Thranduil held Legolas close, grateful that his trusted captain had not
failed his charge, but heartbroken at the thought that it had cost him
his life... in front of his son no less. The Elvenking swallowed
the lump in his throat.
“Then he is...?” Thranduil did not want to finish the question.
One of the elves working over Randomir looked up. “No, sire, not quite. He is still with us, but his life hangs by a very thin thread. We should get him back to Lasgalen.”
Thranduil nodded and squeezed Legolas’ shoulders. “Yes, it is time for us all to go home.”
hallway was very quiet. Randomir had been taken to the palace and
healers were tending him, but things looked grim.
Raniean sat sideways on a cushioned bench in the hall and tried not to stare at the door across the passage behind which he knew his father was struggling for his life.
Legolas sat on the bench next to Raniean, holding his friend’s hand. Raniean’s mother was in there with the healers, but Raniean they still deemed too young. Thranduil and Elvéwen stood near, but let the two boys be.
Raniean shifted on the bench. “I wish they’d let me in too,” he whispered quietly. He knew they were trying to protect him, but he hated just sitting here and waiting.
“I know,” Legolas squeezed his friend’s hand tighter. He sought Raniean’s eyes, but his friend avoided him, letting his gaze drop down to wander over the silk cushion they were sitting on.
Legolas’ throat hurt and he still felt a little sick. The healers had already tended and bound up his injuries, but he knew it was not his physical hurts that were making him ill, it was his heart. He wondered if Raniean could ever forgive him for being the reason his father was not there to watch him grow up.
“Ran...” the prince swallowed hard. “I-I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Do... do you hate me?”
Raniean lifted tear-reddened eyes to his friend’s face, a look of shock flittering across his expression. “Hate you, Legolas? Of course not! This is not your fault. I would have done the same if I were close enough. Ada did the right thing and I’m proud of him, Legolas, so proud, I just...” the young elf’s voice cracked and he buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking.
Legolas wrapped his arms around his friend, pulling Raniean close and letting the other boy cry on his shoulder as his own tears fell silently into Raniean’s tawny, gold hair.
A soft, heart-broken cry from inside the room across from them made everyone tense. Raniean recognized his mother’s voice and his heart froze.
The door to the chamber opened and Nesteriu stepped out. Everyone looked at him expectantly.
The healer looked very sad and drained. He shook his head. Inside they could just see Nesteriu’s son, Nestad, pulling the blanket up over Randomir’s head before the elder healer closed the door softly behind him.
Raniean crumpled forward, burying his face in Legolas’ tunic as his body shook with his grief. Legolas clung to him, crying just as freely. It seemed that Doriflen had found one last grievous way to hurt them all.
Thranduil placed one hand gently on either boy’s shoulder, standing quietly behind them. He couldn’t give Raniean his father back, but he would make sure the boy and his family were always well taken care of, that he promised from the bottom of his heart.
Suddenly the door opened again. Nestad gestured urgently for his father to come back into the room. “Adar, come quickly! I-I think I felt him draw breath!”
Nesteriu’s eyebrows shot up and he quickly hurried back into the room, not even bothering to close the door in his haste.
Unable to stand the suspense, Raniean disentangled himself from Legolas and slid off the bench, tiptoeing quietly to the doorway. Legolas followed. Through the open door they could see Nesteriu and Nestad working swiftly over Randomir’s still form on the bed. Randomir’s wife was holding his hand, whispering softly to her unmoving husband.
Thranduil gently guided both boys away after a few moments. “Come, let them work.”
It seemed like hours later before anyone emerged from the room again, but this time when he came out, Nesteriu’s weary face was wearing a smile. He gestured for Raniean to come and Legolas followed his friend hesitantly.
The small party was ushered into the sickroom. Raniean bit his lip at the sight of his father’s pale face resting upon the pillows, but when Randomir’s eyes opened and fixed on his son the boy’s entire countenance lighted up and he ran forward, wrapping his arms around the older elf and clinging to him tightly. “Ada!”
Randomir was very weak, but he wrapped his arm reassuringly around his son’s shoulders. “Not... getting rid of me that easy... Ran,” he assured with a faint smile. “Or you,” he added softly, turning his smile upon Legolas, who was hanging back in the shadows near his father.
At Randomir’s gesture Legolas hurried forward, smiling through his tears as he hugged his well-loved mentor. Thranduil came forward with his son, squeezing his loyal captain’s hand firmly.
“Thank you, Randomir,” the King said quietly, his eyes drifting to Legolas and then back to the warrior on the bed. “I shall never forget what you did for Legolas, and for me. I thought we had lost you, my friend.”
Randomir smiled, a little too weak to talk much, but Nesteriu spoke up from where he waited unobtrusively by the door. “Not yet, my Lord; this one is too stubborn to know when he should die. If he stays out of the path of any more arrows, he should be fine.”
