Legolas returns home from patrol in the South to find his Father's stronghold drenched in sadness. Prequel to "Darkness in Your Heart"
Categories: Fiction Characters:
Legolas, OFC, OMC, Thranduil
April 16, 2017 Updated:
May 14, 2017
A lovely reviewer on FFnet got me thinking about Legolas and Maewen in the very early days in the Greenwood. This story is the result.
1. Chapter 1 by cheekybeak
2. Chapter 2 by cheekybeak
3. Chapter 3 by cheekybeak
4. Chapter 4 by cheekybeak
5. Chapter 5 by cheekybeak
I recommend reading chapter 2 of "Darkness of Your Heart" first if you have not read that story...just so you know the back story of Legolas' brother.
I remember when my wood was filled with light, when flowers scattered across all its parts and the trees were warmed with sunlight. They are childhood memories but I remember that.
But now . . . Now there are huge swathes of wood smothered in the dark, where the trees suffocate under the weight of it and all is oppressive and threatening.
It breaks my heart.
We ride—back towards my father's stronghold—out of the dark, dark, south, but today the dying trees do not depress me. The memory of that tangled poisonous forest does not choke my light and leave me gagging as it usually does; for my head is full of Maewen.
Pictures of her flit through my mind. Her hair, her smile, her spirit; she is all I can think of for we have been parted and now, finally, I ride home towards her.
Usually we patrol together but no longer. My father it was who gave me that news in his study the day before we left. He called me to see him which is not unusual. He will always make time for me before I depart to go out into the darkness.
"Legolas." He nodded towards a chair, his tone leaving me in no doubt this was not simply a Father/Son goodbye. Sometimes he is my Father and sometimes he is my King. On this day, at this moment, I knew it was my King who spoke to me.
"Elhadrel has been to see me." He said at last when I had seated myself. Elhadrel is my captain in the south and I was confused as to why she had gone seeking his council. It made no sense.
"She was speaking about Maewen." He spoke slowly then. "Tell me, Legolas . . . How do you feel about her?"
My father knew, of course, that Maewen and I spent time together outside of our patrols, that I was interested in her. But he did not know the whole of it. He did not know how she captured my mind, my thoughts . . . My love; and I did not want to tell him then.
"She is pleasant company, Father."
And he frowned at my reply.
"Elhadrel says it is much more than that. She has concerns about the two of you."
"Concerns?" Instantly I was alarmed. We had been so careful. There was nothing I could think of that had drawn attention to the two of us. "She has nothing to be concerned about."
"Indeed?" He raised his eyebrows in that way he has that let me know he saw right through me and was not fooled for a moment. Unfortunately my Father is very hard to fool. "The gossip is, Legolas, that she has every right to be concerned, that things become serious between you and Maewen. Do not think I do not hear all my people have to say when it pertains to you!"
"It is gossip only, Father. I can hardly control that. I am their prince and they speculate. It does not mean it is true." I could only try to deflect his interest even though I knew it was futile.
"Hmm," He folded his arms into his most kingly pose. I knew that pose well, I have seen it many times in my growing, and I knew then something unpleasant came my way.
"Maewen will be staying behind when you go to the South, tomorrow. I have ordered it. You will not be patrolling together again."
"What?" It took me by surprise, that announcement though I should have anticipated it—it was fear of this that had led us to be protective of our growing closeness after all—but now it finally came I was totally unprepared. I pushed back my chair and leapt to my feet, knocking over a stack of the documents piled on his desk as I did so. "There is no need for that, Father. It is unnecessary! You disrupt the balance of the patrol for no good reason."
I do not usually argue with my father. His temper is legendary . . . And he is usually right. But on this occasion I did—I had to—but it got me nowhere. In fact it was my undoing.
"It is entirely necessary!" His fist slammed into the desk and I jumped. He can make me feel like such a child when he is angry. "Your response has just clarified that for me, Legolas. You will not be travelling to the South with Maewen again. Do you hear me? I will not make that mistake a second time. You care too much for her."
"And will you remove Erynion from the patrol as well? He is my closest friend. I care for him. This is pointless Father!"
"Do not be ridiculous, Legolas. Erynion is not the same and you know that. You know the rules and they are there for good purpose. You of all people should know that! Do you wish to subject yourself to a death such as Laerion's again?"
He spoke of my brother. My brother who died at my feet, my brother whose death we never spoke of, and my blood ran cold. But my father was not done yet.
"You are too close to Maewen, your fea is too entangled with hers. You will not be able to make logical decisions. Elbereth, Legolas, I am not doing this a second time! She does not go with you. That is final."
"Very well!" I spat it at him for I was angry. How dare he . . .how dare he make assumptions about my fitness on the battlefield. "Since you think me so lacking in self control what choice do I have but to obey you. But do not think I am happy about this."
"I think you lacking in nothing, Legolas." He reached across his desk towards me but I would not let him near. "It is simply how it must be."
"It is how you wish it to be!" I turned on my heels then to leave for I felt powerless. Caught up in the beliefs of my Father and my Captain with no voice of my own.
"Legolas . . ." His voice was soft then as I reached the door, soft and filled with sadness. "Elhadrel is not alone in her concerns. I have worries of my own to do with you . . .and Maewen. I would have you be careful." And I turned on him in astonishment.
"Be careful? Be careful of what? She is beyond reproach. She has done no wrong. She is one of your finest warriors. What is there for you to have concerns about, Father?"
"Be careful of your heart. She is Silvan. It will not be easy . . . You are too different. It will not work."
His words knocked the very breath from me, so unexpected were they. Not from him—of all people—had I expected that.
"You, Father?" I sneered, "You would say such things? Mother is Silvan, or have you forgotten that? And I am no Sindar. That was Laerion. He was your perfect Sindar son. I am the wild one who runs in the trees. Maewen and I are not too different, we are not different at all. We are the same!" The slamming of the door behind me as I left was very satisfying indeed.
