Legolas arrives in Minas Tirith expecting a joyful reunion with his friends. Instead he finds tension, prejudice, and insurrection. A story of the betrayal of a friend and a family devided.
Categories: Fiction Characters:
Aragorn, Arwen, Eldarion, Elladan, Elrohir, Legolas, OFC
May 06, 2018 Updated:
June 19, 2018
This is a direct sequel to “Fire Dancing Upon Our Souls” but having said that I do not think you need to have read that first to understand this. The only important information I think you need to know is that a few years previous Legolas suffered a serious injury in Minas Tirith. (A wall fell on him)
The title is taken from a quote by Martin Luther King
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality”
The inspiration for this particular story? What we see happening right now in present day USA.
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
6. Chapter 6 by cheekybeak
7. Chapter 7 by cheekybeak
8. Chapter 8 by cheekybeak
9. Chapter 9 by cheekybeak
10. Chapter 10 by cheekybeak
11. Chapter 11 by cheekybeak
12. Chapter 12 by cheekybeak
13. Chapter 13 by cheekybeak
14. Chapter 14 by cheekybeak
15. Chapter 15 by cheekybeak
Two chapters posted for starters
The first time I saw Minas Tirith was at the end of a battle with the sound of the gulls ringing in my ears. The spires of Valinor beckoned and dazzled me so I barely noticed the city of Men right in front of my eyes.
I have been there many times since and I must admit I do not like it much at all. There is too much stone—it is too cold. But it calls to the blood of those I love and so I visit often, not for any affection for the city itself but because of those who live there.
I have been away from home a long time, in Imladris for most of it, and I should go straight home to Ithilien, where Maewen and Erynion watch over my people for me. But at the sight of Minas Tirith I allow myself to be diverted. Just for one night, I tell myself . . . Or perhaps a couple. It has been so long since I spent any time with Aragorn.
And so I turn towards the city with the messengers from Rohan who ride with me. I have left Elrohir and Elladan behind there, with Eomer, soaking up the strangeness of the horsemen and indulging in political discussions. I was bored in the end and wished for more familiar things. Politics—especially Noldor politics, or those of Men—do not enthral me.
And here we are, the city rising up before us, and I am happy. I cannot wait to see my friend.
Daegal meets us at the gates, Aragorn’s captain of the guards. I know him and like him. He is trustworthy and honest and has the respect of his men. He smiles when he sees me.
“Lord Legolas!” He exclaims, “We were not told you were coming. Forgive our unpreparedness!”
“That is because I told no-one.” I laugh, as one of the boys come forward to take my horse from me. “A spur of the moment visit. Will Aragorn turn me away?”
I know he will not. He never would.
“You are always welcome here in Minas Tirith.” Daegal replies, but do I imagine it? Is he slightly more serious than he should be? His words somehow firmer? It is as if he lays down the law and does it loudly. I toss my head to shake the idea away. I must be tired for I imagine things. Since my accident here, despite it being long ago, my mind does play tricks on me occasionally.
“I will escort you to the palace,” Daegal says now. They are so formal these Men, always consumed with protocol, but I thought I had Daegal at least, trained. He knows me better than this.
“I do not need an escort! I will find my way through the streets and take Aragorn by surprise I think.” The idea of arriving unannounced at his study doors makes me chuckle.
“I will escort you regardless.” Why is he being so insistent?
“I do not need it or wish it, Daegal.” I can be imperious myself when I need to and his refusal to listen begins to annoy me. It is unlike him.
“The King would need it and the King would wish it.” He replies undaunted, “and I answer to the King, Lord Legolas. You know that. Do not ask me not to do my job.”
“Aragorn does not give two hoots whether I wander unaccompanied on his streets or not. You know that, Daegal.” I do not want to argue with him in front of his men but this is ridiculous.
“Today he does.”
“He does not even know I am coming!” This is tedious and wastes my time. Briefly I think about making a run for it but something about the way he stands there, arms folded, tells me he would simply send his men after me and that would cause a commotion Aragorn would never let me hear the end of.
“I have business at the Palace anyway, my Lord.” He says as I sigh heavily. “Perhaps we can just pretend we walk that way together?”
“You make me wish I had carried on to Ithilien, Daegal.” He simply raises one eyebrow at my petulance. Why must Aragorn have such a stubborn guard? “It as if you do not trust me. If I promise to stay well clear of the walls will it change things? Believe me I do not want to repeat that experience.”
Daegal was there that day, the day of the accident. I imagine it might haunt him almost as much as it haunts me.
“The walls are not the problem, my lord.” is all he says and I give up. He is immovable.
We walk in silence for a while. He is not a talkative man and I am sulking.
Usually the streets of Minas Tirith are full of noise, crowds of people jostle me but they are friendly. They may not understand me, they may stare at me, but most of them at least like me . . . And those who do not, respect me.
Today there is a strange atmosphere. I cannot put my finger on it. My back prickles with eyes upon it. I am used to being stared at in Minas Tirith but this is somehow different.
It is not until I hear the hiss of dislike behind me I realise it is more than my imagination.
When I spin around to stare down the perpetrator I see nothing unusual, just the crowds, several of whom who stare back at me with open curiosity. Did I mishear that?
Daegal beside me does not turn around to look. He keeps his eyes upon the path ahead but he has heard it too.
“Ignore it?” I ask him in surprise.
“Troublemakers. They do not deserve our attention.”
“You expected this? This is why you insist on accompanying me? I am not usually met with disdain on the streets of Minas Tirith. What goes on here Daegal?”
He walks on in silence for awhile and when he finally answers me it is with a heavy sigh.
“We are having are some problems here.”
“Problems? Problems that mean you feel the Lord of Ithilien is not safe walking through your streets? Please elucidate, Daegal,”
“Lord Aderthron,” He says, as if that makes sense to me, as if that one name explains it all. It does not.
“Lord who?” I have never been able to bother keeping track of the names of all the multitudes of Lords Aragorn is burdened with and Daegal laughs out loud.
“He would hate to hear you say that!” He exclaims, “ . . . That you do not even know him.”
“Fill me in then, since he is obviously someone I should know.”
“Lord Aderthron, His Father was close with Denethor. His family has lost much prestige since the arrival of King Elessar. He has always been an agitator, a complainer., never happy and difficult to manage and personally I find him . . . Distasteful.”
“Distasteful in what way?” It is not like Daegal to be so transparent, to have so strong an opinion.
“Cruel.” He says bluntly. “He treats his staff badly. He speaks to my men rudely. He has no respect for others. I do not like him.”
“And he causes problems now?” Why has Aragorn never told me of this man? Have I met him, I wonder, in one of those interminable meetings he forces upon me?
“He has recently arrived for a visit, energised and vocal. He has . . . Supporters in high places which add weight to his words. He spreads hateful rhetoric which some have taken up . . . Only some, my lord, not all by a long shot. It creates unrest . . . Bad feeling . . . The King struggles to control it at present.”
“Hateful rhetoric . . . And we are at the centre of that are we? Elves?”
“You . . And others . . . But yes.”
It is not the first time I have been on the receiving end of prejudice in Minas Tirith and I am sure it will not be the last.
“Ah well,” I try to reassure him, “I will accept your company then, Daegal, if it makes you feel better, but Aragorn has dealt with worse than this. He is a delft handler of others. You should not worry, and we Elves . . . We are stronger than we appear.” His concern is quite amusing really. A man would struggle to overpower me. Even Aragorn could not if it came to it, and words and stares . . They do not bother me particularly. I will not bring Maewen here until Aragorn has it under better control though, I will not do that. I wonder what this Lord Aderthron will make of the arrival of Elrohir and Elladan when they eventually get here? I wonder what they will make of him?
“How is the Queen?” I ask him then. For Arwen is an elf alone in this city. “Is she safe? Is she happy?”
“The Queen is safe.” He is definite in his confirmation. “I have set an extra guard . . . As for happy . . .” He hesitates then ever so slightly, “It is not for me to say. I mean, I do not know, my Lord.”
Of course he does not know. He is a guard, not a confidante.
“How is Eldarion?” My mind drifts away from troublesome Lords who do not understand us. I have missed Eldarion. Every time I see him he is taller. He is nearly a Man now—he thinks he is one—He is still close to my heart. I know Aragorn has his struggles with him as he grows. They are at loggerheads often, but with me Eldarion is always the same sweet boy. Bigger, taller, older, but still the boy who loves me.
Daegal does not answer me.
“How is Eldarion?” I repeat my question louder. The noise of the street must have meant he has not heard. “I am looking forward to spending some time with him. It has been too long.”
“Eldarion is well.” His reply is curt, short, to the point. He leaves me thinking Eldarion is not his favourite Prince at the moment. I know what that is like. My father’s guards often were not particularly happy with me.
“What has he done?” I ask with a smile.”Why such displeasure? Does he lead Aragorn a merry dance? Does he have his own mind?”
“You could say that.”
He will tell me nothing else. I almost feel sorry for Eldarion whatever his misdemeanour. It is hard growing up a Prince surrounded by high expectations and watching eyes.
I head to my rooms when we reach the Palace. There are no more distrusting glances, no more hateful whispers in the corridors there, just wide smiles or bashful curtsies. It is as it always is. Whatever poison that might be swirling on the streets does not reach in here it seems.
I am eager to see Aragorn, to get to the bottom of these troubles he has . . . And to surprise him, but first a bath I think, is needed to wash off the grime of the road.
My rooms are as I left them. Arwen always keeps them ready for me, she has learnt to expect a woodelf at any moment. She knows me well.
I have been there only a matter of minutes when it happens. Barely enough time to put down my bags and locate a clean shirt from within them. The shattering of the glass makes me jump and the rock skids across the floor, landing at my feet.
I am at the window in seconds, elven reflexes are often useful, but below me the streets are filled with ordinary people going about their ordinary business. I can see no-one suspicious. I have no idea where it came from.
But the truth remains; I have been in my rooms only moments, no-one knew I was coming, and yet a rock has sailed through my window and it cannot have been a mistake.
The sooner I see Aragorn the better.
There is a guard outside Aragorn’s study and that in itself is strange. I thought he had convinced them to get rid of that custom years ago. He nods to me as I arrive but then blocks the way as I try to enter.
“The King said he was not to be disturbed.”
“He obviously did not mean me
“He did not mention you, my Lord.”
Seriously. . . These people. . .
“He is not expecting me. Obviously if he was, his instructions would have been No one must be allowed to disturb me except Legolas.”
The guard simply frowns at me. He remains unconvinced. It seems I must play my trump card.
“Have you met my Father?” I say conversationally, and his eyes widen. My Father has not been to Minas Tirith often, perhaps only twice, but they remember him. He strides in, grand and imposing, terrifying to a Man who might know little of elves, and creates an impression that lingers long after he is gone. That impression works like magic here.
He stands aside in an instant.
“Of course, My Lord,” he stutters and for a second I feel guilty. It really is not fair using my Father to terrify these poor innocent Men, but I needed to see Aragorn and this way causes less commotion than making a fuss.
Aragorn is seated at his desk when I enter, head bent over paperwork, a frown flitting across his face when he hears the opening of the door.
“Can you not leave me alone for even an hour?” He grumbles, not raising his head from the parchments in front of him. “What part of do not disturb me did you not understand?” He is not usually that terse with his men. It is so unlike him.
“The part that includes the fact you did not actually tell me.” I reply. I will jolt him out of this miserable mood if it kills me! If only for the sake of his poor guards.
And he looks up in surprise.
His face transforms in that moment. In a second the frown vanishes as if it has never been, a wide smile replacing it which lights him up from the inside out so that briefly he seems radiant. It is a most gratifying reception, I must say.
“Legolas!” He is on his feet in an instant and around the desk to embrace me. “What are you doing here?”
“I became bored with the machinations of Noldor Lords and thought Gondorian Kings might be more pleasant company,” I laugh and set myself down in the nearest chair, “but perhaps I was wrong in that since you do not seem to be seeking any company at all.”
“I was not expecting you
, you fool.”
He sits down across from me narrowing his eyes as he does so. “How did you get in here?”
“Through the city?” There is a tension in his voice as he asks that.
“Yes through the city, but do not worry. The Keeper of the Elves ensured I was properly escorted. You cannot afford to have me running wild here obviously.”
“The Keeper of the Elves?”
“Daegal. He was most insistent I not be allowed to roam alone.”
“Good.” He leans back in his chair reassured but he does not elaborate. So I will have to drag it out of him then.
“Good? Am I so unreliable, Aragorn, that you do not trust me alone in your city?” I start with righteousness indignation.
“It is not that. You are the Lord of Ithilien. There is a protocol that must be followed and I am pleased to hear he does so.”
And he calls me stubborn!
“Or could it be that you do not think your city safe
for the Lord of Ithilien to stroll through?” I pull the rock out of my pocket. “You should not worry, Aragorn. Your people are so pleased to see me they sent this gift through my window the moment I arrived.”
“What?” He reaches across and snatches the rock from where it sits upon the palm of my hand. “Someone threw this through your window? In the Palace?” Instantly I regret my teasing. He is wound tight as a clock about this.
“It is only a rock, Aragorn, and a badly aimed one at that. They missed me by a mile.” I grin to show him I, myself, am not remotely worried about this. “So you have one problematic Lord. You have dealt with far worse, and there have always been those in the city who do not particularly welcome the presence of Elves. This Lord ‘Whatever his name is’ just exploits that.” I wave my hand in the air to distract from the fact I cannot for the life of me remember his name.
“Aderthron.” Aragorn helpfully fills in the gaps for me. “How do you know about him?”
“Daegal filled me in. He does not like him and I trust his judgement.”
“You can trust your own judgement.” Aragorn says, “You have met him before and you disliked him on sight.”
“Did I?” That is surprising. “Well there are so many of them I do not particularly like, Aragorn. You can not expect me to remember all their names!”
“How did you manage remembering the names of Thranduil’s council? I assume you had to do that.”
“Because I had known them all since childhood Aragorn! Believe me there were plenty there I did not like either, and of course, their names were Sindarin.”
“As are most of ours!” He throws his hands in the air and gives up then. It is so enjoyable when I manage to best him. Still he looks tired. He worries too much. It has always been one of his weaknesses.
“Why do you let this obnoxious Lord get to you?”
“You do not take this seriously enough Legolas. There are others adding weight to his words. He undermines me even with —” He cuts himself short as if he thinks better of informing me.
“No matter. The fact someone has been audacious enough to throw a rock through your window should tell you things are becoming out of my control.”
“Then regain control!” He confuses me. He has never been squeamish about exhorting his authority before.
“I am trying
Discussing this is not getting us anywhere . . . I am certainly not improving his mood and I feel he is determined to give me only half the story which irritates me. Perhaps I would better talking to Arwen about this? She may be more forthcoming. Instead I try to change the subject to something more pleasant.
“How is Eldarion? What is it he has done wrong now?”
“Why do you say he has done wrong?” Instantly Aragorn is on the defensive. A bad choice of topic then . . . Honestly, he is so prickly today it is a nightmare conversing with him.
“There is no secret plot against you Aragorn. Daegal did not seem pleased with him when I enquired and so I assumed there had been some trouble. That is all.”
And before my eyes he collapses. Dejected he slides down into his chair, holding head in his hands.
“Eldarion is the cause of most it,” he says.
“The cause of most of what? Honestly you are too hard on him sometimes, Aragorn. I know Gimli accuses me of being soft but it is hard being a Prince. I should know. So he tests you occasionally . . . They are only minor indiscretions for the most part. Elrohir will be here soon. He will sort him out for you. Eldarion always listens to him . . . If he will not listen to me.”
But when he lifts his head to look at me there is real grief in his eyes.
“It is Eldarion who adds weight to Aderthron’s words.” He says tiredly. “He is dazzled by him. He encourages his friends, all those young men, to listen to him, to follow him. Ears of people who normally would not listen turn Aderthron’s way because the Prince agrees with him. Eldarion will not hear me when I try to explain the weight of his influence with others, he will not listen when I describe the poison this man spreads . . And the consequences of that. Aderthron has targeted him from the beginning and I am losing him.”
“You will not lose him, Aragorn. He is not a fool. I will speak with him for you.”
“I do not think that will go well, Legolas.”
“When has Eldarion not listened to me, truly?” I wonder at Aragorn’s melodrama over this which is not like him at all. Yes it must be hurtful to have the boy listening to this odious Lord but Eldarion is a young man now, not a child to be manipulated. He knows what is right and wrong. Aragorn has bought him up well.
But I can say no more for the anxious looking guard pokes his head through the door looking for all the world as if he is frightened Aragorn will throw something at him for his troubles.
“Beg your pardon, My Lord,” He squeaks, “The Queen sends word dinner is served in your rooms.”
“Thank you.” Aragorn waves him away with a hand and the poor man cannot disappear fast enough.
“What are you doing to your guards?” I ask as I watch him dash away. “He is terrified of you!”
“It is possible my temper runs away with me.” Aragorn runs a hand through his hair and gazes after the man distractedly. “Perhaps I should apologise?”
I feel sorry for him. He lets this Lord get to him far too much. He takes Eldarion’s youthful rebellion to heart and he is tired. It seems deciding to call into Minas Tirith was an inspired decision on my behalf.
I will take the boy aside and talk with him. He loves me and he knows I love him. It will not be so hard to turn his mind from prejudice and bias. He will not be believing it anyway but I know from experience the harder you push as a father, the harder you push back as a son. I have argued black was white when angry with my own Father. Eldarion has decided being attentive to this Lord will agitate his Father and so he does so.
I wondered what Arwen is doing to remedy this?
“Come,” I say to Aragorn, “Let us go and have dinner. I am eager for Arwen’s company. Then that poor hard-done-by man guarding your door can go home and have dinner with his family. Give him the night off and make sure you smile while you do it so he does not leave here thinking you have dismissed him permanently!”
Finally he laughs!
It is not normally such hard work getting getting a smile out of Aragorn. I am positively exhausted.
“What would I do without you, Legolas?” He throws his arm about my shoulder and he smiles which makes him look so much younger, and that makes me feel better. The younger Aragorn looks the better as far as I am concerned.
“You would flounder hopelessly, your Kingdom would be taken over by rogue, abominable Lords and all your guards would either desert or collapse from sheer nervous exhaustion I would think.” I say.
