Title: A Spark in the Dark

Author: Luinëturiel

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters from Lord of the Rings. They belong to the wonderful J.R.R. Tolkien. Any other characters in this story, however, are mine.

Finally...another chapter. I would've posted it earlier, but someone *eyes Eris with a frown* sent me to the Antarctica as punishment for my lack of updating. Just kidding, of course. ;o) But I'm a bit in a hurry. I'm going to go on a big vacation in about two hours... Which is the reason why this chapter hasn't been beta'd yet. I got it finished a couple of hours ago and just finished editing it. There simply is not time for any beta reading before I have to leave, and I wouldn't want to keep you guys waiting for another five weeks. I'll have the chapter beta'd when I'm back, and repost it then. Until then...I have to thank all of my wonderful readers for bearing with me. Love you guys! :o)

But now enjoy!

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A Spark in the Dark

18 Legolas: Song and Sword

I guide Thalwyn out in the open and along the path that leads down to the river before it curves in the direction of the stables. The sun shines bright, laughing down on us from a clear blue sky, and the young woman at my side tilts her face up to smile right back at her. The expression on her face changes into a frown, though, when I announce our arrival at the riverbank. I have not the faintest idea what might have caused the sudden change in mood, and it is needless to say that I do not welcome it.

Feigning that I had not noticed, I ask with a laugh, "Loudwater is indeed a suiting name for this stream, is it not?" To stress my point, I raise my voice a fraction more than would actually be necessary to make myself heard over the constant gurgle and rumble of the river Bruinen.

A futile attempt to raise Thalwyn's mood again, but it works. The lines of worry on the young woman's forehead soften again, even though her answering smile still looks a little strained. When I suggest walking on to visit our horses, the smile on her face becomes more genuine, and I feel relieved.

A couple of minutes later, we finally arrive at the stables. My eyes take in the most impressive and light-bathed building, marvelling at the splendour of the place even though I have been here before several times. For lack of massive walls, numerous columns of carved, ivory wood reach up high to support the roof; the single paddocks the horses are accommodated in are separated by equally ornate, wooden elements. A filigree construction that gives shelter, and yet the sun peeks in from various angles at all times of day. And the vastness of the building! There are several dozens of paddocks on either side, the stables thus offering room for about a hundred horses.

How to describe to Thalwyn the impression this place still makes on me, I do not know. I refrain to even try, for any verbal description could hardly do the majestic building justice. So I merely state that we have reached our destination.

We have barely entered the stables when a couple of horses interrupt their breakfast, take a step forward, and crane their necks to see who the newly arrived visitors are. As was to be expected, the chestnut face of Thalwyn's mare is among the heads peeking along the broad corridor – when I came here earlier this morning, I quickly figured that she must be one of the more curious steeds that like to know what is going on around them. And already, Thalwyn's mare has recognised her mistress and is calling out to her at the top of her lungs.

"Liorin!"

With a smile on my lips, I watch as Thalwyn lets go of my arm and shuffles over to her horse's paddock to greet her and be eagerly greeted in return. "Apparently, she has missed you just as much as you her."

"Yes, you might be right," the woman replies joyfully, all the while stroking Liorin's fur.

I keep standing back, watching silently, so as not to disturb the happy reunion. Nevertheless, when Thalwyn softly whispers to her horse whether she has been taken good care of, the good-natured jester in me cannot leave that rhetorical question unanswered. "She should have no reason to complain," I comment in the mare's stead, hoping that the mirth shows through in my voice.

The look of bewilderment on the young woman's face confirms that her last words were never meant for my ears; that she did not expect for me to overhear them.

Apparently, she has yet to learn many things about Elves.

I now saunter over to Thalwyn and her horse, who honours me with a warm, welcoming nudge, and join Thalwyn in patting the mare's neck. We have barely exchanged a few words on the horse when my own steed calls for my attention with a high-pitched whinny that belies his majestic stature.

Thalwyn and I share a laugh at his display of jealousy and finally walk over to him; a decision that my fair mount comments with a snort of content.

I reach out to ruffle the lock of raven hair on his forehead. "Thalwyn, meet Alagos."

"Alagos? Now that is a beautiful name. Greetings, Alagos." Gingerly, Thalwyn offers her outstretched hand in a greeting, trusting fully in the good-naturedness of my horse. And just as carefully, the horse's nose takes up contact with the woman's hand, exploring the open palm with undisguised interest.

As Thalwyn's hand moves up to stroke my steed's neck, she asks, "What colour is he?"

I find myself being mildly surprised. I did simply not anticipate that kind of question from a blind person. At length, I reply, "Black. He is black."

Thalwyn must have read my mind, for she explains at once, "I may never have learned what the different colours look like, but they do mean something to me. And I wanted to know if Alagos looked anything like my own horse."

I let her remark sink in before I confirm that this is exactly what I have been wondering – whether colours would mean anything to her.

"They do, Legolas. They do." The knowing smile on the young woman's lips tells me that I have not been the first person to point out that question to her.

"But I have been wondering something as well," Thalwyn speaks up after a brief moment of silence.

When she does not elaborate, I ask, quite intrigued now myself, what it is that she would like to know.

"Whether there are any blind Elves."

Once more, it takes me a moment to reply. Only this time, it is merely because I never pondered the matter. Nor would I know any Elf to share Thalwyn's fate. Considering the natural healing powers of us Elves, and our resistance toward sicknesses, the answer to her question would surely have to be no.

I lay out my train of thoughts to her, and the young woman accepts my explanation. But I can sense the next question bubbling up inside of her already, even before it comes across her lips. "Legolas, may I ask you something?"

Again, I encourage her to let me know what is on her mind.

