Remember How to Smile

Chapter 12: Behind Those Eyes You Hide

by Cassia and Siobhan

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There’s something I can’t see
There's something different in the way you smile
Behind those eyes you lie.
And there’s nothing I can say
Cause I’m never gonna change your mind
Behind those eyes you hide.

--3 Doors Down


Aragorn lit his pipe.  The soft, red glow of firelight momentarily illuminated his face before the shadows of the moonlit garden took over once more.  Dinner had been very good, but Legolas had seemed more tired than usual afterwards and excused himself almost immediately.

The stars winked down at the former ranger as he picked his way down the familiar paths with no particular destination in mind.  It would be some time yet before everyone else in the house went to bed, but he wanted to be alone for a few moments so he could think.  The revelation of Legolas’ mysterious and worsening problems weighed heavily on his mind.  Could Legolas possibly have been poisoned?  Could there have been some contaminate on the blades that cut him back in Rahzon that Aragorn had missed that might explain what was happening?  If so, he could not begin to think what kind of toxin it would be.  He was a healer; he ought to know what was wrong.  He ought to know what to do.  But he did not.

Ada, I wish you were here,” he whispered quietly into the stillness of the night.


The door to Elrond’s pantry was open.  In and of itself, that was not unusual.  With so many people in the house these days and Aragorn’s frequent trips into the small room, it was more something to be expected.  But the one-way conversation inside was what drew Elladan closer to inspect.

“Oh come on.  Where is it?”  The soft voice chided itself. “I know its here.  It was right here just yesterday.  What was the name again...oh come on, Legolas, think.”

Elladan stepped into the doorway to find the Silvan elf rifling through the cabinets on the far wall and talking quietly to himself.  A small pile of herbs had been placed into the hand mill and was already fairly ground up.  It was easy for the practiced eye to see that the prince was making himself a mixture for tea.

“I know this. I know what the name is.  Why am I forgetting these things now?  Now when I actually need the memories?  Think,” Legolas growled to himself.  He banged his head softly against the open cabinet door as though that would jar his memory.  It would have been humorous, if the elf’s agitated state was not so disturbingly unusual.

“Perhaps I can help?” Elladan offered quietly.  He was a little surprised to find the prince here.  Legolas had said he was going to bed almost a half hour ago.

Startled, Legolas spun around towards the sound of the voice.  The twin tried hard not to smile at the guilty look that passed across the prince’s face.

“It’s alright.  I just thought maybe you could use some help.  You seem to be looking for something?”

Legolas glanced back up to the cupboard behind, stalling for time.  He hadn’t meant for anyone to find out what he was doing.  He didn’t want them worrying.  Resting was difficult for him lately.  He knew how to help that problem, but wasn’t exactly sure how the twins would feel about what he was doing.

“Legolas?”  Elladan stepped farther into the pantry.  Picking up the bowl full of crushed herbs the elf inspected the mixture, smelling it deeply to make sure he was correct.

Just as he surmised – Legolas was making some of Elrond’s special tea as they all had taken to calling it.

“You were trying to recreate Ada’s tea?” Elladan questioned.  He walked up next to the Silvan elf and opened the cabinet to Legolas’ right.

Legolas still said nothing.  He had been creeping in here and making the drink every night for some time now.  Aragorn had given it to him initially, but they never administered the potion for more than a few days in a row.  Legolas said nothing because he did not wish Aragorn to know the trouble he had resting.  So he simply used his own knowledge with a little aid from Elrond’s old memories to make the tea himself.  It was easy enough when everything was in its proper place, but someone had rearranged the pantry.  Legolas didn’t really know what all the herbs he was using were, and now that they weren’t where he had learned to find them, he was having trouble remembering the actual name of the one he was missing.

“I think you are missing this,” the twin offered.  He pulled a square tin down from the third shelf and popped the top of it off.  A mild musty smell filled the room.  “Lebellyia.  It makes it work better, helps you to sleep more soundly and it’s easier on the stomach.”  He held the canister out to the prince.

“Yes,” Legolas agreed with a smile.  “That is it.  I just couldn’t make the memory surface.  And I would swear it was in this cabinet just yesterday.  Thank you for your help, it is much appreciated.”

“It was, Elrohir and I restocked the pantry earlier this morning and shifted some things around to make more room.”  Elladan admitted.  He turned around and leaned against the counter behind him as Legolas stepped back to his task.  The Silvan elf measured the correct amount of the herb out and crushed it up with the rest of the concoction.

“I did not realize that Ada had taught you how to dry mix his teas.  I always thought they were a family secret of sorts.  When did you learn?”  Elladan asked.  His curiosity had been peaked.  “Or was it Estel who taught you?”

“No, it was your father,” Legolas offered a partial explanation.  The twins didn’t know that the Silvan elf had at one time shared their father’s memories and the prince was content to leave it that way.  Having finished with the mixture he poured it into a small clay bowl and headed for the door.

“Thank you again for your help,” the prince said just before he gained the hallway.  “If you don’t mind, I think I will retire tonight and see if I can’t get some rest.”  He smiled and held up the mixture as a means of explanation.

The Noldo elf was left standing in the pantry room, a frown creasing his face.  Turning back to the shelves and cabinets behind him he pulled out the containers of herbs that Legolas had just used to mix up the tea base.  His frown deepened when he saw how much was missing.  This was not good.  If Legolas was the only one who had been using this...

Worrying his lower lip thoughtfully with his teeth, Elladan set off to find Estel.  They needed to talk.


Aragorn neared the end of one of the stone pathways that wound through the garden and halted.  His distracted senses were pulled back to center as he sensed that he was not alone.  Well-honed instinct quickly assessed the information and just as quickly let him know he could relax again.

A few moments later he could make out the figure of Gimli sitting on a stone bench, drawing thoughtfully on his pipe and blowing smoke rings in the moonlit air.

Gimli looked up when he sensed Aragorn approach and patted the bench beside him, scooting over to give the man room.  Aragorn accepted the invitation to sit and for a few moments they smoked together in companionable silence.

“So, should I ask you what’s bothering you, or should I ask you how the elf is doing?” Gimli asked after a few minutes.  He was of the opinion those two questions were probably one and the same.  He was right.

Aragorn wasn’t sure what to say.  He opted for answering the second question since it got more to heart of the matter.  “Tired, I think.  He excused himself to go to bed shortly after you left.”

“Seems he’s tired a lot lately,” Gimli muttered disapprovingly.  That was not like the incessantly energetic elf he had come to know.

“I know,” Aragorn confirmed his worries.  “That’s part of what worries me.  I don’t know if there’s something physically wrong with him or if it’s all in his mind...” There was a tone of defeat in Aragorn’s voice.  He hated to see someone hurting and not be able to help them. “Gimli... can I ask you something?” he hesitated slightly before pushing ahead.