I saw him once again before we left. In the early dawn as we lined up to depart the stronghold he was there to watch us go as he always is. Silent, stern, he spoke to Elhadrel before he approached me but I would have none of it. Anger at his words the night before and the feeling of injustice at the loss of my cherished one from my side made me bitter. I spurned his words of farewell, shrugged off his arm on my shoulder, and for the first time since Laerion . . . For the first time ever, I left for the South without my Father's love—because I would not allow him to give it. It was foolish, cruel and petty, and I regretted it the moment we stepped foot through the gate . . . But there was nothing I could do about it then—
"Legolas?" The voice cuts through my thoughts of my father and home. "Are you well?" A leg brushes against me as I ride and I blink my memories free. I am no longer in my father's study or the stronghold. I am back in the woods where darkness lightens and home is near. It is Erynion who speaks to me and when I turn towards him he looks at me with concern etched across his face. He is right to be concerned I suppose for I am injured. Nothing serious, nothing that prevents me from riding home under my own volition but injured all the same and they always worry so endlessly.
My arm has been slashed by a spiders stinger. A glancing blow, not as bad as a sting but still, spider venom seeps through my veins making me sluggish, my hands numb, my head throbs. It is most annoying.
"I am well." I frown at him for he has draw the attention of Elhadrel now. I feel her gaze wander over me searching, watching for any sign of weakness. I hate it. I am such a drain on her, a burden to have on patrol. Being responsible for the wellbeing of the prince weighs her down. It frustrates me so badly. I cannot wait until I am the captain myself and responsible for my own safety.
"You were miles away," Erynion says half-heartedly.
"Am I not even allowed to daydream now, on the safety of the Elven path?"
"I was concerned about the venom," he replies defensively, "You were not your best this morning." He is right. I was terribly unwell this morning but that has eased and now all I feel is resentment at being reminded of it.
Crowds line the way as we enter the stronghold. They are eager to see us but their cheers are muted. There is an eerie wrongness in the air that I cannot pinpoint and they all stare at me. They always stare at me but this is somehow different. Elhadrel will of course have sent word of my injury and we have lingered in the South longer than we meant to allow the venom to ease, so I could sit upon a horse at least....perhaps it is just that?
I am relieved when we reach the courtyard. The scrutiny is wearying and tiresome and I am eager to see Maewen —where is she? And my Father. I want to right the wrong of my departure. Thank goodness my injury was relatively minor. The thought of us being separated by Mandos' Halls with bad feeling between us is sickening.
He is there of course. Standing in the centre, magnificent as always, but the wrongness continues . . . my mother is not there. She always welcomes me home, standing by his side—where is she?
My home is so discordant today. My father, regal and majestic as always seems burdened, tired, weary—he is never weary—and I am not the only one to sense it it seems.
"Something is wrong here," Elhadrel murmers as she disembarks beside me. "Do you feel it, Legolas?"
"Yes," The fact she too notices does not reassure me.
"Let us see then," she says, "what our King has to say," and she moves to approach him.
I slide off my horse and thank goodness Erynion is there to steady me for as my feet hit the ground I discover the venom makes them wobbly. I am not sure they will even hold me up and I lean quickly against my horse, it is a convenient support. Falling face first into the dust in front of crowds like these will be embarrassing to say the least. Where is Maewen? I scan the crowds anxiously for a glimpse of her, heart pounding strangly in my chest as I look. Suddenly it is the most important thing in the world for me to find her. Surely Father has not kept her away? Surely he will not meddle in my life to that extent, no matter what concerns he may have.
There is a moment when time freezes, when it seems as if my heart ceases to beat, when I catch my breath, as I find her. Beautiful, her light eclipses all others. She is here! But she does not smile, there is no dancing welcome in her eyes. Instead she watches me with the same worried eyes as the rest of the crowd. A wary, sadness flows over me as her fea surges towards me. What news did Elhadrel send them of me? Did she overstate my injury? Is that what is wrong here, that they all thought me lost?
I have no time to dwell on it, no time at all to bask in the sight of Maewen for my Father is there then, at my side.
"My Son." I am in his arms, and it is strange, so strange for him to embrace me like this in front of others. It is not his usual greeting at all.
"I am well, Father." I pull back to see his face and am startled to see the sadness in his eyes. "Whatever the messenger told you must have been seriously exaggerated. I am quite well. Just some lingering spider venom."
"Good," he says quietly, "for I would not lose you."
"You will not lose me." I know I cannot promise that but at the moment I am driven by this need to reassure, to banish that sadness and remove this unhappiness that clings to them all.
Then his arm is around my shoulders and he steers me away from Erynion, away from the eyes of the crowd, and past Maewen, as she stands watching me. So close I could almost touch her—how I want to touch her . . . And then she is gone.
"Sit, Legolas." My father presses me into a chair in front of the fire, giving me no time to protest, no time to ask questions. "You must be fatigued after the ride." He peers at my face, eyes searching my features for signs of tiredness and I am sure he finds some for the day catches up with me and I feel wretched.
"How are the effects of the venom?" He asks, turning his back to me eventually as he pours liquid into a glass while I watch. "It can be most uncomfortable . . . I know." And that is the thing with my father—he does know. He has walked in my footsteps himself. He too has returned from patrol, tired, injured, weary and suffering from poison. My mother flusters around me in situations like this, anxious and agitated, full of advice and commands but she is no warrior. She has never been in battle. My father, on the otherhand . . . He knows it all. There is nothing he asks of me he has not done himself.
Thinking of that, thinking of my parents, reminds me my mother is not there.
"Where is Mother?" I ask him, wincing as I do for my head throbs incessantly. "Why was she not with you at the gate as usual?"
And he turns to me and frowns.
"Does your head pain you? The headache is the worst of it I think. It is as well I got this from the healers for you." He places the glass into my hands, clear, sweet medicine glistening within it and I swallow it gratefully. It is not until the herbs have begun to do their work and the sharp edges of my pain begin to blur that I realise—he has ignored my question.
