Apologies to all my reviewers for chapter 65 - I just could not find the time to answer you, something I hate doing.
Some of you were interested in the music being described. Well, try 'Reel Around the Sun' by Maire Breatnach for the Warlord's entrance, and in this chapter, for the Reel of Lland Galadh, try Duelling Violins by Ronan Hardiman.
It was great to meet some of you guys over on Facebook - thanks for friending. And those that went on to check out my Wattpad account - amazing - and I am glad you like the book covers. And a special mention to Leggyrespect123 for the incredible help and encouragement - just wanted you to know it means a lot to me.
Well, we truly are in the last two chapters now - so only one more after this. I am not going to cry about it, absolutely not, so on with the tale…
Oh - and will we finally hit 1,000 reviews?
Rita Orca, Noph, Ninde, Freetobe, Lecoeur, Guest1345, Violet, GB12390, Lea1985: Thank you for your wonderful comments.
Chapter sixty-six: Reel of Lland Galadh
Legolas took a long sip of his wine, relishing for a moment the strong, heady aroma that snaked up into his nostrils and soothed his racing heart. He had not eaten much and perhaps that was just as well. There would be time enough once they returned to camp, where the real party would begin and he would be freer to be himself. He smirked mentally, wondering if Llyniel would be allowed to join him.
Elladan was talking animatedly with Handir, his eyes straying to the princess from time to time, while Mithrandir and Narosén had struck up a deep conversation on the properties of energy flow between trees, apparently oblivious to all else.
Maeneth spoke with Llyniel and with Rinion, but Legolas could see her veiled interest in Elladan, something that made him inordinately happy. Elladan had been given only temporary leave to ride in the Greenwood, and the thought of losing him, losing Rafnohtar left him with a hollow feeling. Elrond's eldest son had become irreplaceable, and his friendship with Maeneth was a promising whisper, that perhaps, with time, they would become closer - that Elladan would not have to leave.
"Legolas," came Mithrandir's deep voice. "Your eyes - if we may - Narosén and I were discussing the reason behind their - luminosity -," he said.
The question had drawn the attention of all that sat close enough to hear, including Llyniel, and Legolas knew he would need to be careful with what he said. Placing his fork carefully upon his plate, he turned his eyes to the side, searching for a way to describe it, one that would not sound too - far fetched, too close to the truth.
"I believe it is their light, a part of their aura seems to - connect - with mine, it is what allows me to understand them, and for them to understand me. Some of you have seen the full extent of it, unfortunately," he smiled ruefully, "and I believe that is due to the suddenness of it, the urgency of their voice, the amount of their essence that is needed to make me understand - do you follow?" he frowned, his eyes moving from Mithrandir to Narosén.
"I believe so," said Mithrandir with a brief glance at the Spirit Herder. "But go on…" urged the wizard, "why do they shine now - do they still speak?" he asked.
"Yes," smiled Legolas. "Can you not hear them, Narosén?" he asked and the Spirit Herder shook his head. "Not any more, not in here," he said sadly.
"They murmur and they sing, and sometimes they speak of people, and places. For now it is soft and distant, unintelligible unless I concentrate."
"'Tis magic," said Maeneth in wonder, but Legolas shook his head adamantly. "No, not magic, sister. It is physics - it is an exchange of energy I do not understand the details of, but it is not caused by incantations or spells. I am not a mage, I am a simple vessel through which they speak."
"Handy in a difficult situation," said Rinion with a smirk, and Legolas giggled. "Aye - but dangerous should I be mistaken for a demon of Morgoth, as Silor once called me," he smirked as he picked up his fork once more.
"I heard about that," said Rinion as he sipped his wine. "The fool is a base warrior once more."
"He had no leadership skills at all, brother, even I could see that," said Handir.
"Then it is just as well," muttered Rinion.
"I always thought… Legolas?" asked Elladan, interrupting whatever it was he was about to say, for his friend's gaze was off to the side once more, lost in the voice of the trees.
"I wonder, if you would excuse me, my Lords, for a brief time. There is something I must do. I will be back soon," he said softly, standing and bowing, and then walking from the Hall under the attentive gaze of the elves.
"Where does he go?" asked Aradan in puzzlement.
"He answers the call of the trees, my Lord. Thus is his duty, for one of his condition," explained Narosén.
