Remember How to Smile
Chapter 8: Mirkwood Misadventures
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Dari’s nap was longer than usual, but his hair was still damp when he
awoke. Aragorn carried the somewhat sleepy child down to the Hall
of Fire wrapped in a blanket. The boy had taken a bit of a chill
and he didn’t want Dari getting sick.
Elladan and Elrohir were also in the Hall of Fire, lying on the
cushions near the fireplace with their own long tresses spread around
them to dry. They had been talking quietly to Raniean and Trelan
but looked up when Aragorn and Dari entered.
Eldarion quickly wriggled out of his Ada’s arms and scampered over to
join his uncles, dragging his blanket along the floor behind him.
Elladan and Elrohir greeted their nephew affectionately and made space
for him on their cushions, but Dari diverted instead to Legolas’
side. The prince was sitting cross-legged and quiet near the
fire, listening to, but not participating in, the other elves’
conversation. Sliding easily into a very familiar position in
Legolas’ lap, Dari leaned his damp head back against the archer’s
Legolas smiled and gave the boy a quick squeeze. It still felt
natural to have Dari in his arms and it seemed that Dari felt the
same. On several occasions, Dari had come running to Legolas’
room, rather than that of his parents, when he awakened with
nightmares. Legolas understood why, given what the nightmares
were about, but he wondered hesitantly what Aragorn thought of
that. After so much time being Dari’s only protector it was a
little awkward trying to switch into a more removed role. He was
glad that Aragorn had turned out to be Dari’s father. It would
have been difficult to relinquish the child back to the care of anyone
else. Legolas glanced uncertainly up at Aragorn to read his
expression, but Aragorn was just smiling. He looked quite pleased
at the rapport between his son and his best friend and not in the least
put out by it as he sank down onto a cushion beside them.
Dari’s arm snaked out and caught his father’s larger, calloused hand in
his. He dragged it into Legolas’ lap where he was sitting.
The child seemed to like playing with the ring on Aragorn’s forefinger
and twirled Barahir around a couple of times.
“Did the stickers come off?” the boy asked in Elladan and Elrohir’s general direction after a few moments.
Elrohir grimaced. “Uh... yes, they did.”
Aragorn cocked his head inquiringly. “Stickers?”
Dari nodded. “We were tracking the trolls through the downlands,”
he said, eager to relate his adventure. “There were hungry
mountain lions trailing us!”
“They were in the southern part of the valley and there were
squirrels,” Aragorn translated under his breath with quiet amusement
for Legolas’ benefit.
Legolas’ face lit with a barely contained smile.
“We rolled down the hill to escape them, but there were brambles at the
bottom. They didn’t get me, but Uncle Dan and Uncle Ro landed in
them and we had to battle the thorn monsters to get them out!”
Aragorn laughed, imagining what a sight that must have been.
“SO,” Elrohir said pointedly. “How did your afternoon go?”
It was a poor attempt to change the topic and did not work at all.
“Then, Uncle Dan stepped in a wasp nest and all the bees came out like a big cloud,” Dari continued to prattle.
“I think we could talk about something else now,” Elladan put in, but it worked about as well as his brother’s attempt had.
“See? I told you he never listens to us,” Elrohir muttered.
“So we had to brave the mountain lions and run back up the hill and we
all jumped in the lake!” Dari obviously thought this was the most
entertaining day he had had in a long time.
“Oh really?” Aragorn said with an appreciative tone of voice. THAT explained how they got so wet at least.
“Find any three-ringed water snakes in that lake?” Legolas asked
mildly. The question was directed to Dari, but he was looking at
Elladan and Elrohir as he said it and the smile twitching at the
corners of his mouth said there was more going on here than met the
To Aragorn’s surprise, both his brothers suddenly blushed profusely and said nothing.
“Ohhh, yes! I had almost forgotten about those,” Trelan put in helpfully.
“Forgotten about what?” Draecyn asked as he and Jonath followed Arwen into the room.
“Nothing!” Elladan and Elrohir said almost in unison.
“Well this sounds like the kind of nothing I wish to hear about,” Mora said from the doorway.
“No, you don’t. You already know this one, or part of it,”
Elrohir mumbled, glancing towards Legolas and the other two wood elves
who knew even more of the full story.
Moranuen did not miss the look and his smile widened. “Oh, I see,
this is about that summer when you two miscreants somehow convinced me
to lie for you and then went and got into all that trouble in Mirkwood,
“I don’t think I’ve heard this story,” Arwen commented as she took a seat near her husband and son.
“I do not believe you would have been born yet,” Legolas said
thoughtfully, trying to work out the dates in his head. It had
been quite a long time ago.
“You know, I never did hear what happened the first time you two
visited Mirkwood, although you obviously knew Legolas before I
did. Do tell, mellon-nín,” Aragorn agreed, looking
expectantly to Legolas.
Legolas smiled. “Well, first off, I must say that it seems that
no one in your family except your father seems to have ever been able
to make a normal entrance into our realm the first time you
appear. We always have to save your sorry necks. Is that
not true, my friends?” He turned his smile upon Raniean and
Trelan who nodded in agreement.
Elladan and Elrohir made a face, but didn’t bother protesting, which
meant this was going to be a very interesting story
The sun shone down brightly in a valiant attempt to penetrate the ardent canopy of the dense forest.
Two young elves toiled between the mighty tree trunks, trying to pick
their way swiftly down the old forest road. If one looked at them
quickly, they would think they were seeing double, for elven twins were
a rarity. Yet twins they were. Their bodies were slim and
their fair faces still held the soft-edged traces of youth. Save
for the graceful point of their ears, hidden among their tangled black
tresses, it would have been easy to mistake them for sixteen-year-old human
boys, for there was a certain set about their features and build that
reminded one of their human as well as elven heritage. Yet,
although they had seen more seasons than many middle-aged men, the
estimation of their youth would not have been entirely misplaced, for
they were by no means yet considered adults among their own people.
