A/N: Slightly AU, since Birlinn does not exist. The story is based on The Mellon Chronicles by Cassia and Siobhan and slash-free. Tolog mellon is Elvish for loyal friend and was translated by Calenlass Greenleaf1. Thank you!
Disclaimer: I own nothing of LOTR and I get no profit from the story. I wrote it only for entertainment.
1. The Brooch
"Yes, father?" the Prince entered Thranduil's study and approached the desk where the King was sitting.
"Last month I was in Birlinn, a nearby, little town."
"Yes, I remember," he nodded.
"There lived a man who had something that was stolen many years ago – an old brooch, which used to belong to my mother. He had found it, but didn't want to give it back. Finder's keepers, he said. But he promised to make his son give it to me when he died."
"Mhm." Legolas had heard this before, but he was curious about his father's current plans.
"Well, he died a few days ago. Unfortunately, I am very busy right now and cannot leave Mirkwood. Legolas, I want you to find that son of his and take back the brooch. Can you do this?"
"Of course, father. Who exactly am I looking for?"
"The old man was called Murdo, but I do not know his son's name. Birlinn is not far away. A day, maybe one and a half, from here."
"When am I leaving?"
"As soon as possible." The Elven King smiled. "I reckon tomorrow morning should be fine."
Legolas nodded again and wanted to leave, but his father stopped him at the threshold. "Legolas… Please, do not take Aragorn with you."
The Prince turned back and frowned at the older elf. "Why?"
"Well, people in that town do not like Rangers. Generally, they are not hospitable at all, and tend to mistrust strangers. So please, be careful. Should you have any problems with making Aragorn stay here, tell me. I will get him to help in the garden. Is he a good gardener?"
"Err... I have no idea," the Prince admitted. "But I certainly would not trust him with the flowers," he giggled.
Legolas looked around. The town didn't seem nice. The people were roughly staring at him with unfriendly eyes. His father was right; they did not like strangers. The elf wondered why. Did they fear them?
The sun was lazily going down, announcing the end of the day. Legolas wished to find the man with the brooch as soon as possible, and leave the town. He didn't like the idea of staying in the town any longer than necessary.
"I don't even know where he lives," the Prince murmured subconsciously, shaking his head. 'Where can I get such information?' he asked himself. Suddenly, a stream of loud, cheerful, and careless laughter reached his ears. Of course, he thought. The inn!
He slowly turned toward the old building. The old wooden sign-board was hardly readable, and the elf was not sure whether it said Grey Fog or Grey Dog. He approached the door and pulled his hood up, hiding his long hair and pointed ears. Showing his identity would not help him, so he decided to pretend to be a human. It was the only tactic he had, and it seemed to be the safest one. Then, he opened the door and stepped inside. The place was dirty and crowded. Thick smoke filled the interior, and he was positive that the name of the place was actually Grey Fog. The floor looked as if it had not been cleaned in a thousand years; the dust covering it muted the steps of a man, not to mention light steps of an elf. But, unfortunately, the tavern smelled even worse than it looked. Sweat, alcohol, and dirt attacked his nose and, for a moment, Legolas thought he might just pass out. He could not believe that anyone was able to enjoy themselves in such a disgusting place.
All faces around turned at him as soon as he came in, and all the conversations suddenly paused. No one failed to recognize that he was a stranger. Everyone remained silent for about thirty seconds. Legolas stopped for a moment, too. Even though he knew very well that he should have expected this kind of reaction, he was surprised by it. Realizing that his behavior only drew more attention to him, he moved forward and approached the counter in a few steps.
He didn't like visiting places like this one, and always avoided them – if he could. However, now he had no choice. Entering the local tavern was the only way to accomplish his mission. Although he felt very uncomfortable, he tried to be genuine, denying the stress that stirred inside of him.
"How can I help you?" The innkeeper asked, pretending to be friendly, but the elf sensed the mistrust and caution in his voice.
"I am looking for a man named Murdo," he answered, pretending not to know about his death.
"I am sorry, but Murdo died a week ago. You have come too late." The man desperately wanted to finish the talk, so he turned his back, but the Prince continued.
"Then please tell me, where can I find any member of his family?"
"He had no family," the owner of the tavern lied, not wanting to cooperate.
"He has a son," Legolas replied, keeping his voice even, certain that his knowledge would surprise, or maybe even scare, the innkeeper. Indeed, the man looked daggers at him and sighed. "Alright, so he does."
"Then tell me where he lives and I'll leave your inn as soon as possible," the elf demanded.
"I am Murdo's son," someone suddenly drearily whispered in his ear. He swung around, looking into the man's face. He was slim, and slightly taller than Legolas, his hair rather short and jet black. "What do you want from me?"
"You have something that belongs to me," Legolas said simply.
"Oh, really? And what is it?" Murdo's son inquired, not sure what the newcomer was talking about.
"Something that your father found long ago. An old brooch."
"Oh, yes, I remember it. My father told me to give it to a blond elf. But you do not look like an elf."
"Let's go outside. I don't want everyone to stare at me when I show you what I am."
"They all are already staring at you because you're a stranger here, master elf. And they will watch you even when you leave the inn. But if it makes any difference to you, let's go outside."
They strode toward the door. The black-haired man was right. Everyone kept looking at Legolas, and didn't even try to hide this fact. The Prince was relieved to leave the tavern. When he stepped outside the cool, fresh, and clean air touched his nostrils. He took a deep breath, enjoying the moment. A moment later he heard the door shut, and Murdo's son approached him, and stood in front of him.