"Where is Mother?" I ask it again, more forcefully, the beginnings of worry flickering at the back of my mind. "You did not answer, Father . . . Where is she?"
He stops. He freezes, mid movement and I see the clench of his jaw, the tenseness in his shoulders, the agony in his soul. My intuition on my arrival did not lead me astray. Something is wrong.
"Father?" The question hovers unanswered in the air.
"Legolas," he is on his knees then, in front of me, he clasps my hands between his, my hands that at that moment are shaking and it is not simply from the weakness the poison has left me with."Believe me when I say, I wish I did not have to tell you this—Your Mother is gone."
"Gone?" The word echoes round my head as I say it. It makes no sense. What can he mean? "Gone? Does she visit my Grandfather?"
My Mother will often do that, when she grows bored with the stronghold or frustrated with her life as queen. She flits off, back to the forest that grew her, the trees that she loves. She will retreat to her village and her family to recharge her soul and avoid her problems. When I was smaller she would take me with her and I loved it. It is not unheard of she would run to hide there but I am surprised she goes there now. The forest near her village is dark and she has not ventured there for some time. It is too dangerous for her now. My Grandfather comes to the palace instead. Why on earth has Father let her go?
"That is not wise, Father," I tell him. "Not now. The darkness draws too close there."
"She has not gone to the village, Legolas. Not this time." His voice is laden with sadness and grief. It frightens me. I cannot breathe. I do not want to. I do not want time to move forward from this moment. Suddenly I do not want him to tell me.
He does anyway.
"She has gone to the Elvenland." He says softly, "To Valinor." And just like that I am motherless.
It is nonsense of course. It cannot be true and it is a cruel joke. I wonder why he does this, so I shake my head.
"Father," I say and I rub my forehead. Perhaps the herbs affect me? I have always been susceptibile to wild delusions when I take them. The healers are very careful what they give me. Was there too much in that glass? It is strange, though for I feel quite rational. "Those herbs affect me. I am hearing things. You did not say Mother has gone to Valinor, did you?"
"Oh my boy," he has not yet let go of my hands, "I said that, Legolas. She has sailed. It is not a lie. It is not a delusion." And suddenly I realise, this is real.
I pull my hands away and look at him in horror.
"Sailed? No! Mother loves the land. She is Silvan, why would she chose to go there?"
"To wait for Laerion." I do not know what is worse. The wave of grief that threatens to drown me or the sadness in his eyes. And of course it comes down to Laerion. Everything in my life always does.
"She has not said goodbye," I say numbly. "She has not said goodbye."
I search my mind, trace my thoughts through our last meeting for a hint, anything, anything, that might, in retrospect, be my mother's way of wishing me farewell. There is nothing.
I spent my last evening with her, before I left for the South, as I always did. My leaving made her anxious always and so I put aside that time for her—for us—because she did not understand my warrior life as my father does. It was a mystery to her what happened when we were gone and I think that made it all the more worrying for her. That, and Laerion . . . Always Laerion.
But this last time was not the same. We were awkward, our conversation stilted as it never was previously. She was introverted and distracted which was not like my mother at all. My mother has a wildness about her, a light brightness that invigorates, but not that evening. That evening she was quiet and sombre as I had never seen her.
"I would do anything to change things, Legolas," she said at last after a long period of silence while we ate and I looked up in surprise.
"Change what, Mother? What needs changing?" I could not think what she meant . . . Unless she spoke of the neverending dark that forced me to go south in the first place.
"I would have you not hate me."
"I do not hate you!" I was horrified. Why did she say that? Why would she think that?
"I should have left well enough alone." She said sadly, "I should not have forced you out into the light . . . After Laerion. We should have sent you across the sea, to healing in Valinor instead of keeping you here for ourselves. It was selfish. No wonder you raged at me. What have I bought you back to after all?"
She spoke of the soft, safe, dark in my mind I retreated to after my brothers death. A dark that blanketed my bleeding soul, that I could hide in from the world outside. The world without Laerion I did not want to see. I do not know how long I hid there until she reached in and dragged me out, screaming and thrashing. I did rage at her then. I did tell her I hated, but I did not mean it. She made the right choice, it was the right thing to do.
"You saved me. I did not mean it, what I said then." I could not believe she still dwelt on this and a part of me resented her speaking of it at all. Why bring up Laerion when I am about to return to the place of his death? Why do that? Did she want to make it harder for me to go there? Did she try to prevent me going by weakening my nerve? Suddenly it seemed manipulative and I terminated the conversation before she could go on.
"I do not want to talk of this now, Mother, before I ride south. It is not the time. Later, perhaps, when I return." I did not wish to speak of it then either if I was honest. I did not want to speak of it ever.
"Of course, my little wild one." She dropped her gaze, eyes focused on the plate in front of her, using the name she had called me since my childhood. I felt there was more—a lot more—she wished to say but she accepted my request and said none of it.
And that was it. We finished our meal, she braided warrior braids tight into my hair as she always did, she told me she was proud of me. . .
And she did not say goodbye.
"She left you a letter." My father jolts me from my thoughts, pushing a letter in to my numb, shaking hands and I stare at it.
"A letter?" I gasp, "She left me a letter? That is all I am worth . . . A letter?"
"You are worth much more than that, Legolas, so much more. She cherished you." He begs me to believe him but how can I?
"It does not seem that way, Father." I feel the beginnings of anger creeping around the edges of my grief and my voice is no longer shattered, it is cold. "I understand why you would wish me to believe that but—" I hold the letter out for him to see, "This suggests otherwise."
"Do not judge her by this," he pleads. "She is better than this. I do not agree with what she has done but she has never been good with confrontation. She did not wish to hurt you. She loves you so much more than this."
"She did not wish to hurt me?" And suddenly the anger breaks forth, smashing down the wall of sadness that held it at bay, launching itself at my Father who has done nothing to deserve it. "She did not wish to hurt me so she leaves without a word? How did she think that would not hurt? This could be forever Father, this goodbye!"
