It was late in the day and the setting sun bathed the scenery in shades of red and gold. Elrond, the Lord of Imladris, stood at the stairs that led to the courtyard. Next to him, Glorfindel shifted impatiently. It had been a while since the guards had reported the sighting of the awaited visitors and the welcome committee had gathered.
Finally, they heard hoofbeats and a group of fifteen elves came into sight. At the head of the party rode a blond elf. Except for his hair color he wasn't distinguishable from the rest. He was wearing the same green and brown clothing and the same weapons as the other elves.
The group drew closer and finally reached the courtyard. They halted their horses and dismounted.
Their blond leader covered his heart with his hand and bowed his head in respect to Elrond. "Mae govannen, Lord Elrond, Lord Glorfindel. My father sends his greetings."
Elrond greeted Legolas in elven fashion, putting his hand over his heart and extending it. "Welcome to Imladris, my prince. It has been too long since you last visited. I hope your journey was safe."
"Thank you, we had quite an uneventful trip." Legolas took his travel pack from his horse and handed his stallion to a groom.
Elrond's keen healer's eyes didn't miss the fact that the prince favored his right shoulder. The letter he got from Thranduil told him that the king was worried about his son because he had fought the darkness for too long and that he needed a change of location for some time. There had been no mention of an injury. On the other hand, Thranduil wouldn't betray his son's trust, revealing too much to the Lord of Imladris.
Elrond turned to Legolas' escort. "Welcome, warriors of Mirkwood. Glorfindel will show you to your quarters."
Glorfindel inclined his head. "Follow me, please. I'll show you the way."
The Mirkwood elves followed the seneschal, while Elrond turned back to Legolas. "My sons will be delighted to see you. Right now they are out with the Dúnedain but I expect them back in a few days."
Legolas smiled. "I'm looking forward to their return."
"Come, you have your usual chambers, I can imagine that you want to refresh yourself after the journey." Elrond waited for Legolas to join him on the steps then he led the way into the house.
The Lord of Imladris and Legolas made their way to the prince's rooms in the family wing.
Despite being the Prince of Mirkwood, Legolas wore simple clothes and didn't carry any signs of his status when travelling or on patrol. Elrond was well aware of the reason for this. Legolas went on patrols regularly, so if the orcs or the master of Dol Guldur had even the slightest suspicion that the son of the king was available to them, they would set a trap and try to capture him. If he ever was taken by orcs and they found out who he was, their master wouldn't hesitate to use the prince against his father and the kingdom. Legolas would rather die than allow that to happen. So he avoided everything that would give him away to spying eyes. In Imladris he had a suite of rooms that were kept for him and he left several outfits there, a few of them for formal occasions. That way he didn't have to risk carrying any signs of his status in his pack.
Elrond sighed inwardly. The valley of Imladris was well protected, but outside orcs and other creatures of the dark were multiplying, spreading into regions that had been safe before.
He turned to the younger elf. "I ordered a bath to be drawn for you, so you can relax from the journey." Elrond watched as Legolas unstrapped his quiver and put it on a table at the window, hanging his bow on a peg on the wall.
Legolas turned around, facing Elrond. "Hannon le. It was a long journey." He noticed the scrutinizing look the older elf gave him.
Elrond decided to just get to the point. "May I see your shoulder?" He didn't miss the momentary flash of surprise and irritation in Legolas' eyes. "What kind of healer would I be if I wouldn't notice such things?"
"It's nothing, it is nearly completely healed."
The healer raised an eyebrow. "Let me be the judge of that."
For a moment it seemed as if Legolas wanted to refuse, then he relented and took off his tunic and shirt.
Elrond could see the scar, it hadn't faded yet and still looked ugly. Gently, he put his hands on the injury and concentrated. He could feel the places where the bone hadn't mended completely yet. Probing deeper he also felt the damaged tendons which were still healing. He could also sense a deep seated weariness, both of Legolas' body and his fëa. He frowned. The younger elf was exhausted, not only from the travel, there was something more amiss. It seemed as if Legolas had finally given up hope that they would ever prevail against the dangers threatening his home. He understood now why Thranduil had sent his son to Imladris. He also understood how worried the king must be.
"What happened?" Elrond asked softly.
"We were ambushed by orcs and I was hit by an arrow. It broke the shoulder blade."
The healer gently ran his hands over the injury. "The bone and tendons haven't completely healed yet. Does it still hurt?"
"It's just a little stiff. Celairdir already let me start light weapons training again."
"I think a few exercises to increase flexibility will also be useful. Come to me tomorrow and I'll help you with that." The elf lord probed the shoulder one last time, then he removed his hands.
Legolas took his shirt, then he turned around and faced the healer. "Thank you, I'll do that."
