Between Darkness and Dawn
Chapter 26: Son of Mirkwood
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Legolas inhaled deeply, savoring the sent of pine needles and moist
earth. Turning his face towards the sun, he looked up through a
canopy of green leaves, painted golden by the morning sunlight
streaming through them. The tree limbs under him and against his
back cradled him comfortably, inviting the elf to linger in the sunny
upper branches of the tall oak. Trailing his fingers absently
across the rough tree bark, the prince indulged himself in the
welcoming embrace for a few moments longer, before regretfully parting
with the perch where he had spent the night.
Descending back down to the forest floor of Mirkwood after the beauty
of the upper canopy was never a very pleasant experience, but even the
dark closeness of the tainted forest did not dampen Legolas’ joy at
being home. He had missed these woods very much. He had not
walked through them and heard their song since he departed for Gondor,
what seemed almost a life-age ago.
The prince kept a swift pace as he followed the winding forest
road. It had taken him several weeks to reach Mirkwood and he
intended to make it home by nightfall. He had been on foot only
since he sent back the horse that lord Elrond had leant him.
Elrond would have understood had he kept the animal longer, but Legolas
could tell the loyal stallion’s heart yearned for the valleys of its
home. The horse would have followed him anywhere, but clearly did
not like the look of Mirkwood. So the prince turned the animal
loose on the borders of the forest and bid it find a safe journey back.
Legolas would just as soon walk anyway. It wasn’t that he wished
to delay his return home, but he did want to savor the trip
there. He had missed these trees. Plus, it gave him time to
consider what he was going to say to his father.
Elrond had asked the prince if he could send word onto Thranduil but
Legolas had resisted, wanting to inform his father in person. He
had stayed on in Imladris for two weeks; mostly to make sure Estel was
fully healed. However, when it had come time to leave he had
found his heart hesitant, even though he missed his father.
Aragorn would have come with him if he asked, but the elf knew that for
once, the ranger did not want to go anywhere. Aragorn needed to
be home with his family now.
Legolas sighed. So did he. His life wound in and out of so
many other lives now. It was hard to remember the days when he
had made this forest his self-imposed prison, considering it the only
place he was safe. It was ironic really, because in a way he had
been right. Since he had met Aragorn and ventured out into the
wide world he had encountered more pain and difficulty than could be
comfortably recounted. Yet he had also found freedom, friendship,
forgiveness and trust.
He worried a little about Aragorn. The prince could see shades of
his own former world-wariness in the ranger’s nightmares and his
reluctance to even leave the grounds of his father’s house. He
hoped that with time he could help Estel as much as the human had
helped him. For now, the ranger was in the best hands possible,
and that was a comfort.
Aragorn was going to need time to heal. The prince knew, that
whether voiced or not, the ranger wondered why what had happened to
them had to happen. Legolas understood the question only too
well. It had eaten away at him for years before he met the
ranger. Finally he had come to accept that there was no
answer. But he had learned that sometimes good did come out of
The elf fingered a tiny lock of hair in his pocket. It belonged
to a little human girl nearing her third birthday. A little girl,
who would never have been born, had Legolas not been willing to face
pain and sacrifice to save her mother and grandmother’s life.
Estelle and Garith had brought their daughter to Rivendell the day
before Legolas intended to leave. The prince was glad he had not
missed their visit, although he had been shocked to realize that so
much time had passed since he last saw them. He was still of the
opinion that if you blinked too slowly, a human could grow up right in
front of your eyes and you would miss the whole thing. That idea
amused Aragorn greatly and the whole situation had lightened what
otherwise might have been an even more difficult parting between the
Little Fairiel resembled both her mother and grandmother. It had
been good, after everything they suffered under the Nazgûl for a
second time, to remember that not all hardships were endured in vain.
The sun was setting by the time Legolas finally approached the sealed gates that led to his home.
Legolas glanced up at the gates of the palace with a smile. It
would have been easy to bid the portals open himself, but he had no
wish to alarm the gate guards since they were by no means expecting
him. The prince stopped and waited for the sentries to question
No question came however. Instead, the gates were summarily thrown open.
“Your Highness!” It was Raniean, on his way out himself, who had seen
the prince from the guard station and now opened the palace
gates. He beamed, squeezing his friend’s hand tightly in
greeting. “It’s good to see you, mellon-nín, we worried
for you... again,” he added pointedly.
Legolas smiled and shook his head as he greeted his old friend. “Sorry Ran, it really wasn’t my fault, I swear.”
“Is it ever? Tell that to your father,” Raniean chuckled, simply glad that his friend had returned well and whole.
Legolas winced ruefully. “Is he very upset then?”