He grasps my hand as I wave it in my fury.
"It is not forever, Legolas! You will see her again."
"I do not want to see her again!" It is not true but in that moment I mean it. "I will choose the land if it ever comes to that. I will not go to Valinor!" In truth that is what I have always imagined I would do. I cannot see myself ever wanting to go to Valinor. It is not me.
But the colour drains from my father's face at my words until he is a deathly pale.
"Do not say that, Legolas. Do not tell me that when I still have to send you south into the dark."
"Not telling you does not make it not the truth!" I stumble to my feet then, legs disobeying me as they struggle against the spider venom that surges within my veins as if it consumes my very anger.
"I do not want her letter!" I throw it at him, clumsy as I am and it floats to the floor. "I do not want it. If she could not discuss this with me then I do not wish to read any platitudes she has written me. I do judge her, Father!"
And I turn around, reaching for the chair to steady me as I do before I stumble towards the door. I do not want to be here. I do not want to be having this conversation, I do not want his pity or his love. I do not want to see his sadness.
"Legolas!" He speaks to me as my King then, commanding not asking. "Stay here. You will not run from this!"
And for the first time ever I disobey him. Oh I have disobeyed my Father many times, but never my King.
I leave, I run, for in that moment it is Maewen I want, not my father. Her soft arms, her sweet voice, her gentle touch, her love.
I slam the door in his face and I flee to her.
Maewen lives beyond the caves that house my family. She has a Talen, in the trees for she is silvan and even my father's caves, beautifully built, suffocate her. I love it—her house in the trees—I would live there if I could. But I am a prince, the only prince, and my place is by my father's side.
People stare at me as I run through the corridors. I feel their eyes upon me, burning into my back. It only makes me run faster. I do not call out when I reach her home. I do not ask for permission to climb up into her arms. I move as if a force outside myself drives me on, away from my father's pain. But the climb is hard as the venom slows my limbs and means my muscles do not obey me.
And when I emerge at the top I find she is not alone.
Erynion, my friend and comrade in arms, sits beside her and they are deep in conversation. He is silvan as well and also lives here in the trees. None of my friends are bound to the caves as I am. It is perfectly reasonable he should be here for she will have much to tell him but it stings. I feel—in that instant—left out, abandoned and alone. We have been separated for so long and she went first to Erynion, not to me. The fact my Father took me away from her eludes me.
"Do you speak of me?" The sound of my voice, bitter and angry makes them jump in surprise and for a moment we simply stare in silence.
"I suppose you have heard . . . Of my mother. Of how she has deserted us." I turn away from them towards the table just inside the door where a bottle of wine and some goblets sit. A drink is just what I need, something to calm me.
"Legolas!" Finally Maewen is on her feet, moving towards me, her hand lands hesitantly on my shoulder. "How are you?"
"How am I? My mother has left and she waited until I was deep in the south to do so. She could not even bring herself to tell me why. Oh I am fine." I came here looking for comfort and sanctuary, because I longed for her soft, sweet, love but Erynion's presence has spoiled it all. Now I am sharp jagged edges of sarcasm and bitterness. I know none of this is Maewen's fault but it spills out regardless.
"I am so sorry, Legolas," Erynion says from behind me. I can hear the pity in his voice and I hate it.
"I do not need your sorrow! I do not need your pity!"
"I do not—"
A splintering crash drowns out his words, the shattering of glass ringing in our ears as my fingers, numb, clumsy, inelegant and unresponsive, let the carafe of wine slip from their grasp to the floor below. I can only stand and stare at the shards, at the red wine spreading like a stain of blood. What an idiot I am. No wonder my mother did not think me worthy of a goodbye. Tears prick at the back of my eyes but I will not cry. I will not—not in front of them.
For a second we are, all three of us, frozen in time, and then Maewen moves.
"Oh, Legolas," she pulls me close, wraps me in her love, surrounds me with the warmth of her fea, "You are exhausted." I feel rather than see her communicate something to Erynion over my shoulder but suddenly I do not care. I do not have the energy within me to care. I barely notice his departure but when I lift my head he is no longer there.
She is all concern as she looks at me with measuring eyes and it is as if I am floating, as if my limbs will not move themselves without her guidance as she leads me to a chair.
"I am sorry," I say to her when I am seated, when I know I will not make more of a fool of myself by falling. "This is not the reunion I was hoping for. "
"Any reunion with you is a good one." She lifts a hand to cup my cheek and it is good, so good to feel her touch. It is a warmth spreading to the very centre of my soul. I never knew that fingers upon my skin could ever feel as good as this.
She sits back on her heels looking up at me where I sit and fixes me with a serious gaze. She is so beautiful. All the images I have held in my mind as I travel coalesce into the reality of loveliness in front of me and my fea soars, it dances, it reaches for the sky through the sadness that surrounds it. It is joyful as the sight of her.
"Why are you here, Legolas?" she asks then. It is a strange question for where else would I be?
"I needed to see you."
"You should be with your father. He needs you."
But my father's eyes are filled with pain and I do not want to see it.
"I have been with him, and now I need you."
She chews on her lip, it is one of those little habits she has and I love it. I can see the doubt in her eyes. She has something to say but she cannot decide if she should say it.
"It has been horrible here." In the end she plows ahead. That is my Maewen, courageous, bold, determined. " The queen left and we all know how that hurts him. The people are anxious, they are agitated and he has not bent, he has not faltered, he has been strong and resolute, but he bleeds inside, Legolas. I see it. We all see it so you must."
I do see it. I do, but I do not want to. He is my father. He has always been strong and his unhappiness frightens me.
And Maewen has not finished.
"She left, and their parting was not a good one. Then in the chaos we hear you are injured. You have been so long returning—it has been terrifying. For your people, for me. How must it have been for Thranduil? Why are you not with him?"
"I hurt. It hurts me to see him" It is a poor excuse but a true one.
