The sound of galloping horse hooves echoed through the forests of Mirkwood with surprising loudness but the rider astride a great chestnut stallion did not seem to care. Dark green cloak flaring back, the rider hunched over the neck of his mount riding hard and fast to nowhere in particular. Long blond hair flowed in the wind as the young rider guided his mount away from the Mirkwood Palace. Intense brown eyes, darkened by sadness and glazed by tears didn't seem to see the path ahead as the horse, a particularly stubborn mount named Hypunos galloped along without much guidance. The rider was young, even by elvish standards, appearing to be a thirteen or so year old mortal but in elvish years he was just over one hundred. He carried no weapon other then a finely handcarved bow and a quiver of gold-fletched arrows taken from his father's personal stash in the armory that not even his uncles touched.
The rider was Soramir, son of Legolas Greenleaf whom was the youngest of four sons to King Thranduil of Mirkwood. Soramir had no doubt that at least one of his uncles or his only aunt had heard him gallop out of the palace yards. Maybe King Thranduil had heard Lyrica, his mother, crying in dismay when she'd gotten ada's letter.
It was the letter more then anything that caused Soramir's distress. Ada went away a lot with Aresyn and Kyden on patrols, he was used to it. Every now and then ada would leave on a visit as an ambassador to Rivendel to Lord Elrond. That too was normal, but that was how things had started.
Soramir sat on the top rail of the corral fence, watching his newly captured stallion Hypunos gallop around the pen when he heard footsteps behind him. Looking around, Soramir caught sight of one of the stable keepers heading for the stalls. Moments later the elf reappeared leading the white stallion Silvertide whom his father always rode. Interest peaked, Soramir sprang off the corral railing and headed toward the stable keeper.
"Where are you going with my father's horse?" Soramir demanded in his firmest voice.
Before the keeper could answer, a hand rested on Soramir's shoulder making him look up. It was his father standing tall and proud in the morning sunlight. Clothed in green and brown traveling clothes, the older elf had his bow across his back with a quiver of gold-fletched arrows.
"I'm going to Rivendel to carry a message for your grandadar" Legolas informed his son as he took charge of Silvertide from the stable keeper.
"Ada! Must you go already?" Soramir demanded, trying not to sound as disappointed as he felt. "You promised to help me with Hypunos!"
"I know ion nin" Legolas said gently, truly looking sorry as he stroked the neck of his mount, looking back at his son. "This is of great importance and you know Kyaben is a far better horseman then myself, I'm sure he can help you."
Soramir tried to keep his face clean of his disappointment as his father sprang lightly onto Silvertide's back. His father had only returned a few days ago from a tour of the outlaying settlements with Terain. Legolas had promised to help Soramir connect with Hypunos and though he loved his uncles dearly, Soramir always pained for his father's undivided attention. Naneth always told him Legolas loved him dearly but for all she spoke of ada's love, Soramir was never sure if his adar meant it. For being the youngest son of King Thranduil, Legolas spent more time away from the palace then any of Soramir's uncles or even his aunt whom often went to the settlements to heal and carry messages.
Seeing his son's disappointment, Legolas smiled softly and slipped a ring from his left hand. Reaching down to Soramir, Legolas took his son's hand and placed the ring in his palm and curled his fingers around it.
"Keep track of that for me until I get home?" Legolas asked.
Opening his fingers, Soramir had been astounded to find Legolas's ring resting in his palm. Looking up at his father, Soramir searched his gaze. "Promise you'll come home soon?"
"Promise ion nin" Legolas said sincerely.
Soramir nodded and watched as Legolas and Silvertide vanished through the palace gates toward Rivendel.
Soramir urged Hypunos on faster, curling his fingers in the horse's mane. On his left hand was the ring Legolas had given him, finest gold with an emerald cut in the shape of a leaf. When Kyden had seen it he had told Soramir that King Thranduil had given Legolas the ring after Legolas had become a common ambassador to Rivendel. It was a sign of his status and even before the letter from Lord Elrond, Soramir had been unable to fathom why his father would leave such a thing.
The letter was what had really started everything. Tears clouded Soramir's eyes as he ducked his head toward Hypunos's neck.
King Thranduil had called the whole family together which in itself was rather unusual. Soramir was also included which was even odder because he was so young and seldom involved in the political meetings between his uncles and grandadar. Now however he seated himself beside his mother as his uncles approached. Kyaden and Aresyn seated themselves on Soramir's right facing the king. Moments later Terain and Herim trooped in, both travel-worn but looking content enough as they seated themselves on the left of Lady Lyrica. Mylika was absent from the meeting, having ridden out to aide a settlement that had suffered a forest fire.
