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A/N: Many, many thanks to Ellynn, my lovely word wrangler! Thanks for all that you do! :-))
Ch. 15 – “May the Valar keep you!”
By the time this letter reaches you, I will be well on my way to Imladris to seek Lord Elrond and to explain what happened to Gollum; perhaps he can get word to Mithrandir or perhaps suggest a course of action for the accursed creature’s recovery. Even as I write the word “Imladris” I know it pierces your heart as it does mine, but this is the course my penance must take.
Legolas pondered whether or not to tell his father of his vision. Having decided, he dipped his quill again in the inkwell.
I do not lightly take this action, but I remember at one time Sadron telling me that Naneth had the Sight. I may have not believed it then, but I fully believe it now because I have been given a vision in still waters that says my path takes me to Imladris. I may not find answers there. I may only find more questions, but my heart tells me this is my path. I long to see you again, dearest Adar, but this I must do now. There is no time for journeys that will only salve my own heart. I cannot allow my own wishes to determine my path. Regardless of what I want, I must make amends as I can. But I do not go alone. Erthion, Vivelle and Navedir have chosen to travel with me as my companions. They know all as has happened and wish to accompany me.
Legolas thought of his father. The strong, proud Elf who guarded his kingdom with the whole of his body and soul. There was resultant pain in his heart. A pain that recognized he would not see his father for a long while. He dipped his quill again and wrote,
I know you understand that I must do this. I hope to honor you and our woodland realm with my actions. There is nothing I want more than to come home and walk among the trees near the Halls and listen to them sing their joyous song of life. To climb among them and sit in their branches. To look up through empty patches in the tree’s branches and see the stars of Varda’s beauty, and fall asleep lulled by the song of leaf and branch. To see our people dance beneath their branches delighting in their beauty. But I cannot. My heart says this is my path and I must see it through.
Legolas sprinkled drying dust upon the letter, held it there for a few moments and blew it away as he carefully folded the letter. He dribbled sealing wax in the middle where edge and flat met and placed the borrowed seal upon it. He wrote “For the hand of the King only” in lieu of his own personal seal that would denote the same meaning without word. Sighing, he stood to seek Sadron so his brother could pick a courier to deliver the precious missive.
Legolas stood in his borrowed chambers looking intently at the bed upon which the soon-to-be contents of his saddle bags lay. He was trying to determine how much was necessary for a journey of this distance.
“You know, if you stare at them hard enough, they will simply leap into your saddlebags to avoid your piercing gaze!” an amused voice said.
Legolas shook himself from his ponderings to look to the doorframe where Sadron leaned pinning the heavy green silk curtain against the frame. He laughed ruefully. “Would that were true. Then my decisions would be made!” Legolas sat at the edge of the mattress amid his choices-to-be-made in a somewhat disconsolate way. Sadron pushed his shoulder off the doorframe and entered the room to seat himself next to his younger brother.
He reached out a hand and brushed Legolas’ golden hair back over his shoulder. He stared for a beat or two and then said, “What is wrong, Legolas? There is something amiss, and it is not the contents of your saddlebags.”
Legolas sat silently for a few moments before he said, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I called to do this thing? Or is this vanity dressed up as purpose?” He placed his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. “I want so much to have a purpose, to be allowed to have purpose and to endure whatever risk that might entail. You are the Lord of the Southern Marches. Celebren is the heir. I have been ‘Adar’s youngest child’. Protected and cossetted. Am I simply grasping at this and forcing meaning into it?” He looked at Sadron, a searching and distressed look in his eyes. “What say you, brother?”
Sadron stared at Legolas, thinking of the small elfling who had to be coaxed out of his grief after their mother had died and departed for the Halls of Waiting. Of the young elf learning to shoot and hold a sword. Of the young elf prince taking his first command of a patrol group shining with pride, not realizing at the time the measures of inordinate care that Thranduil was taking so that no harm should come to his youngest.
His heart broke to realise that no one could protect Legolas anymore. He was being chosen. This his heart told him, for what destiny he still did not clearly see. “It does not matter what I think. Given my choice, I would have you stay here, safe and away from harm. Because I am your older brother and cannot bear to see you come to harm. I love you too much. But I know that is the selfish way of looking at this. Are you imbuing this with more meaning than it intrinsically has? Perhaps, but we all make our own meaning. What does your heart tell you?”
Sitting quietly, looking into his brother’s eyes, Legolas said, “That this is something I have to do.”
Sadron smiled, hiding the sadness in his heart for the loss of the little brother he knew. He sensed that Legolas would come back, but that he would be changed. He could only pray to the Valar that the change would be for the better. He took that small kernel of hope and placed it in a corner of his heart for safekeeping. “Then there’s your answer. You will go and you will come back. That is the long and the short of it.” Then in a mercurial shirt, Sadron exclaimed, “Now, little brother, get those saddle bags packed. You leave on the morrow.”
Legolas smiled. “Yes, sir! At once! Sir!” He gave a mock salute.
“That’s right! And don’t you forget it! Cheeky Sod!” Sadron said, the pain of loss buried under expedient cheerfulness.