"For one of his condition? What do you mean?" asked the councillor.
Narosén startled, realising that perhaps not all of them were aware of the source of Legolas' ability.
"For a listener, my Lord."
Aradan frowned, briefly glancing at his king, who simply shook his head almost imperceptibly, and Aradan did not insist, rather he stowed the information away. There was something he was not being told.
Legolas walked slowly through the corridors, passing ceremonial guards who stood to attention as he walked on. They would soon be relieved of their duty so that they could join in the festivities, indeed many of them were Silvan, their own families already in the thick of the celebrations they could clearly hear from where they stood.
On he walked, until he reached the door that led outside, and to the royal gardens.
Once outside, the voices grew louder, sharper, more intelligible as he walked to the place he had sat the day before together with his siblings, where the flowerless rose bush stood alone and barren.
Kneeling upon the lawn, his eyes latched onto the plant and he listened. It was a sad song, slow and melancholic that weaved its sorry tune around its roots, around stalks and stems and green leaves, strangling its fertility, stealing from it its natural vigour, its instinct to bloom neutralised by the paralysing sorrow that surrounded it.
An overwhelming pulse of grief washed over him and he closed his eyes in misery. Opening them again, he swiped irritatedly at a stray tear and then held out his hand to brush over the leaves, careful not to prick his skin on the spines.
He gasped as the sound cut through his mind, sending a stab of pain to the back of his eyes, but he would not take his hand back - he had to know what it was - who it was that called out to the king.
He had an inkling of what would happen, for had it not been the same in Imladris, when he had felt the past and the future of the Lady Celebrian? He had given much thought to it, and the only plausible theory he had, was that the trees of Valinor were in contact with their brethren in Middle Earth. That a part of them shared a collective consciousness, even across the Sundering Sea.
'You are free, my love..' came the voice once more and the flash of a lovely face came to him.
'I free you of the bonds you never wanted…'
His blood froze and he shuddered - this was Aglareb, it was her emotions that came to him and they were overwhelming him, just as he had been overwhelmed in Imladris, yet this time, the element of surprise had gone, and Legolas tried to focus, to channel the barrage of thoughts and feelings he was receiving.
'I never wanted… I never knew…'
Legolas thought he would never know if these emotions were from the past, perhaps when she was still here, sitting before her favourite plant, pondering the tragedy of her existence, of her unrequited love - an echo of her sorrow. Or perhaps they were thoughts from the present, from Valinor, when time may have healed her grief and given her a second chance.
Focussing his eyes once more upon the bush, he smiled sorrowfully.
'Would that I could know your fate…' he spoke to himself.
Breathing deeply, he stroked his ringed index finger over the stem one last time, for it was time to return lest Erthoron set the guards to find him. Standing, he smoothed out his silvan skirt, and then marvelled once more at the quality of the fabric, his eyes moving over the delicate embroidery around the edges of the leather overlay, and from the corner of his eye, a delicate pink rose blossomed in the blink of an eye.
Legolas turned to the bush once more, suddenly cold and breathless, for it was not one, single rose that had blossomed, but the entire bush.
He cried then, not in sorrow but in overwhelming awe, for the simplicity of it, for the power that had made it possible, for the message he understood without doubt. Aglareb was healed, and she had freed her husband of his bonds. She understood and should the king travel one day across the seas, he would be forgiven, and he would be free…
Walking slowly back down the corridors, he smiled as he listened to a merry Woodland tune that was being played - the dancing had begun and his step quickened. As he passed one of the many ceremonial guards standing to attention, he could have sworn he saw an armoured boot tap to the beat, but as his eyes locked with the guard in question, he could not detect the slightest hint of movement, for the warrior stood stock still, eyes to the fore and Legolas frowned, before he smirked, and then walked away, back towards the hall, the soft tap of a booted foot echoing mischievously behind him.
Elves were dancing in the centre of the Great Hall, smiling and laughing as they turned and bowed and floated in elegant circles. It was civilised and galant - a Sindarin rendering of a Silvan jig. Well, it was time to show them, perhaps, how the deep Silvans danced a reel - but first…
"Ah, you are back," said Thranduil with a smile, his eyes lingering on those of his son and Legolas was suddenly uncomfortable, as if his father could read his mind. He knew he could not, but he felt - vulnerable.