Rising from his desk the Mirkwood king faced his family. His eyes spoke of trouble and instantly the whole royal family was tense and alert. "Lord Elrond has sent me a letter" he began solemnly.
All four brothers groaned in unison.
"What has Legolas done this time?" Aresyn asked, the brothers for the most part looking relieved. Lyrica and Soramir were of course still tense.
"He has done more then be my messanger" King Thranduil informed them, clasping his hands behind his back and not relaxing at all. "Legolas has sworn his service to the distruction of the One Ring discovered in the posession of hobbits. He, Aragorn, a dwarf, the Steward of Gondor's son and four hobbits have set out to drop the ring in the place where it was forged."
Jaws dropped all around, Soramir's heart hammered in his chest and beside him his mother looked about ready to faint.
"We must go get him back!" Kyaden thundered, on his feet in a half a heartbeat.
King Thranduil shook his head and let out a heavy sigh. "We can not ion nin. They have left Rivendel some nights ago and I daresay are well on their way to Mordor."
The sound of the dreaded place made Soramir's blood run cold in his veins. He recoiled from it as if it were a physical thing, unable to believe what the king had said.
"Then let me ride after him" Aresyn demanded, also rising beside Kyaden.
"No!" roared the elven king, glaring at his eldest sons. "I will not allow any of my sons to ride to Mordor!"
"Yet you allow Legolas to do it!" countered Terain. "Is he not your son?"
"Of course he is" King Thranduil shot back angrily, visibly fuming. "He is beyond my reach now, you four however, are not. None of you, Soramir included, are to leave the palace grounds until further notice."
Now however, Soramir knew he was breaking that rule but also breaking a few others. In all actuality he wasn't supposed to ride Hypronus until his ada gave him the all clear that the animal was safe but Soramir had no way of asking him now. If anyone asked, Soramir was simply going to blame the servants because of thier blasted whispering, claiming King Thranduil's youngest son would never come back. Soramir refused to believe his father would die but it was getting harder and harder to keep hope with no letters or even rumors of the continuation of the quest to destroy the One Ring.
"Woah Hypornus" Soramir murmured to his mount, sitting up and looking around as the stallion unwillingly slowed.
Looking around, Soramir felt his heart drop into his stomach. The palace was far behind the fleet-footed elvish horse but now as the mount trotted along the finge of deep forest, Soramir realized he had no idea where he was. He had let Hypornus choose the course, too deep in his misery and memories. Soramir murmured to the horse and after a reluctant moment the horse stopped all together, allowing his rider to look around carefully.
The sky was growing dark with storm clouds and as he looked upon them, Soramir couldn't help but wonder if his father was seeing them too.
Before he could contemplate much further on how he would get home or his ada however, Soramir's thoughts were inturrupted by Hypornus. A loud clap of thunder shattered the pre-storm silence that had settled over Mirkwood. The still half-wild stallion squealed, thoroughly startled. Rearing back the chestnut horse boxed the sky as his young rider was thrown from his back and landed in a dazed heap. Without hesitation the horse galloped away, hoofbeats blending in with the sound of growling thunder drawing nearer.
"Great, just perfect" Soramir muttered, dragging himself up and pulling up the hood of his cloak. He was lost, his horse had run off and now it was going to storm.
The trees whispered uneasily for they had no love of lightning, distracting the young elfling for a moment. Walking toward the trees, Soramir reached out a hand to soothe them but the trees whispered urgently back, warning him off for they were not safe during violent storms. Withdrawing his hand, Soramir stared at the uneasy trees, remembering how his father would sit nestled perfectly in the branches of trees in the garden. Though all wood-elves loved the trees, Soramir was sure his ada had a stronger efinity for them then any of his uncles or even the Elfking. The trees had always seemed to embrace Legolas but Soramir seldom climbed them on his own.
Heading into the trees, regardless of their warnings, Soramir clambered down a creek embankment and settled himself in the brush hoping the plants would give him some cover or at least enough to wait out the storm as his eyes glazed while he dropped off into memories, the rain starting to fall all around him.
Thunder crashed and lightning streaked in a frighteningly violent summer storm. In the palace, a small elfling cowered under the blankets, trying to hide from the noise and frightening light. He wouldn't go running to his uncles or his ada. He was nearly seventy-five! It was time to be brave like ada and grandada. Soramir cowered further under his blankets as another rumble of thunder passed overhead and lightning forked the dark sky. Quiet settled for a few moments and with the air of a hopeful mouse, Soramir poked his head out from under the bunched up blankets just in time for lightning to split the sky outside his windows and thunder to crash seemingly right overhead.
