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Rated R for graphic violence
Piercing pale rays of sunlight broke through the
trees here and there
at sporadic intervals. The sun was warm when it touched the skin
of the two travelers, but the air was chill and the signs that fall was
fast fading towards winter were appearing everywhere.
Fat grey squirrels, their cheeks bulging with last
minute provisions to
stockpile for the winter ahead stopped only for a moment on their way
to gaze down at the two companions. The pair could not have been
more different in some ways. One golden-haired, slender and
dressed in soft tones of green and brown that fitted him well, the
other with shorter hair bordering on the shade of night, wiry, but more
sturdily built than his elven companion. The ranger’s dark,
well-worn overcoat obscured whatever else he was wearing
underneath. But the easy talk and comfortable silences that
flowed between them belied whatever differences the eye took in, for
human and the elf seemed to be as close as brothers.
Unconsciously Aragorn rubbed his arms, pulling his
hands up inside the
sleeves of his tunic and overcoat for some added warmth. Their
breath fogged and hung on the crisp air, and the dense canopy of
above them kept out the warming rays of the sun. The weather had
been taking a decidedly nippy turn the past few days and Aragorn was
feeling it, even if Legolas was not. They had expected to reach
Mirkwood much sooner in the year than they were now arriving and
Aragorn had not come prepared for a winter journey. However, the
little side-track they had taken to Eowioriand and the events
surrounding their failed attempt to retrieve the Palantir housed there
had changed their plans quite a bit.
“Winter’s coming early this year,” Aragorn
remarked. All the
signs he saw foretold that it would also be an unusually harsh
Legolas glanced sympathetically at his friend.
The cold did not
bite him and he barely registered the change at all, but he could tell
that his human friend was beginning to feel the creeping frost of the
winter that was nearly upon them. “We should make my father’s
halls by nightfall, Strider,” he encouraged the young ranger with a
slight smile. “If nothing else
befalls us first that is,” he
couldn’t help adding.
Aragorn laughed. “It will be remarkable if
something does not.
Truly, your father will think we kidnapped you I shouldn’t
It had been more than a fortnight since they left
Isengard and parted
from Gandalf and Gwaihir. By now autumn had all but fled away
Legolas chuckled. “Or that I ran away more
summoned me when it was yet summer and winter is all but upon us ere I
return... I fear he shall not find my entrance timely.” The prince
shook his head. He was jesting, but Aragorn knew him well enough
to know that there was a serious undertone to his statement.
Whether he wanted to admit it or not, the elf prince was not looking
forward to his father’s reaction to his tardy arrival.
Aragorn squeezed his friend’s arm, catching Legolas’
eyes and giving
him an encouraging smile. “He’ll understand, Legolas. It’s not
Legolas smiled softly and shook his head.
Aragorn would probably
never understand how things were between the prince and his
father. Sometimes Legolas did not understand himself. There
was love, oh yes, there was fierce love between them... but so often
details seemed to get in the way and make simple matters
“Do not be surprised if he does not see it that way;
my father is not
your father, Estel. Thranduil is a king and he has the right to
expect obedience from his subjects, including me; and when that does
not happen... it’s not something to be taken very lightly. But
fear not, everything will be all right,” Legolas smiled quickly when he
saw the concerned look growing on his friend’s face. He didn’t
want Aragorn to make more out of this than there was, that wasn’t what
he had intended. Indeed, he had not intended to speak of it at
all, but the closeness that had grown between he and the ranger often
led the prince to say things to Aragorn that he would not have
mentioned to anyone else. “I may be hearing about it for the next
fifty years, but it will be all right,” he added with a rueful grin
that made Aragorn chuckle.
“Don’t worry. If it’s any consolation I am certain
to have the same
thing happen to me if the snows fall early and close the high pass back
to Rivendell too soon. Elladan will never forgive me if I don’t
come back and they don’t know why.” Aragorn quirked his head to the
side in amusement. “Of course, he’d be even angrier if I tried to
make it through the pass in the snow... and I’d get one of those
lectures from father, you know the one...”
Legolas’ grin widened knowingly. “Oh yes, the
‘what were you
thinking, you could have gotten killed, do you think you are
indestructible and do you ever stop to consider the consequences
before you act?’ one, is that it?” the prince spoke as someone with
much personal experience.