Sitting, he reached for his wine and drank, his eyes catching the sideways glances of his table companions. It was providence that precisely at that moment, a single fiddle began to play the introduction to one of the Silvan's most beloved reels. Now was the time to put this blasted skirt to the test, he thought with a winning smile.
Turning to Elladan, his face full of mischief and his eyes sparking, he uttered the words he knew his friend had been dreading all evening. "It is time, Noldo, to show us what you have learned!"
Elladan paled, a look of utter panic spreading over his face.
"I am not Silvan!"
"So?" snorted Legolas.
"I do not know how to dance this!"
"Follow us!" he said as he pulled Elladan from his chair and those at the table chuckled.
The rest of The Company were approaching now, straightening their tunics as their eyes searched the crowds for a suitable companion.
"Ready brothers? Shall we dance this the Lland Galadh way?" he shouted merrily.
"Aye!" they cheered and so, as the fiddle wound through the introductory notes, each elf came to stand before their intended partner. Legolas was before Llyniel, who still sat and smiled, and Elladan resisted the urge to close his eyes as he stepped before Maeneth, whose eyes were wide with surprise, and Rinion's had almost disappeared into glittering slits. As for Glorfindel, he smirked as he watched, wondering if the Princess would accept, and further away, the March Warden of Lorien changed his course and then stood before Mentathiel. The Spirit Singer startled, not having expected to be invited to dance with the handsome March Warden, but soon enough she smiled her acceptance, and Haldir, with one last, fond gaze upon Maeneth, turned his full attention to the enticing Avarin.
The music suddenly exploded and the lads of The Company began to jig before their wide-eyed partners, feet tapping here and there, their hair bouncing up and down upon their shoulders, or in Legolas' case around his silk and leather-clad waist.
Aradan watched in fascination, as Glorfindel simply guffawed, for the dance was daring and it was primal. Rinion leered at Elladan and Mithrandir chuckled together with Narosén. As for Erthoron, he looked on proudly, for the Reel of Lland Galadh was famous throughout the forest, especially when Legolas danced it. He just hoped that skirt would not let the boy down.
The introduction came to a close and Llyniel stood and then curtseyed, before holding her hand out. Elladan jigged as he panicked, watching Legolas' every move and mirroring it, and then almost crying in relief as Maeneth stood and the onlookers gasped, something that made Glorfiindel laugh all the louder.
The Warlord pulled on Llyniel's arm and towards him, escorting her out to the centre of the floor as they softly jigged together, joining the rest of The Company and the other Silvan elves brave enough to dance this reel. Elladan finally joined them, and although a little clumsy, was managing to hold his own - but what was priceless to his brother's of the Company, was that the panic had gone and in its place, was boyish glee, for his princess had accepted the dance and he no longer seemed to care that he would get it wrong.
Legolas nodded approvingly at him, and then turned to Llyniel.
"Can you dance this the Lland Galadh way?" he asked, the sparkle of challenge in his eye.
"Oh yes - do your worst, Warlord! she shouted cockily, but the shout turned into a long drawn-out scream as he suddenly encircled her waist and spun around the floor to the now fully-fledged reel.
Elladan's rendering of the dance was much more civilised, but the moves were correct, and Maeneth smiled. "You are doing well, my Lord!" she shouted over the din.
"I picked up more than I thought!" he shouted back, concentrating on his foot movements.
Legolas laughed, carefree for the first time in more than a year as he flung Llyniel into the dance once more.
The crowds stood and moved to the sidelines, watching the merriment, while the Silvans whistled and yipped as they clapped their hands and stomped their feet to the ever increasing rhythm and the dancers strived to keep up with it.
"Go Hwindohtar!!" shouted Ram en' Ondo, and go he did. The music broke off into a single fiddler and the males and females danced away from each other, the females lifting their skirts and kicking their feet here and there as the males distanced themselves, or in the case of Legolas, moved to the almost the back of the hall.
When Llyniel had finished her own flurry, she stood and watched with baited breath, for Legolas began to cartwheel and then flip-flop towards her, ending in a sideways twist and then a spectacular backwards flip that sent him sailing over her head, only to land on the other side of her and promptly whisk her away in the now frenzied rhythm as the entire orchestra took up the music. There was a mighty cheer, screams and hoots from the onlookers as the dancers reeled round and around, their skirts and hair flying madly around them.
