The Silvan

nimruzir

Chapter 035

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Chapter thirty-five

Author's notes:

Regarding Idhrenohtar and Ram en Ondo - I have never used their real names, hence they do not come into play, everyone just calls them by their warrior name.

Rita Orca: 'bonding epiphany' - LOL, so funny

Earthdragon: the maturity issue is interesting, although Rinion is certainly more worldly wise than both his brothers, his explosive character can make him seem more immature than he really is. Regarding duty vs. emotional control - this is a central issue in the story. Thranduil marrying one he does not love, the queen consenting to it, Oropher originating the whole thing. Hopefully, my own ideas on this subject will become clear before the end.

Guests: thank you, as always

The Company

Hwindohtar - Hwindo - The Whirling Warrior - Legolas / The Silvan

Dimaethor - Dima - The Silent Warrior - Lainion

Idhrenohtar - The Wise Warrior

Ram en Ondo - Wall of Stone

Rhawthir - Fierce Face - Galdithion

Lindohtar - The Bard Warrior - Carodel

Chapter thirty-five: synergy

Legolas sat together with The Company in one of Elrond's many gardens. It was dormant, the shrubs and flowers mostly asleep and vulnerable - but the trees were not - the trees, although many leafless and apparently absent, Legolas knew it was not so, for the slow trickle of emotions and notions brushed comfortably upon his mind.

"That move was amazing, the one where you swivel and stab back and then under slice to the side - I loved that one," said Rhrawthir enthusiastically.

"Or how about the one Elladan showed us with the sword - the feign to the left with just a light twist of the wrist - amazing!" said Lindohtar.

The Company sat and talked of their training, of the things they had leaned and of how sore their muscles were. Legolas smiled as he only half listened to what they said, for truth be told he was exhausted. He had pushed his body further than he had in a long time, and of his mind - well - his new-found gift, his new-found family, the Qalma Liltie ….

"Legolas!" said Ram en Ondo as he slapped his friend playfully on the arm. "Early night for you then?" he asked with a mischievous grin.

"I wish," he said with a smile. "But it is as you say, Lindo. There is so much to learn, so many new things to practise and hone. I must measure myself better for I am feeling the strain of it," he scowled as he rubbed a sore shoulder.

"I know what you mean," said Idhrenohtar. "My mid-section screams at me every time I move, it is excruciating - like being a novice once more!"

"Elladan says there are hot springs not far from here - he has invited us to go this evening. I thought and thought about it and…"

"Ram en, you oaf - you said yes, of course?" said Rhawthir in mock outrage.

"Well of course I did - Dimaethor will come if he can - but that depends on our prince Handir of course," said Ram en as he settled back against the bark of a tree.

"Aye well - I am off to the shooting field - I have much to improve if I am to take the grade," said Idhrenohtar.

"You are preparing for it then," asked Legolas in surprise.

"Aye - Glorfiindel reckons I could do it before we leave, if I work at it hard enough."

"Then I am already proud, Idhreno. You can do it, I know it," said Legolas with a determined smile, and Idhreno smiled back, nodding a little shyly.

Legolas pondered that for a moment, for Idhreno had never shown that emotion before, not to him and he wondered at it.

Before long, the rest of The Company had complained about diligent trainees and had moved to their respective stations; some to shoot, others to spar, and in the case of Legolas - to sleep!

Some time later, Glorfindel came across the slumbering elf, now slouched against a tree. His long, muscled legs were stretched out before him, arms limp to his sides and his head tipped backwards, mouth slack and eyes glazed.

Glorfindel smiled, before crouching down and shutting Legolas' open mouth with his finger. It was enough to waken the boy, his strange green eyes opening and focussing, so close that Glorfindel could see minute flecks of blue and purple and he startled, pulling back and then scowling.

"Your eyes are alive, Legolas - you should do something about that," he gestured to his own eyes, tucking away his puzzlement, at least for the moment.

"What do you mean?" he asked with a smile and a scowl - "of course they are alive…"

"There is blue and purple in them - have you not noticed?"

The scowl deepened and Glorfindel thought he saw a hint of fear. No, he obviously had not noticed, and he resolved to tell Elrond of it later.

"You are tired," he said.

"Thanks to you, yes. I have much to prove to you if you are to take me as your apprentice," he said and Glorfindel watched him as he sat up slowly with a wince.

