PERFECT TIME: FIVE HUNDRED ARROWS

By Greenwood and Wednesday

NOTE: This story is fifth in the "Perfect Time" series written by Greenwood and Wednesday. If you haven't read the other four stories (also archived here), this one won't make sense. Additionally, in this story Legolas is 24 years old: physically and emotionally, this is the Elven equivalent of only 12 mortal years.

TITLE: Perfect Time: Five Hundred Arrows (part 5 of "In Your Perfect Time" Series)

AUTHORS: Greenwood & Wednesday

ARCHIVE: Our webpage only.

PAIRING: Legolas/Gandalf (NO slash in this story.)

CATEGORY: Little Leaf Angst

RATING: PG-13

NOTES: This story is part of an ongoing series that's steadily being written. This particular story is the fifth of the series, you won't "get" it if you don't start with Perfect Time I, also archived on this site.

WARNINGS: Follows canon in some places, not in others. This is deliberate. You also need to know that this series is a gentle slash series. That means it's based in emotional intimacy more than in physicality for these characters. THERE IS NO SLASH OR CHAN IN THIS PARTICULAR STORY, NOR ANY HINT OF IT. Also, Thranduil yells at Legolas in flashback in this story. So if you're a hardcore Thranduil fan, you've been warned.

SPOILERS: None.

SUMMARY: Elrond feels young Legolas has betrayed him regarding the breeding of a horse. Dire emotional consequences follow. NO CHAN, NO SLASH. Please read the other four stories in this series also archived on this site or you won't get what's going on.

FEEDBACK: Greenwood likes it, while Wednesday has learned it's best if she avoids reading it. If you don't agree with what we're creating, please considering going off to create whatever story you'd like to read.

CHAPTER ONE

I had never been so frightened in my life. There was nothing I could do about it, nothing for it at all, but to sit in my bedchamber and wait for what was to come. And it was all my fault. I had done it; I deserved what would come. But that knowledge didn't make the shaking any less or ease the pain in my stomach at all.

Elrond's grey mare had foaled. I'd known she would foal this night: after watching so many mares over the seasons, I could read the signs as well as any. Now, Wilwaren had obviously finished with her birthing and something was amiss, for I had seen the stableman come to get Lord Elrond.

It wouldn't be news of Wilwaren's health that brought Lareth inside the hall tonight, nor news that the foal was not strong, for that would have meant merely sending word to the lord of Imladris. He wouldn't have been sent for.

It also couldn't mean the death of the mare or the foal, for Lord Elrond certainly wouldn't be called out in the darkness to view the corpses. No, he was being summoned to the stable by my friend the horsemaster for the express purpose of showing the Elf-lord something.

I knew without looking at the foal what it was Lareth wished Lord Elrond to see. I didn't need to see it to tell what flaw the foal carried. I'd been dreading its birth now for a full turn of the seasons, praying foolishly to the Valar that those who oversaw the growth of young foals inside their mother-mares would take pity on me and let it resemble Wilwaren, the sweet and beautiful grey mare that Elrond so prized; she who had gone the white of clouds on a clear summer day.

The foal would either have been white, in which case it would have been born black or perhaps chestnut, a rose grey to turn white, had it resembled its mother. Neither would have been cause for any thought at all.

It might even have been a bay, graying to white with the mane and legs that would hold their dark hair as long as possible before surrendering to the white. That would have been unusual for Lord Elrond's horses, but still within the realm of acceptability. But I knew Wilwaren's foal was not any of those.

No. I knew the color of this foal. I had known in my heart from the moment I'd opened the gates on a dark night months ago for the express purpose of breeding sire and dam.

Closing my eyes, I saw clearly in my mind's eye that the foal was now a fuzzy charcoal grey. This morning, it was as dull as any dusty forest mouse, but when the fluffy foal coat fell away, it would be black--a shining, inky black as that of his sire which is the only black horse in Imladris. That sire also happens to be my black stallion, Fuin--which points the finger of defiance, complicity and deceit, directly at me.

My heart contracted painfully in anticipation of the wrath that would fall with Lord Elrond's return. What was worse, I couldn't even tell him why I'd done it. We'd argued about this breeding months before, when Elrond had told Lareth to put Ross to Elrond's most-prized mare.