The chuckle he gives at that is music to my ears. It is a start.
I have only two days to put this Kingdom to rights for I can stay no longer than that. I have missed Maewen after all.
Let us see what I can do.
I was uncertain around Arwen when I first met her. She was Undómiel, daughter of Elrond, the Evenstar, most beautiful of all our people and known even in the Greenwood. I was just Legolas. How did I act around her? I may be the son of Thranduil but I was still just a Silvan warrior then. The Noldor, and especially her, made me nervous.
Now she is a friend and I treasure her even temper, her wisdom, her sweetness that belies the thread of steel that lies beneath.
Her face lights up much as Aragorn’s did when she sees me.
“Legolas, I did not know you were coming. Why did you not tell me?” Playfully she hits Aragorn’s arm to admonish him.
“Because I did not know!” He says as he raises his arms weakly in defense and she laughs.
But is her smile slightly more anxious than I would normally expect?
“The girls are in bed,” she tells Aragorn, “with much protest I must tell you. They wished to see you. We must eat earlier to include them.”
Aragorn’s small daughters; so different from one another. One every inch a princess and the other . . . A wild child who reminds me of a Silvan. Where she gets that from I do not know. Are the Ranger daughters of the Dunedain that way?
“Where is Eldarion?” I ask Arwen as I sit and help myself from the steaming platters of food.
“He will be here,” she sighs it, her shoulders slump just a little . . . Or do I imagine that?
And sure enough, as if she had sensed his very presence, in he strides. Tall, lanky, every inch the man he so very nearly is.
His face is sulky as he enters. It does not suit him. His handsome features are clouded, but when he sees me a smile spits his face wide and bright. What nonsense Aragorn is worrying about. This is not a boy twisted against the elves. This is the boy who loves me.
I could get used to hearing my name exclaimed in joy. How many times is that today?
“I did not know you were coming!” He is excited to see me and despite myself I am relieved. Not that I ever doubted.
“I have left your uncles behind playing games with the horsemen and come to see you. I even have letters.”
I bring them out of my pocket. Two for Arwen, one each, for Aragorn from Elladan and for Eldarion from Elrohir. Eldarion snatches his up like a child with a present.
It is all going so well . . . And then it all falls apart.
“Where were you this afternoon?” Aragorn asks and it is not a casual question. It is a demand. There is an edge to his voice and I wince to hear it.
Eldarion sticks his chin out. He meets the challenge head on as he ever does.
“I spent time with Lord Arderthron. What of it?”
“I have told
you to stay away!” Why can Aragorn not see, as I do, he is forcing this boy straight into the troublesome Lord’s arms.
“If you would just listen to him, Father, you would see how what he says makes sense!”
“Encouraging hatred amongst my people will never
“He does not do that, Father. You make it all too personal. You are too entwined with the elves to listen. It is about economics and commonsense. It is about the good of our people.” Eldarion is heated now and I wonder just what economics it is he speaks of.
“It is nothing to do with the good of my people and all to do with power and bigotry, Eldarion.” Aragorn’s words are tense, his teeth gritted. He only just restrains himself. Perhaps I should intervene and get to the bottom of this.
people could do much good with that land.” Eldarion cries. “It is Gondorion land!”
“What land is this?” I ask calmly but Aragorn’s angry reply drowns me out.
“Ithilien is Elven
land!” He snaps, “and will be as long as they wish it!”
“Wait!” I say loudly but still neither of them hear me.
“Our people should come first, Father! They
are your responsibility not the elves.”
“I am their Leige lord and so they are
I have had enough of this conversation and I have had enough of it happening around me and not with me.
“Enough!” I shout it loud enough they both can hear me. “I think you will find, Aragorn . . . Eldarion . . . The elves of Ithilien are my responsibility.”
“I have nothing against Ithilien, Legolas.” Eldarion is quick to defend himself. “It is just as Lord Arderthron says, I am Prince of Gondor and so the Gondorion’s should be my priority. Father will not listen-”
“My people have died for that land, Eldarion.” I tell him coolly.
“And we are grateful—“
“Are you though? I do not see much gratitude here? I see you promoting the removal of my people from their homes.”
“They have a home in Eryn Lasgalen though Legolas.”
“And they have chosen to leave that home to come here . . . At your father’s invitation. You are too young to remember what Ithilien was like when we arrived. We have rejuvenated it for your people in the future. We have sacrificed much. It was not always as it is now. No one else wanted it when we arrived!”
“But now Gondorion’s should benefit from it.” Eldarion is so earnest. He really believes this and I am shocked to the core. “Because it is our
land for our
people. Faramir’s people could have much financial benefit—“
“And what does Faramir say about this expansion of Emyn Arnen you are planning?” Eldarion is silent in reply for of course Faramir would say it is rubbish, and I turn to Aragorn. “Let me guess,” I say to him, “This Lord Arderthron lives somewhere in our vincinity?”
His nod is no surprise to me.
“You are as bad as Father!” Eldarion cries, “You will not listen to me!”
“You are right. I will not listen to someone slandering my people in order to steal our homes.” My shock at the nonsense he is spouting begins to turn to anger as it churns within me. I did not expect this from him, not in a million years.
“I have not slandered them. I would not.”
“But that is what Lord Arderthron does, Eldarion.” Aragorn interrupts us. “He encourages falsehoods and lies, he whips up bad feeling, spreads tales of unfairness. He engineers hatred for his own personal gain and by paying attention to his lies, you do too
! Why can you not see that?”
“It is only about keeping Gondor for the people whose land this really is. He only talks about what is good for Gondor! You see hatred where there is none, Father!”
“I saw plenty of hatred, Eldarion,” I tell him, “As I needed to be escorted through your city because of what I am.”
“Because Father is paranoid! There is no need for that. Lord Arderthron has never said anything hateful about the elves to me. But I am a Prince, Legolas. I must advocate for my people and the elves are not
“That is enough
!” I only ever have a tenuous grasp on control and what I do have shatters now, then I am on my feet. “That is enough, Eldarion!”
“Legolas, stop . . .” Arwen, who has said far to little during this whole discussion leans forward to place a hand upon my arm but I shake her off. What has happened to her voice? Where has she been?
“I will not stop.” I tell her coldly. “I will not stand here and listen to the son of Arwen Undómiel, the grandson of Elrond Earendilion deny his heritage. Look at your mother beside you, Eldarion and tell me the elves are not your people too.”
“Mother has chosen mortality!”
“And she is still an elf!”
“But I am not one!”
“I nearly died for the sake of some children of Gondor, Eldarion.” I remind him quietly.
“I do not forget that, Legolas,” he says, his face pale. “This is nothing against you. It is nothing against your people. It is not personal.”
personal.” I turn to Aragorn then. “Excuse me, I have to get out of here before I am splintered in pieces.” I can hear the whisper of Gimli in my ear as if he were here beside me. Hold yourself together, Legolas, he says, remember he is just a foolish boy.
But that foolish boy hurts me.
Aragorn lays his hand upon mine.
“Go,” He says. “I understand.”
And so I leave. I cannot bring myself to look at Eldarion as I go.
Aragorn comes to see me later as I sit in my rooms running over the conversation in my mind. He brings me food, still warm.
“From Arwen,” He says.
“Arwen?” I am bitter when I say her name. I do not understand her tonight. “What has happened to her tongue, Aragorn? Why does she sit there and let him deny who he is?”
“He is her son,
Legolas.” He says quietly. “And he hurts her. She does not know what to say in this. This is her peace offering. Eat it.”
So I do, though I am not particularly hungry.
“I did warn you.” He says. “It does not matter what I say, how patiently I try to point out the prejudice that lies behind these ‘commonsense’ statements, Eldarion does not see it and Arderthron is careful with his words. He sends out his men in the streets whispering poison, telling lies, but to Eldarion’s face he is silky politeness, ever respectful of all things elven. He is a clever man and he has my son wrapped around his finger. But all the time, to the people, his men are saying See, the Prince believes us,
and it is very hard to fight against.”
But why does he have Eldarion’s ear in the first place?” I ask.
“He flatters him. He appeals to his vanity. He makes a show of hanging off the every word of ‘the Prince’. He makes him feel important. As I said, he has targeted Eldarion since the day he arrived here. He has thought this out carefully.” His shoulders slump tiredly as he sighs. “He makes use of every disagreement there is between my son and I, every moment of conflict.”
“Then do not create so many!” I exclaim, “Look for common ground.”
“And how do I do that when he says such outrageous things? I cannot stand aside and let that go . . . When he hurts his mother so deeply? Even if it is simply unintended and thoughtless.”
“Arwen should defend herself in that. She should tell him how much it hurts.”
I have calmed down now. The worst of my anger has bled away and burned itself out.
“I will speak to him tomorrow, Aragorn. I will see if I can open his eyes . . . If I do it calmly . . . He loves me still.”
And Aragorn is so confrontational in his approach, I think to myself though I do not say it. He has lost his battle before he even begins.
“Forgive me saying Legolas, he laughs softly, “but you are not the best at calm,
“I will be,” I tell him. “Tomorrow I will be an oasis of peace within the midst of the storm.”
And he laughs out loud. I should be insulted, but this evening I am not. I know what I can be like. I understand his disbelief.
“Oh let me tell Gimli you have described yourself thus!” He splutters, “He will say you have lost your mind. He will tell me I should lock you in the healing rooms for examination!”
He is probably right. Gimli would say exactly that and he would huff with indignation as he did so.
Oh how I wish he were here.
If there is one thing that can always settle my nerves and calm me it is the bow.
I cannot find Eldarion in the morning, in truth I do not look very hard. Instead I go to the practice fields and shoot. The rhythmic thud of arrows as they hit the target is relaxing, especially when my aim is good —and it is good this morning.
In the end Eldarion finds me
I sense when he arrives. I feel that fea, so similar to Aragorn’s—the same and yet not the same—as he walks across the field and hovers behind me. He is nervous—I do not want him to be nervous around me—still, I am also angry. So I do not acknowledge him immediately, instead I continue to pull my arrows from the target.
“I am sorry for last night, Legolas.” He says hesitantly in the end, “I did not mean to offend you.”
“But you did
offend me, Eldarion.” My voice is quiet when I finally turn and face him. “And your mother even more, I think.” If Arwen will not stand up for herself then I will do it.
“Mother understands,” he says defensively as he shuffles from one foot to the other as if he were still a small boy who has been caught stealing sweet cakes from the kitchen.
“Oh? It is strange you say that, Eldarion, because I think the opposite. I think you hurt her. Do not mistake silence for agreement. They are not the same thing at all.”
“Look at me!” He throws his arms out wide as he says it. “Do I look like an elf to you? I only speak the truth, Legolas. I am sorry it hurts my mother to hear it but she was the one who chose this for me after all.”
I know what he means. To the eyes of his people he does not look Elven, but to me . . . I
see it. He looks so like Aragorn and yet his features are slightly finer, his shoulders narrower, his body leaner. Even if I did not know him I would see his Elven heritage written all over him, as I did with Imrahil, and Eldarion is more an elf than Imrahil ever was.
“If she did not make the choices she has you would not be here at all, Eldarion,” I say softly but I wonder .. . Can it be he resents his mortality? I thought we had dealt with that long ago.
I remember the small boy stuck on a ledge halfway up the walls who told me, when I had scrambled up to save him, that he had been trying to be an elf. Like me .. . Like his mother. Is that small boy still inside Eldarion somewhere? Is that what this is all about?
I must speak to Aragorn about it, but for now I think I will follow my own advice and try and find some common ground.
“Here,” I pass him my bow. “See if you can match me and I will straighten up your stance as I am sure it will have slipped since I was last here, especially if you have been copying your father.”
“The only thing I am better at than Father,” he sighs, and he is right when he says he bests his father at archery. Aragorn’s stance has always been terrible. I have no idea what they were thinking in Imladris when they trained him.
“You had me to train you!” I laugh, “and he had only clumsy Noldor.”
“Of course,” he shrugs, “I had better training, that is true. None better than a woodelf.”
He laughs but there is something about the way he speaks that makes me pause.
“And you have skill, Eldarion. I have trained many men now and none as good as you.”
And he sighs.
I watch him as he turns and walks away from me back to the other end of the field, to take aim. What am I missing here? I feel as if something floats just outside my grasp.
“Eldarion!” I stride after him, “There is no doubting your skill.”
“I know that.”
I am faster than he is . . . I am an elf after all, and so I catch him and grab his shoulder.
“Why do I feel you do not then?”
“I do know archery is a talent of mine, Legolas, and I suppose if I am only to have one it is as good as any. Lord Arderthron thinks I have more though,”
“Lord Arderthron?” I am surprised he has mentioned him, this nemesis of his father. “Why do you give so much credence to this man’s words?” I ask, “Why do you listen to him?”
“Why would I not?” He cries, “He makes sense! He cares about our people. If Father would only take the time to listen. If he could overcome his prejudice he would see.”
And I wonder why he cannot see what’s wrong with what he says. He knows
his father better than that. Gently I attempt to put him straight.
“That is not the Aragorn I know, Eldarion. He is not a man of prejudice. He treats everyone fairly no matter his personal feelings towards them.”
“Well perhaps you do not know him in this, Legolas. You have only just arrived here after all. Father sees Lord Arderthron’s family connections to Denethor and dismisses him because of it!”
“Perhaps he dismisses him because his words are poison, Eldarion. The antithesis of everything Aragorn stands for.”
I can feel the edges of my control begin to fray. Annoyance curls within me. It is difficult, talking to this child. I am beginning to understand Aragorn’s tired frustration. Remaining the oasis of calm I told him I would is proving to be harder than I thought. Perhaps actions will speak louder than words?
I reach into my pocket, my fingers curling around the coolness of the stone within in.
“Will this convince you, Eldarion?” I ask as I pull it out and drop it into his hand.
Confusion drifts across his face as he stares at it.
“What is this?” He wonders why I have chosen, out of the blue, to give him a rock.
“A gift.” I tell him, “from one of your people . . . I know not who. They did not take the time to introduce themselves before they threw it through my window.”
His eyes widen in shock. He did not expect this and that, at least, is gratifying.
“Someone threw it through your window? Your window here
“Here. In the palace.”
He stumbles briefly before he regains his equilibrium. I have surprised him and I hope that is enough to shatter his illusions.
“But this has nothing to do with Lord Arderthron!” He cries in the end. “He has always spoken about the elves with complete respect to me.”
, Eldarion, But his men spread another story in the street and the people listen. Your friendship with him means they listen more intently!”
“That is just rumour, Legolas! You have no proof any dissent is linked to him and his men. Father has no proof either. Someone misinforms him to smear Lord Arderthron.”
“Why would they do that! Your father is not stupid
, Eldarion! And explain to me why someone would send rocks through my window!” It is all I can do to keep my voice reasonable in the face of his obstinance.
“Because they are unhappy about the elves influence among us! Because what is right for you is not right for us and Father turns his eyes from it because of his friendship with you!
” As it turns out it is Eldarion who loses his control first.
“What is right for us? . . . What do you mean, Eldarion? What influence are we supposed to have over your people? Is this the old nonsense about magic and mind speak? You know that is ridiculous, Eldarion. Use the sense you were born with!”
using it!” He cries. “We are not the same as you. Men see the way your people are with each other and copy it. It is wrong
, Legolas. It corrupts us and Father should stop it, but because of you and Elrohir—“ he cuts himself off then. Perhaps it is the expression of rage on my face that reminds him he has gone to far.
“Elrohir and I corrupt you?” The words drop like ice from my tongue. “We corrupt your father?” I grab his arm to hold him still and he flinches. I know my grip is perhaps too firm but elbereth, at this moment I want to shake him.
“I have no problem with you .. .” He stammers. “But your way is not for us, that is all I mean.”
“Perhaps Aragorn does not interfere in who his people chose to love because he knows it is not his business!”
I am so angry with him. I have been irritated by Eldarion before; annoyed, disappointed, but never
“I know you do not believe this, Eldarion!” I hiss it so anyone passing cannot hear us. “Remember who you are talking to. I know
And his face drains of colour.
“That was a mistake,” he gasps. “You
told me that.”
“I told you at that moment it was bad for you. Do not misquote me. I have handled this whole situation badly—right from the start—but perhaps I need to put that right and tell your father!”
“No!” He is terrified now and despite my anger it does tug at my heart, the fear on his face. “You promised, Legolas.”
“If it has resulted in you spouting this poison I have no choice.”
I am not the best at controlling myself and my temper. I never have been, and I know, if I do not leave now I will say things I do not mean—do things I do not wish to—so I turn away.
“Stop!” I hear the desperation in his voice as he calls after me. “You cannot tell him, Legolas, you cannot
I keep going. He has pulled at all my strings too badly. He has struck at the heart of me. I am too jumbled to talk with him now and I will not allow him to cause me to do something I will regret.
And as I leave I berate myself for it is becoming clear; this is all my doing.
Eldarion has spent much time in Ithilien during his growing years. He came first with Aragorn or Arwen, and then, when he was bigger, I bought him on his own. He was fostered with Faramir for a time and we saw him often then.
It was during his last visit from Faramir it happened. Just before he was due to return to Minas Tirith—about two years ago. He was a young man not a boy—even I
could see that—and so I gave him more freedom. I did not watch his every move as I usually did. I regretted that when word came to me of a dalliance between Eldarion and one of my elves.
Eldarion, when I spoke to him, was all starry-eyed infatuation and first love. How he raged at me when I sent him back to Faramir as I had to. He was far too young and had no idea what he was doing.
The elf? Oh I was angry with him. How many times had I lectured them about their contact with mortals? It was not as if he was freshly from the Greenwood, but rapidly I sent him back there. A worse betrayal of my trust I could not think of.
Eldarion was so furious with me I worried I had managed to destroy what love there had been between us, but when I next met him in Minas Tirith it seemed that was not so. He told me I was right, he had been a fool, and begged me not to tell his father. I had not, and I promised I would
But perhaps I was wrong in that? Perhaps all I have done is create a hole in Eldarion’s heart for this Lord Arderthron to get his claws into and now he runs from himself?
I think on it as I stride away. Still I am reluctant to go to Aragorn with this—he reacted so badly to Elrohir and I, and Eldarion is truly fearful of it—but there is Arwen. I will go to her as I should have done before—fool that I am.
