Thranduilion- son of Thranduil
Ithilidan- silver moon
Doronlas- oak leaf
Celebren- silver like
Legolas- leads the king's archers
Celebren- leads the genral army
Ithilidan & Doronlas- Ithilidan is a healer and Doronlas is the lord of a northern settlement
Thrnaduil- blond hair, blue eyes
Legolas- blond hair, blue eyes
Celebren- blond, sea-green eyes
Ithilidan- blond, silver eyes
Doronlas- black hair, silver eyes
This fanfic has no attachment to Missing You or When You're Not Here, thus in this Legolas is the eldest, not merried and has no son. LOTR belongs entierly to J.R.R. Tolkin. Ithilidan, Doronlas and Celebren are my oroginal characters.
Heading fast toward the southern borders of Mirkwood, riding up from northern Gondor, seven riders made their way toward the elvish kingdom. In the front rode a Man claoked in the garb of a Ranger mounted on a fine brown stallion that carried him swiftly ahead of the others. Behind him rode a blond elf upon a dappled grey stallion with a red-bearded dwarf perched behind him and holding on for dear life. Flanking the elf were four Hobbits perched upon sturdy ponies that managed to keep pace with the elf and Man.
"We're nearing the border" Legolas called ahead to Aragorn. "I can see the trees from here."
"That is good to hear Legolas" Aragorn replied, reining Brego to close the gap between himself and Legolas's mount. "We'll reach Mirkwood's eves by nightfall."
"Will it be safe?" Pippin asked from where he rode on Legolas' left. "You told us there were orcs and spiders in Mirkwood, didn't you?"
"There were" Legolas confirmed. "I don't know if they linger after Sauron's downfall but I'll keep first watch if it will make you feel better."
All four Hobbits seemed to relax a little making the elvish prince smile. Even after all they'd faced the Hobbits still feared the things that went bump in the night. Still, it was good to know that this particular visit to Legolas' home was not because of orcs or Sauron and Sarumon. No, this time they were bound for Mirkwood bearing an invitiation to the royal family to journey to Gondor in a month's time to witness the marrige of Aragorn and Arwen. Legolas had offered to take the invitation alone but Aragorn had insisted it would be good for him to keep on Thranduil's good side and invite him personally. The others had followed thusly, Gimli trailing behind Legolas like a determined hound and the Hobbits following Strider like loyal pups.
The group rode in silence for a time, the drumming of horse hooves on the ground the only sign of their passing. True to Aragorn's word, the towering trees of Mirkwood became visible to them all as night began to reach them. A few yards from the trees, the company slowed their mounts and dismounted. Aragorn and Gimli set about scouting and hunting while the Hobbits gathered up a fire. Legolas led the horses and ponies to a nearby stream and tethered them to a young tree, stroking the trunk of it wistfully as he left the horses to graze and rest.
When he returned to the others, Aragorn and Gimli returned with rabbits enough to feed them all, Sam setting about cooking up mushrooms and gathered roots and herbs. Legolas helped Frodo skin and clean the rabbits before handing them off to Sam's capable culinary hands. Gimli, Pippin and Merry unpacked the bedrolls and set them out while Aragorn went to the stream to fill their waterskins.
"How does it feel Legolas?" Merry asked, startling the elf from his deep thoughts.
Looking over at the Hobbit, Legolas raised a brow. "How does what feel Merry?"
"Being home" Merry clarified.
Gimli and the other Hobbits all glanced at Legolas curiously. Though they had seen him surrounded by three other elves at Elrond's Council so many months ago, they had since then not thought of him as a prince, but rather as a warrior. Now as they neared Mirkwood's border, not but fifty yards away, they couldn't help but remember that he was not only a prince but a crown prince and an elf that had spent centuries within Mirkwood and would miss it the most.
Legolas smiled and looked fondly toward the dark trees. "It feels good. The shadow is lifted from this place and the trees sing. Elves have been here recently now that the darkness has fled and the trees thrive because of it."
In the distance the Hobbits and dwarf could hear the trees rattling their leaves, the wind blowing toward the remainder of the Fellowship, as if welcoming the elven prince.
"Well it is good to know you will soon be home my friend" Aragorn said as he came back into the circle of firelight with the filled waterskins. "It has been a long war for all of us, it will be good when things settle down again."
"Aye it will" Gimli growled in agreement. "No more flighty elves shooting arrows at my head, just me and my mines."
Legolas rolled his eyes. "Gimli my friend there was an orc behind you with his scimitar raised. Would you wish that I had stayed my hand and not shot?"
Growling something in dwarvish, Gimli didn't reply but instead took his food from Sam. The others, chuckling in amusement at the strange friendship of dwarf and elf, also took their meals from Sam and fell into the quiet rhythms of the night. Shortly after the meal was finished and the dinner things packed away again, the Hobbits settled down to sleep. Aragorn sat against a low boulder smoking his pipe with Gimli while Legolas kept downwind of the pair watching the stars. It wasn't long before Legolas heard Aragorn moving over to his bedroll and lay down shortly followed by Gimli. When the pair had fallen asleep, Legolas remained awake watching the stars and trying to calm his mind and call forth elven sleep.
