Remember How to Smile

Chapter 8: Mirkwood Misadventures

by Cassia and Siobhan

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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 chest.

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 eye.

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, isn’t it?”

“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 indeed.   


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 and stealth.

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 distance.

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 under.  

“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 elf’s age.

“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, Legolas.”

“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, Legolas?”

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 quickly.

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 barely.

“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 time.”

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 his laughter.

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 of itself.

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 self-conscious.

Legolas saw the Peredhel shifting nervously and resisted a smile.  His father had that effect on people who didn’t know him... and many who did.

“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 and I.”

“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 counter-productive move.

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 quietly.

“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 slain.”

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 and safety.

“Messenger birds?” Elladan cocked his head to the side, questioningly.  He had never seen such method used at home or in Lórien.

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 hadn’t known.

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 shoulders.

“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 place.”

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 happened?”

“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 happened?”

There was silence for several moments and Randomir sighed sadly.  “You used to trust me, Legolas,” he said softly, the hurt evident in his voice.

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, forever.

“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?” he inquired.

“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.