No, I'd argued. Elrond had glared at me, annoyed by the audacity of a mere stripling ward to dare debating the breeding of the Elf-lord's own horses.

But what Elrond was planning was wrong. The fact that his planned breeding would result in a cat-hammed, weak-hocked foal was beside the point. There was a roaring in my ears and a panicked feeling when I thought of this breeding. It was...it was wrong.

The dread and panic rose in my mind and heart to an almost unbearable screeching. The only time it fell silent was when I thought of Wilwaren being coupled with Fuin. I tried to tell Elrond. Tried to explain to both the Lord of Imladris--whom I was sure had been breeding horses since the beginning of time--and to his horsemaster, who surely had been breeding horses since before Elbereth had kindled the first star in the sky.

I had stood before both of them, had dared to countermand their decision with all of my 24-year-old audacity and insisted Wilwaren be bred to my stallion.

It had not been a clever move on my part. Horsemaster Lareth had been obviously amused. Lord Elrond, however, had not. In fact, he had reacted with uncharacteristic anger at my even bringing up such a suggestion.

Worse, I couldn't find the words to make sense of what I was feeling. I was dismissed with harsh words reminding me of my age and place within the lord's household, and a reminder that black horses were not well thought of in Imladris.

Lord Elrond seemed to hold a serious aversion to them. I was sure he suffered my horse in his stable only because he could find no way to gracefully part Fuin from me. To suggest actually breeding the stallion was the height of folly, and in that moment my not breeding Fuin became Imladris law. There was no hope of claiming misunderstanding over this issue: Fuin would have no get.

And yet, later that night when I was certain no one was about, I had crept to Wilwaren's paddock and unlatched the gate that barred her from all company until the one chosen for her could be brought. My stallion had slipped within the mare's paddock with very little urging on my part, and within moments the new life had been conceived.

The moment Wilwaren had been bred, the thundering panic and drive I felt stopped as though it had never been. I returned Fuin--who was insufferably pleased with himself--to his field. No one was the wiser, and my headache and overpowering fear of the impending unknown disaster was gone.

Now, my fear was totally of myself and for myself. I'd had eleven long months to see if fate would side with me and let me escape the discovery of my traitorous actions.

Tonight I had my answer, and with the tread of the horsemaster's boot on the stair I knew fate had sided against me. I sat in my bedchamber with my arms curled about the pain and fear stampeding in my gut, awaiting my execution.

# #

"Legolas."

I flinched at his tone, for Lord Elrond had never sounded so cold. It was an effort, but I forced myself to look up and meet his eyes.

I immediately wished I hadn't. His eyes were an angry storm-darkened grey, and the air itself seemed to vibrate with danger--like the air before the first lightening strike of a thunderstorm.

"Come here," he commanded.

Crawling off of my bed, I attempted to make my legs comply. Elrond's hand closed over my shoulder, his fingers biting as they closed about my collar bone, and I found myself marched forcibly to his library. He settled in a chair by his desk, leaving me standing alone in the center of the room, facing him. I would rather have crawled under the desk.

"Tell me what you've done."

I tried to speak, but no words came out. They jammed in my throat and collided hopelessly as I sought for something--anything--to excuse what I'd done.

"And don't tell me you've done nothing, for I know very well that you have."

"I...I--"

"You what, Legolas Thranduilion? Say the words. Tell me what you have done."

My breath caught at the fury in his voice. There was no possible solution to this. All I could do was confess and face my execution.

His anger was entirely new to me. I'd not gotten into trouble yet in Imladris. Oh, I'd seen myself into mischief certainly and had displeased this adult and that with childish misjudgment or the folly-filled logic of a child, but never had I been more than scolded. Had this been my father, he would have shouted in anger and dismissed me. Once the king's personal aide had removed me from Thranduil's sight, Galion would have struck me in rage and send me on my way to nurse my bruises in isolation until the next time Galion's anger rose toward me.

There had been a predicable pattern to my life in Mirkwood: a beginning, a middle, and an end to my punishment. I had understood that, and had no idea what would happen now with Lord Elrond. I'd never felt so frightened, or so guilty, in my life.

"Would you like to explain to my why my foal--from my mare and my stallion--bears such a great likeness to your horse? The horse I allowed you to keep only on the condition it be kept away from mares? All mares? The one I clearly recall expressly forbidding you to breed?"

