Still going, still on target for two more chapters after this one, and still wrapping things up! Wow, I really did get myself into a thistle patch :)) Even so, there are still unsolved issues, with Barathon and Draugole and Brethil, the Qalma Liltie, Maeneth…
I hope this chapter answers a few more of those recurring questions…
Lara: Maeneth está de camino - como verás :) Si, la celebración será mítica!
Guest: yes, time is what he needs to get his head around it. Maeneth is on her way - I haven't forgotten - LOL
Rita Orca: Thank you, my dear reviewer :)) OK, although Bandorion is out of the picture, his followers are not. Having said that, the real danger is over - and we are left with individuals with negative feelings. Remember though, that many of those followers were with Bandorion for the sake of the olden days - remember? the Sindarin splendour? Legolas and the Silvans are going to outdo themselves with making that a reality … Barathon and Draugole are still around of course, and they now have to decide what it is they want to do…
Guest: first off, thank you for contributing and I am in no way insulted by your critique. Personally, I don't get the impression that Legolas is untouchable in his judgement and I suppose that is possibly a cultural difference, either that or I have explained myself atrociously! I do have a tendency to make Legolas too perfect - that is true - but I wasn't aware that I was giving the impression he is a pillar of wisdom :)) I wish you had an account so that I could answer you more precisely - but thank you for taking the time to review.
Noph: LOL - are you trying to tell me something? OK, I know - the faberge egg, the spear master, the Qalma Liltie… those are the little seeds I have planted for further stories - I won't forget them :))
Guest 1345: yes, almost over - but Alpha Ori will be back soon with another tale, while Nimruzir prepares another.
Chapter sixty-one: Royal Blood
He watched her from afar as she peeled carrots and turnip. Her movements were slow and methodical, loving almost, and Legolas rather thought her mind was elsewhere.
She had tucked her chestnut locks into a bun high upon her head, loose strands of it floating freely about her face, something that would have bothered Legolas to no end. She, however, did not even seem aware.
"Amareth," he called quietly as he walked into the tent. He had tried not to startle her, but she had physically jumped as he called her name - far away indeed.
She looked at him, her eyes straying once more to his hair and then back to his eyes, as if she were still unable to reconcile this version of her son with the once that had left her not so long ago in Lland Galadh.
He could read her like a book, he realised, every emotion - her uncertainty, her doubts, her worry, her consternation, her love…
Walking slowly to where she sat, he sunk down to the ground and crossed his legs, looking into the mid-day hearth for a moment before meeting her eyes.
"Mother," he began softly, quietly, and her head rose to meet him. Her eyes, he realised, were so heavy, so full of the things she had lived and for one moment he faltered.
"I know that I will understand what happened, one day soon perhaps, for I wish to travel into the deep forest, find the tree where I know I was born…"
Amareth's brow furrowed. "How could you know that, Legolas?" she whispered.
His sparkling green eyes held her own, honey irises for a while before he spoke. "I have seen it, in my dreams…"
"You have a gift?" she asked warily.
"I was given a gift - I am not a listener, mother. I am a protege…"
With a harsh intake of breath, a low moan escaped her and her eyes filled with rebellious tears. Legolas startled for a moment for he had not expected that reaction at all, but then, as he watched more closely, he saw Amareth's mind as it seemed to search the paths of her long memory and Legolas was momentarily fascinated; honey irises searched blindly, as if there was something before her eyes and yet there was nothing, save for what her mind showed her in private.
"I could never understand it," she whispered as the first tears fell and her bottom lip quivered uncontrollably. "I could never understand your fascination with the tree. Lassiel would leave you there, alone sometimes, and I would scorn her for it, yet she simply smiled and shook her head at me…."
"You think she knew something?" asked Legolas, wide-eyed at what his aunt was saying.
"Perhaps, she whispered. But what I could never conceive, was how he did not find us - how Bandorion never saw us…"
"What do you mean?" he asked, his own skin beginning to crawl painfully.