Legolas span Llyniel purposefully close to the high table so that her skirt flew past her father and mother and she screamed as she laughed hysterically, the tempo accelerating once more, barely able to hold on.
Glorfindel was slapping his thighs in mirth and Mithrandir was wheezing, and Miren, Llyniel's mother sat with one hand on either side of her own face, her mouth wide and her eyes giddy.
One final spate in the music and Legolas lifted his partner into the air and spun her around and when the tune finally came to an end he set her down and twirled her around one last time as the crowds shouted and screamed and cheered.
Standing before each other, their chests heaving and their faces alight with the exhilaration of the dance, their eyes strayed to their lips and Legolas suddenly snapped out of the spell, giggling and then offering his arm to her.
Elladan and Maeneth were at their side then, and the Noldo looked at Legolas in something akin to disgust.
Legolas snorted and Maeneth giggled, but they said nothing for they were all, completely out of breath.
The warriors of The Company slapped Legolas on the shoulder before returning to their tables, heroes to the rest of the Silvans sitting there, and Legolas and Elladan did the same, under the amused gazes of those present.
"Well, bless my Sindarin hide but I must learn that!" exclaimed Handir, before adding, "well, not the acrobatics bit - I would disjoint myself - but the rest - you must teach me!"
Legolas smiled, and then turned first to Aradan and then to Miren, who stared at him in shock. Bowing respectfully, he led Llyniel to her place and then sat once more, the very picture of lordly behaviour.
Thranduil had watched it all; he had smiled, and even laughed. He loved his youngest child with a passion he could not explain. Pride was simply an insufficient word, for he was beautiful, strong, skilled and so very empathic. A born leader, a heart-breaker - at peace with everyone except him, his father.
The night drew on and the music continued to flow, just like the wine and the dancing and soon, the younger members of the community had withdrawn to the Great Plateau, where the music could still be heard, but where they could sit and lounge and speak more freely as they enjoyed the fresh air and the stunning views over the Evergreen Wood.
Legolas lay on his side with Llyniel sitting beside him. Elladan sat a little more formally, with Maeneth close by and even Handir had joined them. Glorfindel soon returned with a jug of wine in his hand which earned him fond smiles from the younger elves.
"You Silvans certainly know how to party," said Glorfindel as he sat on a cushion and poured them wine.
"Oh yes, we excel in that, Glorfindel. Soon, my people will return to the camp and continue until the Sun is awake and we are falling asleep! What-" he began timidly, "what was it like in Gondolin?"
Glorfindel smiled and Legolas watched the play of emotion on his face.
"Not as wild as the Silvans, not as civilised as Imladris. We did have dances like yours though, not only reels but warrior dances - I will teach you one day," he said and Legolas smiled.
"I would like that. We already have an ongoing project, one more will be welcome…" he said, and Glorfiindel knew he referred to the Qalma Liltie. It would take them years to perfect, but if he knew Legolas at all, he knew that he would, one day, dominate the art, and then they would dance it together, become legend.
"Your people are leaving for the camp, I think, Legolas," said Maeneth and Legolas turned to watch them as they waved their goodbyes.
"Then come," he said, rising and taking Llyniel's hand. "I should escort you back to your parents, unless you think they would allow you to follow me?"
"If I ask they would protest. Come, escort me to them and I will - inform them - of where I will be."
Legolas smiled. He had suspected she would say such a thing but had not wanted to presume.
"You are all invited back of course, he said to the rest. Glorfiindel held up his hand, he would stay where he was, comfortable and at peace, and Maeneth smiled ruefully.
"I should not push my luck," she said and then turned shyly to Elladan.
"Maeneth, at least a stroll in the lower gardens? I will escort you back to your father and - Rinion," said Elladan, somewhat sourly, to which she laughed.
"Aye, you would do well, and yes - a walk in the gardens would be lovely," she said more softly now, and Legolas caught Handir's calculating gaze as he smiled into his own goblet.
"I will see you later then, Elladan. Handir?"
"Oh no! I am become a prude, brother, I will sit here with Glorfindel for a while."
"Then I will see you all later, or tomorrow. Have fun, my friends!" he smirked, and then offered his arm to Llyniel, who took it with a smile and a saucy giggle.
