Legolas paced around his room like a caged animal, frustrated and confused. How was it that Arwen could have changed so much in the course of a day, the tenderness she had shown him out on the balcony was too heartfelt to have been a lie, but now she used his feelings to spite him and revelled in Astalder in front of him. And to make matters worse, Elladan was still missing and the grounds had been searched at least twice by he, Elrohir and Haldir.
If there was one thing Legolas hated it was feeling helpless or useless, and he felt both in great abundance now. To make matters worse, it appeared that Astalder was hitherto unaware of Arwen's pregnancy until he had foolishly revealed the fact to the Eryn Vorn elf- he had yet to stop internally berating himself for that.
How had such things happened so quickly, it seemed only days ago that Arwen was lamenting Estel's demise, and now she clung to Astalder as if he were her lifeline in a storm, shunning her friends and family in favour of some stranger from a forest by the sea!
By the sea… Legolas paused in his ruminations, that seemed most strange. Eryn Vorn was a small forest near the edge of the sea, how was it that a colony of elves could live in such close proximity to the water and have not the sea longings stirred in other elves when their eyes beheld the great expanse?
Legolas had predicted there was something amiss with Astalder but this realisation cemented his beliefs, he only hoped that Hodoer, who he had sent away the morning before, could uncover the real truth behind the mysterious and devious elf.
But greater than that he prayed that Arwen would come to her senses before Astalder found some way to wed her, for although he certainly would not get Legolas' consent on the matter that probably would not stop him.
He was about to go out to continue the search for Elladan but when he opened the door he saw a slightly surprised elven messenger with fist raised prepared to knock on Legolas' door.
"Yes?" Legolas asked impatiently when the elf did not explain his presence.
"Oh, apologies my lord, Prince Astalder wished for you to meet with him in the private gardens immediately." The messenger bowed embarrassedly and relayed the message.
Legolas' expression darkened, he had hoped it would be favourable news not a summons from his conniving rival.
"Well you shall have to tell 'Prince Astalder' that he must wait. I will not be ordered around at the beck and call of some presumptuous liar with delusions of grandeur, I have far more pressing matters to attend to." Legolas retorted icily. He knew it was not right to take out his anger on some hapless emissary, who was only following orders and relaying a message, but his frustration and worry for Elladan and Arwen were weighing heavily on him.
The messenger, for his part, looked rather afraid of Legolas following his sharp response, but he looked even more terrified at the prospect of passing such a message back to Astalder. Legolas took pity on the elf and smiled tiredly.
"My apologies, I have much on my mind. Tell… 'His Highness' that I will meet with him once I have seen to my other tasks." He said the title through gritted teeth and with more than a touch of sarcasm but the messenger looked most relieved and with a bow scurried off to give the more appropriate response.
Legolas ran a hand through his golden hair in exasperation and decided to go and seek out Elrohir and Haldir in the hopes that someone had favourable news about the elder of Elrond's sons, Astalder could wait he thought with a small smirk of satisfaction at this small- and petty if he admitted it, which he wouldn't- victory.
Hodoer had rode tirelessly and unceasingly since he left Rivendell, resting in the waking dream world of the elves when the way was clear and safety seen for miles. He trusted the steed that carried him and had no reason to fear attack from the route he was taking. The elves' purge of the Orcs in the surrounding lands gave him cause for confidence, but he was still cautious, only resting for short moments. Indeed this was all he needed, for the tireless nature of the elves kept his strength up. He reached Mirkwood- for indeed this was his destination- swiftly, and requested an audience with King Thranduil at once.
Legolas' father was surprised to see his advisor, and instantly thought something was amiss.
"Hodoer, why have you returned, is Legolas well, what has happened?" The elven lord stood from his throne in concern.
"My lord, the Prince is fine, he was crowned the Champion of Sheelala in fact. But he sent me here on an errand of great import." Thranduil was visibly relieved but raised a brow.
"What manner of errand?"
