written for TTT prompt #2: Laugh
Authors: Nina/PeppyPower and Kay
Beta: Nieriel Raina
Warnings: Violence against an animal
Summary: Legolas has always marvelled at life itself. To the elf, every existence has a meaning and is worth saving. Even if it is the life of a tortured creature.
Author's notes: This fic is dedicated to all our friends out there, especially to the ones loving animals. Middle-earth is not far away, it is in our hearts. Always remember that. Love you all. Special thanks to Nieriel Raina for her great advice on the market place scene.
Happy birthday, to our MC group mod Shell - we hope your day was filled with love and happiness
Disclaimer: Sadly, we do not own the elf and his friend.
Minas Tirith, early November, year 11 of the Fourth Age
Loud and vibrant, not offering the deep and comforting peace he so loved about his place in Ithilien - I knew that was Minas Tirith to Legolas. But even if he liked being at his colony, he visited us as often as his duties allowed. And I have always been grateful to see my friend. When Legolas came to call, he would take me for a walk through the city, even if he did not like the vivid uproar there. He went to buy some salt and a few herbs for his elven cooks and his healers, but today proved to be a little different. Rain was pouring down as if the Valar themselves were weeping. I watched Legolas try to figure out how to transport a large bag of salt to the store rooms without it getting ruined. His gaze wandered the market place, where people were trading apples and other food, bartering for goods and commodities.
I spotted it first.
Further down the market, a small, grey donkey was being forced to drag a heavy cart with large wooden planks. His movements appeared awkward and laboured; his fur was ragged and his eyes had lost all of their brightness. On his back were welts covered by dried blood. His hooves looked as if they had not been tended to in years and it seemed to pain him to only stand on his unsteady feet. The poor beast let out a strange sounding moan as his owner took the reins. A long whip cracked on his back again and again. The gelding strained, as if he really tried to drag the cart, putting all his strength into this one chore. But his condition, his weakness and his hunger, obviously had taken their toll on him. His knees buckled and moments later, he lay there on the wet ground, his legs crumpled under his body, while his filthy owner still hit him.
Before I could even react, Legolas headed towards the fallen donkey. I followed my friend.
As we arrived, I heard his low but intense voice: "Leave this animal alone. Now."
Legolas stepped from the shadows, his eyes pinning the dirty man in his place. Rare was it that I witnessed the prince of Eryn Lasgalen make an appearance like that when he was with me, but this proved one such time. Elven eyes snapped with fury, and he stood tall and straight, like an elf-lord of old. The man's whip sunk to the ground.
"I do not like animals being mistreated in any way," my friend continued, this well-known, inscrutable smile on his lips that caused a shiver to even run down my spine. I must have looked stunned, standing behind the elf the way I had done when I was younger.
Legolas stepped closer to the filthy man, opening a small leather pouch filled with coins. "How much do you want for him?"
The man frowned, somehow seeming to find it within him to resist, despite Legolas' imposing air. "He is not for sale…my lord." The last was bit out almost resentfully. "I need him to move this load!"
I actually felt sorry for the man when Legolas smiled grimly back. I had no doubt who would win this argument. "Everything in this market is for sale. And you have made sure this creature will not move anything else for some time. Now, name your price."
"That is robbery. I will give you three."
And so it went, back and forth, until I was chuckling as Legolas handed over six copper pennies to the disgruntled merchant. The man was grumbling that he would not be able to find another animal to replace the donkey and to finish his work.
"That is your problem, not mine. Now if you will excuse me." Legolas was already on his knees beside the small, shivering figure.
We brought the poor animal to my private barn. Legolas almost carried the grey beast and sang softly to the gelding to calm him. The stable hands looked at me as if I had lost my mind, dragging such a pitiful excuse of a donkey inside the kingly stalls. I saw it in their eyes, but they did not say a word. At the nod of my head, they went to collect all the things we needed. Blankets, herbs and bandages, a bowl of warm water, and a cooked cereal mash to strengthen the animal.