"He has lost his love, Legolas, I know it is not fair, I know you are grieving, but you are all he has. And he is all we have, between us and the dark."
She is right. I have to go back, but I am so very tired. None of this is what I expected. None of it is easy.
She lays her head on my lap then, relaxing in to me, her hair spilling across my knees like a chestnut brown river. It mesmerises me as the lights glint off it, golden highlights trickle through and I cannot resist running my fingers through it. Gazing at the strands flowing across my hand. It soothes my battered spirit and calms my thudding heart, being with her.
"It is so good to have you back," she says then. "I have missed you."
"Why was Erynion here?" I do not know why I ask, the words just appear, but instantly it breaks the spell of love we sit under as she lifts her head, a frown on her face.
"Because he is your friend. Because he needed to know of the queen and I felt here the best place to tell him rather than discuss your family's private business in the courtyard like gossips. Because he cares for you and I thought you would need his support. Because I wished to know of your wellbeing for I have been so worried, Legolas. You looked dreadful and I could not wait until you had finished with your father to know how you were. All of those reasons are why he was here."
The look in her eyes is a challenging one, daring me to find fault and I cannot. I wish I was not so insecure but still it suffocates me. The more I love her the worse it gets.
There is a noise then, before I can apologise, a voice calling up from below and I look at her, startled.
"You sent Erynion for my Father!"
"Of course, I did. He needed to know where you were. I did not tell him to come."
My Father's voice calls her name again and she stands, leaving an empty, cold Maewen spaced hole where she leaned against me.
"I will leave you alone." She says softly. "You can stay here if you need to but if you are not here when I return I will not mind. Do what is best for you both, Legolas." Her fingers touch mine. They curl around my hand with a squeeze of love and support before she goes, climbing down to where my father waits and I hear their voices murmuring in the dark.
I lean back in the chair and shut my eyes. I wish I could shut the world out as easily. It used to be joyous—my world—it used to be lightfilled and carefree. Why can I not be a child again? Now the life I live is full of grief and loss. I miss my brother though I cannot bear to think of him. Where is he to help me with this? He is the one my father needs, a strong captain to take the burden of caring for our people. I cannot do it. I am no leader. I am no use at all to my father.
I do not hear him enter. I do not know he is there until I feel his cool hand upon my forehead. Then it is I hear him pull a chair up beside me.
"Legolas, open your eyes." It is not the kingly voice of earlier but it is an order. "It is important I know you hear me," he says.
"I do hear you, Father. I am not deaf." I do not look at him for then I will see his pain and it will overwhelm me.
But he turns my head towards him with a gentle hand.
"Legolas, do this for me."
I cannot refuse him. He has always been there for me. From the depths of Laerion's death to the highs of my successes. Maewen is right, how can I not be there now, for him.
But when I do, when I open my eyes and see his face, tired, drawn, and weary it is then the tears I have been fighting a losing battle against arrive and I am little more than a lost, abandoned elfling. How can Maewen ever imagine I could help him?
"She did not say goodbye!" It is all I can say as the tears run down my cheeks, "She did not even say goodbye, Father."
"I know." And I am in his arms, as he held me when I was younger, in those days when life was unfair and against me. "I know,"
It is he and I against the world, it truly is. We are all there is left for each other and he gets the worst of the deal. For I get the strength, the wisdom, the protection that is Thranduil and he gets a flighty, wild, hopeless Silvan who cannot keep his mind focused where it should be.
"Promise me, Legolas," he murmurs into my hair as my head rests upon his shoulder, "that if you stay here you will rest. You are injured and I worry. Promise me you will do what the healers would have you do and not flit off to the trees because you are unhappy."
I have imagined what it would be like with Maewen tonight. I have held our reunion as a jewel next to my heart all the long days I have been away. There is nothing I want more than to stay here with her.
But I will not.
I have so little to offer my father but I will give him this, because he needs me near him and he needs to watch over me.
"I will come back to the caves with you," I sigh, and I can feel the tension flow out of him with my words. He would have let me go, he would have let me stay here, but it would only have added to his pain. It would only have meant another sleepless night, more hours spent worrying about my safety.
"I am sorry, Father," I say then for my mind flits to Maewen's words, of the nightmare it was here while I was gone, of their fear for my welfare after my mothers departure and I know—as she does not—how much worse that must have been for my father because of my childishness when I departed. "I was foolish when I left, a foolish child. I will not do that again—turn from you when I am about to go into the dark. I regretted it the instant we were through the gates. It must only have made things harder."
He does not correct me. He does not fob away my apology with words of platitude and so I know he has suffered because of my sulkiness.
"It was not easy, Legolas." He says sadly, "And I would not have you leaving here ever with any regrets."
"I will not leave you." I say then. "I am not my mother, as much as everyone says I am like her in nature. I will not walk away." For I wonder if he has worried I will follow her. Of course I will not.
The woods are my home, my life, my heart.
Without them I am nothing.
I will never leave them.
When the first rumours reach my ears I am unbelieving. My cousin works for the King, not a position of importance but close enough that he sees and hears more about the Royal family than I do—at least more then I do when Legolas is not here. He pulls me aside one night after dinner, and he is agitated.
"Something happens between the King and Queen, Maewen. Have you heard anything? Did Legolas say anything to you before he left for the south?"
Legolas has said not a word and I tell him so. Before he left his mind was on the unfairness of our separation, he was full of anger with his father for the interference in our lives. I highly doubted that was what caused my cousin such distress.
"Something? You have to give me more than that, Faerthurin. What do you mean?"
He leans in to me, voice low and hushed and whispers with urgency.
"They say the Queen is leaving."
And I laugh out loud for it is so ridiculous.
"Do not be such an idiot, you fool! You should stop listening to the kitchen maids gossip."
"Perhaps you are right," he shrugs. "It does feel far fetched but they were certain. But if Legolas has said nothing . . ."
