Disclaimer: Yeah, I don't own anything Tolkien created. Nope, not a thing.
Warning: Yes this is an m-preg, as in male pregnancy. I know anatomically it is impossible in the real world but I like the idea (mainly for the Legolas suffering that goes with it). Please, if you are dead set against this kind of thing then don't read then complain that you weren't warned.
Chapter 19 ~ Beginning Family Life
Two days had passed since the funeral and it seemed that now the whole pregnancy, labour and loss had hit Legolas full force and he found himself mostly staying in bed, leaving Elrond to look after the baby, which he was perfectly happy to do. The prince obviously needed the rest and everyone tried to accommodate that need.
Unfortunately, that day Elrond had been called away to deal with a problem with the Human diplomats still in residents in Imladris. They had been feeling rather neglected lately by the Lord of Imladris. When Elrond had returned late that evening he had found both Legolas and their son sound asleep. Exhausted himself from smoothing the diplomats' ruffled feathers and offering explanations as to his recent absence, Elrond quickly shed his formal robes and crawled into the bed next to Legolas. Within minutes he too was fast asleep, slightly disappointed that his break from the dull and frankly pointless negotiations was over. His attentive staff may have been able to handle the running of Imladris but there were still some things Elrond had to do himself, which unfortunately included pleasing the visiting Men.
It was gone midnight when something disturbed Legolas from his peaceful rest. Forcing his tired eyes open, he glanced around the dark room but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Assuming it was his tired mind playing cruel tricks on him, Legolas snuggled down, shifting position to ease the pain that still remained in his stomach and closed his eyes. Before he could drift off again, the noise came again only this time it was loud enough for him to identify as a baby crying.
He tried to put the crying from his mind and go back to sleep but he found worry gnawing at him and realised that no matter how tired he was or how much pain he was in, he couldn't ignore his son if he was in distress. He sat up and ran a hand down his face. With a yawn, he looked down at Elrond but his partner remained fast asleep beside him, blissfully unaware of the crying. Legolas thought Elrond looked more tired than he remembered and must have been worn out to sleep so deeply.
As the screaming from the nursery continued, Legolas dragged himself out of bed, bent to put on his slippers and pulled his dressing gown on with another yawn. He walked quietly into the nursery and lit the lamp so he could see what he was doing. Stepping up to the crib in which his son laid screeching, his face red and screwed up, his little hands made into fists that flailed in the air as if in indignation at being ignored for so long. Pointedly ignoring the silent and empty second crib, Legolas leaned over and lifted the squirming bundle out of his cot, resting him against his shoulder.
"Shh, shh," Legolas hushed, jiggling the baby up and down in an attempt to calm his cries. His attempts proved fruitless though and the child just screamed louder. He decided that a walk around the nursery might help but apparently he was wrong. Next he tried a late-night feeding but when he held the bottle to his mouth the baby only shoved it away with his hands and screamed, if possible, even louder. He stood up and instead positioned himself in the rocking chair and started singing the first song that came to his tired mind. For a moment the crying eased but then it resumed at its pervious volume so Legolas stood up and started pacing again.
"Please just go to sleep," Legolas muttered, rocking the baby in his arms. "Go back to sleep." Feeling his arms starting to ache unbearably, he laid the child back in his cot and ran his hand over his tired eyes. "What is wrong?" he asked desperately as if the days-old baby could somehow answer him.
His body was beginning to tire again and all he really wanted to do was crawl back into bed and go to sleep. He was already exhausted but being on his feet was tiring. The incessant screaming was making his head pound annoyingly until he couldn't even think straight. Tears filled his eyes and he closed them in despair. "Please stop," he breathed, wiping tears from his cheeks. "What is the matter?"
He placed the back of his cool hand against his son's cheek and was suddenly much more alert and clear-headed. The baby was far too hot. Panic raced through him and he gently scooped the tiny Elfling up and walked as fast as he could into the bedroom, single-handedly lighting the lamp and turning it up so the room was illuminated.
