Disclaimer: Tolkien created the characters and scenes, and whoever owns LOTR now, it isn't me! Please don't sue.
Author's Note: I've always wondered why Legolas was telling stories to Hobbits instead of making himself useful in Aragorn's council before they all rode to the Black Gate… Here's my explanation!
Warning: This story is not meant to be AU, but there's one AU element in it - I've left Halbarad in the story after the Pelennor Fields. This was originally meant to be set before the battle; when I decided to change the setting to after it, I didn't have the heart to take him out. He only has a line, so it didn't make any difference to the plot. I hope it doesn't bother anybody too much.
A very big thank you to my wonderful beta, Calenlass, for advice, suggestions, and patience with questions.
Please let me know what you think – feedback and concrit much appreciated.
No More than an Elf
'I am one of the Nine Companions who set out with Mithrandir from Imladris,' said Legolas; 'and with this Dwarf, my friend, I came with the Lord Aragorn. But now we wish to see our friends, Meriadoc and Peregrin, who are in your keeping, we are told.'
'You will find them in the Houses of Healing, and I will lead you thither,' said Imrahil.
'It will be enough if you send one to guide us, lord,' said Legolas. 'For Aragorn sends this message to you. He does not wish to enter the City again at this time. Yet there is need for the captains to hold council at once, and he prays that you and Éomer of Rohan will come down to his tents, as soon as may be. Mithrandir is already there.'
'We will come,' said Imrahil; and they parted with courteous words.
- From The Lord of the Rings
Imrahil looked after the departing Elf with a slight frown. He was accounted wise among his kind, and he saw and heard many things that other Men did not. In Legolas' voice he was sure he had heard the tones of one accustomed to command, and in his stance he had seen the bearing of a warrior with centuries – perhaps millennia – of experience.
Surely he should be present at any council being held… Imrahil could not begin to imagine the number of battles those unfathomable blue eyes had seen. Yet the golden-haired Elf was strolling casually away in the direction of the Houses of Healing; and if he was a captain among the Elves his garb showed no sign of it. Other than his cloak, he was wearing a tunic and leggings, and though they were less travel-stained than the clothes of his companion, they were still simple in style.
He shook himself – this was no time to wonder about Elves and their peculiar habits – and sent one of the milling soldiers to fetch Éomer.
Elladan and Elrohir came into their foster-brother's tent together. After they had greeted Aragorn, and after Elrohir, who had been attempting to extract Gandalf's staff, was given a sharp rap on the knuckles with it, Elladan said, "Where is the Elfling?"
"He and Gimli have gone up to the City to see the periannath," Aragorn said. "I told Legolas not to be too long and to bring Imrahil and Éomer on his way back down."
"Just like Legolas to take up with that Dwarf. I would like to be there when Thranduil is told."
"I will be there when Thranduil is told," Elladan said smugly. "I offered to accompany Legolas when he returns to Greenwood and he seemed most relieved to accept – no doubt he hopes that some of his father's anger will transfer itself to me."
"And you are pleased about that?" Gandalf asked. "You are far braver than I."
Elladan shrugged. "So he will shout at me. It will be worth it to see his face when Legolas tells him that he has made friends with a Naugrim."
Aragorn, despite his worry, chuckled.
"Thranduil will be none too pleased with you. Weren't you supposed to prevent Legolas from volunteering for mad quests?"
"We did all we could!" Elrohir protested. "Ada was all set to send one of us or Glorfindel instead! But then Legolas spent a morning closeted with Ada in his study and at the end of it he became one of the Walkers."
"It's the eyes," Elladan said thoughtfully. "He makes them large and plaintive –"
"And doubtless he said something like, 'Do you not trust me to do this, hîr nîn?'"
"A word of advice, Estel, for your future dealings with Legolas. Never look him in the eye when he wants something that you are trying not to give him. We told Ada this, but he would not listen, and look where it got him! Sending his precious youngest son out into the evil world with only a half-witted Elfling to protect him."
Gandalf cleared his throat.
"In addition to a wise and valiant wizard, of course," Elrohir said. "Elladan only meant that if unforeseen circumstances should arise –"
"If that wise and valiant wizard should fall off a bridge while selflessly fighting a Balrog, for instance –"
"Then Estel would be left with only a half-witted Elfling for protection."
Gandalf rolled his eyes and said nothing.
For a time the four sat in silence, and then a man came in and announced Imrahil and Éomer.
The two men entered the tent together. After greetings were exchanged, and without any preface, Elladan demanded, "Where's Legolas?"
Imrahil looked startled.