But not now; now I am in pieces. I need to compose myself before I go to her so I head to the stables; the horses will calm me.
And I am some way outside the palace before I realise Eldarion still has my bow.
My father is the King.
But he is not only the king; he is Elessar Telcontar, named after the stone he wears around his neck. He is the heir of Isildur, the long awaited king, the one who reunited Gondor and Arnor.
He has saved us from the dark.
But that is not all he is.
He is skilled with the sword, trained by elves. I have heard our weapons masters say they have never seen his like on the battlefield. He is a tactical genius. He is a healer, the like of which has not been seen—not amongst our people. He could negotiate with the desert people to give up their sand if he wanted.
He married my mother; most beautiful of all the elves. His friends are the best of each of their peoples too—the fellowship—they are all heroes. There is nothing my father does that is not the very best.
That is my father.
I am Eldarion.
I have one name and that is it. I have saved no-one from anything.
I am good with the sword but not marvellous. I have learned how to heal—you could say I am better than most—but that is all you could say. I am not exceptional . . . There are many better. I have never been in battle. Would I be any good? I do not know.
I am neither elf or Man. I look like a Man but I feel
elven. But I will never be that. It is not allowed.
I do not know who I love.
My friends are ordinary.
That is who I
I want to follow my father and make him proud. I want to take the kingdom he gives me and build it even higher, make it even stronger. I want to do something . . . Just one thing . . . That will make people think of me as they do of him.
But I am just Eldarion; not Elessar, not Strider, not Aragorn. Just Eldarion.
And Eldarion is a shadow of his mighty father. Somehow my beautiful mother and my wonderful father have only managed to produce me
My father and I are at odds. It is not the first time but it is, perhaps, the worst. I have a new friend and Father does not like him. He is stubborn in his refusal to listen.
Lord Arderthron takes the time to talk to me. He has ideas about ways I can build up this city, help Gondor, build on Father’s legacy and deserve what I inherit, and a lot of them make sense . . . To me anyway. He sees something worthy in me.
Father thinks I am a fool. He thinks me a child, an idiot who believes everything he is told and asks no questions, but that is not
me. I do
listen. I do
question. I do not accept everything that is said to me.
When Lord Arderthron first mentioned the elves of Ithilien returning to the Greenwood I did not agree with him and I told him so. Why should
But he has valid points and sensible arguments.
“They were only ever temporary were they not, Eldarion? I thought that was always their agreement with your father? That they restore the land for Gondor.” He said
It is true. It was.
“But their homes are here!” I objected.
“And what of their woods? Their real woods, the one that we keep them from? Should we not let them return now? They do have another home.”
That is true too.
Legolas and his people always yearn for Eryn Lasgalen. They sing of it, they tell stories, they wish they were there . . . It is their heart. Are we cruel to hold them in Ithilien?
“I know your father means well,” he continued, “ I know he would miss Lord Legolas deeply. But to keep him and his people here simply because of their friendship . . . Because he wishes him near . . Is that not cruel, Eldarion?”
It did sound cruel put like that. Is that really why Father argues so strongly? Because he does not want to lose Legolas? Legolas would not return to Eryn Lasgalen anyway. I know that. His sea-longing makes him restless so he wanders often; to the Glittering Caves with Gimli, to Imladris with Elrohir, he is never still. Does Father do him harm wanting to hold him here?
I would never ask Father that. It would not go well . . . Especially now.
Father thinks I do not listen to him but I do.
I take his arguments, the valid points he makes and I put them to Lord Arderthron but he has answers. And I cannot take those answers back to my father because he will not hear them.
My father worries about unrest on the streets I have not seen, broods on whispers I have not heard. He is so certain Lord Arderthron is behind it all yet with me the Lord is respectful, empathetic and caring. He is in awe of the elves. He only wants the best for them.
And he suggests Father’s friendship with Legolas means he cannot see clearly. I can understand how that could be.
And now Legolas himself is here.
Already yesterday evening we were shouting at dinner. Already at the practice fields he was so angry with me he simply walked away.
When I heard he had arrived I thought I could ask him some of the questions I cannot ask my father . . . I hoped he would help us communicate . . . But it turns out he is just as bad.
He leaves me standing alone, his bow in my hand, and I cannot get him to listen to me either. I should never have mentioned Elrohir.
Surely he will not tell my father what happened in Ithilien?
I know he is angry but he promised me . . . he promised
I think about following after him but he moves so fast. I would never catch him. Everything I know about Legolas tells me he will not go to Father with this. There is nothing I can do but hope, for the thought of dealing with that terrifies me.
Instead I take his bow to my room. He cherishes it, I know that. Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien, my mothers grandmother, gave it to him so I will keep it safe until he remembers he left it with me. I feel as if I owe him something for the hurt I just caused him. My words came out of my mouth in the wrong way. They sounded insulting the moment I said them and they were not what I meant.
So I sit with his bow and carefully I oil it for him. The wood sings under my hands. I am good with wood. I can carve things of beauty when I have the time, but I am not allowed to be a carpenter. It is not my path.
“What are you doing?”
The sweet soft sound of her voice takes me by surprise. It startles me.
When I look up she is standing in my doorway and my heart leaps.
“This is Legolas’ bow. I am oiling it for him.”
“Oh! I heard he was here. That is good . . . is it not?”
“Yes, it is good.” I turn my eyes back, down towards the bow so she cannot see the lie in them.
“I had an errand . . .” Her voice trails off, as if now here she is unsure, “I was walking past . . .”
Rhíwiel trains to be a healer. I met her first in the healing halls when my father took me there to learn. There was a time, when I first returned from Faramir, he had me there everyday. Rhíwiel drew my eye from that very first moment..
She is strong. She is determined. She is a gifted healer. She is gloriously beautiful, I think. She has dreams, she is clever, and she likes me. We drift about each other like leaves caught in a breeze.
But she is also not a princess, not the daughter of a lord but instead the daughter of a cobbler. Before moving to the healing halls she grew up down on the second circle. She is ordinary —as I am ordinary—except I am an ordinary prince. We can circle each other but we can never be.
When duties call her to the palace she will direct her steps to find me. When I am in the healing halls I will ensure it is with her group I train. We talk .. . Often . . . And that is all.
Sometimes I think I love her.
Especially at moments like this, when she takes me by surprise and in that minute I see her, it is like the sun shines upon me alone, a burst of happiness within me.
But if I do. . . if I do love her, what was Ithilien?
That felt like love too. I thought it was love, it was all encompassing. I walked upon the clouds. But Legolas told me it was not. He said I was too young, that I did not know what love really was, that my youth was being taken advantage of, and when I returned to Faramir where he sent me, and thought on it, it scared me .. . That that might be who I really was.
But now there is Rhíwiel. It is she who lights me, it is after speaking with her
I walk upon the clouds. Perhaps it was simply the elves who led me astray before, living amongst them .. . And that was not me . . . This
Is me. Rhíwiel is me.
Now she hovers in the halllway outside my door and that is no good. Servants will talk.
“Come in,” I leap to my feet, bow still in my hand and close the door behind her so prying eyes will not see us.
Her eyes are caught by the bow and she stares.
“Do you want to hold it?” I hold it out to her but she shakes her head.
“I would break it, Eldarion! It is so delicate.”
“Delicate, yes but it is stronger than it appears, as the elves are. You will not break it, here .. . “ I place it into her hands and it makes me happy when she gasps in delight.
She knows nothing about the elves. She has never met them, only seen glances of Legolas from afar. The closest she has ever been to an elf is me.
“Oh I wish I could go there,” she sighs running her hand across the freshly oiled wood.
“Where?” Does she mean Lothlórien? There is no one there any more.
“To Ithilien! To see what they are like.” Her eyes shine as she looks up at me and I have to catch myself from telling her I will take her there . . . For how would that
“What brings you here?” I ask her instead.
“I have been sent to the kitchen for some herbs. I am making ointments today.” She rolls her eyes at me then, and I know why. She finds it boring. It fascinates me; the mixing of plants to produce something that can cure people, but she would rather be doing
than making. “I wondered if you would be down to the halls today?”
“Not today. I am supposed to meet Lord Arderthron.” She does not attempt to hide the cloud that passes across her face at the sound of his name. She does not like him either, although she is much less aggressive than my father at how she lets me know.
“I wish you would not.”
“He is my friend, Rhíwiel.”
“Is he though?” She sticks her chin up stubbornly. “I think you should be careful, Eldarion. All I have heard of him is not good.”
“What have you heard?” She has never said anything like this about Lord Arderthron before, “Where would you be to hear anything?”
She meets my eyes with fire and determination.
“A messenger boy of his came into the Healing Halls two days ago, Eldarion. With a black eye and his cheek split open.”
“Did he fall?” I have not heard of any accidents but the city is big and crowded.
“In a way. He had been hit . . . by a hand, and fell against the fireplace.”
It takes a moment before I realise what it is she is not saying out loud.
“You accuse Lord Arderthron? What is your evidence for that!”
“My evidence is that is the story the boy told us. It is that this is not the first time we have heard such tales from his people. It is well known he is cruel to those in his employ.”
“I did not think you would listen to gossip and slander Rhíwiel! I have never seen anything like that....and I have been at his house. . .”
“But you would not see it would you, Eldarion.” She says quietly, “because you are the prince. He wants your favour. He knows your father would be disapproving.”
I seize upon that for it makes no sense.
“If this was true why haven’t
they been to my father? Everyone knows he would not allow his Lords to indulge in that type of treatment.”
“And then they would lose their employ, Eldarion, their livelihood.”
“Father would not let that happen!”
“How would he even know?” She puts a hand upon my arm. Her touch tingles against my skin. “You do not know our world,” she says. “It is not as easy as you think, so people remain silent. All I say to you is be careful. I understand you enjoy his company, just remember, perhaps all is not as it seems. Be careful.”
She is right. She lives in a world I know nothing of, as she knows little of mine. Could this be true?
We are so far apart—she and I—so different, but she fascinates me. I cannot take my eyes off her. Being with her makes me lighter than air. I drink up every minute.
But this is as wrong as Ithilien was. Am I never going to find the right person to love?
Why must my heart always choose this badly?
What even am I . . .when it comes to love?
If I wish to meet Lord Arderthron I must go his house—the one he is residing in while he is here. He does not come to the palace to see me. My father would never allow that, but he does not stop me walking where I wish.
It is a short walk through the streets to get there and while I stroll I think on what Rhíwiel has told me. Could the boy be lying? But why would he? Hurt and injured at the healers why would he lie and blame his employer? That makes less than no sense. More likely he would create a story of an accident to cover up the fact surely?
Rhíwiel is a good judge of character and I trust her, she is an excellent healer. She would know if the injuries did not fit the description. She would see the lie in a small boy’s eyes.
But I have seen no hint of anything but courteous good nature in Lord Arderthron’s interactions with his servants. Is she right when she says that is because I am a prince?
Sometimes I hate it, being a Prince . . . I know it has given me an easier life but I never see the truth. People are always pretending . . . Pretending to like me, pretending to be something they are not. Sometimes it feels nothing in my life is real.
Lord Arderthron is effusive when he greets me. He is pleased to see me.
“Eldarion! So good you managed to visit. There is something I want your opinion on. Do you mind?”
No one at the palace ever
asks my opinion.
“I do not mind, of course,” I tell him and he leads me inside. His desk is strewn with papers much as my father’s always is but Father does not get me to pour over them with him. Legolas, yes, or my uncles, or Faramir, but not me. There are always others more important, more knowledgeable than I am for him to ask when he needs help.
It feels good to have someone think I might have something useful to say.
He brings me a glass of wine and I watch him carefully. All afternoon I watch him and he does not put one foot wrong. He treats his servants kindly. I begin to feel discourteous to even be questioning this. He invites me into his home and this is how I repay him? By doubting him?
“You are quiet today, Eldarion,” he tells me. “Is anything wrong?”
“No.” I say it perhaps too quickly. “Nothing is wrong.” And nothing is. He is a most gracious host and caring employer.
That is until the boy arrives.
It is getting late when he comes. I was just thinking I would have to return to the palace. The thought of dinner with my Father does not enthrall me, nor does facing Legolas if his anger has not diminished but if I do not return Father will set the guards on me and that would be even worse.
The boy . . . No he is a man really, my age, is breathless and wild-eyed as he bursts in to the study.
“My Lord,” he gasps, “I need to speak with you!” And Lord Arderthron frowns. He is not pleased.
“I am busy
!” He snaps, so sharply he makes me jump. Perhaps he notices that for when he next speaks he is more controlled. His voice smooth and calm as if the bad temper had never happened.
“Tell me, Lad, if it is so important.” He says and the boy gulps. His eyes dart anxiously towards me. He obviously does not wish to speak in front of me and he stammers,
“My Lord, I—“ before he stops.
“I am sure whatever it is you can speak in front of our Prince.” Lord Arderthron is smoothness itself now and he smiles at me, but suddenly that smile feels not welcoming, but predatory. I do not know why.
“It is alright,” I tell him for I feel sorry for this poor frightened messenger. “If you wish to speak privately I do not mind.”
“He is but a foolish boy,” Lord Arderthron says to me as he stands. “I am sure this will take no more than a minute to sort out, Eldarion. I thank you for your graciousness.”
I watch as them as they exit. Why do I suddenly feel there is danger here? It is strange. A messenger arriving unexpectedly is not such an untoward event.
There is silence beyond the door initially. The heavy thud of someone—or something—hitting the wall comes out of nowhere and instantly I am on my feet, moving towards the door, opening it, I realise I am afraid for that boy. Rhíwiel’s story of the child at the Healing Halls suddenly seems completely believable.
“The fools!” The anger in Lord Arderthron’s words as he screams them at the cowering messenger is white hot.
“I came straight to you . . . ” the boy stutters, and I step forward. I have no idea what I am going to do.
“Is something wrong?” It is an effort to keep my voice level and calm. I do not feel calm at all. Everything feels wrong here.
As Lord Arderthron turns towards me it is as if a mask descends upon his face. The flashing eyes, the rage, fades away to be replaced with blankness, even kindness, when he speaks. It is astonishing.
“Nothing to bother you with my Prince,” his words are slippery as oil. “Unfortunately it seems there is
a small problem I must attend to. I had hoped to escort you back to the palace but I will have to deal with this .. .” He waves his hand dismissively towards the boy. “I will ask another one of my household to accompany you.”
“No need.” I certainly do not want his servants marching me home like a child. “I can find my own way home. The streets are mine after all.”
“I am sorry our time has been interrupted.” He places his hand upon my back, steering me towards the door. “If you are sure though .. . I feel most discourteous letting you walk by yourself.”
“I am perfectly capable of finding my way home!” My words are more cutting than I mean them to be but why do I feel he rushes me away? What is it he is hiding? Why does the messenger look so terrified? Lord Arderthron is positively pushing me out the door.
All of a sudden I am standing the street alone.
It is dark. It is late indeed, time has gotten away from me and I will surely have already been missed at dinner. I can imagine my Father and Legolas angrily discussing my misdemeanour. Since I will already have to face that it will make no difference now if I take my time returning.
So I do not stride off down the street as Lord Arderthron was expecting me to. Instead I step back into the shadows and wait. Not for nothing has Father spent long hours teaching me the ways of the Rangers. I can be stealthy when I want to.
I am sick of not knowing the truth of things, of living my life ignorant as people pretend to me to be things they are not. I am worried for that boy. Even though I do not understand why, all my senses tell me something here is amiss.
I do not have to wait long.
Lord Arderthron when he emerges is all fury and rage. The messenger trails behind him hopelessly. There is no hint of that calm persona I saw before he deposited me outside his house. He is so
angry he is careless. I do not think I even need to be Ranger trained to follow him undetected. Still I am careful regardless. I imagine he never for a moment thought simple ordinary Prince Eldarion would think to follow him anyway.
It is not until we begin to descend into narrow winding streets I do not recognise that I begin to wonder at the wisdom of following him. It is dark, I am unsure where I am, no one is going to know I am here. Am I being foolish? Should I turn back?
I have always been good at “knowing” things. That is not a very good description of what I mean but it is the only one that comes close. My Mother can see inside your mind. I am not sure if she ever does it to me—I cannot sense it—but Legolas is constantly complaining about it. He knows when she has been there, even just the slightest touch. My mind is my own, Arwen! Ask before you help yourself to it,
he says. It is the only thing I have ever seen them argue about.
I cannot do that; mind speak, I am not an elf; but I do feel
things, a tingling, a knowing what is around the corner before I reach it. It is a strange sensation. I feel it now.
This is bad!
It says to me, but at the same time it propels me forward when I begin to think I should retreat. Onwards, you must go forward.
And so I do. I do not turn back. All logic tells me to leave, to call the guard if I am truly worried, to speak to my father, but instead I creep on in the shadows, one foot in front of the other.
It is when I hear sounds of a scuffle in front of us I truly start to doubt myself. Harsh thuds, soft groans; it scares me.
Then Lord Arderthron disappears around the corner.
And he explodes.
“What are you doing? Imbeciles! Drop him!” The rage in his voice makes me fear for myself, and for whoever it is around that corner. I press myself back against the wall. Back into the dark.
“You will ruin everything
.” He cries. “Everything! All the work I have done with the Prince will be for naught when he sees this.” There is a sharp slap that can only be a hand upon a face. “Fools!”
“The Prince is on our side.” Whoever it is he accosts finds their voice. “He agrees with us, we do not have to worry about him. I have him heard say it, these scum do not belong here.”
My blood runs cold.
Suddenly all my Father has been saying is crystal clear as if I have stepped out of a fog.
People see your approval, your friendship with Lord Arderthron as permission to indulge in bigotry, he told me. You make it acceptable, Eldarion. You have a responsibility to put more care into your friendships.
And I scoffed at him. I told him there was
I have been a pawn. I have been caught in a honey trap. I am the fly and Lord Arderthron is the spider. I have called my father foolish and blinded when I am the fool.
I know what lies around that corner for the scum they speak of are the elves and there is only one elf here, Mother not included.
I am afraid to take even one step more. I do not want to see it. I wish I were a boy still not a man.
I am only Eldarion. Where is Aragorn? He is who is needed here. Aragorn, Elessar, Estel, to stride around this corner and unleash his righteous rage upon these animals. They would cower before him. He would be magnificent as he always is.