Elrohir bit his lower lips hard, his face pale with the effort to not
voice his pain as his twin brother helped him limp swiftly down the
forest path. The road was dotted with rolling hummocks and
brambles that made their going tedious. Normally the slight
variations in the pathway would not have hindered the elves in the
least, but Elrohir could barely walk as it was.
“I don’t think, this was such a good idea, brother,” Elrohir grit out
quietly between his teeth as he clung tightly to Elladan’s neck,
stoically forcing himself to keep moving. Elladan leaned his
right temple against his brother’s left, tightening his grip on
Elrohir’s body as he tried in vain to take more weight off his twin’s
injured leg. Their raven hair mixed together, by now loose of all
bindings and nearly free of the braids they had been wearing as well.
“Unless it helps you feel better, yell at me later, El,” Elladan
whispered, his voice rueful but encouraging. “Right now save your
strength. We’ve got to get you somewhere safer before
nightfall.” His words came in short gasps. The exertion of
the past few days was catching up with him.
“Safe? We’re alone in the middle of the forest, where exactly can
we go that is safer than we are now?” Elrohir retorted tautly.
Pain was stealing his normally jocular nature. He couldn’t
remember hurting this bad in a long time. They stumbled swiftly
down the path, grace completely forgotten in the urgent need for speed
Elladan glanced at the never-ending trees that surrounded them.
Unfortunately, his brother was right. They were not going to make
it out of Mirkwood tonight, or any time in the near future for that
matter. Right now, the young elf desperately wanted to be
home. Unfortunately, hundreds of miles, half the forest, the
Misty Mountains and some very irate and dangerous humans lay between
the half-elven twins and their home. It seemed an impossible
It was Elladan’s turn to bite his lip. He had splinted his
brother’s broken ankle and torn knee as best he could, but he wished he
could have taken him to their father. Their father... Valar,
Elrond was going to kill them! That was, if the men tracking them
did not finish the job before he could. To make matters worse
they weren’t even heading in the right direction to be going back to
Rivendell. Their hunters blocked any thought of retreat westward
and as they scrambled to stay ahead of the riders they were steadily
driven further and further east, into the heart of the forest.
“I remember the maps in Ada’s study. They show that the road we
are on is kept by the wood-elves who live around here somewhere,”
Elladan panted quietly by way of feeble encouragement. “If we
keep going long enough, we’ve got to come across someone!”
Elrohir thought that all they were likely to come across was certain
death from the woodland beasts or their pursuers, but he held his
tongue, knowing his injuries were making him more pessimistic than
usual. Elladan did not need any more stress than he was already
“Do you think they’ll help us? They’re a strange folk, or so
everyone says,” Elrohir voiced the lesser of his concerns. They
had never actually been this far east before and had never met their
distant woodland kin.
“Of course they will,” Elladan said with more confidence than he
felt. “They let Ada stay with them a few seasons ago.
Remember? He told us when he came home from Dorolyn that he had
been here and helped heal their prince.”
Elrohir grunted in acknowledgement. He didn’t really suppose that
the wood-elves would turn away anyone in as dire straits as they
were, but finding them in a forest this big was still a major concern.
The two young elves nearly tripped because of a sudden dip in the path
and Elrohir cried out involuntarily. Elladan clapped his hand
over his brother’s mouth, stifling further outcry. He held the
younger twin tightly against his chest with one arm, gently, but firmly
muffling him with the other. His heart thudding hard in his
chest, Elladan held perfectly still for a moment, straining to hear any
sound from their pursuers, any indication that Elrohir’s outcry had
given away their location.
All he could hear was Elrohir’s breath sobbing behind his hand.
Elrohir had frozen as his brother did, knowing that discovery would
mean death. He hadn’t meant to cry out; he had simply been unable
to help himself. Silent tears of pain slid down his cheeks,
wetting Elladan’s hand on his face. The younger twin’s body
sagged back against the elder as he tried to relieve the weight he was
constantly being forced to place upon his injuries.
Elladan felt the warm wetness and eased up on his hold gently as he
became sure that Elrohir was not going to cry out again. He
hugged his brother tight against him, burying his face against
Elrohir’s neck in mute apology. He was shaking too. He was
trying to be strong, to keep them both alive, but he was becoming
frightened that he was going to fail. Looking down he could see
that Elrohir’s ankle and knee had swollen to twice their normal size
inside his carefully constructed sprints and braces. They had not
been able to rest for more than a few hours since he was injured, and
that was two days ago. Both elves were wearing thin.
Valar, El, I am so sorry... I never wanted this to happen, I’m so
sorry... The elder twin’s mind begged forgiveness, but he couldn’t get
the words out of his trembling lips.
Everything was eerily quiet. For the past four hours it had
sounded as if their pursuers were nipping at their heels. Then,
about a quarter of an hour ago they had fallen silent. Elladan
did not take this as a good sign. He and Elrohir were leaving far
too wide of a trail to be missed, and since Elrohir’s injury forced
them to stay on the path rather than trying to lose themselves in the
woods, there was no reason for the men to take a wrong turn. He
feared their enemies were up to something.
Elrohir gripped the arms around his waist tightly, drawing strength
from his twin’s presence. In silent agreement they both moved
forward again, knowing they could not halt long.