Elrond hesitated, considering if he should talk to Legolas about what he had sensed. The younger elf obviously was in dire need of rest and recovery but Elrond knew that the prince was too proud to admit that easily. So he decided to let the matter rest for the moment. He inclined his head. "I'll leave you to your rest now. Your bath is ready and a servant will bring you something to eat. Sleep well."
Legolas gave Elrond a grateful smile. "Thank you again, good night."
After he left Legolas in his rooms to rest, Elrond went to his study, sitting down at his desk.
A knock at the door preceded Glorfindel.
"The warriors are settled," the blond elf reported. "I also sent a bird to Mirkwood to let Thranduil know that they arrived safely."
"Good," Elrond murmured.
Glorfindel sat down opposite his friend, pouring himself a cup of wine. "Thranduil definitely is not taking any chances." At Elrond's questioning look he clarified: "Quite a large group for buying some horses."
Elrond accepted the cup of wine Glorfindel handed to him. "Traveling through the Hithaeglir can prove dangerous. Thranduil would not risk his son's safety."
"Especially if said son is injured," Glorfindel stated.
"You noticed?" Elrond shouldn't be surprised, Glorfindel had sharp eyes and was used to observe closely. He didn't miss much. "It's not fully healed but he would be able to fight, although with difficulty. Thranduil wouldn't let Legolas travel if he wouldn't be able to defend himself."
"What did he tell you?"
Elrond absentmindedly stared at the wine in his cup. "Not much. Just that Legolas needed some time away from Mirkwood. But I could tell that Thranduil is worried and I think he has reason to be. Legolas is weary, Glorfindel. Both in body and spirit. I could feel it as I examined his wound."
"Then it is a good thing that Thranduil had the wisdom to send him to Imladris."
The Lord of Imladris leaned back in his chair. "I hope we will be able to help him. I know he doesn't want pity, but I feel for him and Thranduil. For centuries now the elves of Mirkwood battle against the shadow spreading from Dol Guldur. I don't think his father imagined such a life for Legolas."
"As you didn't imagine for Elladan and Elrohir."
Elrond couldn't hide a pained expression. Several years ago his wife Celebrian had been captured and tortured by orcs on her way home from a visit to Lothlorien. Elladan and Elrohir found her and rescued her but she was severely injured. Elrond managed to heal her physical wounds but her spirit had been damaged and she wasn't able to recover from that. After a while she decided to sail to Valinor to find healing there.
Her sons had taken it badly. For a long time they fell into an abyss of violence and revenge. They started to hunt the orcs down, often venturing out alone, only the two of them. Elrond, who had already been devastated by the loss of his wife, had been deeply worried about his sons and they had often argued. It took a long time for their grief and anger to finally abate enough that they were able to see reason again. Since then, they still went out to hunt orcs, but they were more cautious and often joined the rangers on their operations.
He took a deep breath. The memories were painful. "Aye, I certainly didn't. At least they stopped their solitary trips and set out with the Dúnedain now."
"Thank the Valar for small mercies," Glorfindel muttered.
When he was alone, Legolas made his way to the bathing chamber, looking forward to a hot bath. It had been long days on horseback and his muscles were stiff.
As he neared the steaming bathtub he could smell the herbs that had been added to the water. Obviously his host had seen to his comfort and that his stiff and sore muscles received treatment. The hot water was pure bliss and he felt himself slowly relax. The heat soothed his muscles and for a while he just floated in the water, drifting on the edge of sleep.
Quiet noises and an enticing smell from the adjoining room pulled him back to alertness. Obviously the servant had brought the promised food. He heard soft footsteps retreat and the door to the hall closing.
Reluctantly Legolas left the warm water, toweled himself dry and donned his night clothes. As he entered the bedroom a fire was burning brightly in the hearth, spreading a pleasant warmth. On a table sat a covered tray and as the prince removed the lid, he uncovered steamed vegetables, buttered potatoes and roasted venison. The food smelled heavenly and Legolas felt his mouth water. He sat down at the table and dug in. It tasted delicious and only now did he realize how hungry he had been.
After the meal, he sat in front of the fireplace. He was tired but his mind wouldn't let him rest immediately. He couldn't help but think about his home and feel guilty that he was glad to be away from it all for some time. He also was thankful that Elladan and Elrohir weren't there at the moment. The twins were his friends and he hadn't seen them for several years but he felt that he needed some time to reacquaint himself with Imladris first. He didn't want them to know how troubled he was at the moment.
Finally, with a full stomach and lulled by the warmth of the fire, he felt his exhaustion catching up to him. Wearily he pulled the soft blanket down that covered the bed and slipped between the sheets. He sighed as he stretched out on the bed. The journey to Imladris had been long and even before that he hadn't gotten much rest, keeping himself constantly busy with his duties. Rest was sorely needed but even now it took a while for his mind to stop worrying about his home and to succumb to the needs of his body. Finally he slipped into sleep.
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