I am only Eldarion, what can I do? No one will run from me
But I cannot do nothing.
I am terrified, I have no plan, my heart races so fast I am sure it will likely collapse. There is no-one
here to help me. No-one is coming.
There is only me.
I have no choice but to step out of the shadows.
To swallow my fear and walk around that corner.
I stand behind Lord Arderthron.
I stare down the Men that face me there.
I face the results of my stupidity.
I look Legolas in the eyes and hope he knows my sorrow.
The accident Eldarion refers to right at the beginning of this chapter happened in “Fire Dancing Upon Our Souls”
It is strange the way fear chokes you. Real fear . . . It grasps you by the throat and strangles you.
There has been only one time in my life I have been more afraid. The day Elrohir and I answered a call for help by the walls and we found Legolas buried beneath them. I was only a boy then but I remember it. I remember every moment.
That was the day I first saw my Father weep—the only time. I tore my hands until they were raw and bleeding scrabbling amongst the rocks before Mother pulled me away and held me tight. I still have nightmares of it.
I thought Legolas was dead.
He is not dead now. He stands in front of me. Lord Arderthron does not yet see me, I am behind him. The eyes of the men who have Legolas are all on him. They have not noticed me stepping around the corner, out of the shadows. None of them have . . . Except Legolas.
He is upright at least but his face is bloodied, his lip split open, and three men stand behind him holding him tight. I cannot see his hands. His arms are behind his back.
Another man sits crumpled against the wall, a bloody mess. I do not think Legolas has been taken easily. His eyes flash as he stares at me. He radiates defiance.
If my Father were here he would bring all these men to their knees with a single word; that voice he has which he hardly uses, that none can disobey. The way he can control a roomful of men with a look.
But he is not here: I am. I have no weapons, no allies, I am outnumbered and disadvantaged. I am a fool.
The only weapon . . .the only chance I have, is my voice. I am a poor copy of my father but a copy of him none-the-less. I must remind them of that. I must not let them know just how afraid I am.
“Let him go!”
It surprises them all, my voice, as it surprises me as well. Loud, commanding, imposing, it is not me at all.
It is strange what fear does to you.
Lord Arderthron spins around, eyes wide in shock, and the men who hold Legolas . . . They drop him, immediately. Suddenly the arms that restrained him are gone and he topples forward, unbalanced, no arms to protect himself as I see now they are bound behind his back.
Face first he falls, and the crack as his head hits the cobblestones is sickening.
For a moment no one moves, no-one speaks.
Lord Arderthron gathers himself even before I do, as I stare at Legolas where he lies, wishing for him to move.
“Eldarion! My Prince. I hoped to spare you this. When my man bought me news of this atrocity I came running to put these men to task. I did not want you to see—”
“I am sure you did not.” I am sick of his lies, the way he fawns around me, and all of it is false. “I am sure you did not wish me to see this
“It is truly shocking. I knew it would hurt you—”
“All that work you have put in to me gone to waste. What a shame, Lord Arderthron.”
His face drains white.
And my gaze flicks to Legolas who lies completely still. Move
! I plead silently, Move Legolas.
The men behind him shuffle. They are not happy with the betrayal of their Lord who seems so willing to hang them out to dry. Their anger is clear upon their faces. I am not sure what it is that holds them where they are? That I am a prince? Whatever; it will not last long.
I want to put these men to justice—all of them. They deserve to face my father’s rage and pay for this. But I have no way to capture them. There is only me here —and Legolas, bound and still.
I have to make a choice and it is a bad one.
I choose to let them go. It is more important to get rid of them, even though it means they will escape into the dark never to be seen again. It is the only chance Legolas and I have for all too soon they will realise they are backed into a corner, I am not—in actuality—a threatening opponent, and they will attack. There is a small window in time I can use my status to impress them and I will use it.
“I suggest you leave.” I put all I can into my voice to make it impressive, masterful, as close to Father as I can manage and I hope they do not see me shaking. “All of you! I do not think you wish to be in the city tomorrow to face my Father’s ire.” I try to remind them of him, of how angry he will be. I want to keep him first and foremost in their minds so they do not see the reality of me, of my terror.
“Eldarion . . . ” Lord Arderthron cannot help but have one further attempt to control me, but I am wise to him now. The tables are turned. It is he
who is the fool now.
Eldarion.” He has lost any right to be familiar with me. Not that I have ever demanded anyone use my title before. “Do not think I do not mean you also, Lord Arderthron. Your status will not protect you from my Father. If he discovers you to be complicit in this I doubt you will have a Lordship left.”
I have no idea what Father would do to him. I make it up as I go along. I have never been privy to any of his disciplinary decisions, but I do know this will not be pretty when he finds out. For me also, but I try not to think of that.
“You can not be accusing me
! You forget, I am innocent in this. I have an alibi and that conveiniently is you
. You can attest to the fact I had nothing to do with this. I was as angry as you when I heard—”
He is right. I am
his alibi. He will be above reproach because of me.
“I cannot guarantee what
I will attest to if you still remain in my city in the morning. Will my father believe you
, Lord Arderthron? Or me?”
The look of shock on his face at my words is somehow gratifying. Even if they are a lie.
His hands curl into fists at his side. He is angry. I dare say he wishes to hurt me . . . If he could. And he can, for who is here to stop him? Only the motionless Legolas.
“Leave, Lord Arderthron! And take your men with you, or do you fancy adding an attack on the Prince to your problems? Shall we see how the King will react to that?” I have no idea why I do that . . . Goad him. It is foolish but surprisingly it works.
He swings around on his heels and takes his temper out on his glowering men, not me.
“Get him up!” He snaps, nodding towards the sad individual leaning against the wall “Get him up and get out of here.”
He sneers at me as he pushes past me, one final insult.
“You chose badly, Eldarion. One day these elves will ruin you. They are not worthy of your defence.”
“I think not. It is you who is ruined, not I.” It is the last of my bluster. I have nothing left; but it is enough. They fade away into the night, his angry upbraiding of the thugs that are his men echoing down the street as they go.
Legolas and I are alone.
Darkness is falling, the street is empty, I am unsure where we are and he lies very, very, still.
It takes me only a few steps to reach him, and when I roll him over, gently, cautiously, his face is covered in blood where it was not before. The fresh laceration across his forehead from the impact with the cobbles turns my stomach.
“Legolas?” His eyes are shut and my voice trembles . . . There is no imperiousness left in it now. “Legolas, open your eyes. If this is pretence please stop. They are gone. It is only you and I, they are gone.”
Those eyelids do not so much as flicker and my panic overwhelms me.
I am a healer . . . More than that I am good at it, yet my skills desert me now. I know what to do .. . I know
. Why can I not think of it? Why do my hands shake so badly I can not hold anything? What do I do now? What if those men return? If they realise suddenly I am no opponent at all but instead someone who can identify them?
“Stop it!” I say it out loud, my voice ringing in the quiet of the empty street. “Stop it, stop it!” Anything to halt this panic and force my mind to concentrate. Strangely the sound of my own voice is calming.
“You fool, Eldarion,” I mutter, “They are not about to come back now. Forget them. What would Father do? What would he do if he were here?”
He would get help.
I may not know exactly where we are but I do know our general location. There is a guards station somewhere near. If I can retrace my steps, back beyond these narrow alleyways I could find it and help will be there.
Legolas’ arms are still bound, tight behind his back with twine that is soaked in blood where he has tried to twist them free but I do not have a knife. Surely he
does? But if so I cannot find it and I do not want to waste precious minutes searching while he is limp and unresponsive. The knots have pulled themselves tight, too tight for me to undo by myself. I have no choice to give up, much as it hurts my soul to see him restrained. I will carry him as he is. He does not know
, I tell myself. As horrible as it feels to leave him like this, he does not know it.
I am surprised by his weight when I lift him. It is awkward, he is tall, still taller than I am, but oh so light! How is he as strong as he is and yet weigh nothing at all?
It is as well though he weighs so little for I have not gone more than two streets over before my arms ache and I begin to stagger.
“Wake up Legolas,” I tell him. “I need your advice, and you are not easy to carry.”
Of course he does not answer.
I do not reach the guard house. I am not sure how far away from it I am, stumbling my way down the street when someone looms out of the darkness in front of me. He holds his torch high and in its light I can see his face.
The relief is overwhelming, my legs buckling beneath me as I am engulfed by a wave of it, then he is running towards me as I kneel in the street, suddenly unable to go any further, Legolas still in my arms, my breath hoarse and gasping.
“My Lord,” Daegal kneels beside me. “My Lord, Eldarion.” He tilts Legolas’ face towards him and sucks in his breath. A hiss of alarm escaping his lips as he sees it; all the blood. “Are you injured also? Who has done this.”
It is all I can do to speak. Thank the Gods he is here and we are safe.
“Men . . . Lord Arderthron . . . gone . . . ” The few words that escape between my panicked breaths make no sense, until he holds my face also, searching for an injury and I bat his hands away. We do not have time for that. “I am alright.” I find my voice. “I am not injured, Daegal, but Legolas needs help.”
“I told the fool to stay off the streets.” He mutters to himself then he is on his feet and barking orders to the two startled guards standing behind him.
“Call the King.” He snaps. “I will meet him at the Healing Halls. Tell him I go there now with Lord Eldarion and Lord Legolas, and when you have done that, search the streets, anything suspicious, or anyone . . I want to know. And find someone to pay a visit to our dear Lord Arderthron while you are at it —no . . .on the other hand . . I
will do that.”
The weight is off my shoulders.
Someone else is here to make the decisions and get things done. Within seconds he has a knife and saws away those distressing bonds so I no longer have to look at them. However the raw skin beneath is just as bad.
He scoops Legolas up, out of my arms, as if he is nothing at all. He does not wait for me to follow. Then I am clambering on a horse though I am unsure how that has happened, where it has come from, and Daegal rides before me, Legolas in front of him.
The Halls are ahead of us . . . And my Father.
I am torn.
Legolas needs him, he is a healer like no other.
But what will he have to say to me
Even the soft light of the Healing Halls seems blinding as we charge in from the darkness. Immediately we are smothered by a wall of healers. Does it always feel like this—so suffocating—when the injured arrive here?
They swarm around us, people everywhere. Instantly Legolas is taken from Daegal’s arms and disappears.
There is the softest of touches on my arm as I try to follow.
“Are you injured, My Lord?”
Her eyes are sad. I see grief there and it pains me.
I wish she would call me my name but she cannot; not here where so many ears could hear. I do not feel worthy to be a Lord right now. I do not even feel worthy of Eldarion.
“No,” I tell her and she frowns slightly in response as if she disagrees. I must look dramatic as Legolas’ head has bled all over me. Likely she thinks I hide something. Even a novice healer would think as much.
“Let me find you somewhere to sit and wait while they tend to him. I will bring you a drink, some food.”
“I do not need
food, Rhíwiel!” I shrug her hand away. “I am going with him.”
And she retreats. I have hurt her.
When she hears what has happened here she will no longer care for me anyway. She knew. She knew
what Lord Arderthron thought of me, she tried to warn me, and I ignored her.
I stand at the end of his bed, out of the way and yet still able to see as slowly they remove his tunic. I see the bruises around his ribs and it makes me wince. It is obvious those men have done more than simply split a lip and tie him up. They have tried to subdue him and they have been brutal about it.
Then my Father arrives and everything stops.
I hear him beyond the doors.
“Where is he?” Even if you had never met him you would know he was King just by hearing that voice.
The doors are thrown back and suddenly he is in our midst, the room full of his presence and the healers melt away.
He goes straight to Legolas.
“What happened?” It is Daegal he speaks to first.
“I found them in the streets, My Lord.” Daegal replies. “Lord Legolas and Lord Eldarion. This is Arderthron’s doing.” And Father’s head swivels. He follows Daegal’s glance to look at me, eyes sweeping across me; healers eyes taking it all in.
He asks the same question they all have been asking me.
“Are you injured?”
And that is it. He turns away.
It is a dismissal. He knows this is my fault. He tried to warn me. He has no time for me now. So I am left, standing in the middle of the room, alone.
Tears burn my eyes then. It is ridiculous. I am not a child any more. I will not cry here. I do not know what it is that brings them; the bruises upon Legolas’ skin? The cold anger in my Father’s eyes? The judgement in everyone else’s? The knowledge I have so completely failed—that this disaster is all my making?
Slowly I back away until I hit the stone wall. It is cold against my skin and scrapes against me as I slide down to eventually sit upon the floor. Head in my hands, ignored by everyone, I watch as they begin to patch up my mistake.
I do not even notice my mother is there until she sits down beside me and pulls me close.
“My boy,” she murmurs. “I will not ask if you are alright. I know you are not.”
“Look what I have done, Mother.” I do not know why she is here with me. It is her people I have endangered in my foolishness.
She lifts up my head in her soft hands so I look her in the eyes.
“You have bought Legolas back safely.”
“Safely? Were it not for me there would have been no danger.”
“Were it not for you he would still be out there.” She is stubbornly refusing to hear me. Mother can always see the good in me, but she is my mother; she has to.
It is Father who interrupts us, frowning as he stands over me and raining barrage of questions upon me.
“How did he get this injury? This blow to the head. What caused it? Tell me.”
At least he speaks to me.
“He was bound, Father. Arms tied behind his back. I ordered them to release him and when they did he fell. He could not protect himself and hit the cobbles.”
“He was awake before that?”
“He was on his feet and angry . . . Defiant.”
“Can I trust you to tell me the truth?” It is like a slap in the face, that question.
“Why would I not, Father?” I cry.
“Where do I start with answering that, Eldarion?”
“Estel!” There is admonishment in my mother’s voice but I do not want it. I do not need her defending me. I am too old for that.
“I speak the truth Father. I will tell you all I remember. I may be a fool but I am not dishonest.”
“A fool you most certainly are.” He replies and it hurts . . . But he is right. “How long has it been?” he continues without pause, so not to allow my mother the chance to defend me. “How long since he fell? How long has he been like this. . . Unresponsive?”
I am flummoxed. How long has
it been. . . It seems like hours but I am sure it is not. I look for Daegal—he may be able to help me—but he is no longer there.
“I do not know! I do not know, Father . . . It seems a long time but I am not sure how long it took us to get here.”
“What worries you, Estel?” Mother has risen to her feet now—the loss of her warmth at my side leaves me bereft—and she reaches up to clasp my father’s face between her hands.
“It does not add up and I have a boy here who will give me nothing
!” I imagine even an elf would not be able to feel Father’s anger any more clearly than I do now.
“Because He is panicked and confused, Estel. Not because he hides it from you. Tell me. Tell me what is wrong.”
And Father sighs, his shoulders slump as he looks over to Legolas where he lies, a healer covering the wound on his head as gently he cleans the blood from his face.
“The head wound is significant.”Father says, “but there is no damage to the bone beneath. I would not expect a period of unconsciousness this long in an elf and yet he responds to nothing. Not voice, not pain. Is it damage upon damage that causes this? An extension of his previous injury? If so I need Elladan for I cannot reach that. And Elladan is not here! The story Eldarion tells me does not fit with the elf I have in front of me.”
“But that does not mean it is a false one. Let me see what I can feel.”
When she says that my Mother does not mean the temperature of his skin, the sticky wetness of the blood, the jagged edges of broken bones, she means the light of his soul, the musings of his mind. She means the heart of Legolas himself.
The healers stand back as she moves towards him. They clear a path and she lays a hand softly on upon his forehead stroking away occasional stray strands of golden hair. I know many of our people believe her to possess some kind of magic but she is simply Elven. I wish I could do this .. . Feel the souls of others.
Her hand drifts down then, down the side of his face, slowly it finds it’s way to cradle Legolas’ limp hand in hers, her thumb rubbing gently against the burns encircling his wrists. Angry, red, bleeding marks that mar the beauty of his skin. It hurts me to see them.
She bends down to lay a kiss upon his forehead amongst the blood and she whispers in his ear. Sleep tight,
I think she says but it cannot be that. The rest of her words are in his own language which sounds like a song even when they argue. My mother knows it from her days in Lothlorien but Father does not and Legolas refuses to teach him. When Father tries to cajole my Mother to tell him it’s secrets she only laughs and asks if he does not trust them. He does, of course, completely.
When she stands and turns back towards us she is smiling.
“He is still there.” She says, “Still Legolas. Treat his wounds, Estel. You do not have to worry about his mind.”
But Father is not as relieved as I am by her smile.
“If that is so why does he not wake?”
“He will wake when he is ready.”
“This is not a nap he is taking, Arwen.”
He strides back to the bedside and even those few steps he takes are angry and frustrated.
“I know you are worried. Trust me in this, Estel.” She picks up Legolas’ hand once more, and takes my Father’s also, placing it on top of those ugly rope burns. “This burns at his very soul. It is a brand of pain upon his fea. It may look like the least of his problems, a burn compared to bleeding wounds, but the Eldar do not do well with confinement and bondage, especially our free spirited Silvan cousins. You know
this Estel. Give him the peace his fea needs to repair this. It has taken much damage already. You know he struggles with the day to day. He just needs time before he faces the world.”
There is a sadness in my Father’s eyes that makes my heart ache as he stands there, his hand encircling the burns.
“I would wipe this clean if I could,” he says. “I would take that pain from him.”
“But you cannot. You cannot
, Estel. Even Elladan cannot. Legolas is strong enough to withstand this as he had withstood so much already. Stitch him back together on the outside and then let him glue back the pieces on inside. He will find his own way back, in his own time.”
Though my father is strong, though he is impressive and majestic, sometimes I think it is really my mother who is the strong one. Always behind him, holding him up just as she holds him up now.
“You and I will do this together,” she says, and she turns to the healer hovering at her shoulder. “You can leave us. We will call if we need you.”
They all vanish like magic, almost as if she can
cast the spells they say.
And we are left alone, Father, Mother and I.
They sit one either side of him.
“Can he hear me?” He hovers, needle in his hand ready to stitch the wound.
“I do not know,” she says, “but he will feel you are here, Estel. He knows he is safe with you.”
“Just not safe with my people.”
“And that is not
“When my son is at the centre of it, how can it possibly not be my fault. My son who he loves—has loved—all his life.” He knows I am there, he knows I can hear him. He says those words to me
“Eldarion grieves about this as much as you do.”