"The Elf? He has gone to the Houses of Healing to meet the Halflings. The Dwarf was with him."
"Does he intend to spend all day there?" Aragorn asked impatiently. "I understand that the Eldar have difficulty with the concept of time, but we must hold this council now."
Imrahil, deciding to ignore Elladan's remark that it was only the Sindar who had difficulty with the concept of time, said, "Had you asked him to return? He seemed to have no such intent."
"I don't remember exactly what I said, but in any case Legolas ought to have known I would want him here, not entertaining the Hobbits with songs from Mirkwood! I am not foolish enough to plan a battle against orcs without even consulting him!" He went to the tent flap. "I'll send someone –"
"No!" Elladan said sharply. "Let it be."
"Let it be, Estel," Elrohir said. "We have no time. Let us make our plans; if Legolas can see any fatal flaws in them we can do something about it then."
Aragorn looked at his brothers in some puzzlement; for all their earlier remarks about half-witted Elflings, they had been the ones who had warned him, when he had left Imladris with the Fellowship, to take careful note of any advice Legolas might give him, since the Elven prince had more experience of fighting dark creatures than even the twins themselves. Finally he bowed his head.
"So be it," he said. "Let us make our plans."
When the council had ended, Éomer took his leave, for he wished to see his sister before telling his men of the plan to challenge Sauron before the Black Gate. Imrahil would have left also, but Aragorn called to him to wait.
"If you will give me a few minutes to speak to my captains, I will come as far as the walls with you – I want to find someone to take a message to the Houses of Healing for Legolas."
"I will gladly do it myself, Lord Aragorn."
"No, Imrahil, I would not keep you from your other duties. We ride to war in two days."
"I would be happy to do it. I must visit the Houses of Healing in any case, so you will not be keeping me from any duties."
"You may not find Legolas in the Houses of Healing," Elrohir said cryptically.
"We will come in an hour," said Elladan, adding in Sindarin, "Estel, I don't know what makes you imagine any messenger will be able to find Legolas, or to talk sense into him if he does; I plan on having a substantial breakfast before I even try to reason with the idiot Sinda."
Aragorn shook his head and led Imrahil out into the sunshine.
"I am sorry, Lord Aragorn," Imrahil said as they made their way towards the City. "Had I known you desired the Elf's counsel, I would have asked him to come to your tent with us."
"One day, if you know Legolas better – and I hope you will – you will know that it is utterly pointless to ask him to do anything. The Elves say the Dwarves are stubborn, but I have yet to see the Dwarf who can be more unyielding than an Elf who has made up his mind."
"He is a warrior, then? I thought so when I saw him, but he introduced himself only as one of the Nine Companions."
"If he had his way he would introduce himself only as Legolas of Greenwood, and so he has done for most of this quest. But you are right; he is a warrior and more." At Imrahil's questioning glance, Aragorn said, "He has commanded the finest archers of his father's realm for more than a thousand years, which is why I hoped to have his counsel."
"His father's realm?"
"He will not thank me for telling you… But I suppose you were bound to learn eventually. He is the son of King Thranduil and the heir to the woodland throne."
"An Elven prince? But he – he bowed to me when we met."
"Legolas is like that. He will say he knows nothing that we do not, and he claims no right to speak at a council of captains; yet when the White Tower was built he had already been a warrior for centuries."
Imrahil shook his head. They rode in silence for a time, and then he said, "We are fortunate to have you with us, Lord Aragorn."
Aragorn bowed his head in acknowledgement of the compliment. "It gives me great joy to be here."
Legolas scowled far more ferociously than an archer who had just made seventeen perfect shots had any right to do. The people milling around the practice range – some warriors, some trainers, some children or young men – had ceased all other activity and were watching the Elf in awe.
His expression still grim, Legolas stalked to the target, pulled the arrow violently out, and stalked back to where he had been standing. There he hesitated, and then walked a further twenty paces away from the target.
"Let me get it for you!" a boy no older than twelve said eagerly. He sprinted to the target, pulled the arrow free, and ran back to Legolas. The Elf smiled at him, something of his dark mood lifted by the child's eagerness.
"Le hannon… Thank you."
The boy smiled shyly and ducked back into the crowd. Legolas put the arrow to his bow, aimed, and released. Without a second's pause, he drew a second from his quiver and sent it after the first. He waited only long enough to see where it landed before firing a third, and a fourth, and –
"Swift are the shafts of the Eldar," a voice said, "and steady are their hands."
Legolas turned and bowed to Imrahil.
"Did your council conclude well, lord?"
"Most satisfactorily," Imrahil said. "Although we missed you there. Your advice would have been helpful, Prince Legolas."
