Title: "Over-kindness 'Twas Our Undoing"

Author: LegolasLover2003 aka Ashley

Category: Book - "Lord of the Rings"

Genre: Angst/Adventure

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to "The Lord of the Rings". I just adore it to pieces!

NOTE: This oneshot was written for the March 2013 Teitho contest. It got 2nd place! I haven't placed in a while... Woot!

'And I,' said Aragorn, 'counselled that we should hunt for Gollum, too late though it may seem. And since it seemed fit that Isildur's heir should labour to repair Isildur's fault, I went with Gandalf on the long and hopeless search.'

Then Gandalf told how they had explored the whole length of Wilderland, down even to the Mountains of Shadow and the fences of Mordor. 'There we had rumour of him, and we guess that he dwelt there long in the dark hills; but we never found him, and at last I despaired.'

'At once I took my leave of Denethor, but even as I went northwards, messages came to me out of Lorien that Aragorn had passed that way, and that he had found the creature called Gollum. Therefore I went first to meet him and hear his tale. Into what deadly peril he had gone alone I dared not guess.'

'There is little need to tell of them,' said Aragorn. 'If a man must needs walk in sight of the Black Gate, or tread the deadly flowers of Morgul Vale, then perils he will have. I, too, despaired at last, and I began my homeward journey. And then, by fortune, I came suddenly on what I sought: the marks of soft feet beside a muddy pool. But now the trail was fresh and swift, and it led not to Mordor but away. Along the skirts of the Dead Marshes I followed it, and then I had him. Lurking by a stagnant mere, peering in the water as the dark eve fell, I caught him, Gollum. He was covered with green slime. He will never love me, I fear; for he bit me, and I was not gentle. Nothing more did I ever get from his mouth than the marks of his teeth. I deemed it the worst part of all my journey, the road back, watching him day and night, making him walk before me with a halter on his neck, gagged, until he was tamed by lack of drink and food, driving him ever towards Mirkwood. I brought him there at last and gave him to the Elves, for we had agreed that this should be done; and I was glad to be rid of his company, for he stank. For my part I hope never to look upon him again; but Gandalf came and endured long speech with him.'

All sat silent for a while, until at length Boromir spoke. 'He is a small thing, you say, this Gollum? Small, but great in mischief. What became of him? To what doom did you put him?'

'He is in prison, but no worse,' said Aragorn. 'He had suffered much. There is no doubt that he was tormented, and the fear of Sauron lies black on his heart. Still I for one am glad that he is safely kept by the watchful Elves of Mirkwood. His malice is withered. He could work much mischief still, if he was free. And I do not doubt that he was allowed to leave Mordor on some evil errand.'

'Alas! Alas!' cried Legolas, and in his fair elvish face there was great distress. 'The tidings that I was sent to bring must now be told. They are not good, but only here have I learned how evil they may seem to the company. Smeagol, who is now called Gollum, has escaped.'

'Escaped?' cried Aragorn. 'This is ill news indeed. We shall all rue it bitterly, I fear. How cam the folk of Thranduil to fail in their trust?'

'Not through lack of watchfulness,' said Legolas, 'but perhaps through over-kindness. And we fear that the prisoner had aid from others, and that more is known of our doings than we could wish. We guarded this creature day and night, at Gandalf's bidding, much though we wearied of the task. But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts.'

'You were less tender to me,' said Gloin with a flash of his eyes, as old memories were stirred of his imprisonment in the deep places of the Elven-king's halls.

'Now come!' said Gandalf. 'Pray do not interrupt, my good Gloin. That was a regrettable misunderstanding, long set right. If all the grievances that stand between Elves and Dwarves are to be brought up here, we may as well abandon this Council.'

Gloin rose and bowed, and Legolas continued. 'In the days of fair weather we led Gollum through the woods; and there was a high tree standing alone far from the others which he liked to climb. Often we let him mount up to the highest branches, until he felt the free wind; but we set a guard at the tree's foot. One day he refused to come down, and the guards had no mind to climb after him: he had learned the trick of clinging to boughs with his feet as well as with his hands; so they sat by the tree far into the night.

'It was that very night of summer, yet moonless and starless, that Orcs came on us at unawares. We drove them off after some time; they were many and fierce, but they came from over the mountains, and were unused to the woods. When the battle was over, we found that Gollum was gone, and his guards were slain or taken. It then seemed plain to us that the attack had been made for his rescue, and that he knew of it beforehand. How that was contrived we cannot guess; but Gollum is cunning, and the spies of the Enemy are many. The dark things that were driven out in the year of the Dragon's fall have returned in greater numbers, and Mirkwood is again an evil place, save where our realm is maintained.

'We have failed to recapture Gollum. We came on his trail among those of many Orcs, and it plunged deep into the Forest, going south. But ere long it escaped our skill, and we dared not continue the hunt; for we were drawing nigh to Dol Guldur, and that is still a very evil place; we do not go that way.'

