Persistent knocking roused the wood-elves posted as door-wardens just
inside King Thranduil’s magic gates. The moon was high overhead and it
was deep in the late watches of the night; no one could imagine who
would be seeking entrance at this hour, especially since the
Elvenking’s palace did not receive many visitors and no one in their
right mind traveled at night in Mirkwood.
"Daro!" the sharp, elvish
command from inside the gates halted the pounding. "Halt! Who comes
thus by cover of dark to Lord Thranduil’s halls? Declare yourself and
your business!" the senior warden demanded warily, pulling back and
peering through a small slit in the gate, the only part of the huge
doors that they could control at the moment.
Two dark-haired elves stood on the other side of the gates, and the
guard blinked to be sure that he was not seeing double or being tricked
by the dimness of the night. No, the two elves were twins. Elven twins
"Elladan a Elrohir, Elrondionnath
peredhel o Imladris!" a fair voice on the other side of the gate
answered back in elvish, declaring the pair to be Elladan and Elrohir,
sons of Elrond half-elven, of Rivendell. "We have come a long way and
must speak to Prince Legolas."
The warden’s attitude changed when he heard who was there. Elladan and
Elrohir were known here, by name at least if nothing else, and of
course everyone recognized the name of Lord Elrond.
"Wait here please, we have to unseal the gates," the door-ward
instructed the twins before turning quickly to one of his underlings.
"Go get the prince." After it was sealed up for the night, only a
member of the royal house could unlock the gates again, which was
usually done in the morning, after which the other, lesser passwords
entrusted to the nobles and servants would work once more.
Even if the twins had not said that talking to Legolas was their
intention, he was still the one who would have been sent for, because
to the guards, if they had to wake one of their Lords in the middle of
the night, Legolas was the obvious choice. He was easier to approach
than his father.
The two brothers shifted somewhat impatiently. "Wait here... as if we
had a choice..." Elladan mumbled, sizing up the imposing gates with a
glance. The twins had ridden hard and slept little to accomplish their
journey as swiftly as possible.
"I told you we should have waited until daylight," Elrohir shook his
head. "Now they have to wake everybody up."
Elladan ignored his brother.
Legolas hurried down the stairs, into the courtyard, still tying the
sash of the long, pale silver robe he had thrown on over his sleep
clothes when the servants had woken him.
The stone pathway was cold under his bare feet and helped to wake the
prince up a little more as he made his way towards the gate. Legolas
did not usually have a hard time coming to full alertness swiftly, but
he had recently returned from a rather exhausting border skirmish with
some orcs. Then there had been meetings and councils and reports... the
truth was he had only lain down to rest for the first time in almost a
week not more than an hour before.
"Edro annon o adarnín,
leithianín garlch." Raising one hand, Legolas spoke the
opening words in a voice that was a lot sleepier than he would have
liked to admit. Anyone could say the words, but the gate would only
respond to them if said by Thranduil or Legolas.
As the gates slid slowly and silently open, Legolas hugged his arms to
his chest and tried not to yawn, which was futile. His hair was ruffled
from sleep and completely free of the braids or clasps that he usually
wore. The loose strands created a wispy halo around his head that
glowed faintly when backlit by the full moon.
Rubbing one hand over his face, Legolas tried to remember who the
servant that woke him had said was here. He really hadn’t heard the
first part of the soft explanation; it had taken him long enough to
figure out the getting out of bed and unsealing the gate part. Some
days, or right now, some nights, it just did not pay to be royalty.
Whatever he expected to find, it was not the two figures that entered
as soon as the gates had opened enough to allow their passage.
"Elrohir, Elladan?" Legolas blinked in surprise, trying to tell them
apart (a difficult task on good days) and then deciding that his brain
was too sluggish and it didn’t matter anyway. His greeting was warm, if
somewhat slow. He clasped their forearms in turn. "Welcome! What brings
you two here?" he was nice enough to not add "especially at this hour
of the night?"
A moment later, a concerned look crossed the prince’s face. "There’s
nothing wrong is there? You’re not hurt, not in danger?"