With a yelp of fright the elfling fled his bed, feet padding softly as he sprinted toward the doors of his room. Flinging them open as lightning flashed once more, young Soramir prepared to sprint down the dark corridor to his ada and naneth. They would protect him from the storm. He wasn't brave enough, not brave like ada.
Soramir didn't make it halfway down the hallway before running headfirst into another elf. With a sqeak of fright he recoiled only to find strong, lithe arms keeping him from falling backward. Looking up the young elf saw none other then Legolas Greenleaf stooping down in front of him, hands on his son's arms to keep the younger from toppling backward.
"Soramir?" Legolas asked, brushing his son's light blond hair behind his pointed ears. "What's wrong ion nin?" Seeing his son's tears, Legolas's blue eyes softened as he brushed them away.
The elfling flung himself into his father's embrace, flinching as thunder growled from the sky. "I'm scared ada" he mumbled tearfully.
No one had expected a young elf like Legolas to make a good adar but Soramir was sure he would never ask for a better one. His ada didn't chide him for being a coward or send him back down the dark corridor to his room alone. Instead, the nimble archer prince scooped up his young son and carried him back down the corridor to his room.
Legolas glanced around his son's room and smiled softly, seeing his son's blankets tossed aside in haste to escape the noisy storm. Carrying his son to the bed, Legolas laid his son down and situated himself next to his son. Without hesitating Soramir curled up in a small ball against his ada's chest and stomach, trembling in fright as the lightning struck again in the distance.
Soramir felt his father's long-fingered hands so skilled with a bow stroking his back, combing through his hair in long lazy strokes. Strong arms were wrapped around him and Soramir could clearly hear the strong heartbeat in his father's chest. A deep sense of safety settled in Soramir as he laid in his ada's embrace. Even now the storm seemed farther away now that his ada was with him. With his father's voice singing a soft old song in his ear, Soramir drifted off to sleep with the storm far from him and his ada there to protect him.
Soramir jerked back to awareness as thunder clapped loudly overhead. His head snapped up and the young elf felt something wet on his cheeks. Touching his cheek, Soramir found them damp though he wasn't sure if it was from tears or raindrops. Sitting up a bit, the young elf adjusted his cloak a bit, musing about the memory. Soramir had always been deeply rooted in his family and each member of his family made him feel different.
Lyrica made him feel loved and warm like all mothers did for their children. She soothed his hurts and told him stories on cold winter nights when he couldn't go out. Kyaden and Aresyn were more like big brothers then uncles, protective but supportive. They gave him space to grow but the support a sapling needs before growing a strong sturdy trunk. Mylika was wise and a bit odd but a good storyteller, always making her point even if it was in an odd way. Terain was a tough-love sort of uncle, giving Soramir punishments when he needed them or working him a bit harder in drills because he knew it was good for him. Herim was more withdrawn and seldom spoke but Soramir always trusted his judgment when there was no one else to turn to. Even King Thranduil was familiar to Soramir. The king made him feel very young, exposed and unable to hide anything. He could make his thoughts heard to his grandada at times without speaking.
Out of them all however, Soramir would always admit to being an ada's-boy. When he'd been very young, Soramir would follow his father around all the time when he was in the palace. His naneth would sometimes find them both on the archery field, Soramir watching Legolas shoot, drinking it in like a drowned man breaths air. Legolas had never been a talker but Soramir didn't need to hear his ada speak to know his ada was there. As an elfling he had always feared storms. Ada had never been far away when a storm got rough, never telling him he was too old for comfort. Soramir remembered often finding his ada in trees and climbing rather ungracefully up to him and then sitting with his back against Legolas's chest and watching the world go by in his father's safe embrace. His ada had always made him feel safe.
Now however, Legolas was where Soramir couldn't reach. He felt helpless, like all the others waiting impatiently for news or for Legolas's sudden return. It was painful to watch his mother standing on her balcony waiting for the gates to open and Legolas to come riding home. Terain and Aresyn were known to bicker but their banter was playful when Legolas was around. Now however, it was almost violent. Herim was more recluse, watching the horizon impatiently and leading more border patrols, subconciously searching for his brother. Soramir had noticed Mylika as well was more restless since her return and hearing news of her older brother's disappearance. They all hated it. It was painful without one of their kin.
Come home ada, Soramir prayed. Please, come home soon.
Hundreds of miles away, Legolas stood atop the walls of Helm's Deep, bow in hand facing an army of thousands of orcs, praying he would get to see Mirkwood when the sun rose.