"I am no more than Legolas of Mirkwood here, and I would have you address me as such."
"You are the prince of the woodland realm wherever you go. But I will address you as Legolas if you will address me as Imrahil," the man said. "I went to the Houses of Healing and was told that you had been enquiring after the archery range."
"You desired something of me?"
"Will you come with me? I bear a message that, I suspect, is meant for your ears alone."
Legolas collected his arrows and followed Imrahil to an alcove where they would have privacy. The man, his eyes sparkling with mirth, said, "I bring word from Lord Aragorn. He said – I quote his exact words – 'Whatever imagined inadequacy the infernal ellon is brooding about, tell him to brood later and come to my tent now. I will not have all the Elves of Middle-earth believing that I neglected to seek his advice!'"
"Aragorn has ridden among the Rangers for many years; with Mithrandir and the sons of Elrond to counsel him he has no need of my advice."
"I am instructed that if you decline I am to see you bound, thrown over the back of a horse, and taken forcibly to Lord Aragorn."
Legolas shook his head.
"Very well, I will go. But what he wants of me I cannot imagine."
Halbarad pushed aside the flap to Aragorn's tent and looked in. Aragorn and Gandalf were poring over a map and debating on the best route to Barad Dûr.
"The prince requests an audience, my lord."
"Imrahil? Show him in."
"Not Prince Imrahil, my lord. The Elf Prince."
Aragorn stared at Halbarad.
"Why on earth is he having himself announced? Requests an audience, indeed! Tell him to bring himself and his pointed ears here now."
Halbarad's lips twitched, but he said nothing as he nodded and left.
Aragorn shook his head in despair.
"As though I have not enough to worry about, I now have to deal with an upset Elf. I do not understand this. He commands the Colhador willingly enough, and he was behaving normally all this while!"
Gandalf shook his head at Aragorn.
"Too much swordsmanship," he said, eyeing Andúril, "and too little history. Think a little, and if battles have not driven from your mind all the knowledge that Elrond went to such trouble to have put in it, you will know what bothers Legolas. I am surprised he has lasted this long."
Aragorn looked at the wizard in bewilderment, but before he could demand an explanation Legolas came in.
"You sent for me?"
Aragorn grimaced at the unwonted meekness in the Elf's tone.
"Sit down, Elfling; do not stand there as if I were your overlord. I had hoped you would return with Imrahil and Éomer and I am reasonably certain that I asked you to do so."
"I did not think you would need my counsel," Legolas said, making no move to sit. "I would not presume to speak among the wise."
"Legolas, if I strangle you here it will sour relations between Gondor and Eryn Galen permanently, since your father, for some obscure reason, is fond of you. It would also make Dan and Ro look at me as though I had strangled their pet kitten and my future wife would probably not speak to me for years. Save us trouble and sit down."
Legolas sat. Aragorn eyed him for a moment before he resumed.
"I make no claim to wisdom; nor, I am sure, do Imrahil and Éomer in the presence of the Firstborn. That you would refer to my brothers as wise I do not imagine; therefore I must conclude that you did not come because you were afraid of Mithrandir."
"If he is, then it is a new development. When I was last in Eryn Galen the Elfling –"
"I am not afraid of you," Legolas said hastily.
"You know I will hear the story eventually, gwador nîn."
"For now I am content to worry about today."
Gandalf, smiling at both of them, got to his feet and announced his intention to go out and smoke, chuckling at the pained expression that drew from Legolas.
"Of all the mortal habits to adopt, Mithrandir," the Elf murmured, "you had to choose that noxious weed."
As the tent flap closed behind the wizard, Aragorn said, "Why didn't you come to the council, Elfling?"
"You did not need my advice, Estel."
Aragorn rolled his eyes.
"Listen to yourself, Legolas. 'Estel was planning an assault on Sauron's stronghold,' the Elves will say to each other, 'but he felt he did not need advice from anybody and so he neglected to invite Prince Legolas to his council.' They will laugh at me from Lórien to Mithlond – no, actually they may not, since it is generally known that you are as stubborn as an Elfling can get –"
"I am not an Elfling!"
"Ha!" a voice said, and Legolas and Aragorn turned to see the twins entering the tent. Elrohir was grinning broadly. "I said we would walk in to find you saying that you were not an Elfling, but Dan thought it would be, 'I'm fine!'"
The two Elves dropped into chairs on either side of their friend. Elladan, without preamble, said, "You must stop being a fool about this, Elfling."
Legolas' eyes darkened and he shook his head mutely.
"Tithen gwador," Elrohir said softly, slipping an arm around his friend, "you must not carry the burdens of the past. You are not he."