I stared at him, helpless in the tide of his fury. Elrond, however, sought explanations. Confession. Truth. Something I could not form into words to give to him.

" Explain this to me! NOW!"

The fury in his voice was increasing as was my panic. My voice returned at his command.

"I-I'm sorry. I did it. I opened the gates, and they..."

"Why."

I provided the most honest, yet most feeble excuse possible. "I had to."

"WHY."

"I don't know. I just...I had to."

"You wanted to," Elrond corrected harshly. "You wanted your stallion to sire a foal off my best mare, and you employed whatever means at your disposal to accomplish this after I refused your request.

"No! No, I didn't. I didn't want to disobey you. I didn't want to do it at all. I just...I had to."

"You 'had' to." Elrond's voice went to quiet ice. I took this to be a sign that my explanations were not well-received. "I ask you again, Legolas. Tell me why you did this. Tell me why you felt it was necessary to deliberately disobey me on several counts. Tell me why you felt you 'had to' defy me.

I had no answer.

"We are not talking about stealing sweet cakes from the kitchens, Legolas. We are talking about interfering in adult judgments. Of interfering with my breeding program, about stealing a year of the life of my mare, and risking her in the delivery of a foal that ought not be. We are talking about stealing from me the horse that should have been. Tell me why you felt justified in doing this."

"I can't. I just had to do it. I'm sorry," I added feebly at the end of my useless explanation.

"I imagine you are, but your regret clearly stems from being discovered in your duplicity, else you would have confessed sometime in the last turn of seasons since your little deception. Had the foal's color not given you away, you would have remained silent and allowed your interference to taint the bloodlines of my horses from here on. I have been building this breeding program for over three thousand years, Legolas Thranduilion, and you would have undone it with one act of defiance. No--more than mere defiance. This was betrayal, Legolas, for that is how I see it."

I tried to keep the tears back, but I wasn't any more successful at that than I was at explaining the compulsion I'd felt to bring those two horses together. Lord Elrond was very right: he had offered me a home and sanctuary and education, had let me live on his sufferance, and I had betrayed him, destroyed it all. I deserved to be thrown out and whatever else he wanted to do to me.

Rising, Elrond paced the library. His restless need to move illustrated the depth of his fury. Seconds lasted weeks - no, years - as he stalked about the room, carefully ignoring my presence. Finally, he turned back to me.

"You are not to go near the horses again. You will not enter the stable again under any circumstances. And you will not enter my library again. You will not read my books, for I do not know if I can trust you with those either."

Drawing himself up to his great height, he continued. "I will let you know later what I decide will be adequate compensation for your actions, for you owe me the foal that was stolen from me. This is only the beginning of your punishment, at least until I consult with Mithrandir."

My heart couldn't have fallen any further than it already had, but it managed a couple of feeble flops near my feet. "But-but Lord Elrond, the horses...my horses. I-I work in the stable--"

"You work there no longer. I cannot trust you near my horses any longer. No horses."

Oh Elbereth. My horses. My knees wobbled and I felt near to falling. He could take them. He could order Fuin destroyed. And how was I to care for the others? Feed them?

I couldn't breathe. My fear for myself was nothing compared to the terror I felt for my horses. Would Elrond let them suffer because of my actions?

"I will see to their feed," he finally growled, ad I was sure he had reached the end of the same debate I'd just gone through. "But you will not go near the stable until you have earned back my trust. If you can earn back my trust," he amended, "for this may not be possible."

I nodded, quick jerks of my head quite beyond conscious control.

He glowered at me as I stood there, numbed by the emotions buffeting at me--both mine and his--and leveled one more scorching glare at me.

"Go. Get out of my sight. I am too angry to look at you any more."

I needed no further urging. I managed to back away--an old habit from dealing with Father--until I reached the door, and then I dove for the nearest shadow. Father had never battered me with such words before. Father blamed me for things and accused me with many wrongdoings. He had listed my many shortcomings, but never had he charged me with crimes in such a manner.

Elrond's words were like arrows, sharp and direct and biting deep, and the pain was no less for their lack of physicality. Father would have shouted and stormed at me for such behavior, and Galion would have struck me, but Elrond's cold banishment was worse than anything anyone in Mirkwood had ever aimed at me. Not only that, I still had to face having failed Mith so badly. My stomach heaved at that thought, and I felt physically ill.

I'd rather have been beaten.