"Don't push it too far, Legolas. You have been injured recently, and Elrond would skin me if he knew how much you are training."

"You won't tell him?" asked Legolas worriedly.

"No," smiled Glorfindel. I won't tell him but heed me, child - don't get cocky.

Legolas snorted at that and then crossed his legs before him.

"Glorfindel - I hope you don't mind, but there is a question I would ask you."

"Go on, I am listening," he said, watching his student as he settled himself and organised his thoughts.

"I have known Idhrenohtar and Ram en Ondo since I have memory of the world - brothers in every way except blood. We grew together, played together, trained together - until now, seven hundred years later - we find ourselves here, on such an extraordinary adventure. As you can imagine we know each other well - trust each other like we never will another."

"But?" asked Glorfindel, wondering where Legolas' thoughts were wandering.

"Since my - heritage - became known upon the road here, something has changed. It worries me that they see me differently now, that knowing who my father is will change what we have, distance me from them."

"Why? Why do you think that may happen?"

"There is something different. For instance today, when Idhrenohtar told me he is training for the archery grade. I told him I was proud of him and he looked at me…" he trailed off, as if searching for a word.

"How?"

"… he was shy. Glorfindel, Idhreno has never been shy with me…" he said worriedly.

Glorfindel smiled sadly before turning his head to the sky and wondering how to explain to Legolas what he understood so clearly from the outside.

"Your question is easy to answer, Legolas."

He felt the child's eyes on him, felt his surprise that Glorfindel should say such a thing about something that had obviously worried him for some time.

"You are becoming a leader, Legolas. 'Tis all it is…" Eventually, he turned to face the Silvan, his eyes frank and confident.

"Will I lose them, do you think?" asked Legolas softly.

"No - you will not lose them, but what you share will change, Legolas."

"But what have I done, Glorfindel. What have I done differently to what I have always done?"

"The question is not what you have done, but what has changed. Legolas, you are the son of their king, however illegitimate you may be. That changes things - you cannot expect life to go on as it was, knowing what you all know."

Legolas was silent for a moment, before he spoke once more.

"I have always wanted to excel on my own strengths. Wanted to prove that you didn't have to be a Sindar to be a leader in the Greenwood - did not have to rely on heritage to get what you wanted. Yet see now, the paradox - " he said miserably.

"'Tis enough that you are not using that for your own gain, or that others do so. You are doing this on your own, Legolas, because you have the necessary skill and more - but you cannot expect others to ignore the blood that runs through your veins."

"No - but that is a double edged weapon, is it not? The Company has taken positively to my heritage, but what of the Greenwood. The very thought of returning and facing it all…"

"… is not enough to break you, Legolas," Glorfindel said with a smile. "There will be those that repudiate you, that will use your existence for political gain - and I do not only refer to the Sindar, Legolas. The Silvan people will be just as ruthless in this - mark my words."

Legolas looked at Glorfindel, wondering whether he was right. Would his own people use him? It seemed unlikely to him now, but he trusted Glorfindel, respected him on an instinctive level - he was the nearest thing to a father he had ever had, and the thought brought unexpected tears to his eyes.

Turning away, he took a steadying breath, damning his volatile emotions.

"Legolas," said Glorfiindel softly, "do not be ashamed of your emotions. Tell me what it is that affects you so…"

Legolas turned to meet Glorfindel's kind eyes and wondered, wondered if he could, just for once, indulge himself and give voice to his heart. With an apprehensive glance at the trees around him, he spoke.

"I was just thinking," he began somewhat unsteadily. "I was thinking that you are the closest thing…" he could not continue and his voice broke off - he could not say it.

Glorfindel's own eyes filled and he smiled softly.

"You have been bereft for so long, Legolas. You have been strong, for others, to defend yourself against the mockery of others but you are only an elf, child. I am honoured," he paused for a moment, "that you should trust me so. If I had a child, if I could choose - it would be you," he trailed off as the onslaught of emotion silenced him and both elves sat observing each other in wonder now.

Yet no more words were spoken, for something special had happened to Glorfindel and Legolas in the gardens that morning; a bond had been formed that would never again be broken.

TSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTS

Rinion sat at the dinner table, to the right of his father and in front of Councillor Aradan, who was currently speaking of the upcoming summit with enthusiasm.

"They have come by the hundreds, Thranduil. All the village leaders with their foresters and herders, the summons has been a great success," he proclaimed as he ate.