Father says nothing then. Instead he takes his needle and begins to stitch, tiny stitches that are barely visible he is so neat.
“If you can hear me, Legolas,” he says, “I’ll have you know I am beginning to tire of this . . . Stitching you up. What am I going to tell Gimli this time? It is well you are immortal else I am sure you would not have made it out of childhood,” and Mother laughs.
“He is probably the reason Thranduil is so uptight!”
Father does not lift his eyes from his work but his next words are for me.
“Eldarion, go and wash. Change your clothes. I will see you when I have finished here.”
“I wish to stay, Father.”
“And I am telling you to go
.” There is an edge to his voice that makes me nervous and I see my mothers eyes watching me. Do as he says
, is the message she sends me.
I do not want to go but I am backed into a corner. I have no choice, and I begin to feel I do not belong here.
As I leave I hear my Mother begin to sing, her voice is soft and sweet, the words are Silvan, the melody eases my soul, but it is to Legolas she sings not me.
And when I look back their heads are bent together, my mother and my father. He finishes his careful stitches, she helps him through it.
They fought long and hard for their
love and it is perfect. But how do you know?
How do you know what is a love worth fighting for and what is not?
Would I know it if I ever found it?
Is it possible I have found it already?
I do not want to go in to my Father’s study.
I hover outside instead, the guard at the door eyeing me strangely.
“He is expecting you, My Lord,” He says. “You may enter.”
He thinks me odd, I’m sure, the way I loiter in the corridor. But I will do anything to avoid what awaits me inside. It is a big breath I take before I open that door.
My father stands by the window, his back to me as he looks out across the city. But he swings around the instant the door shuts behind me.
“Eldarion.” With that one word I know he is still so very, very, angry.
His eyes wander over me. I know this look, I have seen it many times before. Even angry as he is he cannot resist assessing me with his healers eyes. I know I looked a mess before, covered in blood, Perhaps he doubts the fact I told him I was uninjured? Whatever, he soon satisfies himself and moves on.
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I know there is nothing I can
say, Father. I am sorry—”
It is not the right thing for me to say at all.
“Sorry? Did you see
that?” he asks, “Were you in the same room as I before? Did you see the bruises on his skin? The blood? The damage to his face? But you are sorry and so all is well?”
“I did not say that, Father. I know it is not enough, but it is all I can say. I know all is not well. I did
“I am so angry with you, Eldarion. You have no idea.”
He is wrong though. I can see his anger, in the way he stands, the clenched fists, the tone of his voice. This is not the first time my Father has been angry with me, far from it. But this is different. It is not the same as when I did not complete my lessons, or ruined my best clothes climbing trees in Mother’s garden, or even when I told him I had befriended Lord Arderthron.
This does not come close to any
of those things.
“What you do not
know,” Father says, “and what you can not see is how hard Legolas must fight every day just to be himself. Did you hear your mother? Did you hear how far he has had to retreat simply to maintain himself after this?”
“I heard. Father—” I want to tell him how much I did not want this but he does not want to hear it.
you,” he continues angrily, “I told you you had a responsibility to watch who you chose as your companions. I told you your words had power. I told you by simply associating with him you added weight to his words! This is what results. Men who would have kept their vile bigotry to a few insulting mutterings become brave enough to act. Because they think you
“Stop telling me what you know when you so obviously know nothing!”
I remember those men. Their confidence as they told Lord Arderthron he did not have to worry about me . . . That I was on their side. Father is right. They believed I would condone this attack. I do not even know how that happened.
“What am I to do with you?” He asks me, “Have you any idea what position you put me in?”
I am not sure what he means and so all I can do is shake my head.
“Legolas is a guest in my city. Beyond simply being my friend he is a prince, a leader, the son of the ElvenKing. I cannot allow him to be attacked and not act. I must send a message to my people this will not be tolerated. I must send that message to Thranduil—that I take this deadly seriously no matter who was involved—if I do not wish for war with elves of the Greenwood. You have aligned yourself with someone who plotted sedition against me, Eldarion. I cannot let that go.”
He is frightening me.
“I did not want this, Father! I do not support them....not like this! It is not what I thought at all. He made it sound sensible . . .he was respectful . . . I never imagined this was what they meant. I heard no sedition, I promise
you. If I had I would have reported it!”
“But you should have imagined. I
told you, your Mother told you, Legolas told you, over and over we warned you. But you knew better. What are we? Fools?”
“No!” Now, faced with the awfulness of this, I cannot understand why I so determinedly did not listen to them.
“I will have to throw your fate upon the mercy of the council of Lords.”
“My fate?” I am only just realising exactly what he meant when he asked me what he should do with me. He does not talk about being confined to my room or missing supper.
“I will call Faramir here. He can oversee the decision. I cannot be seen to be biased in this, Eldarion.”
“But I have done nothing, Father! I was not a part of this. I never would be. I told them to let him go. I ordered it! If I had known I would have stopped it before it happened. You cannot believe I had anything to do with this.”
He sighs then, a long and heavy sigh full of grief.
“You have been friendly with a man who not only plots against me but spreads hate amongst my people. He has made sure it is widely known; that you are his friend, that you support him over me. People have heard you argue the rightness of his ideas. It is accepted, Eldarion, that you are his man. Now we have the Lord of Ithilien, the son of Thranduil, unconscious in our healing halls after your friend
and his men have attacked him . . . And you were there
“I will argue your case. I will speak to your youth and naivety, I will make sure weight is given to your actions today ensuring Legolas received help. I will try and take blame myself for the most obvious lack in your education but that is all I can do, Eldarion. Justice and due process must be seen to be done.”
“Justice?” I am terrified. I had not anticipated this at all. “Are you arresting me Father?”
“Do I have to?”
“No! No you do not have to!”
“Then since I trust you will not leave the city, and assume you will cooperate with all we ask of you, I will not. Sit.” He waves a hand to the chair in front of his desk as he moves to sit himself behind it. “Your cooperation can start with telling me all you know. Names, Eldarion, details, anything you can think of.”
But I have no names; and precious little detail either.
“I do not know them.” I stare at my hands. I do not want to see his face.
And sure enough, he is not happy with my reply.
“Did you listen to a word I just said? You would protect these men even now?”
“I do not protect them. I have no wish to protect them. I want them to get what they deserve but Father, I do not know
them. What do you want me to do? I cannot lie. I cannot identify men simply for the sake of giving you a name!” I cry.
“And suddenly you have a conscience, Eldarion. It is too late and too convenient. The time you have spent with this man . . . hours every day . . I find it difficult to believe you know nothing!”
“I do not know every man who calls him Lord. I know his servants . . .it was none of them. I know they answered to him for he made that clear. He was enraged at their insurrection. I know he had been plotting and they knew it. I do not know who they were! I would recognise them . . .at least some of them. . .if I saw them.”
“Then you will be interested to know, Eldarion, Daegal has found no sign of Lord Arderthron, or any who follow him, in the city. Those men—any involved—will be impossible to trace lest I wander with you through all the villages he rules over, every farm, every hamlet.”
“I told them to leave, Father,” This is my fault as well, “I sent them away.” A part of me is surprised they have obeyed my command so promptly and immediately.
“You what?” His voice is cold. “You allowed them to avoid answering to the law for this?”
“I did not want to, but there was just me . . . Just me.
I did not know where we were. Legolas was bound and injured and could not help me. I wanted to get him help. That was all I wanted and allowing them to go . . . it seemed the safest way, the only way to do that. I am not you,
Father. I cannot command men with a look. I am Eldarion, not Aragorn!”
He looks at me in silence for the longest time, his fingers drumming upon the desk.
“Then we only have Lord Arderthron.” He sighs in the end. “Him, at least, we can locate. He can face our wrath alone if he chooses. He is a weak man. He will give them up soon enough if he thinks it saves him from facing his crimes.”
And I have to disappoint him once again.
“You have no crime to charge him with, Father. He told me as much before he left and he is right. He was as angry as I when he discovered the attack. He had no knowledge of it and did not order it. I know
this. It was clear when he found them, and he has a watertight alibi. It is easy for him to prove his innocence. I was with him all afternoon. I was there when the man arrived to alert him, I heard his anger even though I did not know what he was angry with—”
“Damn it!” My father’s fist crashes into the desktop interrupting me and I jump in surprise. “Do you see how you have compromised me?” Suddenly I do see. I see how me simply being in the company of this man, innocently discussing meaningless inanities at his home has put my father in an untenable position.
“I am sorry—”
tell me you are sorry one more time. I do not
want to hear it.” He runs a hand through his hair in frustration and I could not feel worse then I do in this moment. “I will send Daegal to fetch him regardless. He can face the Lords as you do. At the very least he is guilty of creating the conditions for this violence to fester. He is answerable for his men’s deeds.” His shoulders slump and suddenly he looks so tired.
His exhaustion frightens me even more than his anger. “He will attempt to smear you to protect himself, Eldarion. I know this. I cannot avoid it.”
“Father—” I want to tell him how sorry I am for this terrible mess I have created. I want apologise for all the grief I cause him, but he has already told me he does not wish to hear it.
I want to tell him I love him, but I do not know how.
I run out of words.
He pushes his chair back then and stands.
“Go and sleep, Eldarion. Tomorrow you can report to the scribes. You can spend your days with them in the library while we attempt to sort this out. Out of sight, and out of trouble. Stay away from the healing halls, stay away from Legolas, stay away from anyone associated with Lord Arderthron. Say nothing to anyone.
Do you hear me? I can only do so much, Eldarion.”
“I hear you.”
“Do not undermine me again.”
“I will not.”
I never wanted to undermine him at all.
He waves me away. I am dismissed.
There is a chasm between us . . . A crevasse, a schism, so large I am left wondering if I can ever bridge it.
I do not even know where to begin.
I am in the Greenwood.
Sun shines through the leaves creating dappled patterns on the grass below as I run, it’s soft green tickling my feet. It is not the well ordered neatness of my Father’s palace within the compound . . . No. It is the wild mixture of grass, flowers, leaves, found in my mother’s village. We have not visited for so long and I wonder how I got here?
My Grandfather—mother’s father—laughs in front of me. I did not notice him at first. He has his arms out wide to embrace me as I run towards him, and I can hear Mother calling to him behind me . . . Mother.
I spin around to see her, to catch a glimpse, for it has been so long . . .
And she is gone.
She is gone, the grass, the trees, my Grandfather, all of them vanish in the mist.
Instead I am left blinking in the light.
And my head hurts.
There is a ceiling above me and it is not my own. For a moment I struggle to identify it. Where am I? It is not the leafy canopy of Ithilien, nor the solid stone of Father’s palace. It is not the intricate beauty of Imladris. As the shapes solidify above me it brings with it memories; and they are bad ones.
Pain, confusion, a heavy weight of suffocation, fighting to breathe. . . Terror. These are the healing halls of Minas Tirith where I woke after they dug me from beneath the walls; after Aragorn brought me back.
My chest feels very much as it did then, a fiery band of pain with every breath but the world makes more sense. The frightening chaos I woke to then is not here. At least I can think.
But it is a sluggish thought, as if I fight my way through fog. How did I get here?
I remember arguing with Eldarion, walking to the stables, spending the day with the horses. It was a beautiful evening as I walked back. The streets were quiet and the breeze carried stories from Ithilien. It must have blown in from there. It told me tales of the trees, my people . . . I imagined I even felt Maewen and it distracted me. It has been so long since I last saw her. Suddenly she filled my senses like a whirlwind of smell . . . Sight . . . Sound.
I am no longer the best at maintaining my focus. My accident—that wall of stone that buried me—and my ragged, uncontrolled return from the inbetween; that place between worlds, with Aragorn, left my fea shattered into a thousand pieces. Though Gimli patiently helped me put it back together . . . Piece by piece . . . Still it is not as it once was and my concentration—which was never the best if I am honest—is sometimes a fragile, elusive thing.
But I was on the streets of Minas Tirith; Aragorn’s city, not out in the wilds and so when that hint of Maewen reached me upon the breeze I let it go—my focus—I let it go to dive into those sights, that sound, and imagine I was with her, because with that smell of her on the breeze it felt as if I could actually touch her. I was with her, not here in this city of stone.
And so when I felt that hint of aggressive misintent behind me I was too slow. I do not know how many of them there were—I do know there were less of them left standing by the time they had subdued me than there were when they started. They knocked me to the ground almost before I had dragged myself clear of Maewen and Ithilien, a crowd of them pushing me down while ropes were lashed to my wrists, ropes that cut and burned deep into my fragile soul. Yet I still had my legs and I used them. A kick can do as much damage as a punch.
I am such a fool. Aragorn and Daegal both warned me the streets here were not as safe as they should be and I did not listen. I should have been on my guard, ever alert, for when I am I can hear a twig break a mile away. Instead I let my attention wander so badly I did not even discern danger until it was too late. I know my weaknesses now. Why did I not guard my safety better?
My wrists burn still, as if they remind me of my folly, a searing pain that cuts deeply.
And my head hurts.
Add to that the band of pain around my chest and it would be fair to say I feel terrible. I may know why I am here but I do not remember how.
I turn my head, discovering too late that to do so causes the room to spin and the pounding inside it to intensify. Beside me is a chair, and sound asleep in that chair is Aragorn. He looks as terrible as I feel.
I should leave him to doze. He looks exhausted and the light is bright . . . It is broad daylight . . . For him to sleep now must mean he has had precious little beforehand. But the ghosts of my memories flit like ice cold chills across my mind and I do not want to be alone. I know it is selfish but cautiously I reach a finger to touch his hand as it dangles near me.
If I did not feel so appalling I would laugh at the speed he leaps to attention, staring at me as if he had discovered a cave troll in his palace.
“Do I look that bad?” I ask him.
But he does not laugh and agree with me as I expect.
“You are awake!” He says it as if it is a miracle, something completely unexpected.
“Was it likely I would not be?”
It is not until he looks at me with concern that I realise he has not understood me at all.
Ever since my accident words are not my friends. I can no longer write them . . . Not really. At first it was a jumble of runes only that emerged on the page when I tried. Now at least I can manage short, barely legible sentences with effort. Erynion does much of my writing for me. It is a hard thing to accept.
And spoken words too desert me on occasion, whenever I am anxious, distressed or excited. I reach for them and they are not there . . . Empty spaces float into my mind instead. The common language—that which I learnt most recently—disappears altogether at times and even my Sindarin becomes disjointed. My mother’s language though never leaves me. By the look on Aragorn’s face it must be in that I have spoken for he does not know it, and when I search now for the words in Sindarin I cannot find them. It frightens me.
“I cannot find the words,” I tell him and he frowns as he draws his seat closer to me.
“I cannot understand you.” He says quietly, “Sindarin, Legolas please.”
But where there once was Sindarin, that most familiar of languages, now there is nothing. I can understand his. It infuriates me I cannot reply!
“Where is Arwen?” It is an enormous effort to put that sentance together and I am not even sure I achieved anything or if he simply recognises her name. She is who I need. She will understand me.
“Of course,” he rises to his feet then, patting my hand gently, and turns to leave me, “I will fetch her.”
But I do not wish to be left alone; not with the ghosts of those men drifting through my mind.
“Wait!” I cry after him, “Do not go, Aragorn!”
Whether my words are the correct ones or if it is only because he hears the beginnings of panic in my voice I do not know, but he stops.
“I only go to send someone for her,” He says gently. “I will not leave the room, Legolas.”
And I swallow that panic down. It is foolish in any case. I am in the Healing halls. What is there to worry me here? I close my eyes to shut out the stone around me which suddenly feels suffocating. Do not be so ridiculous. I tell myself, It was a few angry men, that is all. It was nothing. It was not worth this.
I know Aragorn has returned when I feel his hand cool upon my forehead.
“How is your head?” He asks me. “Does it pain you?”
“Bad.” It is one word only but I hope it is the right one.
“I understand that,” he chuckles softly, “and I am not surprised. I will get you something for it.”
It is a relief to hear that. Anything that eases this cacophony of pain inside my head will be a blessing.
It is bitter, the concoction he brings me and I cannot help but twist up my face at the taste of it.
“I know you hate it,” He lectures me, as he always does. “Drink it anyway. Do not make me hold you down.” He has had to do that once before and briefly I let my mind wander back there, all those years ago; he and Gimli at the Hornburg. I seem so young then as I think back on it. A version of myself I hardly recognise, ill and terrified.
Aragorn sits at my head now and he sighs as he takes the empty glass from me while I wait for the medicine to have its effect and slowly unwind the ribbons of pain which surround me.
“I have written to your father and tried to allay his concerns.” No wonder the sigh was a heavy one. “I hope I have managed to prevent him marching upon the city.”
My Father will not march upon this city, though he will be furious and no small part of that fury will be directed at my idiocy. I hope Aragorn is joking and knows that. I would tell him but it all seems to complicated. I do not have the energy to spend searching for the right words. It is easier just to lie back and let him talk to me.
“I have sent word to Elrohir too,” he continues, “whereever he may be . . . I sent it to Eomer and I hope he can locate him.”
Oh Elrohir. How I wish he was here—he could translate for me after a fashion since he learns some of my dialect whenever we visit the Greenwood—but more than that I wish for the tranquility he brings me. Though likely he will be angry with me too.
“Heaven help me when he arrives,” Aragorn is saying. “He will most likely string me from the nearest parapet.”
I cannot help but laugh at that, despite myself, even though it sends shards of pain shooting through my chest, a spluttering breathless laugh.
“You and me both,” I tell him. “He will probably go easy on you. You know he has always had a soft spot for you.”
But Aragorn only leans back in his chair as he runs a hand through his hair. I know that gesture—I have seen it often—It means he is frustrated and angry. Now that I think on it I can feel it—sharp spikes of anger across his fea. I imagine, once he is sure I am on the mend and no longer in pain I will be on the end of a tongue lashing about his disappointment in me. I do not look forward to it but I do not blame him. An attack on the Lord of Ithilien, son of the Elvenking, in his city is a political nightmare, I know that. And it is due to my foolishness.
“I wish you would not be so stubborn in your refusal to teach me your language, Legolas,” he says. “It would be easier now if I understood you.”
It is Arwen who saves me from answering that. The door swings back and she sweeps in, lighting the room with her smile.