He had promised to keep watch over the Hobbits but Legolas was confident they were safe within the shadows of Mirkwood's ancient guardians. The spiders were gone, the orcs fled into the mountains north of Mirkwood and no sounds but Gimli's snores to disrrup the peace. Still however, Legolas could not let his mind slip away. He was so close to Mirkwood, the trees calling out to him and the promise of his brothers and father not but a bit within the trees.
Rising silently, Legolas swept his gaze around the campsite. Aragorn was laying sprawled on his back not far from Frodo and Sam, Gimli snoring next to a boulder to Aragorn's left. To Legolas's right, Merry and Pippin were fast asleep and showed no sign of noticing the elf's movement. Glancing around the darkness again, the prince set out toward the trees.
Within moments he was at the first of the Mirkwood trees. Reaching out he stroked the rough bark and felt the tree's happiness coursing through him. The leaves whispered to him in the night, telling him of all he had missed and how much all the trees had missed him. Legolas smiled and sprang lightly up into the branches, feeling them hold his weight and cradle him as he settled with his back against the trunk. As Mirkwood's crown prince he had more of an affinity with the Mirkwood trees and had missed their protective presence while he had traveled the plains of Rohan and the stony slopes of the Misty Mountains. Content once more, Legolas dropped off into an elven sleep knowing Aragorn would know where to find him when morning came.
The next morning it was barely dawn when Merry rose. Though such early rising was odd for a Hobbit, Merry felt that something wasn't quite right. Blinking sleepily, the curly-haired Hobbit looked around the campsite. Gimli was still snoring nearby, Pippin dead asleep beside him. Across the embers of last night's fire Merry saw Aragorn, Frodo and Sam. All was as it should be...Wait...
Merry's eyes flew open and he yelped in surprise. Where was Legolas?
"Legolas?" It was like he was asking the wind for all the reply he got.
Scrambling up out of his nest of blankets, Merry headed for the stream where Arod, Brego and the Hobbits' four ponies were tethered. Big brown horse eyes looked back at him as he scampered up to the waiting equines. His pony, Jink, blinked peacefully at him as Merry patted the pony's muzzle.
"Have you all seen Legolas?" Merry asked the horses.
Not even a snort for an answer.
Frowning, Merry returned to the campsite and headed over to Strider. Shaking the man's shoulder, Merry attempted to rouse the King of Gondor. "Strider wake up" Merry hissed. Aragorn ignored him and continued to sleep. "Aragorn!" No reply. "Legolas is missing!"
Aragorn sat up so fast the king's head collided with Merry's making them both yelp and recoil. Merry fell over backwards, nearly sitting on Frodo, thus scaring the other Hobbits awake with their noise. Gimli's snores stopped short as the dwarf was roused. Merry rubbed his head and looked over at Aragorn whom was letting out a colorful stream of elvish curses and rubbing his head.
"What's all the commotion?" Gimli demanded sleepily, his beard such a mess it almost hid his whole face as he looked at the Hobbits and Man.
"Legolas is missing!" Merry exclaimed in exasperation.
"I heard" Aragorn commented dryly. "He's not missing. I know right where he is."
"Where then?" Pippin asked, looking around and finding his cousin was right about Legolas being gone.
"In the trees" Aragorn said, waving a hand toward the Mirkwood forest. "Did you think he'd spend a night a stone throw away from his beloved trees and not go to them?"
Merry blushed and shuffled his feet while Frodo and Pippin chuckled. Aragorn started rolling up his bed and Gimli growled in obvious displeasure at the early hour. "That dratted elf, causing so much trouble without even being around..."
"Well the sooner we get to the court of King Thranduil the sooner Legolas will get what's coming to him" Aragorn said briskly as Sam started digging in the packs and passing out fruit for their breakfast.
"What do you mean by that Strider?" Sam asked.
"You'll see my friends, you'll see."
The camp was packed up and together the companions set off toward Mirkwood. Aragorn took the lead at a lazy walk, holding Arod's reins since Gimli blatently refused to be responsible for the beast. Behind Gimli trailed the Hobbits on their ponies. As they reached the forest, Aragorn stopped and looked up at a tree.
"Teli dad mellon nin" Aragorn called up the tree. [Come down my friend.]
In a flash with barely a whisper of sound, Legolas appeared standing in front of Brego, appearing to have jumped from the branches of the tree. Brego snorted and the ponies shied a little but Arod stepped forward and bumped his muzzle against Legolas' chest in a typical horse greeting. Legolas smiled and stroked the horse's muzzle, swinging up onto Arod's back in front of Gimli with elven ease.
"You spent all night in a tree?" Sam asked incredulously. He had heard from Strider about the wood elf's tendency to sleep near trees but to a Hobbit sleeping in a tree was very unwelcome.
"Aye, I did" Legolas confirmed as Aragorn, smiling in amusement led them forward again. "The trees were very welcoming and much quieter then trying to sleep with Gimli snoring not three feet away."
Gimli humphed and aimed a glare at the elf's back but Legolas calmly ignored it.
With the Hobbits shaking their heads, the company continued into the forest. The trees were dense and shadowy, occasionally making the horses shy or falter. An elven word from Aragorn or Legolas soothed the uneasy ponies while neither Brego or Arod needed a word but simply trusted their masters to not lead them astray.