"Elrond," Legolas said over the baby's now quieter cries as if sensing that his father was finally doing the right thing. The Elven lord didn't stir so Legolas walked over to the bed and, shifting the baby in his arms, tapped Elrond on the shoulder. "Elrond, wake up." The older Elf just shifted and went back to sleep. Grabbing Elrond's shoulder, Legolas called loudly, "Elrond, wake up now."
Shifting again, Elrond's eyes opened and he looked up blearily at whatever had disturbed him. "Legolas? What are you doing?"
"You have to look at him," Legolas said quickly, not really answering Elrond's question.
Pushing himself into a sitting position, Elrond asked, "What's wrong?" Valar, he was tired. Surely Legolas understood that and shouldn't be waking him at such an hour, especially as he was enjoying the best sleep he had gotten in ages.
"He won't stop crying and he's so hot, Elrond. I think he's sick," Legolas hurried out.
Elrond looked Legolas up and down then asked, "How long have you been up?"
"Just look at him, please. Something's wrong, I know it is," the young blonde Elf cried, bordering now on panic.
"All right, just calm down," Elrond told him soothingly, pushing the covers back and climbing out of bed. "Here, let me take a look." He held out his hands and Legolas handed the crying baby over gently and with no small amount of relief. Elrond cradled him in his arms, rocking slightly until the crying slowly calmed and the Elfling just laid quietly and peacefully in his calming embrace.
Legolas couldn't understand how his partner could be so calm and relaxed when he himself was strained and panicked. He watched as Elrond talked quiet nonsense, smiling when blue eyes looked up at him. Legolas found himself growing slightly jealous of Elrond. He had been up for hours trying everything he could to comfort his screaming son with no success then Elrond comes in and almost immediately the baby laid quietly.
"There you go. No more fussing," Elrond whispered to the baby who seemed to be rapidly falling into sleep. He carried the baby slowly back into the nursery with Legolas hovering close behind him. Putting the now sleeping baby back in his crib, Elrond wrapped the blanket around him.
"He…He had a fever," Legolas stuttered quietly.
Elrond placed the back of his hand against the baby's forehead and smiled. "He is a bit warm but it's nothing to worry about," he said softly, pulling back. He led Legolas back to their room, lowering the lamp again so the room was darker. He then half closed the nursery door and turned to Legolas, looking at him closely and noting how tired he was. "He is fine, melleth nin. No need to panic." He placed his hands on Legolas' arms, running them up and down calmingly.
Legolas shook his head. "How did you do that?"
"Stop him crying. I tried everything, Elrond, but he wouldn't stop screaming," Legolas told him despairingly.
Elrond shot him a lop-sided grin and offered, "Magic touch?"
"Why couldn't I do it, then?"
"He just needed a fresh, calm pair of arms, that's all." Unsurprisingly, this didn't make Legolas feel any better; in fact, it made him feel even more of a failure. He ran his hand over his eyes and sighed. "Melleth nin, you look exhausted. How long have you been up?"
"A few hours," Legolas sighed.
"Hours? Legolas, you should be resting."
"I couldn't leave him crying," the prince protested.
"You could have woken me."
Legolas shook his head and said, "You were tired, I didn't want to disturb you."
"And you're not tired? Come on, I think you should sit down before you fall." The young Elrond really did look ready to drop, hardly surprising given that he was still recovering. Legolas let himself be led over to the bed and he sat down, looking, if possible, even more defeated than before. "You can't push yourself like this," Elrond said softly, taking Legolas' slippers off his feet for him.
"He wouldn't stop crying. What am I doing wrong?"
Elrond sat down and pulled Legolas into his arms, pleased that he leaned into the embrace. Brushing tears from Legolas' face, Elrond answered, "You're not doing anything wrong. He's sleeping now, isn't he?"
"Only because of you."
"Legolas," Elrond smiled.
Elrond sat back a little so he could look directly at the prince. "Hey, stop that right now. You are doing fine, melleth nin. Don't forget that not only am I far older than you with thousands of years of experience in the healing halls behind me but I have also already raised three children so have had plenty of practice. Once you have had to deal with Elladan and Elrohir screaming at all hours of the day you can handle pretty much anything," Elrond smiled soothingly. "It will just take you some time to get used to it, that's all."