“Little One!” She is at my side in an instant. For the life of me I do not know why she calls me that, yet she often does. I know I am much younger than her but I was a grown warrior when I first met her.
“You have decided to rejoin us,” she smiles.
“I did not know I had a choice.”
She laughs at that, light and joyful.
“How do you feel?” she asks and it is a relief to not have to struggle to find the words I want with her. She knows my mother tongue, even though she speaks it with that strange Lothlorien accent.
“Terrible,” I tell her, “although Aragorn has given me that bitter medicine he loves so much. Moving is not advisable I have found. And now he tells me he has called Elrohir so I depress myself imagining his displeasure in my foolishness . . . And I have lost my words,” I confess, “I cannot think of them. There is blackness in my mind where Sindarin should be.”
She brushes her hand across my forehead and it is a soft gentle peacefulness she fills me with.
“You have had this before. It will return, Legolas. What do you expect when you split your head apart so dramatically!”
“I do not remember splitting my head.” I lift a hand of my own to my forehead then feeling the trail of neat stitches there. Aragorn’s work no doubt. I do not remember this injury at all.
“And as for Elrohir,” Arwen is saying, “he will fuss over you like a mother hen. You know that.”
Aragorn watches us as we speak, eyes moving from one to the other and she lifts hers to meet his gaze now.
“He struggles to find the words to speak to you.” She says. “Sindarin eludes him.”
“That much is obvious.” His voice is tight . . . Tense . . .Unhappy.
“And he cannot remember the injury to the head.” Arwen continues, “But I am sure the language will return quickly. It has before.”
“Tell him I know he is angry with me,” I say to her. “I do not blame him. I am angry with myself.”
“Angry with you?” She looks down at me in surprise. “Why do you say that?”
“I can feel it. Can you not?” I have no doubt she can.
“He is not angry with you. Far from it, I promise you . . . Angry with the world we must live in, but not you.” She reaches across and lays a hand upon Aragorn’s arm, not as gently as I would expect.
“Guard your feelings, Estel,” she says, and there is an edge to her voice as she says it, “for they will be misinterpreted. You are an open book to us . . . to Legolas. As expert as you are at hiding, still he sees your heart. You are amongst elves remember.”
And he frowns at her in return. What goes on between them? There is a most disconcerting undercurrent that confuses me.
“If you do not like my heart, do not look there.” He says. It is uncharacteristically blunt and she flinches. But still Arwen is nothing if not strong.
“It is Legolas who looks, not I. Do you wish him to think this anger you carry is for him?”
He is startled by that.
“I am not angry at you.” He lifts a hand to touch my cheek and turn my head towards him. “I promise, Legolas, not you. I cannot believe this has happened in my city. It horrifies me . . . And this is on me. I am king. I carry the weight of this, not you. It is my city, my men, my son.”
“Our son,” Arwen says beside me. “Our son who is just a boy. Who bought Legolas back safely on his own.”
“Our son who has been more than a boy for some time!” Aragorn retaliates. “You said so yourself, Arwen when you tried to get me to agree to him spending time with the Dúnedain. Our son who has undermined me with my people and lent support to a man who stands for everything I do not. Our son who is the reason these men felt able to attack our friend, simply because he is Elven, like you.”
“Everyone makes mistakes, Estel.”
“He is not everyone. He is the future King. He can not afford to make mistakes such as this and not learn from them. I cannot protect him in this and I will not. It is up to Faramir now.”
I had forgotten about him, but it is Eldarion they argue over. The men who had me tied and bound were certain he supported them. I remember that. Do not worry about the Prince, he has our backs, they told that snake of a Lord, the one Aragorn so despises.
And in the split second, that moment Eldarion walked around the corner, I believed it.
It devastated me; the thought that boy, who I have loved since babyhood. The boy I played in mud-puddles with, who rode behind me, who I taught to climb and shoot, would be here to watch me receive a beating . . . And support it. It broke my heart. Surely we had not fallen that far he and I?
But then I saw his face. The others did not—the men behind me—their eyes were only on the angry Lord in front of me, but I saw him . . . And he was terrified.
He looked so young, confused, horrified, just a boy. Aragorn and Gimli always tell me I am too soft on Eldarion, that he is grown even though it does not seem like it to me. They say I do not understand his mortal aging but I wonder now, thinking about that frightened boy who met my eyes, if I am right and they are wrong.
And I knew then he still loved me. He did not plan this, he did not want it, he did not know what to do about it.
How I got from there to here I do not know. Eldarion was outnumbered, no match for those men, inexperienced. What happened? Suddenly I am afraid for him.
“Where is Eldarion?”
I cut across Aragorn and Arwen’s bickering in panic.
“Where is he?”
Surely if they are both here with me he is alright.
And mercifully they cease their arguing to look at me,
“Do not worry. He is well.” Arwen strokes my arm gently. “He is in the library as we speak.”
“Learning a lesson.” Aragorn cuts in.
“A lesson he has already learnt!” Arwen cries and it begins again.
“A lesson he needs to be seen to be learning, somewhere out of the way where he can do no more damage!”
I do not want this. It makes me feel ill, this endless jagged tension between the two of them. I want Elrohir, to stride in, fix them with a glare and stop them in their tracks. I want Gimli, gruff and stern; not afraid to lecture them both into submission. I want Maewen, who would shoot daggers at Aragorn with her eyes and deposit the two of them outside my door.
I want my father, who would clear the room with one flick of an eyelid.
But none of them are here.
I thought I did not want to be alone but now it seems preferable to this.
“Stop it!” I cry, and I do not care if Aragorn cannot understand me. “I do not want this.”
“I am sorry, Legolas,” Arwen is instantly contrite and I imagine Aragorn is as well but I no longer care.
“I am tired.” I turn my back to both of them. I close my eyes to block them out. I try not to feel the tension swirling around me. “Leave me alone to sleep. Go and do what you need to do. Go and talk to your son, instead of talking about him in front of me. Go away.”
My wrists burn, the stone suffocates me, my memories chill me, and it is all worse on my own . . .
but still . . . I want them gone.
It is strange how, once you are confined to bed, time loses it meaning. Especially here in the Healing Halls where I can not see the sun to gauge the passing hours.
Aragorn has me under armed guard, although I am sure that is not necessary, and when he arrives to poke and prod me, he will not listen to my protests.
“It is what it is, Legolas,” he says. “Live with it.” He is not in the best of moods. “Erynion will be arriving tomorrow,” he continues, “Ithilien needs to see Gondor takes this seriously.”
“Erynion!” That announcement diverts me completely from pointing out I am Ithilien and I already know he takes it seriously. “I do not need Erynion here!”
“I need him here,” he replies. “I need someone to represent Ithilien before the Lords.”
“I will represent myself!”
“You will not! Looking as you do? With the barest of grasps on Sindarin? That will not help me.”
He is probably right but it does not make me happy to hear it, besides that is not the reason I do not want Erynion anywhere near here. If he comes then Maewen will come. If Aragorn has told them I have been attacked and injured wild horses will not keep her away . . . And I do not want her here. Not now when the streets are filled with tension and I am unable to protect her. This city is a dangerous place for elves.
“Maewen!” I tell him. My Sindarin comes back to me bit by bit. Arwen was right . . . It did not take long. There are more times now the words are there than not, but sometimes Aragorn must make do with a single word from me for that is all I can locate. It is lucky he knows me well enough to get by on that. He works it out now, exactly what I want to tell him. Perhaps he even expected it?
“Maewen is not coming with him. I do not wish her here when I cannot guarantee her safety. Do you think so little of me, Legolas?”
I scoff at his naivety.
“She will come regardless of what you want.”
“Not if she does not know.” He leans down to whisper as if he tells me a secret. “I told Faramir only to say I needed Erynion here for a trade meeting. They do not know you are here do they?” He does not even wait for me to reply, so confident is he his supposition is right.
And he is right. It is so annoying.
“Faramir was under orders not to tell Erynion what was happening here until they were on the road, well clear of Ithilien. Maewen will not come here because she has no reason to.” He sits back smugly, arms folded. It is a brilliant plan and I can find no argument with it.
He is so irritating when he thinks he has bested me.
Still I look forward to seeing Erynion though I will not tell Aragorn that. His quiet, steady, calm is what I need—though he too is likely to lecture me about my carelessness. It will not be the first time.
They seem to have given me my own healer. When Aragorn is not here, she is. Quiet, pretty and shy, she gets me what I need and sits in the corner working when I need nothing. It seems a waste to me. I am sore and miserable, yes, tired and lacking focus, but not in dire need of healing every minute of the day.
I am also bored.
I need to regain my grasp of the Common Tounge before I next see Gimli and she seems the perfect opportunity. If she thinks I am an imbecile because I stumble so badly over her language what of it? I will practice my Westron with her.
She sits in her corner bent over something in her lap with concentration so when the tedium of lying here gets the best of me I decide to launch into conversation by stating the obvious.
“This must be boring for you.”
Startled she looks up at me, eyes wide, and the bandage she has been fiddling with drops off her lap rolling across the floor.
“My Lord?” She leaps to her feet in a rush, “do you need something?”
“To be out of here . . . For Aragorn to be less anxious, to have no guards on my door, I need that.”
And she gazes at me in confusion.
“For you not to have to waste your time here with me all day . . . How about that?”
And instantly her face falls,
“Have I done something to offend you, My Lord? I can get another healer to sit with you.”
I feel such a bully. Clumsily I have hurt her.
“No, no! I mean there must be better ways for you to spend your time. You have been very kind but there is nothing for you to do here. It seems a waste . . . For you.” I am in a tangle trying to explain myself.
“Oh.” Her face lightens immediately. “It is not a waste, My Lord. We want to care for you. We want you to know . . .” Now it is her turn to stumble. We are as awkward as each other it seems. “These men who hurt you,” she continues, “they are not us. They do not represent us.”
I do know that, but still it leaves a warm glow in my heart to hear her say it. If it is a gift they are offering me then, her presence, to show they care, I will let them do it.
“What is your name?” I ask her. “I am at a disadvantage for you know mine,” and she ducks her head shyly.
“Rhíwiel, My Lord.”
Rhíwiel; Daughter of Winter, a pretty name for a pretty girl, and Sindarin too. I wonder if she speaks it, for all that I need to practise my Westron it is exhausting battling to find the words.
“Do you speak Sindarin?”
“Yes, My Lord.”
“I need to practise my Westron for I have a dear friend who speaks it and it has been shaken loose by that knock on my head. But it is so very tiring. Will you help me speak it later if we speak Sindarin now?”
She smiles then and it lights up her face, a true smile of delight.
“Oh yes, I will help you!” Her Sindarin is flawless, if heavily accented.
“What are you doing there in the corner, Rhíwiel? Can I help you?” I am willing to do anything to entertain myself at this point.
“Oh no!” Her horror at the suggestion is almost amusing. “You are a Lord, My Lord, I am rolling bandages. You cannot do that!”
“That is far too many Lords. I am Legolas, and I have rolled many bandages before now. Bring your basket and sit next to me. Together the job will be done twice as fast.”
Still she hesitates.
“It would not be right, My Lord.”
“Legolas. It would not be right, Legolas. I do this in Ithilien you know. In fact the healers make me do worse than this. Bring your basket here.” It is what I hate most about Gondor and Minas Tirith, the way they trap people into thinking they are less.
So she brings it, places it on my bed and sits in the chair beside me. I am not lying. I have rolled many a bandage before and she stares in astonishment when I pluck one out and begin.
“You are so fast! I cannot even see your fingers move!”
“I am an elf,” I laugh, “It is an advantage.”
“Only Eldarion can go anywhere near as fast as that!” She exclaims. “Well I imagine the King could . . . If he ever rolled a bandage . . . I do not imagine he does.”
“Oh he does.” I have seen Aragorn roll bandages a plenty and he is very handy at it, but that is not what interests me. “How do you know Eldarion?”
And she blushes.
“The King sends him to the Healing Halls to learn. I have seen him here.” She avoids my eyes and studiously studies the bandage in her hands.
“And what do you think of him, Rhíwiel?”
“I think he is very quick to learn, and very good at rolling bandages and he is my Prince.” She lifts her head and her eyes flash a challenge to me. Oh she has spirit this girl. She hides it well.
“Of course.” I will not test her by asking more.
We work then together in silence. She surprises me when she speaks again.
“He is very sorry.” She says quietly, “He did not mean for this to happen, I know that. He loves you.”
“How do you know that?” I must admit it is a relief to hear it but a strange thing for her to say.
“I just do. It is the truth. . . . He has spoken of you when he is here,” she adds when I look at her in silence. And then suddenly she changes the subject leaving me wondering,
“I wish I could go to Ithilien one day,” she smiles wistfully as she says it, eyes alight.
“Why is that?” It seems a strange thing for a Gondorion girl to wish for.
“Because there you are free to be whatever you wish. I watch the Lady of Ithilien when she is here. She is so beautiful . . . and strong . . . She can do anything.”
She watches Maewen? Oh Maewen would be thrilled to know she was held in such high esteem. Always, despite how much I tell her it is untrue, she feels in Arwen’s shadow when she is here—that compared to Arwen’s beauty and grace she is ordinary—but not to me, and not to this girl either!
“You know,” I tell her, “Maewen’s Father was a forester. She lived out in the villages in the Greenwood until she was chosen to come in to the Keep and train because of her strength with the bow.”
“And then you saw her and you married her!” Her eyes shine with the excitement of it. I do not want to correct her even though Maewen and I are not married as she understands it ,for Aragorn’s people all believe that to be the way of it. Silvan’s do not marry, but we are bonded in our hearts. That is true.
“Was your Father not angry?” She asks, “Surely he did not want you to marry a village girl but a lady instead?”
And I laugh.
“My Father was married to a village girl himself! My mother is a Silvan from the woods. But yes he had concerns, for my mother found it very difficult being a Queen. Still he could not stop me when he had paved the way himself.”
I do not tell her my mother is over the sea, and that one of the reasons is how hard she found it being a Silvan in the Sindar palace. That is only one small contribution to her departure. There are many others bigger and more important than that.
“That is why I want to go to Ithilien,” she smiles, “A Village girl could be Queen there.”
“There is no Queen there unless it is Arwen,” I correct her. “Aragorn is King of Ithilien and our own King is Thranduil. I do not want Maewen to ever be Queen for it would stifle her. We are happy just being ourselves.”
It does not take long before I begin to tire. My neat bandages become sloppy and in the end I stop for she will just have to do them over.
“Tell me of yourself,” I ask her. “Tell me some stories of the Healing Halls.”
And so she does. She has a sweet voice filled with energy. I like her. She tells me of her training, of the healers who oversee her who sound like other tutors all over the world. Some just and fair . . . Some not so just. And much to my surprise I hear much about Eldarion. Eldarion is the best at mixing ointments. He always gets the amounts just right and he enjoys it as she does not. Eldarion is cleverest at soothing frightened patients, he can do it with a touch. Eldarion has the lightest, most careful hand when it comes to stitching . . . Eldarion, Eldarion, Eldarion.
For all her fire and courage, for all her sweetness and light she is not very subtle. She is as obvious as the stars on a clear night.
I do not realise I have fallen asleep until the opening of a door wakes me.
“Go and rest,” I hear Arwen say, “Get some food, I will be here for awhile.” And when my vision clears it is Arwen sitting beside me, not the girl.
“What is her story?” I ask her and she frowns.
“What do you mean, Legolas?”
“The girl. The girl who was here before you, the healer girl. What is her story? Where does she come from?”
“I do not know,” she answers. “I have seen her here before but I know nothing of her.”
“Her name is Rhíwiel.” I say but it does not remove the blank look Arwen gives me.
“Why do you want to know?”
“It seems she has been sentenced to keep me company. If we have to spend our days in a room together I would like to talk to her. I would like to know about her.”
“You Silvans,” Arwen laughs. “So egalitarian.” And she pats my shoulder gently. “I will find out for you Legolas. If you wish to make friends with the healers we must make sure you are fully informed.”
And I wonder, what does Eldarion think of this girl?
For it is plain as day, even to the foolish Silvan I am, what she thinks of him.
“I am sorry, Legolas,” Arwen tells me as she settles down beside me, “For earlier.”
I do not want to hear it really.
“It upsets me,” I say, “your bickering, and I am not in the best state to deal with it. I certainly wasn’t then.” We do not often disagree, she and I, but I have woken with a headache that creeps slowly on, threatening to turn into an agony. It shortens my temper.
“I know you are not.” She reaches into a small bag I did not notice she carried and brings out a sweet cake. Not just any sweet cake . . . My favourite, topped with strawberries. “Forgive me?” She says with a smile, and how can I not? She knows me so well. My sweet tooth overwhelms my cantankerousness.
“I do not like to see you at odds,” I tell her, for I cannot give in too easily. “And it is not good at the moment for you to be so.” In truth I do not think I have ever seen them argue with such bitterness before.
“Estel lets his anger at what has happened to you affect Eldarion and I will not have that,” she says defiantly.
“But Eldarion is at the centre of it. You can not deny that.”
“I can deny he had any idea his actions would lead us here. I can deny he is anything but a victim in this, as you are.”
“But perhaps he should
have had some idea. Aragorn warned him.” I am not sure why I argue Aragorn’s side in this but I feel I must.
“He needs his father and Estel has abandoned him!”
“Because he must be King
I do understand this, as she obviously does not . . . Or does not want to. I have been there myself, in Eldarion’s shoes, when circumstances have meant my Father had to treat me as his subject and not as his son. It was difficult—for him and for me—but it is just the way things must be when you are a king.
I wonder why Arwen does not know this? Surely Elrond must have had reason to choose what was best for Imladris rather than his children at some point? I must ask Elrohir . . . See what he says about it.
I remember then something Aragorn said in the midst of their argument that made no sense to me.
“Aragorn said you asked for Eldarion to visit the Dúnedain. I did not know that.”
“Yes,” she says, “but he will not allow it. I have argued long and hard for that.”
I do not understand that.
“But they are where his heart lies. If he could choose for himself, a Ranger he would have stayed all his life. Why does he not want that for Eldarion?”
“Has he told you of that time?” She asks, “when he first went to them or do you just know the stories everyone tells?