Thranduil chuckled. “That is well, I would hate for the last casualty of this despicable war to have been so grievous.”
Legolas blinked slightly at his father’s words. Looking up at Thranduil he smiled hesitantly. “It’s really over then, Ada, isn’t it?” It seemed they had been fighting so long, living heartache as part of their daily lives for so many seasons... it was a bit of a shock to really realize that it was finally ended.
Thranduil smiled, laying his arm gently around his son’s healing shoulders. “Yes, ion-nín, it really is over.”
It’s all over,
It’s all over now:
The life of hiding,
with children fighting now.
The rain is falling;
the rain is falling now.
Today we’re leaving;
our souls are calling now.
Can I be changed?
Or am I the same?
It's all over;
it's all over now.
cleansing rain pattered down upon the green leaves of the forest.
It seemed to
be trying to wash away all the division and strife of the past
Legolas stood quietly by his parents’ side underneath the sheltering arbor of the trees. The leafy boughs knit their branches together to shelter the assembled elves below. The past week had been an eventful one as Doriflen’s scattered camps were slowly rounded up one by one. Once informed that their leader was in custody and awaiting royal justice, they were given two choices: to swear allegiance to Thranduil and become part of a unified Mirkwood, or to keep their ties with Doriflen and accept whatever sentence was dealt him as their own as well.
The majority chose allegiance to Thranduil, but not all. Many chose to remain with Doriflen. Some such as Melryn and Amilon, fathers of Nynd and Amon, chose their and their families' fates out of pride, unable or unwilling to admit they had been wrong. Others chose out of an overwhelming sense of guilt. Garilien was not the only elf, young or old, who felt that their families and friends would not take them back, or indeed, that they did not deserve to go back.
And now the day of sentencing had come. It was a quiet, somber day, yet even so, the whole forest seemed to be breathing easier already.
Thranduil’s wound was healing well, even as he hoped the wounds Mirkwood had sustained would heal with time. On Thranduil’s right stood his three captains, Amil-Garil, Traycaul and Randomir, who to everyone’s joy continued to pull through his grievous injury with remarkable strength. He was still recovering and the healers did not wish him out of bed yet but, on an occasion this important, he was going to stand by his King, healers be hanged. On Thranduil’s left stood Elvéwen and Legolas.
Doriflen and all the elves that had chosen to link their fates to his awaited their sentence in the center of the protected glade.
Legolas stood uncomfortably at his mother’s side, studying the grass five paces ahead of him and consciously avoiding looking at his uncle. His injuries had already faded until they were almost completely gone, but the memory lingered. He could feel Doriflen’s eyes boring into him from a distance and it unnerved him. He was glad it was over; he wanted things to return to normal now... but could they? Could they ever? The prince had been through so much these past seasons, he wondered if he could be the same person he had been, or if he was irrevocably changed.
The prince’s gaze drifted to Raniean and Trelan who stood at attention off to his left. Trelan was wearing his Sentinel’s colors for the first time today, proudly taking his place beside Raniean as protectors of the Royal family. After what the two young ones had done to save their friend, it was an honor they had both more than earned.
Legolas saw Raniean cast a small, sideways smile at his father. He knew his friend was still grateful for his father’s escape from the brink of death.
Raniean caught Legolas looking at him and switched his bright smile to shine upon the prince.
Legolas smiled back. He supposed they had to remember that no matter how much had been damaged or ruined by the war, there was just as much that had been mercifully spared as well.
Legolas drew a deep breath in, letting the cleansing moisture of the rain-wet air fill his lungs and calm his skittish nerves. If he had been changed, he decided it was for the better. Gathering his resolve, the young prince lifted his eyes from the ground and fixed his gaze on Doriflen’s stormy face.
The prince’s stomach did an instinctive flip, but then he felt the painful butterflies inside him begin to fade. Squaring his shoulders he met his uncle’s gaze steadily. Doriflen had hurt and humiliated but, ultimately, not truly broken him. Legolas was not going to let the wounds he had taken from the older elf’s hands color the rest of his life. He was not going to be afraid of Doriflen anymore.
Doriflen’s gaze darkened when Legolas did not flinch away from his malevolent stare. The elf lord’s hands were bound in front of him and guards flanked him on either side. His followers stood quietly behind him. They were unbound, but also guarded.
“Doriflen,” Thranduil commanded his brother’s attention. “The charges against you have been read and are disputed by none. You have warranted death by your actions, but I will not spill any more elven blood in this forest. Therefore, I look to the wisdom of our forefathers and the ancient laws. You, and all who have chosen to follow you, are hereby banished from Mirkwood forever; never to return on pain of death. You are furthermore denied rest or sanctuary in any elven haven from the mountains to the sea. You are outcasts to the elven race now and have no more ties to my family or to this realm. Have you anything to say?”