"I can't even calm my own child when he is upset," Legolas told him thickly. "I didn't know what he wanted and he wouldn't stop crying no matter what I tried. What if I can't ever do it? What if I can't ever look after my own baby? Elrond, what if I'm a terrible father?" Legolas cried.
"You are not a terrible father, Legolas. You never could be. It has only been a couple of weeks. How could you possibly know what kind of parent you will be?"
"I should be able to do it though. It should be easy," Legolas sounded childlike himself what at his most vulnerable.
"Who says? You honestly believe that I didn't have to work at it when I first became a father? It takes time and practice. You are yet new at this. Just trust your instincts, remain calm, ask for help when you need it and you'll be fine," Elrond assured, rubbing Legolas' back, knowing how it soothed him.
Legolas laid his head against Elrond's shoulder and sighed, "I'm sorry."
Pressing a kiss into golden hair, Elrond said, "You have nothing to be sorry for, Legolas. You've been through a lot lately. Of course you're tired. You need to rest, my love."
"It's been a long year," Legolas sighed wearily.
For a while they sat quietly in each other's arms, Legolas leaning heavily against his partner. After a few minutes, Elrond pressed a kiss to Legolas' cheek and said, "You need to get some sleep, melleth." Legolas just nodded. He really couldn't agree more. Bed sounded like such a good idea; his tired body really did need to rest. Before either of them could move though, the baby in the next room started crying again. Both sat up straight and looked to the nursery door. Elrond glanced over at his love and saw the despairing look on his pale face, almost like he was about to burst into tears. Leaning forward, Elrond kissed Legolas' forehead gently and said, "I'll go see to him. You go back to sleep."
Legolas raised his eyes and protested, "I can't leave you to…"
"Of course you can," the healer interrupted. "I'll take care of it."
"But I thought you had to go back to the office tomorrow."
"I do but I am far better rested than you are and you need the sleep more than I do right now."
"Legolas, I am in a far better state to look after him right now, plus I have the added advantage of not being close to collapsing from exhaustion." He moved a passive Legolas to lie back. "Now, go back to sleep and let me take care of the baby, all right?" He pulled the covers over Legolas, making sure he was comfortable before kissing his lips softly. "Go back to sleep."
"Thank you," Legolas whispered as Elrond walked to the nursery to tend to the screeching baby. A moment later, he walked back out, rocking their son in his arms.
"We are fussy tonight, aren't we?" he cooed quietly. "Why don't we take a walk and leave your daddy to sleep in peace?" His son just cried louder, kicking his small feet. "All right," Elrond laughed, taking that as an agreement. "Go to sleep, my love," Elrond told Legolas. "We'll be back once he's settled down a bit."
"Thank you," Legolas repeated from the bed, pulling the sheets tightly around him. Elrond just smiled as his exhausted partner's eyes fell closed and, despite his worries, fell into a much-needed sleep.
It took nearly an hour before the baby calmed again and Elrond felt it was safe to return him to the nursery. The little Elfling had clearly tired himself out as he remained fast asleep as Elrond placed him down in the crib. Once he was certain the child was settled, Elrond crept from the nursery and returned to his own bed. As he slipped under the covers, Legolas stirred, opened his eyes and went to speak but Elrond got there first and assured, "Everything's fine. He's back next door. Go to sleep." Elrond wrapped his arms around the prince and together they fell back into sleep, the nights' events taking their toll on their already tired beings.
One Week Later…
Duty forced Elrond back to his office. He could quite happily have stayed with his partner and child for several more weeks but unfortunately the Human diplomats would no longer tolerate his absence despite Glorfindel's and Erestor's best efforts to placate them. They had gotten very little done in the weeks Elrond had been gone and now even upon his return things had well and truly ground to a halt. Still, they endured the long meetings, listening as the discussions went around and around in circles, getting no where but to the brink of frustration.
