I just wanted to clear up a couple of points. Firstly, if you have read The Protege, remember this story is not a prequel to that one. This story is based on the idea of The Protege and as such, events will not happen the same way.
Secondly, I have noticed that since the publishing of The Protege, there have been several stories that use the idea of an elite team of warriors. Please note that the Protege is prior to the stories I am referring to and as such, did not use other people's ideas, rather the opposite is probably the case.
Naledi, never fear. Your wish is my command, read on and be pacified :)))
Rita Orca: I am impressed - capricious indeed! Thank you, as always, for the injection of motivation.
Guests: thank you, as always.
Chapter thirty-eight: A Message for The Noldor
"I am sorry - sorry that I worried you, that was never my intention," said Legolas as he sat amongst The Company. "Do not deny it, brothers; I have seen it, just as I have seen your resentment of Lord Elrond and Mithrandir for not allowing you to see me.
"What right did they have to bar those closest to you? After an ordeal such as the one you have lived through? Surely you needed the company of friends, not intrusive lords and wizards that would interrogate you err you even opened your eyes!" finished Ram en, now having thoroughly riled himself.
And he was not alone, and Legolas watched them as one by one, they added their own thoughts and comments and when they had finished, and still, Legolas did not speak, they simply stared at him in curious silence.
"I understand you, and I understand them - brothers," he said as he leant forward. "But do not underestimate what has transpired here," he began carefully, watching as their expressions changed from indignant to concerned.
"I cannot speak of it all - but I must tell you the short of it, for it will affect us all, and there are decisions you must make as individuals…"
They did not speak, did not move, they simply stared, still oblivious to the significance of Legolas' experience.
"My gift," he began, his eyes moving over them all. "I was not born with it - it was given to me or rather, I was chosen - for a purpose…"
Legolas understood their baffled expressions, their confused silence for his own words had seemed strangely impossible. Chosen, he had said …
"I cannot disclose that purpose entirely, for I do not understand it myself. But a large part of it is to defend the work of Yavanna, protect the forests and the people that live within. You may ask," he continued, "what difference there is between this purpose and that which I have always wanted to achieve, and the answer would be nothing - nothing at all. If I was chosen for this it is because this was always my aim in life, in spite of the Valar and their wishes. I know there is more to it, and the lords know that too, but for now and for me, it is enough."
"And so, why do you deem this so significant?" asked Rhrawthir in puzzlement, "if it changes nothing."
"But it does, brother. My purpose must not be impeded by land or lord, Rhrawthir. I must answer to no one in my efforts, save to she who commands me…"
The Company sat in dawning understanding, but kept their silence as Legolas elaborated.
"The point being, that I must somehow gain my freedom, freedom to act where and when necessary. Now I am not a liberty to decide over my own wanderings, for I am a warrior of King Thranduil's militia and although I do not want that to change, I must garner my king's understanding of this, my calling. I must try to secure for myself a position in which I may continue to serve the Greenwood and my Lady and thus, fulfil that which I have been charged with."
"But you are not even a lieutenant yet, Legolas. How can you possibly hope to achieve this?" asked Ram en Ondo.
"With time, I can only hope, Ram en. I understand this will not happen now. I am limited by my own inexperience, but neither can I stand by idly. I will talk with my King no sooner we return."
"You will speak with - your father?" asked Lindohtar in shock.
"Yes. That is inevitable as I now know, for I am summoned to his presence no sooner we return to The Greenwood."
"And you are - alright with this?" asked Idhrenohtar slowly.
"I will not say I am not - apprehensive. Indeed that inevitable moment weighs heavily on my chest. The thought of meeting the one I thought dead, or exiled. Meeting my father, the one that created me for the sole purpose of giving life to his lover…" he broke off, his mind shouting at him to be angry, and yet he could not. For the first time in his life, Legolas spoke of his father without that all too familiar pain of abandonment, the self-pity and resentment. It had left him, and in its wake there was only quiet acceptance.
