The Silvan

nimruzir

Chapter 046

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Author's notes:

Once again, you have all left me speechless with the fantastic feedback. I thought to reward you will a slightly longer chapter with some well-deserved hurt/comfort. Legolas will also get his first glimpse of the king… This was hard to devise, and harder to write and I just hope the idea works, that you can clearly see that mental image I have of that moment.

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Noph: In-out-in-out - that's it! Glad the suspense worked for you. The strange behaviour of the trees is something Legolas will have to address with them, although there is a clue in the chapter referring to spiders! It was a bit of a cliffie, but this chapter should make up for that needless cruelty :)

Rita Orca: Congratulations! OK; breathe - eat :)) LOL Glad you liked it. Kill Handir and/or Lainion - umm…

LeggyRespect: I hope your fingers are still intact! OK, the trees were under the influence of the spiders, something Legolas will learn about the Greenwood - they are scared of them, but some are braver than others!

Ninde: Ai perdón! Espero que no se te haya cortado la circulación :))) ¿Yo? ¿Matar a alguien? Eh…..

GB12390: Thank you! As you can see I have been quick.

Amethyst: David Boals…. I can live with that!

Earthdragon: There will be an explanation as to what happened with the trees, and you re right, that poison has been sitting in Handir and Lainion for far too long…

Guest 1345: To NZ? oh lucky lucky lucky - have fun and tell us all about it :)

Narael: Thank you! I didn't make you wait too long, see? Glad you enjoyed the battle.

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Chapter forty-six: I am Silvan

'Ride, Legolas, like the winds of November…'

He could not tell how many hours had passed, but the light had gone and his muscles ached and his shoulder had become numb, a small mercy.

His brother remained completely still, the softest ghost of breath dusting over Legolas' forearm as it held his brother in place. There was poison at work, but he had not dared to remove the arrow, for to do that may mean the prince would bleed to death, yet leaving it lodged in his body meant it would be more difficult, with each passing hour, for him to recover from its toxicity. He could not stop, for to do so would mean certain death.

He tightened his arm around the lax body, securing his brother to himself, as if by doing so he could assure himself that nothing could happen to him, that Legolas' only connection with his real family would not fade away and leave him alone again, thrust him back into that strange void in which he had lived his entire life, and from which only now, was slowly emerging and opening his eyes to a reality that had been hidden from him.

A sudden thought came to him and in his addled state, it took a while for him to realise what it was. He was being followed, the trees told him it was so, but there was no danger. It was one of The Company. Yet Legolas still remembered the treachery of the trees in the glade where they had been assailed and wondered if he could trust them.

But the answer was already in his head. Yes, he could trust them, but the question remained, a question Legolas would need to address later - what had happened? Why had he not been told of the danger that lay before them?

It seemed mere minutes before the sun was once again rising and the land regained its colours. The distant gallop of hooves told him the warrior behind him was gaining ground. His body was half numb now, but he would not think of that - could not and he bolstered his concentration, gathered every bit of strength he still had inside him to block the pain, the exhaustion, the image of Dimaethor lying in a pool of blood.

Ride like the wind, Legolas, and do not stop until your brother is delivered…

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Glorfindel strode through the forest with Elladan and Mithrandir at his side. Rhawthir too was there for he was the most veteran of the Silvans, he was the best elf to guide them home. He walked with one hand tucked inside his belt to take some of the strain off his wound, the rest of The Company following in grim silence.

They had walked on through the night, and if Idhrenohtar had anything to do with it, they would continue on through the day - but Glorfindel had other plans as he turned to stop them.

"We will rest for fifteen minutes. Eat and drink, tend your wounds," he said curtly.

They sat and broke out their meagre supplies, chewing on broken way bread and squashed meat jerky. Elladan chewed on his own food as he moved to Rhrawthir and peeled away the bloodied bandage. Wetting a cloth with an antiseptic solution he carried in a canteen, he pressed it to the wound, eliciting a hiss of pain from the warrior.

