Legolas awoke to the sound of birdsong, the feel of a soft breeze, and sunlight on his face. He lay still for a moment, thinking about the previous evening; not quite ready to get up yet – although there was much to do. He viewed the morning of the last day of his visit to Imladris with mixed feelings. He was sad to leave the beautiful, tranquil valley, and knew he would miss Elladan and Elrohir a great deal – but he was overjoyed to be going home. However lovely Imladris was, Lasgalen was home. There would be so much to tell his friends; he would see Calmacil and Mireth again, and revisit old haunts. Much to his surprise, he had even missed dour Lanatus, his tutor – though he rather doubted that Lanatus had missed him.
He reflected on some of the wilder incidents while he had been in Imladris, especially the breathtaking stupidity he and Elrohir had displayed in their trip across the Bruinen. Only two days on from that little venture, he could not fathom what had possessed either of them. It would have served them both right if the troll had killed them. They had deserved everything they got, from the terrifying encounters with the troll and the river, to the round scolding they had received, and their drudgery in the kitchens. The hardest thing to bear was the knowledge that he had let his father down.
Much to his surprise, Legolas found he had actually quite enjoyed the punishment of kitchen duty. There had been a lot of fun and laughter in sharing the task with Elladan and Elrohir, and he had even found an odd satisfaction in transforming the stacks and stacks of dirty glasses and plates to clean, shining crystal and china. The unexpected praise of the kitchen overseer had been a bonus, and in the end, they had not really missed too much. They had had their own feast – far more informally – and there had been time for songs and music in the Hall of Fire at the end of the evening. To his mingled embarrassment and gratification, there had even been a song about the archery contest, and his deliberately missed shot when the little girl ran onto the field.
With a smile, he glanced at the table by the bed. The handful of flowers and weeds the child had given him still stood in a glass of water there. They were wilting now, but he had already carefully pressed some of the blooms to preserve them, borrowing a heavy book from Elrond’s library for the task.
He slid out of bed, and crossing to the open window stood gazing out at the valley. It was still early, and dew lay heavily on the grass. Far below he could see glimpses of the river, and could hear the distant murmur as it flowed swiftly through the valley. For all the beauty of the view, he found himself thinking of the early morning mist hanging over the oaks and beeches of Lasgalen, and the way the mist lifted as the sun slowly warmed the day. It was rather surprising just how much he missed the forest. It would be autumn soon, and he longed to see the changing colours as the leaves turned to gold, bronze and scarlet before they fell. It was time to go home.
Behind him, there was a knock at the door, and his father entered. “Are you ready yet? We need to get the baggage down to the …” He stopped and sighed, surveying the room with an expressive silence.
Legolas followed his father’s gaze. It was fairly neat – he was not by nature untidy – but he had had no time to pack or prepare for their departure. Clothes from the previous evening were draped over a chair, a pair of light indoor shoes lay by the bed, and a solitary boot – where was the other? – stood in the centre of the floor. Books and other possessions were scattered across a table by the window. Looking up, he met Thranduil’s eyes. “I’ll do it now,” he promised. “Before breakfast. It won’t take long. I’m sorry father, I know I should have done it before – it’s just …” his voice trailed off. There was no real excuse; he should have been ready.
“It is just that when the rest of us were preparing for the journey, you were off gallivanting in the woods with Elrohir, or completing your punishment,” Thranduil finished dryly. “Now, Legolas. And if you are late for breakfast, I will not ask Elrond’s servants to keep anything back!” he threatened as he left.
Legolas washed rapidly, dressed even more quickly, and began to pack rather haphazardly, pushing clothes into his bag. His father’s threat was not an idle warning, he knew – and if he missed breakfast, they would not pause their journey to eat again until they stopped for the night, well on the way into the foothills of the Hithaeglir.
He found the stray boot beneath the bed, remembered to check the bathing room, and surveyed the room again. All was ready to be taken down to the stables to be loaded onto the baggage ponies. All that remained was the much smaller pack he would carry himself, his bow and his quiver.
His bow. He stared at it for a moment in dismay, remembering something he had intended to ask his father. It was too late now, too late – unless … there was just a chance. He hurried from the room, and managed to catch his father just before he went down to breakfast. “Father! Do you remember, we said we would give Elladan and Elrohir new bows? You said you would talk to Elrond and Celebrían about it. Did you? What happened? I forgot to ask you about it before,” he admitted.
“Then it is as well that one of us remembers a promise,” Thranduil told him. “Look over there.” He pointed to the table. There lay two bows of pale wood, the ends capped in engraved mithril. Two quivers rested beside them, the tooled leather painted and etched with gold and silver. Arrows – two dozen at least – lay at the end of the table.