Neither side could really agree on anything anymore - and some were beginning to forget why they were even bothering to negotiate. The frustrating thing for Elrond was that the Men, who had been so accommodating in the beginning, were now being completely unreasonable in their ridiculous demands. Everyone with even an ounce of political savvy knew that to get something you had to give something in return. The Men wanted to trade openly with Rivendell, which naturally also benefitted the Elven realm but they demanded that not only should the Elves construct a suitable road for tradesmen but should also maintain it. This wouldn't have been a problem had they been offering their aid in building it – contributing to the labour and materials – but they claimed it was the responsibility of the Elves not the Men. Naturally, the Elven diplomats were reluctant to agree to such a one-sided proposition. What was even worse was that the Men were now also refusing any role in guarding or maintaining the proposed road. In short, they were asking for something from the Elves but were unwilling to offer anything in return.
At first, the Human diplomats had seemed willing to negotiate and they had been able to lay out what looked to be a workable plan. Now though, they refused to budge in any way. And so negotiations had come to an abrupt halt and Elrond was stuck in the room with pointless, unmovable diplomats rather than being at his love's side where he believed he was really needed. He understood that the younger Elf was nowhere near recovered and that during the day he was left all alone with the baby, who actually still did not have a name. For some reason they had just not gotten around to it yet. Usually, the Elven parents named their children instinctively when they were born but nothing about the past few weeks had been usual. They had had far more important things to worry about so the child remained nameless.
Finally, after spending all day pointlessly arguing, Elrond told Glorfindel to call for lunch so everyone could calm down and return to the table with a cool head. For once, even the patient Glorfindel and Erestor looked relieved that they could escape the conference room and take a break.
"I'm going to check on Legolas," Elrond told his seneschal once the room was clear.
"How is he?" the blonde Elf asked, tidying up the papers on the table.
Elrond ran his hands over his face. "Oh, I don't know, Glorfindel. He's…" He shrugged helplessly, not knowing how to finish. Honestly, he wasn't sure how Legolas was. Usually, he left early in the morning before Legolas or the baby woke and the prince needed his rest too much to be disturbed. Elrond knew very well that he often had to get up several times a night to feed, change or just settle their son and he also knew that the disturbances were taking their toll on the prince. By the time Elrond got home in the evening, they were both so tired that they went straight to bed and so the cycle continued.
Glorfindel placed his hand on his friend's shoulder and said, "Go and see the prince."
"I'll be back soon. Please make sure they don't murder each other in my absence."
"I will do my best, my Lord, but I can't promise anything," Glorfindel sighed as they parted ways.
On his way to his rooms, Elrond stopped at the kitchens to pick up some lunch for both him and Legolas. As he approached their chambers, the sound of crying filled the hallway and Elrond sighed. When he had left that morning, Legolas had been up with the screaming baby and it seemed that he was keeping up his almost constant crying.
He opened the door to find a rather harassed-looking Legolas strolling around the living room with his son in his arms. The prince looked up when he heard someone enter and Elrond noticed the wrinkled clothes, the unkempt hair and the dark circles beneath his eyes, suggesting he hadn't managed to get much rest so far that day.
"Still crying?" Elrond commented as he closed the door behind him. He had to step over a pile of clothes to reach the table and noticed that the room was now in even more disarray than it had been that morning. It was a far cry from the normally pristine cleanliness the prince insisted upon.
"He had a five minute break to swallow some milk but…" The baby gave a loud squeal as if to finish his father's sentence for him.
"I brought us some lunch," Elrond smiled sympathetically.
"Why won't he stop crying?" Legolas asked almost desperately.
"He is a baby, Legolas. He cries a lot; it's what they do," Elrond grinned but it fell from his face when Legolas shot him a cold glare. Realising that Legolas was actually genuinely overwhelmed, Elrond stepped forward and offered, "All right, let me have a go." He gently took the baby from Legolas' arms and started rocking him. Amazingly, the Elfling immediately calmed in Elrond's arms and Legolas ran his hand over his eyes in despair. He had been trying to settle him all day with no luck and Elrond only had to hold him before he became quiet and still. "There we go," Elrond smiled down at his son. "All better."
"How…?" Legolas stopped himself, shaking his head in disbelief. He simply didn't understand how his partner managed to do it. Elrond never seemed fazed by anything; he took everything in his stride, always remaining calm in the face of the crying, whilst all Legolas could do was slowly falling apart. After hours of walking around his legs ached, his feet hurt, his back burned, his head was pounding, his stomach hurt and he was so tired he couldn't think straight. "I can't do this," Legolas whispered tearfully.