It was nearly noon when Legolas urged Arod forward ahead of Brego. Aragorn reined his horse to a halt and gestured for the Hobbits to do the same. Legolas rode forward several feet and sat straight, occasionally turning his head from left to right or staring into the distance. Gimli shifted uneasily behind his elven friend, wishing the blasted elf would spew out whatever whas hiding in the bushes. He had no trust of trees and forests since being in Fangorn and the fact that shadow had once ruled this part of Mirkwood did not endear it to his heart even if it was Legolas' home.
Just as the dwarf opened his mouth to ask Legolas what lay ahead, six green-cloaked figures materialized out of the shadowy foliage.
Gimli's hand shot to his ax but froze halfway there at a sharp-spoken elvish command. "Baw!" [Don't!]
Aragorn's steel colored eyes searched from cloaked elf to cloaked elf, trying to figure out who was who. He had been to Mirkwood several times with Legolas over the years but did not recognize any of the patrol for they kept their faces hidden. Out of the corner ofh is eye, Aragorn could see the Hobbits glancing around uneasily even though none of the six elves appeared to be reaching for a weapon. Their elegant bows were slung across their backs, quivers full and untouched, knives sheathed.
The tension between elves and Fellowship seemed to grow by the second, every heartbeat audible in the silence until one elf stepped forward. He was a bit taller then the others, his green claok sweeping around him in an omonous fashion. He kept his head low as he approached Arod, standing at the horse's shoulder before turning his head up to look at Legolas.
Gimli, Aragorn and the Hobbit's didn't see the elf's face because he moved too quickly. His hood fell back and in a flash of gold, Legolas was yanked bodily off of Arod, Gimli thrown to the ground by the startled horse. When Gimli got a chance to blink he found Legolas engulfed in the elf's green cloak held in an obviously very strong hug. Blinking in surprise, Gimli looked up from his seat on the ground at Aragorn whom for his part looked mildly amused. The Hobbits were as thunderstruck as Gimli, blinking at the pair.
Legolas had had only half a second to realize whom he faced before he had been pulled off of Arod by strong arms. Blond hair, sea-green eyes, tall and powerful. Legolas' younger brother, Celebren had stared him in the face for maybe half a second before pulling Legolas into the strongest hug he had ever had. Legolas felt the air being pushed out of his lungs but didn't mind really, returning the hug with all the strength he could manage.
"If you ever" Celebren murmured in his ear, "even entertain the notion leave Mirkwood again, I'll tie you up and throw you in the dungeon."
"You may look forward to it gwador" Legolas murmured back. "I'll have to return to Gondor soon."
"Not if I can help it" Celebren growled back as he released Legolas and looked his elder brother up and down. "Well, no stab wounds, no poison." Celebren spun Legolas around before grabbing his shoulders again. "No arrows in your back." Celebren leaned closer, examining Legolas' pupils. "No head wounds. You're getting better at coming back with everything attached."
Legoals flushed at his brother's words, seeing the Hobbits snicker out of the corner of his eye and catching fleeting smiles on the faces of the other elves.
"Adar will be pleased" Celebren declared, finally sure Legolas was uninjured. "For a moment or two and then he will kill you."
"How so?" Legolas asked.
"Probably suffocate you" Celebren replied easily, turning his sea-green gaze to the rest of Legolas' companions. "Strange company you keep gwador. A Man, Hobbits and a dwarf of all creatures."
"The Man you know well gwador" Legolas replied. "The Hobbits are Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Pereguin Took and Mereidoc Brandybuck of the Shire."
Celebren bowed to them all. "I am Celebren Thranduilion, second son of King Thranduil. I thank you for keeping my brother in one piece, I fear that while he is centuries my senior he lacks any common sense."
Legolas flushed again and contemplating using his brother to store his arrows. Instead however, Legolas simply went over to Gimli whom still sat where Arod had dumped him and hauled the dwarf to his feet. "What does ada know of my leaving?" Legolas asked Celebren.
"Only that you left under the bidding of Lord Elrond. He is most displeased Legolas" Celebren stated, his voice somber. "We feared he would fade for he feared you dead for many months. Even now he ignores both myself and Doronlas and Ithildin."
Legolas' head whipped around to face his brother so fast Aragorn thought he would suffer whiplash. "Adar fades?" Legolas demanded.
"Nay gwador nin, but he began to. Seeing you alive and whole within his halls will do him nothing but good. Come, we shall escort you to him."
Swinging back onto Arod's back and pulling Gimli, Legolas urged the horse along briskly taking the lead from Aragorn. Aragorn willingly dropped back to ride among the Hobbits while two of the still cloaked elves dropped back to provide a rear guard. The pace they set was quick, partially from the desperation of two brothers and Legolas' need to be home in Mirkwood's palace, so familiar to him after so many years. Aragorn could sympathize with Legolas, remembering his time in the Wild and his intense boughts of homesickness for Rivendel. When Legolas had been with him, Legolas had helped to soothe his sorrows and longings for his brothers and home but when he had been on his own with only other Rangers or on his own period, Aragorn remembered the intense loneliness and could only spur Brego on faster.