"No, no," Elladan quickly shook his head. "We’re fine, there’s no
danger. I’m sorry to wake you, I suppose maybe we should have waited
until morning." He avoided Elrohir’s good-natured "I-told-you-so" look.
Legolas waved the apology off, half-hiding another yawn behind his
hand. "Nonsense, you know you are welcome here by sun or moon. I
wouldn’t want you to have to spend any more nights in the woods than
you have to at any rate. They are not always a friendly place these
days. Come, why don’t we go inside?"
Legolas turned and took a few steps forward before one of the guards
coughed discretely to catch his attention. "M’Lord, that’s the garden
"Right, right," Legolas nodded quickly, flushing slightly at having
turned down the wrong walkway and turning swiftly onto the right one.
He was too tired to really be embarrassed though. "Of course. Sorry."
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged amused grins. They had never seen Legolas
quite so sleepy and it was very humorous to say the least.
A sudden thought struck Legolas and he had to turn around yet again.
Putting his hand back up in the direction of the gates and mumbling
some rapid words that the twins couldn’t really catch, the prince
commanded the gates to seal themselves again. "Father would have my
hide if I left them unlocked again," he murmured with a chuckle. "I
have to apologize; you’ll find me a much better host in the morning.
It’s... it’s been a long fortnight. Say... where is Estel? Is he with
you?" the prince’s face brightened at the thought. He had not seen his
friend in some time.
"No, no he’s not," Elrohir said quietly, and the abjectly downcast tone
of voice was unmistakable. "That’s... that’s sort of what we have come
to see you about," he admitted as Legolas led them into the palace and
down the halls leading to the prince’s rooms. They all walked quietly
so as not to wake anyone else needlessly.
Legolas froze and turned to face them, his eyes searching theirs in the
dim light as his mind slowly shook out the cobwebs and weariness turned
into alarm. "Why? What’s wrong? Is he missing?"
"Not exactly missing..." Elladan shook his head. "It’s a long story,
Legolas, I think we’d better wait until morning, as you said."
Legolas opened the door to his chambers and let them in, but he was
having none of it. "Oh no. You think I could rest after hearing that?
Come, sit, I’ll have some of the servants bring us something to drink.
And you can tell me what’s wrong with Aragorn that could bring the two
of you this far and make you travel by night in Mirkwood."
Hot drinks were brought and once they were all comfortably seated
around a small table by a freshly stoked fire in Legolas’ chambers the
prince turned expectant eyes on his two visitors.
"I don’t know where to start..." Elladan gazed over the top of his mug,
realizing that he hadn’t thought of what exactly he was going to say to
Legolas when they got here, so intent had they been on making the
"Considering I’m a little foggy right now, the beginning would be a
good place," Legolas smiled wryly. "Where’s Estel? Why are you worried
about him? I can tell you are."
"Well that wouldn’t be the beginning," Elrohir shook his head. "You
see, it all really started when Arwen came home."
Legolas nodded although he didn’t understand. "Has she been away long?
I did not see her when I stayed with you, so I assumed she was still in
"She was, and she is again. She practically lives with Grandmother
these days," Elladan admitted. "Which is for the best I think. The
world is changing too much; she is safer in Lothlórien."
"If I remember her aright... she would not think she needed to be kept
safe," Legolas chuckled. "But what does this have to do with Aragorn?"
"We’re getting to that," Elladan assured. "You see, Estel didn’t know
we had a sister, he’d never met Arwen before... now I wish to goodness
that she had been around when he was small."
"But maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, we don’t know..."
Elrohir put in, quietly continuing his brother’s thought as they often
did for one another.
"It seems that some things are just meant to be sometimes, even if we
don’t understand them," Elladan agreed, finishing the thought off.
Legolas rubbed his temples. "Elladan, is it me, or are you two not
"Aragorn fell in love with Arwen," Elrohir finally just said it
straight out. "And she has feelings for him too, although not yet the
same as he does... but my heart misgives me that she is only fighting
Legolas blinked several times. "Wait, wait, I think I must be more
tired than I know. I thought I just heard you say that Aragorn... and
Arwen..." The serious, nodding faces of the twins made his voice trail
"What did your father say?" he asked quietly. Somehow this wasn’t too
surprising for him. It was a shock, yes, but knowing Aragorn... somehow
it was not so hard to imagine that the young ranger would fall in love
with an elf, or the most beautiful elf on Middle-earth for that matter.