A mile later, Elrohir fell again. He did not cry out this time,
but when Elladan helped him back to his feet he was as white as a
sheet. His skin was clammy to the touch and his grey eyes
glazed. Elladan urged him on, but Elrohir could go no
further. He leaned against his brother helplessly.
“El, come on, we’ve got to keep moving, I can hear them behind us!”
Elladan pleaded. He hadn’t wanted to say anything before for fear
of alarming his twin, but the quiet sounds of other sentient life
approaching swiftly from behind had reappeared and been growing again
for the past few minutes. They sounded very, very close now.
“I can’t... no, honestly, I really can’t,” Elrohir choked out quietly
between sobbing breaths. “I’m sorry, El, I am. Go,
please! Go!” he tried to push his brother away from him, but even
as he did, he knew his twin would never leave him.
Elladan ignored the ridiculous suggestion. “I’ll carry you!” he
said, trying to hoist his brother onto his back, but Elrohir resisted.
“You’ll never outrun them that way!” he protested.
Much as he hated it, Elladan knew Elrohir was right. Elladan’s
mind raced for an option that could save them without sacrificing his
brother. He bet that his father and Glorfindel could take on the
entire party chasing them by themselves. Unfortunately, he and
Elrohir were still young and not yet as skilled as they would be later
in life. They were strong and they were fast, but they were
painfully aware that they were no match for their hunters’ numbers.
“Come on!” Dragging Elrohir off the path, Elladan stopped at the base
of a towering tree. The tree’s numerous branches were heavy laden
with whispering leaves and when he looked up he could see no more
than a few feet through them towards the sky.
Hoisting his brother up by the waist, Elladan boosted him towards the
lower branches. “Climb up as high as you can and hide,” he
urged. “I’ll try to lead them away and come back for you.”
Elrohir dragged himself painfully up into the branches, but hesitated,
fixing anxious eyes upon his twin. “Be careful, El, please.”
Elladan flashed a quicksilver smile. “Aren’t I always?”
“You don’t want me to answer that,” Elrohir muttered as he clambered higher into the tree with some difficulty.
Elladan smiled grimly and darted quickly back towards the path.
He could hear the hunting party very close behind him now. They
were moving unnervingly swiftly and quietly. He sprinted loudly
down the path, intentionally leaving a trail that even a blind troll
could have followed. His heart was pounding loudly in his ears as
he rounded a sharp bend around some fallen logs... and nearly ran
straight into another being.
Jumping and scrambling backward as swiftly as he could, Elladan drew
his sword. He could sense other beings behind him and his heart
left his ears to thump painfully in his throat. The surprise
threw him badly, but he scowled with a fierceness born of the desire to
protect his brother at all costs. Half a moment later, however, he
realized that his fear and defiance were both misplaced. The
person he had nearly run over, who was now regarding him with a
somewhat bemused expression, was no man at all, but an elf.
The elder being was dressed in muted browns and greens that blended
into the woods around him. The cut of his clothes was sleek and
close-fitting, different than the styles of Elladan’s homeland.
Quickly, the young Noldo elf found himself surrounded by a small host
of the strange elves. Most of the warriors possessed hair in
varying shades of russet and midnight, but the one in front of Elladan
was lighter in hue, almost a tawny, earthen gold.
Relief filled the young elf’s body instantly as he realized that his
desperate gamble had paid off and they had indeed drawn the attention
of the wood-elves. Now that he had found them, he was a little
nervous. They did not look unfriendly exactly, but the fact that
several of them had bows drawn and trained on him did not exactly make
him feel welcome. He then remembered that he himself was standing
there like an idiot with his sword in hand. He sheathed his
weapon quickly and raised his hands to show that he was not a threat.
At a word from the one with the tawny hair, who seemed to be the
leader, the archers stood down. The tension in the air lessened
enough that Elladan finally found his voice.
“I am Elladan Elrondion, of Imladris,” he declared himself formally,
but in an obvious rush. “Please, I pray your help! My
brother is wounded and we are being pursued...”
“Your pursers will trouble you no longer.” A voice behind Elladan
made the young elf turn around swiftly. He found that the rest of
the rear-guard party of wood-elves had arrived from behind him.
They must have been what he had mistaken for pursuers. Among them were
two more blond warriors, and it was one of these who had spoken to
him. The warrior looked only a little older than Elladan
himself. But there was something old, or closed, about his clear
blue eyes that made Elladan second-guess his first impression of the
“They made the mistake of crossing the borders of our realm a half hour
past and did not turn back at our warning,” the young warrior
continued. Elladan could see by his choice of weaponry and
bearing that he was an archer. “We found your brother in the
tree; he is being borne to back to Lasgalen. Our healers there
will care for him. I sent Trelan ahead as a runner to inform the
guard what has happened.” The flinty tone that had dominated the
young elf’s voice faded to something gentler and more compassionate as
he assured Elladan of his brother’s well-being. Elladan also did
not miss the fact that the archer’s report was quietly pending the
approval of his older commander.
The elder elf, whom Elladan had met first, nodded thoughtfully.
“It was well done, Legolas. Raniean,” he turned his attention to
the second blond elf in the party, now standing behind Legolas.
“Take Brenyf, Marsdel and Eryn and make sure that the survivors of the
hunting party leave the woods immediately and without further incident.”
Raniean saluted, but glanced sideways at his friend next to him.
The warrior named Legolas cleared his throat slightly. “Sir,
there were no survivors.”
Randomir’s eyebrows went up ever so slightly. The reports he had
heard said there were almost twenty men who had been pursuing the two
Noldor. He had not expected all of them to be slain – usually some
had enough sense to run or surrender when the odds turned against them
so drastically. “Explain,” he commanded.