Later that afternoon Erthion walked with Vivelle towards Sadron’s study. He saw Navedir approaching from the opposite landing holding a telltale piece of parchment in his hand. As they met, Erthion gestured to the bit of parchment his friend was holding. “So, you got one as well?”
“Yes! Did Legolas?”
Erthion looked around for the blond head of Legolas and seeing no gleam that would signal their friend’s approach he stated, “Something tells me, no.”
Navedir asked, “Curious that he should not have been asked as well.”
Vivelle cut through the faffing about that her menfolk were so prone to. “Why don’t we enter and find out?”
“And this is why I married you, keeping me on the straight and narrow!”
“Enough! You silly elf!” Vivelle stated with mock derisiveness and tapped on the doorframe to signal their presence.
“Come!” came from inside the chamber.
Vivelle pulled aside the curtain and all three entered the study. Legolas was nowhere to be found, but Sadron was standing at the drinks table pouring only four goblets of wine. Apparently, Legolas would not be joining them.
“Sit, please,” Sadron requested with a tinge of strained emotion to color the request. They all sat in the cushioned chairs placed in an irregular oval casting each other looks of questioning. Sadron handed Vivelle her goblet, then Erthion and finally Navedir. Vivelle took a sip and a fine quality vintage passed over her palate causing her curiosity to intensify. They did not usually sit and drink fine wine with the second eldest of the King’s sons.
“Will Legolas be joining us?” she inquired in order to confirm her suspicions.
“Not just yet,” came the quizzical answer.
She glanced at Erthion who looked as mystified as she did.
Sadron looked at the three Elves and saw a puzzled concern resting on their faces. He sat down with his own goblet and smiled. “Sorry to seem so enigmatic. I guess some of my Adar’s flair for creating dramatic tension was not entirely lost on me!” he finished with a self-deprecating laugh and some of the tension managed to leave the room. “I just wanted to thank you all for the service and friendship you have shown my brother. You cannot know how it comforts me that you are here for him.”
Erthion quickly responded, “It is our duty to serve,” in the manner that was expected.
Sadron looked at him questioningly. “Is it only duty?” A restrained sincerity showed in his strangely colored eyes.
Erthion really looked into Sadron’s eyes and beyond the regal façade saw the worry and caring of a brother. Much like he felt for his own younger brother. He smiled and relaxed. “No, it is not, my lord. He is our brother, too. If not by blood, then by service and affection.”
Sadron looked from Erthion to Vivelle and Navedir, who nodded their affirmation of what Erthion had just said. He smiled and relaxed visibly. “Good, that is good to hear! Because he may need you even more on this journey.” He placed special emphasis on the word “this.” Sadron paused. “As you know, Legolas has never really been too far beyond our forest boundaries. We all know the reason for that.” The three others nodded knowingly, but did not comment. “I wanted to speak with you three separately from my brother to impress upon you how much he will need you even if he does not—”
Erthion stated quickly, interrupting Sadron, “My Lord, let me stop you right there. I know I speak for all three of us when I say you should have no worries. We would give our lives to see Legolas safe from harm. We would never forsake him. And we would keep him from all harm and protect him, even from himself if need be.”
Navedir said, “He is dear to us. It is a pact we made between ourselves when we set out from the King’s Halls.”
Vivelle chimed in, “Though Legolas does not know. You know how hard-headed he can be!”
Sadron laughed and stated, “He gets that from his Adar! Though Legolas is of a cheerier disposition, he most definitely shares certain traits with our Adar!” The others laughed in agreement. Sadron quickly sobered, though, and looked at the three. Hand on his heart, Sadron bowed his head saying, “Hannon le, you cannot know how this lightens my heart. Because I feel there is more to this journey than we know at this point.”
Vivelle looked quizzically at Sadron. “How do you mean, My Lord?”
“That is the rub. I cannot tell you how. It is simply a feeling I have deep in my heart of hearts. Stay with him.”
“Always, my Lord, always,” Erthion stated.
The following morning saw the three sitting atop their horses. All was in readiness. Sadron stood among them bidding each farewell. Lastly, he came to Legolas who had yet to mount. Unshed tears resided in Sadron’s blue and green eyes. Legolas noticed and gently teased his older brother. “Tears? You are so happy to be rid of us it has brought you to tears, brother?”
Sadron sought to banter, “Yes, now my wine stores may last the winter without you to deplete them.” He wore a forced smile. His voice dropped to a whisper as he hugged Legolas. Sadron said into his brother’s ear, “Na lű e-govaded 'wîn!* May the Valar keep you!”
He closed his stinging eyes and one tear escaped. Quickly he dashed it away. “Now get out of here. Tis time.” Legolas looked his brother in the eye, suddenly wishing he could stay, suddenly wondering what Sadron knew that he did not. Sadron smiled. “It is as it should be,” he said and kissed Legolas on the forehead. “Now go before I say something really maudlin. And neither of us wants that!”
Legolas smiled and mounted his horse. Sadron cast a knowing look at the other three as Legolas mounted his horse. Hands on heart, they nodded, united in the desire to keep safe the youngest Prince of Mirkwood from whatever this journey brought.
* Na lű e-govaded 'wîn! = Until we meet again
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