"I don’t know exactly, we weren’t there. He talked to Estel... and
Estel left nearly the next day. The rangers sent for him, something to
do with Rohan and the south. He left and wouldn’t let us go with him.
He’s been out on his own with them before... I do know that he’s an adult, and
it’s not that I don’t think he can handle himself, Legolas, no matter
what Estel thinks I think," Elladan shook his head sadly. "But... the
way he left..."
"It was like he was saying goodbye," Elrohir picked up the explanation.
"Like he didn’t want us as his family anymore... or else thought that
we didn’t want him. He was not in an emotionally stable state of mind
and we fear that if something should happen... he would not be able to
handle it as well as he might otherwise. Legolas... I’m not sure he
even means to come back. The look in his eyes when he left, it
frightened me. It was as if he had given up everything he had to live
for, as if he had no hope." That was the true fear that weighed most
heavily on both of the brother’s minds.
"But both Estel and father have forbidden us from going after him... it
would only make the situation worse." Elladan shook his head in
frustration. "Estel doesn’t want us around and Father doesn’t even know
we’re here," he added quietly.
Legolas’ face had creased in concern and his eyes reflected sorrow over
the pain he saw in the twins, and that he knew Aragorn must be feeling.
He knew even better than Aragorn’s brothers how much the young human's
secret fears that he truly belonged nowhere, that those he loved would
one day reject him, had plagued the ranger’s life since childhood. This
situation must surely have convinced Aragorn that he was right and the
heartache would be unbearable. The twins were correct; wherever he was,
Aragorn was in no state of mind to be facing danger alone. Even if he
were not in danger... he obviously needed someone to talk to; someone
who was not involved in the situation.
"Then someone else has to go," Legolas said with conviction.
"Aragorn trusts you, Legolas. You’re the only person we know who he’ll
let close to him now that he’s shut us out. Someone needs to talk to
him... and we cannot. I know it’s a lot to ask, maybe we shouldn’t even
have come, but if you would think about it, we..."
"Think?" the elf prince looked incredulous as he rose swiftly from his
chair. "What is there to think about? Of course I’m going." If all they
said was true, which Legolas did not doubt, then Aragorn would very
much need a friend right now.
"Do you know where exactly he was heading?" Pulling an empty satchel
from a cupboard, Legolas tossed it on his bed, crossing over to his
"Not precisely," Elrohir shook his head. "He spoke of the south, and we
overheard the message that was delivered to him from the rangers, he
didn’t know it but we did. There was some mention of West Emnet, down
near the Gap of Rohan. At least, that’s where the problem they were
discussing seemed to come from. If he was actually going to go there is
uncertain, but he told us he may be gone for a long time, so I think it
likely. We rode with haste, but it is now more than a fortnight since
he left, so he is probably well on his way by now."
Legolas was busy pulling things out of drawers. He had barely unpacked
from his last foray, there wasn’t much he had to get together to be
ready to leave again... except that his pack was being particularly
stubborn about opening. "I’ll leave at light first..." Legolas caught
himself messing up his words and carefully switched them around again.
"I mean first light."
Elladan and Elrohir smiled. "Thank you, Legolas, we knew we could count
on you. Estel loves you like a brother you know... and, and after
everything you and he, and we have been through, I begin to understand
the feeling," Elladan said quietly, but with heart-felt sincerity.
"However..." he could not wipe the grin from his face no matter how
hard he tried. "I think it would be best if you got a little rest
first, dear friend," he remarked with considerable restraint as he
carefully turned Legolas’ pack upside right so that the prince was no
longer trying to open the immovable bottom seam.
Legolas chuckled at himself after he realized what he had done. "Yes, I
think maybe for once you are actually right."
"Wait, what do you mean ‘for
once’?" Elladan’s tone rose with gentle mock-indignation. "Maybe that’s
why Estel likes you so much, you’re as bad as he is."