"Lasbelin," Legolas whispered when the donkey let himself sink down into the warm and dry straw. He had already decided on a name. Lasbelin - the season of autumn, for autumn it was. The small, tired and mistreated beast started to nuzzle his hand. I touched those grey, dirty ears. They were so different to horses' ears; so very soft and a little bit crumpled. "He has long and pointy ears, just like yours," I teased my friend, and Legolas finally smiled.
We started tending to the animal quietly, Legolas still with a smile on his face. I knew the idea of their king tending to a mere donkey would make my people laugh or chuckle. Some would find it touching, though I suspected my stable hands would have a trustworthy discretion as well. But in this moment, I could not care less. Wasn't saving a life just that - saving a life?
After our ministrations, the donkey savoured the still warm mash, he nibbled some hay and fell into an exhausted sleep. "I know he is going to survive. He is not ready to leave Arda yet, since there is a task for him," the elf told me when we left the barn late that night. I did not even ask him how he had known.
We came back to tend to the donkey each day, and soon, Lasbelin started to greet us with his loud und unmistakable donkey cry. Legolas would start to chuckle every time he heard the sound. The blacksmith rasped his hooves, and Legolas would brush his fur with a soft horse brush after applying sweet smelling oil onto the stubborn hair.
After one week, the small beast appeared strong enough to go outside. The stable hands proposed taking him down to the first level, where we offered paddocks for the younger, yet untrained horses. Legolas thanked them, as was his way, but refused. He wanted to do this on his own. Just imagine the sight of the King of Gondor and Arnor and his elven friend walking down the city levels, a small donkey in between them. "They will be talking about this until my very end," I mumbled. This morning, I had been busy making trade agreements, and planning a new meeting with representatives of other Gondorian regions, such as Lebennin. And right now, I was leading a donkey down the streets of my city! By Námo! But the faces of my people told me otherwise: They smiled! Children waved their tiny hands and some even asked for the donkey's name or if they could pet the animal. Patiently, Legolas would answer all their questions.
The next hour compensated for the times we had spent at the barn, tending to the ill creature: We put the donkey inside the paddock with a few curious yearlings. They greeted each other then the younger steeds stepped back respectfully. Suddenly, the donkey seemed to wake up. When Lasbelin jumped for joy and the sheer amazement of being alive, the younger horses did the same. Soon there was a cheerful running, bucking and jumping going on in the large paddock. I glanced at my long time friend standing beside me with his golden braids flowing in the wind. Then I saw it. His lips weren't only twitching - he was laughing - so jubilantly laughing at the scene with his mouth, his eyes, with his entire face. He rejoiced in having saved a life.
"You know, Estel," he said, contentedly, calling me by my childhood name, "every life has a meaning. Do not throw it away if it should fail one day, if there is no strength to carry on. Lasbelin showed us that it was worth saving him. We did not let him die there, alone and in vain, lying on the wet ground. He is here and he is happy. That is all I can ask for." And when said donkey landed a well-aimed, annoyed kick on the breast of a very irksome filly, Legolas' musical laughter filled the air with palpable joy and happiness. And I joined him.
Often would I think back to that day.
When Legolas headed back home to Ithilien, he took Lasbelin with him. I know from my own visits, that the small donkey became stronger and larger, due to his mighty appetite. Legolas and I, we would stand at the fence very often, looking at the now healthy and strong beast, playing with the colts and fillies, educating them and taking away their pain of being away from their mothers.
I will never forget the musical quality of the elf's very laughter at the sight of the smart donkey - a laughter, as if it were bouncing off his mind and soul. Often, Legolas was too conflicted to even share his joy with the rest of the world, but looking at the grey gelding made him laugh so much that I cherished those rare moments.
Lasbelin lived a long and content life. He died at the proud age of 37 years. And, sadly, after that, I didn't hear my elven friend laugh so freely any longer.
Lasbelin – (Sindarin) Autumn (Literally "leaf-withering")