Raniean smiled with a mischievous glint in his eye, ushering Legolas
inside and shutting the gates behind them. “Let’s just say that
Trelan and I have been placing wagers over whether you’ll end up in the
dungeons or just locked in your room...”
The gate guards returned to their normal posts, leaving the prince in Raniean’s care.
Legolas gave the other elf a light shove. “Oh, thank you so much, my friend.”
Raniean raised his hands, denying any responsibility. “Well now,
Legolas, you did bring this on yourself. It’s not my fault
you insisted on going off alone. Or that you promised him you’d
be home... oh... over half a year ago or so, and didn’t even send
word.” A momentary flicker of hurt darted behind Raniean’s clear
blue eyes before he quickly looked away. A slight bite had
slipped into the other elf’s tone, although it was obvious Raniean had
not intended for it to be so obvious.
Legolas sighed. “Things happened, Ran, I couldn’t help it.
Really, I couldn’t.” He paused, catching the look his friend
tried to hide. Raniean was upset with him and Legolas did not
blame him. They must have all been hideously worried.
Maybe, if he had taken Raniean and Trelan with him, things would have
been different. Maybe... but there was no use going down that
road again. He and Aragorn had survived, that was what
mattered. If he had erred, then he would simply have to live with
the consequences of that mistake. He had certainly paid dearly
enough. Past choices could not be re-made.
The prince’s voice turned soft. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean
to make you all worry. It’s a long story, one I should tell
father first I’m sure...” Legolas sighed again. “But honestly, I
had no choice Ran, you have to believe me. If I had hesitated or
delayed, Strider would be dead. I’d do the same for you.”
“I know,” Raniean met his friend’s eyes again. Legolas was
alright. At the moment, he could forgive him anything else, so
as he had indeed come back to them once more. “I don’t blame you
Legolas, I am sure you had a very good reason and I can’t wait to hear
your latest ‘long story’.” He smiled wryly. “I just... I
was worried, Legolas. We almost lost you once already.”
Legolas squeezed Raniean’s shoulders tightly. He knew the other
elf was still getting over his prince’s brush with death in the
mountains after the warg attack on Rivendell; it had to have been hard
to consider losing him again so soon. “But you didn’t,” he
Raniean nodded and squeezed Legolas back. “No, we didn’t, Valar
be praised. Now, if only you survive your father, Trelan and I
may have our trio for the spring games next moon after all.”
Legolas smiled. “Isn’t that a rather big ‘if’?”
Raniean clapped him on the back reassuringly as they reached the end of
the walk leading up to the palace. “Miracles can happen.”
Legolas rolled his eyes. “Well then pray I find one. I’d better go talk to him.”
The prince entered the palace without fanfare, bounding easily up the
steps leading into his home with just a smile and a nod to the guards
on duty. At Raniean’s bidding no one was sent to fetch the
King. It was better for Legolas to go to him himself.
The prince made his way swiftly down the familiar corridors and he
smiled to himself. No matter how Thranduil reacted to his chronic
tardiness this time, at the moment Legolas could feel little but joy at
being home again. It seemed forever since he had walked these
well-loved halls. Strange thoughts for an elf, but Legolas had
long ago given up trying to reconcile the odd, disparate ways in which
he seemed to measure time now. Aragorn had permanently ruined
him, but he didn’t really mind.
Thranduil was in his study, just as Legolas knew he would be. The
prince stood quietly in the doorway for a few moments, watching his
father as Thranduil wrote on a long piece of parchment with swift,
The king had not noticed his approach and the prince took the moment to
watch his father and remember the countless times he had stood in this
doorway and seen Thranduil sitting at that desk. It was a
comfortable feeling, for it felt like home. He almost didn’t want
to break the spell, didn’t want to spoil the moment by alerting
Thranduil to his presence and having to weather whatever response that
would garner. Yet at the same time he wanted his father to look
up and see him. Wanted to be welcomed back...
Legolas sighed inwardly. He knew he was welcome, whether
Thranduil was in a mood to acknowledge that right now or not. The
prince didn’t even think he’d mind a little bit of house arrest for the
time being, if only Thranduil wasn’t too hurt or upset with him over
his broken promise. That was the only thing that would spoil his
homecoming. Thranduil could be angry, he could say what he liked
and punish him anyway he pleased. Just as long as he could tell
Legolas he forgave him now rather than the prince having to wait for
resolution indefinitely, as often happened. Then everything would
Lightly, Legolas rapped his knuckles against the doorframe.
Thranduil looked up from his work. The distracted look on his
face quickly bled away into shock and then joy and he rose swiftly from
the chair, parchment forgotten.