Soon they were ambling down the path that led into the Silvan camp, and the music became louder. It was not the grand, orchestral harmonies of the Fortress, but different groups of music, playing their own tunes to drums, flutes, fiddles and lyres. It was exciting and Llyniel smiled as she hugged closer to Legolas' arm, the primal beat setting the perfect background to an almost perfect evening.
The Silvan smiled and looked down upon her contented face. It had been a good night so far, he reckoned. The pomp and circumstance had gone as well as it possibly could have, and the Silvans had even managed to liven them up with their jigs and reels.
Elladan would now be trying to endear himself to Maeneth in the gardens, he thought with a grin.
"What makes you smile, Legolas?" asked Llyniel.
"Elladan - and Maeneth," he stressed.
"Oh yes. She likes him, you know," she said matter-of-factly and Legolas looked down at her in askance. "Oh?"
"Oh yes - attraction at first sight, I reckon. Prince Rinion was not impressed," she snorted and Legolas giggled. "Indeed no. Perhaps she will be amenable to his advances, then," he mused.
"Oh I would think so," she said with a smirk. "A dashing Noldorin Lord, cultured music, fine wine and a crisp evening . 'tis a recipe for romance…"
"Oh? said Legolas. "And - a galant Silvan Warlord in a skirt, dangerous grass liqueur and a towering tree - would that work?" he asked, his mouth suddenly close to hers.
"It might," she smiled, and together, they walked into the thick of the real party - the wild one.
The next morning, breakfast was served at the eleventh hour, unsurprising to most, for the festivities had lasted all night, literally; indeed as some flocked to breakfast, others were still making their way home, only half-aware of where they were, or even who they were…
As Legolas and the Company slept beneath the trees, Llyniel was waking from her sleep at the fortress, a dreamy look in her eyes and a saucy smile for her mother, who had summarily bombarded her daughter with questions and comments and things her friends had said that she was bursting to share.
Maeneth's awakening was sweeter, quieter. Dressing simply, she allowed her maid to braid her hair as she mused quietly on last night's festivities, and what had followed. Leaving her rooms and bound for the family gardens, the image of a handsome Noldorin lord lingered in her mind's eye. Rolling her eyes at herself, she walked through the door and into the garden, her eyes taking a moment to adjust to the brilliant sunshine. Hazy white turned into colours that sharpened into objects and Maeneth froze where she stood. Blinking, she scowled, feeling the beginnings of panic welling in her chest…
"Rinion! Handir!" she screamed, before sobbing and then placing a hand on her heaving chest, breathing too fast.
A guard rushed through the door, frantically looking around for the danger the Princess was surely in, but there was nothing, and then he, too, stood paralysed.
"Brothers!" she shouted. She was scared, terrified…
Moments later, Rinion charged through the door, sword in hand and behind him, Thranduil and Aradan.
"Yavanna Kementari…." whispered Rinion in utter shock.
But Handir, although stunned himself, smiled softly at first, and then wider. "Yes … Yavanna."
"What is is you know?" asked Rinion, puzzled now at the expression on his brother's face.
"Legolas - Legolas did this…" he said confidently.
"No - no that is not possible," said Maeneth, shaking her head.
"Not impossible, Princess," said Mithrandir kindly as he stepped forward. "Your brother is a Protege, my Lady. The grace of Yavanna allowed him to do this - and I dare say he has something to say about it, the reason behind those barren roses - for so it seems to work…"
"Her roses… Rinion…" said Maeneth shakily as she slowly approached the bush that had bloomed, its vines full, heavy with the weight of the most perfect pink roses Maeneth had ever seen. These were the flowers that had not blossomed since the queen had left, the fruitless bush that had always reminded the siblings of their mother's suffering, of her departure and their grief.
"Guard! Call for Lord Legolas at the Silvan camp. Tell him it is urgent, he must accompany you back here.." ordered Rinion, his voice clipped.
"My Prince," saluted the guard.
"It is - preternatural - " whispered Handir as he slowly began to walk, holding his arms out and trying to take in every detail of what his eyes were seeing.
Every single flower in the entire garden had blossomed, and bees and butterflies flitted here and there, reaping the ostentatious bounty that was to be had. The grass and leaves seemed impossibly vibrant, trees and bushes seemed larger - this was a garden of paradise and Handir smiled once more, and then giggled as he turned on his heel and closed his eyes as he danced around himself.