“Anything,” Gimli replied easily, blowing another smoke ring towards the glowing orb of the moon overhead.

“You and Legolas, you traveled together quite a bit after the war, true?”

“Aye, the blasted elf dragged me on a tour of every blessed tree in Fangorn forest.  Then we went to the Glittering Caves and where there are sights to truly be seen!” Gimli’s eyes glinted brightly in the dim light.  “Of course... I would never have known that I was with the same elf that followed you so fearlessly into the Paths of the Dead!  You should have heard the fuss he put up over going into a few blasted little caves...” The dwarf shook his head with a smile.  Those were good memories.

“Of course, we also went to each other’s homes and that was... interesting. Our fathers haven’t ever been on friendly terms exactly.”  Gimli’s smile turned rueful.

Aragorn chuckled.  “Yes, I did get the impression that neither Gloin nor Thranduil would think very highly of each other should they meet again.  Please tell me you did not endeavor such a meeting?!”

“No, indeed!” Gimli laughed at the thought.  “Bringing Thranduil’s son home with me was quite difficult enough!

“What of your visit to Mirkwood?  You were with Legolas the first time he went back, were you not?”  Aragorn prodded, hoping to get a little closer to whatever truth Legolas had been hiding from him earlier.

Gimli’s smile faded slightly and he looked away again.  “Aye.  I was there.  I can’t say I was given a warm welcome, but... given the circumstances I’ll not fault them for that.”

Aragorn’s brows crinkled.  If Gimli was giving elves the benefit of the doubt, something seriously wrong must have been going on in Mirkwood.

“What happened, Gimli?  Legolas would not speak to me of it when I asked him earlier.  I have not been to Mirkwood since I left Gollum in Thranduil’s care many years ago now.  I heard that the woods were hard hit by the fighting with Dol Guldur.  What was it like?”

Gimli blew out a large puff of smoke and watched it disappear into the darkness before answering.  “What was it like?  It was like walking into Balin’s tomb.  Finding that which you thought of in life and light suddenly gone; its memory desecrated.  It... it was bad, laddie.  I’ve passed through that forest before and thought it a singularly gloomy place.  I’ll admit I once thought a nice fire might do some good there... but you can’t think that way around an elf.

“As you know, war came to the north of Middle-earth as surely as it did to the south where we were.  Somewhere about the time we were fighting in Minas Tirith and riding to the Black Gates, the Lonely Mountain, Lake Town, Las Galen and Lothlóren all came under attack from different sources.”

“I know,” Aragorn nodded.  “I heard that Lord Dain and King Brand were both slain, I’m sorry.”

Gimli nodded slowly.  “A great many of our people fell in that battle, but they made a good account for themselves.  It was the kind of death that any warrior of Dain’s years might hope for.  Legolas’ people also did themselves proud even though the whole might of Dol Guldur loosed upon them.  Did you know that Lady Galadriel herself led the Galadhrim in to clean out what was left of that festering orc hole?  I wish I could have seen that!” A somewhat dreamy smile mingled with fierce admiration lit the dwarf’s face and Aragorn tried hard not to chuckle.  Yes, he knew that too, but he let Gimli tell the story in his own way and did not interrupt.

Gimli shook his head and brought his mind back to the topic at hand.  “Now, the thing about having your stronghold in a nice, sensible place like under a mountain is that it gives your enemy precious few angles to attack you from.  Legolas’ folk have more sense than some in that regard.  I was pleased to note that despite what he says, most of his father’s halls were, in fact underground and perfectly defensible.  Unfortunately, the woods themselves were another matter.”  The dwarf sighed.

“The attacking orcs set all the northern woods aflame.  It must have been a powerful big fire at its zenith.  It didn’t get everything of course... but it did a lot of damage.  A lot of damage...”


Legolas walked numbly through the charred woods.  He knew he was on the path towards home that he had walked a hundred times, but he did not recognize it anymore.  His heart cringed inwardly.  He didn’t realize it would be this bad.  He knew the forest had taken harm... but he thought he would still recognize his home under the tangle of burnt and broken boughs.  The painful truth he was discovering now was that he could not.  

Gimli was utterly silent as he trudged along beside his friend.  Legolas had almost not let the dwarf accompany him.  If Thranduil had had trouble with his son befriending a human in the beginning, he shuddered to think what his father was going to think about Gimli.  Legolas wasn’t sure this was the best time to introduce his dwarven friend to the Elvenking that had once imprisoned Gimli’s father, but now Legolas was glad he was not making this journey alone.

Gimli glanced up at the pale face of the elf walking beside him.  He didn’t have to comprehend Legolas’ affinity with nature to understand the devastation on his friend’s face as they passed mournfully through the ruined woods that had once been the elf’s home.

Lightly, reverently, Legolas touched his fingertips to the charred trunks of the trees that bordered the path like mournful sentinels.  Many were dead, their song silenced.  The elf felt only empty coldness when he touched them.  Some yet survived.  Legolas felt tears sting his eyes.  The trees mourned their losses.  Yet when he touched the ones that were trying valiantly to bloom around scarred trunks and missing limbs, they were not sorry for themselves.  Instead, they reached out in a weak attempt to soothe the hurting spirit of the wood-elf.  That was what finally crushed the elf’s defenses and made silent tears spill down his cheeks.

Legolas turned his head away swiftly.  He quickened his pace, leaving Gimli behind.  He did not want the dwarf to see him cry.

Gimli resisted the urge to speed up and rejoin Legolas.  He understood the elf needed space and let the prince walk alone until he had his emotions under control once more.

Legolas appreciated the fact that Gimli was simply being silent and letting him deal with the pain of this in his own way.  It was hard.  This wasn’t the kind of homecoming he had imagined.  Thranduil had spoken little of home when they were together at Aragorn’s coronation.  From what he had said, Legolas had been prepared for some damage when he finally did make it home... but he had not been prepared for anything like this.  Now he understood his father’s subdued mood in Minas Tirith, and why he had surprised Legolas by not trying to talk him into returning home right away with the rest of the Mirkwood delegation.  Thranduil hadn’t known how to warn his son about what had happened while he was gone.  Perhaps he had not been prepared to deal with Legolas’ grief and horror atop his own.

Legolas stopped short when he saw the familiar outline of the palace gates come into view ahead of him.  His feet felt rooted to the spot.  He should have been glad to finally see something he recognized, but he was not.  Instead, horror flooded his being as he realized where he was.  Somehow he had still imagined that his home itself was spared and it was only the woods around that had been decimated, but before him stood the stark proof that the fires and fighting had come right to the doorstep of the palace.  The graceful trees arching over the lane leading to his father’s magic gates were blackened and silent.  Beyond the walls, Legolas could just see that the palace grounds themselves were thankfully untouched, a small, sea of green in the brown-black tangle of the woods.  He thanked the Valar for that small mercy.