Legolas was too tired to retort, so he just shook his head with a
smile. "Out. Now. I hate to admit it but I am weary beyond what an elf
should be and I’m going to sleep where I stand pretty soon. You may use
my guest chambers. Tomorrow I’ll set about finding that wayward brother
of yours and try to talk some sense into him."
The brothers acquiesced and moved towards the doorway to the adjacent
rooms. They paused in the archway and turned back to see that Legolas
had already fallen asleep, lying on top of his quilts, with
miscellaneous items still strewn all over the other half of the bed.
Sharing a gentle smile, the twins pulled an extra blanket from the
tangle of supplies dumped on the bed and covered the sleeping prince.
Obviously, Legolas had not been joking when he told them it had been a
rough fortnight for him. And yet he was already ready to jump up and
take off again if it meant helping the man he had named Strider. Yes,
they understood why Aragorn liked this elf so much.
"Do you really think he would have just taken off and tried to leave
tonight if we hadn’t stopped him?" Elrohir remarked with a grin as they
availed themselves of Legolas’ guest chambers.
"Probably," Elladan shook his head as he blew out the candles. "And he
most likely would have fallen asleep on the way to the door. I told
you, he’s too much like Estel in some ways," he chuckled. "Ready to up
and leave at a moment’s notice in the dead of the night..."
"Isn’t that what we did?"
"Shut up and go to sleep, Elrohir."
Silent laughter whispered quietly in the darkened rooms.
Saruman had seen the men approaching his tower when they were still a
few miles away. By the time they reached his dwelling the Maia was
standing on the tall black stone steps that led into Orthanc.
A rough, weathered man on a horse skidded to a stop on the gravely dirt
path that led to the dark tall spire. Quickly dismounting, he bowed
slightly in deference and approached the entry.
"What have you brought, Seobryn?" The wizard’s voice was deep and calm
but the tone brokered no hesitation.
Glancing into the frowning face of the sorcerer, Seobryn fought to keep
his emotions from showing. He hated dealing with the wizard. Saruman
was difficult, intolerant and demanding and every time he graced the
human with his glance, Seobryn was sure the white being could see
straight through him.
"Well?" Saruman hated repeating himself. He watched idly as the two men
that Seobryn had brought with him into Isengard dismounted and held the
horses still while their employer discussed business.
Saruman had not invited them in nor even asked them to ascend the
stairs, so Seobryn was forced to look up at the wizard and give his
"The breeding goes well. But it goes very slowly, my lord." The trader
tried not to wince when the frown on the wizard’s face deepened and he
continued quickly, nervously twisting the thick sealing ring on his
left forefinger. "Of the wargs you sent down, only a few have survived.
They do not do well in the southern reaches they were not bred for the
temperatures or the lack of humidity. The survivors are sluggish and
temperamental. They despise the taergs and do not cooperate."
"Did you expect that they would?" Saruman descended several steps
causing the human to back up. "I did not send them down there for you
to make them comfortable, I sent them down to aid in the crossbreeding.
I want that new creature."
Swallowing hard, Seobryn mustered his courage and stepped forward
locking eyes with the wizard, "My lord will be pleased to know that we
do have one that appears to be a successful cross between the taergs
and the wargs. It is young still and we do not wish to remove it from
the climate but if it pleases you I will see it brought back with us on
our return trip."
The wizard’s ire seemed to abate somewhat as he pondered the man’s
words. "A successfully bred creature?"
"Yes my lord." Seobryn was slightly puzzled. Hadn’t the wizard received
his letter? It seemed not. If he ever saw that fool he’d sent with it
again he’d wring his neck. The idiot orcs with him must have been no
Nodding slowly a thin cold smile stretched the Istari’s lips and he
descended the steps gaining the man’s side.
Seobryn held his ground and waited, watching as the wizard removed a
canvas bag and a sealed letter from an inner pocket in the folds of his
clothing. He handed them both to the trader.
