Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Third Age of the Sun
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure (“AU”)
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: Legolas, Thranduil (, OCs)
Summary: Soon after Legolas’ birth, there was a bodyguard chosen for him, as had been the custom in the royal family. But how was Rafél chosen to this task, and did he accept his new duty immediately and without hesitating? How did the young Prince of Mirkwood receive his guardian? And most of all, how did they befriend and grew inseparable…
Part of the history of “The Last Journey”. Complete.
Warnings: Violence, mentioning of death.
Legolas felt he was lost. He wasn’t, really. An Elf could never be lost in the woods. The trees around him would guide him home if he wished, but at the moment, he didn’t want to go home. His destiny lay elsewhere. Turning the hastily drawn map in his hands once again, Legolas glanced at the forest before him and started to walk again.
He had no idea how far he had already come. He had walked long, he knew, and there was yet a longer way to go. His feet were starting to ache, and he was thirsty. Letting out a sigh, he stopped, leaning against a tree while digging out his waterskin, drinking a few mouthfuls. He should not drink all at once, or he would be terribly thirsty later.
Putting away the drink, he took a small piece of bread, munching it thoughtfully. The trees whispered at him, worried. He sent his thoughts back to them, wishing them to keep his trail hidden. He didn’t want to be followed. The trees agreed, reluctantly, and Legolas smiled at them. He slid his hands across a rough bark, closing his eyes.
The trees could show me the way. They surely know where the valley is, he thought. Reaching out with his mind again, he asked the trees for help. They agreed gladly, happy they could help, and with a final deep breath, Legolas swiftly climbed at the trees, taking a much swifter path through the limbs.
His feet moved on their own accord, guided by the trees, leaving his mind free to wander. He felt very excited, even if he knew he was doing something that would upset both his family and Rafél. But he had to do this. He would show Tinrod and his friends that he was no spoiled Prince. He was a warrior, and he would seek out the valley by himself. He would prove himself worthy of their respect.
Distracted by his thoughts, Legolas didn’t notice when the land began to rise. Up in the trees, the change was less easy to be noticed, but after a moment, Legolas woke from his thoughts. He smiled happily, climbing higher in hopes to see further. And then he saw what he was seeking: Mountains of Mirkwood. They were still far, but he could see them. A half day’s journey would get him there. With new strength, Legolas continued on, anxious to reach the valley.
After a journey that took hours from a small Elfling, Legolas reached the roots of the Mountains. Trees’ song was different here, he noted, but yet they guided him forward. He travelled from tree to another, following the hushed whispers that guided him closer to the valley he was about to find.
When the voices of the trees got more intense, Legolas jumped back to the ground, noticing that the trees grew less together here. A wind played across the forest floor, mingling the sounds of life together. It was already getting dark. Walking forward, Legolas soon reached an open space. To his shock, he stood on an edge of a valley.
Dark trees could be seen from where he stood, their twisted, dark forms swaying in the wind, making a screeching sound. With a swallow, Legolas entered the valley, not at all liking the feeling of the place. But he was going to find the old tree, and climb into it. He would prove to all that he could be a great, fearless warrior.
Aduifan returned back to the trees, landing softly on a same branch with Tirifëa. The Crown Prince’s face was agitated, grim expression barely hiding the signs of worry. But the guardian saw them, and he felt pity for Tirifëa. Glancing to his side, he felt even more sadness and compassion grow inside of him. Thranduil had a hard time controlling his emotions, and Rafél wasn’t doing much better. Aduifan himself felt a wall of dread spread in his spirit. He liked Legolas – there were very few who could not like that charming, young Elfling – and knowing that the youth might be in danger all the while they were effortlessly trying to track him… it hurt.
“Anything?” Thranduil called out to one of his scouts that returned. The scout shook his head, and the King sighed yet again. Galenrosiel had begged him to bring their son back soon and safe, but it seemed that at least the first part wouldn’t be so easy to fulfil. Thranduil prayed the Valar that the latter would happen, however. He didn’t wish to think how ill the things could get.