"Now give me the proof that that you are who you claim to be," the man ordered. Legolas slowly pulled the hood away. Strands of blond hair fell on his shoulders, uncovering his pointed ears. His delicate elven features were very distinct. He could not be mistaken for a human now.
"Is it enough for you?" The Prince looked at the man, wishing to finish his visit in Birlinn soon.
"Yes," murmured the man. "Come with me, I will return to you the brooch."
The elf followed him through the dark, narrow, and bumpy streets. If he had been alone, he surely would have gotten lost here. Fortunately, Murdo's son knew the town very well and led the Prince straight to his house.
"Here we are," he announced, opening the door to an old, and nearly ruined, house. Legolas cautiously stepped in. The interior, unlike the façade, was clean and cozy. There was a small fireplace opposite to the door, before which stood an old armchair with a funny, red pillow, contrasting with the grey walls and floor. On the Prince's left there was an overstuffed table with two chairs. Apparently this was not a flat for many people, and he suspected that Murdo and his son had been its only inhabitants. Now, since Murdo was gone, his son lived here alone.
"Here," the man said, coming down the stairs and appearing next to the elf's right side. He handed him a little wooden box. "Here is your brooch."
Legolas wanted to open it and check if the jewel was really inside, but the lid wouldn't move.
"I can't open it." He looked at the human and indicated to the tiny keyhole. "Bring me the key."
"I don't have it," his interlocutor said, accompanying the words with a shrug of his shoulders.
"What?" Legolas questioned, piercing him with his eyes. Could this be some kind of a trick?
"You heard. My father gave me this box and told me to give it to a blond elf, if he should demand it. But he didn't give me the key."
"Then get me a knife." Legolas decided he should not leave without making sure that it was actually the brooch that was held in the box. The man brought him a long, thin dagger. The Prince silently pressed the blade into the slit under the lid and lifted it with a swift movement. He smiled at the content of the box. It was undoubtedly his grandmother's brooch. He noted a slight inscription in Elvish.
"This is it." The Prince turned his attention to the man standing next to him. "Thank you for your help." He cast him a serious, but nice, glare, and turned on his heel. The human did not answer, only watching the odd visitor leave his house and gently closing the door.
Legolas hid the jewel in an inner pocket of his coat, pulled the hood on again, and marched… But to where? He tried to find his way out of the town, wandering around, but immediately ended up getting lost. He tried to search for the way back to Murdo's son's place, hoping to come back the same way the young man had led him, but he eventually only ended up confusing himself even more. The town seemed to be a maze, so he decided to pick a random way and go straight forward. Finally, he would have to end up somewhere, wouldn't he?
It was dark and pouring rain when Legolas reached the main part of the city. He was relieved to have found a proper path, but all of a sudden, breaking into his happiness, he heard some excited voices behind him.
"That's him, that's the thief! Get him!"
The Prince wanted to turn back and face the men who undoubtedly must have mistaken him for someone else, but something heavy landed on his shoulders. He lost his balance, stumbling forward. He had not expected anything like this. He fell to the ground; only his elven reflex's allowing him to quickly stretch his arms out, and save his face from being smashed into the pavement. The weight on his back growled threateningly into his ear. He subconsciously shielded his head with his hands, but that was a mistake. Sharp fangs aggressively caught his right forearm and refused to let it go.
The elf did not dare move and he was not sure what was happening around him until he heard two more men approach him.
"Take that foul dog away now, I don't want it to rip him to shreds!" one of them bellowed. The other man laughed.
"Do not worry, he only kills on command. The lad will be fine. Considering dog bites, of course, because I am not responsible for anything else." The elf did not understand what that person was talking about, but he did not like it at all.
"I said take it away, Burza!"
The dog owned whistled shortly and Legolas' arm was released. The animal easily jumped over the Prince and ran towards his master. Someone took Legolas by his shoulders and roughly forced him into a sitting position.
"Stealing from Murdo, are we?" A wicked, scarred face appeared just before his own, and the elf couldn't help but to quickly pull away.
"I have not stolen any-" he started to speak, but the man silenced him with a brutal kick to his stomach. The Prince gasped and doubled over.
"Do not explain yourself; we all know the truth," said the ugly-faced man, kicking the slender being in the ribs. "Bind him," he ordered, and Burza obeyed, tightly binding Legolas' wrists.
"I have not done anything, I can explain-" the elf was still sure it all was just a mistake, and tried to speak again, but this only earned him a vicious slap in the face.
"Shut up or I'll have your tongue cut out of your pretty mouth!" The threat was serious and Legolas obeyed, feeling it was for the best. He really did not wish to find out whether the man would follow up on his threat or not.
"Now bring him to the Town Prison, Burza." The command made the Prince shiver. His situation was getting graver with almost every word he heard from these men.
"Aye. Which cell should I place him in?" Burza answered with a question. "Can it be the Dark Cell?" Legolas swallowed hard, waiting for the response, which was made all the harder with the air of suspension around the men. He had no idea what the Dark Cell was, but the name itself was dreadful enough. He had no wish to find out what the cell itself was like.
"No, just a normal one." He heard, and sighed in relief.
"As you wish." Legolas was drug to his feet and forced to face Burza. "Now I expect no tricks or Shady here will make sure you are nice and obedient." The man gestured to the large black dog sitting beside him, awaiting a command. Legolas swallowed once more and let both the man and the dog escort him to the prison. Distressing thoughts whirled through his mind the whole time. He hoped to be able to explain everything in the morning and, what was more, to be believed. But what if he would not be? He immediately shrugged this thought away. It simply had to be fine.