A/N: Hey everyone, I've had the idea for this story for quite some time and I'm pretty excited about it. As my other story, Worlds Apart, comes close to its end, I've been itching to begin a new project to fill the void. This is quite a bit different than Worlds Apart in that it is not an A/U, but nevertheless I hope you all enjoy it and I would be so grateful for your feedback.

A Road Less Traveled: Chapter 1

He could almost hear the disapproval in his father's voice, telling him this was behaviour unbecoming of a prince of Mirkwood, but nevertheless Legolas continued to climb up the twisted branches of a great tree, somewhere in the heart of the forest. What his father didn't know wouldn't hurt him, and on a night like this, how was a wood elf to resist? It was not the first time that Legolas snuck out of the king's halls to see the stars and this certainly was not going to be the last.

The prince continued to pull himself up, branch by branch, until he finally broke through the canopy of autumn leaves and his deep blue eyes beheld a sky illuminated with small sparkling lights. It was a sight that took his breath away every time and sent his imagination running wild. A gentle and warm breeze blew through his golden hair and he looked out to the north where the Lonely Mountain stood small and dark in the distance against a lighter backdrop of clear night sky. Legolas had visited those lands countless times as his father continued to hold a trade agreement with men of Esgaroth, but the furthest he'd ever been from home was the southernmost border of Mirkwood, where the evil of Dol Guldur had taken root.

He absentmindedly turned his gaze Westward, where beyond his father's realm lay the Misty Mountains and the great kingdoms of men. Legolas sighed, wondering what was out there. The wood elves had made a practice of isolating themselves from the rest of the world, and the only time this had been challenged was when the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield dared to take back Erebor, drawing the elves into war. But it was not Thranduil's custom to concern himself with the affairs of others and after the battle of the five armies, they reverted back to solitude and Legolas found himself confined to his walls.

Out here he could dream of lands far away, of other races and great kingdoms. Out here he was not a prince, he was simply Legolas. But he was far too cautious, unwilling to take a chance, and always looking to please the king. Under the watchful gaze of his father, that life was not for him, nor would it ever be.

Legolas gazed longingly at the stars and searched for the constellations that his mother had shown him when he was an elfling. As the heir to the throne, his life would never be anything more than duty and he would simply have to content himself with stolen moments like these.

... ...

The next morning, the prince awoke feeling especially pleased with himself for managing to sneak back into the halls undetected after his escapade. He roused himself from bed and combed out his long, golden locks which he then braided back in a hurry. Legolas wished to join the woodland guard on their patrol in the woods and if he hoped to have a chance of leaving the palace without having an endless list of menial tasks thrust upon him by his father, he needed to hurry.

When he was dressed, he strapped in his knives and grabbed his bow before stealthily exiting his bedchamber, examining the hallways in all directions for any sign of his father's advisor Gliron. It wasn't that Legolas didn't like him, he was a very agreeable ellon and far easier to talk to than the king, however he was almost always tasked with summoning the prince to his father's study where the daily torture would commence. If Legolas could avoid him, he was free – at least until tomorrow.

As he started down the never-ending network of stone staircases, the prince heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Legolas groaned inwardly and was preparing himself for the appearance of Gliron's long, green robes from beyond the corner. Instead he caught sight of Veryan, his friend from the guard and sighed in relief.

The dark-haired ellon smirked as he saw the look of assuagement on Legolas' face.

"Attempting an escape are we?"

The prince smiled in amusement at his own paranoia and nodded as they walked down the stairs together.

"I am trying to avoid another one of my father's lists. He appears to have an endless supply at the ready to keep me preoccupied."

Veryan arched an eyebrow, "Is that where you've been hiding all this time? In your father's study? Tauriel and I were wondering what had become of you as of late. Your patrols with us are becoming fewer and far between."

"Yes, well lately the king believes that I am better serving the realm by fulfilling various administrative tasks than helping to protect the borders," Legolas replied with a sigh, "But today will be different."