The Hobbits kept quiet for the most part, concentrating on keeping their ponies up to par with the swif elves and taller horses. As for the patrol of elves they kept strick silence while Celebren strode easily alongside Arod conversing quietly with Legolas from time to time.
When at last they reached the gates of Mirkwood's palace, they opened at once allowing them to ride into the courtyard. Arod had barely come to a stop when the palace doors burst open and two figures came running down the steps toward them. One was blond like Legolas and Celebren while the other had midnight black hair. Both had eyes the color of liquid silver and looked almostp perfectly like night and day. They were Thranduil's youngest children, twins by the names of Doronlas and Ithildin.
Doronlas and his brother glared at Legolas until he dismounted and pulled Gimli down from Arod's back. The Hobbits and Aragorn also dismounted though they hung back wearily. Gimli was quick to join them.
"Do you think they'll kill him?" Pippin whispered to Merry. "I see murder in their eyes."
"I hope not" Merry whispered back. "Gimli would be most unhappy."
For a long moment the twins stared at Legolas before moving foward. They walked in perfect sync, stride for stride until they stood before Legolas. Legolas held their stares, seeming to stand straighter then before. When his siblings reached him, Legolas angled his head, as if curious. The Fellowship watched as he reached out with both hands toward his brothers, a small smile coming onto his fair face. Doronlas raised his left hand and grasped Legolas' left hand while Ithilidan raised his right hand and gripped Legolas' right hand. Celebren stepped forward between the twins and took their free hands in his own so the four princes stood in a circle, all staring at Legolas whom met their stares.
"Strider" Sam whispered, "what are they doing?"
"Some strange elf thing" Gimli grumbled, watching with weary curiousity in his beady eyes.
Aragorn bit his tongue to keep from laughing and bent down to reply. "The twins are physicic, like the Lady of the Wood. They do this after they have been apart for a long while. The twins are assuring themselves that Legolas is alright and Celebren is completing the circle, afirming they are together again and all safe. Legolas is far older then all of them and they are always reassured by his presence. Celebren, Doronlas and Ithilidan answer only to Thranduil or Legolas, ever and always show great loyalty to Legolas but fear for him more often then not."
"So this is their way of welcoming him home?" Frodo asked.
Legolas and his brothers neither heard nor cared what the others said. Instead, Legolas focused on his phycic siblings and swordsman of a brother. He opened his mind to the twins and to Celebren, allowing images of his thoughts and memories to flow to them. Helm's Deep, the plains of Rohan, the Paths of the Dead, Gondor, the Misty Mountains, the Mines of Moria and the glory of Lothlorien. The twins accepted the images, their eyes flickering between fear, disgust, awe and sorrow as they passed the images to Celebren whom mirrored their expressions. Opening his mind further, Legolas let the twins examine his mind and body to assure themselves that he was indeed unhurt. The process took only a minute perhaps but appeased their need to know and soothed their worry.
"You are well" Doronlas said at last, releasing Legolas' hand and sweeping his black hair behind an elegantly pointed ear.
"For once" Ithilidan agreed, also releasing his brothers. "Come, you must see to ada."
"I will but first, come" Legolas said to them, leading the princes over to the Fellowship. "They will need tending to when I go to see my father."
"Welcome to the Palace of Mirkwood" Doronlas said as he and his brother bowed to the Fellowship. "I am Doronlas and this is my twin, Ithilidan. We shall have rooms prepared for you and a feast for your return and victory."
"It would be much appriciated" Aragorn said, inclining his head to the twins.
Identical smirks appeared on their faces as they bowed again to him. "Welcome King Elessar of Gondor, it is unusual you are without your brothers."
"They remained in Rivendel" Aragorn explained.
"I see" Ithilidan said, nodding in understanding. "Come, we will take you all to your rooms where you may freshen up before meeting with our father in the morning."
"Morning? He will not be joining us tonight?" Aragorn asked.
"I am afraid not. With Legolas' return, I doubt adar will be willing to let him leave his sight for a moment before the sun rises" Doronlas said. "Now, if you will follow us..."
Celebren led Legolas along the familiar corridors and passages to King Thranduil's study. Upon reaching it, Celebren turned to Legolas and kept his voice low. "I forgot to ask gwador, would you like to freshen up before seeing adar?"
"If his condition is as I fear, I think it's best I see him quickly" Legolas replied, blue eyes fixed on the intricately carved wooden door. "There will be time later and I have waited many months to see him again and tell him of our victory."
Nodding in understanding, Celebren left, leaving Legolas to enter to study. Pushing the door open soundlessly, Legolas peered inside. It looked just as it had all throughout Legolas' youth. Tall dark wood bookshelves held books and scrolls in many languages from many ages. To the right, the room was open to a large balcony that looked out over the palace gardens. To the left there was a handsome stone fireplace with a crackling fire. In the armchair before the fire, Legolas could see the familiar profile of King Thranduil.
His heart pained to see his father as he was. The proud king was staring at the flames, oblivious to Legolas creeping into the study when last Legolas had seen him, Thranduil could tell he was coming from down the hall. His figure was slumped forward slightly toward the flames, the braids in his blond hair beginning to come loose and his robes seeming to fit a bit too loosely for Legolas' liking.