Maeneth giggled at him, her fright now gone, replaced with awe and yet incomprehension. Sitting upon the grass, she allowed her hands to glide over the fresh green grass, and then reached out to the rose bush and plucked a smaller flower, placing it inside her hair.
Handir and Rinion sat beside her, while Thranduil, Mithrandir, Glorfindel and a growing number of onlookers watched in utter awe.
The king turned and instructed a guard to have breakfast served here, and to let no one else pass, save for Lord Legolas when he arrived. Thus the door was guarded, and the lords moved to join the younger siblings, sitting themselves down on a nearby stone table.
"How is this possible, Mithrandir?" asked the King as his eyes darted here and there.
"He did something similar in Imladris, although not quite so spectacular, I must say," muttered the wizard.
"If he truly did this, then his powers are well beyond what I had thought, Mithrandir."
"It is easy to underestimate him, I think. He is a warrior, he hides this facet of himself well, and that is good, I think. It will protect him some."
Servants placed platters of food and jugs of juice upon the simple garden table, and then bowed, unable to resist looking around the stunning garden as they left.
Soon after, the door opened and Legolas stepped through and into the garden. He stopped and looked around, his eyes seeming to analyse every plant, every flower, every change that had taken place since he had sat here the night before.
He was dressed as a simple Silvan civilian. Brown breeches and black boots, a long white shirt and a green jerkin on top. His hair was still plaited, but the crown arrangement was gone and his characteristic pony tale stood high upon his crown. His face, however, told of his activities the night before, indeed of this very same morning, for his complexion was paler than was usual, eyes a little more slanted and shaded, albeit they had returned to their normal, bright green colour. The only things that marked him as Warlord, were the beads in his hair and the ring upon his finger.
"Legolas, join us," said the king, a little too lightly and Legolas smiled knowingly.
Nodding to them all, he sat next to Handir and reached for the juice, pouring himself a healthy glass and drinking deeply from it.
"Dehydrated?" asked Rinion with a smirk.
Legolas gave him a wry smile, his answer monosyllabic, "aye."
"Headache?" asked Maeneth innocently as she watched her brother in amusement.
"Content?" asked Glorfindel.
Legolas' head rose for the first time since sitting, and then smiled at his friend. "Aye," he said sincerely through his smile, and Glorfindel returned it, knowing full well that his reply had been about much more than simply the night of the festivities. He was happy with life, for the most part, wagered Glorfindel, for things were finally falling into place. There was only one thing left now, and that was for Legolas to open his arms to his real father, to Thranduil.
"Legolas," began Maeneth carefully. "Was it you? Did you do - all this?" she asked as she looked around the garden, as if she still could not quite believe it.
"They did it themselves, sister. It took but a receptive ear to take away that which impeded their natural instincts."
"You sound like a wizard," snorted Rinion. "Speak clearly, boy."
Legolas arched an eyebrow at the Crown Prince, but wisely held his tongue as he tried to explain himself.
"The garden did not bloom because it was reflecting the residual grief of she who inhabited this place - of Queen Aglareb…"
A fork clattered onto a plate and silence descended over the group.
"Have a care, brother…" warned Handir, aware of how Legolas' next words may affect his volatile, elder brother.
"Do you want the truth? Or do you want to appease your brother, Handir? I am in no mood for intrigues and subtleties, truly."
Handir turned back to Legolas. "Do you not recall how the last - conversation such as this one - ended up?" he asked with a frown. "I have no wish to witness it again."
"Then perhaps it is Rinion you should be speaking with, not me?" he asked somewhat sarcastically.
"Perhaps," conceded Handir.
"Legolas, please, just tell us - how, what happened?" pleaded Maeneth.
"You will recall I left the festivities momentarily - for truth be told their voices were insistent - I had to see what it was they felt so strongly about. I knew though, that it would be here," he pointed to the roses, "here, is were it started, and perhaps where it finishes…" he muttered, almost to himself.
"Legolas," said Rinion, his impatience beginning to show on his angular face, "for the love of…."
"Rinion," said Maeneth irritably, garnering a smirk from Handir and even Thranduil.
Shooting a grateful smile at the princess, Legolas continued.