Yes, today was going to be different. Today he was going to roam free through the woods without a care in the world just as he used to before the battle of the five armies. He could nearly feel the humidity of the forest air on his skin just by thinking about what the day held for him.

"Prince Legolas!"

The two elves stopped dead in their tracks as the velvety voice called out in their direction. Legolas groaned in annoyance as he spied the great gates only a short distance away. They had nearly made it only to be intercepted by Gliron. Legolas turned away from the gates as the advisor descended the steps to join them and Veryan gave his friend a look of sympathy.

"Good," said Gliron, "I've been looking everywhere for you."

"Have you?" Legolas was clearly unenthused that his plans for the day were about to change drastically but the advisor either ignored or was completely oblivious to the prince's sarcasm.

"The king requests your presence in his study immediately."

Legolas sighed in utter frustration. Apparently this was what he got for actually daring to believe he could do something he wished to do for once. He nodded dutifully to Gliron before shooting an apologetic glance at Veryan.

The guard simply shrugged. "Perhaps next time," he said, knowing he was being over optimistic, before disappearing off down the rest of the staircase to join Tauriel and the others.

Without another word, the prince started off back in the direction whence he came. He had some time to think while he made the short journey to the king's study, up various staircases and through winding corridors. Legolas thought of the stars from the night before and the distant outlines of the Misty Mountains. He hadn't always been this way, so curious about what lay beyond the forest. Before he was reserved, cold towards the other races of Arda and content with isolation, but Tauriel had changed that when she challenged him to think of the repercussions of evil outside their halls. He had been certain he loved her then, but soon he realized that there would never be anything more than close friendship between them. Though she was quite a bit younger than him – only 600 years old – she had taught him to open up his mind to a grander view of the world and to reject isolation. She was right, they were a part of this world and he wanted to see it.

When Legolas finally reached the great oak door of his father's study, he knocked twice before he heard a voice bidding him to enter.

Thranduil was sitting at his desk, looking over some rolls of parchment when he caught sight of his son entering the room. His gaze roamed disapprovingly over the grey-green jerkin and brown breeches that were worn by many of the elven guard, and the quiver strapped over his back with twin knives fastened safely into their scabbard. The king's piercing blue eyes finally fell on Legolas' hair, braided in the style of warriors.

"What are you doing with that?" the king gestured to the bow that Legolas held firmly in his hands, "and where is your circlet? The attire of the woodland guard is most unbecoming of your station. See to it that from now on you are wearing the symbol of your status as the prince of this realm."

"I thought that I might go on patrol today," tried the prince as he shifted in place at the entrance to the study.

Thranduil motioned for his son to close the door and to approach the desk. Legolas did as he was told without question.

"I was careless with you," said the king with a disappointed sigh, "I let you join the guard thinking that it would be the best way to hone your skills as a fighter. But never did I reproach you for acting as one of them, for befriending them or for thinking of yourself as their equal. You are a prince, Legolas, you are the heir to this realm and you must start acting as such, not a lowly member of the guard."

Legolas did his best to swallow his feelings of despondence and hurt at the king's words. Since his mother's death, they had not been particularly close. His father had afforded him a bit more freedom when he was growing up, but now as he approached his second millennium, that freedom was slowly fading to make way for his grooming into a future ruler.

Thranduil reached out to one of the piles of parchment on his desk and handed the large roll to his son.

"These are your tasks for today. Of the utmost importance, you must see to it that the delegates arriving today from Imladris are appropriately housed."

"Why have they come?" inquired the prince as he looked utterly discouraged by the endless list of menial tasks that he had to perform by the day's end.

"To renew their trade agreement with us. The Lord Elrond is sending his sons, Elladan and Elrohir, to negotiate in his stead."

The prince nodded and continued to examine the list, "And you wish for me to inspect the store rooms as well."

"Yes, we need an inventory," said Thranduil, the dim light of torch that hung overhead casting shadows across his ethereal features, "I fear our stores of Dorwinion wine are dwindling and such spirits are not easy to come by."

"Right, I will see it done then."

