The young elves were honing their archery outside the Gates. Legolas and Leithian were last to go but thus far, no one had managed to hit the small fruit.
"I'll shoot better today," Legolas declared. Yesterday's grotesque score was out of the ordinary, wasn't it?
Leithian only laughed, "We shall see!"
The Master called them over. Leithian looked at Legolas squinting at the target. The Prince was attempting to look confident but Leithian could tell he was nervously shaking within. He smiled as they drew their bows and locked on.
"Leithio i philinn!" Let free the arrows!
Legolas' bow sang and he watched anxiously. Leithian released his arrow, jerking ever so slightly at the last second.
Legolas squealed, jumping enthusiastically as his arrow found its mark. Leithian laughed softly and embraced him.
"Well done, Legolas," he congratulated him.
"Don't worry, Leithian, you'll hit it the next time round!" Legolas was not one to forget his friends even in his excitement.
Leithian smiled knowingly as they strolled back.
Suddenly, he stopped.
"Do you hear that?" he asked softly.
Legolas scanned the area quickly, gasping as he saw the orcs. They had never ventured so close before.
Leithian was extraordinarily calm. "They are carrying fire-powder," he said, pointing to a barrel carted among the group, "There is a crack; we can shoot hard and the friction will ignite the barrel."
"It's too small," Legolas said, "and too far. It's much worse than the fruit."
Leithian did not seem to hear. He was drawing his bow.
"Leithian!" Legolas hissed. If the orcs should be alerted and spot them…
"Close your eyes and cover your ears," Leithian said in a measured tone, "when I release, run!"
Legolas flexed his limbs, nervously preparing. How could Leithian ever manage to stay calm! He heard the arrow fly off the string and sprinted towards the palace.
Behind him, there was a deafening explosion and a wave of heat radiated out towards him. Legolas ran and ran.
Leithian shot through the crack? Legolas could not believe it. Had not the elf barely hit any of the targets in class? Legolas would definitely speak with him once they were home.
But Leithian did not return.
It was a deformed, badly-beaten elf who stumbled in the grass a year later.
"Leithian!" Legolas called in horror as he took in the sight. "Quick, we must bring you to ada!"
Leithian shook his head. "It's too late," he said weakly. "I'm already one of them."
"The Dark Lord. He has set his mark on me."
The other elves shrank back.
"I've escaped to warn you…"
Legolas ignored the rest and heaving Leithian onto his back, he ran to Thranduil's study, bursting through the door.
"Ada," Legolas said as Leithian finally finished his earlier warning, "you must help Leithian!"
Thranduil shook his head sadly.
"Legolas, it is too late," he said. "Soon he will not be able to feel the Earth, smell the flowers or hear the trees." Thranduil saw Legolas' eyes moisten but continued, "He will not remember any beauty but only know darkness and doom. Legolas, he will only destroy and kill."
"He's right, Legolas," Leithian's voice was strained, "you know it."
Thranduil drew his sword.
"Ada!" Legolas was shocked, "ada, you can't do this!" He turned to Leithian.
But Leithian did not say a word; his face only showed silent resignation as he understood. Legolas shuddered.
Suddenly, he grabbed Leithian's arm and bolted out of the room, dragging him along. Thranduil shouted for the other elves to stop them but young though Legolas was, he was proving especially talented in evading the others.
"If ada can't do anything about this, Hîr Elrond can!" Legolas panted as Leithian struggled to keep up, struggled to stop the Prince's foolishness.
Elrond read King Thranduil's message again in disbelief. Rarely did a transformed elf manage to escape. It was a great pity that such a courageous and loyal elf had been taken. Before long, Elladan and Elrohir had returned with Legolas still holding Leithian tightly.
They set Leithian on a bed, keeping some athelas boiling merrily. But they knew the futility of their actions.
"… and I fear Saruman the White has fallen under evil counsel," Leithian finished.
The elves were considering what he had said. Leithian turned towards Legolas. "I do not have long, my friend," he carried on resolutely, "do it before it's too late."
Legolas raised a quavering hand towards his quiver and gave up.
"I cannot!" he was shaking his head defiantly, "not after all you've done!"
"Please, my friend," Leithian pleaded, "deliver me and it will be more than payment for all you could ever owe."
At that moment, a young boy peeked through the doorway, brownish curls falling before his face.
"Ashi," Leithian began and gasped. All of the elves were looking at him, but he seemed oblivious.
"There is a boy in Imladris?" he asked.
Legolas thought something was wrong with Leithian's eyes; they froze his blood menacingly.
"Yes," Elrond replied guardedly. "A Human here to visit."
Estel staggered over, moving instinctively towards Elrond.
"Ada?" he asked timidly, "who is he?"
"He is Leithian from Mirkwood," Elrond answered, holding an arm protectively around the boy.
Leithian cut in distractedly, "There is a strange light in him."
"Mae Govannen! Im Estel," Estel greeted, unaware of the ominous atmosphere.
"You have an interesting name, Estel. No doubt named for a greater purpose, Exile?" Leithian was smiling alarmingly. "It is futile to oppose my Master."
Legolas breathed sharply.
"Ada, what does he mean?" Estel asked, confused.
At that moment, everything happened. The being on the bed sprang up, grabbing at Estel. Elrond pulled the boy close and turned protectively away, his free hand reaching for his blade. Legolas stabbed down with his arrow.
Estel's round eyes widened.
"He's gone," Legolas said, and continued painfully, "ad-geveditham na athra-falas, mellon nîn." We will meet again on the opposite shore, my friend.