Aragorn laughed. “Yes, that’s the one.
fathers are more alike than you think! Family...” he shook his
“Unique, isn’t it?” Legolas enjoyed the
joking. It was odd
actually, how much he and Aragorn seemed to have in common sometimes,
considering that they were so different.
“I see lights through the trees,” Aragorn stopped
pointed. “I didn’t think we that close yet.”
“We’re not,” Legolas shook his head, glancing the
way that Aragorn
indicated. “That’s some of my people making merry, a hunting
party it looks like,” he added, although Aragorn could see nothing but
lights from here. “Let us see what news they have.”
They turned aside towards the lights in the trees
and Aragorn walked
somewhat swiftly because the thought of being near a fire was a welcome
one. As they drew closer they saw that the light of the
fire seemed to illumine a perfect circle around the wood-elves in the
middle of its glow, one that did not move or extend any light further
than their immediate area. It was odd really, but Aragorn had
been in the middle of such fires here before as Legolas’ guest so he
did not think much of it. He outdistanced the prince slightly in
his haste but, before he could enter the circle of lights, Legolas
called his name and caught up with him quickly, holding the ranger
Aragorn looked at the prince, puzzled, but Legolas
just smiled and
shook his head. “It is not wise to walk into the middle of a
wood-elves' party unless they know you or you are one of their
kind. You would not be harmed, but I have no wish to have to wait
around for you to wake up from the enchanted slumber that would come
Aragorn blinked and nodded. “Oh.” It
seemed there was
always something new to learn about elves, even when you lived with
them your whole life. And the Mirkwood elves by and large seemed
to be quite a bit different than the ones he had grown up around
anyway. He sighed slightly. “And I suppose one of these
may be able to actually go somewhere and do something without nearly
making an idiot of myself and sticking my foot in it completely.”
“Perhaps someday,” Legolas replied with a devilish
grin that earned him
a light punch in the shoulder from his friend.
They stepped into the circle of lights beyond the
trees, Legolas in the
lead. The low buzz of the wood-elves’ conversation stopped as
they all looked up. It was a small group, only half a dozen at
most and, although they were eating and drinking a fine fare, the group
seemed decidedly subdued and Legolas picked up on it at once.
“Your Highness,” the hunters rose. “You’re
back!” They were
sincerely glad to see him, but several of the elves glanced at one
another as they rose. Legolas could not read what was behind that
look, but whatever it was bothered him.
“Please, join us,” the elves offered quickly as
Aragorn moved over to
stand near the fire, rubbing his hands together over its warmth.
Hot spiced wine was poured for the two newcomers who
both accepted it
gratefully as they settled down around the fire. The road had
been long and hard and their journey wearisome.
“Well, it seems that the quality of our wine has not
my absence,” Legolas smiled after he had drunk. The wood-elves
were all very fond of wine and, although they made none of their own,
the stock they kept on hand was better than that kept anywhere else in
Middle-earth. “What news is there since I last walked beneath
these trees, Umdanuë?” he addressed the elf sitting next to
him. “How was the yèn festival?”
“It was well,” the elf called Umdanuë answered
“...Your Highness, have you met with your father?”
Legolas did not like the timbre of that
question. “No, I have not
yet been home. Why?”
“No, I meant, met with him on the road. He
left to look for you
some days ago,” Umdanuë informed.
“Left?” Legolas rose quickly to his feet. “Why
leave? I sent Raniean with the news that we would be
delayed...” It didn’t make sense.
“I don’t know about that, but I know he’s gone... I
had hoped he’d be
with you.” Umdanuë shook his head.
Aragorn and Legolas exchanged looks. What did
Could Raniean have not arrived? And if so, what had befallen
“Who is in charge during my father’s absence?”
“Lord Celemir?” Usually the succession would have gone to himself
and if he were not present then either to Raniean, as captain of the
largest segment of Mirkwood’s warriors, or Celemir, Thranduil’s
most trusted advisor and member of the court.
Umdanuë did not speak.
“Nay, not Celemir,” one of the other elves said
reticent and somewhat confused. “He appointed a different
“Who?” Legolas was getting tired of having to drag
every scrap of
information from these elves.