"He has said nothing Faerthurin." And with that I dismiss the conversation from my mind, for it is far too ludicrous to be true.
It is only a day later I see him waiting for me beside the training fields. It is a strange occurrence to see him there for he does not usually seek me out and when I reach him I see he is white-faced and anxious.
"Do you remember what I spoke to you of yesterday?" He says urgently, his voice barely a whisper as he pulls me to one side.
"You are still not obsessing about that ridiculous gossip. Faerthurin?" It is so unlike him. He is not usually so shallow as to listen to a word the chattering palace girls say.
"It is not gossip!" He hisses, "It is true."
"I told you it is not true!" I have had enough. I am busy and it upsets me to hear such scandalous lies about things that would hurt my Legolas.
"Listen to me, Maewen." He holds on to my arm, preventing me from walking away from him. "I tell you it is true. The Queen is leaving, any day now. The King cannot prevent it though he has tried. You should hear the arguments—they are ferocious. She is going. She will sail to Valinor."
I am shocked. Surely he has this wrong? But he lives in the caves, he works with the King, can he be as wrong as this?
"If this is some kind of joke, Faerthurin, it is a cruel one," I say, tight lipped and angry, for surely it must be that.
"I do not joke, Maewen. I would not make fun of my King and Queen. What do you take me for?"
He is right. That would be so unlike him and suddenly my blood runs cold within my veins. She would leave us?
"If it is true—"
"It is true!" He interrupts me with assertions before I can even begin,
"If it is true, Faerthurin, then she will not leave immediately. Legolas is not due back from the south for weeks."
"She goes in two days, Maewen. Two days. Arrangements are being made already."
It is then the full horror of the situation hits me for this.....this cannot be true.
"Legolas does not know this, Faerthurin. He does not know!"
"I know that," he says bluntly, "The King rages because she insists on leaving when their son knows not a thing about it. She will not wait. Believe me, Thranduil has tried to change her mind."
I am horrified and disbelieving. This will hurt Legolas so badly. It will destroy the fragile peace he has patched together since Laerion's death. How could she?
And so I find myself, later that evening, in the caves walking the corridors near the royal family's personal chambers, where I never venture unless Legolas sneaks me through here late at night to his room. If Faerthurin is right and the queen really will leave I must say something to her. I cannot let her do this and remain silent.
Of course if I had thought more clearly about this I would have realised I would not be able to simply stroll into her room for an audience. There is a guard outside and he glares at me sternly when I approach.
"I am not sure where you think you go to, Maewen, but the Queen requests no visitors. Nor would I allow you in in any case." I know him—the frowning guard—we trained together and he is a Silvan like me, from the forest. I have no clever reason for him to let me in, I am not that good at thinking on my feet. Instead I use the only weapon I have. My people's love for Legolas.
"I am here on behalf of Legolas," I say. "You know we are close." In fact we have gone to great lengths to make sure our relationship is not obvious . . . Especially to the Sindar, but my people know, our fellow archers know, and I know he knows.
"Legolas is in the south." He replies quickly, "and can hardly have sent word to you. How can you possibly be his messenger? If he had anything to say he would have sent it to the King."
"He has not sent word, that is true and even if he could he would not because he knows nothing of the queens plans. That is why I am here. Someone has to speak for him! Someone has to show her how Legolas will feel when he returns to her absence, someone who loves him."
He hesitates, there is a chink in his armour and I feel it.
"The King has already argued for Legolas. Do you suggest he does not love him?" he says in the end.
"I am a woman. I am outside the situation. Perhaps she can not listen to the King because of other issues?" I feel the beginning of desperation building. He has to let me in! "Legolas has had no voice in this, I only wish to be his voice."
"It is more than my job is worth to let you in here, Maewen!" He leans close dropping his voice low. "She is still our Queen and I cannot let all and sundry in to see her when I have orders otherwise. I sympathise, but I cannot do it!"
"I am not all and sundry!" But even as I protest I know he is right. Here, in the royal family's quarters I am only Maewen, just another Silvan warrior. I have no rights here. I am nothing special.
And then, as I raise my voice, the door opens.
"What is going on here?" It is the queen herself and we are both left spluttering and lost for words. "Maewen?" She recognises me, although I have seldom wandered here apart from the dead of night.
"I was hoping to see you, my lady." I am a stammering mess which will not help my cause at all. How I wish I had thought this through more carefully.
"Come in then." She smiles, but to me it seems lacking her normal warmth. She has always been light and joy, as long as I remember her and now something is missing. It makes me uneasy. I know ever since we lost Laerion she has been muted and quiet but this is something else.
Everywhere I look there are piles of belongings. Neat, organised piles and they bring home to me—this really is happening.
"It is true." I gasp it without realising, before my logical brain can hold my tongue, as I gaze around me in disbelief. Until now I have clung to the hope Faerthurin was somehow wrong.
"Yes," she says behind me and she is cool, calm and composed, "I am leaving. I assume that is why you are here."
"My lady . . . " I am at a loss where to go with this. How do I question my Queen? "Legolas . . . " I trail off hopelessly for I have no idea how to begin to explain what this will do to him. How can she not already know?
"I know what you are about to say," she is abrupt as she dismisses all my arguments before I have even made them. "I have heard it all from Thranduil." It annoys me, her dismissal of me, it ignites a fire that with it brings me courage.
"Then why are you leaving?" I bite back, "If he has told you it all? If he has spoken of Legolas' grief at the loss of you—of how much that will hurt him—why do you go?"
"I cannot stay here. You do not understand child, how could you?" Her voice fades always to something small and sad. "If I stay I will only hurt him more. I have lost my son . . . I can not see past that." She is right. How can I understand it? I, who have never had a child, how can I know what it must be like to lose one?
"You have lost one son. There is another still here!" I protest in Legolas' defence as I promised myself I would but in the face of her grief it begins to seem unfair. "At least wait until he is home. Do not do this to him, do not vanish without a goodbye."