The prince stopped, unable to bring himself to utter the command that would open those doors.  He was home, but it didn’t feel like home. The woods had changed; he had changed.  The wind rustling in the bare branches sounded like the roll of the sea in his ears.  He had never more understood the cursed call of the sea than at this moment.

Legolas stared mutely at the gate.  Now that he saw the devastation of the woods, he began to fear what cost the war may have taken upon his people as well.  His home was mostly underground and seemed to have been spared the worst of the conflagration... but what about all the others who lived in the woods around the palace?  What about Raniean, Trelan, Morifwen, Brenyf... were his friends alright?  He realized with a chill that none of them had accompanied Thranduil to Minas Tirith and the Elvenking had not spoken of how they fared.   

The massive trees on either side of the gate were still alive, although badly scarred by the fire that had claimed their kin.  Legolas touched them with trembling fingers.  They were saplings when he was learning to walk.  His mother had planted them and every time she entered or left the palace she would touch them.  Elvéwen standing in the open gate, her pale hands sadly touching first one tree, and then the other in a final farewell was the last memory he had of his mother.  After she left, Legolas had adopted her ritual.  How many times had he touched these trees in the long centuries he had lived?  So many memories...

Unexpectedly, Legolas dropped to his knees before the gates and buried his face in his hands.  Maybe for the first time in his life he finally understood why his mother had left.  Perhaps also for the first time he could finally forgive his father for not letting him accompany Elvéwen all the way to the havens to say goodbye.  He realized numbly that his father had feared letting him see the sea.  Thranduil had feared losing him too.

Gimli’s thick, weathered hand came to rest comfortingly on Legolas’ shoulder, reminding the wood elf that he was not alone.

Legolas started, but did not rise.  He hated letting Gimli see him like this but his aching heart took precedent over his pride.

“All the battles we have fought... did they mean nothing?  How can I face those that have spent their blood for my home when I...?  I-I should have been here, Gimli,” Legolas whispered sadly.

“You couldn’t have changed it, laddie,” Gimli said quietly.  “You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

“When my people needed me I was thousands of miles away, fighting someone else’s war.”  Legolas’ words weren’t bitter, he knew he had done what he needed to do, but that didn’t change his feelings of guilt.

“We had a job to do and we did it,” Gimli countered with gruff wisdom.  “If the Ring didn’t go into the fire, none of us would have a people left to worry about.  Don’t give yourself a big head.  You’re quite a fighter, for an elf, but even you couldn’t have turned the tide of whatever happened here,” the dwarf pointed out with his usual mix of sarcasm and sincerity.

Legolas nodded numbly.  He knew it was true, but it didn’t make this any easier.  He gave Gimli’s hand a grateful squeeze before rising back to his feet and bidding the gates to open.

“I knew there was some reason I brought you along,” the prince murmured with a small smile.

“Aye, that was rare good sense on your part,” Gimli added perfectly straight-faced, but his eyes twinkled.

Inside the palace grounds the abundance of thriving plant-life was like a welcome breath of fresh air.  Legolas was slightly surprised by the number of people milling about the courtyard.  Usually one found only the guards out here.  Now, however, the courtyard was alive with a host of elves that seemed to have no relation to the palace or palace staff at all.

Refugees, Legolas realized with a start.  Obviously, many elves had lost their homes to the fire and Thranduil had given them sanctuary in the palace until the woods could be rebuilt.

That did not explain the startling presence of the two soldiers near the far wall dressed in the unmistakable armor of the Galadhrim.  The prince couldn’t remember ever seeing the folk of the Golden Wood in his home before.

Part of Legolas’ greatest fear was laid to rest several paces into the courtyard.

“Legolas!  Your Highness!”

The prince turned at the sound of his name and saw Trelan hurrying towards him with a large smile on his face.  The small elf was leaning slightly on a gracefully carved wooden crutch, but he moved so easily that it looked like he almost didn’t need it.

“Trey!” Legolas greeted as they embraced.  “What happened to you?”  The prince’s smile was still slightly marred by everything he had seen.

Trelan understood.  The state of the forest had to come as quite a shock.  He had been here to see the devastation as it happened, and somehow that had made it easier to deal with.  He knew how close to total disaster they had come and how much worse it could have been.

“Nothing to worry about, a little broken leg is all.  Some troll-creature got in a lucky swing.  It’s mending beautifully.  I don’t really need this wretched thing anymore.” He gestured to the crutch in his hand.  “But the healers got to your father and so now I have orders.  If I don’t use it, I’m not allowed to work.  Talk to him about that, would you?”

Legolas chuckled.  “As if that would do any good?  Besides, you probably should be using it.”

Trelan rolled his eyes dramatically.  “Oh very well, since you’re all against me.  It’s not as if I am about to stress myself overseeing food distribution,” he snorted.  “I’ve been put in charge of the detail caring for the refugees until the healers say I may rejoin my contingent.”  The small elf made a face.  “I hope that day comes soon!  But what about you?  Where have you been?  Off having fun without us again no doubt.  Ho!  Wait a minute, who’s this?” Trelan noticed Gimli for the first time.

Legolas could not help smiling at Trelan’s mile-a-minute speech.  “Trelan, this is Gimli, son of Gloin.  Gimli, this is Trelan, son of Telrayn.  Gimli’s a friend of mine Trey, and yes, I will tell you everything that’s happened, but first...” his eyes filled with worry once more.

Trelan sobered slightly as well.  “Raniean’s all right.  He’s out with the others on the rebuilding projects.”

“What about Morifwen?  Brenyf?”  Legolas was almost afraid to ask.

“They’re fine too,” Trelan assured.  “We lost most of the second company and a good number of the others, but there will be time for you to see records of the fallen later,” the small elf said quietly.  “First you should refresh yourself; you’ve had a long journey.  Your rooms are ready for you.  The palace is a little... full at the moment, but I’ll have someone make some arrangements for your friend.”  Trelan turned in a slow circle, looking for someone he could commandeer.

“Gimli can stay with me,” Legolas volunteered.

Trelan raised an eyebrow, glancing at the dwarf askance.  He gave Legolas a look that said he had better get the full story on how all this came to be as soon as they had time.  “Dwarves now, Legolas?  Humans weren’t enough?”  He laughed.  “As you wish.”

Gimli grumbled dangerously and Legolas shot him an imploring look.  They knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but Legolas didn’t want trouble to start already.