"Keep it there for a while, Rhrawthir," he said, and then added, "are you fevered? nauseous?"

"No, yet I do not feel right, Rafno. The poison is a basic one I think - unpleasant but designed only to hamper, not kill."

"You know it then?" asked the healer as he worked.

"Yes, I believe I do," said Rhrawthir, and then grunted as Elladan tied the knot in the fresh bandage.

"Show me then, when we have time," said Elladan as he patted the warrior's shoulder and moved on.

Moving on to Ram en Ondo, he smeared a soothing cream over the nasty bruise on his face, and then wiped his fingers on a cloth, turning once more to see to Idhrenohtar.

"Elladan, take your rest," ordered Glorfindel, stopping any further attention Elrond's son would give; he needed his lieutenant.

"Are you all well?" asked Glorfindel from where he sat. All answered 'aye' and that was enough for the stern Commander, who signalled for them to continue their journey, and as they worked up their pace once more, Elladan looked down upon the pale face of Dimaethor. Rhrawthir had said he recognised the poison, had said it was a basic one, not a life-threatening one and that was just as well, but his worry did not fade; Elladan knew that arrow had been inside him for far too long.

Glorfindel watched Elladan, and then turned his mind inward, and to Legolas, to the way he had fought, how he had reached Handir, how the horses had aided him. He was proud of his adopted son, and sent a silent plea to the Valar. 'Protect him', he murmured to himself. 'Guide his path and do not claim Handir for your own…' He remembered then, who it was that followed - Melven. His stomach flipped for the Noldorin warrior was yet to prove himself in the commander's eyes; it had not been his choice to send him after Legolas, but it had been his only resource at the time. It was a make or break situation for him now. He would either become a member of the Company, or they would send him to the very pits of Mordor.

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"Hwindo! Hwindo! came the frantic shouts from behind. Legolas' mind sharpened once more - Melven, it was Melven who followed him, and a wave of overwhelming relief crashed over him.

Before long, the Noldorin warrior was galloping beside him, watching him closely as their horses cantered on. His grey eyes saw the wound on Legolas' collar bone, blood covering his front. His face was bruised and bloodied, but he seemed alert enough as he continued to set a furious pace.

"Let me take him!" shouted Melven.

"No! The borders are ahead, we may reach the fortress before nightfall," he shouted back.

Melven wanted to protest, but there was something in the Silvan's eyes that stopped him; something fierce and forbidding, something wildly protective and Melven, intelligent that he was, shut his mouth and kept a close eye on the road ahead.

"I will ride forward and meet the border guard, warn them so that they let you pass.."

"Good! Yes! Go, Melven. Prepare the way for me…" he shouted back and for the first time, Melven could hear the pain, the exhaustion and the effort it was taking the Silvan to keep himself and his brother aloft.

With a nod that was as much compliance as it was respect, he galloped forward in a rush of black hair and grey, billowing cloak, until he was but a speck on Legolas' horizon.

Some time later, Melven was closer than he had been and Legolas assumed he must have stopped to speak to the border guard. Sure enough off to one side stood two Silvan guards watching him as he thundered by, saluting him as he passed, for he carried their prince.

No sooner had Legolas passed and the guards swung into the trees, passing the news on to the rest of the patrol; Prince Handir was gravely injured, they whispered, but little did they know who it was that brought him home…

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"Open the gates! Open the gates!" screamed Melven from a distance as he galloped over the last few lengths before the mighty walls of the fortress, his voice carrying powerfully.

"Open them! Healers, to Prince Handir!" he screamed again.

The gates grated and screeched and soon enough, the massive stone and wood panels began to open inwards, just in time for him to thunder through and bring his horse to a halt in a cloud of dust.

"Prince Handir!" he gasped as he doubled over on his horse, vaguely aware that elves in green robes were running towards him.

"Prince Handir is gravely wounded, he rides behind me…" he managed to enunciate in spite of his heaving chest.

