by Aranel Laerien

Chapter I – Ceremony

Legolas was nervously re-tying his warrior braids. He wanted them to be as neat as he could manage – after all, such a ceremony was a rare honour for him.

"Prince Legolas," a young cheerful voice called from the doorway, "the King asks if you are ready!"

Legolas nodded, satisfied at last with his hair.

"Hendur, could you help me with my armour?"

The young elf's eyes lit up. "Of course, my Prince!"

Legolas smiled at his enthusiasm. "Hendur, I've mentioned, when it's just the both of us, please address me as Legolas."

The other elf smiled gratefully but whispered conspiratorially, "We can never know who's listening in!"

Legolas laughed, imagining what his father would say if he had heard the request. In fact, if not for Hendur's remarkable change in personality about two months ago, Legolas would not have allowed such a concession. The young Elf was now much more sincere, more inquisitive, more pleasant on the whole.

"Done!" Hendur appraised Legolas with a satisfied grin. "We'd better run! You're late again!" He dragged Legolas along the corridors, automatically releasing his hand and dropping back behind the Prince as they left the royal wing. Legolas noticed this bitterly. Being a Prince could be a curse at times.

"Legolas, you are late," King Thranduil greeted them reproachfully.

"Sorry, ada," Legolas began, but Hendur interrupted, "Forgive me, my King. I was carried away speaking with the Prince and did not allow him to stop my questions."

"Few could," Thranduil smiled, "you are most unlike your father in your spirit."

Hendur grinned innocently.

"I am certain there is more to this," Thranduil continued, turning to Legolas, "but perhaps we will speak of it later."

Legolas swallowed uncomfortably. Hendur was not totally lying – they had been chatting – but it was chiefly his insistence on finishing his reading of a book that delayed him.

Hendur had reappeared in the midst of the waiting crowd even as Thranduil led Legolas into the midst of the assembly and began his speech. Legolas was fidgeting quietly, only half-listening to what his father was saying.

"It is with great pleasure that I appoint Legolas as commander of our elite warriors. Curuvir has expressed his wish to spend more time with his family, but has kindly volunteered to remain second-in-command for a month."

There was loud applause. Legolas saw how Hendur beamed with pride and turned to smile at Curuvir when his father was mentioned. Curuvir was indeed a great leader and Legolas desperately hoped he would be able to live up to the high standard his predecessor set.

Thranduil continued the announcements. Esteldur would lead Legolas' former command. Legolas knew he would miss those days and those Elves who had bonded together almost as a family. There were Cuindir, Bronadion, Raudon and many others. Even Hendur, before he had joined the elites, had been under his command – and would soon be again. He cheered up a little at that thought.

The ceremony was brief, with Curuvir passing him an elaborate blade as a token of authority.

"Use it well," he smiled warmly.

Legolas only replied, "Thank you for your trust. I only desire that you continue to counsel me where I need guidance."

Curuvir nodded, eyes mirthful. "I will do it with pleasure."

There was the feast after that. Legolas had mingled with the younger elves, laughing as Cuindir and Hendur tried to best each other at drinking wine, their faces flushed. Obviously, Hendur held that since he was finally spared from having meals on his own (which was often the case as his parents were busy with other duties), he meant to make the most out of this. Legolas noted with some pleasure at how he had changed – in the past, Hendur would not have given a second thought at having to dining alone.

Not long after they started singing and dancing, Curuvir came over, gave Hendur a disapproving look and shook his head, apologising as he took his son home.

"I should have taught this child better," he said. "Forgive me."

"I assure you, no offence was taken," Legolas replied. The others at the table nodded and murmured their agreement.

Curuvir sighed. "This elfling would do well and stay sober seeing how soon we would head South."

"Lord Curuvir, he is but young," Raudon put in. "He should enjoy his youth while he is able to."

"Yes," Legolas added, "and there remain three days before we set off. The effects of the wine would wear away well before then."

"Thank you for your understanding, my friends," Curuvir smiled. "I take my leave."

The feast grew more tame after that. Cuindir had tried to incite Legolas and Raudon to a food-fight, but they had quickly and sheepishly stopped when Thranduil turned around at the noise.

"A peaceful meal, at last!" Bronadion sighed in contentment.