Doriflen glared at his brother, his eyes dark. “Only this: do not think this is over, Thranduil. You will not be rid of me so easily. Someday everything you hold dear will be mine and I will see you rot in your own dungeons. Someday, little brother. Someday,” he promised bitterly.
Thranduil remained unmoved. “Doriflen, I pity those who follow you into this doom unwitting. I would spare them if I could, but I hope I never see your face again. Go now, and may the Valar have mercy on you all.” The Elvenking turned to his soldiers. “Escort them out of the forest and see that they do not return.”
The warriors flanking the exiles nodded. They cut Doriflen free and led him and the others away.
Silence reined for some time after they had departed, broken only by the patter of the rain on the leaf canopy above. Finally, Thranduil spoke, his gaze sweeping across the other elves present.
“Elves of Mirkwood, we cannot pretend that these past years have not happened, we cannot ease the ache of further loss by ignoring that it occurred, but we can move forward. To us falls the difficult task of rebuilding so much of what has been lost; for ourselves, and for our children who deserve a world of peace and plenty in which to grow. It will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile,” Thranduil turned his head and smiled down at Legolas when he said this.
The assembled elves murmured in agreement. They would move on, they would rebuild, and Mirkwood would be stronger than ever in the end.
“It can never be like it was,” someone in the crowd said quietly. It was obviously meant for whomever was standing next to them, but everyone heard.
It surprised them all when Legolas responded.
“Nothing can ever be as it was, because the past is past, but the future can be good too, if we make it so. I believe we can,” the prince blurted out almost before he realized he had spoken. The young elf immediately flushed when he realized everyone was now looking at him.
Legolas looked hesitantly to his father, but the older elf was smiling. So was Randomir. He was glad that was a lesson Legolas had taken to heart.
“Legolas is right,” Thranduil said, drawing the boy closer so that he stood between the King and Queen. “We will find nothing looking to the past, but everything looking to the future. I think my friends, that we must all have the simple faith of children, to greet each new day as a new beginning. Then we shall surely succeed.”
A ripple of approval and agreement rolled through the crowd. Thranduil, Elvéwen and Legolas turned and dismounted the low dais they had been standing upon as the elves began to disperse. This chapter of Mirkwood’s history was over and it was time to start building the future.
Trelan’s father walked proudly behind his son, remarking to everyone within earshot about his recent placement as a sentinel, much to the child’s happy embarrassment.
Raniean wrapped a protective arm around his father’s waist, helping him down the stairs and murmuring about getting him back to the healers, avoiding the predictable fond cuff to the head that that garnered him.
Legolas saw Raniean and Randomir stop when they reached a lone figure that was hanging to the edges of the crowd. It was Cirlith. The prince was too far away to hear what they said over the buzz of the rest of the dispersing elves, but the hunter was obviously uncomfortable. He almost tried to flee his friends, but Raniean quickly wrapped his arms around his Saelon in a hug, keeping him from leaving. Slowly, Cirlith’s tense body relaxed and Legolas could see him shaking with quiet sobs as he returned Raniean’s embrace. Randomir put his hand on his friend’s back. They could not take his pain away, but they would be there for him.
Legolas had a feeling Cirlith was going to need Raniean as much as Raniean needed him for a time now. Legolas had not really known Garilien, but part of the prince’s heart hurt for he and the others who had left. He hoped that somehow, someday they could come back and restore the missing pieces to the fabric of so many lives. For now, though, he knew those who remained had to focus on building with what they had, not with what had been lost.
Legolas nearly started when he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder.
“Legolas? Are you all right?”
The young prince smiled brightly as he turned back towards his parents, hooking one arm around each of their waists as they walked away. Thranduil and Elvéwen let their arms rest upon his shoulders, holding hands behind Legolas’ back.
Despite all that had happened, and all the work that yet lay ahead, Legolas was happy. Safely enfolded between his father and mother and wrapped up in the cocoon of love that enveloped their little family, the young prince decided that this moment in time was perfect.
Legolas nodded. “Yes, Ada. I am. For the first time in a long time I think.”
Thranduil smiled and dipped down to kiss the crown of his son’s head.
Elvéwen tucked wayward strands of hair behind the young elf’s ear. “I think the same could be said for all of us, Tyndolhen.”
The trio walked back towards the palace together, and as they began to smile, and talk, and laugh, they were not just the King, Queen and Prince. For the first time in far too many seasons, they were a father, a mother and a child; and the love that bound them together was strong and radiant.
The rain had ceased and suddenly Legolas pointed up at the sky. “Look, a rainbow!”
Thranduil and Elvéwen followed his gaze up to see the brilliant colors painted across the heavens through the swaying leaves of the trees and smiled.
Rainbows had always been regarded as a symbol of promise and hope; it was fitting.
Linking arms, the little family wound homeward under the colorful rays of a new beginning for them, for their people, and for Mirkwood.