“We told them to halt and they refused. They said they were
chasing ‘two little birdies that needed plucking’ and we should get out
of their way. A fight ensued and we had no choice but to destroy
them all,” Legolas reported evenly, without much emotion. Raniean
seemed suddenly uncomfortable, but did not contradict his liege.
Randomir felt there was more that had transpired than he was being
told, but he had to believe that Legolas would not have taken such
action unwarranted. The prince was nothing if not conscientious
about his duties.
“I do not question your judgment because I was not there to know the
situation. However, when not dealing with orcs, your father’s
policy is to take prisoners if possible, your highness. I assume
this was not possible?”
Legolas hesitated for a fraction of a second, but he would not lie to
his mentor, especially since he was also his commander. “I cannot
be certain. I made no attempt to do so, sir,” he said quietly,
but without remorse.
Randomir was not pleased with the answer. “Aside from known
enemies, one should always try to take prisoners before taking lives,
“They were known enemies, sir,” Legolas defended his actions respectfully, but with the slightest hint of disdain.
Randomir considered the younger elf carefully. Legolas was not
the open-hearted child he had once been. He was changing and not
all of it was for the better. The elder elf’s voice took on a
slight edge. “Known to whom? How can you be so sure,
The prince looked honestly confused. “They were Men.” He
faltered slightly, as if realizing that leaving it at that would not be
an acceptable explanation. “They were chasing two injured elves
with intent to harm them. What else did I need to know?” he added
Randomir abruptly halted this line of questioning. There was more
he felt he would need to say, but not here in front of everyone
else. They would talk later. He nodded once. “If you
say it was necessary, Legolas, then I trust you, but remember to
exercise more calculated decisions in the future. Please escort
Elladan Elrondion back to Lasgalen and inform the King of what has
happened. I will make sure there are no other threats in this
area and follow you shortly. Dismissed.”
Legolas saluted crisply and turned to call out some orders to the
warriors under him. As soon as they fell into place, the prince
turned his attention back to his new charge.
Elladan felt slightly lost in the whole exchange that had taken
place. He wasn’t sure what to think when the young blond warrior
turned towards him, but the smile the archer laid on him was welcoming.
“Welcome to Mirkwood, Elladan of Rivendell. You are son to Lord
Elrond? Then you are welcome here indeed.” Legolas inclined his
head forward and swept his hand out from his heart in formal
greeting. “Come, my father will want to see you at once and hear
what has happened to you.”
Elladan nodded and returned the prince’s greeting as he fell into step
beside the other elf. Now that Legolas was talking and smiling,
he looked younger again and Elladan decided he was probably less than a
century older than himself. The prince was an adult, but just
“I thank you for your welcome... Legolas, is it not? Is it safe to assume then that you are the Prince Legolas?”
“I am, forgive me for not introducing myself properly,” Legolas
apologized. Even beyond the fact that these were Elrond’s sons,
they were also visiting lords from another realm, even if they were
young ones. The prince had more than enough diplomatic training
to know how to represent his kingdom in a positive fashion. “I
know not what brings you to our land, but you are our guests while you
are here. If we can help you in anyway, just ask.”
“Can I see Elrohir?” Elladan asked politely, but it was impossible to hide his deep concern.
“That is your brother’s name?” Legolas guessed accurately. “You
will see him when we reach Lasgalen. I had my warriors take him
on ahead for care, although he would not leave until we promised to
find you as well. Of a truth, I thought my eyes were deceiving me
when I saw you with Captain Randomir. You and your brother are...
very alike. I have never seen that before.”
Elladan chuckled. “We’re twins. El and I are twins.
Not too common among elves we’re told, but humans have them all the
Legolas shrugged. “I would not know about that. What is a twin?”
Elladan laughed in earnest. He’d never met anyone who didn’t know
what twins were. “Twins,” he said, as if emphasizing the word
would somehow make it clearer. “You know, our mother carried us
at the same time, we were born on the same day, we look alike... twins.”
Legolas did not appreciate being laughed at, especially since he did
not think it was ignorant of him to not know something of which he had
never seen nor heard before. He decided however, that the idea of
twins was more interesting than being offended. He wondered how a
woman could be pregnant with two babies at the same time. It
seemed an incredible thing to him and he said so, which sent Elladan
into a paroxysm of embarrassed coughing in a desperate attempt to cover
Randomir watched the Prince’s party move away with worried eyes.
“Raniean, wait a moment,” he bid his son stay. Reluctantly,
Raniean turned back and let the others move ahead without him,
returning to join his father and the warriors that remained.
Randomir pulled him aside where they could talk privately.
“Raniean, what happened with the human hunters?” he asked quietly.
Raniean shifted uneasily. “Legolas told you...”
“I know what Legolas said, and I am asking you what happened,” Randomir clarified quietly.
“Are you asking as my captain, my father, or Legolas’ Saelon?” the
younger elf asked cautiously, obviously not entirely sure what was the
right thing for him to say in this situation.
Randomir’s brows furrowed. “All of the above, Raniean.”
Raniean sighed. “Then as a soldier, I would have to tell you that
I will not dispute the word of my sworn liege, even should it lead to
my own dismissal. As your son, I would beg you not to ask me to
betray a friend, and as one who knows how much you mean to Legolas... I
would ask you to talk to him. Soon. If there is something
to tell, he needs to be the one to do it. I... I can say
nothing.” Raniean’s eyes begged his father for understanding.