Trelan waved a hand towards the two Galadhrim warriors that Legolas had spotted earlier.  “Could you find Elrynd or somebody on the serving staff and tell them Prince Legolas is on his way to his rooms?  Ask them to draw a bath for him and prepare another bed in his guest chamber.”

The Lórien elves acquiesced to the request with a nod and left.  Trelan grinned somewhat wickedly.  “Have to find some use for them from time to time.  Lord Celeborn left us with a troop of his warriors to help with the rebuilding.  But they’re a lot more useful to Raniean who is actually DOING the rebuilding than they are here, where they’re just more people underfoot.”

Legolas reflected that there were indeed already quite enough people underfoot as they threaded their way through the crowded courtyard.  Legolas did not seem ready to settle in his rooms right away and lingered there only briefly.  After Trelan left them, he made his way out into the gardens, seeking some area that was not occupied by the visible, homeless evidence of what had become of his home.  Gimli tagged along after him, keeping up a steady, one-sided conversation to which the prince was not even bothering to listen.  

Legolas finally found a small, secluded glen near the south wall and stopped, trying to breathe in the scent of the trees and flowers.  But even here the air was tainted with the tang of scorched wood and ash.  Gimli sensed his friend’s quite distress and finally fell silent.

The dwarf felt he should say something, but he did not know what, and Legolas had seemed extremely disinterested in conversation.  So he kept his peace and seated himself on a large stone.

“Legolas?” Thranduil’s familiar voice drew Legolas around slowly.  The prince had been aware of his father’s approach for several moments, but hadn’t been sure how to greet him.

Gimli, however, was surprised by the older elf’s silent approach and shifted around swiftly to gaze at the Elvenking.  He had never met Thranduil personally, and knew him only from his father’s stories.  Yet he recognized instantly who the newcomer was.  The regal bearing was unmistakable, even without the silver crown of leaves upon his brow.  Besides, the resemblance between father and son was unmistakable.  It startled Gimli a little.  Elven age was always a difficult thing for outsiders to judge, but it was surprising to the dwarf that the Elvenking really didn’t look old enough to be Legolas’ father.  His older brother maybe... but then, he remembered Galadriel, older than the sun, and still so radiantly beautiful.  Yes, elves were a queer folk, but he would grudgingly admit that they were a blessed one as well.

“I was told you had returned, but I knew I would not find you in your rooms,” the Elvenking said softly.

Legolas could see in Thranduil’s eyes the echoes of the same pain that was in his own heart.  It made own eyes sting afresh.  For once he didn’t try to hide his feelings from his father.  He had finally accepted that Thranduil would not see it as weakness.

“I wanted to hear the trees... but they do not speak to me anymore,” he said sorrowfully.

Thranduil moved forward and embraced his son.  He did not release him at once, but held him a little longer than a simple greeting required.  Legolas buried his hands in the silk of his father’s robes and held fast as well.  Their woods had changed forever.  Middle-earth had changed forever, and they both knew it.

The king could feel the shock in his son’s body.  He regretted that the state of the woods had come as such a surprise.  He wished he could have cushioned the blow somehow.

“Forgive me,” Thranduil whispered quietly in Legolas’ ear.  “I did not know how to tell you.”   

Legolas had no trouble believing that.  If the positions were reversed, he doubted he would have known what to say.  He didn’t know what to say now either.  He nodded wordlessly against Thranduil’s shoulder.

After a moment, Thranduil pulled back and held Legolas at arms length, studying him.  The shock and ache were still clear in the prince’s blue eyes.

“Much has been lost.  Much has changed.  But the sacrifices have not been without cause,” Thranduil said softly.  “The forest mourns, but it will re-grow.  As much as it mourns, it rejoices.  It still sings.  Do you not feel it, Legolas?  It’s free.  It’s finally free.”

Legolas shook his head, momentarily at a loss.  He could not hear that of which his father spoke.  His connection with the trees seemed dimmed somehow – remote.  It felt as if the forest had been silenced.

Thranduil frowned slightly and reached out his hand, lightly touching the side of Legolas’ face.

“Look past the pain, ion-nín.  Listen...” he bade softly.

Legolas did as he was bid, pushing through his own hurt and despair to try and understand his father’s words.  He was surprised that after a few moments he could indeed feel the difference.  The trauma of the ruined woods had blinded him to it at first, but now he could sense that not all the change in the air was ill.  There was a lightness, and an absence of evil that he had not felt in many, many years.  The forest grieved, but it was well aware of its own cycle of death and rebirth.  It trembled now with hopeful anticipation of a future free from shadow.  Legolas was surprised he had not sensed this before.  He wondered with a start if the fact that the trees did not seem to sing to his heart the way they had once actually had anything to do with the woods at all.  Perhaps it was he, and not the forest, who had changed the most.

The prince allowed a small smile to wipe some of the grief from his face.  “You’re right.  It is free, Ada.  Middle-earth is free, just as we have always desired.  The woods will be safe now for our people to live in peace.”

Thranduil gave a ghost of a smile as he let his hand drop from his son’s face.  His response was unanticipated.  “Free, yes.  But for us...?  I am not so sure.  In a way, this has been my life’s labor.  I am glad to see it completed.  I do not think this will be our world much longer.  My heart is glad to be able to leave it thus.”

Legolas blinked several times.  Yet, perhaps the most shocking thing was that he was not surprised.  Thranduil’s words were not as unexpected as they might seem.  There was a feeling of completion here.

“You speak of leaving?” the younger elf asked.  The garden seemed suddenly very quiet.

“It is the fate of all our kind eventually,” Thranduil said somewhat vaguely.  “Our ancestors never made the first journey, so we shall be pioneers, yes?” he smiled gently.  “Do not mistake me, I have much yet to do here and I would see Eryn Lasgalen, our new Greenwood, restored to full health before I even think of departing.  But... I am ready.  I am ready to see your Nana again.  Soon, Greenleaf, I think you will be too.”

Legolas returned his father’s smile and gripped the other elf’s arm.  He was already more ready than his father knew.  Yet his desire to stay was still much stronger than his desire to leave.  He too, had much yet to do here on Middle-earth before his time came.

These thoughts led his mind quickly back to Gimli, who had been quite forgotten for the moment.

The dwarf loudly cleared his throat, causing both elves to look at him.

“Forgive me!” Legolas smiled ruefully at his own lack of manners.  “Father, may I present Gimli, son of Gloin?”

“It is good to see you, Master Gimli.  What brings you to our woods?”  Thranduil nodded politely at the dwarf in greeting.  Legolas had briefly named all the members of the Fellowship for this father when they were in Minis Tirith and the reintroduction was more of a formality for the sake of the dwarf.  Still, Legolas knew they had not said more than three words to one another in their previous acquaintance and he wondered again how this visit was going to fair.  He wasn’t even sure Gimli had realized at the time that Thranduil was Legolas’ father.