"But I cannot avoid it for he is king and I - have a purpose. I must not be swayed from it, in spite of my own emotions."
"And you think that is going to be easy? asked Lainion, somewhat irked it seemed, at Legolas' submission to Yavanna's will.
"No. I know it will not be and that brings me to the point. You all have a decision to make…"
"Speak it," said Idhrenohtar.
"My plan, is to create a group of trusted warriors that would ride with me, wherever we are needed, wherever the forest cries or her people suffer. I would have The Company with me, the best warriors the Greenwood has. Ten elves under the command of the King himself, but with the explicit permission to heed the call of the trees, even against his own wishes."
Silence ensued and was not quick to disappear as each member of The Company processed the information Legolas had so clearly and convincingly laid before them.
"I have always been by your side, Legolas - I will not change that now, or ever. The cause is noble and I, Idhrenohtar, will serve with no one else save with you," said Idhrenohtar, standing tall and proud and Legolas slowly rose to meet him, a soft smile spreading over his lovely face. Before long, Ram en Ondo, Lindohtar, Rhrawthir and finally Dimaethor, did likewise and when all five warriors had sworn their allegiance, for the first time they bowed as they would to a lord, because from now on, that is what Legolas was to them. He had no rank, no title, no surname, and yet Yavanna had charged him with a purpose, had deemed him fit to carry out her will. The Company would do no less, and neither would they suffer others to gainsay his claim to leadership now.
Elladan was the last to rise from the ground, for he was not a member of The Company.
"Legolas," he said, turning to face the Silvan. "I am not a member of The Company for I am sworn to my father's service but," he paused, "I wonder if, when the time comes and your king gives you leave, I wonder if perhaps you would allow me to join you, for a time?"
"You would be most welcome, Elladan. To The Company if you so wish it," said Legolas sincerely. "Would your father give you leave, then?" he asked hopefully.
"In light of what has happened these last few days, Legolas, I do not doubt he would. The question is, for how long."
"I wonder, if one day we will have a Noldorin member of The Company, a son of Elrond no less," smiled the Silvan, and Elladan smiled back, for truth be told, there was nothing he wanted more.
Soon enough, Legolas left them to join Glorfindel for his additional training, the training neither warrior would speak of. As for the rest of The Company, they slowly walked to the main training area to join the rest of the Noldor.
"He is changed," said Idhrenohtar flatly.
"Aye. He seems - sad; as if a great weight sat upon his shoulders," mused Lindohtar.
"I think that is exactly what it is," said Elladan. "He has been charged by Yavanna herself to do this thing, whatever it may be. A Valar, no less, has chosen our young friend to defend her creation - it is humbling and difficult even, to assimilate. He has grown far beyond his years in but four days and yet he has it so clear in his mind. Strange times," he said quietly, raking a hand through his blue-black hair.
"And you, Elladan. Would you join The Company, if you could? If your father gave you leave?"
"I cannot believe he would release me of my duties here, yet I have hope he can spare me for some time. But in answer to your question, Lindo, yes. Yes I would join The Company, for there is a noble cause, a better group of brothers I have never met.
With that the five members of The Company smiled indulgently, all of them wondering, and hoping, that Elrond of Imladris would look past his son's duty to the Valley, and give him leave to fulfil a higher goal; defend the forests of Arda.
That evening, Legolas had dined at the head table, together with Handir. They had talked of this and that but nothing of the extraordinary events of the last few days, for they had an avid audience, one that would not stop staring at Legolas and his extraordinarily long hair.
Lainion had once again created a masterpiece of Avarin art by twisting the upper layers of hair into thick locks he then gathered up and bunched high upon the Silvan's crown. With the rest, he wove in braids of different designs along the sides, pulling some of them back and leaving others to flow down to the small of his back.
Legolas could feel its heavy weight, feel it pulling on his scalp. It would take some getting used to and although it did not displease him, he wondered at the practicality of it.