Moving forward as silently as a ghost, Legolas came up on Thranduil's left. The king jumped slightly and looked up. Apparently he had been expecting to see Celebren or perhaps Ithilidan because when Thrnaduil looked up at Legolas, his son could clearly see the surprise in his eyes. The elven king rose slowly from the armchair, blue eyes searching Legolas', disbelief clearly written on his face. Legolas smiled and shook his head slowly.
"Adar, im garo teli bar." Legolas asked softly. [Father, I have come home.]
"Ion nin" Thranduil breathed, reaching out and placing his hands on his son's shoulders. "Le baro!" [My son you live!]
"Aye" Legolas confirmed, smiling at his father's disbelief. "I would not leave you for the Halls of Mordos."
With a sob the king wrapped his arms around his son and pulled Legolas to his chest in a tight hug. Legolas returned it and couldn't help but notice the weakness that had crept into his father's grip since he had left. He had not imagined his split-second decision would cause such dispair in his father. Then again, Legolas had always been close to his father but still, he had expected Thranduil to be one of better hope. Perhaps the sahdow's push into Mirkwood had been stronger after he had left?
"Adar, I am back now" Legolas murmured, breathing in the scent of his father and allowing himself to enjoy the feeling of being home.
"Emel nin líro" Thranduil replied, holding his eldest son at arm's length and examining him critically. [My heart sings]. "You are back in one piece, that is good" Thranduil said finally, his eyes no longer listless but bright as he looked at his son. "Have you seen the twins and Celebren yet?"
"Aye" Legolas said, nodding, smiling at his father's words. "They are finding rooms for my companions."
"And who were they?" Thrnaduil asked.
"Aragorn, Gimli son of Gloin, Frodo Baggins, Meridoc Brandybuck, Pereguin Took and Samwise Gamgee."
"I have heard news of them" Thranduil said, nodding and leading his son to the two chairs in front of his desk. "I expected Aragorn to remain on Gondor, why has he traveled here?"
"He wishes to give an invitation to the royal family of Mirkwood to come to Gondor" Legolas replied, sinking into one of the chairs.
"He is to wed Arwen Evenstar, daughter of Lord Elrond."
"Ah. It is a good match" Thranduil said, nodding. "We shall hold a feast tomorrow to celebrate your return, he may give his invitation then if he wishes. Your brothers will take care of them tonight, for now, tell me of your travels ion nin."
Freshly bathed and feeling very much relaxed, Aragorn dressed in a comfortable dark green tunic and leggings, his dark hair still slightly damp from his bath. Just as he was settling into an armchair, the door to his room opened. In came the four Hobbits followed by Gimli. Aragorn smiled at his friends and beckoned them over to sit with him before dinner.
"Feeling better my friends?" Aragorn asked, noticing that they too looked quite relaxed and freshly cleaned.
"Aye" Frodo said, sitting down between Sam and Pippin. "The palace is amazing, I never thought a place of such darkness could be so beautiful."
"Ah but Mirkwood was not always trapped in shadow mellon nin" Aragorn pointed out, pulling out his pipe. "Has anyone seen Legolas since Celebren led him off?"
"Nay, the elf is gone from sight and his brothers speak only riddles" Gimli said, also pulling out a pipe and lounging in an armchair.
"He's probably with his dad" Sam pointed out. "They looked worried whenever they talked about him. I may not understand elves but I know worry when I sees it."
Aragorn nodded, puffing on his pipe for a moment and thinking. "We shall not see him til the morrow, as the others said so we'd best rest up."
"Why?" Pippin asked.
"I've heard whispers of a feast in Legolas' honor tomorrow and elvish feasts are to rival Hobbit feasts" Aragorn explained.
All four Hobbits practically lit up at the very idea of such a feast, drawing chuckles from the dwarf and Man. A moment later there was a knock on the door. Aragorn called for the elf to enter and in came an elf maiden followed by a male elf. Both carried silver platters ladened with food from warm breads to steaming vegetable soups that smelled strongly of tempting spices. Fruits of many kinds were cradled in glistening silver bowls and behind them came a younger elf bearing a smaller tray with a glass flask of wine and goblets. They did not speak Common well, so Aragorn thanked them in elvish and they left.
At once the Hobbits fell upon the food, Aragorn and Gimli not far behind. The soup was filling and aromatic, very comforting to weary travelers while the fruit provided just enough sweetness to balance the meal. Though the food was modest and humble, it was strangely filling so that by the end of the meal even the four famished Hobbits were contentedly patting their bellies and cradling goblets of wine looking sleepy.
"Getting a stomach for elvish food?" Aragorn teased, seeing Gimli looking droopy and sleepily content.
"Aye, I must admit, flighty as they may be elves provide a decent meal for even a dwarf" Gimli replied gruffly, swirling the wine in his goblet.
Aragorn chuckled as someone knocked on the door for the second time that night. Calling for the elf to enter, the Fellowship looked up to see Celebren come in followed by his twin brothers. The three bowed their heads in greeting and settled themselves on the edge of the bed.
"You're meal was pleasurable?" Celebren asked, arching an eyebrow at the drowsy Hobbits and looking mildly amused.
"Aye, we were well provided for" Aragorn assured them, smiling fondly at his friends.
"Good" Doronlas said, nodding. "Your trip here was a calm one." It wasn't a question. "But the rest of your journey was not so calm?"
