Gimli had never felt more out of place than he did just now. Surrounded completely by tall, silver dressed, silver haired elves. Most looked down at the dwarf, scowling in disgust. He rolled his eyes and nudged Aragorn with the hilt of his large ax, the man smirked and placed a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder. The crusty dirt of the dwarf's jacket clung like lice to the King's fingers. They too were dirty. They had embarked a long journey, it ended here.

"It is not that they dislike who you are, friend. It is that they dislike what you are"

"Gah, you don't have to tell me that!" he shrugged off the man's hand proudly, a small look of embarrassment dusting his cheeks. A loud guffaw burst past the black haired King's lips.

Gimli stood out horribly. His red knotted hair and beard, his height, his hygiene. Even Aragorn seemed to stand out. It was obvious they were travelers.

It was nearing Yule in Mirkwood and the streets were thick with hustling bodies.

Although this was considered Mirkwood, it was a town distant to the palace. The ride from this small township to the castle was a long one.

Legolas had told them by letter to meet him at the Crow Tavern, both friends had written back suspicious and concerned at the distance from the palace they were to meet him. Legolas had not written back.

Gimli and Aragorn concerned for the safety of their dear friend had met and made the journey together, the conversation on the trip focused almost entirely on the young elvenprince.

"I wonder why the young lad wanted us to meet him here?" Gimli's voice tore Aragorn's eyes from the passing elves and with small turn the two men stood looking up at the wooden tavern sign, unsure whether to enter or not. The journey there had taken 15 days. Both be were weary, dirty and hungry.

Just as Gimli's ax was set in the snow and leaned against the outer wall of the tavern, a disgusted laugh was heard and a shadow cast over the short dwarf.

Both looked up in unison at the three elves standing before them. One stood ahead of the others, a cruel sneer on his face.

The elf stood tall like a lean tree, hair cut at his waist and braided tightly, eyes dark glinting maliciously. An ornate sword hung at his side, black boots to his knees.

But it was his thin lips, curled into such a sneer that drew their gaze. And a thick purple scar that curved along his cheek like a crescent, ruining his perfect pale features.

"What's this? Do my eyes deceive me or is there a dog sitting outside this tavern? We really ought to do something with the pests in this town" the ax was gathered up in a sweep and Aragorn struggled to keep back the dwarf, who let out a huff, face red in anger.

"Leave us be, elf. We are simply waiting for a friend-"

Another bark of laughter cut the sentence short, the narrow eyed elf leaned in.

"Surly no elf would be friends with a disgusting dwarf like him, or a mere man like you" only the bustle of people pushing past could be heard, the pale elf placed a hand on his sword, Aragorn and Gimli waited in anticipation hands tightening on the hits of their weapons. "It's a wonder we don't kill you right now and rid the world of such stains."

There was a snort whinny of a horse,

"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't speak of my friends in such a manner, after all they have made a long journey to see me" the three elves turned in a startled sweep, both Aragorn's and Gimli's eyes snapped up to the horseman now standing behind the trouble makers.

The horse lazily trotted from foot to foot, small silver bells that were braided into its white main jingled merrily. Smiles broke out upon the traveler's faces. Legolas.

He sat high in his saddle looking down on the three elves, gold hair down and pooling over his shoulders with his bangs pinned back, small braids across his temples. He too wore a silver tunic, as he dismounted they noticed a sparkling silver tiara around his forehead like a band, small silver leaves were woven together to make the intertwining head piece.

The three elves immediately dropped to a knee and bowed deeply, Legolas patted his horse and wrapped the tethers around the mounting post. He eyed the three as the scarred one spoke hurriedly

"Your highness! My prince, forgive me! For I did not know they were in your company!"

"Get up and hear me well" they rose looking sheepish, "I understand that once Dwarfs were considered our enemies but those times have been past! They are now friends to the elves and while some of you do not accept the changing ways, they do change…am I understood, elf?" for a moment no one spoke, Aragorn stood still at the authority that rang thick in his friends tone, he never heard such a tone used by the light hearted prince. Even Gimli tensed, both friends shared a silent look.

"I understand, prince. But some of us will never agree" coolness radiated from the elf's voice, the other two quickly turned and left, muttering under their breaths, they watched them leave. The scarred elf stood alone.

"These two are in my company so therefore they shall be treated with royal respect… or so help me, you will make home with the dungeons…am I understood?" Aragorn felt Gimli's hand wrap around his wrist as a warning, their eyes watched as the elf's hand rested on his sword, Aragorn had his drawn in a blink. The harsh sound of a sword being unsheathed echoing in the streets. The troublesome elf didn't flinch, he understood the warning, but his hand remained treating the elvenprince.

Legolas looked at him sternly. "I said…am I understood?" the other elf didn't answer, but instead mounted his horse quickly. He looked down at Legolas, his silver braid swinging. His eyes were dangerous.

"I heard. And I do understand. Though I do not comply. I will not accept your changing ways, and am marking my words that you shall never live to be king! I shall see to it personally!" Aragorn couldn't stop the dwarf who thundered past him in a heave, throwing himself at the now mounted elf. The elf quickly turned and galloped off into the crowd. With a sneer Aragorn drew his bow, but his friend's pale hand waved it away.