Gimli had the good manners to rise and bow to the Elvenking, if only very stiffly.

“I invited him to stay for a while,” Legolas explained.  “Then, if I can be spared, I had promised to accompany him to his home in the Lonely Mountain.”  Legolas put a qualifier on the last part of his plan because now that he saw the state Mirkwood was in he realized he might be needed here.

Thranduil nodded, obviously trying to keep his eyebrows from creeping up to join his hairline.  “I see.  Well I’m sure if you really wished it, you could be spared.”  He looked at his son as if trying to judge whether he was mentally stable or not.  He was talking about voluntarily going off to visit dwarves after all - inside a mountain no less.

Legolas actually chuckled at the disbelief on his father’s face.  On impulse, he gave Thranduil another quick hug.  The elvenking was slightly surprised, but smiled and hugged him back.

“I don’t wish to be rude,” Gimli said finally.  “But some of us have had a rather long journey.  While the hospitality of these halls has never been renowned among my people, I wonder if there’s somewhere a body might get a bite to eat.”

Legolas almost choked.  He shot Gimli a withering glare, but the dwarf, unfortunately, did not seem to realize he’d said anything very insulting at all.  Valar help them, this was going to be a very interesting visit.

Thranduil glared at the dwarf, but seemed caught somewhere between being annoyed at Gimli and amused at his son’s reaction.  “There is a meal awaiting you both in Legolas’ chambers, if you would care to return there.”

“Thank you, Father,” Legolas said quickly, his gaze sending an embarrassed apology for his friend’s behavior.  “Perhaps we should go refresh ourselves.”

Thranduil repressed a smile, which was all the indication Legolas needed that the King had not, in fact, taken offense.  “Yes, I think you’d better,” he said seriously, but with a twinkle in his eyes.  “The dwarf smells worse than the ranger.”

Gimli sputtered and began protesting loudly, but Legolas didn’t give him the chance.

“COME, Gimli,” he said firmly, grabbing the dwarf’s arm and practically dragging him away with him.  

Thranduil’s amused look followed them both out of the garden.


Aragorn laughed while Gimli muttered about the hospitality of elves.

“At least they didn’t accuse you of murder,” Aragorn told him.

Gimli did a double-take on that statement and eyed the former ranger.  “Say what, laddie?”

Aragorn shook his head.  “Another story for another time,” he said dismissively.  “I had no idea Mirkwood... I mean Eryn Lasgalen, was so hard hit.  Legolas should have told me.”

“Aye, but that one’s quite the clam sometimes,” Gimli remarked.  “You have to pry everything out of him!”  The dwarf made a motion with his hands to demonstrate his point and smiled.

Aragorn smiled slightly.  “Very true.  Speaking of our dear, stubborn, elvish friend, I think I’d better go look in on him and make sure he’s resting all right.”  Tamping out his pipe, he excused himself.

“Legolas is right, you are a mother hen,” Gimli called after him, amusement obvious in his voice.

“Oh he said that, did he?” Aragorn asked as he took his leave.

“Oh, aye, that and a number of other things,” the dwarf said with a slowly growing grin.

Aragorn shook his head.  He chuckled.  “You and I shall have to talk more!”


Legolas was indeed resting well when Aragorn found him, and the King was glad.  He did not enter the prince’s room, but remained on the threshold.  The house was quiet now.  The veil of slumber was slowly descending upon its other occupants.

It was here that Elladan finally found his human brother.

Aragorn was leaning in the doorway to Legolas’ room watching the elf slumber peacefully.  A small smile crept onto the human’s face.

“He finally sleeps,” the man whispered as Elladan stepped next to him and glanced into the darkened room.

“I would wonder if he didn’t,” the twin responded darkly.  Aragorn glanced at him with a questioning frown.  Instead of answering his brother’s unspoken question, Elladan quietly slipped into Legolas’ room.  Aragorn was afraid his brother would disturb the prince, but Legolas slept on, completely unaware.

Stepping out into the hallway Elladan passed Aragorn the mug he had retrieved from the bed stand.

Aragorn felt the fired clay cup.  It was barely warm.  He smelled the lip and ran his index finger around the edges of the mug.  Tasting the contents he glanced up quickly at Elladan a look of recognition on his face.

It was his father’s special tea mix and a potent portion of it at that.

“How ever did you get him to take this?” Aragorn asked quietly not wanting to waken the prince.  Legolas was always very resistant to taking the medication.  Although, come to think of it, he hadn’t made much of a protest when Aragorn had given it to him the first few nights they were here.

“I didn’t,” Elladan answered simply.  His tone was flat and serious and Estel could tell that there was more.

Elrohir slipped up beside his twin and leaned against the wall, quietly listening to the conversation.  He had no knowledge of what had transpired, he had just been looking for his brothers.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Aragorn asked suspiciously.  “If you didn’t give this to him, how did he get it?”

“I found him in the pantry making it himself.  He was begging his memories not to fail him.  Estel, how does Legolas know how to make Ada’s tea?  He said father told him how, but when?  I do not remember him teaching anyone but us three how to make it.  It could be dangerous if made improperly.”  Elladan was concerned.  His consternation had grown throughout the evening and he was looking for answers.

“Oh, right,” Aragorn muttered, closing his eyes and tipping his head back as memory slammed back into him.  “Legolas does know.  And I will tell you how, but not here.  It is... it is a tender subject.  I don’t want him to wake.  He needs to sleep.  Let us go down the Study and I’ll tell you everything.”

The human led the twins back down the hallway, stopping off quickly at his room on the way.  He retrieved a small leather bag of Longbottom leaf to refill his pipe, much to the twins’ annoyance.

“You aren’t going to smoke that thing in the house are you?” Elrohir questioned him as they walked down the stairwell.

“I am.” Aragorn announced.  He turned right at the bottom of the steps and headed for the study.

“It’s a foul habit, Estel.  Why Ada couldn’t break you of it I will never know,” Elladan complained.  Of course Elrond had never even attempted such a thing, being much more tolerant of the smell of pipeweed than the twins.

“Who taught you how to smoke a pipe anyway?” Elrohir continued his barrage of questions.  He slumped down on the couch, making room for Elladan.  The oldest twin sat on the arm of the large divan and leaned back.  He allowed his body to slip from its position until he was lying on the sofa with his head on Elrohir’s thigh and his legs dangling over the arm.

“I’ll have you know that Gandalf smokes...” Aragorn tried to defend himself only to be interrupted by Elladan.

“And he is an Istari and they have a myriad of oddities about them.  So you cannot compare yourself to him,” The oldest twin countered.

“...and all the hobbits smoke,” Aragorn continued as though he hadn’t heard a word that had been said.

