Legolas strode purposefully into
the huge throne room, holding his head high and his shoulders squared
as befitted one of his noble birth. Murmurs swept the corners of the
court, but the prince ignored them. Two guards followed respectfully in
the prince’s wake, but they were formality only, obviously Legolas was
here of his own volition.
From his side of the room, Aragorn watched and held his breath. His heart twisted inside him as he waited anxiously for Legolas’ fate to be decided. The fate that Legolas had brought upon himself for no other reason than being his friend. The young man felt ill.
Legolas stopped before the stairs leading to his father’s throne and bowed gracefully. "Father."
When he straightened up he met his father’s eyes and his father’s eyes only, ignoring the rest of the people who stared at him intently on every side. Legolas was glad to see that at least his father’s eyes were no longer angry. However, now they seemed very deep and very sad. The prince wasn’t sure whether this was a good change or not.
King Thranduil’s face was grim and he obviously was not pleased with the situation he found himself facing. Whether or not he was, in fact, displeased with Legolas as well, the young elf could not begin to guess. He hated to think that he had made his father ashamed of him, yet he knew he could do naught but what he had done and if, given to do over again, he would have chosen the same road.
"Legolas," Thranduil acknowledged his son. "My son, you stand before me on a charge that I would you had not brought upon yourself," the Elvenking said slowly, pain evident in his eyes. "It is the curse of a ruler that he must follow the law and not his heart, even when dealing with his own flesh and blood," the words were obviously hard for him.
"You are royalty, Legolas, you are a Prince of Mirkwood and I am the King. That means that we are held to even higher standards than the rest of our people. You know what you have done, and you know what the law requires me to do. What do you have to say for yourself?" Thranduil’s voice was grim.
Legolas swallowed and took a deep breath. He gave no outward sign of whatever nervousness must surely have been in his heart. He met his father’s gaze squarely and held it.
"I will not defend what I have done," Legolas said quietly. "I did what I believed, what I still believe, was right. You raised me well, my father. You taught me the meaning of loyalty, of friendship, and of placing the good of others ahead of one’s own. I do not feel that I could have been true to that upbringing, nor to you, nor to myself if I had allowed Strider to die for something he did not do." The prince paused for a moment before continuing.
"I wish... I wish I could beg your pardon, but I cannot. I do not regret my choices. I would make them again. I regret only that my actions hurt you. For that my father, I do ask your forgiveness," Legolas said quietly, his eyes pleading for his father’s understanding.
Thranduil held his son’s gaze for a moment before breaking the contact and looking away.
Legolas dropped his eyes with a heavy heart, staring down at the carpet beneath his feet. Gracefully, Legolas knelt on one knee, bowing his head in submission. His golden hair slid off his shoulders and hung about his face. This time he did not look up at his father’s throne. "You know now what I have done and why. As your son, I ask your forgiveness, but as your subject I beg no mercy. Judge me now, and if my deeds find disfavor in your eyes then do with me as you must. I surrender myself to your justice, my lord." Legolas’ voice was soft, earnest and remarkably calm. He had conducted himself in a manner that did him great credit. No one could fault him if he clasped his hands tightly against his stomach to keep them from trembling, or if he unconsciously held his breath in the long silence that followed.
"Now is the time when being a ruler is most ill," when Thranduil finally spoke his voice was strained and grim. "Because I cannot do what my heart tells me is right... I cannot act as your father, Legolas, because you have taken that out of my hands, so I must act as your king. And as your king I must obey the law no matter how badly it breaks my heart to do so." The Elvenking steeled his voice and his heart against what he had to do.
Aragorn felt the blood drain slowly from his body as a cold, sinking feeling ran through him. He feared where this was going.
"Legolas Greenleaf, you are hereby banished from the realm of Mirkwood... forever."
Legolas flinched as the sentence was pronounced and his worst fears were realized.
"Furthermore you are disallowed sanctuary in any elven home anywhere in Middle-earth, from Rivendell to the Golden Wood, from the mountains to the sea. You are dead to all those of your race." Thranduil forced himself to speak the words of the terrible sentence, although each one tore another piece of his heart out with it. "You are an outcast. You have neither people, nor country now and none may harbor you nor give you aid, such is the nature of the sentence that I am cursed to have to place upon you my son..." the king’s voice was hoarse and he could not keep the pain out of it. "I may never look upon your face again."
Legolas pressed his eyes tightly closed against the burning sting of the tears that he refused to allow expression to and his throat swelled with the silent sob he could only barely choke back. He had never imagined it would hurt this much.
The young elf couldn’t breathe. He had known this might happen, but part of his mind had refused to really accept the reality of it. Now that it had indeed come to pass, he felt frozen and unable to move. His shoulders stooped and his head dropped nearly to his knee in misery. He felt as if his father’s words were a knife passing straight through his heart and he did not know how he was going to survive the blow.
Aragorn stood rooted to the spot, his own horror, guilt and anger rendering him dumb and motionless. He could not believe what he had just heard... no one could be that heartless to their own son... he knew Thranduil loved Legolas... how could he do this to him?!