Rafél started forward again, his eyes searching tracks all the while his mind was in connection to the trees around him. “He is hiding himself through the trees,” he muttered. “I never taught him that, and I am sure neither did Thrénandu…”
“Rafél, we move south,” Thranduil called, and the elder warrior nodded, hastening his movements. Their only hope now would be to go south, reach the Mountains as soon as possible and then find the valley. But finding the valley could prove to be difficult. The Shadow spreading from the south had created many dark places, ever closer to the Woodland Realm, and many valleys green and beautiful before could be dark and corrupted now.
Sighing, Rafél shook his head, focusing to his task once more. If he would be allowed to continue as Legolas’ guardian, he would surely make sure that things like this would not happen ever again. He himself could not take it. As much as it shocked him, he had grown very close to Legolas, the strength of his loyalty and love for the Prince blinding away all else. It did not matter if the other warriors thought less of him if he only watched after a child: he thought it was the most important task in the world, and he found himself quite reluctant to give up of the duty willingly.
“Nothing,” Aduifan cursed, dropping to walk next to Rafél. “The child is good, I must give him that.”
Despite the situation, Rafél found himself smiling. Aduifan’s silent praise felt quite encouraging. “We will find him, at least when we reach the Mountains.”
“Do you really believe that?” Aduifan asked, hushing quickly as Tirifëa appeared to the tree next to them.
“I will find him, and bring him back home safely,” Rafél answered, the heat in his voice making Aduifan stop. Not waiting for the other to catch up, Rafél increased his pace, soon disappearing into the forest.
“He really cares for my brother,” Tirifëa said softly, startling Aduifan who still stared mutely after Rafél.
“Yes…” the guardian said haltingly. “Maybe too much,” he smiled, then.
“Can anyone care too much?” Tirifëa asked.
“Yes,” Aduifan said simply, and then started forward again.
Tirifëa shook his head, not believing Aduifan’s words. Aduifan himself cared too much for his own Prince: the elder warrior would die for Tirifëa at any moment, not hesitating to put his life to the line if it aided his Prince. Tirifëa had learned to respect and appreciate that, during their years together. It was not a show of weakness from either of them: it was a show of bravery, companionship, and love. Devotion.
Thranduil stepped onto a branch next to his son, his mask falling off for a while. Tirifëa smiled to his father, offering his support through the small gesture.
“I would have wished your brother to join us,” the King said quietly.
“He and Mîrfanya left early with a scouting party. He could not be reached,” Tirifëa said, his eyes surveying the forest. “And he could do little to help us, anyway. The forest hides Greenleaf.”
Thranduil smiled grimly at this, feeling the silence of the trees himself. It would have been easy to follow a track of silenced trees, but the entire forest seemed to have agreed not to say a thing of his youngest son. He had tried for long to persuade them to talk to him, but with little success. The trees were silent.
Suddenly a call of a bird rang through the air, making all the tracking Elves raise their heads. To any other, it would have been only a lonesome bird, but for Elves of Woodland Realm, it was a sign of another group advancing.
Not a moment sooner, a patrol of dozen Elves appeared. Led by an Elf that bore a slightly different clothing than the others, they approached the trackers, familiar warriors greeting each other. The leader walked straight at the King and Crown Prince, another Elf following close behind. Only then did Thranduil also recognise the Elf.
“Lossaurion! This is indeed good fortune, if you wish to find something good in this situation,” the King greeted his son.
“Adar, what do you do this far from home?” Lossaurion asked, eyeing the warriors.
“Legolas has disappeared,” Tirifëa answered, nodding at Mîrfanya, who already was speaking with Aduifan.
“Disappeared? How? When?” the middle Prince asked in confusion, worry overcoming his features.
Thranduil nodded, sternly. “He left at some time between last evening and this morning, heading to a some dark valley near the Mountains of Mirkwood. We haven’t yet found a trace of his path –”
“Valley near Mountains of Mirkwood?” Lossaurion interrupted, horror on his face. “Alas, this cannot be! We have found many signs of great colonies of spiders on that area, even if we do not know where they come from. If Legolas goes to those dark valleys on the root of the Mountains…” he did not finish, but the dread in his eyes spoke volumes.
“Then let us hurry,” Aduifan said, keeping his voice steady.
The others nodded, all turning towards the south, their pace now greater than before.
to be continued…