"Let him go. No harm was done…we cannot risk your arrow hitting someone in the crowd." The dwarf turned to look at the elf.

"No harm? He made a threat on your life, elf!" Legolas didn't answer, he simply patted his horse lazily, cooing to it in soft tones, the animal's eyes twinkled in admiration. Aragon watched the back of the scarred elf disappear.

"Although I may not be the marksman you are, Legolas. Do not offend me by suggesting that I could not make such an easy shot" a smile broke out upon the three friend's faces,

"My apologies, human. I will not disregard your skill…" there was a pause, it was almost awkward "you both must be cold. Shall we go inside?" The dwarf let a gruff nod, his knotted hair tangling in his fingers.

They followed Legolas inside. The response was almost immediate. The tavern once rumbling with laughter and speech, hushed into an excited whisper. All eyes towards the three newcomers.

The screech of chairs, and the elves fell to a knee on the tavern floor all bowing towards their prince.

Although Gimli and Aragorn had seen this response to their friend before they couldn't help but gape and stare at the hunched elves.

Legolas, humor in his voice, said:

"Please, stand, my friends. You flatter me. Save the formalities for the King" the elves rose from their knees with uncertainty etched into their fair features. Legolas chuckled, a dazzling, well-practiced smile splitting his face. "I am here to drink, just like you" the tavern laughed as one and the talking continued, as it had been before the royal had entered. Legolas turned to his companions with a small smile "sorry, I don't mean to discomfort you" he led them to a square table in the back.

"Sometimes I forget you are a prince, lad" Gimli grabbed his mug when it was brought and downed it with a harsh belch. Aragorn winced at the sound but couldn't help the smile that dusted his cheeks at the dwarf's manners. "You just don't seem like the typical snobbish royalty" Both man and elf sipped their drinks the bar maid rushed to place the second down for the dwarf.

"Thank you, master dwarf" Gimli blushed deeply and slammed the newly brought drink on the table, suds splashed the wood.

"You are still an insufferable elf!"

"That's quite a big word for you, dwarf! Tell me, do you even know what it means?"

"Ah! Ah-of cour-of course I do!" the drink was slurped by the embarrassed dwarf, Aragorn placed a hand up in surrender between the two bickering friends. The small warmth of reassurance tugged at his heart hearing the elf banter like old times. He had been beginning to become concerned after the letter to meet so far from the castle. And he had receive no reply back, after all.

And now, the scarred elf. The threat.

"Legolas, friend. That elf's threat weighs heavy in my mind" there is a pause "it concerns me for your safety." This time it was Legolas' pale hand that halted him.

"Growing up as a prince, I have receive many threats in my life. This is nothing but empty. Fear not" Legolas sighed and drank again, his light eyes sliding closed. He could feel his valued friends staring. He set aside his drink, his voice softer "really, Estel…do not worry. Although I thank you for your concern."

"Well, regardless. I will not be leaving your side while I am here. Just to be sure" the elf nodded at Aragorn who in turn nodded back.

Something was amiss, both dwarf and man knew. But they could not force Legolas to speak, so they pushed it aside. The true question arose.

"Why did you summon us, lad?" the dwarf tensed as the atmosphere around his elven friend grew thick with sadness and fear, the elf's face masked none. He pushed aside his drink and gently touched the prince's silver sleeve, Aragorn too moved closer at the sight of his friend's discomfort. "What is it?"

A dark cloud had passed over the usually light face of the prince, a storm of sadness, regret and fear lingered there.

"Mellon nin, what has happened?" Aragorn asked, his voice like a plead. Finally, Legolas looked up, and with a sigh, spoke.

"It is father. He is dying"

The words were blunt, emotionless from weeks of practicing. A silent grieving lingered in the young elf's eyes. The friend's sat silent, unsure of what could be said. The fingers on Legolas' sleeve remained and then were pulled back as Aragorn's palm grasp the back of the pale elf's neck, warm beneath his hair and gave a reassuring squeeze.

"Oh Legolas" the king breathed in sympathy "I'm sorry" Legolas bit back tears, he hid them well from the others.

"He's been ill for nearly four months now, and is now on his death bed. I am not allowed to see him, I fear he will pass before I can say goodbye" the table was small, giving Aragorn room to bring his and the elf's foreheads briefly together, Legolas' skin was chilled to touch. When they drew apart, the prince's eyes were foggy with sorrowful mist.

"What is the cause?" Gimli was blunt, his voice husky with empathy. The elf pulled away from the human king, ignoring the fact that Aragorn's dark hair clung to his forehead as they parted.

"The healer's say it is a curse" Gimli took a drink of his ale to distract him from the pain radiating off of Legolas. He knew his friend was holding most in, it was rare to see the carefree elf hurting so, the dwarf didn't know how to react. "Which brings me to why I've called you both here." Legolas dropped his head, eye's refusing to make contact.

"There's more, friend?"