“There is no accounting for hobbit tastes.  They are a strange folk, Estel, and you know that,” Elrohir taunted with a wide smile.

And it was Halbarad who introduced to me to the art of smoking!” Aragorn finished his explanation.

“If that old ranger weren’t already occupying the Halls of Mandos, I would send him there for teaching you that despicable habit,” Elladan chimed in drolly.

“So it is a practice handed down from wise men, sturdy long-lived people and the valiant who have gone before us.  Hence it is necessary for me to continue the tradition and pass it on to all who desire to learn,” Aragorn defended himself.  He laughed as the twins ridiculed him and guffawed at his explanations.

Seating himself in a large, overstuffed chair, he removed the long, wooden pipe that he had acquired years ago.  It was one of the finest made in the Shire.  The small pouch contained a mixture of Longbottom leaf.  The most popular and widely sought tobacco was grown by the Brandybuck clan now that the King had put in orders for it.

Taking out a heaping pinch of the broken, dried leaves Aragorn stuffed them into the bowl of the pipe.  He struck a flint, igniting a long thin reed which he touched to the leaves and drew in a breath holding it deeply in his lungs before breathing the sweet, heady smell of the plant back out.

The twins could not deny the scent was pleasant but they had never acquired a taste for tobacco or smoking of any type.  And they never missed a chance to tease their youngest brother about it either.

It took Aragorn three tries before he blew a perfect smoke ring.  His second ring drifted close to Elrohir.  The elven twin batted at the ghosted circle and scrunched his face up.

“Estel,” Elladan growled darkly.  His tone was belayed by the smile on his face.  “Stop tormenting Elrohir or I’ll make you take that thing outside.”

“You do and I’ll never tell you how it is that Legolas knows the ingredients to make Ada’s special tea,” Aragorn warned. Two could play at that game.

He smiled wickedly when the elven twins rolled their eyes and waited him out patiently as he breathed in the sweet thick smoke of the weed once more.  Blowing another perfect smoke ring he contented himself and set the pipe aside.

“Legolas probably retains many of Ada’s memories,” The human stated simply.

His remark caught the elven twins completely off guard.  Whatever they might have expected, neither of them were prepared for Estel’s explanation.  Elladan quickly sat up and leaned forward intently. Both twins were speaking at the same time wanting to know more.

“Peace, peace.  Let me explain,” Aragorn calmed them.  “It is not his fault.”

Elrohir stopped his twin’s tirade with a gentle touch to Elladan’s shoulder.  He pulled his brother back against him and silenced the other with a glance.

“Let us hear him out.  I would know how this came about,” Elrohir spoke softly.

With a nod Elladan quieted and rested fully back against Elrohir.  Both elves turned their undivided attention to the human and quietly waited.

“Do you remember that summer when the orcs invaded Imladris and we destroyed Daradwayn?” When both his listeners nodded in agreement the man continued.  “So then you remember when father brought Legolas back from the steps of Mandos’ Halls?”

Again a simple nod of affirmation.

“Legolas said that in the instant that he returned, when he awoke, he did not know who he was for all the memories and lives that were inside his mind.  He and Ada were joined in a way that I do not understand nor can I explain any better than what Legolas has told me.  Ada’s memories impressed themselves on Legolas’ mind.  Likewise Ada carries many of Legolas’ with him as well,” Aragorn explained as best as he could.

“He has all his memories?” Elladan repeated questioningly.

“Even the ones about us?” Elrohir asked.

With a laugh Aragorn nodded his head.  “I don’t know how much of his recollections were actually made conscious, and Legolas has long sought to suppress them entirely, but I’m afraid that on some level he probably knows most of those as well. Or rather he did know them.”

When the identical faces of the elves across from him scrunched up in confusion, Aragorn continued explaining.

“Most of the memories are repressed, forgotten or faded.  When we were in Angmar, it was necessary for Legolas to force them to the forefront and recall Adar’s work in the healing arts.  It was what saved us all.  If Legolas had not had Ada’s memories I would have died and so would all the peoples enslaved to the Witch-king,” Aragorn confessed.  “We never told anyone, not even you two.  It was very distressing for Legolas at first.  He thought he was going insane until we figured out what had happened.  Then he had to tell Ada.  That was very difficult and very embarrassing for them both.  When Legolas finally came clean with Father, Ada taught him how to sift the memories and reject the ones that were specifically not his own.” Aragorn paused in his tale and sighed deeply.

“It seems he has called back certain ones now in order to create Ada’s special tea.  I had thought that he was simply doing better but I was wrong.  I didn’t see the signs.  He’s very good at covering up injuries and pretending that things are well when they are not.  I haven’t been watching him closely enough,” the healer confessed.  “I should have caught him at his game sooner.”

“How could you know if he didn’t want you to?  Legolas learned long before you entered the world how to conceal his pain,” Elladan tried to console his younger brother.

“Yes, but if weren’t so preoccupied with my own troubles then I would have noticed sooner.  I know it.  He can’t hide things from me if I’m paying attention.”  Aragorn couldn’t accept the release so easil;, he felt too responsible as the resident healer.  “And its not just that.  Last week Arwen told me that she thought Legolas was doing poorly and that I should watch for the signs of his weariness.  I dismissed it as just his being tired from the journey and healing.  But I was wrong.”

No one spoke for a few minutes.  There was nothing the twins could say to pacify the healer in Aragorn.

With a sigh Estel broke the silence. “Well I suppose a couple of nights will be alright, that can’t hurt him,” he said finally.

“It hasn’t been just a couple of nights, Estel,” Elladan admitted quietly.  He returned the questioning gaze that Elrohir gave him with a small shrug.  “I checked the contents of the other herbs that the tea is made with.  The canisters are half full; we’ll need to go out and get more before winter sets in or we won’t have enough.”

“Half full!”  Aragorn leaned forward, suddenly very upset.  “Elladan are you sure that Legolas used that much?  Are you sure you weren’t low to begin with?”

“It’s not possible, Estel,” Elrohir concurred.  “We filled those coffers ourselves.  There isn’t much call for the tea anymore.  The tins were full before you came.”

“Then he has been using it practically since we got here.” Aragorn figured up the amounts quickly in his head.  “But even so, to be down to half...”

“He’s been taking doses a lot more potent than we would normally give, I know.  Those were my thoughts exactly,” Elladan agreed.  “You’ll have to talk to him.  Prolonged use is dangerous.  If he keeps it up he’ll have a hard time sleeping without it.  It’s only meant for use in moderation.”

“I know,” Estel agreed, nodding slowly.  He slumped back into the chair and reached for his pipe.  No one protested as he drew in a slow deep breath.

Silence filled the room and Elladan lay back down on the divan.  Stretching out as much as possible, he used his twin for a pillow and fixed his gaze on the ornamented ceiling.