"Who are you?" came the authoritative voice of the Gate guard.

"Melven - Hadorion of Imladris. I ride - with Prince Handir's escort. There has been an ambush, we have ridden ahead in light of - his grave injury."

"What has happened!" shouted a healer.

"An arrow, a poisoned bolt through the chest…"

The other healers gasped and the one that seemed to be in charge, his face a mask of stern strength, began to bark out his commands, watching as they rushed away to do his bidding, but three of them remained to wait at his side. Meanwhile, the gate guard rushed into the fortress, in search of the duty commander, his face drawn into a tight scowl at the grave news he must now convey, news that would set the fortress into a frenzy of activity.

"Dismount warrior," said the head healer.

Melven wanted to laugh, for the thought had already occurred to him but his body was so tired, so stiff he was unsure of whether he would be able to keep himself upright. Steeling himself he nodded tiredly and slid himself to the ground, swaying for a moment before he could right himself.

"Are you alright?" asked the stern healer, his piercing hazel eyes boring into his own grey irises.

"Just tired, healer. The - the warrior that bears the prince is also wounded…"

The healer placed a calming hand on Melven's shoulder and then patted it. "We will take care of our warrior, Hadorion. Come inside when you can - you are welcome here in the Greenwood," he said, his words kind but his face completely blank. Melven supposed it was a master healer thing, for Elrond was much the same in situations such as these, and so he turned and waited together with the healers for Legolas to arrive, his breathing slowly coming under control.

He was vaguely aware that the fortress had lit up, and where before there had been calm darkness, now, there was the blazing light of a thousand candles, and the din of warriors as they converged, kitting out as they strode to the stables. They would leave to patrol the area, no doubt, ensure there were no stray orcs to threaten the immediate vicinity, and perhaps to escort the rest of his broken escort back to safety.

Before long, thundering hooves became louder and louder, and the preparations going on around him momentarily halted as all heads turned to the partially opened gates. A lone horse sped through and slowly ground to a halt before the group of elves that stood by. The horse struggled to breath, its flanks heaving as white foam slipped from its dusty sides, its sounds of distress telling the eloquent story of its service to the kingdom.

Two stable hands rushed forwards and held the beast's head in their hands, trying to calm him, but before they could do anything else, the horse's legs buckled and it sat strangely upon the ground. The beast had been driven almost to the point of extenuation.

The hooded warrior behind the lax body spoke then, soft and a little too slow.

"He has been shot with a poisoned arrow - it, seems to have paralysed him in some way," slurred Legolas.

The healer muttered something to another at his side, before pulling the body away from Legolas and rushing him inside, leaving Melven and a still breathless Legolas alone for a moment with the two young stable hands.

"Will you care for him, lad? Can you fix him?" asked Hwindo.

The boy looked up and then cocked his head to the side, trying and failing to see the face inside the hood.

"I will try, warrior," said the boy softly. He seemed dazed for a moment, but he soon snapped out of it as more healers approached and waited for the hooded warrior to dismount.

Turning, Legolas observed them for a moment, knowing he should dismount this extraordinary steed, but it took him a while to to get his muscles to obey him. They seemed to understand though, for they did not approach and finally, one long leg slipped over the saddle and he was slowly standing. He could not walk yet though, and he took a moment to compose himself.

It was enough for the healers though, who moved forward and took the hooded warrior by the arm.

He bit back a cry of agony as the bones scraped together and the healer drew back in alarm. Taking him by the other arm, they were soon entering the halls of healing which were conveniently placed next to the great gates.

Melven's duty truly began here, he knew, for Legolas' wounds would need tending, and to tend him, his cloak must be shed and so, with a deep breath, he walked on Legolas' other side and placed one, steadying hand at the small of his back. 'I am here, I have your back.'

Legolas understood the silent message and turned to face the Noldo. He knew Melven could not see him, just as he knew he would understood the silent thanks he gave to the warrior that was slowly gaining his trust.