"What are you talking about? You're doing just fine."
Legolas shook his head and ran his fingers through his messy hair. "Why can't I take care of my own baby?"
"Legolas, come on…"
"No," the prince yelled, startling Elrond into silence. "Don't tell me I'm doing fine. I'm not! I've been holding him and singing to him, I've fed and changed him and bathed him and he just keeps screaming. And then the second you pick him up, he's…look at him, he's fine. What is wrong with me?"
"Nothing is wrong with you."
"Then why can't I calm him? You can just…do it naturally but I…" The baby started crying again as Legolas' voice rose in volume. "Why won't he stop crying?"
"Hey, calm down," Elrond said, rocking his son again. "You are not doing anything wrong." Elrond reached out his free hand and pulled Legolas towards him and into a hug, being careful of the baby, who laid in the crook of his other arm. "Come here." He held Legolas tight to him. "Listen to me, you are doing just fine but you need to stop being so hard on yourself. Working yourself into frustration isn't going to help. You need to keep calm."
"I can't do this, Elrond," Legolas cried onto the Elven lord's shoulder.
"Of course you can. You're just tired, you need to rest, melleth nin."
"How can I when he keeps crying?"
Elrond hesitated then brought up the subject that had caused rather a lot of tension between them whenever they spoke about it. "We could always provide a nurse…"
"No," Legolas said firmly, standing up straight.
"Legolas, if you had some help…"
He already knew that he couldn't win this argument so Elrond nodded. "All right." He placed his hand against Legolas' cheek and asked, "Are you in pain?" The fact that Legolas was still not well had not escaped Elrond's notice and if he was truthful, he was actually worried. Legolas just lowered his eyes, which Elrond took to be confirmation of his pain. "I'm going to make you something to help." Elrond saw Legolas opening his mouth to protest and assured, "Nothing too strong, just to make you comfortable. I don't want you to be in pain." He went into the nursery and laid the baby in his crib, where he quietened down again. "Now, have you had anything to eat today?"
Legolas scoffed and rubbed his eyes. "You're joking. I haven't even had time to go to the bathroom."
Gently pushing Legolas into the bathroom, he said, "Right, you go to the bathroom, get changed and then I want you to sit down and eat something."
"Go on, I have an hour or so before I have to leave. I'll watch the baby for a while." He briefly pulled Legolas into a hug then told him, "Go on."
"Thank you," Legolas said, dashing off while he had the chance, closing the bathroom door behind him.
Whilst Legolas was getting washed up, Elrond changed the baby and ensured he was settled. "You are pushing your ada too hard, little one," he said softly before returning to the lounge. Legolas appeared only a minute later in clean clothes but still looking just as frazzled as he had done before. "Feel a little better now?" The prince nodded slightly. "Have something to eat, melleth."
"I'm not really hungry," Legolas said around a yawn.
"Maybe not but you still have to eat. Just have something, Legolas, please."
"Fine," Legolas sighed, sitting down heavily on the couch and taking the plate from Elrond. He managed to clear the plate within minutes, realising that for the first time in days he actually felt hungry. Placing the plate back on the table, Legolas sat back with a sigh and closed his eyes. He felt Elrond shift to sit next to him and the soft fingers were working over his scalp, easing his headache. His head fell to rest against Elrond's shoulder. Five minute's sitting down wouldn't hurt.
Elrond looked down when he felt Legolas' head droop against his shoulder and smiled gently. He wasn't really surprised that the Elf was sleeping. He really was exhausted. Elrond remembered how tired Celebrian had been after she had had his older children, a tiredness that would have been even more pronounced after a male pregnancy and delivery. He wished he could have stayed with Legolas all the time but Rivendell needed her lord. He could, however, spend this time with him even if it was only an hour, or an hour and a half at a stretch. His fingers stilled and he closed his eyes, merely enjoying the feel of Legolas' body pressed against his own. What with everything that had happened with Anara, taking care of their son and trying to work through negotiations they had spent very little time together even though both craved the contact so desperately.