"I do it to protect him!" She snaps, "So he will not have to face that goodbye. You saw him after Laerion's death. I do this to keep him safe. It is best this way."
"To protect him? Or to protect yourself?" Suddenly I see it clearly. She cannot stay and yet she cannot face leaving Legolas and so she runs away, so she will not have to tell him goodbye to his face. She is a coward. "This will not protect him. It will harm him!"
"Do not think to tell me what is best for my son, Maewen. You do not know him as I do."
"I know him better!"
"Oh you are but a foolish little girl." She is suddenly cold and cutting. With her voice alone she cuts me deep. "You know nothing of Legolas."
"I know he loves you." I will not give up so easily. Legolas is my jewel and I will fight for him with all my heart. "I know how hard he has fought to recover himself after Laerion. I know what it will do to him to return from the south to find you gone! I know I would not leave him as you plan to, without a farewell no matter how afraid I was."
She turns away from me as if my words matter not at all, as if they are but pebbles that bounce of her heart with no impact. I have always loved our Queen. She is light, she is beauty, she is soft kindness, she is one of us. But now, in this moment I find I do not like her at all. It is a lesson to me, the ravages grief can inflict upon a person until they are unrecognisable.
"I cannot stay, Maewen." She says at last, "I cannot stay and remain sane. My grief crushes me, it crushes all the love out of me and I will hurt Legolas, I will hurt all those I love if I remain here. But I cannot say goodbye to him either, how do you leave your child . . . Perhaps forever? I am trapped. This is my only way out."
I am not sure I agree with her. I am sure there must be another way, another answer,
but I cannot think of it now and I do pity her. I know she suffers, but Legolas suffers also. She will regret this I think, this choice she feels forced in to. She will regret it when she reaches the healing shores of Valinor and then what will she do?
"I think you should go," she still has her back to me but I can tell by her voice she means it. It is not up for discussion. "I have heard what you have to say Maewen. You will not change my mind on this."
So churning with frustration at my failure, I go. She is my queen after all and I have pushed my insolence and disobedience as far as it will go simply to get this audience with her. But I have failed Legolas. I have not made her see how wrong this is. I had one chance to convince her and I have been unable to find the words that will sway her heart.
"Maewen," she says my name as my hand reaches for the door and I look behind with the burst of a slight hope she may have thought on my words and wavered but no, "I would have you stay away from Legolas." It is a blunt command, it is an order from a queen to one less than her.
"I will not stay away from him!" She truly is mad if she thinks that is possible.
"No good will come of this," she says harshly, "from you and he. You are too silvan for him. You are too different." My father has told me the same but he is wrong also . . . They are both wrong and I wonder why they cannot see it.
And so I laugh in her face.
"We are not different! Legolas is as silvan as I am . . . More so. You are so wrong in this, as you are wrong in leaving him."
"Stay away from him." She hisses, "I command it."
But I have the upper hand now. She is leaving and her power goes with her.
"You have the right to command me no longer. You chose to leave us and I will stay with Legolas whether or not you wish it. Try and stop me from Valinor!"
The slamming of the door behind me as I go is so immensely satisfying.
And so the Queen leaves.
Legolas' grandparents arrive, silent and solemn, from their village and the next morning she is gone. She has stolen away in the night to the Havens so she would not have to face, not only her son, but her people. She has abandoned us.
Those people are angry, confused, bewildered, and tension swirls through the stronghold like a whirlwind. But as my comrades in arms rage at her desertion I cannot help but remember that small, sad, voice as she spoke of her grief, and to think of the long eternity she must now spend waiting in Valinor, a place she was never destined for.
I pity her.
And I pity our King also. He does not waver. He stands strong in front of us as he informs us of her departure and he reassures us nothing will change. He speaks of her sadness and loss and shows no anger for all that I know they have argued. He asks the people to still love her. But for now, they do not.
Their anxiety is at a fever pitch. Gossip is rife and the whispers of Legolas, what he knows, what he did not know, why he is absent in the south, grow. Every one of them I hear twists my stomach in knots. It is in the middle of this atmosphere I walk out of the barracks one morning to find a messenger from the King waits for me.
"The King wishes to see you." He is abrupt and I am left in no doubt it is an order not a request. I have never been summoned to see the King before.
I wonder if he has heard of my visit to the queen. I acted far beyond my station even walking the corridor outside her room let alone entering . . . And shouting, slamming the door, arguing with her? Oh the King is bound to be angry. By the time I stand outside his rooms I am terrified.
He sits at his desk, stern and serious, as I enter, a letter in his hand. I wish I could run but what kind of warrior would I be if I did?
"Sit, Maewen." He gives me no hint of what is to come and so I sink into the chair in front of his desk. At least he cannot see my legs tremble when I am seated.
"I thought it best to speak to you of this in private,"he says, fiddling with the letter in his hands. "You deserve better than to hear it amongst the crowd."
At least he is sparing me a public dressing down, that is one thing. I gaze at the paper he holds. The queen must have written to him, how I wish I could see what words she has sent him.
He sees my gaze fall upon the letter and he places it on the table with a sigh, pushing it towards me which is strange, why would he let me read any of his correspondence?
Especially from the Queen.
"It is from Elhadrel," he says and my heart stops.
No, no, no, he has not called me here after news from Elhadrel in the south, he has not! It cannot be good, news sent in from patrols never is. I am icy cold and my breath freezes in my chest. Not Legolas . . . Surely, not Legolas.
I cannot move and I stare at that letter in despair. Moments ago I was desperate to see what was written there and now . . . Now I wish I never had to read it. If I do not see the words then what they say to me will not be true. And so I sit motionless and terrified until a hand drops on top of mine and looking up, startled, I see the King reaching across the desk towards me.
"He will be alright," he says, and his voice is soft and gentle, like I have never heard my majestic King before. "Read what she has to say. Seeing what she has written will give you more reassurance than listening to me tell it."