The stone building looked much larger on the inside than it did from outside. A wide central aisle led off to other, open areas where patients lay abed. There was one oddity though, and that was that there were no doors, only doorways. This was a setback, realised Melven, for should they gain the trust of the healers, it would be difficult to hide here.

They had taken the prince into one of these doorless rooms and a flurry of activity had erupted around the bed upon which Handir lay. Legolas' eyes lingered there for a moment, before turning back to the fore and following the two healers that led them further into the depths of this, singular building.

Soon enough, Legolas was guided to a stone table, and one healer reached up to the hood of the cloak.

Melven, quickly checking the doorway, rushed over to Legolas, his hand shooting out to intercept the healer before he could reveal the face of his patient.

"Wait," he said simply, and the healer met the grey eyes in indignant surprise.

"Release me," he said. "I cannot treat him like this," he explained then. The female healer that stood beside him watched the exchange in trepidation, but remained silent, for the truth was that Melven's exotic features were stern indeed.

The Noldo slowly released the healer's hand, hoping that his message had been conveyed, but there was nothing else for it; he would have to wait and observe, and should either healer attempt to leave the room he would confront them. They looked Silvan, though, he mused, and for some reason he was glad for that. He had heard the rumours, had listened to The Company as they had discussed the Greenwood situation on the road and although he was by no means an expert, he knew enough to hope they would be sympathetic to the Silvan, should they even recognise him that is.

The chestnut haired healer he had heard the other call Danir, reached up once more for the hood, slower this time, and when he finally revealed the elf below, he looked down blankly at the top of his head, his silver-blond pony tale of thick, twisted hair, sitting atop the long braided hair that was lost behind his back.

He frowned minutely, but before his eyes could continue their inspection, the bowed head rose, and crystal clear green irises stared back at the healer.

Danir gasped and stepped backwards, and the female healer at his side covered her own mouth in shock.

Melven straightened his stance, his hand moving to rest on the pommel of his sword as his eyes poised on the healers, on the slightest change in their expressions that would but hint at any intention of giving them away.

But there was none, and Danir stepped forward once more, untying the cloak and allowing it to slip off the warrior's shoulder. With the help of his colleague, they unbuckled and unlaced, and then slipped the leather and linen from the warrior's body until it was stripped bare, only his breeches and boots still in place.

Melven watched them as they worked. It was strange, he mused, for their movements were slow and kind, reverent almost. Nothing at all like the cold, clinical hands of the Noldorin healers of Imladris. He was mesmerised by it.

The female allowed a finger to ghost over the two metal bands sitting over the strong bicep, before Danir cast her a disapproving glance, and then gestured to the tangle of loose and braided hair. She almost jumped, before moving behind Legolas and gathering the hair together, and then weaving one, thick braid which she tied off to one side, away from the wound on his shoulder.

Danir wet a cloth in a foul-smelling solution which sat in a bowl beside him, and then began to wash away the blood that impeded his vision of the wound.

"What is your name, warrior," he asked as he worked.

Legolas seemed absent, for his eyes were half-lidded and his head held a little too low, as if it cost him to keep it aloft.

"Hwindohtar," came the equally soft reply.

Danir lifted an eyebrow at that. "Is there any family member you wish for us to send for?" he asked as he rinsed out the cloth and applied it once more.

"Not here, no. They live in the forest," he answered.

"You are not Sindarin?" asked the healer in surprise, momentarily looking into the face of his patient, his frown deepening.

"Silvan," he said simply, and then added, "and Sindarin."

Danir's eyes floated to the twin arm bands and then back to the face and suddenly, the frown was gone, a new light in his eyes and Melven tensed.

He knew….

The healer's eyes flitted over Melven's and the Noldo's eyes hardened; there was a warning in them, one the silvan healer seemed to understand perfectly.

He turned back to his patient, the wound now revealed and he leaned in to closer inspect it. Prodding around the area, Legolas' face folded in pain and he bit back a moan of misery.