Legolas picked up one of the bows, examining it with awe. He had never seen anything so lovely. He ran his hands over it appreciatively, bending and flexing it carefully, testing the strength and suppleness. A pattern of ivy intertwined with oak leaves was delicately etched along its length, continuing onto the end caps, the details picked out in gold. The wood was highly polished, and felt smooth and silky as he trailed his fingers over it. He drew back on the string, feeling the springiness of the wood and the tension that sang through the weapon as it bent. Releasing the string, he pictured the trajectory of an imaginary arrow, soaring straight and true to sink deep into the centre of a target. With a bow like this, there would be immense power behind the shot.
At last, a little reluctantly, he replaced the bow back on the table, and turned to his father who had been watching in silence. “Well?” Thranduil asked. “Do you think they will like them?”
“Like them?” Legolas repeated incredulously. He paused. “Yes, I think they will like them. I have never seen such beautiful bows. Who made them? They’re not quite the same design as the ones we use – yet they’re not like the ones here either. But why didn’t you tell me? I thought nothing had been done, and that it was too late!”
“You seemed rather preoccupied with other matters,” his father explained. “I spoke with Elrond and Celebrían, and then Minastir and Ciryatan worked together on them. Do you like them?”
Legolas nodded with appreciation, trailing his fingers over them again. “Oh, yes,” he said simply. Minastir was his father’s best weapon master, as Ciryatan was Elrond’s. With two such skilled craftsmen working together, it was not surprising that the weapons were so unique, a blend of the best skills and techniques of both Lasgalen and Imladris.
He picked up the second bow. At first glance it appeared no different, which seemed appropriate for the twins. They always seemed to know which items were theirs, anyway. As he looked more closely though, he realised that there was a sight variation – the ivy twisting around the wood curled in the opposite direction, and it was entwined with beech leaves, not oak. Like Elladan and Elrohir themselves, the differences between the two were subtle, but were there if one knew what to look for. Finally he turned to the quivers, made of oiled and polished leather that had been stiffened to hold its shape. They had the same ivy, oak and beech ornamentation engraved and painted onto the leather.
He could not help feeling rather envious of the twins. Against these beautiful yet extremely functional weapons, his own bow seemed very plain and unadorned. He quashed the pang of envy firmly. His bow had served him well for many years. That familiarity had helped him in many contests, and a new weapon would need practice before he became accustomed to it. And yet … he cast a final longing look at the table, and turned to leave.
“When are we going to do it? Give them the bows, I mean?” he asked.
“Now?” Thranduil suggested. “There is no time like the present, after all.” He picked up one set, leaving Legolas to carry the other, and they went down to the main hall together.
Only Elrohir was there – his brother, sister and parents had not yet appeared. Legolas paused. “I’ll distract Elrohir while you keep these out of sight,” he suggested. Surreptitiously passing the items he carried to his father, Legolas stopped beside Elrohir. “Has anyone found out that your bow is missing yet?” he whispered.
Elrohir shook his head dejectedly. “Not yet – but it’s only a matter of time,” he said miserably. “I’ve borrowed one from the armoury for now, but someone is sure to notice that it’s not mine. Legolas, what am I going to do?”
“Never mind – I’m sure we’ll probably be able to think of something.” Legolas injected a great deal of uncertainty into his voice. “Don’t worry!” he added reassuringly.
Elrohir sighed. “That’s easy for you to say – it wasn’t your bow that the troll broke!”
Legolas nodded in sympathy. “I know. And I know you were trying to make it release me. Don’t worry, Elrohir – I told you, I expect we’ll think of something!”
“I hope so,” Elrohir muttered. “But it will have to be soon – training starts again tomorrow.” He sighed again, and poked at a piece of bread on his plate gloomily.
While they spoke in low voices, Thranduil had stowed the gifts under the table. Having thoroughly unsettled Elrohir, Legolas joined him, not feeling in the least bit guilty at tormenting his friend. His worry would soon be removed, anyway.
“Whatever did you say to Elrohir?” Thranduil asked. “He looks rather miserable!”
“Oh – he was saying that training restarts tomorrow, and he’s not happy with the bow he has to use. But I didn’t say anything about the new one!” Legolas added virtuously.
As he spoke, the rest of Elrohir’s family arrived and sat at the long table. “Well, we need not keep him in suspense for much longer.” Thranduil reached below the table, producing three packages. “Elrond, before we return to Lasgalen, I have some small tokens of our appreciation for your hospitality during our visit.” He gave one of the gifts to Elrond, and two smaller ones to Celebrían and Arwen.
