“There you are, Legolas! We’ve
you!” a tiny elf, only a little over half Legolas’ size called out,
vaulting the waist high-fence around the gardens and landing near where
prince knelt on the grass beside a huge flowerbed. Legolas’ hands
and a pile of uprooted weeds was quickly growing next to him.
"What are you doing?” a second elf, this one a few hairs taller than Legolas, followed after, raising his eyebrows when he saw his friend’s somewhat grubby appearance.
Legolas looked up from his work, rocking back on his heels. Pushing stray locks of hair out of his eyes with the back of his hand he left a dirty smudge across his forehead. “What’s it look like Raniean? I’m weeding the flower bed.” Legolas looked out at the mammoth patch of brightly colored flora and ugly, nettled creepers. “The very large flower bed,” he amended slightly, blowing his wayward hair out of his face once more in a rueful sigh.
“Why?” Raniean blinked several times.
Trelan elbowed Raniean in the ribs. Although the shorter elf’s unusually diminished stature made him look younger, much to his eternal chagrin, he was in fact the same age as Raniean and Legolas and had twice as much sauce as either of them.
“Because he must have got in trouble for something, you nift,” the shorter elf hissed at his friend in a not-so-quiet whisper.
Legolas rolled his eyes. “Yes, I did, and if you’re wondering, no, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s fine ‘cause we don’t want to hear about it,” Trelan said cheerily, earning him a scowl from both Legolas and Raniean.
“Hey, look who’s on garden duty!” another voice interrupted the friends. Legolas sighed as he looked up and saw four other young elves leaning against the fence and looking over at them. A ripple of laughter ran lightly through the small group of newcomers. “What’d you do this time, Legolas? Don’t tell me you smarted off at Lord Dridian again!”
“None of your business, Sarcayul,” Raniean rolled his eyes. “I don’t think anyone here was talking to you. Or wants to.”
“Yeah, why don’t you move along?” Trelan added.
“Why?” the older elfling lounged against the fence post, smiling tauntingly. “I think we’d rather stay here and watch. Not everyday you get to see how a prince pulls weeds. Hey I think you missed a few over here!”
“Legolas, you’ve um... you’ve got something on your face,” Sarcayul’s younger brother, Legolas’ sometimes-friend Sarcaulien, shot his older sibling a long-suffering look before rubbing his forehead demonstratively.
Legolas wiped his forehead quickly.
“Don’t you think you’re a little old to be playing in the dirt?” Sarcayul put in again, ignoring his brother’s glare. “No, wait, if you plant shrimpy do you think he’ll grow?” the older elf indicated that he meant Trelan.
“I think you should leave,” Legolas felt his color rising again, but he spoke quietly, refusing to let the other elven boys get a rise out of him. “Now.”
“Why you-” Trelan spluttered at the insult and Raniean had to quickly wrap an arm around his friend’s waist to hold him back from charging at the bigger boys on the other side of the fence.
“Aw, leave the little guy alone,” Amon, another one of Sarcayul’s friends mocked with an unkind smile. “At least his father doesn’t seem to think he’d make a better gardener than a prince,” he said, shooting a sardonic glance at Legolas. “Your father’s made a mess of this kingdom anyway, my father says, so you might as well learn another profession while you can.”
Legolas jumped to his feet. They could rag on him, but the instant they started touching his family they had crossed the line. “You take that back!”
“Make me!” Amon scowled. “Unless you’re as much of a weakling as your father is.”
“Amon, shut up!” Sarcaulien hissed at the older elf. He and his brother may have been bullies at times, but they were loyal to the royal house, and that was treason Amon was talking.
Legolas was across the fence faster than it took to blink and tackled Amon, knocking him over. The two young elves rolled over a couple times, tussling in the dust.
Raniean and Trelan followed him over and the whole situation would have degraded very quickly except that another one of the young elves in Sarcayul’s party gave a quick cry of warning. Morifwen did not like conflict and had held back from the altercation. Since he was on the fringes, he heard the approaching footsteps first.
“Somebody’s coming! Break it up, somebody’s coming!” he called quickly, tugging Sarcayul and Sarcaulien back away from the fight.
Everyone else stopped too at the warning, although Amon used the opportunity of the distraction to strike Legolas in the mouth with the flat of his hand before pulling away and taking flight after his friends. None of them wanted to get in trouble for fighting, especially with the prince.