"The bone is fractured," he murmured. "Llyniel, find a brace for me," he muttered. The woman nodded and hurried away, and then Danir met Legolas' knowing eyes.

"You are the Silvan?" he asked quietly, his face showing his worry, his trepidation and just a hint of insecurity.

Legolas stared back at him, slanted green eyes sparkling in intelligence. "Yes," he whispered back. "Are you well with this?" he asked, his gaze heavy, full of meaning for there had been more to his question, and Danir did not seem to doubt that.

The healer's worried, apprehensive expression slowly turned upwards, his hazel eyes sparkling and his mouth curving until he smiled beautifully, both hands now on Legolas' strong shoulders.

"I am Danir, Silvan healer from Greybark, and I am at your service, my Lord," he whispered. With one quick glance at Melven, the healer nodded and then set to work once more, a stunned Llyniel standing in the doorway.

"Llyniel, keep your mouth shut," said Danir forcefully, yet there was something in his tone that spoke of friendship between them. She nodded at his back as she approached, passing Danir a fresh cloth, but as she turned, she suddenly moved in and kissed Legolas soundly on the cheek, grinning saucily before turning away to busy herself.

Legolas was snapped from his exhausted stupor and his eyes followed the healer for a moment before turning back to Danir, a delightfully boyish blush on his face as he smiled bashfully.

Melven watched him with a smile of his own, the kind of smile that had not graced his face for decades for this fierce, extraordinary warrior he had come to know, had suddenly turned into a blushing adolescent, it had been only a few seconds, but it had been a window, a fleeting blessed glance at the purity of one still so young, and yet so inexplicably burdened with the expectations of others. How had he ever thought to antagonise him? he mused in sudden confusion, and then shame at himself.

An overwhelming sense of belonging hit Melven with a force that knocked his balance for a moment, drawing Danir's attention to him.

"Are you alright?" he asked as he worked.

"Yes. Just tired," he answered. "I will rest when he does, if it is safe to do so," he said.

"We will make it safe," said Danir as he tightened a bandage and then reached for the loose white shirt that Llyniel handed him. Widening the neck, he slipped it over the bare torso and pulled it down, and then fashioned a sling in which he carefully placed Legolas' arm and then shortened it so that the forearm lay flat against his chest.

"It will take a few days for the bones to knit. Don't move this, else it will knit oddly and you, are an archer," he emphasised.

Legolas nodded his understanding. "Danir. Can you bring news of Prince Handir's condition?"

"Of course. As soon as I am finished here. You need food and rest, Hwindohtar, and you too, Melven. How long do you need?" he asked.

"Until the rest of my party arrive, Danir. I will be safe once they are here. Two days, unless the patrols find them sooner and escort them in. There is one who is gravely wounded - Dimaethor - I am sure they will ride him in before - I would know of his arrival too."

"You will know. For now, hot water for bathing and a little help with - with this - he pointed at the mass of hair that was tangled and splattered with blood. I am sure Llyniel will be of assistance," he said drolly and Melven's eyebrow rose at the healer's sarcastic sense of humour.

"I will leave you then, for I see you are well guarded," he said with a sideways glance at Melven. He turned to leave but stopped abruptly and then turned back to face Legolas, who still sat upon the stone bench.

"It is a great honour - my Lord - to serve you," said Danir, suddenly seeming much younger than he had before, more vulnerable.

Legolas turned his eyes to the healer and smiled sparingly. "And what have I done to deserve such treatment from you, healer?" he asked challengingly, and Melven knew this was the one thing that Legolas would have difficulty understanding.

The healer seemed to surprise him then, for he smiled and Legolas scowled. "Done? You saved Saroden's children from the flames, you are a listener, you were a Master Archer even before your first patrol, you are our king's son, our Silvan prince," he finished softly with a smile, and then a bow. He promptly left with a smiling Llyniel in tow and Melven moved to face the stunned Silvan.

"What have you been up to, child?" he asked with a smirk on his face.