“Your Highness, you had better get home,”
Umdanuë said quietly,
his gaze locking with Legolas’. “I don’t pretend to understand
your father’s actions, however I will not speak against them
either. But I think you need to be home.”
A chill that had nothing to do with the weather ran
up Legolas’ spine.
“What do you mean?” Aragorn inquired, almost as
disturbed as Legolas,
but the elves did not want to answer and Legolas was already on his
“Strider, I must make haste,” Legolas said, his face
concern. He would not waste any more time here. Obviously
something was wrong and it was wrong at the palace. Therefore
that was where he needed to be, and swiftly.
Aragorn rose quickly to his feet. “I’m with
you. Let’s go.”
Legolas’ gait was swift and Aragorn matched
it. “What do you
think all that was about?” the ranger asked once they had left the
other elves far behind.
“I don’t know and I’m almost afraid to guess.”
Legolas shook his head
in dark frustration. “Raniean should have been back already...
and why would father leave to search for me himself? Always
before he has sent our guard or some of our warriors... it does not
make sense, neither does the ill ease I felt in Umdanuë and his
companions. They are afraid... but of what?”
Aragorn didn’t try to answer because he knew that
did not expect him to do so, but he agreed that these events were
When they finally came in sight of the palace it was
relief. Everything looked deceptively normal and if there were
ought amiss inside, it was not readily apparent to the eye or the
Legolas paused only a moment before the huge,
magically sealed gates
that guarded the entrance to his home, holding his hand up quickly and
bidding them open. “Edro!”
At his command the gates swung open and the two
inside. At the entrance to the palace itself, however, they were
stopped by several guards who crossed their spears across the doorway
to bar their path. Legolas did not recognize any of them, which
was odd because he thought he knew all the palace staff and guards to
“Halt, you may not enter without permission.
Who are you and what
is your business?” one of the guards inquired.
Legolas looked from one elf to the next
incredulously, to see if they
were joking. They were not. “I am Prince Legolas and I will
thank you to get out of my way so I may enter my home,” he said
somewhat tartly. “Who are you? I don’t recall seeing any of
you around here before.”
The guards exchanged looks quickly. “Wait
here,” they told the
prince and the ranger while one of them hurried inside, leaving the
other two at their posts by the door.
Legolas had no intention of waiting there or
anywhere else, but when he
tried to move forward the guards once again blocked his path. “We
said wait here,” they repeated darkly.
“I heard you.” Legolas was quickly losing his
patience. He did
not understand what was going on and it was starting to frighten him,
which was a feeling he did not like. “But you have not told me
who you are or why I should listen to you. I would advise that
you let me pass or you may not like the consequences.”
“Legolas, for shame... you’re too old to be losing
your temper,” a
voice from behind the guards interrupted. A tall elf with a
golden circlet upon his brow came into view and motioned to the guards
who quickly pulled back to let him out into the courtyard. The
elf was fair-haired, but the gold of his locks was many shades darker
than Legolas’, bordering on a somewhat ruddy light brown. Yet
Aragorn found that there was something uncannily familiar in the lines
of his face... although he had certainly never seen this elf
The moment he heard the voice, Legolas froze and
Aragorn thought he
almost visibly saw the color drain out of his friend’s face before the
prince pulled his composure back into place once more.
The strange elf looked lordly enough and smiled at
the two friends, but
the smile was edged with flint and did not seem to reach his eyes.
Legolas regarded the newcomer with a mixture of
displeasure. “Doriflen. I thought you were
dead.” The prince’s voice was carefully flat.
The elder elf laughed lightly, but Aragorn did not
like whatever was
dancing behind his eyes. “My brother seems to have been remiss in
your training since I left, young prince. He should have taught you
better manners. Come nephew, have you no greeting for your
Aragorn looked in bewilderment between the two
elves. He had not
known that Thranduil and Legolas had any other family still living,
although he realized that that was the familiarity of features he had
felt when he first saw the elf, for Doriflen held a certain resemblance
to Thranduil and Legolas that clearly marked them out as related.
Yet there was obviously something wrong here, because Legolas did not
seem at all pleased to see his uncle. In fact, if anything,
Aragorn thought that he sensed his friend was alarmed and trying hard
to hide it.