"I bet uncle Bandorion is overjoyed," drawled Rinion sarcastically as he sipped on his wine.

Thranduil glanced at his mercurial son for a moment, wishing he would not be so unnecessarily cutting.

"And would you agree with him?" asked Thranduil flatly.

Now it was Rinion to return the sideways glance at his father, and Aradan rather thought there was a war of wills going on here.

"That would depend," said the crown prince. There will be singing, drums and rivers of alcohol - if one is looking for a party, I have no qualms," he said.

"And if one is looking for political consensus - what then?" asked Thranduil.

"We have not seen your agenda yet, my King. I can hardly give council on an empty parchment."

"I am not asking for council, Rinion, but your opinion in general, not on specific points."

"Then suffice it to say I have no opinion, until you disclose what it is we are to talk about."

"Suffice it?" he asked in silent reprimand, before turning to his friend and councillor. "And you, Aradan?" asked the king.

Aradan could see the king's frustration, even if Rinion probably could not. The Crown Prince was busy trying to antagonise his father, as was customary. The only thing that seemed to have changed, was that he had not been quite as vehement as he would have been but days before.

"They have gone to great lengths to travel here, their numbers are indicative of that. They seem hopeful that something will change, and in that, they will be receptive, I believe. However," he paused with a wry smile, "I cannot help but agree with Prince Rinion in that it would be passing helpful to have an agenda, my king," he said with a hopeful smile.

"And you will have it. There are three days before the summit begins. We will meet tomorrow to discuss it - but this much I will say," he said, looking at both prince and then councillor. The appearance of my youngest son will be made known."

Silence prevailed, as Rinion and Aradan froze. The councillor had deduced as much, of course, but Rinion was shocked.

"You cannot be serious. Publicly announce you have a bastard son? Recognise that you were unfaithful to your queen?" he asked, his incredulous face searching that of his father.

"You think they do not already know, Rinion?"

"One thing is knowing, and quite another to rec…."

"Stop, and think before you shoot your mouth off, Prince. If they know, and they know I know, the result of not recognising his existence is to lose credibility, lose their trust. This boy's face, from what I have been told, is almost identical to that of your grandfather - he will not go unnoticed, Rinion, however much you wish to sweep him under the table and pretend it is simply coincidence!"

Rinion stared wide-eyed at his father, before turning back to his meal in annoyance. Aradan watched him carefully, his shrewd eyes searching the boy's feelings. He did not believe half the things he said, concluded the councillor. His entire dialogue was centred around one thing. Hurting his father, as Thranduil had hurt him. It was infantile and yet so ingrained in his behaviour he was surely finding it hard to change.

There was a difference though, for whereas before, Rinion would have continued to argue his point with a less than elegant vocabulary, now, he was biting his tongue and checking his words. It was a start, indeed he would have to council Thranduil to have patience with him, for Rinion deserved that much.

"Does the boy have a name then?" asked Rinion with a slightly stiff upper lip, as if he cared not, but his subterfuge was not skilful enough to hide the truth from Aradan.

"Legolas," said Thranduil simply.

"Well, you don't get more Silvan than that," he scoffed.

"You do not approve, of course," said Thranduil with a light smile.

"I do not - but that is of no consequence," he answered, before taking a long draught of his wine.

"Are you going to recognise him - as your son? As a prince of the realm?" asked Rinion.

"I cannot name him Prince, but this you already know. He was not born to the queen, it is forbidden."

Rinion nodded in satisfaction as he continued to eat.

"I can acknowledge him, of course, indeed I must as we have already discussed. But this is secondary, of course. Yet know this, Rinion. A time will come when you will meet Legolas, and I expect you to comport yourself as befitting a Crown Prince." said Thranduil, his eyes lingering on his son.

"I cannot foresee that, Father. I cannot foresee how I will feel when I see him. One thing I can say, and that is I will not be welcoming him as a long lost brother - I am sure you can appreciate this," he said somewhat arrogantly.

"So long as you do not disgrace yourself, Rinion. That is all I require of you."

Aradan saw the spark of hurt in Rinion's eyes at the king's words. He did care, he did want the love and attention from his father that had been denied him since the queen had left.

"Aradan…" said the king, snapping the councillor out of his own musings.

"Apologies, my King. What…"

"I asked who the representatives are, of all the Silvan and Avarin leaders, who has been chosen as spokesperson?"