“Legolas!” the Elvenking just stood there for a moment, trying to
decide if what he saw was real. “When did you get back? Why
wasn’t I told?”
Legolas shifted slightly, smiling a little hesitantly at his father. “Just now. I wanted to tell you myself.”
To the prince’s utter surprise, he saw his father’s strong eyes gloss
over with unshed tears. “You didn’t come back. When the
news came from Rivendell that you had not returned there either... I
feared...” The king was uncharacteristically lost for
words. “You promised.”
Legolas could have choked on the lump in his throat. Of all the
reactions he had imagined, this was not one of them. He saw for a
moment in Thranduil’s eyes the familiar sense of abandonment he had
felt when Aragorn had left him behind outside Angmar. “Ada... you
have to believe me, I’m so sorry. I tried to come back as soon as
I could. Honestly I did. I would never have broken a
promise to you like that if lives had not depended on it...”
Thranduil crossed the distance between them quickly and surprised
Legolas for the second time. The king pulled his son into a hug.
“I don’t care. I don’t care, Legolas, just so you’re all right. Just so you’re really here,” he murmured.
The prince was stunned speechless for a moment, but readily melted into
his father’s strong embrace. Thranduil almost never held him
unless something was wrong, or when he was hurt. For the
Elvenking to not want an exact accounting of his son’s reasons right up
front was almost even more shocking. Maybe sometimes, some things
could change, even if only a little.
Legolas hugged his father back tightly, resting his chin on Thranduil’s
shoulder. He realized that tears were sliding down his cheeks,
but he wasn’t ashamed of them. “I’m here, Ada. I’m here.”
Thranduil nodded, slowly bringing his emotions back under
control. “Good, because you’re going to stay here for a good
long time now young one, is that understood?” his soft, almost pleading
tone belied any harsh cast of the phrasing.
Legolas nodded against his shoulder. “Yes, Father. I would like nothing better.”
“Legolas, I’m serious,” Thranduil whispered into his son’s hair as he
held him a moment longer, before finally releasing the younger
elf. “I need you here with me.”
Legolas hesitantly squeezed his father’s hand. “Then here I will be.”
Thranduil caught and held his son’s slimmer hand in his own.
“Good,” he said softly, before a slight glint came back into his
eyes. “Then I will tell Elrynd to take the locks off the
outsides of your doors.”
Legolas wasn’t sure if his father was joking or serious. “Father, you didn’t...”
Thranduil just smiled and changed the subject. “It’s good to have
you home, Legolas. Very good. I’m afraid dinner was a long
time ago, it’s late... are you hungry? Shall I send for someone?”
Legolas shook his head. “No, thank you, I’ll be all right.
Right now I just want to rest, if... if you’ve really forgiven
me.” He knew he shouldn’t push things, but he really couldn’t
help asking. It all seemed too easy for what he was accustomed to
“Legolas,” Thranduil pushed his son’s hair back behind his ear gently,
letting his hand brush the younger elf’s cheek. “I forgave you
before you ever came back. Just so long as you did come
back. Although, you can expect that I will want the full tale
once you’ve rested. And don’t you think to start leaving things
out either. I know how you are. If I think you’re holding
out on me I will make Lord Elrond send Strider out here to tell me the
truth. Don’t think I won’t,” Thranduil remonstrated with good
Legolas laughed. “I promise I will tell you everything tomorrow, Father.”
Thranduil accepted that. “All right then. I have kept your
rooms prepared in readiness for you. Rest well,
ion-nín. I will see you at breakfast?”
The prince smiled. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
Thranduil had indeed kept the prince’s rooms ready and waiting for his
return, and Legolas settled gratefully into his favorite chair in the
corner by the window. The shutters were open and Legolas could
see the starry night sky outside.
Soft scurrying sounds and small, bright eyes that reflected the
moonlight alerted Legolas to the fact that he was not alone in his
Two, small, slender creatures slid from the shadows in the corner of the
room. Shiny brown, fur-covered, wiry bodies moved gracefully
across the floor towards Legolas’ chair, almost gliding rather than
walking. Smaller and thinner than a cat, but more comely than a
ferret, the little creatures approached warily.
Legolas smiled. He was surprised that his father was letting his
pets have the run of his rooms while he was away. He knew just
how little Thranduil cared for his ketrals... and the feeling seemed to
“Trasta, Lalaith... did you miss me?” the prince asked softly as the
two ketrals sniffed cautiously at his boots. He had been away a
long time for their limited lives. Would they remember him?