Legolas watched curiously. He had had no idea that his father had gifts for all five. Elrond’s was a book – yet another addition to his library – richly bound in leather. For both Celebrían and Arwen there were pretty necklaces and bracelets, with enamelled buttercups and daisies.
Arwen was delighted with hers. “Thank you! Oh, how beautiful! I want to wear it now. El, will you do up the clasp for me?” She turned to Elladan, seated next to her.
He fastened the clasp, then studied her critically. “You look very nice, Ar – almost ladylike!” From where he sat, Legolas could not see her face, but at Elladan’s sudden laugh guessed that she had made a most unladylike gesture.
Finally, Thranduil felt beneath the table again and took out the two bows. “I also have these. I learned a few days ago that you were both hoping for new archery equipment, but would have to wait a few months. Allow me to give you these.” He placed them on the table in front of Elladan and Elrohir.
The twins seemed to be stunned into silence. Their gifts were clearly much grander than the others were. They picked up the bows almost reverently, turning them over and over, examining the detail just as Legolas himself had done. Arwen peered over Elladan’s shoulder, just as awed. At last, Elrohir looked up. “Thank you, Lord Thranduil,” he managed to say, “but why?” he added in wonder. “These are far more than mere leaving gifts!”
“You saved Legolas from the river,” Thranduil explained. For a second, Elrohir looked as horrified as Legolas felt. Did Thranduil know of their escapade after all? Then Thranduil continued. “You both acted courageously and sensibly in freeing him and reviving him. This is a very small token of my everlasting gratitude.”
“But you do not have to thank us for that!” Elladan exclaimed. “Of course we got him out – how could we do anything else? We never wanted to be rewarded for it!” Beside him, Elrohir was shaking his head – agreeing with his twin, and denying the need for any reward.
“Never mind that!” Legolas interrupted. “The thing is, do you like them?”
Rather numbly, Elladan nodded, glancing at his brother. “Yes. We do, don’t we El? I’ve never seen such magnificent bows – and the quivers, too!” He ran his fingers over the embossed pattern, tracing the designs longingly. “Do you really mean it?” he added wistfully.
“Yes,” Thranduil told them both forcefully. “I really mean it. You both deserve it. Thank you.”
Both Elladan and Elrohir seemed a little awed by the praise and the gifts. Yet they were the heirs of Imladris, and had been well trained in courtesy. Elladan stood. “Thank you, your majesty,” he said formally. “For these, and for all your kindnesses.”
Elrohir also stood, and nodded. “We will use them well,” he promised. Suddenly he glanced along the table and grinned. “Legolas, you little orc!” he laughed, breaking the formality abruptly. “You knew! You knew all the time!”
Legolas shrugged, not in the least repentant. “Of course I knew – it was my idea! Now, when are you going to try them out? This morning?” He hoped there would be time before they left. Perhaps the twins would allow him a turn, so he would have at least one chance to use the beautiful weapons – but it was not to be.
Elrond shook his head firmly. “Not now. This afternoon, perhaps. Thranduil, thank you indeed. We are all most grateful.”
From the windows of his room, Thranduil took a last look at the vista of Imladris below him. Lovely as it was, he felt a deep ache of loss and longing for the trees of his own forest. He sensed all was well, but had been away for too long. He was intangibly bound to Lasgalen, and over the years had developed an ability and awareness to sense intruders and threats anywhere in the realm. Recently he had noticed the first signs of this skill in Legolas, and knew that his son was developing the same perception. Legolas, too, missed the forest badly – though he did not yet feel the physical pain of that separation.
It was time to go home.
Gathering the last of his belongings, Thranduil took from its place of concealment another bow and quiver. When commissioning Minastir and Ciryatan to make the bows, he had asked them to craft a third weapon in secret. This one was for Legolas. It was slightly shorter than those given to the twins, for ease of use among the trees – the warriors of Lasgalen fought from the treetops – and was stained with a darker dye for concealment. It was just as ornate and beautifully made though, with the same delicate etching and gilding along its length. He had seen the longing in his son’s eyes when he saw the twins’ bows, and the way he had tried to conceal his momentary envy. He planned to give this to Legolas later in the day, when they made their first stop for the night in the foothills of the mountains. Legolas would then have the rest of the journey to practice with it, to accustom himself to the greater draw, and to learn how it would affect an arrow’s flight.
With a small smile at the thought of the surprise, joy and pleasure the gift would bring, Thranduil hurried down the side stairs towards the stable yard, to hide the bow among the bags carried by the pack ponies, then returned to the house to find Legolas.
It was time to leave.Stories > First > Previous > Epilogue