wishes for the accused?" Legolas said softly, grabbing his father's hand. He knew that his father had acted in the believe to do the right thing; but that did not mean that he would let it go just like that.
The King sat down on the side of the bed. "Legolas, you know how I see this. Justice delayed is justice-"
"-is justice denied, I know." Legolas finished the sentence. Aye, he knew. It was one of his father's most loved phrases.
Thranduil saw Legolas's resigned expression, and decided to change the subject for the time being.
"Legolas, do you have an idea who could have done this?"
Legolas shook his head. "No, Ada. After Estel left to get a new bowstring, I checked the fletching on my own arrows. After I was hit, I saw a tall, dark shadow in the woods at the end of the training ground. Whoever it was, he must have hid in the trees, and taken one of Estel's arrows out of the wooden wall. He tried to blame Estel, Ada."
Legolas fell silent for a moment, then frowned deeply. "Ada, it was an elf, we know that. But every elf on the palace grounds is an excellent shooter. He could have killed me easily, but he did not. Ada, what if he simply tired to get rid of Estel that way?"
"Legolas, I do not think…"
"No Ada, think about it." Legolas insisted. The King thought about it for a moment, admitting that he idea had some merit, but he could not believe that one of the elves would hurt his son for no other reason than getting rid of the ranger.
"Thawcar said he saw no one at the training grounds." Thranduil said, scratching his nose.
"Thawcar?" Legolas asked. He had not known that his friend had found him.
"Aye, it was Thawcar who found you on the field and alarmed the guards."
"What was he doing there, Ada? I thought he was leading a patrol." Legolas tucked a strand of blond hair behind his ear.
Sighing, the King shook his head. "Why don't you ask him yourself? He asked if he may visit you."
"Aye, I will do that." The strange feeling in Legolas stomach intensified, but he could still not place it. Before he had time to evaluate on it though, the King got to his feet.
"I am sorry my son, but I have to talk to the guards and take a look at the evidence. Rest, Legolas."
Thranduil placed another kiss on Legolas's forehead before he left the room. He reminded the guards to be vigilant, and then made his way towards the guards who had first been at the injured Legolas's side.
The King had not been away for long when the door to Legolas and Aragorn's room opened once more.
"Thawcar. I am glad to see you." Legolas smiled at his friend, who made his way over to his bed. When Thawcar passed by Aragorn's bed, he frowned, but said nothing.
"I am glad you are well, Legolas." Thawcar stood at the end of the bed, and after a short pause he added, "How is the human?"
"Estel will be well." The strange feeling in Legolas's stomach changed into tension. "Thawcar, my father told me that it was you who found me."
"Aye, I happened to be at the right spot at the right time." Had Legolas not known better, he would have thought that Thawcar forcefully avoided looking at Aragorn.
"And I am glad you were, my friend. But tell me, why were you not on patrol duty?"
"I changed my shift. Legolas, do you think it wise to let the ranger stay in your room?"
Legolas's face darkened. "He is my friend, Thawcar. And he is innocent."
"Do you know that, Legolas? He was the only one down at the training grounds that day." Thawcar said, shooting a cold look in Aragorn's direction. "That ranger means trouble."
Legolas frowned, but said nothing. He had thought that Thawcar and Voronwe had tried to befriend Aragorn, and although he had not anticipated for them to become great friends, he had hoped that they would at least tolerate each other.
For some moments none of them spoke, and the silence that settled in the room was filled with tension. Then, Thawcar turned back to Legolas. "I am glad to know that you will be well, Legolas." After a moment, he added with a sigh, "And that your friend will be well, too."
"Estel will be happy to hear that, Thawcar." Legolas smiled.
"Well maybe, when you are both healed, we could train together." Thawcar said grudgingly, but seriously. If Legolas trusted this Adan, then he would try to trust him as well. "And I should have known that is was not him, as bad as he is with a bow."
Legolas's musical laughter lifted the tension in the room, and Thawcar chuckled softly. "Alright Legolas, I must go now. Rest, my friend." Thawcar made his way over to the door, but when he turned the handle Legolas's stopped him.
"Thawcar, how did you know that Estel is so bad with bow and arrow? He shot that slobbering orc, after all."
"Oh, Voronwe told me." Thawcar said, then left the room. Legolas stared at the closed door for a long time, surprise and shock written on his face.
The next day was a busy one; for Legolas and Aragorn, as well as for the whole palace. Legolas told his father about his talk with Thawcar, and the King of Mirkwood personally questioned Voronwe. Very few people were able to withstand the King's piercing stare and authority. Voronwe was not one of them.
After only an hour of questioning he confessed to have shot Legolas, using one of Aragorn's arrows which he had taken out of the wooden wall at the end of the training field. And seeing that he was an elf an no one had looked for it, his soft imprints in the snow had not been found.
Thranduil decided to let Voronwe be guarded in the dungeons until Legolas was well enough to judge him. For, after the incident with Aragorn, Legolas had decided to judge Voronwe himself; and he would never order him to be executed. Never. Exile, maybe. Or the suggestion to sail to Valinor.
Aragorn awoke on the second day after his hanging. His throat was sore and swollen, speaking impossible. Eating and drinking hurt him, too, and his prolonged stay in the cold and wet dungeons of Mirkwood had made him ill. He was feverish and very tired, but when he opened his eyes and saw Legolas in a bed next to his own, he smiled so broadly that no words were needed.
The healers made him drink pain numbing teas and soon after his waking he fell into a healing slumber, that would do his body good. He would heal completely; physically, at least. Legolas knew that it would take a while until his emotional hurts would heal, but he vowed to not leave Aragorn's side until he was well again. And the fact that his father had promised to officially apologize to Aragorn and hold a grand dinner to his honour, made Legolas beam in joy.
He simply knew that things would be better now.
When night fell over the lands, Thranduil entered the healing room that Legolas and Aragorn shared. He sat down at the edge of Legolas's bed, and they talked until the moon stood high in the sky. Looking at the darkness outside and the twinkling stars, the King decided that it was time for him to retire, so that Legolas could get some sleep, too.
Getting to his feet, he smiled down at his son. "All will be well soon, ion nin. I promise."
"I know, Ada." Legolas yawned and snuggled deeper into the covers.
"Legolas, there is one more thing I need to tell you before I leave." The King began, unsure if Legolas ready to hear it.
"What is it?" Now curious, Legolas gazed at his father.
"I asked the ranger…Estel, if he had any last words."
Paling, Legolas nodded. He should have known that this had happened, for it was protocol to ask this. He had simply not thought about it yet.
"He said that he wanted me to tell you, to not forget the promise you gave him." Thranduil said, studying his son's face.
A small smile flittered over Legolas's face and he shook his head. "Stubborn ranger."
"Legolas? What did you promise him?"
Lifting his head and turning huge, blue eyes on his father, Legolas said softly, "I promised him long ago, that should he die before his time, I would not fade from grief, but seek happiness, joy and healing wherever I might find it."
And in that moment, Thranduil, King of Mirkwood, felt an enormous gratefulness well up in his heart. As it seemed, this ranger called hope was more than a mere mortal. He was a true friend. A friend who appreciated Legolas's live above all else.
Never again did the King of Mirkwood forget the promise Aragorn had asked of Legolas, and he could sleep more easily with the knowledge of it.
Still, he hoped that Legolas would never be forced to fulfil that promise.