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.
The forest ended, and a mouth of a valley was before them. From his place on the ground Thranduil was able to see Rafél crouching near the line of the trees. After hours of searching, they had finally caught Legolas’ trail. The King of Mirkwood frowned, his eyes sweeping over the dark trees. Their song is different here. Dark and desperate. They have already felt the touch of darkness and fallen before it.
Without the change in the trees, the searching party would have never found this valley. But as it was, they knew exactly where Legolas had left the trees – and where he had headed after it. The sun was setting, and Thranduil hoped they could be on their way back home before the darkness fully descended.
“We are ready to move on, father,” Tirifëa’s voice came next to Thranduil. “Rafél is sure that Legolas has entered the valley. The trees do not keep secrets here.” The Crown Prince glanced suspiciously at the trees, sadness in his eyes. “Is it too late so save them, Ada?” Tirifëa’s voice was small, desperate. It reminded Thranduil of the years when his firstborn had been Legolas’ age.
“As much as any of us would wish to save these trees – or any other creature taken by the dark – we cannot. Our forest is turning dark around us, and we must fight to keep ourselves alive. There will be fight enough for all of us, without an attempt to save the things that shall be lost,” Thranduil muttered. As a Lord of this land, he had firm tidings to all living creatures in Mirkwood. The darkness that was now engulfing the former Greenwood ate his soul, but there was naught he could do.
“Shall we go? It is coming late, and vile things move in these places,” Lossaurion’s demanding voice interrupted his elders, and Thranduil nodded, turning towards the mouth of the valley. He also was very anxious to find his youngest son.
Warriors spread out, hunting any tracks of their Prince’s passing. Rafél moved before the others, his eyes upon the ground. He could see Legolas had walked this way, his step uncertain and lingering. Rafél didn’t wonder that a moment: the entire valley seemed threatening and twisted, evil, even. Where are you, Legolas? Why not to turn back and return home? But he knew the answer. His protege was looking for that tree that the elder novice had told him about. A cursed tree. Rafél shuddered. All the trees in this valley felt cursed.
“Anything?” one of the warriors behind Rafél called, but the guardian did not answer. He could almost feel Legolas’ presence now. Some more time, and he would be able to tell where the Prince was… Rafél halted, raising his eyes. He saw a great tree some distance before him, and he knew this was the one Legolas had been searching for. He could feel the youth’s presence clearly now, and for a while he wondered if Legolas’ family was able to feel him as well.
Suddenly a rush of fear hit Rafél, making him take a step back, his hand travelling to the sword at his side. He is afraid, Rafél thought, moving forward before he finished the thought. Legolas’ fear affected to his own mind, making his fëa shudder with terror.
“Rafél, stay with the others!” Tirifëa’s clear command rang out, but Rafél didn’t listen him, his own and Legolas’ fear driving him forward. He had pledged to protect the young Prince, and he wasn’t about to fail that promise now.
Tirifëa cursed, starting forward himself, knowing that his younger brother and their guardians were following. Thranduil shouted a short command to the other warriors to stay close to each other. Then a scream broke the silence that seemed to hang over the valley. Tirifëa halted, his face paling. He knew that voice. “Legolas,” Lossaurion gasped at his side. Then none of the warriors waited anymore, and as a group they ran forward, weapons in their hands, all of them hoping that they would not be late.
Legolas dashed through the branches, twigs scraping his face. At the moment the pain was forgotten, fear dulling all the other senses. Panting, Legolas changed his direction again, twisting away just as a leg of a spider tried to catch a hold of him. Dropping a little lower, Legolas dared to glance back. They are everywhere, Legolas thought in despair, seeing at least five spiders on his heels. I don’t want to die. Of Valar please don’t let me die! I promise I will be good for now on, and always listen what Rafél has to say. I will never run away from home again…
Thoughts of his guardian made Legolas speed up again. The sheer knowledge that Rafél was not around made him be afraid. Rafél was supposed to take care of him in situations like this, but this time, Legolas had left him behind. He regretted that decision more and more as moments passed.
An angry hiss echoed in Legolas’ ears as he ducked down, barely avoiding collision with a huge body of yet another spider. He dashed to another direction, glancing back to see where the spider was. Right behind him, its many eyes gleaming in the last rays of the sun, the spider seemed convinced that it had caught his pray.
Legolas saw the limb end before him, and changed direction, jumping to another branch. It cracked. With a shout, Legolas fell down, but instead of crushing to a ground far below, he fell onto something soft and sticky. Struggling to get free, Legolas realised that he was stuck. Looking about him, he noticed to his horror he had landed straight to a huge cobweb. His struggles increasing, Legolas tried to get free of the net, but with little avail. His trashing only served to bind him more securely to the web.