A faint blush adorns Thalwyn's cheeks as she asks, "This may sound silly, but are Elves really immortal?"

Oh, she has yet to learn much about us Elves indeed!

"Our kin do not die of old age or illness, that much is true," I begin. But the second part of my explanation would not roll from my tongue that easily. "An Elf can be lethally wounded, though, or die of sorrow or a broken heart." I am well aware that my voice is coloured with emotion; I cannot help it. Too painful, too horrifying is the sheer thought that any of the Children of Ilúvatar might meet this terrible fate.

Thalwyn seems to sense my discomfort, for she does not inquire any further on the matter. And when she asks another question, it is not without hesitation. "Excuse my being so blunt, Legolas, but how old are you? What I saw when you let me touch your face would make me think that you are but a few years older than I am, but I get the feeling that I might be wrong with that assumption."

I laugh silently at her careful choice of words, all sadness forgotten for the moment. I decide to approach the matter with a somewhat vague answer. "To say that I was a few years older would indeed be a bit of an understatement. I have seen many summers – hundreds more than you, actually."

Thalwyn's voice all but fails her as she processes what I just said. "So...so you are several hundreds of years old?"

I more or less anticipated that she would be surprised, and yet a chuckle escapes me. "Yes. In fact, I am almost three thousand years old."

"Three..." Apparently, the surprise is truly overwhelming this time, for Thalwyn never even completes repeating the number.

Which I have to admit, I find highly amusing.

However, I finally shake her out of her stupor – partly, at least – by laying an arm around her shoulders. "But let us talk no longer of this, Thalwyn. How about we continue our walk around the valley?"

At her wordless nod, I lead her from the stables, around the building, and onto the path that snakes up to one of the most beautiful spots in Imladris. Since Thalwyn still makes no move to speak, I decide to do the talking, telling her what kind of flowers and trees we are walking past, and finally I start singing an old Elvish song that comes to my mind.

The woman at my side has not shown much of a reaction to my comments since we left the stables, but now she seems to have shaken the bewilderment off her at last. She turns her head in my direction as I sing, and the expression on her face clearly shows that she enjoys listening. I only stop singing as we get closer to the waterfall and the swelling noise of the river becomes a worthy rival for my voice.

"That was wonderful, Legolas. Truly wonderful. Not only your singing, but also the sounds of the words themselves." Thalwyn heaves a sigh. She then adds with a laugh, "Not that I understood a single one of them!"

"I am pleased that you liked my song nonetheless."

"Oh yes, yes!" the young woman confirms, nodding eagerly. "You have such a beautiful, clear singing voice. I have never heard a man sing like that before." The healthy colour of her cheeks deepens. "Um...you are not a mere Man, of course, so what I meant was...was.... You know what I mean!" she finally ends, obviously frustrated at her own fishing for words.

"Aye, I do," I confirm in a soothing voice. "And I feel honoured that you think so highly of my singing. In fact, Elves in general have a liking for it and are known to excel at this kind of art."

"Which I can well imagine! Especially if you sing in that beautiful language. I take it that was some form of Elvish?" Thalwyn's pale blue eyes are shining with a gleam of excitement by now.

"You are perfectly right, Thalwyn – the song was written in Sindarin, one of the Elvish tongues. It tells the story of a young tree that strives to grow taller than all the other saplings in order to make proud the tree that it sprung from." Which I know is a very brief summary, but it holds the essence of the original words.

Thalwyn smiles, tilting her head to the side. "Do you happen to know more songs of that kind, Legolas?"

"Of course. Would you like to hear another?"

Before Thalwyn can reply, one of the twins appears in the clearing, right in front of us, and calls out, "Legolas, Thalwyn! Excuse my disturbing the two of you, but have you come across my brother?"

I shake my head in the negative. "I am afraid not."

The dark haired Elf heaves a frustrated sigh. "I was hoping to find him up here. I have been looking for him everywhere. Would you be so kind as to tell him to meet me on the practice field, should you happen across him?"

"Aye, of course," I gladly offer.

"Thank you, your help is much appreciated," Elrond's son replies with a broad smile, then he is gone as fast as he appeared before.

"He sounded quite excited, did he not?" Thalwyn asks, visibly amused. "But what was his name again? Elladan? I am afraid I am not that good with names."

I arch an eyebrow in wonder while Thalwyn continues, "His brother is called Elrohir. For some odd reason, I find that name easier to remember."

So it was Elladan we just met?
Well, maybe. Thalwyn, at least, seems to be perfectly sure of his identity.
But he could as well be Elrohir, for all I know!

"You never cease to amaze me, Thalwyn," I comment her question at length. "How did you know that he was Elladan? You have only just met Lord Elrond's children."

Now Thalwyn laughs openly. "What amazes me is that you could not tell which of his sons you were talking to."

I ponder her words for a second before I reply, "Well, but they are difficult to tell apart, especially for one who has only met them a couple of times, as in my case. They are identical twins, after all."

"Twins?" The young woman lets out another warm laugh. "But I had no idea! They do not sound identical, you know?"

"Oh, really?" Whatever the difference may be that Thalwyn is talking about, I have failed to notice so far.

"Aye," she assures me. "You just need to listen closely." When the woman gives me a wink, still smirking, I know that no further explanation is to be expected from her. At least not right now.

"But tell me, Legolas, what did Elladan mean when he said practice field?" she inquires instead. "What kind of practice was he talking about?"

"Practice to hone your fighting skills, Thalwyn. Archery, swordplay..." I reply with a shrug.

"Swordplay?" Her eyes widen. "Do you mean to tell me that Elves are not only wonderful singers but skilled fighters as well?" Apparently, it is her turn again to be surprised.