The Elven lord must have fallen asleep, as the next thing he knew there was a hand on his shoulder shaking him gently from his reverie. He blinked to clear his eyes and found Glorfindel bending down looking at him in concern.
"Glorfindel?" he muttered softly.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, my lord, but the diplomats are waiting in the conference room," Glorfindel told him in a whisper.
Frowning, Elrond looked down to find Legolas still asleep against him, his long blonde hair falling over his face. A smile replaced concern at the sight of his love so peaceful. "I'll be right there," Elrond told the seneschal quietly and waited until he heard Glorfindel leave before placing a kiss on Legolas' forehead. Despite wanting to stay like this forever, Elrond carefully moved Legolas' arm from around his chest and slipped out from under him. He eased Legolas to lie down on the couch, placing his head on a soft cushion. The action disturbed the prince though and blue eyes fluttered open. "Shh, I have to go now." Legolas moaned and buried his face into the pillow beneath him. "I'm sorry, melleth nin. The baby is sound asleep so you stay in here and get some sleep, all right?" Elrond whispered as he draped the throw from the back of the sofa over the prince. "I'll be back as soon as I can. I love." Legolas just nodded slightly, already half asleep again. Elrond bent down and kissed his cheek softly before whispering, "Sleep well."
Having to force himself out of the door, Elrond met Glorfindel in the corridor and they trudged back to the meeting, wishing for all the world that he was in that room with Legolas instead.
Not half an hour after Elrond opened the door, Legolas' restful peace was disturbed by a gentle crying and he opened his eyes with a heavy sigh of dismay. For a minute or two, he just laid there, praying the baby would settle and he could go back to sleep. It was not to be as the child's cries intensified once more. Knowing he couldn't leave him when he was crying, Legolas shrugged his cover off and forced himself to sit up. It took him a moment to regain his equilibrium but he pulled himself to his feet and shuffled rather clumsily to the nursery for another round of crying. When he had discovered his condition and learned what being pregnant entailed it had been the physical process he had feared and dreaded but now that the baby was actually here he was finding this infinitely more difficult. How did people manage to do this every single day? Suddenly, he had even greater respect for his father, who had been forced to raise his son all by himself after his wife had been killed. Legolas had Elrond by his side, loyally staying with him, but with Elrond gone from the rooms so much, Legolas felt that he may as well have been all on his own. It wouldn't have been so bad had he felt constantly refreshed and calm but every second he was on his feet made the pain in his back and stomach worse and he felt so weak and tired sometimes that he thought he could just crawl into bed and stay there forever. The baby's crying grated on his nerves until his head pounded and he was ready to scream in frustration. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he had felt good although he presumed it was just over twelve months ago before all this had started. If only he could have just one minute of feeling normal again, but that wasn't likely to happen now. No, he had ignored his father's warnings and this was his life now.
"I am to hand this message to your king personally," Rivendell's fastest messenger told the forest patrol blocking his way at the palace gates. Two of Rivendell's own guards flanked the messenger, which should have demonstrated just how important this delivery was.
"Hand it to me," the tall blonde Mirkwood Elf commanded, holding out his hand for the letter. "I will see the king gets it."
"My orders are to place the letter in King Thranduil's hand personally," the messenger repeated.
"And my orders are to keep the stronghold secure."
"You may take our weapons but I must deliver this letter to the king."
"Not on my watch you won't," the taller Elf said.
"Then I will wait."
"Fine. Watch out for Spiders."