That question was rendered moot when the small creatures quickly
scurried up the prince’s legs and into his lap. Running in
excited circles around each other for a moment, they quickly nuzzled
their way under Legolas’ arms.
Trasta licked the fingers of Legolas’ right hand affectionately,
reassured by the familiar taste of the light salt on the elf’s
fingers. His small body thrummed and rumbled where it was coiled
against Legolas’ side as the ketral purred contentedly.
Lalaith was less complacent than her mate and she stood on her back
legs in the young elf’s lap, her nose quivering as she looked at
Legolas, remonstrating him for leaving them alone so long with that
grumpy older elf. Dropping back down onto all fours, she bit his
left thumb lightly, as if to make her point.
Legolas pulled his hand away quickly, but chuckled and stroked her
velvety fur in a placating manner. “All right, you made your
point. I guess you did miss me.” The elf smiled, rubbing
the creature’s small ears until Lalaith too purred in happiness.
Presently Lalaith jumped down from Legolas’ lap, only to return a few
minutes later. This time, when she scrambled up into the chair
she had something with her... three somethings. Small, hand-sized
balls of fur rolled into Legolas’ lap. After a moment the small
balls stretched themselves out into tiny, slow moving versions of their
Legolas stroked the baby ketrals gently, smiling like a proud
papa. Ketrals grew very slowly until they reached their adult
size, much like elves in some ways. The babies were more than a
few months old, but they were still very small and needed their
parents’ protection. They would need it for another year yet as
they aged very slowly for the animal kingdom. Maybe that’s why
Legolas liked them; they weren’t quite as ephemeral as many of Arda’s
The little Ketral kits wobbled uncertainly in the strange elf’s lap,
looking up with big, trusting eyes at the prince while their mama
fussed around them, cleaning them with her tongue as if trying to make
them more presentable. She nudged them forward, allowing Legolas
to pick them up and marvel at their soft, tiny perfection as they
rested safe in the bowl of his palm. Ketrals were fiercely
protective of their young, but Trasta and Lalaith, like their parents
before them, had taken Legolas as one of their kin, their keeper.
He was family.
“They’re beautiful,” Legolas murmured as the small family of ketrals
settled down in his lap. “And tomorrow, I will give them all
names. You should be very proud.”
The two adult ketrals looked as if they were.
With one hand resting on Trasta, and Lalaith and her babies sheltered
securely under his other arm, Legolas smiled happily as his eyes
drifted towards the open window.
The stars shone brightly in the night sky and a slight wind stirred the curtains framing the windowsill.
It was good to be home, so good. But he did not forget his friend
and he wondered if across the mountains and miles that separated them
Aragorn was also getting ready for bed.
He hoped the ranger was sleeping easier. It had been hard to
leave with Aragorn still suffering the ill effects of the
Nazgûl’s abuse. He missed the ranger acutely, but he knew
that they would see one another again.
“Sleep well, mellon-nín,”
the elf prince whispered into the darkness of the starlit night, as the
sleeping ketrals on his lap created a comforting hum that made him feel
sleepy too. “Know that I am
thinking of you, that we are looking at the same sky, no matter how
many miles separate us. We shall be together again soon, I
think. Until then, you are right here, in my heart, always.
Rest well, brother. Rest well.”
The night was peaceful in Rivendell. Gentle breezes caressed the
waving tree branches, creating a murmuring rustle. Here and there
a few night birds sang.
Aragorn lay in bed. The house was asleep. His brothers and
father had already retired for the night. Save for the faint
flicker of the small candle in the shell holder on his dresser, the
room was bathed in darkened moonlight.
It was heavenly to be here, ‘good’ just did not describe the sensation
well enough. In Angmar, there had been several times when he
honestly did not think he would ever be home again, ever lie in his bed
again and listen to the peaceful sounds of a night in Rivendell.
But here he was. He was blessed, very blessed.
Sometimes, one could hear elven voices mingled with the soft song of
the trees outside the window... although whether they were real or
imagined, Aragorn had never quite known. Turning over so he faced
the large open window, Aragorn watched the stars dancing in the night
sky and let the sounds of Rivendell ease his weary mind.
Just as he was drifting off to sleep, the ranger swore he heard a very
familiar voice whispering in the wind. It sounded like Legolas,
bidding him goodnight. Half asleep, Aragorn smiled. “Yes, Legolas,” he murmured. “The same sky. May Eärendil shine brightly on you, dear friend. Rest well, Legolas, until we meet again.”
A soft, errant gust of wind stirred the curtains, again seeming to
carry Legolas’ soft whisper to his friend’s ears and Aragorn fell
asleep with the return promise echoing in his heart.
“Yes, mellon-nín. Until we meet again.”
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