Handir too, was mesmerised by it, until he was caught off guard by Erestor, who had asked a question and received no answer.
"Forgive me, my Lord. I was lost for a moment."
Good, thought Erestor. The boy does not mask his inattention. He is straight and sincere, humble yet not to the point of submission. He had extraordinary qualities, and although he was nowhere finished with the second prince of the Greenwood, he was already passing pleased with his progress.
"It is a magnificent piece of work, Legolas," said the councillor, admiring the braids and clips of the luscious silver-blond mane.
"Thank you, my Lord. The merit goes to Dimaethor, or Lainion," he corrected himself. Erestor's eyes glanced over the dark avari sitting at a nearby table, before turning back to Legolas and asking, "do they have some sort of significance? In Noldorin society, each type of braid says something about the one that wears it. Lord Elrond for example. By simply looking at him, we know he is Lord of his own land, we know he is Noldo, and we know he is the son of Eärendil. We know he has been a warrior and a healer…."
"Don't forget lore master, Erestor," added Elrohir, "there, see, that knot says it is so," he said, pointing to it and earning an arched eyebrow from his father.
"I admit," said Legolas, "that I do not know. I threw myself into Lainion's skilful hands without a thought for what he may do, but after your explanation, my Lord, I will certainly ask the lieutenant about it," he said with a soft smile, before it vanished from his face and he turned to Elrond, all traces of pleasantries gone now, for his eyes shone with intensity and the Lord of the Valley was compelled to heed him.
"My Lord. I must speak with you after our meal, with you and - your sons…"
Elrond scowled and then cocked his head to one side.
"Of course. Although I admit you have me intrigued that it cannot wait for our council tomorrow," he said, not unkindly.
"It could wait, my Lord, but what I have to say to you is not appropriate for a public council. It is for your ears only," he said seriously and quietly so that only those at the head table would hear.
Elrond held his gaze, as Elladan and Elrohir glanced at each other in puzzlement.
"So be it," said the lord as lightly as he could, but no one missed the undercurrents in his tone, the veiled worry that only he and his sons had been mentioned. Legolas saw this and smiled encouragingly, and any who looked on, would have seen a wise elf, an elf that could surely not sport but seven hundred and forty-four years…
With dinner finally over, Elrond invited Legolas to his own suite of rooms for a nightcap, to which Legolas had nodded, leaving with the Lord and his family to leave the dining hall, under the attentive gaze of Glorfindel, Erestor and Handir. Whatever it was that Legolas wanted with Elrond, it was of a personal nature yet none of them could even begin to understand what it was. What was certain, was that the changes wrought in Legolas were far from merely aesthetic, for where there was once youthful uncertainty, now there was quiet and humble authority, and where there had been emotional vulnerability, now - there was silent strength.
"Come Legolas. Sit and tell us what it is you have to share with us," began Elrond as he passed Legolas a goblet of liquor.
Legolas breathed deeply as he sat back in his comfortable chair, sensing as the twin brothers sat and drank, their sparkling silver eyes anchored on his own green irises.
After a moment to gather his thoughts, Legolas centred his gaze on Elrond. "The other day, in the gardens, my Lord. Some things were revealed to me, things I must now relay to you, and your sons."
"Elrond sat forward in his chair. "You should have spoken to Mithrandir about this, indeed he is still here if you so wish," he said kindly.
"Lord Elrond," said Legolas, a note of irritation seeping into his words, for he still remembered the wizard's failed interrogation no sooner he had woken from his strange slumber, "Mithrandir may be wise in the ways of magic and of the Valar, but his tactic was not appreciated," said Legolas, his eyes impressing his meaning, watching as Elrond showed for just a moment, his surprise that Legolas would speak so of the Ainur.
"Go on," was all he said.
"This information that I have, it is not for Mithrandir, my Lord. It is for you for had it not been, I would have requested his presence. I have not," was all he said, controlling his irritation for there was nothing Legolas wanted more than to rid himself of the strange images and feelings he had perceived in the gardens, and Elrond did nothing but persist in his somewhat patronising tone.