Randomir did understand. His son had always been close to the
prince, but they were not children anymore and Raniean could not always
cover for Legolas, even if he was the prince. Royalty or not,
Legolas was also a warrior under his command and Randomir held him to
the same standards as everyone else. “I understand your loyalty,
Raniean, but I release you from your obligation to honor the choices of
your superior officer in this instance. I want you to tell me
what it is no one is telling me. And that, my son, is an
order.” Randomir was very worried now. The fact that
Raniean felt there was something he could not say was worrisome in and
Raniean seemed torn. “I... I really feel I shouldn’t, Father. I am sorry.”
Randomir blinked. Raniean was never insubordinate. His son
was a brilliant and reliable warrior who was rising quickly through the
ranks, while still maintaining a part time position as royal sentinel
to Legolas, Thranduil, and Elvéwen. Randomir expected as
much from him as any of his other warriors - maybe more.
“I said that was an order, Lieutenant,” he said with a hint of warning.
“I know,” Raniean said quietly, keeping his gaze downcast. “I am
sorry, sir. I will report to the guardhouse immediately.”
He assessed his own punishment without a flinch. He knew that
willfully refusing to obey a direct command warranted confinement.
Frustration and anger flashed over the older elf’s face for a moment
before it quickly faded away again. Raniean’s problem was that he
was too blamed noble for his own good. It made Randomir both
horribly proud and terribly irritated with his son sometimes.
When Randomir had confided this to his wife, she had poked him
knowingly and said that she wondered where the boy got it from.
Randomir might not have actually sent Raniean to the guardhouse for
refusing him in this instance, but he was trying to train his son to
become a good soldier and an even better leader. If the young
warrior, using those skills, passed judgment on himself, then Randomir
would not contradict him.
“All right,” Randomir nodded slowly, with a sigh. “Do that.”
Raniean saluted and turned to go, obviously downcast. Randomir could not let him leave that way. “Raniean?”
The younger elf turned back when he heard his name. “Yes, sir?”
“I will speak to Legolas,” Randomir promised. “I may not agree
with your choice, but I respect you for being willing to sacrifice for
what you believe is right,” he said quietly, for Raniean’s ears only.
The younger elf’s face perked up a little and he smiled. “Thank
you, Adar,” he said, before walking away with a much lighter step.
Elladan bowed respectfully when Legolas presented him to King
Thranduil. Elladan was at home among elven lords, counting his
own father, mother and grandparents among them, but falling under
Thranduil’s scrutinizing gaze made him feel distinctly awkward and
Legolas saw the Peredhel shifting nervously and resisted a smile.
His father had that effect on people who didn’t know him... and many
“You are welcome in my house, son of Elrond,” Thranduil received the
young lord courteously. “Your brother is with my personal healer,
they say he shall recover well,” the King forestalled the question
written all over the young elf’s face.
Elladan looked relieved. However, he became instantly uncomfortable again when the King continued speaking.
“I would hear what happened and how you came to be alone in our realm
in such a state.” Thranduil re-seated himself on his large
throne, gesturing for Legolas to come to him. The prince took his
familiar place on his father’s right side, standing slightly behind the
older elf, beside the throne and looking over the shoulder of the
seated King. He clasped his hands behind his back and fell into a
relaxed ready position.
Elladan felt more alone than ever now that he was standing by himself,
but he tried to clear his mind and figure out where to begin. It
was not a tale he wanted to tell. Somehow relating it to
Thranduil was almost as difficult as knowing he was going to have to
tell it to his own father sooner or later. “It’s a long story, your Highness,” he stalled slightly.
Thranduil looked around the otherwise empty room. “I see nothing
else pressing that requires our attention,” he said seriously, but with
a faint hint of a smile.
Legolas tried hard not to smile himself. Elladan had no idea what
he was up against. There was no way out of explaining oneself to
his father when Thranduil had his mind set.
Elladan seemed to accept this fate as well. The young elf
swallowed once and began. “Elrohir and I were supposed to spend
the summer with our grandparents in Lothlórien. There has
been some trouble at home. The valley is disturbed by pockets of
marauding goblins left over from the last war. ‘Tis nothing
serious, but El and I have had some... undesirable encounters with orcs
in the past, so father and mother desired to send us somewhere safer
for a time, until the latest threat was past.” Elladan could not
keep a small note of anger mingled with anguish out of his voice.
He still felt ashamed at having been sent away like a child... and
there was more to this part of the story than he felt the need to
relate to the King of Mirkwood. It was true that Elrond and
Celebrìan worried about them because of the time they were taken
captive and abused by orcs not too very long ago, but that was not the
only reason they had been sent away. Or even the main
reason. Elladan swallowed painfully.
There was a long silence that Thranduil finally broke. “I take it
you did not make it to Lórien,” he prompted, hoping he was not
going to have to drag this story out of the boy inch by inch.
Elladan was compelled to lick his dry lips. He was sorely tempted
to create a tale for the King of Mirkwood that would not sound as bad
as the truth, but he knew that would only come back to bite him later.
“Actually, we did go to Lórien, but we didn’t stay long.
We didn’t go looking for trouble... exactly... it just...
happened. You see, the three of us got permission to go on a
hunting trip outside the forest-”
“Three?” Thranduil interrupted, trying to keep this story straight.