Legolas locked eyes with Melven and then blew out a mighty breath. "How did he know all that…? he breathed in disbelief.

"You Silvans are bigger gossips than the Noldor ever were," he smiled. "Here," he said, holding out his arm for Legolas to hoist himself up.

Guiding him to the small cot next to a tiny window that looked out over the courtyard, Legolas sat slowly and winced at the increasing pain in his shoulder.

"You need to do something with this…." he said with a tut, his hand arranging the long, dirty plait that hung in Legolas' lap.

Legolas watched him as he fussed and although tired, bone weary, his smile spread and he spoke quietly into Melven's ear.

"I was not wrong about you. You have proved your metal, Melven - Glamohtar…" he whispered fiercely and Melven abruptly pulled back, his stare wild and wide.

"Glamohtar…" he repeated numbly.

Legolas smiled and his eyes danced with mischief. "You have the voice of a demon of Morgoth when you put your mind to it - you are the Screaming Warrior."

Wide, disbelieving eyes stared back at Hwindohtar until Melven's face broke into a wide, heart-felt smile for the first time since Legolas had known him, yet he said nothing, and Legolas suspected he knew why.

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Some time later, the two warriors lay sprawled upon the simple cot, dozing but not sleeping, for there were no doors here and although Danir had been adamant they were in no danger, neither of them were willing to risk it.

Llyniel was back and had soon filled a tub with steaming water. Opening a variety of bottles that stood upon a nearby shelf, she smelled them and then trickled a little liquid into the water, until the entire room smelled of lavender and jasmine.

Melven tiredly stood and pulled Legolas up with him. "You first, I will guard the door," he said, and then turned to take up guard.

Behind him, Legolas walked towards the tub, well aware that he could not undress himself with only one arm. He was not embarrassed though, for that was not the Silvan way. Indeed Llyniel was nothing if not professional as she removed his clothing, leaving him naked save for the sling in which his arm sat. She would change that later.

Legolas slid into the hot water and closed his eyes, breathing in the heady scents that finally took away the stench of enemy blood and guts.

He felt deft fingers unravel his plaits and the water as it soaked his hair. He felt the strong fingers massage his scalp and the scent of mint as it cleansed him and he finally allowed himself to relax, if only a little.

His body began to slow down and sleep was slowly gaining on him as he felt his body washed clean, the scrapes and bruises acquired in battle cleansed and treated as the water washed away his aches and pains and for one, blessed instant, everything was right, his mind blissfully empty.

It was a fleeting moment as he knew it would be, but it had been enough to anchor him, bring him back to reality with a refreshed sense of purpose and he opened his eyes.

Soon, he was dry and in clean breeches, and he padded over to the cot once more, glancing out of the small window to check the time - it was surely past the midnight hour, he realised, and then turned to Melven.

"Bathe, Melven, I will eat and watch," he said and Melven held his gaze for a moment. If anything should happen he did not want to be caught naked in a tub.

"No. I will wash and eat but I will not bathe, not until I know we are safe," he said. Legolas wanted to insist, but he saw that stubborn look upon the Noldo's face, one he had come to recognise. There would be no changing Melven Hadorion's mind and so he sat and ate his food, trying desperately not to think of Handir and Dimaethor, lest it turn his stomach.

"I wonder how The Company fares…." said Melven at that precise instant as he washed himself.

Legolas remained silent, but the glint in his eye and the pulse of his jaw told Melven everything he needed to know.

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Later that night, Legolas rose from the cot and drew his long cloak around him, flipping the ample hood over his face and tucking away his hair. He felt sluggish and weak, but there was no turning him from his purpose now.

"I am going to see Handir," he whispered to Melven, who dozed beside him.

"I am coming with you," he said - it was not a question.

"No, stay. Alone I will be able to slip in unnoticed. Handir is four doors down to the right. I will be ten minutes, no more."

Melven nodded, unconvinced at the wisdom of it, but Legolas had a point and so he stayed by the door with no door, poking his head around the wall and watching as Legolas padded silently along the aisle, bootless and cloaked once more.