I want to say yes, of course he has told me
, but when I stop to think on it more carefully I wonder . . . Has he?
“He was young. He discovered he was not who he thought he was. Things were tense between him and my father. It was hard for him initially with the Dúnedain. He did not want the heritage that had been dropped upon him. Oh he loves them now. You are right, he would chose the life of a Ranger now if he could . . . But when he was Eldarion’s age? It was difficult. He had no father of his own and was separated from the only family he knew at Imladris. He does not want that for Eldarion. He does not want him adrift without father and family at the same age. If he could go with him to the Dúnedain himself . . . But of course he cannot.”
It makes some sense, but only a little. It is not the usual careful considered reasoning I would expect from Aragorn. But then, for all we are close I am realising he has never spoken to me of that time. It is obviously a dark period of his life. I know all about those and how they can make logical thinking difficult.
“So knowing this,” I tell her, “still you argue for it. Why?”
“Eldarion feels lost.” She sighs. “I think it would help him to know more about them. To understand his heritage. To discover who he is.”
And there it is. She has offered it to me on a plate. A chance to discuss what I promised myself I would after my last argument with Eldarion. What I spent my day at the stables pondering on.
“Do you really want him to discover who he is . . . Or to forget it?”
“What do you mean?” She stares at me as if I speak in riddles but I know she understands me.
I mean the Dúnedain are not who Eldarion is, as much as you might wish it.”
“Of course they are! They are his heritage, his father was born there, spent long years there. Eldarion is
“Eldarion is elven
Her face drains white in front of my eyes. It is all the recognition I need to know that I am right. She has known all along what I have just discovered.
“He is not.” She gasps. “He is mortal, Legolas. I made my choice and he is mortal because of it.”
“That may be true but in here . . .” I place my hand upon my heart, “He is elven. It is obvious now Arwen, I do not know why I did not see it. His skill with the bow beyond anything I have seen in a Man, the way he finds the song in a piece of wood when he carves, his talent with our horses—”
“So he has many talents, Legolas. Why are you surprised. He is Estel’s son.” Still she denies it.
“He is your
son too. You know this is true. You must do Arwen, you of all people, you will have felt it. I remember that small boy stuck high upon the walls trying to be an elf. He is still inside there somewhere.”
“Stop it!” It is little more than a gasp and too late I see there are tears in her eyes. “Stop it, Legolas. You are right. Does that satisfy you?”
“Not if it upsets you.”
“Of course it upsets me.” She bends her head so her hair hides the tears I now know are there. “I have always known it, since before he was born, since the very moment I first felt his fea. It felt so elven
. And as he has grown . . . I used to hope I was mistaken . . . That things would change . . . But it has not.”
“So you want to send him to the Dúnedain in the hope it will wipe clean his elvenness and magically awake that part of him that is Man? It will not work, Arwen.”
“My brother always returned from his rides with them feeling to me as if he was more Man, less elf.” She sticks her chin out with determination. She refuses to be wrong in this.
“Elrohir? His blood lends to Man as Eldarion’s lends to elf. You know they are not the same. Left to himself, with no me . . . Or you . . . Or Elladan, Elrohir would choose mortality. The Dúnedain called to what was already there. You would be better to send Eldarion to Imladris
if you wish him to find himself!”
“That is the last thing I want to do!” She cries. “He is mortal. He cannot be doomed to be elven trapped within mortality. I must find a way to reach his mortal blood or he will never find happiness.”
“Does Aragorn know this? Have you discussed it?”
“No.” I have never known her to be this upset in all the years I have known her. “Estel cannot feel his fea. He does not know. It would cause him pain.”
It seems I have unwittingly unearthed a whole heap of trouble.
“Have you spoken to Eldarion?”
“No.” She shakes her head, “I am afraid of what he will tell me. I am afraid he will hate me. My choice is what doomed him.”
And I tell her then what I told him.
“If you had chosen differently there would be no Eldarion. This is not your fault, Arwen. It is the fault of the Valar who forced your choice upon you. Why did Elrond’s choice not end it as Elros’ did? Why did anyone have to choose at all? Why could you not all have been left to live your lives as your own blood told you?”
“I have asked that often myself,” she sighs.
I feel sorry for her. It is not fair . . . Any of this. It is cruel to the extreme and always has been.
“Elrohir will live with a choice different to the call of his blood,” I say in the end, “He will sail to Valinor when he would rather remain in Arda, but he will be happy. I will make it so! If he can survive it so can Eldarion. If you would just acknowledge it . . . Talk to him. Ask him what it is like to be him, we can find a way to make this right.”
I do truly believe it.
“So he is mortal . . . He can still be elven. He can still embrace that, Arwen.”
The headache that has been creeping up on me since I awoke has reached a crescendo with all this talk. It pounds a melancholy rhythm inside my head and I cannot help but wince. Of course Arwen sees.
“You do not feel well.” It is a statement, not a question. “Your head hurts.”
“Did you help yourself to that? How many times must I tell you to stay out of my head?” She knows it annoys me yet she can never resist it.
“It is obvious, Legolas. I do not have to help myself to anything when it is written on your face.” She picks up the traitorous vial beside my bed. “You need some of this I think.”
“No. It will make me sleep and at the moment we are talking. This is important, Arwen and we have solved nothing.”
But she will not take no for an answer. How Aragorn survives her stubbornness I do not know.
“Estel wishes you to rest,” she says as she carefully measures out a cupful of the bitter medicine. “He is worried by the way you reacted to this injury. He thinks it needs careful nurturing.”
“He over-reacts as always.”
My protests get me nowhere.
“I agree with him. Do not be foolish, Legolas.”
“You use my injury to avoid this discussion and you cannot afford to Arwen. Look at what is happening to Eldarion, how confused this is making him . . . Where have you been? Your fear of acknowledging this does not mean it all goes away. It means you abandon him when he needs you. See how hard he is pushing the elves away to try and run from himself and be who you want him to be.”
“I promise you I will think on this further, Legolas. I promise you we will revisit it, but I will not compromise your health to do so. What damage would that
do to Eldarion? Estel is already worried how this will go for him. We need you well.”
“Speak to Aragorn. Promise me that.”
She holds out the cup, her face stern. She looks as she does when she tries to wrangle her small wild daughter into toeing the line.
“I will not promise you that. He is overburdened as it is. This will devastate him. He still carries guilt about my choice and the effect that has had on my family. To know Eldarion is affected too . . . I will not, Legolas. Not at the moment when he has so much to handle. And I will not make things worse between him and Eldarion by risking you
. Do as you are told. The best thing you can do for the both of them is rest and recover.”
It is true my head hurts. It is true it is becoming difficult to organise my thoughts into any sense, but this is important and everyone . . . All of us . . . Have failed this boy in our blindness.
I remember him standing there looking at me in horror, before my captors saw him. He looked so young. The child he was, rather than the man he will be. He reminded me of myself when I first went south as a warrior, too young, underprepared, not as mature as my family believed me to be . . . And that all ended in tragedy too.
“He is not as grown as you think.” I tell Arwen and she frowns, head tilted in confusion. Too late I realise that made no sense to her. My thoughts have taken a different path and she struggles to catch up. “Eldarion . . .” I explain, “He is young yet.”
“No Estel is right. He is a man and I simply cling to the boy I once had. I must let him go.” She places the cup in my hand and lifts it to my mouth. “Your sense begins to abandon you, Legolas,” she smiles.
I give in. I drink it. Arwen always wins in the end which is why Aragorn so often uses her to bend my will when he cannot. But I have to share my thoughts on this now I have had them.
“I still see a boy inside the man everyone else sees. A nearly there boy who, because everyone thinks he should now be grown, is lost and confused. I know what that is like Arwen. I have been there and it lost me one I loved, destroyed my family. Yes as a mortal Eldarion should be the man you all think you see but what if his Elven soul lags behind? What if he just needs time . . . More time to grow?”
Her eyes are wide. Her hand, which holds the cup, begins to shake
“You mean he matures at an elven pace?” Her hand flies to her mouth in shock.
“A mix,” I say, “not as slow as that obviously, but slower than his height, his physical maturity, would suggest?”
“Why have I not thought of this?” She cries.
“Because He is unique?”
“Then we hold him to an unfair standard and I should tell Estel.”
tell him. This knowledge may help Eldarion when he answers to the Lords. It may be the key Aragorn needs to defend him.
But telling him this means telling him the rest of it and she is right . . . That will hurt him.
It will all be his fault. Aragorn is good at that . . . At claiming responsibility for us all and drowning himself in guilt.
He will add his son to the list of people his love has damaged.
I do not envy Arwen her choices now.
It is Erynion who gets me out of the Healing Halls.
He arrives anxious and agitated, at least until he realises I am, to all intents and purposes, intact. Then—as expected—I am on the end of a tongue lashing. It is as if he thinks he must stand in for my Father in his absence.
“You are a fool, Legolas! Why must you do these things?”
He is right of course but I cannot tell him that.
“Why must I check on my horse? Why must I go for a stroll through the streets of one of our allies? Why must I trust the people in a city I have helped save? Which of these things offends you, Erynion?”
“Why must you ignore the advise of your Liege Lord .... your friend
. . . And the captain of his guard to go out alone and unarmed? Why can you not listen
? You nearly suffered serious harm! And let’s not add how Maewen will murder the both of us when she finds out I have kept this from her! I have no idea what I will do about that. You
she will cosset and fuss over, me
she will slaughter.”
“She will slaughter me as well,” I sigh. He knows it is true. We are both in trouble for this.
He does not ask me why I allowed myself to be so badly distracted. Why I let the breeze capture me. He focuses only on my decision to be on the streets alone.
He is too good a friend to draw my attention to the similarity of this incident to the other times distraction has led me towards tragedy. And he does not have to; I know it anyway.
“I thought they overstated things,” I tell him, “Aragorn and Daegal, as Aragorn is want to do sometimes, you know that. I did not expect I would end up tied and bound in Minas Tirith.”
Images of how that felt flit through my mind. The pain as my shoulders were yanked back in their sockets, the tearing of the rope at my wrists as I twisted against it, my powerlessness. Subconsciously I rub at my wrists. The gash on my forehead may have nearly healed, the bruises are fading, but the rope burns on my forearms stubbornly remain.
Erynion stops me. He reaches out and catches my hands between his own.
“How are you?” He asks.
“Well enough. Apart from the endless fatigue and annoying headaches I recover well.”
But he shakes his head and repeats his question.
It is pointless trying to evade Erynion. He knows me too well.
“It was a horrible feeling,” I admit, “being caught amongst those who meant me harm, unable to defend myself. It haunts me. I cannot rid myself of it. Their faces invade my dreams no matter how I try to steer myself towards more pleasant dream paths . . . And I feel trapped here which does not help. The stone is oppressive. I cannot feel the wind in my hair, I cannot see much of the outside world. It is a prison . . . I know Aragorn worries, I know he means well keeping me here . . But I must constantly distract myself from the reality of being held here.”
Erynion looks down at my hands held between his, brushing his fingers across the burns that show starkly on my skin.
“These do not heal,” He says, “and that is not good. Has Elessar said anything on that?”
“He mutters darkly and shakes his head.” I laugh, trying to lighten the mood, trying to change the subject. I have said as much as I wish about this. “As he often does when he has to deal with me.”
“I will talk to him.” Erynion sits back determinedly. “I will try and move you to more elven surroundings which may feel freer. Leave it with me.”
He is true to his word. When Aragorn arrives later he brings me news he will release me.
“I will move you to your room,” He says as he bends over me carefully removing his tiny stitches from my forehead. “Erynion has convinced me it is the best place for you and he is probably right, but Legolas, I need your word you will stay there.”
“I am safe to wander around the palace surely?” I protest.
“I do not
want that. I do not know who these attackers were. I do not know where they are. I want you to rest
. I know it annoys you. I know you feel you are recovering but rest is important even for an elf. It is the only weapon we have for those with trauma to the head.”
“I hate the stone. I hate feeling imprisoned within it. I hate it Aragorn.”
He sighs as he sits back, his work completed.
“I know you do. You can go to Arwen’s garden . . . With her, or Erynion, or Faramir, but not by yourself. It is the best I can do, Legolas.”
He looks miserable and tired and I do not have the heart to argue with him any further.
“Arwen sends you a message.” He holds out a small envelope to me, “She is busy with the children today but apparently this is urgent. She was most secretive.”
I turn it over in my hands. How strange . . . What is she about? Briefly it diverts me from the frustration of being restricted to my room.
Aragorn stands with a sad smile upon his tired face.
“Do not ask me what she is up to for I do not know. I am not her favourite person.”
So she has not listened to me that well then, with regards to him.
“I tried to tell her.” I say, “I tried to explain the problem with Kings and Fathers and how sometimes they do not mix. I am surprised she has not experienced it with Elrond herself.”
“Elrond was not a King.” He sighs, “He had advisors to help him not Lords he had to manage. Gil-Galad would have known better my problems, managing difficult elven factions—” He stops himself abruptly. “I did not mean Oropher. Forgive me that.” He says quickly.
Aragorn has learned long ago mentions of my grandfather and the Last Alliance do not go well with me—not from the Noldor anyway. But I am not in the mood to pick up on that now. Had I been more energetic, and had he not been so burdened I would have, but not today.
“Forgot it,” I wave his apology away. “I did not even think of that. I know what you mean.”
“She thinks I fail my son as a father. She is right of course. How else did we end up in this situation? Perhaps it is because I did not have my own father I struggle being one myself?” His shoulders slump and an uncharacteristic frisson of annoyance with Arwen runs through me. This is as much her fault as Aragorn’s. It is she who has known of her son’s elvenness and avoided it out of fear.
“Speaking as a son who has a father; a good one, who is also a King, I say you do a fine job. No-one is perfect Aragorn. My father has made mistakes . . . Do not make me bring up Laerion.”
“I would not—”
I cut him off before we fall any deeper into discussion of my lost brother.
“You navigate a course across the minefield Eldarion has placed himself in. It is delicate and I can see that, even if Arwen does not. Eldarion will see it too when he is grown and wiser. I promise you.”
“And if he does not?”
. As the son of a King I promise you that. When he can see the bigger picture he will.”
I open the envelope from Arwen the moment he has left, as I wait for Erynion to return. A note falls out into my lap with only a few lines in her neat handwriting.
Her father is a cobbler. She is his only daughter,
it says. Her mother died some years ago. A hard-working family who have little. All the healers speak highly of her and she shows much promise. An entirely suitable friend for you, Legolas.
So she has done her research about Rhíwiel as she promised. An entirely suitable friend for me . . . But will she think her suitable for Eldarion? I would have said yes . . . But something about the tone of these words tells me it will not be that easy.
It is such a relief when I finally walk back into my room.
Erynion and Daegal escort me. Daegal will not take no for an answer when I try to send him away insisting we are quite capable of walking from the Healing Halls to the palace without supervision, though I must say, I do walk quickly, my heart does beat more rapidly, as we walk past men I do not know.
I hate that feeling.
The windows of my room are open so the breeze can swirl around me. It lifts my heart when I feel it brush against my fea. There is greenery in every corner hiding that chilling oppressive stone. I feel a weight off my chest simply being here. The fire has been lit for us and a small table laid with food. When I see the strawberry cakes I know that it is Arwen who has been here.
Finally I can breathe.
“Better?” Erynion grins at me across the table as we sit in front of the fire having gorged ourselves on sweet cakes.
“Better. I cannot tell you how much better. I feel myself again!”
“Anytime I can be of use explaining the silvan psyche to your strange mortal friends you know where I am,” he laughs.
“Aragorn knows well the silvan psyche. He simply forgets it amongst the rest of his burdens, but thank you for reminding him.”
Erynion is suddenly serious then.
“And what of Eldarion? He has placed himself and Elessar in a difficult position but what of he and us? Aligning himself with someone who wishes us gone from Ithilien? What does that mean for our future? What has happened to cause this anti-elven sentiment from him?”
I hesitate. What do I tell him? Judging by our conversation earlier, Arwen obviously has not yet discussed Eldarion’s elven nature with Aragorn. Should I be raising it with Erynion when Aragorn does not even know?
“Legolas?” I blink as he repeats my name. I have taken too long to think. In the end I take the cowards way out and play on that.
“Sorry, my focus drifts. It has been a long day. Where were we?”
In truth it has
been a long day and I am beginning to struggle but that is not why I do not answer him. I simply do not want to.
Still it works this time.
“Forgive me!” He is instantly on his feet. “I promised Aragorn you would rest. You should lie down, some sleep perhaps?”
“Here is well enough.” I do not wish to move from the chair in front of the fire and I feel guilty for misleading him. His questions are all very valid ones.
Erynion frowns, but luckily for me, before he can force me into bed and annoy me with his cosseting something out of the window diverts him.
“Something happens!” He cries,
“What?” I am instantly curious. Despite my tiredness I cannot help myself.
“They escort someone in to the palace.” He leans out to get a better view and I haul myself up to join him, pushing aside the dizziness that suggests, yes; I should be lying down.
“Do you know who that is, Legolas?” He asks as I join him by the window to look down on the street.
There is a procession there. A multitude of guards it seems, and I see Daegal at their head, leading his men forward. But it is not he Erynion refers to.
There . . . In the midst of them . . .head high and defiant;
is Lord Arderthron.
“What goes on?” I ask impatiently the moment Erynion steps foot in the room. I am stuck here and I hate it. I should be doing something . . . Anything to help Aragorn sort this mess out.
But Erynion only shrugs.
“Nothing,” he says, “as far as I know anyway.”
“Have you not seen Lord Arderthron? Has Faramir not said anything? Aragorn?”
“I have seen no-one. Faramir is in a meeting with that snake of a Lord. Elessar spoke with him last night but you know that already.”
I know it only by rumour. It was Rhíwiel that told me. She seems to have drifted across to the palace as my surrogate healer. Arwen had ordered it, she says, to “keep me settled
The problem with being here back in my room, out of the Healing Halls, with Erynion to watch me, is that of Aragorn I have seen nothing at all. It is so frustrating not knowing what goes on out there in the palace corridors.
“Be patient, Legolas,” Erynion sighs as he folds himself up into the chair beside me. “Elessar or Faramir will tell you what goes on when there is something to say.”
“But I could be helping. I could defend Eldarion. You know Arderthron will be spinning a web of lies to ensnare him.”