'Well, well, he is gone,' said Gandalf. 'We have no time to seek for him again. He must do what he will. But he may play a part yet that neither he nor Sauron have forseen.

Over-kindness 'Twas Our Undoing

Imladris - October 25th, III 3018

"Did you not think we tried to keep our promise?" an angry blue gaze turned, catching two identical sets of eyes with their gleam. "Mithrandir and Estel brought him to us and we tossed him away, set up guards, and kept our promise. But you know as well as I that to keep something so pitiful in the dark hurts the heart, and Gandalf bade us to set Smeagol on a path of healing, not one of further injury!"

"And did you not learn from your mistake with the Dwarves? Did you not learn to keep your guard strong?" Elladan replied, holding his hands out to his sides in exasperation. "Instead of holding him in the palace dungeons, as mayhap you should have done for I doubt you would want history to repeat itself once more, mellon nin, you let him run the wilds of your wood free as a squirrel!"

"A very vulgar squirrel..." his twin added.

But that reminder only made things worse and Legolas slammed his goblet down on the table. "He is a crafty waterman and you know as well as I that our kingdom thrives on trade from the river. We have not the power to block that water nor bend it to our will and if our home were not so close to the Taurduin then perhaps he would not have escaped our grasp so readily! Even the Elves of Celebannon could not track him swiftly enough upon the water, and our scouts had little luck but to encounter Orc after murderous Orc within the forest. If not for Dol Guldur..."

"If not for your father's love of Dorwinion wine, Gollum might still be in your dungeon." Elrohir sighed... to which the human, sitting off to the side of the exchange, visibly winced. "How beneath it's influence was the Elvenking when issuing the command to let the creature run loose?"

One of Aragorn's hands raised, "Sidh... arguing as to whom is at fault is folly at this point and you all know it. The point is, Gollum has escaped the Elves... and I will set out to recapture him if I may. But..."

"But nothing!" Legolas replied, enraged at the words of the twin sons of Elrond. "Friends of mine gave their lives to keep that creature from the hands of our enemy, and you would insult my father and the line of Oropher while we fight and toil, ALONE, against the growing darkness beneath our very boughs! We are not so lucky as YOU." and the blue eyes of the prince told the small group of friends that the conversation was over. He stood, sweeping around the table... but stopped just at the doorway. "We have not the strength of the Noldor. Unless you have forgotten, my people were left as fodder to the enemy in days of old. Sometimes you sacrifice too much... and then you learn when to pull back your arm and shore up your own defenses. Do not fault my father... when it was my hands through which Gollum slipped. Not his."

There was a flash of blond hair and Legolas' mauve cloak... and then the prince was gone.

Sighing, Aragorn glanced at his brothers, who both exchanged rather sheepish looks. The ranger stood, setting down the goblet from his own hand. "That was not so courteous, muindyr nin."

Elrohir smirked slightly, "And now it seems only Estel can right our wrongs, hm?"

"If only you are lucky. Legolas may not hold the grudges of his father, but know this... the both of you... he is no less stubborn." the human replied, pointing at each dark-haired Elf in turn before striding off after the furious archer.

Rage would serve none of them well this day.

Mirkwood - March 21st, III 3017

"It is repulsive."

Aragorn laughed, glancing to the blond Elf standing at his side.

"Laugh not. You smell and look just as terrible." Legolas joked, waving a pair of guards over.

While the prince spoke with them, the Ranger found himself watching the small huddling and hissing form of Gollum not far away. The creature smelt as if it knew not what a bath was, and it looked almost as foul as its odor. Those small sharp teeth, Estel knew firsthand, could do quite a bit of damage. The indentations on his arm bracers could attest quite readily to that fact.

"We shall keep him in our dungeons. Until you or Mithrandir call for him." Legolas spoke up, drawing the Ranger's attention back to him. "My father is none too pleased... but he understands how dire the need for action has become."

Estel nodded, glancing the creature's way as a group of four Mirkwood Elves lead him off into the tunnels, no doubt his final destination to be the dungeons themselves.

His grey eyes flickered back to the archer. "When you say King Thranduil is not pleased..."

"I mean that he has given me charge over our new prisoner... much to my own disappointment."

Aragorn could not help the slight chuckle at seeing his friend's discomfort. "Try tracking him for years and then drag him all the way here. I will be glad to be rid of him" he said with a sigh and a half smirk. "I set out to find the creature and so I did. I hope my job in this business with this one is now done. Too long did he distract my attention. Gollum is insufferable, as you shall no doubt learn for yourself soon enough."

Sighing, Legolas looked up to the vaulted cavernous ceiling just within the Great Gate. "'Tis days like this, mellon nin... that I seriously feel the need to re-evaluate our friendship." the Elf teased, to which Estel laughed.