"It was" Merry said happily, "just full of orcs, ents, Urik-Hai and battles."
Doronlas arched a brow at the Hobbit. "I see. Did Gandalf decide to not come with you here?"
"He went to gather the remains of his Order" Aragorn explained. "They have much to do."
Ithilidan nodded. "News of Helm's Deep and the battle in Gondor reached us here not days after it happened. We would have sent aid but the fates were against us."
"How so?" Gimli asked.
"The shadow made another push into Mirkwood" Celebren explained. "Spiders, orcs, trolls. Everything came at us so fast we could barely catch our breath from one battle to the next. We were not surprised. Sarumon was keeping us from helping anyone, trapping us within our borders or killing us as we tried to leave."
"It is a shame, your aid would have been greatly appriciated but the world will understand why you could not" Aragorn said. "Before the battle of Helm's Deep, Haldir of Lorian came to me and spoke of the shadow in Mirkwood growing stronger. I dared not tell Legolas for at the time it may have killed him."
All three brothers' heads snapped up to look at Aragorn, silently demanding explaination.
"He felt...a loss of hope at Helm's Deep" Aragorn explained uneasily. "Surrounded by so many men and boys all promised death, trapped in a world of Men and surrounded by stone it was no wonder at the time he acted out. If he had known the shadow in Mirkwood was growing I am sure he would have thrown down his weapons then and let the orcs take him."
"He would not have" Celebren said firmly.
"No, not with you leading the armies Aragorn. He would have found faith even if Haldir had not come and if he had known Mirkwood was falling" Ithilian agreed.
"I am glad we never had to find out" Gimli said, sipping the last of his wine. "He was flighty enough as is without having to worry about anything else."
The three elves chuckled and from there conversation vented off into more pleasent topics. The brothers asked questions about the battles such as strategies and numbers or the events of Moria and Gandalf's rising. It was late before the Hobbits, dwarf and elves left Aragorn's room for their own rooms to sleep and rest for the next day's feast.
A golden-fletched arrow buried itself in the target at the far end of the field.
Lowering the Lorian bow, Legolas glared at the target until he was assured that his aim was as perfect as ever. He had left his father's company late in the night to clean up and then get a few hours of sleep. Now it was just after dawn and he was at the old archery fields, bow in hand and quiver full. Stalking down to the target, Legolas extracted several arrows from the target that had all been closely clustered on the bullseye. Stroking the shafts and fletching, and inspecting the arrowheads, Legolas walked back to where he had been standing. He was half way back when he caught sight of his brothers coming toward him.
"We expected you to still be with adar" Celebren said when they were close enough.
"Nay, he is in need of his rest. Now that he knows I am here he will be well" Legolas told them, placing the arrows back in his quiver as he approached his brothers.
"The palace keepers are in an uproar about the feast tonight" Doronlas informed Legolas with a smirk. "The elflings have taken quite a liking to the Hobbits however, they are quite happy creatures."
"Happy but also loyal and brave" Legolas agreed with a nod. "I am surprised Aragorn hasn't come down here yet."
"He took Gimli to the caves" Ithilian informed his brother. "The dwarf is strange, not just because he is a dwarf."
Legolas chuckled as he slid his bow onto his back. "Aye, Gimli is indeed strange but don't tell him that. You may find his ax somewhere it aught not to be."
"You know from experience gwador?" Celebren asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Not myself but I have seen it. Some soldiers in Gondor dared speak out against a dwarf and elf tending the wounded."
"Why would they protest?" Doronlas asked with a frown.
"They know no better, knew nothing except that elves and dwarves are common enemies. They feared battle would break out in the healing wards between the two of us."
The trio of younger brothers exchanged weary glances before Ithilian spoke up. "Gwador, how did you become friends with the son of one of adar's former prisoners and a dwarf no less?"
"It twas not easy" Legolas admitted. "At first we detested each other but the grief of Moria brought us together as brothers in arms and eventually friends. In Rohan, Eomer, now King of Rohan, insulted Gimli. I almost shot him." Legolas frowned a little, staring into the distance as he realized what a big mistake that could have been.
The three brothers raised their eyebrows, sensing something untold.
"I almost got speared by twenty others" Legolas admitted.
Ithilian, Doronlas and Celebren didn't look surprised. Celebren rolled his eyes and sighed. "Of course you did Legolas. Of course you did."
Chuckling the princes headed back to the palace. There, Celebren left them to help train some new soldiers. Ithilian left for the healing wards stating a scout had been brought in two nights ago suffering a spider bite and needed to be checked on. So, together Doronlas and Legolas walked the halls of the palace heading for the gardens. Walking among the plants and trees, Legolas found the Hobbits playing with several elflings that lived within the walls of the palace because their parents were soliders or healers housed in the palace.
"Got you!" exclaimed a brunette elleth no more then twenty years old as she tagged Merry and took off in the other direction.
Laughing, Merry headed after her followed by Pippin. Sam and Frodo were entertaining two or three other young elves with tales of their journey to Mordor though Legolas could tell they left out some of the more frightening parts.
"Go join Aragorn and Gimli in the caves" Legolas said to Doronlas. "We don't need them getting lost before adar's feast."