The messenger turned to consult his fellow travellers whilst the Mirkwood Elves shrank back to shoot scathing looks at the visitors. This wasn't going to be as easy as they had originally thought. On only a few occasions had Imladrian messengers been required to deliver letters or parcels to Mirkwood but they had always been welcomed into the protection of the palace and treated with stiff respect if not genuine kindness. This was, presumably, mainly due to the fact that most of the time Prince Legolas remained within its borders and he had more affection for the Imladrian Elves than the king did. Legolas' relationship with Rivendell's lord meant that channels were open between the two kingdoms, especially seeing as many communications were exchanged between them when they were separated. Whereas Thranduil had merely tolerated the visiting messengers when they came, Legolas seemed to wish their presence constantly then when they did arrive and he was at home rather than patrolling the forest he insisted they stay and lavished them with all of Mirkwood's luxuries until they left again with gifts to their lord and personal letters the prince wrote every week. In time, the occasional journey to Mirkwood had become looked upon as quite a treat for the messengers, who spent most of their time on the roads. That seemed to have changed now in the prince's absence and Mirkwood's borders seemed virtually impenetrable, especially seeing as there was no Legolas there to clear the way for them.
It was common knowledge that King Thranduil did not always approve of his son's affiliation with Imladris or its lord but that he tolerated it because it made the prince happy but now that Legolas no longer lived in Mirkwood and had disassociated himself with his home Thranduil really had no reason to have any kind of communication with Rivendell. The trade agreements and treaties between them were long-standing and didn't require the two kingdoms to interact.
The messenger, used to riding between Rivendell and Mirkwood, now wished that the ever-friendly prince was there to greet him. These guards were not at all friendly. In fact, so far they had been downright hostile.
As the Rivendell Elves settled in for a long wait, having no intention of leaving until they had completed their tasks, the Mirkwood guards retreated to the trees to properly discuss what to do next. Their king's orders that no Elf from Rivendell was to enter the palace still stood but they could hardly have three Noldorin Elves standing outside the gates for Valar knew how long and they knew just how patient messengers could be when needed. It seemed therefore that a compromise was called for.
The messenger started when the patrol rapidly fell gracefully out of the tree, weapons in their hands at the ready. The patrol leader stepped forward so the Rivendell Elves too stepped forward hoping for something useful.
"We will escort you," he pointed to the messenger with his sword, "into the palace. Your guards can stay here. I will leave it up to the king whether to accept your presence or not."
"Fine," the messenger said quickly.
But the Rivendell guards had other ideas. "No, that is not acceptable. We will not be separated." He stepped forward to confront the taller Elf, his hand going discreetly to the hilt of his sword at his side. "I have orders too, Captain." And very explicit orders they were too. Captain Glorfindel had made it clear that they were to escort the messenger to and from Mirkwood and make absolutely certain that he was able to deliver whatever it was he carried. It was unusual that messengers should have guards with them – in fact, it only ever happened if they were delivering official and important documents, which they knew he wasn't – as they claimed it only slowed them down. The seneschal had told them that this mission was of the upmost importance to their lord though and all were determined that it went smoothly.
Meeting the challenge, the Mirkwood guard raised his weapon and towered over the dark haired Elf. "Then no one will enter," he growled.
"Be that as it may, we are not leaving."
All Elves were suddenly on alert, feeling the growing tension and animosity in the air. Hands tightened on weapons and stances were firmly planted ready for a fight.
"May I have a word?" the messenger prompted his guards. With caution bordering on reluctance, the guards nodded and sheathed their weapons as they stepped away, their eyes never once leaving their Mirkwood counterparts. "My job is to deliver this letter to King Thranduil and it is vital that I do so. If this is the only way to do that then I am willing to take the risk."
"Well, I am not. Our job is to protect you. We have no intention of doing anything less."
"What do you think they're going to do to me?" the messenger asked incredulously. "If they do mean me any harm, then I don't think two extra people are going to make much difference against the whole of Mirkwood's army." The guards rolled their eyes at the other Elf. "Come now, if I'm not out by nightfall you can storm the keep," he chuckled, patting the soldier's arm.
The guard frowned and asked, "What is in that message that's so important?"
"That is none of your concern," the messenger answered coldly. There was, of course, no way could he tell anyone but the king himself what the letter contained. The messenger's code, not to mention Glorfindel's orders, forbade it.
"Very well," the guard sighed and let the messenger past him.
"I am ready. Take me to your king."
The Mirkwood Elf nodded but then an Imladrian sword was pointed threatening at him. "He had better come out unharmed. A single scratch on him and I will hold you personally responsible."