"Give these to your employer," he hefted the pouch in his hand slightly
as he gave it over. "Tell him this will help take some of the
stubbornness out of those problematic creatures. Once they taste this
they will be much more compliant. I will not have that be another
excuse for slow or shoddy work, you understand?"
Fighting the urge to shy from the wicked smile that touched Saruman’s
lips, Seobryn accepted the bag, tucking it into his tunic and nodding.
"Time runs short as does my patience. When next you come I expect to
see this proof of your success, if not, I will not be pleased. I expect
you to give Rhuddryn a full accounting of our meeting, as well as the
letter, he should know of my displeasure." Saruman’s gazed bored
through the trader until the man dropped his glance, nodding
obediently. His admonishment delivered, the wizard’s tone changed
abruptly. "Have you and your men received the parts and supplies that
my servants brought to you?"
"Yes Lord Saruman. Your men met us at the gate and I have sent the rest
of my men back to camp with your generous provisions. The warg parts
will be very useful."
Soundlessly the wizard turned and mounted the steps, their conversation
With a sigh Seobryn turned and walked back to the horses. Two of his
men, Malk and Chadoc had already mounted their steeds and Chadoc urged
his horse forward, meeting his employer halfway, the reins of Seobryn’s
stallion in his hands. He held the horse steady as the trader gained
Silence hung between the three humans as they turned to make their way
back out of Orthanc, the unnatural quiet spooking the horses, which
shied beneath their owners.
"Let’s go." Seobryn whispered gruffly to his men, the sooner they were
away the better he would feel about that whole transaction. He couldn’t
shake the feeling that they were on dangerously thin ice with the
"It’s not too late to back out of this." Chadoc spoke quietly leaning
towards Seobryn, as they slowly cantered out. He hated their recent
The older trader stared at him for a few moments considering the
suggestion, but Rhuddryn’s pay was better than decent and he enjoyed
living in the south as opposed to the colder, wetter regions of Middle
Earth. Enduring the wizard’s ire was worth it so far.
"It’ll be fine Chadoc. Let's just go." He started to spur his horse
forward when a dark voice stopped him floating over the gardens of
"Failure is not an option."
The sound of the words sent a shiver up Seobryn’s spine and he whirled
around in his saddle but there was no sign of the white wizard
anywhere, only the foreboding façade of Orthanc silently
Spurring his horse into a gallop the trader headed for the gates of
Isengard, he wanted to get away from the one who seemed to know his
every thought. He needed to be far away from this place.
High up in his tower Saruman watched the fleeing humans. He glanced
idly back into the interior of his study. A small hunched over orc
waited patiently for him.
"How did it go, my lord?" the dark creature questioned.
Walking back into the chamber the Istari seated himself at his desk
before turning his attention to the foul servant. "They are humans,
Skarmazh; how do you think it
The orc snickered softly before resuming to attend to his masters needs.
Legolas was not exactly able to leave at first light as he had
intended, because he had neglected to remember the fact that of course,
his father would want to know all about where he was going and what he
was doing. At first, the prince was somewhat leery about the King’s
reaction to this, since he had not always approved of Legolas’
friendship with Aragorn, but that had softened considerably since the
human had helped them win the kingdom back from Thranduil’s deranged
brother several years ago, so Legolas hoped this would not be as
difficult as it once would have been.
Thranduil eyed his son closely.
"Legolas... when you hardly knew him, you went into exile to save his
life, you disappear with him for years at a time, you left Mirkwood
alone in the dead of the worst winter in recent memory to track him
across the mountains, without
a word I might add, and proceeded to be gone all winter yet again..."
Thranduil shook his head at his son, yet Legolas was relieved to see at
least a faint glint of humor behind his father’s stern face.
"Now you barely come back alive from fighting orcs and the next day
intend to leave again for... how long, Legolas?"
Legolas met his gaze without wavering. "I don’t know. It may be a very
long time, Father. I’m sorry to leave for such a length, but the orcs
are gone, for now at least. The borders are secured, Raniean and Trelan
are more than capable of holding them in my absence... this is
something I have to do. He’s my friend. I would have your blessing on
it, Father, but will go without if I must."