“Do you want
to defend Eldarion?”
“Of course! He is only a boy, Erynion. A boy I love.”
But Erynion’s face clouds over.
“A boy you love who may not love you. I did not like the story Elessar had to tell Faramir and I yesterday. He did not paint Eldarion in a good light . . . And he is his own son.”
“He does love me.” I will not listen to anyone who says otherwise.
“You want that to be true, Legolas, but is it? Where is he? Have you seen him?”
I have not seen him. Yet Rhíwiel who spends most of her time speaking of him has told me how sorry he is, how miserable, how many regrets he has.
“He got me out of there, Erynion. That has to count for something. He was on his own, he stood up to them, and he found me help.”
It does not convince him, I can tell. His face is stern and disapproving. Erynion is always right about things. I do not want him to be right about this.
He does not know, of course, what I do about Eldarion and nor does Aragorn.
Perhaps I should not wait for Arwen? Perhaps I should tell Aragorn myself. It seems a trespass upon their relationship. I understand her worries about his present burdens and she is right—this will
hurt him. It will disrupt him further . . . But he needs to know.
I do not know what to do.
As I think on it—the tangled mess where no option seems right and my mind is twisted in knots—my frustration at my inertia spills over.
“I need to get out of here.” I leap to my feet and begin to pace. “Take me to the gardens, Erynion, since I am not trusted enough to take myself!”
“It is not about how trusted you are at all, Legolas and you know it.” He sighs, “but if it will calm you down I will take you.”
The guard outside my door steps in front of it when it opens and blocks the way. Not for the first time I feel as if I
am the prisoner.
“We walk to the gardens,” Erynion says to him before I can unleash my annoyance, “His Lord Elessar has given agreement to that.”
He nods his head and steps aside but as we make our way down the corridor I realise he trails behind.
“Will they not let us alone!” I cry. “Seriously, does he have
to follow us?”
“Yes.” Erynion is short, to the point, and annoyed with me. It is nothing new, he often is.
“He does not! I am with you. Is that not enough? Aragorn may as well throw me in a cell.”
“You are not in a cell, Legolas, when we can stroll to the gardens. I am sick of your complaining. I know it is frustrating. I know you burn to be more useful and you do not deal well with being trapped between four walls but you need to swallow it down and deal with this. It is what it needs to be.”
“Aragorn over-reacts. This is ridiculous!”
“What would you do if you were in his position?” Erynion snaps back. “Imagine he
had been attacked in Ithilien, in our settlement. Imagine that, Legolas.”
“That would never happen!”
“It is extremely unlikely but what if it did. How would you feel? How would you protect him? I have spoken with Elessar about these restrictions on your movement and he has convinced me they are necessary. Stop thinking about yourself, Legolas and imagine what it is to be him.” Once again Erynion decides to channel my father. The glare on his face as he lectures me could be from Thranduil himself.
And he is right. Were our positions reversed I would keep Aragorn so close and safe he would barely have room to breathe until I knew those responsible were under guard.
I do not answer Erynion. What can I say?
He takes my silence as an admission of guilt. He knows me well enough to do that. He knows me better than anyone.
Walking in to those gardens it is as if they shine a light upon my soul. I run . . . As far as I can run at all. I throw myself on the ground and tilt my face to the sky, letting the sun warm me. I trail my fingers across the bark of the tree next to me and listen to its stories. If Aragorn is determined to guard me perhaps I can convince him to move all those guards to the gardens and let me sleep here?
Who am I kidding. He will not do that.
Erynion is still angry with me. He retreats to the branches. I know he is there. I know he is ever watchful, but I cannot see him.
If I close my eyes I can imagine I am on my own.
I feel Elrohir before I see him.
Elrohir is fire.
He burns so brightly he can blind me. He sears through my sealonging and turns it to dust.
Today he is an inferno.
I open my eyes and pull myself up to sit just in time to see him stride into the gardens, almost knocking the poor guard, who could not sense him as I did—out of his way.
And then he is in front of me.
I have a quip ready on the tip of my tongue, something light-hearted to express the joy which spills over at the sight of him, but he gives me no chance. His intensity drowns me.
He says nothing— even my name—before his arms are around me and I am held tight.
In the end I must protest.
“Elrohir, I am a fragile wood-elf. Your half-elven strength crushes the breath out of me.”
And he holds me back to look at me, lifting a hand to trace the fresh scar that runs across my forehead.
“What have they done to you?”
“Do you think it sets off my eyes?” I ask him with a smile but he does not smile back.
“It tears at my heart,” is all he says.
“You got Aragorn’s letter then?” I try my best to lighten him, to prise out a smile from that ferocious face. “What did he tell you that you arrive looking so fierce? You know he exaggerates appallingly.”
“I got no letter from my brother
. I knew nothing until we arrived here and Daegal told us at the Gate for he assumed I had heard also.”
So that is why the passionate fierceness and anger. This whole mess has been dumped upon him moments ago. No time for Elladan to work his magic and soothe the rough edges—and the way he speaks of Aragorn suggests any meeting between them may have been beyond unpleasant. Perhaps, for Aragorn’s sake, he came straight to me?
“Have you seen Aragorn? Has he explained things?” I have to know.
“I have seen him. Did he explain things? No. Did he have anything reasonable to say at all? No
So that did not go well then.
“I am well, Elrohir.” What else is there I can say? “Look at me. I am on my feet and I am well.”
There is the softest of thuds upon the grass behind me as Erynion drops to the ground.
“Elrohir.” He nods his head in acknowledgement. “It is good to see you. Legolas could do with your company.”
“And he has it, always.”
“I will go.” Erynion turns to me then. “I will leave you alone but stay with Elrohir.” Does he have to speak to me as if I was a child? “He is to have someone with him at all times. The law according to Elessar,” he tells Elrohir. “And only here or in his room.”
“A shame Estel could not have more control earlier.” Elrohir’s voice makes me wince on Aragorn’s behalf. I take his hands between mine as Erynion leaves us and hold them tight. I can not think what else to do but remind him I have survived this. It was unpleasant but I have survived.
“Do not blame Aragorn,” I say. “He warned me there was trouble and the streets were not safe. I ignored him. I was upset with Eldarion and I went out regardless. I did not think. I assumed Aragorn overstated the danger. This is on me
“It is not on you! You should be safe. You should be able to walk where you wish, when you wish. What kind of city does Estel build here?”
Elrohir loves this city. It calls to his heart and he loves every inch of it. He shines as he walks through its streets. I know it must hurt him to see it twisted the way it has . . . To see it’s people hate a part of him
“And as for Eldarion!” He cries.
Elrohir loves Eldarion also, with all his heart. They were not always as close as they are now. Once Elrohir held himself apart. He has seen so many boys grow and die, Eldarion was one boy too far. But he reached out to him in the end, though it took courage, and they are inseparable now when he is here. Oh this will hurt him.
“He is but a child, Elrohir. Just a boy.”
“He is not
a boy, Legolas. Estel said as much when he spoke to us. He made no excuses for him.”
“He is confused—”
“Do not you
excuses for him, Legolas!” He repeats then, what Erynion has just finished telling me. “I know you love him but you make yourself blind to the fact he has turned against you.”
“He has not! He saved me Elrohir.”
“The fact he did not wish to see you beaten to a pulp does not erase everything he has said and done.”
This is not what I want, this anger from him. It is not what I need. I want his light. I want the calmness he brings me. The way he takes my jumbled thoughts and makes sense of them.
“Stop it,” I tell him. “Stop it Elrohir. I know you are angry . . . As I was, as Erynion is, and Aragorn. But I am tired. My head hurts, words elude me, my thoughts dance around like fireflies, it is not easy. I need
you. Please . . .”
He scoops me up at that and instantly I am bathed in his brightness. He is the barrier against the chaos my mind so often is. My sanctuary.
“Sorry,” he whispers into my hair as he holds me, “You are right. You have me. You do.”
It is such a relief.
And I relax too much.
“What did Eldarion say,” he murmurs, “that so upset you it sent you into the streets?”
“That we corrupt him . . . All of them . . . Aragorn too . . . Foolish child. None of the people know of us anyway.” I mumble it into his shoulder.
I should not have told him that.
And he is gone. That all encompassing warmth is gone. I am cold and on my own.
“He said what? We corrupt
them? He said that to you?”
“Elrohir, it does not matter.”
“Elrohir . . .” I reach up to touch him, to cradle his cheek with my hand, to calm his soul, but that is a mistake also for as I do my sleeve drops tback leaving the burn at my wrist for all to see.
He does not miss it.
“What is this?” He clasps his hand around my arm, his thumb brushing across the burn. “What is this, Legolas?”
“Nothing.” I do not want him to see this . . .not now.
“They bound you.” Quickly he takes hold of my other arm. He pushes the sleeve back and there it is. The telltale matching burn. He takes my arms and holds them side by side, the way they were when they were lashed with rope.
“They tied and bound you.” His voice is stripped raw.
“How else would they hold me still enough to hurt me?” There is no point in denying what sits plainly before his eyes.
And he pulls his hands back as if I have burned him.
“I need to speak with Eldarion. Where is he?”
“No, Elrohir. You do not need to speak with him. Leave it.” I do not want this raw and volatile Elrohir anywhere near Eldarion. For both their sakes.
“I will speak with him!”
“You will not.” It is too late. Already he turns away from me, striding across the garden to torment the terrified guard.
“Where is Prince Eldarion?” He snaps at him.
The man’s face drains white but to give him his due he does not move.
“The library, my lord.”
“Elrohir, no!” I grab at his arm but he shoves me aside and is gone. I am left with the guard blocking my way so I cannot follow. “Let me through!” I cry but he will not and when I attempt to push past as I easily can he grabs my arm.
“You are not to roam the palace unaccompanied, my lord. The Kings orders.”
“I am not unaccompanied. He would be with me! Elrohir!”
“He is not here, my lord.” The guard is right. Elrohir has disappeared around the corner of the corridor and is gone.
I could run. Even injured I am faster and stronger than he, but is it worth it? He would have an army on me in a second. Something about the way his hand grips my arm makes me queasy. I do not fancy being the target of a horde of men.
But I cannot leave Elrohir to confront Eldarion either.
I have only one choice then if the guard does not let me go.
“Take me to the King.” I tell him. “Now; as quickly as you can. If you feel unable to let me walk the corridors on my own, then take me to Aragorn.”
No-one ever comes into the library. Not the archives where I am in exile at least. I sit by myself, out of sight of everyone, especially my father, and write.
I cannot say sorry enough. No-one believes me so I try to make my amends by doing the tasks set to me diligently. The scribes deposit the books beside me, I read them, and I write.
It is tedious and lonely.
But it is still preferable to life outside the library.
Outside everything is miserable. Outside everyone despises me. Outside every time my father sees me he sighs.
He and my mother argue like I have never seen before on top of it all and it ties me into knots; every bitter word. It is all my fault. All of it.
They will not let me see Legolas.
I have asked. I have even gone as far as the door to his room but the guards turn me away on Father’s orders. And they all look at me as if I have crawled out of the gutter even though they still call me Prince. They probably wish they did not have to.
I am alone . . . Or almost.
I still have Rhíwiel and she is all I have.
I have no idea how she flits around the palace full of guards to see me but she does. Perhaps she is so inconsequential they do not notice her? But she is not inconsequential to me.
The first time I heard her gentle knock on my door it surprised me, so much so I left her standing awkwardly for far too long as I stared at her.
“Can I come in Eldarion?” She prompted in the end.
“Of course, of course, come in.” I was so taken aback that anyone might come to visit me.
“I thought you might need to know of Legolas. They have assigned me to him. I thought . . . It might help you to know . . .” Her smile was a tentative one and I remembered then the way I treated her in the Healing Halls, how I pushed her concern away. Perhaps she wondered as to her welcome here, yet still she came.
“Thank you,” I said it softly, gently, and how much I meant it. I desperately wanted to know of Legolas, more than anything.
“He is awake,” she said as she sat herself down and gestured me to sit next to her. “He talks to me about Ithilien though he stumbles over words but the Queen—your mother—she says we should not worry about that, that his language will return. He can roll bandages like you wouldn’t believe, Eldarion! And did you know the Lady of Ithilien, she was a villager once? Her father was a forester!”
She made me laugh with her excited enthusiasm. She was a bright light shining through my darkness and I could not for the life of me imagine why Legolas was rolling bandages.
“Did he say anything about me?”
“He asked how I knew you, and what I thought of you. I told him you were sorry. I told him you had made a mistake and regretted it for I knew you would.”
How did she know that? I would not have blamed her if she thought me not sorry at all.
The arm she placed around my shoulders then was hesitant but so very welcome for suddenly l felt not quite so alone.
“It will be alright, Eldarion. You father works to fix this for you.”
“My father hates me.”
“That is not true.” She leaned against me, placed her head upon my shoulder, it warmed my heart. I felt I would protect her . . . I would protect her against all the world. “He does not hate you, he loves you.”
And I wished I could believe that as fervently as she did. I wished it were true.
Father brought Faramir to see me the next day. He arrived at my door stern and disapproving . . . and tired . . . I was surprised to see weary he looked.
“Tell Faramir everything you told me, Eldarion,” he said. “More if you can remember it, but be truthful. Do not elaborate. It is important Faramir knows what is said on your behalf is the truth.”
Why would he think I would lie?
I was upset when he turned to go before Faramir had even begun to speak.
“Will you not stay, Father?” I asked him in the vague hope he would want to.
“I cannot, Eldarion. Do not ask me to.” He snapped back and it stung. “Faramir must do this without my influence.”
But I needed him to stay. Did he not see that?
Faramir was soft and kind as he talked to me, as he always is but I could not shake the thought he was ashamed of me. I told him everything, just as I had my father and it was precious little. He shook his head when I finished.
“You need to tell me more, Eldarion.”
“There is no more!”
“There is more. Every conversation you had with Lord Arderthron. What did he discuss with you? What did he say? Is there any suggestion... anything that could signify he knew of this before it happened? How did he win your trust? I need to know the content of all your conversations.”
“I cannot remember all our conversations,” I cried. “I do not know what we spoke of. We were friends. He was a friend.”
“And that is where you are wrong, Eldarion.” Faramir folded his arms and glared at me sternly. “He was not your friend. He never was. This is serious and I do not believe you realise how serious. Know this: Lord Arderthron will arrive here and he will attempt to paint you as a guilty party. I know this man. He is untrustworthy and devious. He will not let the truth get in the way of saving his skin. He will suggest the attack on Legolas was your doing.”
“But it was not!”
“And unless you tell me every small detail of your discussions I have no way of knowing that. Start again!”
He frightened me.
We talked for hours, and hours, and then more, until my thoughts were a jumble of nonsense. And even then I do not think Faramir was happy with what I told him.
It is all too horrible for words, so now, no matter how lonely it is, I am happier sitting here in the library than I am outside in the palace corridors.
The archives are quiet, peaceful and calm, so the slam of the door as it swings back against the wall is a shock that makes me jump out of my skin.
Everything moves so fast then. I turn but before I can even open my mouth my uncle has me by the collar and I am slammed against the wall. It hurts. The side of my head cracks against the shelf beside me and I see stars.
He holds me so tight I cannot breathe. The stones press into my back like ice.
“Do you know what you have done?” he roars and I can only blink. “Have you seen the burns upon his wrists? Have you seen them, Eldarion?”
I do not have enough air to even answer him. I try but the words pile up in my throat. Legolas still has those burns? That is not right.
“Do you know they are burned on to his very fea? Do you care?”
Elrohir pushes me hard . . . Even harder . . .against the wall.
“I care.” I splutter it. It is barely a whisper, but I want him to know it.
He pulls me up so my feet barely touch the floor. The wall behind me and Elrohir’s hand take all my weight, and he leans down to spit cutting words into my face.
“You believe we corrupt you?”
Legolas has told him that? It horrifies me.
“So Legolas is lying?” Each words is like a knife.
I have never been so frightened in all my life. Even facing the men who had Legolas was not as terrifying as this.
“Let him go!”
It is a voice of power from behind him. A voice come to save me. A voice no one would dare disobey. The voice of a king. My Father.
“Let go of my son, Elrohir. Now!”
But Elrohir does not let go. He does not even turn around.
“Do you even know what he has done?” He snaps.
“Of course I know. Let go of my child. Do you think Legolas would applaud you for this?”
My father’s words are cold as ice.
And Elrohir lets me go.
The air rushes into my lungs in a gasp and I fall. My legs cease to function; they do not hold me up. Suddenly, in an instant, I am sitting on the ground.
And Elrohir’s rage rains upon my Father.
“You would defend him? After this? After all the damage Legolas has suffered you would defend one who rained even more on him?”
“I would defend my son, Elrohir. Do not ask me to do otherwise. You are angry? So am I. Why not take your anger out on someone who can deal with it, someone who might fight back. Here I am. Throw me against the wall. It would be a pleasure to be able to retaliate!” He throws his arms out as if he dares Elrohir to attack him and I squeeze my eyes shut. I cannot watch. My Father is strong but Elrohir is the stronger.
All is silent but for Elrohir’s breathing, the sound of his rage. It is a silence that stretches out interminably, and then—
“I do not want to hurt you, Estel.”
Elrohir has backed down. He has moved away.
“You already have. You hurt me when you hurt my child.” Father pushes past him to get to me. Elrohir’s fury may have ebbed but Father’s is burning hot. He turns and throws it at him.
“Why are you here? Go to Legolas, who is in my study alone, so agitated he can barely string two words together to warn me of your lack of control. I called you here because he needed you. I told you he was in pieces. This is how you treat him? Do not rage at Eldarion for the harm he has done when you do your fair share yourself!”
And Elrohir stumbles,
“Estel—” But Father will not hear it. He turns his back on him, kneeling beside me.
“Go.” He says. “I wanted help, I needed advice and guidance, and yet you make things worse. Just go.”
I can see over my fathers shoulder, Elrohir looking down on us. His face is inscrutable. I cannot read it. I do not know if it is pity, or anger, disdain or sorrow.
There are tears on my cheeks. Is it that look of Elrohir’s or the fact my father touches my face with care that starts them?
Either way, I hate myself for it.
Sitting here on the cobblestones, crying like a baby, I am little more than a child.
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