Doronlas glanced at Legolas. "You will not join me?"
"No gwador nin, I have some other friends I must speak with."
Accepting Legolas' words, Doronlas headed back into the palace. Legolas walked deeper into the gardens away from the laughing elflings and Hobbits. He followed a narrow winding track until he came to a large old weeping willow. Long green tendrils brushed a small but deep pool at the base of the tree, bark weathered with age but the tree was healthy nonetheless. Settling himself at the base beside the pond, Legolas leaned back and sighed.
"Suilad, Tathar Nanneth" Legolas whispered. [Greetings, Morther Willow] The tendrils swayed with the breeze, whispering a soft greeing to the elvish prince.
Evening found Legolas in his rooms preparing for the feast. He had always rather disliked feasts. All the elven lords and ladies, maidens asking him to dance all the time and simply all the fuss drove him insane. He'd rather face fifty orcs then go through a long, drawn out feast. This time however, he was a bit more willing. His friends would be there to suffer with him whether they liked it or not and that soothed his soul a bit.
In the corner near the balcony doors, Legolas' bow and quiver leaned against the wall while his twin long knives were laying on a nearby table hidden in their sheaths. A half empty crystal goblet of red wine rested beside them as Legolas prepared for the dreaded feast. On the bed in a velvet-lined box rested a circlet of golden vines with silver leaves. The veins of the leaves were gold while an emerald rested in the center on the front of the circlet. Celebren wore one similar though it was the opposite, silver vines and leaves with gold detailing and a smaller emerald. Ithilian and Doronlas both wore simple silver circlets with no jewel.
A knock on the door followed by an annoyed advisor telling him to hurry up made Legolas sigh. Pulling on his tunic, Legolas approached the bed and wearily picked up the circlet worn by the crown prince. Resting it on his brow, Legolas adjusted his tunic a bit before turning and heading for the door.
Aragorn glanced around. The table he sat at was the head table where the royal family would sit. In the center of the table would be King Thranduil with Legolas on his right, Aragorn on Legolas' left with Gimli beyond him, Frodo and Sam at the end of the table. On Thranduil's left would be Celebren, Ithilian, Doronlas, Pippin and Merry. Legolas and the rest of the royal family had yet to be announced.
"I can see why Legolas hates these things" Sam whispered to Frodo, tugging a little on the collar of his shirt. "It's very crowded."
"It's a royal feast Sam" Frodo said with amusement in his voice. "What did you expect?"
Aragorn chuckled at the Hobbit's words and settled back. As he did, the doors opened and quiet fell as a herold stepped forward. The elves and guests rose to their feet.
"Presenting his Majesty King Thranduil, Elven King of Mirkwood."
From the hall came Thranduil wearing fine silver-blue robes that rippled like water as the king moved. His head was held high, silver-blond hair braided in a fashion similar to the warrior braids Legolas wore. Intense blue eyes seemed to see everything and everyone in the hall as he moved toward the high table. A silver belt was around his waist and an ornate crown of golden leaves and vines was settled on his brow. In the front center of the crown the vines came together and coiled around a large emerald cut in the shape of a leaf, similar to the clasp of the Lothlorien cloaks.
As Thranduil was seated the herald spoke again. "Presenting Crown Prince Legolas Thranduilion, future lord of Mirkwood and Captian of the King's Archors."
Several elves dressed in fine green and brown tunics rested their clenched right fist over their hearts in a warrior's sign of respect and loyalty. Many had done this when Thranduil entered but these elves stood out.
Through the doors came Legolas. He wore a tunic of pale blue emprodered with silver vines and leaves and pale leggings. There was no bow or quiver at his back, no long knives at his hip. Instead the Crown Prince was dressed simply yet elegantly. The tunic had a stiff collar that didn't seem to bother Legolas as he strode forward with his head held high and back straight. It had been many years since Aragorn had seen Legolas in such a way, the way he was when he spoke to subjects and gave orders. The prince still wore his hair in the braided style of a warrior but on his head was a circlet of gold vines and silver leaves detailed with gold. An emerald was set in the circlet, very similar to the crown Thranduil wore. When he reached the table, Legolas bowed low to Thranduil before moving to stand beside his father and king.
When Legolas stood between Thranduil and Aragorn, the herold spoke again. "Presenting Prince Celebren, Prince of Mirkwood and General."
In strode the secondborn prince wearing a handsome green and gold tunic similar to that many elves wore. Aragorn recognized this garb as the dress tunics given to honored soldiers and officers of the Mirkwood army. Celebren wore his hair more thickly braided then Legolas in the form of a foot soldier, a gold star embroidered over his heart showing his status as General. On his head was a silver circlet with a smaller emerald set in it. Celebren stopped before the table and bowed low to Thranduil as Legolas had before taking his place.
"Presenting Prince Doronlas, Prince of Mirkwood and Lord of the Lithtae Settlement."
Doronlas came forward between the tables toward the high table dressed in dark garnet red. The embroidery on his tunic was more of a coppery color then gold and suited his dark features well. There were only four braids in his dark hair keeping it from his face but not worn in a warrior's style. On his head Doronlas wore a circlet of silver leaves and vines, humble but beautiful in its own right. At the high table, Doronlas bowed and took his place beside Celebren.