Seeing the discouraged look on his son's face, the king rose from behind his desk and slowly walked around it. He placed a hand under Legolas' chin, raising it so that one pair of ice blue eyes met the other.

"This is all to prepare you to take the reigns of the kingdom one day," he explained, "My only wish is that you will be ready to take on such a role. That is why it is important that you place these thoughts of joining the daily patrols aside. Do you understand?"

They continued to lock eyes for a long moment until Legolas finally nodded in obedience. "Yes father."

"Good." the king walked back to his chair and sat down once more to pour over his rolls of parchment.

The prince was about to leave, hoping to get started as soon as possible so that he could hope to make a dent in that list by mid-day, but Thranduil's voice held him at the door.

"One more thing, Legolas. Make yourself presentable for the party tonight. I believe it is time you began to look for a suitable wife."

Legolas groaned inwardly. He had forgotten all about the party and truthfully he would rather end up in the web of a giant spider than be subject to a night of dancing with the innumerable suitors that his father threw at him. The prince had never been particularly skilled with ellith, he often stumbled on his words and never had the courage to ask any of them to dance. It was all rather embarrassing really, especially since he was the prince of the realm and he was supposed to exude charm, and Veryan always made it worse by snickering at him.

"Yes, father," he said again before setting off to complete his tasks. He had a whole day ahead of him before the dreaded party and until then, he would do his best not to think of it.

... ...

The prince spent the better part of the day running around from the undercroft, where he took inventory of the kingdom's wine stores as well as various other unperishables, to Gliron's study where he stopped for a small chat before picking up the account books of all the imports and exports of the realm so that they could be balanced and any errors corrected. The twins of Imladris arrived around mid-afternoon and Legolas made sure that they were comfortably housed and had all that they desired before the party tonight. At the end of a long day, Legolas finally checked off the last item on his list after he delivered a large stack of books to the king from the library.

He had just enough time to make himself presentable for the festivities when he finally reached his bedchamber at sundown. The last thing Legolas wanted to do was attend but he knew that his father would have his head if he didn't make an appearance. Reluctantly he walked over to the large oak armoire and picked out a set of silver-blue robes that Thranduil always said looked best on him. He pulled the silky material over his head and brushed the braids out of his hair before donning his mithril circlet.

As Legolas studied his reflection in the mirror, the ellon staring back at him looked just as a prince of Mirkwood was expected to, but this was deceiving. The art of fighting was like second nature to him, he was renown throughout the realm for his skill with a bow and the deadly precision of his knives, yet when he was asking an elleth to dance or simply starting a conversation with one, it was a painful experience for both parties.

Yes, he looked every inch a prince, but he certainly did not feel like one. The only comforting thought was that Tauriel and Veryan were going to be there tonight to save him.

With a deep inhale, he turned away from the mirror and made his way down to the banqueting hall where the sounds of merrymaking could be heard throughout the caves, reverberating off the walls up to the high ceilings. The songs of an elven minstrel were nearly being drowned out by the various conversations in the room and almost as soon as he entered the room, Legolas was being offered a glass of fine Dorwinion wine by one of the servants, which he took rather eagerly and gulped down in two shots.

"Would you like another glass, your highness?" the servant asked, wearing an expression of astonishment.

"Please, if it is not too much trouble," he said with a small smile and the servant refilled his glass to the rim.

All around him there were elves dancing to the rhythm of the music and indulging in spirits as they conversed happily in groups. Across the room, Legolas caught sight of Tauriel and the other Mirkwood guards who were erupting into laughing over something Veryan had said. He noticed that his friend looked rather comfortable with Tauriel and he was trying hard to make her smile. The red-haired elleth for her part, was trying her best to pretend as though she were uninterested in his advances but nothing could hide the small circles of pink that appeared on her cheeks.

Legolas smirked as he watched the scene unfolding from afar. He'd known for some time now that Veryan harboured special feelings towards the captain of the guard, but whether Tauriel was ready to reciprocate those feelings was another matter entirely. The prince longed to join them, to take part in their soon he was being called over to a small group on the left, comprised of the king, Gliron and Elladan and Elrohir of Imladris.