Raniean and Trelan helped hurry Legolas back to the side of the fence they were supposed to be on and everything looked nearly normal when Ravir rounded the corner to check on Legolas’ progress.
The prince hastily wiped his bleeding lip with the back of his hand and started pulling weeds fastidiously.
Ravir thought his young charged looked a trifle too fastidious and Raniean and Trelan were acting a little too innocent, but he just raised his eyebrow at the prince’s friends. “Don’t be bothering his highness now you two, and don’t step on the geraniums on the way out,” was all he said before going on about his duties.
Raniean and Trelan looked at each other and burst out laughing after the gardener had left. “And don’t step on the geraniums on the way out!” Trelan mimicked.
Legolas didn’t laugh. He was still upset over what Amon had said.
“Well we’d better go I guess,” Raniean said after a moment. “But the reason we were looking for you was to find out what time you wanted to get to the tournament grounds tomorrow. We should get there early if we want a good spot.”
Legolas looked down at his hands, twisting a bent weed between his fingers. “I can’t go to the tournament tomorrow, Ran.”
“What?” the other boy was shocked. “But Legolas, we’ve been waiting for this competition forever! It’s the archery finals of the season! Cúrorth and Galdil are going to be facing off for the championship!”
Legolas did not look up, but the weed in his hands snapped in two. “I know! I know. But I don’t have a choice, Ran. I have to help Galion in the cellars tomorrow.” The young elf’s disappointment was keen. He had indeed been waiting for this event all year; he tried not to let his friends see how he felt, but it was a futile attempt.
Raniean and Trelan looked at each other. They felt badly for Legolas. They knew that he had wanted to go probably more than either of them did. Archery was the young prince’s favorite passion.
“I’m sorry... is there anything we can do?” Trelan asked quietly.
Legolas attempted to smile and shrug it off. “No, don’t worry, I’ll be fine. You two will just have to tell me everything that happens, and then it’ll be like I was there, all right?”
The other two elven boys were not convinced, but took their leave shortly thereafter, not wishing to get the prince into anymore trouble by hanging around.
After they were gone, Legolas felt the tears of disappointment welling in his eyes, but refused to let them fall. It was childish. What did it matter anyway? He dug back into his task quickly to keep himself busy so he didn’t feel the ache of the growing loneliness inside him.
Legolas made his way to the cellars after lunch the next day.
Usually he would
have had lessons still after lunch, but it was a festival day, so
cut short. Legolas was half tempted to take the fact that it was
supper and only after lunch to mean that he did not have to go to work
could catch the beginning of the tournament... but he knew that his
meant that he was not to leave the palace until his punishment was over
very last thing Legolas wanted to do was get in trouble again and
disappoint his father, or garner more of Doriflen’s wrath. He
have an answer for his Uncle about yesterday and the prince knew that
later today he was going to need one. It made his palms clammy
Galion regarded the downcast young prince with kind-hearted pity. He knew what the boy was missing. The butler put a gentle hand on the younger elf’s shoulder as he showed Legolas what needed doing.
Legolas was having a bit of difficulty rolling one of the heavier barrels up the ramp into the upraised storage area on the far wall, when another set of hands joined him; hands that were too small to be Galion’s.
“Let me help you with that.”
Legolas started and nearly dropped the barrel.
Raniean caught it and kept it from rolling backward until Legolas got his shoulder back against it again.
“Raniean? Trelan?” Legolas looked quickly between his two friends. “What are you doing here? The tournament grounds must be packed by this time, you’ll never find a spot!”
Trelan shrugged with an impish grin, adding another hand to the precariously balanced tub. “It doesn’t matter, I can never see no matter where we stand.”
“Yeah,” Raniean nodded. “We decided it wasn’t worth contending with the crowds. Trelan always gets stepped on and then smarts off at whoever did it, and I have to save him...”
“HEY!” the small elf elbowed his friend sharply. “Do not!”
“Do too! Raniean chuckled and shoved his friend away. “But anyway, we decided to skip all that; what’s one more tournament anyway? We thought maybe you could use some help down here.”
blinked, totally stunned. “Y-you can’t do that, I know how much
you two have
been looking forward to this! Go on, go, I don’t need you to feel
“Legolas,” Raniean caught his friend’s eyes and smiled. “Don’t you understand? We don’t feel sorry for you. We’d just rather be with you than at any dumb old festival, all right?”