"Ah, Erthoron of Broadtree and Lorthil of Silver Vale for the Silvans, and Barhon for the Avari," he said.

"Do you know them, Rinion?" asked the king.

"No, I have not visited those villages. They are towards the South, Celegon would not condone me visiting those places."

"I see," said Thranduil, knowing the Commander would not wish to place the Crown Prince too near the darkening forests of the South.

"Rinion," said the king, almost as an afterthought. Turning his face to his son, he studied it for a moment, before continuing.

"Did you mean it, what you said the other day…"

"What did I say," asked the prince with a scowl.

The king paused for a moment, wondering if he should continue, but the puzzled look on his son's face spurred him on.

"You said you loved me once…"

Rinion was taken aback but Aradan could not say if it was because he had not expected his father to mention that, or that the words seemed too harsh to have come from his own lips.

"I did mean it," he said carefully, "but that does not mean I cannot love you once more. Father," he said, turning fully now to look squarely at the king. "I cannot change centuries of bitterness. I was old enough to see the damage you did to my mother, to my younger brother and sister. They were not entirely aware but I was. I tried to minimise it, explain it away when my own heart was breaking and I hated you for that," he said harshly. Now that I know some of the details, that my grandfather started all this by prohibiting your love for the Silvan woman, now that I know the extent of your love for her and my own mother's prior knowledge of it. My rational mind can understand these things, but the damage was done and I acted in consequence."

"And can you change that? With time, can you come to love me once more?" asked the king softly.

Rinion's eyes filled with tears but the prince would not allow them to fall.

"I never stopped loving you - that is why it hurt so much…" he whispered furiously, before standing abruptly, and leaving.

Thranduil and Aradan were left sitting in stunned silence, until Thranduil smiled and turned to Aradan.

"Time - time and a loving father will heal him, Aradan," he said happily, and Aradan smiled back, for while he agreed essentially with what Thranduil said, he knew that Rinion would still have his outbursts, bouts of cutting words uttered to hurt. This was not the end of the tunnel, and he just hoped that his friend knew that too.

TSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTS

"Get up!" thundered Glorfindel as Lindohtar struggled for breath on the ground. Heaving a wheezing breath he stood shakily and nodded at the commander.

"Get him, floor him!" he shouted, goading the warrior on. Lindohtar steeled himself and ran head first into the Wall of Stone, crashing into it with a mighty hrumph. But still, the massive elf did not stumble, indeed it was Lindohtar who nearly fell to his backside. At the last moment, he remembered a move, and shot his foot out to catch Ram en Ondo's heel, hooking it and sending him down into a cloud of dry dirt with a mighty crash.

The rest of the warriors winced in sympathy, watching as Glorfindel towered over them both.

"Good enough," was all he said before turning to Legolas.

"UP!" he motioned, before turning to Melven and beckoning to him. The Company shared worried glances at each other, while the Noldorin warriors smirked evilly.

"Your objective is to down your opponent," he said, turning to face Melven. "No more…" he said in silent warning.

With a nod, both warriors crouched low and began to circle. Melven lurched forward, reaching for Legolas' arm but the Silvan dodged his move, spinning once and latching on to Melven from behind, throwing him to the floor.

"Get up!" shouted Glorfiindel to the fuming Noldo, who rose to his feet and then swivelled his shoulders.

Charging forwards, Legolas side-stepped, watching as Melven rolled forwards and crashed head first into the ground.

"Ooohh!" shouted the Silvans in sympathy, while the Noldor shared amused glances.

"Get up!" growled Glorfindel angrily for the second time.

Again, the dark haired warrior rose and breathed deeply, before deciding his next move. Approaching Legolas more slowly now, he feigned to one side and then landed a blow to Legolas' lower chest, driving the breath from him.

Stunned silence followed, but before Glorfindel could reprimand the warrior, Legolas caught Melven in a shoulder clamp and before anyone could register it, he flipped the warrior over his shoulder, sending him crashing to the ground flat on his back, only this time Legolas knelt over him, his fierce face staring down at Melven angrily.

"That hurt…" was all he said, before rising and moving away with a brief glance at Glorfindel.

"Get up!" said Glorfiindel for the third time, but he said no more of the underhand tactics Melven had used, for there really was no need. Glorfindel had seen enough, and Legolas had made his point clearly enough. Melven was not a bad warrior; it was his mindset that needed changing.