The noise from before had died down to barely nothing. The odd murmur here and there, the clink of glass, the scrape of a chair.

He was at the door he thought led to Handir's bed and so he carefully leaned around the wooden door frame and peered inside. His eyes immediately latched on to the elf in a large bed, his face as white as the sheets he lay upon.

He looked dreadful, but he was alive, his chest moving rhythmically up and down.

Creeping inside, he moved silently to the bed and looked down at the face that resembled his own.

His hair had been carefully arranged around him, freshly washed and brushed and he smiled.

Carefully, he sat on the side of the bed and lay his hand on his brother's naked shoulder.

"Handir," he called softly. "Can you hear me, Handir?" he whispered, but there was no answer and he sighed softly in defeat. His brother was deeply asleep.

A rustling on the other side of the bed startled Legolas and he visibly jumped, and then partially stifled the groan that escaped him as his collar bone moved. Someone had been sitting on the other side of the bed, in a chair shrouded in shadow - until now - and the figure that occupied it slowly leant forward until his face and loose hair moved into the light, and Legolas' world suddenly narrowed to that one spot, his eyes and his mind, his hearing and his sense of smell all trained involuntarily upon the face that stared back at him.

Legolas' heart dropped to the soles of his feet and his breath would not come. His eyes trembled, as if overloaded, overwhelmed by the rush of detail, each clambering for his attention and a strange paralysis took him. He could not think, could do nothing but stare and hope that his mind would eventually work itself out and begin to order his tumultuous mind.

It was him and yet it was not. This was the elf Legolas had despised all his life; the elf that had abandoned him, the elf that had created him for the purpose of perpetuating another, as if he himself had never been a part of the plan. This was the elf that had used him selfishly, so that his own heart would not break, so that he would not fade. This was the elf that reminded him of that, unwanted, Sindarin streak in him, the one he still could not come to terms with because it represented his father, a father he did not understand, a father he rejected deep down inside himself and yet did not want to.

How could an elf that inspired in him such negativity, be so confoundedly, stunningly - beautiful?

"You brought him back, warrior?" came the gentle, rich baritone voice of King Thranduil.

His mouth opened, knowing instinctively that he should speak, but what to say! How to say it without giving himself away, giving away his stupor?

"Yes, my Lord," said Legolas softly, his mind frozen almost in alarm, fear for what the king would say now, if he would order him to remove his hood… such muddled thoughts but he could not cope with the onslaught. He felt a sudden wave of panic at his own inability to react.

"Then you have my thanks, warrior," said the king calmly, sadly almost.

"It was an honour, my Lord," replied Legolas so softly it was almost a whisper and again he waited in trepidation, his entire body poised to flee, muscled bunched painfully and sending pulses of deep pain down his left arm.

"What is your name?" came the dreaded question and Legolas closed his eyes under his hood.

"Hwindohtar," he said, hoping against hope the king would not ask for his surname, that his warrior name would be enough.

There was a prolonged silence before the king spoke again, one that seemed an eternity to Legolas.

"Well then, Hwindohtar. You have served with honour, he said, and then slowly sat back, the incomprehensible beauty fading into the shadows once more, leaving behind but the sparkle of bright eyes to remind Legolas that he had, indeed, been there - it had not been a vision.

Legolas stood somewhat stiffly, feeling the heavy weight of the king's gaze upon him even now. He bowed, and with a simple "by your leave," he left the room as slowly as he could manage and when he was in the aisle, making his way back to his room still he did not look back, dared not. When he finally reached his room he walked straight to the other side and then stopped, eyes cast to the floor and finally allowing his lungs to heave in the air he had starved them of.

Melven approached him in alarm.

"Hwindo?" he called, but there was no answer, and he set a calming hand upon the Silvan's shoulder.

"I - I have just met him…" he said, still stunned almost speechless.

"Met who?" asked Melven in mounting realisation.

"The king - I just met the king."

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