Elladan nodded. He was a little flustered and not telling as
cohesive a tale as he might have otherwise. “Yes, your
Highness. Our friend Moranuen made the journey from Rivendell as
well and stayed with us in Lórien. You can’t do anything
there that Grandmother doesn’t know about, and the march-wardens are
extremely over-protective, so we begged permission to go out on our own
for a little bit. It was granted, so long as we did not stray too
far away and stayed along the banks of the Great River. We had
only been gone a few days when we encountered another party of
hunters. They were having trouble with some wolves and we aided
them. They were friendly folk and we learned they were on their
way to a competition taking place in a nearby town. It was a
challenge of skill for hunters and swordsmen. Brahm, their
leader, encouraged us to join them.” The dark-haired elf
sighed. It had all seemed so innocent at first. “The town
they were bound for was three days journey further to the north-east,
across the Anduin. Mora was against the idea because it was
further than we were supposed to venture, but... Elrohir and I
overruled him. It sounded like fun and the hunters were very
friendly. Moranuen was concerned that the others would come
looking for us if we were gone so long, and really did not want to go,
so we agreed that he would go back to Caras Galadhon so that no one
would worry, and request indulgence for a longer absence for my brother
“Presumably not based on the actual facts of the situation,” Thranduil
put in parenthetically, with a small, wry grin that said he knew the
way a young elf’s mind worked.
Elladan flushed a little. “Well... we... You see, we thought
that... we...” He was obviously having a hard time with this. He
and Elrohir could be accused of being trouble-seekers and
mischief-makers at times, but they were not dishonest and usually were
not prone to telling untruths to their parents or grandparents, both of
whom they loved dearly. Why had they done it in the first
place? He wondered idly. Had it really been the lure of
adventure, or had they been trying to prove their parents wrong?
Prove that they could handle themselves just fine on their own?
Either way, it had been a sadly foolish and completely
Thranduil shook his head. “I am not your father, nor your
guardian, Elladan Elrondion; it is not my place to hold you accountable
for deeds that happened outside my realm. You may spare me the
details. It is enough to know that your companion returned and
you went. What happened then?”
Elladan was grateful to be spared any portion of this story and forged
ahead quickly. “The competition was much bigger than we had
anticipated. There were scores of other contestants and the whole
town was in a state of festival and revelry. We feared they would
be put off by our race, so we concealed our identities with the help of
the friends we had made amongst the hunters. All went well and it
was very enjoyable. The actual competition was quite challenging,
but El and I did all right. We... we won. We honestly
weren’t sure what to do. I mean, we wanted to win of course,
but then we thought that maybe it wasn’t fair because we had a natural
advantage over the other contestants. There was a considerable
purse as the prize, but we didn’t need it and it didn’t really feel
right to take it, so we gave it to Brahm and his men, the ones who
brought us to the competition. They came in second and would have
won had we not been present, so it seemed only fair. He was an
awfully good sport about it all and refused the money at first.
But we insisted and finally he took it for his companion’s sakes, some
of whom were counting on the money to help their families through the
winter. It should have ended there, we should have gone back to
Lórien then and all would have been well,” Elladan admitted
“But we stayed one more night. Some members of another party of
hunters who had not done so well in the games approached us. It
did not sit well with them that they had been bested by what they
mistakenly thought were two children. There were heated words
exchanged and in the resulting scuffle our identities were given
away. The humans were furious. They said we should never
have competed and our friends should never have let us. They
threatened to tell everyone and get us all in trouble. I swear,
El and I didn’t realize the others would have a problem with us joining
in their games, neither did the men who invited us! It was all
for fun, but many of the other contestants took it deadly
serious. We... we feared what would happen if they followed
through on their threats and tried to dissuade them. We did not
want trouble, either for our kind hosts or ourselves. They wanted
the prize money, but we had given it to Brahm and were not about to
take it back. We told them we didn’t have it and they did not
deserve it because they had not even placed in the top five
winners. That did not go over well and things almost went
badly. But eventually, they agreed to keep their peace if we left
with them and consented to a rematch of the contest under their
terms. El and I saw little choice, and little fear of losing, so
we agreed. It seemed their pride had been hurt more than their
purse. Brahm was alarmed when he heard of this and begged us not
to go, to let him give them the money if that’s what they wanted, but
El and I said we could take care of ourselves... Valar forgive us, we
wanted to show them up at their own game for these other men they had
been very insulting. It was a bad decision, and one for which I
will take full responsibility.” The young elf shouldered the blame
dutifully. Elrohir had agreed with him, but he knew the younger
twin had done just that - agree with him. It still smote him
that it was Elrohir who had paid dearest for their folly. It
didn’t seem fair.
“We thought we could handle the men... but we were wrong. We were
prepared for them to attempt to rig the contest in their favor to
humiliate or harm us... we were not prepared that they did not want a
contest at all. They took us two day’s journey away from town, to
the very eaves of the forest. When we were far enough away for
there to be no help, they showed their true intentions.”
Legolas stiffened almost imperceptibly. The thin line of his lips turned downward slightly in anger.
“They set upon us without warning and disarmed us. They...”
Elladan steadied his rapid breathing. “They beat and taunted
us. We had underestimated them, but they underestimated us as
well. They meant to kill us when their sport was done, but we escaped
before they had the chance. We were able to take one of their
horses, but they shot it to stop us.” Elladan looked sad.
He couldn’t understand how anyone could have hurt an innocent creature
like that. “We took a hard tumble and that’s how Elrohir’s leg
became injured. We made it into the forest hoping to lose them,
but they followed with much more tenacity than we expected. Their
leader had been injured slightly in our escape and I fear he took it
personally. I truly cannot tell you how many days and nights we
spent trying to lose them in your woods until your warriors and Prince
Legolas came to our aid. We are both in your debt.” Elladan
bowed formally, tucking his hands into the arms of his sleeves and
unintentionally mimicking his father.
Thranduil nodded slowly. He wondered if this elfling realized how
grave was the danger in which he and his brother had too easily placed
themselves. If this had been Legolas, he would have told him
exactly what he thought, but Elladan was a visitor, so he held his
peace for the time being. He turned his gaze to his son.
“What of the humans? Were any taken into custody?” The King
inquired of the Prince. He needed to know if he was going to have
to sit in judgment on this case.