"I need access to the historical records of Mirkwood my lord, as well as several other restricted documents."
Thranduil looked dubious. "Those manuscripts are not for any mere eyes, they have remained under lock and key for millennia, what possible need could you have for them Hodoer?"
"Prince Legolas fears something is amiss with one of the competitors of the competition, Astalder of Eryn Vorn. The stranger has grown quite close to the Lady Evenstar, he has plans to wed her in fact, before the week is out my lord."
Thranduil's face had paled somewhat and he nodded, taking the ring from his finger which would unlock the case to Mirkwood's records and restricted documents.
Hodoer took the band solemnly and left the room as silently as he had arrived, thinking nothing more of Thranduil's reaction than that he was concerned for his son's childhood friend- Elrond's daughter- and her abrupt marriage, and paid no more thought to it than that.
An hour or so after receiving the summons, and still no luck locating Elladan, Legolas reached the private gardens of Rivendell, where only a few days prior he had –to his dismay- witnessed Arwen and Astalder share their first kiss. Now he found that Astalder was not even there yet. Legolas didn't know whether this was a ploy to keep him on edge or merely a means of annoying the Mirkwood elf, but it succeeded in doing both. He trusted the elf of Eryn Vorn not a bit, and was convinced that the underhanded snake had indeed done something to Elladan, and intended to find out what as soon as his enemy arrived. He took the time to explore the private clearing, in which a finely carved table and chairs stood, it was evidently used in brighter days as a relaxing place for Lord Elrond and his family as it was hidden where most visitors of the Homely House did not think to look. As a long time friend of the family's, Legolas had spent many of his younger days playing pranks and exploring these gardens with Elladan and Elrohir.
Set on the table now were a pair of glasses and a carafe full of what looked like wine, as well as a careworn book on the history of the three great elven kingdoms, Rivendell, Mirkwood and Lorien, which was marked somewhere near the middle by a crisp green leaf, perfectly preserved and instead of looking delicate and dried as a cut leaf should look, it seemed as alive as had it been attached to a branch. There was a wonder.
He picked up the carafe of wine and pulled the stopper from the top, bringing it under his nose to smell it. He coughed and blinked as the strong spicy scent assaulted his senses.
"Potent, isn't it?" If his nerves hadn't been honed to the point of utmost precision by years of battles Legolas certainly would have dropped the bottle in surprise. Astalder stood at the entrance to the glade looking mildly amused. Legolas attempted to glare but he felt rather dizzy and everything was a little blurred so it was probably more accurate to describe the expression as squinting with great fervour.
"Wine brewed in Eryn Vorn, it's fine stuff I can assure you, the finest, rival even to Mirkwood's own mixture's I'd wager."
"I doubt that." Legolas said, blinking and shaking his head once to dispel the haze that seemed to have descended on him. His vision cleared somewhat and he put the bottle down on the table.
"Try some, I guarantee you will instantly be converted to my way of thinking." Astalder smiled, pouring into the two glasses and holding one out to the Mirkwood prince.
"I do not make a habit of taking drink from the hands of my enemies." Legolas said coolly, waving off the proffered cup.
Astalder did not seem perturbed by this and did not retract his arm. "You have nothing to fear from me Legolas, I can assure you." His voice was dripping with sarcasm, but it was veiled so as not to be directly offensive.
"I do not fear anything relating to you Astalder, I can assure you." He golden haired prince retorted, feeling a pain in his head coming on.
Astalder's fixed smile faltered a little but he shrugged nonchalantly and put the cup down on the table in front of Legolas. "Very well."
"Now why did you ask me here, I have far more important uses of my time than to be standing here with you." Legolas said looking at Astalder with distaste.
"Merely a little matter of the wedding to be held this Sunday." Astalder said casually, and Legolas had to bite back a growl, instead his eyes hardened as he looked at his rival in Arwen's affections.