Indeed the Lord held his gaze, eyes searching and analysing and for a moment, it unnerved the young Silvan.
"Do not be riled, Legolas," said Elrond kindly, "remember that until two days ago, you were but a child of less than a millennia; young and inexperienced. I can see that has changed but it is I and perhaps the others, that need time to adjust to you as you are now. We have your best interests at heart," he said, watching the Silvan for his reaction.
"I do not doubt that, my Lord," he said sincerely with a smile. "You have been nothing but kind and helpful to me, in spite of the strife I have brought to your house. I apologise but you must understand," he said, emotion now shining through his words, "so much has happened in the last few days, so many things I cannot understand. To speak of them before I can assimilate it all is a futile task, my Lord. Whatever information I could offer you would be diffuse and incoherent for the most part. You need time and that is logical, but so too do I," he said emphatically.
"Agreed," said Elrond with a smile of his own. "I apologise if I have been overly - forthright," he said, without further justification, indeed Legolas did not need it, he knew Elrond's heart was sincere.
"I know we have much to speak of at the council tomorrow, decisions that need to be made, in light of the Greenwood missives and I have not come to speak of that, for to do so would be to repeat myself. I have come because I believe I saw something, felt something that concerns you and your sons…"
Elrond scowled and his sons shared a concerned look before they too, sat at the edge of their seats.
"The garden," he began, "that garden was neglected and I did not rightly understand at the time I simply stumbled upon it. Later, I realised why - they were your Lady's gardens, were they not?" asked Legolas softly.
Elrond's expression was blank, and he simply nodded.
"You do not visit that place anymore - nobody does for to do so brings - memories that are too painful."
Legolas chanced a somewhat shy glance at the three Noldor that looked so much like each other, that now shared the same, worried expression, the same expressive silence.
"The tree - the sentinel remembers…" said Legolas, his eyes losing focus as he remembered the visions and sensations that had sent him to his knees.
"It was dying," he continued, "dying of neglect, of sorrow, of a grief that it had inherited from the lady who spent her last anguished days there, beneath its boughs, sat upon its roots as she dispaired of her ordeal…"
"What do you know?" asked Elrohir quietly but harshly, his face now set in a steely expression that warned of mounting ire, but Legolas could not stop now.
"It is not I who knows but the sentinel, Lord Elrohir, I speak of what it told me, what it showed me…"
"Elrohir, calm yourself," said Elrond evenly, even though his eyes were too bright as they turned back to Legolas, his eyes demanding he continue.
"I felt her pain, her anguish, her torment at the prospect of leaving you behind, the soul rending agony of deciding between you and her own death for I felt the moment she realised that she had to leave for you - for had she not she would have faded and so too, perhaps, would you…"
"She left because she could not bare what happened to her, could not live with the memories…" offered Elrohir, "in spite of her sons and her spouse's wishes, she left because she was not strong enough…." but Legolas was speaking again.
"No. She left because she was strong enough - for you. Had she stayed she would gladly have faded for I felt her relief at the mere thought. She left so that she would not fade, she renounced her heart's true desire - for you, so that you would see her again soonest - she sacrificed her own peace, even though she knew you did not understand it at the time…" finished Legolas, a sole tear escaping his eyes and running sluggishly down his cheek. "She knew you did not understand her motives, but even that was not enough to sway her because she knew, Elrohir, that one day when she was once more whole and hail, she could make you understand."
Elrohir stood abruptly and turned to the window, his back now to the others.
"And a tree, told you all this…" he said, but it was not a real question, it was a manifestation of his skepticism.
"Who else, my Lord? How else would I know what I know? These things are not documented, and the tears in your own eyes tell me my words ring true. It is your anger, your frustration that drives your words now."
"You presume much, Legolas. You presume I appreciate your perceptions, that it will help me in some way to accept that her departure was an act of sacrifice on her part, and not a selfish, cowardly…"
"Elrohir!" shouted Elrond, but to no avail for his bitterness ran deep.