"Are you alright?" smirked Elladan as he watched Legolas rub his chest.

"Yes," he said hoarsely, garnering a chuckle from The Company and Elladan as he sat with a stifled groan.

After their hand-to-hand session, they moved on to archery and blades, knowing that tomorrow they would choose their two weapons of choice and their training would start anew, only this time it would be less generic, more specific, and spirits were high.

Training now over, the warriors strode towards the barracks amidst light-hearted banter for the most part. Melven walked alone, silent and brooding, and Legolas could not help but wonder what it was that had turned the elf so sour, so against him, for they had not exchanged a single word. Perhaps it was a Silvan thing, that he thought them rural and wild, but then again, why did he seem to hate Legolas specifically? He disapproved of bastards, perhaps - he would not be the first elf he had met to hate him for that alone, but no. Legolas was not convinced of the strange Noldo's motives, and wondered if, perhaps, he could get close enough to him to find out.

"Legolas," called Glorfindel.

"Aye, Sir?"

"Your presence is required after the evening meal."

"Of course, Sir," he said with a nod. This of course, meant that he would miss their excursion to the hot springs with Elladan. Well, he scowled as he rubbed his chest again, it was just as well, for truth be told he was too tired. He just hoped he would not disgrace himself and nod off in the company of lords and princes.

TSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTS

After the evening meal, Legolas made his way to the main house, smiling as he remembered the light-hearted banter they had struck up at the dinner table at the barracks. Even the Noldor had been more talkative, something Legolas attributed to the fact that Elladan was clearly mixing with the Silvans, indeed no sooner had they finished, and Elrond's son guided them to the promised hot springs, towels and soaps in hand as they chatted and joked and waved to their friend.

Would it ever be the same for him? He wondered… would he still be simply part of that life-long team of friends, equal in all things? No, he realised, no it would never be the same, he said to himself. From the moment he had resolved to become a captain, he had forsaken a part of it, doomed it to certain change. All he could do was to clutch to the hope that it would be a good thing, that he would not lose their friendship, not lose his brothers.

Walking through the main doors, he nodded at the elves that milled around, receiving in return the curious gazes of the Noldorin elves. He turned then to the Hall of Fire, where he knew Glorfindel would be waiting for him.

However the commander was not alone. He sat together with Elrond, Erestor, and Prince Handir.

Bowing first to Elrond, he then turned and bowed to his prince, who nodded back. It was strange, that this elf was his brother, so utterly strange to be bowing to him, to not feel at ease enough to call him by his name.

Standing before Glorfindel, he waited for the commander to speak.

"Legolas, sit, you are not on duty but in the presence of friends," he said, glancing at Handir for a moment before gesturing to a chair beside the fire, for the night was chill.

"Thank you, my Lord," he said as he sat somewhat stiffly.

"Tell us, what weapons will you choose tomorrow?" prompted Glorfindel.

"I am already an archer, he began. "One will be short swords, of course," he paused here, and Glorfindel saw the doubt in his apprentice's eyes.

"You are unsure of the second?"

"Yes. I admit I am torn between spears and swords."

"Spears," said Elrond in interest from a comfortable sofa nearby. "I have not seen that discipline since the second age. Do we have anyone in Imladris suitable to instruct him, Glorfindel?"

"Yes," he said thoughtfully. There is one who might teach him, the last spearman we have," said Glorfindel with a sad smile. "You have the build for it, but - I wonder…" he trailed off, his eyes losing their focus for a moment.

"What is it? You have a suggestion perhaps?" asked Legolas enthusiastically. He did not know why he doubted the sword but he did -

"I would show you something… come," he said thoughtfully as he stood. "Accompany me," he said without waiting for a reply, and so Legolas bowed to the remaining lords and left, under the curious gazes of Elrond, Erestor and Handir.

"Is he progressing as well as you thought he might?" asked Handir.

Elrond only half turned to the prince, the bright orange light catching his angular features, casting deep shadows upon his wise face.

"Oh yes. That, and then some…" said the lord thoughtfully.

TSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTSTS

Glorfindel did not stop until they were at the weapons hall. It was a long, stone building with vaulted ceilings. Down the centre, were rows upon rows of wooden stands, where swords and knives and all sorts of objects were stored. Upon the walls stood flags and standards, bows and lances, objects Legolas was sure had seen great battles. Indeed his mind imagined the foggy fields of mud and blood, the distant sounds of elven chanting, drums and the scrape of metal upon metal. He shivered at the thought and wondered if he would ever be in such battles.