Legolas arrived just in time to catch a few passing remarks by Elladan about the elven kingdom to the East.

"It appears that the kingdom of Dorwinion is seeking an alliance with the elves of Lindon, beyond the Ered Luin," said the dark haired son of Elrond.

Elrohir smirked as it became very apparent that Thranduil was unimpressed with such news. "Rumour has it that King Aradan wishes to arrange a match between his only daughter and Cirdan's son at Lindon, a Lord, to cement their impending trade agreement."

"And why would the Dorwinion king seek out such an alliance?" inquired Gliron.

"Why else? The blue mountains are overflowing with silver veins and he is anxious to get his hands on such a resource," Thranduil said irritably, "The elves of Dorwinion only ever work in their own interest. Always scheming and tactless."

Legolas sipped his second glass of wine at more appropriate pace than the first as he drifted in and out of the conversation. All he knew was that his father and the Dorwinion king despised one another after a falling out over the importing of wine into Mirkwood. Seeing as the wood elves were avid consumers of the coveted drink, they had attempted to negotiate a much lower sale price but one thing led to another and Aradan accused Thranduil of trying to cheat him. Since then they hadn't spoken and the relations between the two kingdoms were less than friendly to be sure – Aradan had even forbidden the exporting of wine to Mirkwood, even if this meant a great loss in revenue. Now the only way for the woodland elves to get Dorwinion wine was through illegal importing, which Thranduil absolutely condoned, if anything simply to cross Aradan.

The prince had always found it silly that their two kingdoms had had such a falling out over something as trivial as wine, but Thranduil always insisted that it was more so a matter of respect; he was not going to let anyone call him a cheat and get away with it.

However, Legolas did feel sorry for the Dorwinion princess as he heard the twins discussing her betrothal to the Lord of Lindon. He could not imagine being forced to marry someone he had never met before, from a foreign kingdom, all in the name of a trade agreement. Most elves married for love, because they had found the one who completed them, not out of duty.

"How any king could subject his daughter to a loveless marriage is beyond my understanding," he heard himself saying aloud as he came out of his reverie.

This earned him a reproachful glare from Thranduil as they had long moved on from the subject of the Dorwinion elves and his son's little interjection was interrupting their important discussion on the renewal of the agreement between Mirkwood and Imladris.

"I wholeheartedly agree with you, prince Legolas. However, I believe such a move comes out of a true desperation on the part of the Dorwinion king," chimed in an amused Elladan, "They own very little resources other than wine because the kingdom lies so far east and that is why they seek to cultivate as many diplomatic relations as possible."

'Or face isolation like ours,' the prince felt like saying but then he knew that he would get more than just an stern look from his father after the party was over.

Glindor attempted to return to the previous topic of conversation but then Elladan turned to his brother, "Perhaps we ought to save the negotiations for tomorrow."

"Yes, perhaps that would be best. It is too fine a night to waste on such dry business," agreed Elrohir and once more Legolas became the recipient of some very unenthused glances from his father before the king nodded in defeat and stirred the conversation in another direction.

After what seemed an eternity of longing glances towards his friends who appeared to be having a much better time than he was, the prince was finally able to make an escape from the little group that was conversing with his father on the pretence of going to find more wine for his empty glass.

The minstrel was now playing a soft, joyful ballad and it was quite apparent by the time Legolas joined them that Veryan was trying to convince Tauriel to dance with him.

"Just one."

The red-haired elleth wore a mischievous smile and shook her head. "I do not dance, Veryan."

If Tauriel were being honest with herself, she was actually enjoying this little game. She knew he was fond of her and deep down she knew that she reciprocated those feelings, but she still had her reservations. As captain of the Mirkwood guard, it was conflict of interest for her to fall in love with one under her command and she didn't wish to do anything to jeopardize her position; she had worked too hard over the centuries to ingratiate herself with the king and earn her place.

"You wound me, Tauriel," Veryan replied playfully.