"There is to be no wedding, you have not received the consent needed to proceed with the act. Elladan has not given his blessing and I certainly will not."
"Ah that is where you are wrong my dear friend." Astalder replied derisively as he reached into his pocket and withdrew a roll of parchment, unravelling it carelessly and holding it up in front of Legolas' cerulean eyes. There underneath the signatures of consent from Elrond and Elrohir was Elladan's flowing script.
"Treacherous liar." Legolas snapped, though he knew in his heart it was unmistakably his friend's mark.
"You don't believe me? Lord Elrond himself would vouch for that signature, except, is he still unaware that his dear son is missing? A most terrible shame, why if Elladan doesn't reappear, he'll miss the joyous occasion!" Astalder mock pouted.
Legolas clenched his teeth, he was not ready to end this conversation yet, not until he had gained more information, but Astalder was certainly pushing him to the edge of his limits.
"What have you done to Elladan?" He snarled, advancing towards the unflappable elf.
"Whatever do you mean, he left my chambers and then somewhere between there and here he vanished, it has nothing to do with me. How dare you presume to accuse me of anything you simpering princeling, you have no concept of who you are dealing with." Astalder's voice hardened and he moved forward to meet Legolas until they were standing but an inch apart.
"Try me." Legolas' voice was as cold as the tip of the Redhorn and his tone was twice as dangerous. "I have faced horrors that would make you wail like a child and cower behind your mother. I have looked evil in the face and heard its voice, I have seen the blackness of war and survived it. I could kill you before you had time to take a breath and wonder where your life went. You are nothing but a coward and a liar, you are not worthy to speak to me as equal, and you are not worthy to even look upon Arwen, let alone touch her. If you wish to finish this now, let us finish it." He rumbled, anger boiling up inside him with a passionate hatred for this mockery of an elf.
"And I had so hoped that we could be friends." Astalder said sardonically with a sigh, before quick as lightning bringing his fist back and lashing it at Legolas' face. Legolas narrowly avoided the blow by dodging back and this surprise blow had caught him quite unawares. He recovered quickly however and brought his hand up in a ringing backhand that caught Astalder firmly across the face.
The Eryn Vorn elf staggered back clutching his jaw in surprise. "Well, well, there is some fight left in the spoilt little princeling still!" He taunted and Legolas leapt at him swiftly, aiming blow after blow towards Astalder's face and chest, but the other blocked them fluidly and retaliated in kind. Legolas dodged and blocked shots to the face but a kick to the leg caught him off-guard and he stumbled back, unbalanced by the force of the blow.
"Tell me what you have done to Elladan, snake!" Legolas demanded, spinning forward with a high kick to Astalder's solar plexus. The ash blonde elf doubled over, the wind knocked from him as he staggered back clutching his stomach and gasping for air.
"Never… he can rot, with the rest of you." Astalder retorted before rushing towards Legolas with intense hatred in his eyes. Legolas aimed a blow to his already shattered nose and upon impact, more blood sprayed forth from the damaged feature. Astalder wiped the blood from his face, seemingly having not felt the attack at all. Legolas paused at this, surprised and suspicious, but Astalder did not give him a moment's reprieve and rushed him once more dodging and feinting every which way as he approached the prince. Astalder feinted left and changed course, driving his first towards Legolas' torso, but the Mirkwood elf was so preoccupied with dodging his opponent's movements that he did not notice the silver flash of a dagger in Astalder's hand until it was too late.
There was an eruption of fiery pain in Legolas' chest, followed by a cold numbing sensation that spread through him and stole his senses, before blackness swallowed him and he knew no more.
(Hides) Well, it's an update, I didn't say it would be good! Reviews would be very much appreciated. Thank you to all those who continued reviewing and emailing me to prompt me to update, your continued support really helps, I don't deserve readers as good as you lot lol. Special thanks to Lisseyelen aka Lady V for her poking and for her wonderful story Isengard's Captives, which helped inspire me to start writing again!
Thanks for reading.