Not long later, the Ranger was given the chance to wash the road... and the stench of such a wretched creature, away. He could not remain in the Elvenking's Halls however, for too long had he already been abroad hunting Gollum. Gandalf would need to be told the glad news... that their search had not been in vain. So, Legolas bid his friend farewell the next morning and back into the wilds Estel disappeared.

As the days passed, Legolas and his patrol kept their eyes fixed on Gollum. Mithrandir himself had shown up on the Elvenking's doorstep one fine afternoon and spoken at length with the creature. Then, a most unusual request had been delivered to Thranduil.

To heal the hurt within their prisoner.

Of course Legolas' father knew not how such a feat might be accomplished, but his son seemed to have a better idea...

"Let us take him from the dungeons. Surely the fresh air and the green things of the wood will brighten his heart?"
One eyebrow arched as the Elvenking glanced to his son. "You presume to think a mere communion with the wilds will cure what ails that pathetic creature?"

Legolas shrugged, "One could only hope, adar. He is a miserable retch, there is no doubt about it, but he is our charge. We have been trusted with a heavy burden."

"A burden I do not wish to bear and therefore place upon you alone, Legolas. He is your charge." Thranduil replied with a sigh, lithe fingers going to rub the weariness from his brow. "I have been told that the darkness of Dol Guldur has not deepened in these past few days and thus, at your request, I will allow our prisoner to walk in the sun. But know this, Legolas... he is as crafty as he is wretched. Take precautions. Our enemies can too easily surround us of late."

Bowing, the prince smiled. "I will keep watch personally, adar. You have my word. None of our people will come to any harm."

Mirkwood - June 20th, III 3018

They had been unprepared for such a horde.

Legolas had planned for the possibility of an Orc ambush of course. The prince and his patrol led Gollum, day in and day out, to the tallest tree they could find that had no living or dead wood about it. It was a grand oak, one that was none too happy with the creature crawling in its shady boughs. There, the Wood Elves could conceal themselves in the forest around the small glen, and they could easily see anything that moved toward or away from the oak's trunk.

Legolas, for his own part, lead a handful of warriors in a constant circular perimeter on some days, and on others he would take up watch himself beneath the tree while their prisoner took advantage of the freedom and the sun and the fresh air and his men continued their constant surveillance.

But on that particular evening, on the fateful night when Gollum had refused the orders of his Elven captors, even the prince's careful planning had not been enough.

"Back to the tree." Legolas ordered his patrol, taking one warrior aside. "Return to the Hall. Tell my father that we are under attack."

The archer inclined his head and took off into the night.

Faster and faster the prince's feet flew, and when the ground became too dense with bramble to run, he took to the trees, leaping from branch to branch without slowing his pace. Fear and panic rose within Legolas as the sounds of battle finally assaulted his ears.

If they were to lose their charge...

As he broke the barrier of the forest, his steps stopped. The archer's bow was notched with an arrow... but the sight that rose to greet him turned his stomach.

"They are dead..."

Blue eyes glanced to the Elf at his side. "And the creature is gone." Legolas whispered, tossing down his weapon and quickly scaling the tree. Higher and higher he climbed, until it was the very top of the tree which he stood upon. "South! Toward the river!" the prince cried out.

By the time he was on the ground again, his patrol had moved off into the night. For a moment, the prince stood idle, staring at the fallen Elves, claimed by the blades and arrows of the Orcs.

"Forgive me..." Legolas whispered, then he too gave chase once more.

When the sun rose two days later... only then did the Mirkwood Prince's patrol stagger through the Great Gate. Legolas was half carrying one of his comrades, the blond Elf coated in the blood of his friends, of himself, and in the black grime of his enemies.

"We were ambushed." the archer spoke as soon as he saw his father.

Thranduil shook his head, "How? When?"

Licking his lips, Legolas pointed back out the gate. "Gollum would not come down so we waited." he spoke tiredly. "I had taken most of the force out, to secure the area around the oak from a midnight raid but..." he shook his head. "There were too many, adar. My charge escaped down the river. The Elves of Celebannon took to the water to aid our search, for we were near to the river and I would leave no stone unturned. My patrol then followed the tracks of the Orcs, in case he were to be among their ranks. But it was a massive host that I fear may have been unleashed from Dol Guldur itself. They turned and fought us at every chance and our numbers dwindled hour by hour. When we entered that dark land... I could not press on. It would have been the death of us all."

Sighing, the Elvenking pulled his son to him, not caring in the slightest that the archer was coated in the gore of battle. "How many did we lose." he whispered, leading Legolas toward one of the Halls healing rooms.