“I’ll talk to him,” Aragorn spoke up softly after several minutes.  “I’ll ask him to ease up slowly on his use of the tea.  If he’s been taking it regularly it would be worse for him to simply stop.  I wish he’d talked to me first.”

“Sometimes it’s too hard to talk,” Elrohir answered quietly. “Sometimes what you are dealing with is painful enough that you just can’t speak about it.  It would make it worse.”

“Well not talking isn’t helping either,” Aragorn countered.  “But please don’t ask him about Father’s memories.  It was so hard the last time for him to put them aside.  I’d rather not drag him through that again when he obviously has enough else going on inside him.”

“You have our word, Estel,” Elladan promised.  He watched his brother take another deep breath through the pipe.  “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course. Anything, you know that,” Aragorn responded quickly.

“The first time you picked up that nasty thing...” Elladan let the question hang in the air.

To the elves amusement Aragorn burst out laughing.

“The first time I was introduced to smoking, Halbarad allowed me to use his pipe,” Aragorn started the tale with a smile.  He shook his head and closed his eyes as he remembered far back into his youth.  “I swear that old ranger did so just to get a laugh.  I had been watching him and he made it look so easy.  So when he handed me his pipe, of course, I was overeager.  I mimicked him exactly, right up to the point where I held the smoke in my chest for the count of three just like he did. I think I counted to one before I started hacking and coughing and I couldn’t catch my breath.  All the old timers thought it was tremendously funny.”  Aragorn was laughing now as he told the tale.

“I couldn’t breathe.  I thought I was going to die.  My eyes were watering and my nose got all runny.  I swear I coughed all night long after that.  Halbarad was beating on my back and laughing so hard he was crying.  After that I was convinced that I would learn just so they would never have the opportunity to laugh at me again,” Aragorn continued the tale much to his brother’s glee.

“Then a few months later, I met an old hobbit in Bree one day who happened to be passing through on his way to the Shire.  He had a bag of pipes with him and barrel of Longbottom leaf out on his pony.  When he noticed my interest, he sold me this pipe,” the human explained, holding up the polished pipe.  The stem was a burnt brown color that faded to nearly black at the bowl from use.  It was one of his most treasured possessions from his earlier days.

“Anyway, he took me out to where his pony had been bedded and gave me a huge satchel of tobacco.  When I confessed that I was new to smoking he got so excited I thought he was going to burst.  He took me out behind the barn there at Bree.  We sat out in the field under the trees with the horses and that old-timer taught me the finer points of smoking.  I think he enjoyed himself almost as much as I did.  The next day we left the town and I couldn’t find him.  They said he had taken off earlier than we had, which was surprising.  But the best part of it all was that night at camp...”

Aragorn’s laughter interrupted his own story as he remembered what had transpired.

“That night around the campfire I pulled out this pipe and started smoking just like I’d been doing it forever.  Halbarad was so impressed and a few of them even wanted to barter for my pipe.  They never got it and I never found that old Hobbit ever again.  Drogo Halfast, was his name if my memory serves me well,” Aragorn finished his story with a smile.  He took a breath and released the smoke slowly.

“I really did it just to impress Halbarad,” the man confessed.

“You always did want to ‘grow up’ to be just like him,” Elladan retorted quietly.

“No,” Aragorn corrected his brother softly. “I wanted to grow up to be just like you – both of you.”

His admission surprised the oldest elf.  Elladan rolled off the couch and stood to his feet. Leaning over, he kissed his younger brother on the forehead.

“You, dear brother, have far surpassed us,” he whispered softly.  “You have become all that you were born to be and more.”

Aragorn wrapped his arms around the elf’s neck and hugged him tightly.

“Thank you,” the man responded.  He smiled softly when the elf stepped back towards his twin.

“And now I think I shall take Elrohir upstairs as he is very tired and we will both call it a night,” Elladan joked.

“Me?!” Elrohir laughed. “I wasn’t the one who was falling asleep while Estel was talking.  I do believe that was you!”

“Nay, dear brother, you are just too tired to remember correctly,” Elladan countered with a giggle.

“Quiet, the two of you, or you will wake the house!” Aragorn shushed them both.  “Let us all retire for the evening.  The day has been long and I know that I truly am tired.”

Standing from his seat Aragorn moved to the doorway. Glancing over his shoulder he smiled wickedly at the slow-moving twins.

“Race you to the top!” he called out at them as he tore off for the staircase.

The shouts and cries of ‘unfair’ could be heard behind him as he pelted down the hallway.  Aragorn had nearly reached the stairwell when the two elves overtook him and pushed their way up the steps first.  In seconds they had gained the top leaving the man trailing behind on the second level.

The twins waited for their brother to catch up to them, taunting him on his slowness until he cautioned them to silence.

“You will wake the house! Heavens forbid Mora should have to come out and send you to your rooms, now quiet down,” he berated them good-naturedly.

Elladan grabbed him in a headlock and dragged him halfway down the hall glibly reminding him who was the oldest.  When they reached their rooms they parted ways; their wishes of goodnight echoed softly in the hallway welcoming the oncoming night.

Legolas tossed fitfully in his bed.  Turning on his side he glanced with weary eyes at the mug that rested on his nightstand.  The cup held no tea tonight although a small pouch containing the herbs lay next to a clay pot that Moranuen had brought.  The container was full of steaming water if Legolas found he needed the sleeping aid after all.  It was really too early for him to retire for the evening, but being amongst the bustle of the house sometimes wearied him far more easily than he cared to admit.

Politely excusing himself from the conversations in the Hall of Fire the prince had sought out the solitude and peace of his room thinking to loose himself to sleep.  Rest, however, eluded him completely.

It had been three days since Aragorn had gently asked him to ease up on using the herbal tea to aid his sleep.  The healer was worried that the tea might actually have negative effects on the elf if he used it for long periods of time.  Legolas, a bit ashamed at being caught, had not argued the point.  So he had cut it back the past two nights and was trying to sleep normally tonight, but it just wasn’t working.

The soft glow of the stars above Rivendell shone down into his room doing their best to comfort the distressed elf, but he was miserable.  His hands ached dully and no position was comfortable.  His mind wouldn’t stop thinking and he couldn’t shut off the voices that begged for attention at the back of his thoughts.  Anxiety warred with longings that he could not curb.  It seemed everything conspired against him to keep him from getting better.

His soul could not rest.

With a heavy sigh the elf sat up and threw the covers off of him.  For a while he simply sat there unsure of what to do next.  The sounds of the occupants of the house drifted up the stairwell.  He padded quietly down the steps and approached the Hall of Fire.  Laughter erupted from the room and several voices started speaking at once, shouting one another down to be heard as some point was argued.