"She is right," Legolas chimed in with amusement, "The only dance she has ever mastered successfully is the one with her knives. I do not believe I have ever seen her dance with an ellon."

For that he received a playful smack on the arm. "I could say the same for you," retorted Tauriel, "I've never seen you dance with an elleth without looking uncomfortable."

They shared a few laughs and as he finished his fourth glass of wine, Legolas realized that for the first time tonight, he was actually enjoying himself. It was always like this when he spent time with his friends in the Mirkwood guard, they didn't treat him any differently than they would one of their own ranks. With them, he didn't have to be a prince, they forgot about the circlet on his head, and he could simply be Legolas the way he longed to.

... ...

As the night wore on, Thranduil was rather concerned to see his son spending most of his time with Veryan and Tauriel, completely oblivious to the fact that several of the eligible ellith at the festivities were eyeing him.

This was meant to be an occasion for Legolas to begin looking for a suitable match, the companion to his fëa, the way he had found Maerwen.

He still remembered the way he caught sight of her from afar at one of his father's parties, many millennia ago. Her long, golden hair was tumbling down the back of her forest green dress and Thranduil remembered how he could not keep his eyes off her. It had taken him the better part of the night to finally ask her to dance, but he did, and that was the moment he knew that he had found the one.

He felt Glindor's hand on his shoulder and tore his gaze from the other side of the room where Legolas was chuckling with his friends.

"We spoke of my expectations for him earlier today," lamented the king, "I love him deeply but my son is stubborn beyond measure."

The advisor arched an eyebrow and smirked, "A bit like a certain king that I know. He looks like Maerwen but he received his strong character from you, no doubt."

The king sighed, hating to admit that Glindor was right. Legolas was the mirror image of his mother, but he was just as stubborn and strong minded as his father. They were more alike than he thought and at times Thranduil wondered if he was being too harsh on his son by making him travel such a straight and narrow road. Nevertheless, he always managed to convince himself that this was for the best, after all, he hadn't been prepared to ascend the throne when he received news that Oropher perished in battle and it had been a steep hill to climb before he finally felt comfortable as king.

Thranduil wished to avoid this outcome for Legolas at all costs and he was going to begin tonight by trying to find his son a wife.

... ...

The prince was puzzled when all of a sudden, Tauriel, Veryan and the others ceased their games and grew very quiet, but all was revealed to him in an instant when he realized they were staring past him at a rather imposing figure in silver robes and a headdress of autumn leaves.

"Your highness," greeted the captain as she bowed low.

"Tauriel," acknowledged Thranduil with a small nod of his head to the others in their company, "I wondered if I might borrow my son for a few moments. He has promised a dance to some of the other ellith here and I would hate for him to forget."

The last part was aimed directly at Legolas who could hear the impatience in his father's voice as icy blue eyes drilled into him. Sensing the fun of the night was over, he nodded in resignation and bid farewell to his friends before dutifully following the king.

They walked together towards another group of elves who were deep in conversation and the prince could not suppress the feelings of dread as his father introduced him to a beautiful dark-haired elleth in a sapphire gown that accentuated her eyes.

"Raina, daughter of Calanon," she introduced herself, smiling timidly before curtseying, "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, prince Legolas."

"The pleasure is mine," he said with a small incline of his head.

His heart was pounding as it became clear that the dreaded moment had arrived; he was going to have to ask her to dance. He could feel his father's eyes boring into him as Raina continued to look up at him expectantly and suddenly his throat was tightening. For as long as he could remember, Veryan had been the one who was comfortable around ellith, but for Legolas it was another matter entirely. His experience with the fairer gender was next to none save for the time an elleth kissed him at one of the Fire Circles.

There was just something about dancing that he thought was truly unpleasant. Perhaps it was the fact that for the entire length of a song, there were expectations placed upon the dance partners to connect on some level, these expectation were high if you were the prince Mirkwood. What he abhorred most of all were the awkward silences.

"Would you...care to dance?" he forced out finally and Raina held out her hand for him to take.