"Bandorion…. I told you we were there the day he took her life… we were in the tree. She left me with you and led Bandorion away from us she, she took your blanket," she sobbed, eyes pleading with Legolas to understand, "she bunched it up before her, as if you were there in her arms," she explained, carrying out the movements herself, "and then he killed the 'child', she laughed almost hysterically, her voice rising uncontrollably as her tears fell, and Legolas listened in horrified curiosity.
"He stuck his dagger into that blanket, through the empty cloth and into her loving heart."
Legolas' own eyes closed as the story continued to unfold, as he witnessed Amareth's utter distress at the distant yet vivid memory.
"He stepped back first in shock, and then horror as he realised there was no babe, only the woman he had instantly killed - the king's lover no less. The rage," she sobbed, "the utter wrath upon his face was the most repugnant of things I have ever seen, Legolas. His fury was hideous, disturbing beyond anything I will ever see in my life - I still dream of that face…"
"And you kept silent, in the tree?" asked Legolas.
"Yes - but it was a talan, Legolas, he should have been able to see it and yet he did not come for us. It was as if he could not see it at all and he did look…
Both elves came to the same conclusion at the same time, and at last, a nascent smile blossomed on Amareth's tear-streaked face. "She was watching over you, even then… she whispered as her questing fingers reached out to touch his face tentatively."
"She? How did you know who…"
"It can be no other, Legolas. To command the trees, the colour of your eyes…" she whispered.
He nodded his confirmation and then smiled himself. "I remember that tree… I have seen it …. I saw a woman I first thought was Lassiel but now that I have seen my mother, I know it was not her - no - it was my Lady in that tree - "
Amareth sobbed in relief, as if all the pieces of her complicated plight had finally come together and she could breath once more.
"I did my best, Legolas… I tried so hard to protect you. By not speaking of it I would not fuel your desire for knowledge - I could not risk that for you were such a bright child. That is my excuse, for what it is worth, yet now, in hindsight, I would not have acted in the same way, not after seeing what it did to you, how you suffered… had I known…"
"I know, mother. I know your heart and I will never question that - I just - I just wanted to know that my father was honourable. I could live with being a bastard, so long as I could believe that my father was a good elf…"
"I am sorry, Legolas. I could not trust them any more, not after Bandorion. He was Oropher's brother, a man of such influence I was terrified even that Thranduil would bend to his wishes, for had his own father not yielded to Agrareb's family's outrageous accusations? - I had no way of knowing his heart, no way of knowing what Bandorion had told him, or whether he simply had not spoken of it… There is nothing worse than the fear of losing the one you most love, Legolas."
Her words rung true. Fear had driven her to take the wrong decision, something she could only come to understand in hindsight, when the damage was done; but hindsight was never a tool one could count on to make a decision, and the damage was not permanent.
Holding out his somewhat battered hand, he reached for hers and then placed his other hand on top.
"You were wrong, but I understand your motives, mother - your mistake does not take the love away, does not take my respect for you away. Had it not been for you, I would surely have died that day, or perhaps later if Bandorion continued to search for me."
Pulling her hand to his mouth, he kissed it reverently and then raised his eyes to hers and smiled.
Her own hand curled around his, latched onto it as if she hung from a precipice and then lurched forwards, wrapping him in a crushing embrace, eyes closing in utter relief, squeezing out the last of her tears.
"I have missed you, my son, and now that it is over, I will scream it to the four corners of Arda. You are my Son! My Sindarin, Silvan son…" she trailed off and then screwed her eyes shut.
Erthoron and Mithrandir entered the tent then, immersed in their own conversation, only to stop still at the sight that met them. The wizard smiled and Erthoron's face softened as his eyes glistened.
"At last," he mumbled, "at long last…"
The expertly crafted arrow hit the target dead centre and the onlooking crowds cheered in delight at the spectacle that Legolas was offering them. Rhrawthir and Idhrenohtar stood at his side and the three Silvans had challenged each other to a makeshift game, one Legolas was beating them sorely at. Indeed their aim had never been to beat him but to see who could come closest.
THWACK, THWACK - One in the inner circle, one a little further away.
"Rhrawthir, release your breath with your hand - they are one and the same, try again and do not release until I tell you to…
Standing behind the Silvan, he checked his stance and then sighted down the shaft, and the young warriors standing on the side lines watched, and made the movements themselves.