Legolas didn’t know what to say. He smiled gratefully at his friends, his eyes saying what he couldn’t put into words.
“Now can we get this barrel up the ramp before it rolls us over?” Trelan put in as the tub shifted again.
The friends laughed and rolled the barrel the rest of the way up.
“Before it rolls you over you mean!” Raniean teased.
The three young elves moved the barrels around with quick, light hands and nimble reflexes, making games out of the labor and racing the barrels down the ramp to see who could get theirs through the trapdoor and into the water first.
Galion watched the barrels bump and crash together much more roughly than he would ever have let his normal helpers get away with. But the three boys were enjoying themselves while they worked and it was all right with him. He thought well of the prince’s young friends for the sacrifice they had made for friendship.
Evening was drawing near when the butler approached his young charges. “Well now, with all three of you working, things have gotten finished up much quicker than expected, so there’s nothing left to do here. However, I do have to go check how the wine supply at the tournament is holding out... I don’t suppose I could get you boys to come help me...” his eyes twinkled.
“Sure!” Raniean and Trelan agreed quickly, but Legolas hesitated.
“Now,” Galion looked at the young prince, sensing his hesitation. “Your father said you were supposed to help me, right? Well I need your help out there. You’re under my charge and it’s my responsibility, your highness; you won’t be doing anything wrong.”
Legolas smiled brightly. “Very well then!”
Checking and refilling the large, public wine flagons took less than twenty minutes, after which Galion took his young charges up to the roof of the stone alcove that housed the festival’s free wine and food. From the roof, the four of them had perhaps the best view of the entire tournament grounds. The match had just about reached its climax and the three young elves watched with rapt attention as the two best bowmen in Mirkwood faced off against one another in a series of breathtaking challenges as inventive and clever as they were difficult.
Galion brought the boys up some of the huge, sticky pastries that were being given out down below and the young elves shared the goodies amongst themselves as they watched.
“Did you SEE that?!” Trelan gasped animatedly, gesturing excitedly with sticky fingers.
Raniean shook his head in awe at the skill they were watching, ripping off another piece of the pastry without ever taking his eyes off the field. “Never seen anything like it! How in the world did he get it to go there?!”
Legolas watched, entranced. “It was the way he twisted his wrist, right before he let the arrow go,” he murmured, keen eyes straining to capture every detail, every move.
“You would know,” Raniean nodded, smiling. Legolas was the resident archery expert in their little group.
“Someday we’re going to see you out there, right, Legolas?” Trelan said with full confidence.
Legolas laughed lightly, it was in fact a dream of his. “Maybe someday.”
“Ohh, oh, watch,” Raniean tugged on Legolas’ sleeve and pointed. “They’re going to do that relay shot we’ve been hearing so much about. I’ve never seen it done, I was hoping they would do it this year.”
It was an incredibly complicated shot, which only the best archers attempted with any success. Two elves stood side by side, one holding a bow and the other with several long, multi-colored trailing ribbons tied around a ring. A third stood several stone throws distant with another bow and an arrow.
“Lagor revio, thenid revio! Hado! Fly true, fly swift! Fire!” the archer standing next to the elf holding the ribbons called out, signaling his readiness to begin.
The lone archer across from the pair shot his arrow at the unprotected heart of the other elf holding the bow.
The crowd held its breath.
Almost quicker than sight the second archer pivoted on his heel and caught the arrow in his hand, stopping it in mid-flight just before it reached his chest. The third elf slipped the ribbon-ring around the shaft of the arrow even as the elf who had caught the arrow put the projectile to the string of his own bow and sent it back to the original archer.
The whole thing had taken less that a heartbeat to transpire.
With the same display of fluid grace, the second archer caught the arrow and sent it back, keeping the ends of the yellow ribbons trapped in his fingers. The arrow was sent back and forth in this manner several times in a kind of faster-than-sight dance, with the archers twisting and catching the different colored ribbons as they went. Less than a minute later, the two archers stopped, stretching tight the colorful strands that now hung between them. The crowd roared with applause when they showed that they had expertly braided the ribbons into an intricate pattern of delicate knots with the colors arranged to mimic the rainbow.