Legolas shook his head to indicate the negative. “No,
Father. They fought us when we bid them turn back and were all
Thranduil inclined his head slightly. “Good,” he said
quietly. The fewer the threats in the forest right now, the
better. Besides, he did not like the idea of hostile humans
anywhere near his son.
Legolas hesitated. “I’m sorry, father. Randomir reminded me
that it is our duty to take prisoners before we take lives... it just
did not seem an option at the time.”
Thranduil dismissed the concern with a wave of his hand. “I’m
sure you did what was best. They were obviously hostile and I
would rather not have that kind of threat on our borders.”
Legolas inclined his head respectfully, relieved at his father’s easy absolution.
Thranduil turned back to their guest. “Elladan, you and your
brother are honored guests in my house. I am sure however, that
there are many who worry for you. I shall send messenger birds to
Lórien and Imladris to alert them of your presence.”
Thranduil would have liked to send the twins back himself with an
escort, but Mirkwood was still rebuilding after its costly and draining
civil war and there were precious few elves that could be spared from
their assigned patrols. If Thranduil could not send the sons of
Elrond back with an escort worthy of their position and his kingdom,
then it was better for their relatives to come and claim them for
themselves, it was a matter of custom and pride as much as diplomacy
“Messenger birds?” Elladan cocked his head to the side,
questioningly. He had never seen such method used at home or in
Thranduil smiled slightly. Necessity was the mother of invention
or so it was said. The Mirkwood elves had little resource to
spare on sending messengers hither and thither, so they had turned to
the aid of trained birds who willingly bore messages for them at
need. It actually proved to be a much swifter method of
communication, so long as the information being conveyed was not too
sensitive. After all, anything could happen to the bird between
here and there.
“Yes, Elladan. We have a number of birds willing to help us in
this manner. I’m sure Prince Legolas would be glad to show them
to you if you wish. It is very expedient for sending
messages. I shall send the birds off this very hour and we should
receive answers soon.”
Elladan nodded and bowed again, murmuring his thanks. He wasn’t
at all anxious to see his parents again after this disaster, and yet
strangely enough, part of him was.
“Very good then, you are both dismissed,” Thranduil released Legolas
and Elladan. Elladan started to leave until he saw Legolas bowing
a formal parting to his father and quickly followed suit so as not to
be considered rude. Father and son exchanged a small, amused look
at their young guest’s actions before Legolas turned and left with
Elladan in tow.
“Legolas, wh-” Elladan started to speak, but Legolas put his fingers to
his lips and motioned for silence. Once they were out of the
throne room, he smiled at the younger elf.
“All right, you may speak now. I’m sorry, but once the King has
dismissed someone it is disrespectful to speak until out of his
presence,” the prince explained. He was sure Elladan simply
Elladan blinked. “He’s your Ada, Legolas.”
Legolas nodded, obviously not understanding why Elladan thought this odd. “Of course, and he is also my King.”
Elladan shrugged. “Can I see Elrohir now?”
“Of course,” Legolas answered pleasantly. “Follow me.”
Legolas was in the armory, making sure all was in order. Evening
was approaching and it would soon be time for supper, but he wanted to
get a little more of his work done first. He heard someone enter
behind him but did not need to turn to recognize the familiar tread.
“Are you busy, Highness?”
“Just checking to be sure the new weapons were stowed correctly,
Randomir,” he greeted his Captain and tutor with a smile in his voice,
although his attention was still intent on the arrows in his
hands. “Is there something you require?”
Randomir did not answer at once, which was odd enough to make Legolas stop what he was doing and turn.
Legolas wasn’t sure how to read what he saw in his Saelon’s eyes and he frowned slightly.
“The arrow barrels have been placed too far back in the room.
They will be prone to dampness and warping,” Randomir observed.
Legolas nodded. “Yes, I noted that. I have already sent for
some of the servants to move them further forward. Also, some of
the blades were not properly oiled for storage; I will have to speak to
someone about that. I’m surprised. Raniean usually oversees
the weapon distribution and re-shelving. He has never allowed
anyone to be so careless.” The prince shook his head.
“Raniean did not see to the weapons today,” Randomir informed quietly.
“Well, that explains it then,” Legolas said with forced
cheerfulness. Randomir’s somberness was catching and he didn’t
understand what the matter was. “Where is Raniean?”
“He’s in the guardhouse,” Randomir answered calmly. “He is to stay there until I order him released.”
Legolas stopped what he was doing and nearly dropped the sheathed knife
he was turning over in his hands. “What?! I was not
told! When did this happen? I was with him but a few hours
ago. For what is he being punished?”
“For refusing to obey a direct command,” Randomir said, watching
Legolas carefully. “I asked him about what happened with those
men earlier and he refused to tell me.”
Legolas paled visibly. Apparently, Randomir wasn’t quite as
willing as his father was to let the whole matter drop. He hadn’t
wanted Raniean to get into trouble for him. He straightened his
“Please let him go, Randomir,” he said quietly. “If anyone should
be in there, it is I. I was his superior officer on that
mission. I request the right of substitution, that I may take his
Randomir’s eyes bored intently into the young elf. “A very noble
offer. But I would rather you told me the truth, Legolas.
So would Raniean; he refused to say anything that he considered a
betrayal, but he begged me to talk to you. Legolas... what
“I told my father of my actions, he agreed they were warranted,”
Legolas said hesitantly. He didn’t mean it to sound quite as
childish as it came across.
“Highness, you know I do not question you or the King. You are my
prince, but you are also my student and my lieutenant, positions and
power given me by your father. Yet I don’t ask you as either of
those right now, Legolas. I ask you as a friend. What
There was silence for several moments and Randomir sighed sadly.