"Hold," he said, placing a hand on Rhrawthir's chest.
"Exhale slowly," he said, voice deep, almost hypnotic, waiting for him to obey, "release," he said, and then watched as the arrow flew true, straight into the centre of the target.
"You see!" said Legolas cheerfully before slapping Rhrawthir on the back so hard he stumbled forward.
Before long, when Legolas and his two companions were collecting their arrows, the improvised archery range was packed with eager young warriors, trying their own luck with their Warlord's instructions, while the elder, more experienced warriors exchanged impressions, their eyes often straying to an oblivious, soon to be Warlord.
"They look up to you," said Idhrenohtar with a smile as he slung his quiver onto his back.
"Yes," said Legolas, somewhat embarrassed. "I am not used to this - attention," he said simply.
"Well you'd best make an effort, Hwindo - it's not going to go away," smirked Rhrawthir.
"No, I suppose not," he said as they made their way back to the tents. "Amareth is cooking for us this evening - tell the rest?" said Legolas.
"Excellent," said Idhreno. We shall see you then, unless you need to use us as an excuse to flee all the party preparations," he grinned.
With a shake of his head, Legolas bent inside the tent and stopped short for there, beside Amareth, stood a singular woman. She was tall and elegant, her hair darker than Amareth's, but the similarity was clear, save that her eyes were green, like his own, except perhaps a little darker.
"Legolas," said the woman, her voice deep and mellow. "I have long desired to meet you child- come - come to your great Aunt Marhén!" she smiled.
Sweaty and shirtless from his archery, he smiled apologetically and Marhén giggled. "My, but you are a heart-breaker, just look at you!" she said, her eyes roving appreciatively over the planes of his body, before meeting his eyes once more.
"Tis true then - they did not exaggerate at all," she smiled.
"Oh? What do they say then?" he smiled as he packed his weaponry away and made for the basin of water.
"Come now, false modesty? Or is it that you are vain and wish to hear it from the lips of others?" she smiled saucily.
Legolas frowned as he smiled, pleasantly surprised at the woman's mischievous nature.
"Well let me see," she said, taking a hand to her chin as she thought. "Hair as long and as thick as Vaire's tapestry….the muscles of Beleg himself … the eyes of a Vala ….. the back…."
"Marhen!" shouted Amareth with a giggle, slapping her aunt on the arm.
Legolas giggled as he washed himself down and Marhén came closer to him.
"You are lovely, Legolas. I am proud to finally meet you. My house is yours - always."
Legolas turned to her and studied her strange eyes, before smiling and nodding. "And mine would be yours, if I had one," he smiled ironically. "You are the Mistress of Ceremony?" he asked.
"Oh yes, that is me. Silvan festivities are highly symbolic, as you know, and so much more fun than those stuffy Sindarin customs. This celebration will be remembered in our lore books - indeed even as we speak, the musicians compose their pieces and the choirs practice, and further away the dances are honed and paintings are rendered. Indeed you and I - have an unavoidable appointment with the colouring needles…"
"Ah yes, the - symbol, or whatnot…" said Legolas, drying himself and reaching for his green undershirt.
"What not? Legolas - 'tis the circle of eternal life that you must carry, our most beloved symbol for it speaks of peace, of perpetuating life…"
"And what does that have to do with a warrior, Marhen?" he asked somewhat sarcastically.
"That you are our defender - that you will defend our immortal lives, even unto the loss of your own - it is a paradox and yet not so - do you follow me?" she asked kindly.
"Yes, although it will look strange should I die upon the battle field," he said.
"Not at all, not if you truly understand its meaning, child. The circle of eternal life is perpetual, and even should you die, you will not - for we would carry you in our hearts, even though you rest with Mandos - to bear the circle, is to never be forgotten. This is its true meaning."
Legolas smiled. "That makes sense," he said simply. "When?"
He gulped and Amareth smiled. "He has a - problem with the thought of being permanently marked…"
"One I understand," said Marhén. "Yet it is a great honour we bestow upon you, my nephew. Bear it proudly?"