So I pick up the letter, even though my hands shake so badly I can barely see the words upon the page. It is a captains report from the field, short, brief and to the point. There is no emotion there even though she writes to the King of his own son. It is a report of their engagements, triumphs and casualties—of which Legolas is one.
He has fallen foul of a spider, the wound—she says—is not serious but venom affects him. I have never been on the recieving end of spider venom myself but I have seen it and oh, the recipients are ill and miserable. My heart twists in agony at the pain of our separation. If only I was with him! Erynion is there, I tell myself, Erynion will keep him safe. But it is not the same.
"They will bring him home safe to us." The Kings soft words jolt me from my imaginings of Legolas in the depths of the south—injured and sick—without me, and I look up once again into his serious gaze. He looks weary, I realise with a shock, weary and unhappy. He never looks anything but composed and in control and to see him otherwise frightens me.
"It is hard to be so far away," I reply for suddenly I have found my voice. "To not be with him."
"It is hard, indeed," he sighs as he pulls the letter back toward him from where I have left it lying. I have never thought of the pain it must cause him while we are in the south, especially after Laerion. He leans back in his chair and suddenly, once again he is the King I know. A regal mask slips over the fatigue I now know lies beneath, "I suppose you disagree with my decision to separate the pair of you on patrol also."
"I understand your reasons." I am hardly going to argue with him about it now, even though internally I scream at the distance enforced upon us.
"Understanding them is not the same as believing they have merit. Legolas is furious."
Oh I know that. How he raged at his father, Elhadrel and whoever had drawn their attention to us before he left. It almost feels a betrayal of him as I answer.
"Seeing the sense in a decision does not make the consequences any easier to bear," I say in the end. "Legolas understands it too but he was disappointed and he can be . . . Hotheaded . . . " I trail off wondering if I have gone too far. What made me think I could criticise his son? But he simply laughs, a soft, loving chuckle that is quite out of character.
"Oh that is an understatement, Maewen." He picks up the letter then, that lies between us, folding it to place it in his pocket. "I must remember the lessons taught me by Laerion. What use is his death after all unless I work to prevent a repeat of it?"
I knew that was why he had put an end to our joint patrols and I can see he had no other option. How could he let Legolas walk in to that situation for a second time?
He stands then and I realise I am being dismissed, so I follow, heart thumping, as he strides towards the door.
"I will tell the people this news this evening." He is so matter of fact, as if we discuss a trade agreement or the routine of running the stronghold and not his only sons health. If I had not seen that glimpse of sorrow and fatigue I would think this did not bother him at all. "I know they are agitated about other . . . Events. This will make it worse. You may find yourself at the centre of a storm, Maewen, so I ask you to choose your words carefully. Do not say anything that will cause further panic."
"My Lord," I nod my head. Always I will do his bidding although it is strange to be in this situation, to be a confidante before the fact.
"If there is any news that changes what we know, I will tell you." It is the last thing he says before I step outside the room, back into the chaos outside and it is the only thing that keeps me upright in the days ahead.
The King is right. I do become the centre of the storm. The news from the patrol feeds on the anxiety that already exists until it becomes a living thing within the stronghold walls and once it becomes known I was called to a personal audience with the King they descend on me. Until now Legolas and I have kept what lies between us quiet but it is hidden no longer.
I am drowning under a deluge of questions. What did the King say? How serious are Legolas' injuries? When will the patrol return? Following so quickly on the departure of the queen as this does, they are frightened they will now lose a second prince as well.
I say as little as I can, as I promised. That there is no concern for Legolas, the King is confident in his return and the patrol will be back as soon as is possible.
It is not enough.
It is not enough for them, and it is not enough for me if I am honest. As time stretches out and they do not return I am plagued with doubts. There are a million reasons they are slow coming back to us. They wait for Legolas to recover somewhat, their way is blocked by the enemy and they take a longer route as they are hampered by casualties, something else has happened to distract them . . . But in the night . . . In the night I am kept awake with nightmare imaginings. They have been ambushed . . . Legolas is worse than Elhadrel led us to believe . . . There is no patrol left to return at all . . .
It is all I can do not to return to the King and beg for news. But he told me . . . he promised me he would let me know any news and the fact he has not means there is none—good or bad—yet everyday he stands before us, strong and untroubled, as if the late return is of no concern to him.
But I remember that unguarded moment of weariness and worry I saw on his face and I know it is not true.
When word finally comes, early one morning, that the patrol have been sighted and are but hours away from us I do not know how to feel—joyous or fearful?
Standing, waiting amongst the crowds in the courtyard is an agony and my heart thuds so loudly in my ears I can hear nothing else. Then suddenly they are here.
The gates open and they are right before us, tired, battered, and all of them alive. I search for Legolas, desperate to see him, but in my panic it takes an age to locate him, although he rides near the front. He is on his own horse and at the sight of that some of the tension that has strangled me begins to unwind. If he can stay upright and Elhadrel believes he can ride unassisted then surely things are under control. The crowd cheers at the sight of him, engulfed in a wave of relief, but as I watch I see it all. The tiredness that etches itself upon his face, the tight way he holds himself as he rides, the sag in his legs as he dismounts and the heavy leaning on the horse to keep him upright. I see Erynion, hovering, a steady hand upon Legolas' back to lend support. It all is an agony to see.
And Legolas scans the crowds with a look of confusion and bewilderment upon his face. He looks for the Queen, of course. Always she is here to greet him, always. He will wonder where she is and Thranduil will have to tell him.
I want to gather him up, take him away from the crowds and thier agitation. Take him far away from his father who will give him such terrible, heart-breaking news. If I could only protect him from ever having to hear it.
But I cannot. The King is at his side in an instant, embracing his son in a welcome that is distressingly unlike his usual, professional greetings. It speaks to how worried he has actually been. Then they stride towards the caves, Thranduil's arm around his son, holding him up. They pass so close that I could almost touch him, Legolas sees me then for his eyes catch mine with a look that makes my heart flip at once with both joy and relief.
Then they are gone.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.