“You used to trust me, Legolas,” he said softly, the hurt evident in
Legolas swallowed hard, then dropped his gaze. He did trust
Randomir... he just couldn’t stand to always make the older elf think
less of him.
“We saw the sons of Elrond go by, I did not know who they were then,
only that they were young elves and in distress. The humans were
close behind them and it was obvious they held them no good will.
We allowed Elladan and Elrohir to enter our lands unchallenged, but
when the humans came to the border we made ourselves known and told
them to be off. I commanded them to withdraw from our lands and
promised that no harm would befall them if they did. They... they
laughed at that. They said that a couple of boys like us could
not stop them. They were chasing two little birdies that needed
plucking, their leader told me. Told me that they needed to be
brought down and taught their place.” The young elf’s voice was
quivering slightly. “'Rub them in the dirt until they know how
little they’re worth', were his exact words I believe. He said
that we were to get out of his way or he would do the same to us.”
“And that’s when they attacked you?” Randomir asked quietly, beginning
at last to understand. Obviously, the threats had hit too close
to home where the prince was concerned.
Legolas bit his lip. “I... I honestly don’t know. It all
happened rather fast. I...” he took a deep breath. “I shot
the man who spoke. I just... shot him. His hand was on his
sword, but he hadn’t pulled it yet. I’d like to say I hadn’t
noticed that, but some part of me did.” The confession was
brutally honest. The prince looked up hesitantly, his eyes filled
with a gut-wrenching fear that surprised Randomir.
“Does that make me a killer?” Legolas asked softly. His eyes
finished his real question. “Does that make me a killer... on top
of everything else?”
“Because... because I can’t feel sorry for it. I’m trying!
I’m trying to... but I just don’t. I’m sure you’ve heard by now
what Elladan told father and I. I’m glad we killed them before
they had a chance to hurt anyone else.” Legolas took a deep
breath, trying to calm his emotions. “Is that so wrong?”
Randomir wasn’t sure what to say. He knew why Legolas felt this
way. He vividly remembered the injured, empty-eyed young elf that
Lord Elrond had carried back from Dorolyn less than fifty years
ago. One look and Randomir had been certain that Legolas was
bound for Mandos’ Halls. He still admired the fact that the
prince’s spirit had not faded, but fought its way back to light and
life... or to life at least. But the silent, protective scars
Legolas was growing around his heart troubled the older elf
greatly. He grieved over the growing distance between them, over
the cold, confused chill that Legolas had begun to gather around
himself like a cloak to keep anyone from getting too close.
Randomir was beginning to wonder if anyone or anything would ever be
able to break through and bring the light back into the blue eyes that
begged him for an answer.
“Maybe it’s not wrong, Legolas, but it’s not right either. In
your heart you know this. No, your Highness, you aren’t a
killer,” he assured quietly. “I am certain those men would have
attacked you provoked or not and the outcome may have been the
same. But if you had stayed your hand and waited, you would not
have the uncertainty that eats at you now. And you would not have
placed those who follow you and love you in a position where they must
compromise themselves to be true to you.”
Legolas looked away. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but he never doubted Randomir’s wisdom.
“Legolas,” Randomir’s voice was gentler now. “Not all humans mean
harm. You were right in this case, but I bid you to
caution. A day may come when the man you are facing is your ally,
not your enemy, and you need to know the difference. The
distinction between friend and foe is not always a clear line, and
should never be divided upon race alone.”
Legolas’ heart thrummed slightly in his ears as repressed memories
tried hard to surface – beckoned as they always were at the slightest
provocation. Randomir didn’t understand. Legolas had
survived, but he could never forgive, or forget. In lieu of
either, a small corner of his heart had closed off, as he thought,
“I will never be friends with one of them,” he choked out, his voice
trembling. “And if you ask such a thing of me, you do not
understand me at all!” Legolas checked his own outburst,
immediately ashamed. His pale cheeks colored slightly.
Randomir was just looking at him. Legolas wished Randomir were
more like Thranduil at the moment. Thranduil would have been
angry and lectured him for being so impudent, but that was better than
this sudden, awkward silence.
“Forgive me, Randomir,” he murmured, bowing. “I should not have
spoken to you so. I accept your judgment on my actions and my
disrespectful words.” He held himself stiffly.
Randomir regarded the young prince with sorrow. He loved this boy
like a second son, but he knew not how to reach him anymore. He
hoped that someday, something would happen that would allow the
prince’s hurting heart to open again; it would be a shame to lose
something so beautiful forever.
“I’m not going to punish you, Legolas. I told you, we are
speaking as friends here.” Randomir reached out and cupped
Legolas’ cheek gently. “However it may seem to you, I only ever
have your best interests at heart, your Highness.”
Legolas nodded slowly. “I know, Randomir,” he said softly. “I’m sorry.”
“Prince Legolas?” A servant appeared at the doorway. “The Queen
wishes me to inform you that supper will be served momentarily.”
Legolas left Randomir and mounted the armory stairs. “Thank you,”
he acknowledged the message. “But could you please inform my
parents that I will not be present this evening? I... I’m not
very hungry right now.” The truth was he felt too sick to
eat. His stomach had tied into knots during the conversation with
Randomir and it showed no signs of relaxing.
“Of course, Highness,” the servant nodded and took his leave.
Legolas turned back to Randomir. “I believe the weapons are in
order and I wish to retire to my rooms. Am I excused, Captain?”
“Are you all right, Legolas?” Randomir asked quietly.
Legolas forced a smile. “Yes, thank you. May I go?”
Randomir was not convinced, but nodded anyway. “Of course, your Highness,” he released the youth.