"Here," said Glorfiindel as he emerged from a dark corner. "This is it."

"A spear?"

"Of sorts, although the metal tip is longer and wider, see," he said, pushing it up towards Legolas' face."

"Your grandfather was a master spearman, but his weapon was adapted. There are none here like the one he fashioned. It was something similar to this but the other end also had a blade, or more a curved, scimitar blade. It is a versatile weapon, and make no mistake," he said, turning to face Legolas. "Spears are not only for throwing - but for hand to hand …"

"I know, it is this adaptability that draws my attention to it. Throwing it, you can combat from afar, up close you can incapacitate an opponent or slice his head off. It has reach, more than a sword…"

"You have studied well, Legolas," he said approvingly as he picked up another spear. "Come, we take these two to the smiths tomorrow and see what he can come up with. I will speak with Dagoren, see whether he is amenable to your idea…"

"I did not know Oropher was a spearman," said Legolas thoughtfully.

Glorfindel smiled as he remembered his friend, training upon the fields to the awe of all who looked on. He had been good, and told Legolas as much.

"I am not sure I wish to follow in his footsteps," said Legolas pensively, and Glorfindel's smile faded.

"Why would you say such a thing?"

"Because - he is the reason my father was not allowed to take his soul mate as queen, he is the reason I grew as an orphan."

"Under the cold light of day - yes," said Glorfindel carefully. "But how many times are we any of us lucky enough to see things under such light? Things may not have been as simple as they seem to you now."

"Yes, I know. I know nothing of the workings of state, I cannot know his mind and yet it seems cruel beyond reason to do such a thing."

"Leadership, the greater good, can often be cruel to the minority, Legolas. It is not a perfect system, but it is the best we have."

Legolas considered this for a moment. He could not bring himself to defend what his grandfather had done, but now, neither could he condemn it for Glorfindel was right. There were things Legolas knew nothing about, and until such time as he could understand, he would simply abstain - keep his judgement to himself. He had been attracted to the spear without the knowledge that it had been Oropher's weapon of choice; it was a simple coincidence and he would think no more on it.

"Glorfindel," said Legolas as they made their way back to the manor. "When can I begin the Qalma Liltie?" he asked, watching the commander.

"Not yet. You must first be a master of the blades. Only then will I begin your training.

"But that may take many months yet…"

"Not so many Legolas. Two, perhaps, if you are diligent, and I know you will be."

"Two months…" he trailed off, disappointment dripping from the words.

Glorfindel chuckled. "That would be record time, Legolas. Do not be disappointed, and even then, I have yet to see you spar seriously with the twin knives- you may surprise me," he said happily, watching as a tentative smile twitched on Legolas' lips.

"It will leave us little time for the dance before I am to return," said Legolas.

"Undoubtedly, but that project is a long one, child. It will be years before you and I dance the Qalma Liltie. You will return to your forests and perhaps we can find a way for you to come here again. Who can say. We can, however, initiate the rites…"

"Rites?" asked Legolas frowning.

"Oh yes, did you not know…?" asked Glorfindel quietly, his deep blue eyes turning almost black as his pupils dilated and Legolas startled for a moment. He would have asked for details, but it was too late, for they were already crossing the threshold and striding into the Hall of Fire.

"They will be here in two days. It is predictable that…"

"My Lords," said Glorfindel as he approached with Legolas and sat. "Who is arriving?" he asked as he poured two glasses of wine and pushed one towards Legolas.

"Envoys from Thranduil," said Elrond, his eyes slipping towards Legolas for a moment. "There has not been enough time for the Greenwood warriors to arrive home - these messengers were sent before, without the knowledge contained in the missives we sent with Commander Celegon.

"Which means," added Erestor, "the king will state his intentions regarding the appearance of young Legolas here," he said thoughtfully. Handir remained silent and pensive, while Legolas himself sat rigid in his chair.

He felt like a punished child, as if he had done something wrong and would now be judged and duly punished, and yet he had done nothing save to have the bad luck of being born a bastard - it was not his fault and yet here he sat, rigid and fretting over his own future. A spark of anger flared inside him for what had he done to deserve this?

"Legolas," came the sudden voice, cutting through his angry thoughts.