Legolas, Trelan and Raniean jumped to their feet on the roof, cheering loudly. They had never seen anything like that and it was incredible.
“We are going to learn to do that!” Legolas said excitedly. “I know Cúrorth will show us how it’s done if we ask him.”
Raniean and Trelan nodded in agreement as they settled back down to watch the rest of the match.
had fallen some time ago as the tournament grounds emptied
said goodnight to his friends, but became separated from Galion in the
So it was that he was alone as he walked towards the darkened
The young prince jerked and started when a hand clamped down on his shoulder from behind. Spun sharply around, Legolas found himself staring up at his uncle’s angry face. If he had been startled before, that quickly solidified into pure terror now, but he did not fight as Doriflen dragged him off the path.
“I waited for you all day, boy. We need to have a talk,” Doriflen hissed threateningly.
Legolas felt his mouth go dry as he stumbled off after the older elf. This was going to be bad.
oh,” Raniean stooped, picking up a small brooch in the shape of a
silver leaves from where it was being trodden upon on the ground.
must have lost this. Legolas! Hey! Legolas!” but his
friend was already lost
in the crowd.
Raniean shrugged, tucking the brooch into his breast pocket. “Trelan, Nana said we’re having dinner at your house tonight, so my parents are probably already there. When you see them will you please tell them I’ll be along in about twenty minutes? I’m going to return this to Legolas really quick. You know how his father is about him losing things.”
Trelan nodded. The last thing they wanted was for their friend to get in any more trouble. “All right, but hurry or I can’t guarantee that my cousins will leave you any supper!”
Raniean laughed as he jogged away into the darkness. “I’ll try.”
The young elf slipped into the palace quietly. It was easy enough for him to do since the gates had not yet been closed for the night and all the guards were used to seeing the young prince’s friends come and go as they pleased.
Legolas was no longer with Galion, so Raniean asked one of the servants, who thought that maybe they had seen the prince with his uncle and the young elf should look there.
Raniean made his way to Doriflen’s wing of the palace. No one answered his ultra soft knock so instead he pushed open the large doors that let into the Vice Regent’s lavish set of rooms and looked around. There was no one in the main chamber and Raniean hesitated to search any further. He did not particularly like Legolas’ uncle and he supposed he could just leave the prince’s brooch in his room for him. The young elf was about to leave when muffled sounds from the bedchambers down the passage made him freeze and edge closer.
“How many times,” whack “do I have to impress this upon you,” whack “before you learn?!” whack “You avoid me and shirk your duties and I will,” WHACK “be more than glad,” WHACK “to show you the consequences!” Doriflen’s low, angry voice was punctuated by a sharp, sickening crack of leather whistling through the air and striking something soft. But that wasn’t what made the young elf’s blood run cold. It was the muffled, miserable, choking sobs of pain that accompanied the sound.
“I-I’m s-sorry... it won’t happen again, I swear it won’t! Stop, please stop, I’m sorry...” Legolas’ voice broke as the pain became too much for him again. A muffled scream earned him a sharp clout across the back of his skull. His head was spinning and blackness tinged the young prince’s vision. His body was strong, but it was slowly wearing out from Doriflen’s repeated and unrestrained abuse.
Raniean had never heard his friend beg before and his blood boiled. Peering around the corner the young elf saw a scene so unreal he would only have believed it possible of a nightmare. Legolas was on his knees on the floor; his wrists bound tightly to one of the foot posts of the bed in the middle of the room. The prince’s shirt was on the floor next to him and his slim shoulders were marred darkly with bleeding welts. Doriflen stood over his nephew, beating the boy without compunction.
Horror rose like bile in Raniean’s throat as Legolas slumped limply against the bedpost, unconsciousness claiming him. “Legolas!” he gasped his friend’s name.
Doriflen’s head jerked up and his burning gaze landed on the intruder. Raniean reeled back a pace under that menacing glare, but he was so consumed by the terror of the sight in front of him he did not hear the footsteps behind him until a hand pressed firmly over his mouth and a strong arm wrapped around his chest. The youth struggled in shock and surprise, but a quick, sharp blow to the base of his skull put a stop to that and Raniean slumped forward, also unconscious.
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