He smiled softly as he listened to the good-natured taunting. Part of him wanted to return to the hall and be amongst his friends.  His heart was lonely, but it was a loneliness that not even the company of others ever seemed to touch.  He knew, should he return to the great room, he would still feel as distant and lost to everyone as he did out here in the darkened hall in which he stood.

Indecision gripped him.

He stood for several moments on the threshold of light that spilled into the corridor.  Warring again within himself he stayed rooted in place.  He was worn from the energy it took to pretend that everything was fine.  Looking off to his right, Legolas noticed the open door leading to Elrond’s library.  The study hall was a huge room full of books and open to the exterior of Rivendell through several large windows and doors.  The darkness of the room beckoned him.  The call of tales wondrous and forgotten bid him enter and look upon their pages.  Perhaps in the lives of those who had gone before him he could find the answers that he sought.

Entering Elrond’s study he was at once aware of a slight easing of the panic that had gripped his heart.  He needed to spend some time alone tonight.  This had been the right choice.

Lighting the glowglobes on the walls and the desk, he brightened the interior of the room with enough light with which to read.  His fingers lingered on the edges of the well-kept books and tomes brushing the gold-edged bindings, searching them for just the right one.  Stopping near a particularly old volume, he stepped nearer tipping his head to read the inscription better.  Yes... this book, this one had some of the tales he had heard of though not in detail.

Reverently removing the manuscript he flipped through the pages as he walked slowly to a huge chair that sat in the corner.  Easing down on the seat he pulled his feet up underneath him.  Leaning back against the cool leather Legolas rested his head, losing himself in the tales of his forefathers.  The troubling thoughts soon released their hold on his attention as the elf forgot the present for the past.

Time passed slowly.  The library was quiet.  Usually no one occupied it this late at night – at least not now that Lord Elrond had left.  Several lamps cast a warm, welcoming glow across the desks, chairs and polished walls of bookshelves.  The sounds from the Hall of Fire had died down as some tale was recounted for the curious listeners.

Legolas sat curled up in the huge, leather chair, time all but forgotten.  The same book he had retrieved earlier still lay propped in his lap and he absently turned the pages with the fingers of his un-bandaged hand as he read the ancient words.

The pitter-patter of small, shoeless feet made him smile and lift his head.

Dari had entered the room.  The little boy was barefoot and dressed in his nightclothes.  Upon seeing Legolas he quickly adjusted his course.  Climbing up onto the elf’s lap and sliding easily into Legolas’ arms, Dari studied the book the prince was holding.

“What’re you reading?”  Eldarion inquired, frowning and flipping through the disappointing pages that contained only words.

“It’s a history of your ancestors, Dari.  About the early days of Númenor,” Legolas explained.

“Looks boring,” Dari said with a sigh.

Legolas knew this was because there were no pictures so he flipped through the book, looking for any stray illustrations.  “Actually it’s quite interesting.  Here it is talking about when Tar-Minastir sailed into the Grey Havens and drove Sauron out of Eriador.  He came only just in time to help save your grandfather, Elrond, and the other elves who were being hard pressed at that time.”

Dari seemed to decide that maybe this book wasn’t so bad after all.  He put his small hand over Legolas’, stopping the elf when the prince finally came across an illustration.  It was a picture of a fleet of ships in the background and a woman standing with her back to the sea in the foreground.  It looked as if the lady had tears in her eyes.

“What’s this ‘bout?” Dari wanted to know, pointing to the picture.  “Why’s she sad?”

Legolas glanced at the text running beside the picture.  “This is the story of Erendis and Tar-Aldarion the Mariner,” he explained, trying to decide how to put a fairly complicated story into terms Dari could understand.  “She’s sad because her husband loved both her and the sea and could not choose between them.  ‘Tis a sorrowful tale, because Aldarion could never bring himself to choose her over his love of the sea and Erendis could never learn to share him.  He promised he would be with her, but could not keep that promise.  Eventually it destroyed their love and made them both very unhappy.”

Dari made a face.  “I don’t like that story,” he said with the tactless honesty of youth.  “Why couldn’t Ald-aldrean just stay so she didn’t cry?”

Legolas ran his fingers lightly over the pictures of the ships, almost feeling the waves roll under his fingertips.  “I don’t know, Dari,” he whispered softly.  “Maybe he just didn’t love her enough to endure the sacrifice.”  The prince leaned forward, resting his chin on the top of Dari’s curly, little head.

There was silence for a few minutes before Legolas shook off whatever dark thoughts were flittering through his mind.  “So, what are you doing up anyway?” the elf asked, setting the book aside and glancing down at Eldarion.  “Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

Dari wiggled down off of Legolas’ lap and scampered over to the nearest bookshelf.  “I’m picking out a book for Nana to read me before bed.”  The little boy stood on tip-toe, trying to see above the second shelf.  He wasn’t tall enough and resorted to bouncing up and down in an attempt to get higher.

“Ah,” Legolas rose out of his chair.  “A worthy endeavor.  May I help?”

Dari nodded, raising his arms in a wordless plea to be lifted.  

Legolas hoisted Dari up into his arms and held the boy where he could see and reach the many, colorful books on the higher shelves.  Dari pulled out a few, only to discard them.  Legolas caught the books and put them back on the shelf before Dari could drop them to the floor.

Eldarion stretched up in the elf’s arms, reaching for the top shelves by the ceiling, convinced that the perfect book must still be just out of reach.

Legolas chuckled and pulled a chair over with his free arm.  Hopping lightly up onto the stool, he lifted Dari up over his head slightly so the child could satisfy his curiosity about the topmost shelf. Dari seemed very pleased by this and immediately began sifting through the new row of books.

One minute everything was normal.  The next, Legolas felt the world beginning to spin as the dreaded, familiar faintness stole over him.  He didn’t even have time to realize what was happening as balance and consciousness simply winked out like a sputtering candle.  Legolas did not remember hitting the floor.  To him it simply seemed that one instant he was standing on the chair with Dari in his arms and the next he was lying on the polished, hardwood floor of the library with his legs resting on the up-ended chair.  His back throbbed as he rolled stiffly onto his side... and found himself looking at a small lump of rumpled nightgown and curly hair.  Dari lay like a discarded rag doll on the hard floor.  The child wasn’t moving. 

Terror jolted through Legolas’ being as he dragged himself quickly to his knees.

“Dari?  Dari?  Tolo, Dari.  Come on, wake,” he called the child’s name, patting the boy’s pale cheek.  Dari’s eyes were closed.  He was breathing all right, but he wasn’t responding.  He must have hit the floor pretty hard.  Legolas eased the child’s head up slightly and then froze.  There was blood on the floor and the elf’s fingers came way stained red.