"Handir," answered Legolas.

"Do not fret, the king will be benevolent," he said confidently.

"Benevolent?" he asked incredulously, his voice low and disbelieving, "and I should give thanks for that? Tell me, my Prince, what have I done that I should be judged? That our king may show me benevolence? What are my crimes?"

"That is not what I meant, Legolas. I meant only to reassure you. Nothing untoward will happen."

"How can you possibly know that? You yourself have said your relationship with the king has been distant for centuries. Are you sure your judgement is sound in this?" he asked doubtfully. "All it will take will be for him to call me back to the woods and my future, my dreams, will be stilted. Do you think he understands that? Do you think he knows me at all?"

"No, he does not, and yet I know my father, Legolas."

"I am glad for you, Handir, for I do not. But I believe it is better to speak plainly than to offer useless reassurances - they do not convince me at all."

"What would you have me say, Legolas? That I do not know how he will react when he learns that the son he created to save the life of his lover is not in Valinor but here? That you were not enough to save her? That I do not know if he will love you anyway, or hate you for taking her life? That I do not know if he will open his heart to the Silvan people and embrace you, or listen to the Sindarin purists and send you away in disgrace? Nay - these are your thoughts, Legolas, they are not mine. I do not believe he will turn against you."

Legolas stared wide-eyed at his brother, for the prince had enumerated one by one his fears, had understood exactly what he was thinking, and he was suddenly ashamed of his outburst.

"Forgive me," he said, duly chastised, before he smiled softly. "You did, indeed, speak plainly, and I see your understanding of my predicament."

Handir nodded, before continuing, oblivious to Erestor's approving gaze. "You cannot change what has happened, Legolas. We can only make the most of what we have, use it to construct, not to destroy."

Legolas gazed long on his brother. His almost silver hair shone beautifully in the half light - he could see his own face there, a similarity that could not be denied, and for the first time, Legolas could not say that disturbed him.

"Your words are wise, Prince," said Legolas softly. "Self pity will do me no good," he said resolutely, and Handir smiled.

"You are, surprisingly, not dissimilar to my elder brother, Rinion," began Handir. "He is hardy and resolute, a warrior. He has a strong character and a heart so soft he shields it under the guise of steel - as if he were impermeable - unbreakable and yet, he is, perhaps, the most vulnerable of us all."

"And," said Legolas with an insecure glance at Handir, "you have a sister…" he asked.

"We, have a sister, aye. Maeneth. She stays with our cousin Lord Celeborn in Lorien. She has been there for five hundred years."

"Why so long?" asked Legolas, for that was tantamount almost to Legolas' entire life.

"She asked it. After the events in the Greenwood, she was still so young, needed the guidance of the parents she no longer had. Rinion was beside himself in anger and I was too young to do anything about it. It was Celeborn himself that suggested he take Maeneth and tutor her.

"What is she like?" asked Legolas, his eyes now far away.

"She's lovely, Legolas, albeit I have not seen her for so long her features blur in my mind. I cannot rightly say what kind of adult she has become - it has been too long."

"Speaking of Lorien," interrupted Elrond, "I have spoken to Galadriel and - she has a suggestion."

"Oh? asked Glorfindel. "About what?"

"About Legolas' gift," he said simply. Handir glanced at his brother, as Legolas' eyes were now riveted on Elrond.

"She suggests we provoke an incident. I must see how this works Legolas, if I am to help you control it."

"I am not…"

"I know, Legolas - it frightens you and that is only logical. The Valar know I understand you in this. But you cannot spend the rest of your life afraid of yourself. You must understand how this works, and when you do, you will be able to use it, control it."

"How can we do this?" asked Glorfindel, sitting forward in his seat.

"Meet me tomorrow after lunch in the gardens, Legolas. I am not sure myself how to do this, but perhaps something will occur to us."

Legolas looked miserable, for he was tired, and emotionally exhausted, and if you added to that the anxiety that had taken hold of him before tomorrow's experiment, all he wanted to do was curl up in his bed and sleep, forget it all.

"You are tired," said Elrond knowingly.

"Yes. If I may, I would retire. I have an early start on the field tomorrow."

"Of course. Rest well, Legolas," said Elrond with a critical eye.

Bowing to the lords and prince, Legolas left, alone and pensive and although he was so very tired, he doubted sleep would come easy to him that night.

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