Surprisingly, the tall blonde Elf nodded then called for the great gates to be opened and led the messenger inside towards the throne room. Now away from his companions, the messenger almost regretted sending them away. Never before had he felt so threatened delivering a simple letter. Of course, whenever entering Mirkwood one always felt observed but never to this extent. It was rather disconcerting and he found himself fearing what was coming.
"Wait here," the tall Elf commanded, stopping outside the tall doors.
The messenger hardly dared to move as he waited, flanked by several armed guards. The patrol leader had disappeared through the throne room doors. Nerves fluttered in him as he approached the king.
"Your Majesty," he greeted, sinking down onto one knee, bowing his head and placing his hand on his heart in salute.
Looking up from what he was reading, the king said, "What is it? Problems with the Dwarves again?"
The guard looked up. "No, my lord. There is a messenger here…from Imladris. He insisted upon seeing you personally."
"What is it about?"
"I am uncertain, Your Majesty. He would not say."
Thranduil shook his head dismissively and lowered his eyes back to the papers he was holding. "You deal with him, I don't have time."
Nervously, the guard persisted, "My Lord, he said that he was commanded to hand you the message personally and to no one else."
"For Valar's sake. Am I to have no peace?" Thranduil yelled, making the guard jump. "Send him in then if you must."
"Yes, Your Majesty," the guard said, leaping up, bowing low and rushing to the door to summon the messenger. "You can go in now. Good luck," he told the nervous Imladris Elf.
"Thank you." Taking a deep breath, the messenger entered the throne room and stepped towards the king. He bowed and extended his arm in a formal greeting. "Well met, King Thranduil. I offer you our warmest greetings from my Lord and Riv…"
"Get on with it. I am busy. What do you want?" Thranduil said, looking up from his papers, cold blue eyes meeting warm grey.
The messenger retrieved the letter from the bag at his side and approached the throne. "Lord Elrond bade me deliver this to the King of Mirkwood with all haste, Sir."
Thranduil looked disapprovingly down at the envelope being held out to him. "I don't want to hear anything the Half-Elf has to say. Take it back to your master," the king said dismissively, waving the Elf away from him.
"Your Majesty, I was instructed…"
"I care not for your instructions!" Thranduil shouted. "Get out of my sight!"
"As you wish, Your Majesty." Instead of walking away though, he stepped up and placed the thick cream envelope on the arm of Thranduil's throne. "It might not be my place, Majesty, but you should read the letter," he said quietly so the others in the hall couldn't hear.
"Thank you," Thranduil nodded in an equally quietly voice.
The messenger stood back and bowed low. "Your Majesty," he said, backing away then turning away, his task done. It was up to Thranduil now.
Long meetings with his various advisors kept Thranduil busy for most of the day after the messenger delivered the letter he knew to be from his estranged son. It wasn't until gone midnight when he was in the privacy of his own chambers that he drew the crumpled note from his pocket. The writing on the envelope was clearly Elrond's, as was the wax seal, and Thranduil felt anger pulsing through him. Throwing the letter down on the table, Thranduil stalked around the room for a while in an attempt to cool his temper – surely that had gotten him into enough trouble of late. He poured himself a glass of wine, bravely snatched up the letter and plonked himself gracelessly down in the chair.
With a sigh, he laid his glass back down and decisively ripped open the envelope. As he unfolded the paper inside, the king instantly recognised his son's neat writing and felt a pang of sadness wash through him. Taking a deep breath, he focused on the words before him.
Tears filled Thranduil's eyes as he read the heart-felt words from his son and the tragic words of his grand-daughter's death. His grandchild was dead. A sob hitched in his throat when he thought of his son. How could Legolas stand it? To lose a child…Thranduil wasn't sure he could bear it if he lost his own child to Mandos.
Standing suddenly, Thranduil strode out onto the balcony and threw the doors open, feeling a desperate need for some fresh air. He leant against the railing and breathed in deep. "Oh, Legolas," Thranduil whispered to the night. "Ion nin." His heart ached for his child's suffering and suddenly felt an almost overwhelming urge to hold his son close to him and ease his pain. "Legolas. What have I done?"
Suddenly the King of Mirkwood felt very much alone again.
To Be Continued…