Incoherent sound came from above, and Legolas raised his head, seeing tens of spiders gather to the edge of their trap. Tears in his eyes, Legolas tried to pull himself free as one of the spiders approached, its mouth opening and closing menacingly. Its eyes gleamed, staring unblinkingly at its prey. Legolas sobbed, ducking his head down. He didn’t want to see the hideous form before him. The web shifted, spider’s weight pulling it down as it approached the place where Legolas lay shaking, whimpering slightly.
The other spiders crawled closer, their hissing sounds echoing in the silence. Too intent to their catch, none of them noticed a shadow moving on the upper branches.
Rafél moved cautiously, his eyes burning with hatred. He had his bow in his hands, and arrow notched and ready to be released as an opportunity came. He had a clear view at Legolas, and he aimed carefully, making sure he would not hit his Prince. The spider shifted again, causing Legolas to look up with fear-filled eyes. The Elfling sobbed, tears staining his pale, bleeding face. Then Legolas tried to pull away again, spider’s form hovering over him.
“Rafél!” Legolas’ desperate scream echoed in the trees, making his guardian jump in surprise, but he collected himself quickly. Even if Legolas did not know Rafél was there, the Prince seemed to desire his help. Taking aim, Rafél sent the arrow down on the spider. The enemy let out a sound that was nowhere near a scream, jerking away from its prey, black liquid pouring out from the place behind its head where the arrow had sank deep. It twitched a few times, and then collapsed.
Legolas stared at the fallen creature, then up to the trees. His eyes widened as he noticed Rafél in the shadows, and he tried to get free again. The other spiders were approaching their prey now, some of them turning to climb nearer the attacker.
Rafél, estimating the situation quickly, drew out a long knife and then jumped from his branch, landing on the edge of the web. He made a quick way nearer Legolas, then slashed down with his knife, which cut deftly through the sticky threads. The web shuddered, and then broke apart, pulled down by the weight of the spiders.
Quicker than an eye could see, Rafél threw himself next to Legolas, his other arm going around the shaking form of Legolas. Holding tight on his Prince, Rafél waited the fall to come to an end. The web, still partially attached to the trees, stopped their fall, giving Rafél a chance to free Legolas and land them on a steady limb.
“Are you alright?” Rafél asked, kneeling before Legolas, checking him quickly.
Legolas nodded, still shaking violently. He was no longer crying, but tears stained his cheeks, making the scratches sting.
Rafél smiled, nodding, and stood up again. “Come, we had better to –” he never had the chance to finish when an instinct warned him. He pushed Legolas backwards against the trunk, spinning himself around and bringing his sword up with the movement, cutting the spider that had crawled to the branch with them. The spider hissed, slashing out with one of its long legs. Rafél ducked, straightened and drove his sword through the head before him. The large body fell down, but another spider was already advancing them, many behind it.
Rafél swallowed, quickly glancing at Legolas. The Prince was hugging the tree desperately, the blue eyes wide with fear. Biting his teeth together, Rafél shifted his position. His other hand found the knife again, and he swung it in his hand, readying himself. The enemy was many, but he would not let them near Legolas again.
As the first spider approached Rafél, he attacked the enemy, letting his instincts guide him. But even his experience was not enough against a colony of spiders. And he knew that. Even if he brought down many, it was nothing on a long run. With a final sweep of his sword, Rafél slid his knife back to its scabbard, turned around and swept Legolas into his arms, jumping to a lower limb.
Rafél ran from tree to another, trying to get nearer the mouth of the valley. His ears scanned the sounds around him, trying to identify his enemies before they would approach him. Legolas clung into him, his face pressed against his shoulder, small whimpers escaping from the scared youth. “It is all right, Legolas. We will be safe soon –” Rafél said, panting slightly.
A twig snapped. A spider dropped right beside them, making Rafél stumble as a long leg slashed over his thigh, making a burning pain flare up from the wound. Rafél jumped to a side, trying to stay away from the spider’s reach.
As suddenly as the spider had appeared, an arrow flew through the branches, the power with which it hit sending the spider down from the branch. A moment later, the warriors of Woodland Realm appeared, and Thranduil approached Rafél, his bow still in his hand. “Legolas,” the King gasped, taking the child from Rafél’s arms. Legolas cried out, all but flinging himself to his father, small hands gripping Thranduil’s tunic. “Oh, Little one, you scared us,” Thranduil murmured, his hand soothing the pale hair of his son, tears of relief in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry Ada, I’m so sorry,” Legolas repeated again and again, his voice muffled against his father’s clothes.