Legolas rose from his chair and slowly approached Elrohir, whose eyes were now glinting in the soft candle light.
"No coward endures what she did and even so, resists the call of Mandos for the sake of her children, her soul mate. It is the ultimate act of bravery…"
There were a few moments of stunned silence, until the mighty crack of skin against skin ripped through the room and everyone froze, including Legolas, whose face had been slapped to one side so harshly his hair now covered it, as if to protect it.
It was, however, Elrohir, who finally sunk slowly to his knees and bowed his head.
"Forgive me," he whispered in misery.
Legolas' face slowly returned to Elrohir, before getting down on his own knees so that his eyes could capture those of Elrohir, who could no longer hold back the stream of agony he had kept so dispassionately locked away in a place not even he had been able to retrieve.
"I do not speak my own opinion, Elrohir. I speak of her thoughts, your mother's thoughts - I do not interpret them, I speak of them as she felt them, no more, no less," he paused for a moment, a wince of pain flitting over his face.
Elrohir searched Legolas' face, his eyes stopping for a moment on the cut over his cheek where he must have caught him with his ring. It was all it took for Elrohir's face to crack and the ire was gone, replace now with utter grief.
"Why," he gasped, "why do you'll me this if you surely knew the despair it would bring?" he asked pleadingly.
"Because… because there is more, Elrohir," he said with a watery smile of his own, sensing when Elrond and Elladan joined them upon the floor.
"More?" he asked, his voice wavering…
"More," answered Legolas in joy now. "Just as I felt her ordeal, the physical and the mental scars that would not close, her broken heart for leaving you behind, for not being able to make you understand her motives," he said, his own tears flowing freely now, "so too, did I feel her joy, her triumph, her heeled scars and her overwhelming love for you. I saw her beauteous face shining in bliss, bare feet atop white shores, shining blue eyes resting peacefully upon the Eastern horizon…" he whispered now, watching, willing Elrohir to understand.
Someone beside him gasped but Elrohir simply stared back at him wide-eyed.
No words were forthcoming and Legolas knew it was time to leave, time to let Elrond and his family assimilate his words in privacy, for he had infringed upon it enough already, and so he slowly rose, and with a final glance at all three elves who paid him no heed at all, he bowed, and left.
In the silence of his own rooms now, he lit a sole candle and sat upon his bed. Removing his boots he lay on his side, propping his head up with one palm, and with his other hand he reached for the well-read parchment that contained his father's words.
'…where to begin…'
Indeed, where to begin, mused Legolas.
'…cannot discuss it here, upon this lifeless parchment…'
Cannot, or will not, asked Legolas somewhat dispassionately.
'…come to me, when your training is complete…'
At least he had not been summoned immediately, had been left to fulfil this one desire.
'… we must speak urgently of many things …'
What to say, no doubt, when I am asked of my father. He will issue instructions about what I should not do, the privileges I must not presume to inherit - as if I wanted any.
' … I am announcing your existence to The Greenwood …'
Legolas' stomach churned at the thought, his heart beating too fast at the prospect of such unwanted attention.
'… the things I have heard from Captain Tirion make me proud …'
His resentful inner dialogue stopped there, just as it had the first times he had read the letter.
'… although we do not know each other, I hope that one day, we will…'
He remembered Handir's words then, telling him his father would not reject him and Legolas had been skeptical, the years of hardship overriding his logical mind as it always did and yet now, something fundamental had changed. Everything that had happened to him had in some way changed his perspective of things, had shown him the important things, and the superficial things so that he may strive to eliminate them.
'Return in peace and with the knowledge that you will be well received, and duly respected.'
Well received, duly respected…Legolas sighed heavily before turning and lying flat on his back, eyes staring up at the ceiling.
"Father." It was not said in disdain, there was no anger, no sadness, no disappointment and no sarcasm - for the first time the only emotion in that one single word - was longing.