Legolas nodded and then sat, and before long, Marhén had begun her work, work that would not finish until the sun had gone down and Amareth's stew was done.
"He said, 'it's lovely'," said Idhrenohtar quite seriously, albeit he had drunk enough of Narosén's cordial to render a Uruk Hai senseless.
"Oh," said Legolas as he flung the skin back and gulped some more.
"Marhén could - could do you too, a lovely - wall of stone - just here…" said Legolas, pointing at Ram en' Ondo's stomach, before slowly keening to one side.
Rhrawthir pulled him back upright and then patted him on the shoulder.
"It must be very expensive - coin neither of us have!" said Lindohtar, swallowing more liquor and then smoothing down his mussed hair.
"Koron might though? Eh? Ball of - of - of-"
"Fire," finished Koron en' Naur with a smirk. "Where's Glorfindel?" asked the Sindarin lieutenant.
Silence suddenly took them all, and furtive glances were cast Legolas' way.
"At the fortress. He's leaving after the celebration," said Legolas.
No one seemed to know what to say, and so they drank and they pondered on the injustices of life, but Legolas stood, swayed slightly on his feet, and then turned to them, his arms a little further away from his body than they would normally be.
"Going for a walk…" he said, and then left, the Company staring after him in knowing sadness.
"He's close to Glorfindel. He is like a father to him," said Elladan. "But this you already knew…"
"Could he not be persuaded to stay just a little longer?" asked Glamohtar, the Noldorin warrior.
"It is time for Legolas to come into his own, Glamo. He needs to make his own decisions now, be resolute, trust his own judgement, rather than do what others tell him he should," said Idhrenohtar, the Wise Warrior.
"But he already does that," said Ram en'.
"Not always, brother. When it comes to his family he is still a little lost - unsure of what to do, what to think - and can we blame him? He only ever had Amareth, at least that is what he was told. He cannot know how to act for all this is new to him, while others take it all for granted. It is easy to forget this. Glorfindel is a rock for him, one that points him in the right direction yet even then, it is Legolas who must come to his own conclusions. I think our Gondolidrim understands this," said Idhrenohtar.
"Yes, yes he does," said Elladan.
"Should we go after him?" asked Lindohtar.
"No," said Elladan. "Leave him be…"
And so the Company sat and they drank, and they counted the days when everything would be over, and they could all, finally, ride together.
The next morning, Legolas rose early, in spite of his drinking session with the Company the night before. Dressing in his uniform, he slung his bow over his shoulder and slipped his twin knives into his quiver.
Collecting his heavier top locks, he bunched them high on his head and tied them off. Emerging from his tent, he squinted at the brilliant sun, and then turned to make his way to the archery range. Yet before he could take two steps, an elf flung himself at him from the side. Taking evasive action, Legolas tripped him and threw him to the ground with a mighty thud and a puff of dust.
"Legolas," gasped Thavron, "so nice to see you," he wheezed, and Ram en' and Idhreno doubled over laughing, as Hwindo smiled ruefully and helped his friend up.
"Thavron you fool" he shouted in mock anger, before pulling his friend close and hugging him tightly.
Thavron thumped him on the back before pulling away and looking at his friend for the first time in almost two years.
"What have they done to you?!" he asked.
"Oh thank you, Thavron. "Do you not like it then?" he asked vainly as he twirled on his heel, his hair fanning out around him.
"It is - unique - aye," he smiled. "It is good to see you, my friend - a lieutenant, a Lord…" he said quietly, no longer in jest.
"Thank you, Thavron," smiled Legolas somewhat sadly. "You have no idea how much we have missed you. But come, you must spend your time with us - where are you staying?"
"My whole family have come, in that tent there, see?" he pointed.
"Legolas!" came the stern voice from across the camp and he turned sharply with a frown. The sight that met him was not what he had expected.
"Prince Rinion," he bowed formally, as did the Company and Thavron.
Rinion's icy eyes travelled over them all before resting on his half-brother. "Come, I would speak with you," he said authoritatively and Legolas nodded, sparing an apologetic glance at his friends before walking away with Rinion.
"How are the preparations going?" he asked, his eyes to the fore.