Around them, the spiders were destroyed with all speed mustered. Fury of the Elven warriors made the spiders run away, but most of them were caught by swift arrows or shining blades.
“Legolas! Thank to Valar you are safe!” Tirifëa emerged from the trees, hugging his brother still safely in their father’s embrace.
Lossaurion came soon after Tirifëa, kissing Legolas’ forehead. “Don’t you ever again disappear like that,” he murmured softly.
Legolas nodded, his eyes scanning over the returning warriors. “Shall we hunt the rest of them?” one of the warriors asked, glancing at the small Prince and fingering his bow enthusiastically.
“No,” Thranduil said, his eyes upon Legolas. “We shall go home, now that we have found what we were looking for.”
The warrior nodded, and the Elves turned to the direction of the north without further command. Tirifëa took his father’s bow from him, giving Thranduil a chance to carry Legolas more easily. Legolas snuggled against his father contentedly, sighing happily, feeling safe for the first time since he had left from home.
“Why did you come here, Legolas?” Lossaurion asked after a while, breaking the silence.
Legolas glanced at his brother, his face unreadable. Then he turned his face back against his father, making no sound.
“Answer to your brother,” Rafél said softly, wanting to hear the reason himself. He had a fair good idea why Legolas had taken this foolish trip, but he wanted to hear Legolas’ opinion of it.
“I wanted to show to the others,” Legolas said quietly. “They said I could go nowhere without someone to guard me, and I wanted to show them I could take care of myself, and that I am not a spoiled youth. I wanted to prove myself worthy of being a great warrior because of what I am, not only because I am a Prince.”
Lossaurion laughed softly, tussling Legolas’ hair. “Next time, tell us rather than trying to prove things by yourself. You gave as quite a scare, and Nana was beside herself with worry, I heard.”
“Yes, you tell us, and we will come to explain your friends that being a Prince isn’t actually a too wonderful of a thing,” Tirifëa laughed, earning a raised eyebrow from his father. “It is true, and you know it,” the Crown Prince added silently to his father. “Other children never played with me, because they were afraid you would throw them into the dungeons if they would beat me.”
Thranduil snorted, making Legolas giggle softly.
“I am sorry I made you worry over me,” Legolas said finally.
“It is not that we were worried about you, but that you could have got really hurt,” Lossaurion said, his eyes serious. “We don’t want to loose you.”
“They are the same thing,” Mîrfanya muttered.
“They are not,” Lossaurion argued.
“Yes, they are. In both cases, you are worrying over him,” Aduifan declared.
Lossaurion glanced annoyingly to the elder Elf. “Tirifëa, I would much appreciate that your guardian would not interfere into my arguments with my own guardian.”
“How am I supposed to stop him?” Tirifëa asked, glancing at smirking Aduifan. “He is totally out of my control.”
Lossaurion muttered something rather less gracious about incapable older brothers, making both Aduifan and Tirifëa laugh.
After listening to the continuing argument for some time, Legolas tugged his father’s sleeve, asking to be lowered to the ground. Thranduil set Legolas to his feet, watching his youngest with interest.
Legolas walked slowly to Rafél, eyeing his quickly bound leg carefully. “Does that hurt much?” he asked with a thin voice.
“No, it is only a small cut,” Rafél answered softly.
Legolas nodded, frowning, walking beside Rafél silently. Rafél noticed his dragging steps, guessing that Legolas was rather tired from the day’s activities, and gently picked Legolas up to his arms. Sighing happily, Legolas twined his hands around Rafél’s neck, shifting a little. He felt safe and tired, and in a matter of moments, he was asleep in his guardian’s arms.
Thranduil watched the two in silence, smile upon his lips. Rafél caught his Lord’s gaze, his eyes reluctant. Thranduil took a step closer, pulling a strand of hair back behind Legolas’ ear. “Do not fault yourself of this incident. I am not going to remove you from your task: it would be a great folly from my side to do so,” Thranduil said softly.
Rafél nodded, his eyes relieved. “Thank you, my Lord. I will make sure that this kind of thing won’t happen again.”
Thranduil nodded, meeting the brown eyes. “Just make sure you are going to be with him in the case he again feels a need to prove himself worthy to someone.”
Rafél smiled, accepting this, and again they walked in silence, Legolas sleeping peacefully.
to be continued…
Author’s Note: About the size of the spiders: the spiders in Mirkwood are much smaller than Shelob, but certainly they still would seem huge for a small Elfling. Especially if compared to the size of normal, small spiders…