Aragorn glanced from Legolas to Elrohir and back, before he said, "Is someone going to explain things to me or are you going to continue to be cryptic and Elven? I ask only out of curiosity."
A smile flickered briefly on Legolas' face.
"Lord Elrond would be horrified. To think you remember no history –"
"Gwador nîn." Aragorn reached across Elladan to take one of Legolas' hands in his. "I am no Elf; the merry childhood years you remember with fondness are to the race of Men history that is ancient beyond reckoning. But I yield to nobody, Elf or Man, in my love for you, and I ask you to let me help you. Tell me what weighs so heavily on your soul, Elfling."
Legolas sighed heavily.
"Have you then truly forgotten the tale of the doom of Oropher? It did not have consequences as disastrous as Isildur's failure to destroy the Ring, but it brought much grief to those affected."
"Tell me, tithen pen." Legolas raised an eyebrow at Aragorn, who laughed. "Tell me."
"When the call to arms came," Legolas said quietly, "Oropher my grandfather led his kinsmen out of the forest to fight alongside the other Elves and Men on the slopes of Mount Doom. Yet when the hour came…"
Elladan took up the story.
"Oropher could not bring himself to ride under the command of Gil-galad, and so he led his household in a desperate charge in which they all perished. Thranduil was the sole survivor."
Aragorn waited for the rest of the story. When nothing was forthcoming, he said, "That's it? You have been hiding from me and refusing to give me advice because your daeradar led an ill-fated charge millennia ago?"
"Leading an ill-fated charge might happen to anybody," Legolas replied; he had not been a warrior for two thousand years without realizing that. "But my grandfather was ill-advised. His arrogance brought about his own downfall, and that of all his kin. That is why I came on the quest as an Elf, at best as an archer, and not as a captain; I will give myself no chance to succumb to the same weakness."
"Legolas, do you realize that you are talking to me? It was one of my ancestors who was seduced by the Ring and refused to cast it into the fires of Orodruin. You cannot feel guilty about something that happened before you were even born."
"Before your parents were wed, if it comes to that," Elrohir commented.
"I do not feel guilty," Legolas protested. "But Oropher's blood is mine, and such weaknesses as he had I share. Forgive me, Estel, but I cannot ride to the Black Gates with you."
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged identical glances of exasperation, making Aragorn chuckle despite himself.
"Then we are both staying here," Aragorn said calmly. "For I will not ride to the Black Gates without you."
"Legolas, if I had all I wanted you would be commanding the archers. I will not ask that of you, since I know you consent to command the Colhador only because they follow you out of love and not duty, and the Men do not know you well enough for that. But I will have you by my side, Elfling."
Legolas managed a faint smile.
"You court disaster by asking it."
"Elfling, please. In all the weeks of our quest your loyalty did not waver in the least. You have roamed Arda far longer than I, and I do not doubt that some of the decisions I made seemed to you unwise – were unwise – and yet you heeded me as you had sworn to do. But the Fellowship is broken, and as King of Men, if yet uncrowned, I have no authority over any of the Firstborn, least of all the Prince of Eryn Galen. And so I ask you, Legolas, will you come with me? Let us tread this final path together, as we have trodden all others, and let this be an end to the war you have fought all these centuries."
Still Legolas hesitated. Aragorn squeezed the Elf's hand.
"Will you stand by me, gwador nîn?"
Legolas finally laughed, softly and grimly.
"Aye. I will lead nobody into this battle, but I will ride with you, gwador nîn."
He and the twins exchanged grins and then, in unison, said, "Gurth 'ni yrch!"
"Then so be it. The three most valiant warriors in all the Elven realms of Middle-earth are by my side; what have I now to fear?"
"Estel!" Elrohir groaned. "Don't tempt fate like that!"
"The last time you said you had nothing to fear," Legolas added, "you were ambushed by those foul yrch near the High Pass –"
"And Ro, Legolas and I had to come and rescue you."
"And it was a most unpleasant journey. Imagine having to be dry-nurse to a fool of an Elfling –"
"What was worse was having to be dry-nurse to a fool of a Noldo!"
Aragorn stepped around the three Elves and edged out of the tent. "I have to speak to Halbarad," he said. "You had better not have killed each other when I come back."
Periannath – Halflings
Naugrim – Dwarf
Ada – Dad/Daddy
Le hannon – Thank you
Ellon – Male Elf
Gwador nîn – My (sworn) brother
Tithen pen – Little one
Daeradar – Grandfather
Gurth 'ni yrch! – Death to the orcs!
Yrch – Orcs
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