"There is…" there was a painful pause, both man and dwarf could see it was difficult for Legolas to tell what he was about to say, and what he said shook them both, so far that the surrounding noise of the tavern seemed to disappear completely to only the elf's voice and the pounding of their own heartbeats in their ears. "I called you here, to bid you farewell, and that...this is the last time I shall ever see you, my friends." He continued

"Both you Aragorn, and you Gimli, are my dearest friends. And it aches me the most to leave you both behind. You both will always hold a special place in my heart and I thank you sincerely for making my life bearable. I will miss you both tremendously in my parting." The noise of the tavern came roaring back for the human and dwarf who until this time sat shock stilled.

"What are you speaking of, elf?!" Gimli's fist thundered down onto the table, the mug's jumped. "We require more of an explication that just that!" the anger in his voice was evident and the elf trembled slightly, a piece of gold hair falling in his face. Aragorn resisted the urge to brush it back and hug him again as his heart was fluttering anxiously at the thought of losing his best friend. "Speak, elf!"

"The curse upon Ada, it is said that it was only cast to force me into the throne. Where then after, I too, will be eliminated. Mirkwood will be without a ruler and fall into chaos and panic. My father is a good king, and I will give my life to ensure his position" he swallowed "you see, there is a cure. It is a herb deep in the valleys of Middle Earth, the journey is one that is inevitably deadly, and yet I must go and retrieve it no matter the cost."

"We will accompany you, or go in your place!" Aragorn begged desperately "Elf's are forbidden in the valleys! You will not survive!"

"Yes and yet you know that I must."

"Legolas! Aragorn, speak some sense into the fool!" the table was silent, it killed the king to admit but he understood the elvenprince, he also knew that even more secrets lingered hidden in his friends words. Enough heart ache, he let it pass for the time being. Gimli's eye's darted between the two viciously.

"I cannot, dear dwarf" Aragorn downcast his eyes in defeat, Gimli stuttered in disbelief, trying to speak through the rush of thoughts flooding his mind. His tongue went numb in fear.

"I leave at sunrise." Legolas reached thin fingers out and touched his friend's wrists gingerly "Guren glassui, Savo 'lass a lalaith, Na lû e-govaned vîn" Gimli knew enough of the elvish language to recognize a friend bidding farewell. Having nothing else to say, the elvenprince stood, gave a parting glance and left. The companions watched him disappear.

"Gwestog, Mellon nin?"

It was dark, the sun had long been consumed by the night. None of the three friends slept, Aragorn laid in his inn room, staring at the ceiling as if it were the night sky itself. He had always liked to sleep under the stars. Especially while on the quest to destroy the ring a year ago, the fellowship always fell asleep to a soft song by the elf. It was songs of love and bravery. And forests, and seas. And friendships.

It was an addicting poison, the elf's songs. Sweet and gentle and pure.

As was everything about Legolas.

"An ngell nîn, Goheno nine" the king whispered into the darkness of his room, he rubbed a hand over his face, worry consuming him. His body was weary for sleep but his mind forbid it.

The room beside that was occupied by Gimli and Legolas. The dwarf had invited himself in and careful to not wake the slumbering elf, took a seat by the bed and waited for morning.

Over time, the friendship had exceeded companions and was border lining brothers. Gimli didn't mind, even though the fair creature was an elf.

"I understand that once Dwarfs were considered our enemies but those times have been past! They are now friends to the elves and while some of you do not accept the changing ways, they do change…am I understood, elf?"

The word still rang pride in the dwarf's soul. And he resisted the urge to wake the sleeping prince and thank him. In his slumber Legolas whimpered and rolled to face away from Gimli. The dwarf's hand lingered over his brother's brow, in an attempt to console him.

"Ada, please" brushed past the pale, thin lips of the elvenprince. The desperation of the soft moans caused the bearded guardian to frown in sympathy and smooth the young one's hair.

Legolas wasn't young, and yet Aragorn and Gimli still protected and treated him as younger kin. Truthfully the elf had only ever complained in good humor.

"All will be all right, lad… sleep" Heaven knew he'd need it on his journey. With a sting tears burst into the dwarf's eyes and his calloused hand left the prince's hair to wipe at them viciously with his palm. "idiot" he whispered "you're going to get yourself killed!" he leaned back in the chair, the wood groaned "selfish bastard! Thinking only of yourself! Typical elf!" his hushed scolding continued, careful to not wake Legolas. Gimli would gain no slumber to tonight.

Legolas' mind ran in fear making his sleep restless. He was going to die. For his Ada, surly there was no more just cause than that. And yet he wasn't sure.

Surly, this quest would be his demise. But the fate of Mirkwood depended on this journey, perhaps even the fate of the world.

The morning sun bled red into the night sky. There would be no more hiding from what was to come.


Ada- father

Mellon nin- my friend

Guren glassui, Savo 'lass a lalaith, Na lû e-govaned vîn- thank you with all of my heart, have joy and laughter, until we next meet

Gwestog, Mellon nin?- do you promise, my friend?

An ngell nîn, Goheno nine- please, forgive me