"Well, my Prince. I believe your people are liaising with the Silvans on the protocol, the music and the other - whatever it is they are preparing," he muttered and Rinion smirked.
"Tedious, is it not? Yet important it is. This agreement must get off to a good start if we are to take political advantage of the circumstances. This is your first test of statesmanship, Legolas - it is what princes do all the time."
"I am not a prince…"
"No, you are not," answered Rinion. "Yet you are a Lord, and a Warlord - your responsibilities will be similar in many respects, no doubt."
"Are you offering to teach me?" asked Legolas sarcastically.
"Me? No. I will leave that to Handir, he tolerates you."
Legolas' pace faltered and he looked at his older brother. "And you do not tolerate me?" he asked.
"Not well, not yet. Prove yourself to me and we shall see if…." his words were suddenly cut off and his ice-blue eyes widened in utter shock. For a moment, Legolas did not understand, until the gasps around him made his heart sink to the bottom of his new boots and he closed his blazing eyes.
"Legolas?" asked Rinion carefully.
"Legolas?!" he shouted louder now, drawing the attention of the Company, still close by.
Opening his eyes, his mind opened and he listened, just as the Company reached his side.
"They search…. looking for royal blood,"
Narosén was suddenly in his peripheral vision, batting away Elladan's hands.
"Leave him alone," he said quietly as he watched in fascination at the transformation.
"They search for royal blood, to destroy it - 'tis why Lainion died… she is in danger!" he hissed.
"Who, who is in danger?" asked Rinion urgently. "Speak!"
"Maeneth - Maeneth is being hunted…"
Rinion's heart faltered and his skin crawled. "Where? Where is she?" he shouted, fisting his brother's collar and pulling him close.
"Close to the Eastern patrol, approaching the Greenwood with a unit of the Lorien guard…"
"How far out," he shook his brother again.
"How far!" he screamed.
"Rinion!" shouted Elladan, a dire warning in his blazing grey eyes.
"A day, perhaps…"
Rinion pushed Legolas away from him and turned on his heels. "Bring your Company," was all he said and he was already jogging away. Straightening his uniform and drawing a shaking hand over his eyes, he took a deep breath and turned to the Company.
"Come, we ride with the Prince. Get your weapons and make haste to the stables. If we have already left, follow us due East."
Legolas was now jogging after the frantic prince and the Company ran to their tent to grab their weapons. Soon, they were all gone, and the Silvan camp, including Narosén and Thavron were left staring agape after the warriors, still unable to understand what it was they had just seen in the eyes of their new Warlord.
"Rinion! Wait - listen to me."
"Speak!" shouted Rinion as he continued to jog back to the fortress.
"She is well-protected by the Lorien guard, and the Eastern patrol is twenty strong."
"She will be in the middle of it - I will not have her witness bloody battle, Legolas."
"I understand. With you, me and the Company we are nine more. We still have time before the enemy engages, if we ride hard we can arrive before they do - the Eastern patrol knows there is danger in the area."
"How in the void do you know all this! No! Don't tell me - the trees!"
"Yes, the trees! What of it! You disapprove?" he spat in frustration now.
"Shut up, and mount up," was all the prince said as he swung himself into the saddle and gave curt instructions to a runner, before wheeling his horse around to face Legolas. "Follow me with your Company, I ride on."
"Rinion!" shouted Legolas, but the prince would not listen and soon, he was galloping away, disappearing into a cloud of dust.
"What is it boy?" asked Thranduil from his desk, Aradan and Handir at his side.
"Prince Rinion sends urgent word. Princess Maeneth approaches with a Lorien patrol, but he says the enemy is moving…"
Thranduil stood abruptly, an uncharacteristic loss of control making the boy startle.
"Did he say anything else? Do they need back up?"
"He said no more, my King?"
"I don't understand, " he muttered. "How could he know that," he startled then and turned back to the boy.
"Was Lord Legolas with him?"
"Yes, my Lord."
Thranduil's face showed his sudden understanding - "I want Commander Celegon here now, run boy, it is urgent," said the king as he turned to Aradan.
"Maeneth," he whispered, and a smile broke out on his face, in spite of the urgency. "My child…"