"Escort the Prince out of our lands," Thranduil said to his guards, his voice trembling slightly. He could not look at the kneeling, miserable form of his own son, whom he would never see again, never hold again, never laugh with again... Thranduil thought he must surely die from the pain of this terrible duty. "And be it known that he may never return, on pain of death." The last words were forced out, barely a whisper.
The guards moved up to either side of the kneeling elf Prince, but seemed hesitant and loath to carry out their orders. Finally, they touched Legolas’ arms lightly; bringing the Prince out of the daze the pain in his heart had put him into.
"No!!" Aragorn shouted in horrified anguish, finally loosed from his initial shock as if set free by a magic spell. Pushing past those in his way, he rushed forward to stand in the middle of the throne room beside Legolas. "No, you can’t do this! Your Majesty, please..." his voice choked on his own emotion. This couldn’t be happening, it couldn’t!
"Silence human!" Thranduil snapped harshly, fixing Aragorn with a steady glare. "Have you not done enough?"
Aragorn flinched visibly, the anguish on his face deepening. "Yes, yes I have, and I’m sorry... but you cannot punish Legolas for my folly! It is not fair!"
Thranduil’s eyes were cold and hard and at the moment he had no great love for this young human who had caused his son to be taken from him. "My son suffers for his own actions Strider, not yours. And you would do well to hold your tongue in my court!"
Legolas rose in one fluid motion, shaking the guards’ hands off his arms. His face was etched with pain, but it was composed once more.
"Peace, Aragorn," Legolas said softly, casting a sad, calming gaze in his friend’s direction and shaking his head. The elf prince turned back to his father.
"I said I would accept your judgement, my lord, and I do." Desperately, Legolas tried to catch his father’s eye, but Thranduil refused to look at him. The king could not look at his son or he would break into a million pieces on the spot.
Legolas swallowed hard, but the knot in his throat remained unmoved. Almost worse than the sentence itself was his father’s rejection.
"Well I don’t!" Aragorn raged hotly, tears in his own eyes at the horrible pain he saw written in the depth of his friend’s soul. Maybe Legolas could be so confoundedly graceful and noble about all this, but the whole thing just made him downright sick. And the young human was just brash and guilt-ridden enough to not mind letting everyone else know exactly how he felt.
"I think this is cruel and unfair! But I know you don’t care what I think," Aragorn shook his head, and from the angry faces of the elves around him, he knew he was right.
"Aragorn..." Legolas shot his friend a warning look. He did not want the young man to get himself in any trouble. He was touched by the bold young human’s loyalty, but he did not wish for him to make a scene; it would accomplish nothing.
Aragorn brushed Legolas’ warning aside with a vehement shake of his head. "No, Legolas, I won’t just let this go. You are in this mess because of me, because of our friendship. What I owe you I can never repay, but here, with all these people as my witness I, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, pledge my life to you as counter for my debt. Your fate is my fate."
"Aragorn!" Legolas snapped sharply, his eyes flashing with alarm. "Don’t speak madness! You do not realize what you are saying!"
"Yes I do!" Aragorn countered right back. "And you cannot stop me, my friend."
Legolas shook his head earnestly, glancing around at the members of the court who were watching everything with grim, quiet faces. "My lords, he does not mean what he says," the elf tried to get his friend off the hook. "He is young, he is human, and it is the tendency of both to speak first with their heart and only think later with their heads." Legolas turned with sharp urgency upon his friend.
"Aragorn don’t do this! Don’t you realize that if you share my fate you can never go home to Rivendell? You can never look upon your father and brothers again?" Legolas hissed quietly through his teeth, trying to bring the young ranger to his senses before he made a choice that would damn him for the rest of his life. "You are a child, Aragorn, you have your whole life ahead of you, do not throw it away in a moment of passion! Take back your words while you still can."
Inwardly, Aragorn quailed at the horrible thought of never seeing his home or his family again and nevermore being allowed to wonder in the beautiful elven realms. His heart recoiled in pain, but his mind was made up. It was the same thing that Legolas was facing because of him; he would not let the elf face it alone.
"I am not a child," he said firmly, his dark eyes flashing. "I am a man and that which I have pledged, I have pledged. I share your guilt, Legolas, I will share your fate."
"So be it," Thranduil’s voice stopped the argument. "The Dùnadan has chosen. Go, both of you, and may the heavens have upon you the mercy that I could not." The last part was spoken for Legolas.
Legolas sighed heavily, closing his eyes. It was too late now for both of them. With guards flanking them, both he and Aragorn were ushered numbly towards the exit.
Legolas paused once more before he left his home for the last time. Turning in the doorway he looked back at where his father sat, slumped sideways in his throne, his head resting in his hand. The king still refused to look up, although he knew his son’s gaze was upon him, and Legolas felt that his heart must break in two at this parting, denied even a last look by the man he had loved for centuries and centuries.
"Namárië, Father," he whispered quietly, then turned and followed the guards away without looking back.