"Presenting Prince Ithilidan, Prince of Mirkwood, Athelhíl of the King."
Like his brothers before him, Ithilidan came silently and gracefully, proud as only a Mirkwood prince could be. His strange silver eyes like his brother's and father's seemed to see everything far beyond normal sight. Aragorn recognized the term used by the herold the made Ithilidan that meant "herb heir" which more or less meant Ithilidan was the next royal healer. Ithilidan wore a midnight blue tunic with silver stitching like a darker version of what Legolas wore. At the table, Ithilidan bowed and stood beside his twin.
When Thranduil waved his hand the guests and princes took their seats to listen to the elf king's words.
"On this night we celebrate the safe return of Legolas, my son and subject" Thranduil said, his voice stronger then it had been in weeks. "The One Ring is gone from the world and Mirkwood at last free of shadow. Tonight we celebrate the life of Middle-Earth and the life that awaits us."
When the king was seated, servents appeared silently and gracefully placing dishes, pouring goblets of wine and attending the lords present. Aragorn allowed himself to be served but felt deeply troubled by Thranduil's words. Did the victory over the One Ring not slow the departure of the elves? What if it sped up the depature because peace was now in the hands of Men and elves could leave Middle-Earth in peace?
"You are troubled mellon nin" Legolas said, glancing at Aragorn as he cradled a crystal goblet in his hand. "It is a night of celebration and yet I see storm clouds in your eyes."
Aragorn looked over at the Crown Prince, dressed in all his finery and yet did not see any of it. He saw the warrior dressed in simple garb carrying a bow and knives as the Fellowship trekked through the Misty Mountains, Rohan and Gondor. He saw his friend and yet now he saw also the elf prince as well and it troubled him deeply. "You know well what troubles my heart" Aragorn murmured.
Legolas shot a glance at his mortal friend and sighed. He did know what troubled Aragorn and could read it easily in the Gondorian king's eyes. "Be at peace my friend until after the meal, then we shall talk."
Aragorn nodded and ate but the motions were automatic. He could hear Sam and Frodo talking to Gimli, heard Legolas talking to Thranduil and heard at least a hundred other elves carrying on coversations but at the same time it was like he was underwater, hearing it all from a great distance.
When the feast ended, tables were moved and music began. Lords and ladies swept onto the dance floor while doors opened to balconies over the palace gardens. As soon as Thranduil was distracted by Celebren and the others were deep in conversation, Aragorn snagged Legolas by the elbow and nearly dragged the prince out into the moonlit gardens. Legolas went along willingly enough though Aragorn suspected a few elves might be wondering if the prince was being kidnapped. Once they were alone under the moon and stars, Aragorn turned to study Legolas.
The prince adjusted his tunic and shot a curious look at his companion. "You are troubled that deeply mellon nin?"
"Aye" Aragorn said. "What is Thranduil planning? Does he mean to take his people from the shores of Middle-Earth now that the One Ring is gone?"
Legolas laughed and leaned against a tree. "Mellon nin you should know by now the future to an elf is a different thing then the future of a Man. The future in which adar takes his people from Middle-Earth is approaching yes, but not until you are long dead my friend. The Age of Elves is over, the Age of Man has begun and as that Age progresses we shall fade. As I have promised I shall not heed the Call until you have passed from the world Aragorn. Do you not trust my word?"
"If your father and brothers go, who is to say you will not go with them or fade from grief of loosing them?" Aragorn demanded.
Legolas sighed heavily. "I would loose them only if I allowed myself to fade. If I did not, I could always find my way to the Undying Lands and find peace after you are gone. We should not speak of things like that on a night of celebration."
"But they sit heavy on my heart like boulders. If they departed tonight, would you go with them? Answer me honestly."
The elven prince turned his head and stared at the moon for a long while. "No" he said at last, turning to look back at Aragorn.
Aragorn's breath caught in his throat at the look on Legolas' face. Though he had known the elf well over sixty years, he had never seen such an expression upon Legolas' face. The Crown Prince had always looked young, light, mischevious and serene but now he looked old and wise beyond his outward appearance. The moonlight lit up his fair skin making his natural glow brighter, his blond hair turned silver by the moon. Shadows thrown across his face cast him into a world of mystery, his blue eyes darkened to nearly black with the barest hint of a single star within the pupil.
"I would remain in Middle-Earth as I promised though it would be a heavy blow to my heart. Breaking a promise to a friend would hurt far more for I know I would see them again, one way or the other. Time means little to an elf, Aragorn. I have my family for all eternity if the Valor wills it. I have you for a short time and yet if you called me, I would go to war for your cause but if my brothers called me at the same time I would leave them fight their own battles for I know they can if their cause is just."
Aragorn sighed and studied his elven friend. "Are you sure?"
Legolas threw him an incredlous look, the look of age suddenly rising from the elf. "Must you honestly ask me that Aragorn?"
"Aye. I need to hear it."
Heaving a sigh, Legolas looked up at the sky as if to ask 'why me?' "Aye Aragorn, I am sure."
Looping his arm around Aragorn's, Legolas tugged the Man back toward the palace. "Come mellon nin, my father doesn't like his guests vanishing and you have an invitation to deliver."