"If I am to speak the truth - you must here me out, Rinion. No dramas, no scenes, I have no patience for it this morning."
"Go on," said the crown prince, his antagonism fading somewhat.
"Sometimes, when I listen, when they speak to me it is difficult to understand what it is that I hear - in the sense that I cannot be sure if the feelings are from the past, an echo of sorts, or if they are from the present. Remember this for it is important… " he said, casting his eyes over them all to emphasise his point before continuing.
"The queen - would sit here, thinking - and although she was Sinda, I would wager she was close to nature, more than usual for one of her race.."
"How do you know that?" asked Handir. "I mean it is true, she would spend hours here, alone or in the company of her maids, with us - this was her place," he clarified, and the other siblings nodded.
Legolas took a deep breath, and then pressed on, and Thranduil watched him closely. The boy was suffering the effects of what seemed to be a colossal hang over - the guard must surely have awoken him. He poured tea and pushed it forwards and Legolas looked up at him gratefully for a moment, blowing on the steaming liquid.
"Her thoughts were grim - at first, but others came to me, thoughts of - closure. She called out to you, my King - and this is where I could not be sure if her message was a simple echo of the past, something she decided before she left, or whether it is a reflection of her thoughts now, in Valinor…"
"Message- what message?" asked the king flatly, and the three siblings sat suddenly straighter upon the grass.
"She said, that she releases you, my King, from the bonds you had never wanted…"
Thranduil startled and sat back in shock, and then spared a worried glance at his children sitting upon the lawn.
Maeneth's eyes had filled with tears, and Handir frowned. Rinion's face, however, was blank.
"She said, she never wanted - never knew…"
"What, knew what?" asked Rinion.
"I do not know - my words are the words that came to me, Rinion. I can only make conjectures."
"And what do you think, Warlord?" asked Mithrandir. "Is this simply a reflection of the past…?"
Legolas held the wise blue eyes before answering and Thranduil watched them both, thinking perhaps that Mithrandir already knew the answer to his own question.
"No - it is not a reflection. It is Queen Aglareb's wish to free our king from his bond of matrimony - I know this, because the shadow has been lifted from this place - the grief has gone from it, just as it has left her."
Maeneth covered her mouth with her hand and Handir placed an arm around her shoulders. "Then she is Queen no more," said Handir, almost to himself.
"To me, she will always be the Queen of this realm, Handir," said Thranduil as he stood, and Handir simply stared at him, and then nodded silently.
"You are free then," began Rinion. "Free to love again," he said, and tension crackled around them, for the comment was a daring one, a challenge from Crown Prince to King.
"Not free, Rinion," began Thranduil calmly. "I have not been free to love for seven hundred and forty five years," he said softly, his eyes momentarily straying to Legolas'.
"If you will excuse me…" he said, and then left in silence, to the sanctuary of his rooms. Away from this, away from them all.
"Must you always antagonise, Rinion?" asked Handir in irritation.
"It was not my wish to antagonise, Handir. I spoke the truth. He is free."
"And what good would that do him?" asked Glorfindel, "if the only one he would love - is dead?"
Rinion stared back at Glorfindel, but promptly looked away and Legolas stood.
"For my part, I am glad that your mother is well, that she is at peace. This garden will remind you only of good things now, not the grief but the acceptance, that life continues, we will it or not."
"Thank you, brother, for this gift," said Maeneth and Legolas finally smiled, in spite of his throbbing head. Handir too, nodded his thanks but Rinion stood and approached his younger brother.
"You are generous, I cannot deny that, just as I cannot deny that I dislike the idea of my father and my mother being sundered from their bond. Yet it is a fact - one I must accept. Had your own mother lived, perhaps there would be happiness for her now, and for you."
Legolas stared back at Rinion in shock, for these were the first, kind words Rinion had ever spoken to him.
"It is too late for her, Rinion. She did die, a humble Silvan woman. I will not see her until the ending of days but you - rejoice in what you have, brother; a mother that is heeled, one that awaits you all when your time is come - no matter she is now separated from your father."
Rinion looked to the floor and then back at Legolas. "Yes - that is the short of it. Your mother is gone but this you already knew - and yet you have us now, your sister and brothers - rejoice in what you have, brother."
"I will," he said softly, "I do," he whispered.