"Five of us returned... ten... ten were slaughtered. Another two of those in Celebannon were felled by flaming arrows from the river bank." the prince spoke, accepting his father's help. "Those of us who returned are wounded. I... fifteen of us guarded him, adar... I have never seen a force of Orcs so strong... so organized... so of like mind and driving desire."

"And this will likely not be the last time you see it, ion nin." Thranduil replied, pushing the younger Elf down into a chair while one of the healers came to inspect him. Already they were busy with the remains of the patrol. "When you are well... Elrond has called a council. The message arrived this morn. You will attend... and you will tell them this most grievous news."


But the Elvenking shook his head. "He was your charge, Legolas. He was your burden. They must know that blood was spilt beneath our boughs. They must be warned."

Sighing, Legolas nodded. "Is there anything else, adar?"

"We shall talk later." Thranduil spoke, his hand light on the prince's shoulder. "Get some rest, ion nin..."

Imladris - October 25th, III 3018

Aragorn had not exactly expected to find the Elven prince standing on the balcony of the arhcer's room at Imladris. In fact, the man had almost decided to search the grounds and the nearest tall trees... but something within had bade him to this spot. After all their time together, Estel still could not track the movement of his friend, even in the wilds. Wood Elves were aptly named, after all. He supposed, perhaps, that maybe the heart could be as good at tracking as sight and smell, as sound and taste and touch.

"Your brothers infuriate me."

Aragorn's grey eyes fixed on the motionless figure who stood, his hands on the railing, leaning forward slightly. "You are not the first to think that."

"Nor will I be the last." Legolas replied, glancing over his shoulder at the human. "'Twas my fault, Estel. Gollum strayed from even my keen sight and though I slaughtered Orc after Orc... he eluded me still. My father is ashamed of the failure, though he will not speak it openly, and many lives were lost in trying to reclaim the creature. I know not how to make it right. I know not how to honor my promise to you."

"This makes it right, does it not?" the Ranger asked, stepping up beside his friend. "The quest, I mean."

Blue eyes closed for a moment. "I know not... He will be furious that I have left on another of your little 'adventures' but I dare not speak the truth of our errand. A messenger can be caught or slain and his message stolen by the enemy. No... none in Mirkwood shall know the true purpose of our journey, but I can not leave my father in the dark either. I will tell him we have gone to search for the creature... and he will brood and wonder what dark trouble you have led me into this time." Legolas sighed softly before placing one hand on Aragorn's shoulder. "I am sorry, mellon nin. You trusted me with this charge... and I failed you."

Yet Estel shook his head, placing his own hand on the Elf's shoulder in turn. "You have never failed me, Legolas. You tried to keep your promise but the enemy would not have it. You made a mistake. We all make mistakes, mellon nin. After all, you are only..."

"Human?" the prince asked with a half smile. Oh how many times had Estel made mistakes in their adventures together? How many countless times had they failed, only to push through the fire and steel and come out alive and the better for it in the end?

To Legolas' reply however, Aragorn could not help but laugh.


Elvish Words to Know:

Mellon nin = My friend
Taurduin = Forest River
Sidh = Peace
Muindyr nin = My brothers
Adar = Father
Ion nin = My son

Author's Note:

- Italics bit at the beginning is from page 245-249 of "The Lord of the Rings" (ISBN: 0-618-34399-7) trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

- The "Forest River" is never given an Elven name (least not one I know of) and to me it would seem odd for Legolas to just call it the "Forest River" so I took the word for 'forest' that is used in conjunction with Mirkwood (Taur) and the word for 'river' that is used in conjunction with the Celduin river just to the east of Mirkwood (Duin) and made one word... Taurduin.

- Celebannon is a reference to a village of 'raft-elves' that dwelt on the banks of the river where the Forest River and Celduin (Running River) met.

- Dates were taken from the Appendices of "The Lord of the Rings" itself, but SPECIFIC days were pulled from the website, "The Encyclopedia of Arda".

Muse Moments:

Legolas groans, "Nil, if you keep singing that song... I'm going to leave and go live outside."

"Awww, but Leggy, it's a great song." Nil replies with a smile as she's folding laundry.

"Yes... but you've been singing it almost non-stop for days now." he reminds, setting down the book he was reading. "Can't you listen to something else and..."

"You know I can't write LOTR stories without my LOTR and Hobbit music!" she says, hands on her hips. "Besides, I think the "Lonely Mountain" is a terrific song. Just because you don't like most Dwarves..."

Legolas laughs, "Nil, you don't like any Dwarves."

"Well... well... No wait! I like Fili and Kili!" Nil smirks. "So there!"

"Only because BlackHawk's stories made you love them." the Elf points out, standing and stretching his arms up over his head. "I'm going to get some lunch."

Nil laughs, "Put the curry in the microwave! I'm hungry too!" She then goes back to singing Hobbit Dwarf songs while doing the laundry. "From dungeons deep... and caverns old..."