“What are you doing here?” Legolas did not respond
to his uncle’s
display of familial warmth. His voice remained guarded and his
eyes suspicious. “Where is my father?”
Doriflen laughed again. There was something in
his tone that was
just... wrong. Aragorn couldn’t place it, but it was beginning to
make him extremely uncomfortable.
“Dear Legolas, always so serious!” Doriflen gave the
younger elf a
friendly little shake, but Legolas pulled away quickly, almost
flinching at the elder elf’s touch. Doriflen gave a show of
looking hurt as he turned away. “Ah well. It must be the
strain of your journeys. Come, come in and take your ease.
You and your friend surely must be hungry and thirsty and tired. Come,
is my father?” Legolas demanded again, his voice icy
and edged with concern.
The elder elf rolled his eyes. “Well don’t
stand there looking as
if I had done something to him! Honestly nephew, where are your
manners? Living with coarse company has obviously made you
uncommonly rude.” He glanced at Aragorn when he said this and his
meaning was entirely clear. “Your father’s gone away for a while.
I do believe he went to
look for you. He was very worried,” Doriflen shrugged
carelessly. “I’m watching over things while he’s away, since he
had no son to leave in charge.” The statement was pointed and meant to
“Well I’m back now,” Legolas said flatly, trying to
resist feeling the
stab of his uncle’s barb. “But why would he go looking for
me? I sent a messenger some time ago with the news that I had
been detained, but was on my way home. And where did you come
Doriflen’s eyes widened innocently. “No such
arrived to my knowledge. As for me, I have been dwelling on the
other side of the Grey Mountains, near Carn Dûmo and Forodwaith
with my faithful companions here,” he nodded at the grim looking armed
guards who surrounded Legolas and Aragorn. “I decided it had been
far too long since I paid my dear brother a visit.” There was a
hint of a malicious gleam in his eyes when he said that that made a
chill run up Aragorn’s spine.
“You were banished from here, Doriflen.” Legolas
caught and held his
Doriflen’s smile frosted a little harder, but he
pleasant. “So were you as I understand it, nephew.” The
smile became a smirk. “Must run in the family, hm?”
Legolas’ jaw muscles tightened, but he refused to
respond to his
“But as you must know, my little brother revoked
those laws to bring
you home. They no longer stand and I may come and go as I please,
here or anywhere else. Now, are you going to stand out there all
day with this silly interrogation? Or are you going to come in
and be welcomed home?”
Reluctantly, Legolas finally allowed he and Aragorn
to be escorted into
the palace. “We have had a long journey. Strider and I wish to
wash up a bit. May we go?” the prince glanced coldly at the
guards who were flanking them on every side in a not very unobtrusive
“But of course!” Doriflen gestured his men
away. “You may do as
you wish, nephew. This is your house and you are not a prisoner
“I wish I believed that.” Legolas nodded once
and turned on his
heel, walking away with Aragorn following closely behind. The
young ranger looked over his shoulder and saw that Doriflen’s gaze was
following them. A cold, dead glare. The Dùnadan
shivered. He did not like this at all.
Once they were safely inside Legolas’ quarters the
prince shut and
bolted the door, turning both catches.
“Legolas what in the name of mercy was all that
about? Who is
that elf?” Aragorn wanted to know. “Is he really your
“Yes,” Legolas sighed slightly.
“Unfortunately, he is.
Older brother of Thranduil, firstborn of my grandfather Oropher, and
exiled from Mirkwood and the elven world these past two
“Exiled, you mean...”
“Yes, like we were, although for a different
reason. Banished and
forbidden any elven refuge... until now. I had not realized when
my father and yours struck down that law... that it would free Doriflen
as well, but of course, laws must apply the same to everyone. I
doubt father considered it much either. We all thought he was
dead,” Legolas explained, obviously greatly troubled by these
“But why was he exiled?” Aragorn wanted to know the
“You recall that I said he is my father’s older brother?” Legolas
wished to sum the tale up as simply as he could. “Normally the
eldest son would be heir to the throne, but from his youth, Doriflen
had an... unstable personality,” Legolas tried to put it somewhat
delicately. “Sometimes he seemed perfectly normal, and then
others... he could be very cruel and very twisted. Oropher, my
father’s father, was very concerned about his eldest son. He
tried to find a cure for whatever ailed him, but it was to no
avail. Oropher began to realize that should anything happen to
him, he could not leave his people to the mercy of Doriflen’s changing
moods and unstable disposition. So he bypassed tradition and
handed the title of Heir-apparent on to my father. Of course,
this put Doriflen in a rage, but there was nothing he could do.