Thranduil’s face softened and he sighed. "Of course you have it,
Legolas. I would be a fool indeed to have not learned how useless it is
to try to change your mind when it is made up, especially where that
Dùnadan is concerned." The king smiled, laying his hand on his
son’s shoulder. "Go, find your friend, do whatever it is you need to
do. My heart and my prayers go with you."
Legolas smiled warmly and clasped his father’s arm. "Thank you, Father."
Legolas was busy placing the last of his gear across the back of his
horse when the twins found him. They were both dressed, packed and
ready to leave once more as well, for they had to return home with all
haste if they hoped to keep their doings to themselves. If Legolas had
been going to Rivendell, their paths would have lain together, but
Legolas had decided instead to head straight for the grasslands of
Rohan, since it seemed probable that that was where Aragorn had most
likely ended up.
"How did it go with your father?" Elrohir asked after a moment. Once,
when they were all much younger, necessity had caused the twins to
spend a summer in Mirkwood. They had learned very quickly that
Thranduil was not Elrond and they could not get away with half the
stunts they pulled at home. The twins hoped that this situation had not
inadvertently caused any difficulty between Legolas and Thranduil; the
last thing they wanted was to spread the family trouble around.
"Surprisingly well," Legolas admitted with a half-grin, knowing there
was a time when his father would have flat-out forbidden him from such
a quest, especially since it concerned humans and Noldorian elves.
"Since the day he first came here your brother has been changing minds,
Legolas paused when he saw the shadow of hurt that chased itself across
the brothers’ faces when they thought of Estel. "I’m sorry," he
"Don’t be, it’s true," Elladan shook his head, his emotions near the
surface, but well restrained. "Estel has always been like that. So
giving, so trusting... it opens hearts, as well as getting him into
every scrape conceivable. Maybe if we’d been a little more open, when
he tried to share his heart with us, he’d have known that we..." the
elf did not finish. He had already said more than he intended to.
Elrohir looked away. Something silver glistened behind his long black
lashes and he blinked several times, pretending to have gotten
something in his eye.
Legolas’ heart ached. He had always admired and even slightly envied
the relationships shared by the twins, their father and their human
brother. It was so close, so comfortable, so warm and loving. To see it
being pulled apart like this... it was nothing less than painful.
"Estel will be all right," Legolas said quietly. "I’ve watched your
family; I’ve seen it under the best of times and the worst of times.
What you have together," he gently touched Elladan’s chest, above his
heart. "Is strong. Nothing can break it forever. Despite how it must
feel, I know that Estel loves
you both very much, and in his heart, he knows you love him too. I will
speak with him, and the Valar willing, when his task is complete, I
will bring him home safely to you."
Elladan and Elrohir couldn’t speak at the moment, but they both hugged
Legolas tightly. The blonde elf was no longer thrown off by the
emotional contact and hugged them back. He had learned already that
Aragorn’s family was much more affectionately demonstrative than his
own, and he had come to appreciate that.
"It seems as if you’re always doing that, Legolas. I don’t know whether
to thank you, or apologize, but bring yourself back safely too while
you’re at it," Elladan chuckled hoarsely, his voice slightly choked at
the old joke. "We’ll have enough explaining to do to father by that
"Here," Elrohir pressed a small silver circle into Legolas’ palm. "For
Estel, when you find him. May it help him remember that his life is
neither empty, nor meaningless, and there are those who love him
Legolas nodded, carefully tucking the ring of Barahir into one of the
safest, inmost pockets of his tunic. "All will be well, I promise you."
Leaping lightly up onto his horse, Legolas said his last farewells. All
was in order and he was ready to leave. He had already handed over the
border patrols he had been commanding to Raniean and Trelan, who wished
their friend well in his quest. They would have gone with him if they
could, but they knew they were needed here. The orcs on their
boundaries had been quelled, but not defeated, and Legolas could not
have left in good conscience if he did not know that he was leaving his
home in the most capable of hands.
Waving farewell to Elladan and Elrohir, Legolas urged his mount out of
the courtyard. He had no way of knowing what the future held for either
he or Aragorn, or how very different it would be from anything he
expected that morning when he rode out of the gates and left his home