Legolas led her to the centre of the room where other elves were dancing to the soft melody of the minstrel's flute and as they began to sway together, all he could think about was trying not to step on her foot. The prince was as graceful as could be in every other situation, and he was a fine dancer normally, but when he was nervous all of that coordination left him. It certainly did not help that Raina was quiet and demure, and from across the room he heard the amused laughs of Tauriel and Veryan as they watched him navigate the sea of awkwardness.

"Are you enjoying the party?" he said finally in an effort to get some kind of conversation started between them.

"Very much so," she replied, feeling slightly disappointed that the prince of Mirkwood was nothing like she expected him to be. All that she had heard about his masculine beauty was true from his strong jawline to his deep blue eyes like the waves of the sea, but to Raina it seemed that there was a complete mismatch between the handsome prince she saw on the outside and the awkward, timid being on the inside.

After the dance, they politely parted ways and that was the end of Raina, much to Thranduil's dismay, and for the rest of the night, one painful experience followed the other as he continued to introduce Legolas to some of the other high bred ellith of the conversations were always superficial, where he would either ask them about the party or compliment them on their dress and they would reply with some rehearsed line about how much they enjoyed the festivities and had been looking forward to meeting him.

When he'd escorted his final dance partner back to her company, the prince noticed that his father was preoccupied in a heated debate with Glindor and took it as his opportunity to disappear from the banquet hall. The party was slowly coming to an end as several of the elves were joyfully intoxicated and most of them were slumped down in chairs now when they had all begun the night standing. Legolas knew that the king had consumed enough spirits that he would not notice that his son had made an impromptu exit.

In an attempt to clear his head and ward off the effects of the wine, Legolas walked through the empty, dimly lit corridors of his father's halls. Somehow he could not help but feel that he was destined for more than the shows of royal decorum and the lists of tasks that the king pressed upon him. There had to be more, the world was so big and the elves of Mirkwood were but a lonely spec on the map of Middle Earth. He thought of the Dorwinion princess again, wondering if she felt as he did, trapped behind the solid walls of duty to the kingdom.

'At the very least,' he thought, 'My father would never force me to marry someone I did not love.'

Without knowing it, he had found his way to one of the lookout points used by the guards of the realm and there, sitting by himself against one of the walls was Veryan, staring up at the impenetrable canopy of leaves on the twisted, gnarled branches.

The dark-haired ellon smiled as he caught sight of his friend approaching. "I see you finally managed to slip away."

"I did, though it was not easy," Legolas replied as he slumped down next to Veryan, "My father is trying to find me a wife but thus far, it has not been a success."

"You will know when you find her. I certainly did."

The prince smirked. "And what is there between you and Tauriel?"

Veryan shrugged, "She pretends to think me childish, but she couldn't live without me, you see," he replied coyly, "Perhaps I ought to take her to a Fire Circle."

"You are out of your right mind," Legolas said shaking his head. The Fire Circles were no place for respectable ellith, or ellyn for that matter. He had only ever been once and the sight of such debauchery alone was enough to make him stay away from such gatherings, even if his father hadn't forbidden it.

"And you, my friend, are far too cautious," retaliated Veryan.

"I am not," Legolas replied stubbornly, "Just last night I snuck out of the halls to see the stars."

The guard snorted, "Yes, but if your father ever caught you, he would forbid it and you would obey him without question."

He raised his hand as the prince opened his mouth to protest. "Do not deny it, Legolas. You were always very eager to please your father and that is not dishonourable, but I know that you long for more."

"There is no room for more when you are the prince of the realm," defended Legolas, his voice rising in frustration, though he knew deep down in the recesses of his heart that Veryan was right. He did long for more than his mithril circlet and the confines of the caves. Suddenly his gaze softened and he exhaled deeply, "I often look to the West when I watch the stars and I wonder what is beyond our borders, what the other peoples of Arda are like."