He and his friends and followers left Mirkwood altogether, vowing
revenge. This was shortly before the end of the last Age,
so I tell you as it has been told to me, I was not yet present to
witness these things.
"Then came the Last Great Alliance of Men and
Elves. Oropher and a
grievous number of Mirkwood’s best fell in that battle. My father
came home as king of a badly damaged realm. It was then
that Doriflen came back. My father tried his best to make peace
between them, for a time he even lived in the palace with us...”
Legolas closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. “But it
was no use. He stirred up the people, faulting my father and
departed grandfather for leading them to ruin in the battle, pressing
his own claim as eldest and, he thought, rightful heir to the throne.
Quietly at first, but then more and more openly. The people began
to divide and civil war was imminent. My father tried to reason
with his brother, but Doriflen would be content with nothing short of
the throne and that my father could not give him. Eventually it
did come to war. A brutal, terrible thing that lasted many
years. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching war
parties ride out the gates... many never returned.” Legolas’ voice was
soft. “It was not a safe world to live in, or grow up
in.” Indeed, it was that fact that had made Thranduil so
incredibly angry at his young son for running away during the
yèn festival that first time, so many, many years ago.
Legolas had not bothered trying to explain that to Maraen when he told
her about the incident some time ago, but his father had been terrified
at the thought that his brother might have gotten his hands on his
son. Unfortunately, through no fault of Legolas’, Thranduil’s
worst fears had indeed been realized not long after.
“It was a war that not even children escaped,”
Legolas continued his
story with a faraway look in his eyes. “Eventually my father
started to gain the upper hand as Doriflen’s unstable tendencies began
to make some of his followers desert him and see him for what he truly
was. As a last resort, Doriflen... kidnapped me to use against my
father. I was still a young elf at that time. He threatened
to kill me if my father did not hand over the throne. He very
nearly carried out his threat, but my father found out where he was
hiding me and there ended up being a large battle. Doriflen was
captured and his forces surrendered.
“Although he had more than earned death by his
actions, my father could
not bring himself to order the execution of his own brother, for they
had been very close once. Besides, the kingdom was still in an
unstable state, and there were those who yet had serious doubts about
Thranduil’s right to be king. Killing Doriflen would only make
him a bloody usurper in their eyes. There had already been so
much damage and so much war, my father merely wanted it to stop.
Mirkwood needed peace desperately and he knew better than to give those
who would like to keep the war going a martyr to rally around. So
instead he exiled Doriflen and his followers in disgrace, using the
ancient law to ban them from all elven lands on Middle-earth. In
doing so he hoped to nullify the threat that letting his brother go
free posed. Doriflen and his people left and we saw no more of
them. Mirkwood recovered and eventually the entire conflict was
all but forgotten as the people found what a just and wise king my
father was. Many, many years ago we received news that Doriflen
and his men were killed in a conflict with some of the wildmen, but
obviously, that was not so. Understand you now, Aragorn, why his
reappearance causes me such concern?” Legolas finished quietly.
Aragorn nodded, thinking he understood
Legolas’ obvious alarm
over his father’s well-being upon finding Doriflen occupying the palace
made frightening sense as well. “Then what you mean is we’ve
fallen into the hands of a madman who has reason to hate your father
and yourself and yet has somehow managed to set himself up in the
palace, playing regent, with the apparent cooperation of the people,”
Aragorn summed their situation up with raised brows.
Legolas nodded, rubbing his temples. “That’s
about the shape of
it. However, I do not understand yet how this has come to
be. Or where my father truly is, although I fear the answer to
the last.” Deep worry plagued the elf’s silver-blue eyes.
Aragorn squeezed his friend’s shoulder. “Well
then, these are the
things we need to find out.”