Veryan smiled sadly and leaned his head back against the wall. "Earlier, I heard Elladan and Elrohir of Imladris describing the beautiful, open halls of their people. I've also heard that the elves of Lórien live in the treetops of the golden mallyrns. Does it not bother you that we are the only race of elves that hides away in caves? What I would not give to truly see the beauty of Arda."

"As would I," for the first time, Legolas allowed himself to speak these secret desires out loud. "Tauriel once reminded me that we are also a part of this world and I wish to see it."

This earned him a small smile from Veryan, "I told you she was remarkable."

Legolas could not help but chuckle in response and the two friends spent the remainder of night talking on the lookout until the first rays of sunlight broke through the trees. The prince felt strangely now. He knew that as soon as he spoke those words of longing for something more, and wishes to explore the world, that they had become tangible things that would forever haunt him.

... ...

Several weeks passed since the festivities and the late night talk with Veryan, and life for Legolas had resumed a normal, dull rhythm. Once again, the king had him running about the caves fulfilling his daily duties and making sure that everything in the realm was in order.

One night, he finished his tasks early and decided to retreat back to his bedchamber. He grabbed a book from the shelf and leaned back against the headboard of his bed, anxious to have a few moments of peace and quiet.

He hadn't read more than three words when he heard a pounding at his door. Legolas groaned at the intrusion, sitting up from the bed and placing the book on his bedside table, marked on exactly the same page he began with.

"Enter," he bade, expecting to find Gliron on the other side of the door, but he was pleasantly surprised to see Veryan instead.

The guard made certain that the door was closed before walking anxiously into the room. Legolas frowned at this odd behaviour, wondering what had gotten into his normally cheerful friend.

"Is everything alright?"

"More than alright," Veryan answered cryptically, which only puzzled the prince more.

"Would you care to elaborate?"

"Do you remember the rumours about the arranged marriage of the Dorwinion princess?"

Legolas gazed intently at his friend before nodding slowly, his eyebrows still furrowed. What had this to do with anything?

"I've just overheard a conversation between two merchants; apparently Cirdan accepted the match for his son and a procession is going to be leaving Dorwinion in a few weeks time to take the princess to her betrothed," explained the ellon as he rapidly paced the room.

"But what has any of this to do with us?" Legolas asked impatiently. He had never seen Veryan like this before and truthfully he was started to get worried.

"Do you not see, Legolas? The procession is going to travel from Dorwinion across the Misty Mountains, into Eriador to reach its destination. These are lands we have only dreamed of visiting but if we join the force tasked with protecting the princess on her journey, we can truly see see what lies beyond these borders."

There were very few things that could render Legolas speechless, and this was certainly one of them. He continued to stare at his friend for some time, at an utter loss for words, until he finally managed to form a coherent thought.

"So...you are suggesting that we go to Dorwinion and ask to join the procession?"

"Exactly. What do you say?"

The prince's heart was slamming against his chest now as Veryan's words echoed through him. A chance to see what lay beyond the forest of Mirkwood? His mind raced simply thinking about it and he would have had no qualms about saying 'yes' to such an offer but there was one very large problem. His father would never allow it, especially since the relations between Dorwinion and Mirkwood were less than amicable. He also did not wish to disappoint the king.

"I cannot. I am the prince, Veryan. I have duties, expectations to fulfill." His heart fell. This was not what he wanted, but what choice did he have?

"Oh yes, you have the very important task of bringing your father some books he requested from the library or making certain that his stores of wine have not dried out," Veryan replied sarcastically, "What about those things you said at the lookout? I thought you wanted to see the world, to be a part of it for once."

Feeling torn, he sighed, running a palm over his face as the conflicting responses of his mind and heart fought for dominance. The responsible, cautious prince of the realm would decline without question, but Legolas the elf wanted to say 'yes'. "My father would never allow it."

He grew slightly alarmed when he caught sight of the mischievous glint in Veryan's eye as a slow smirk spread across his face.

"That is why we won't tell him."

... ...

A/N: So what do you think? Does this story have potential? Would you like to read more? Please review and let me know! I'm anxious to hear your thoughts. Happy holidays everyone!