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A light from the shadows

Chapter Text

Legolas looked around his room steadily, trying to see if he had missed something. Outside the room, at the house, the sounds of revelry were clearly heard. The wood-elf didn't want to join, and he didn't think that anyone out there would wish for him to join them, or event expect him to. That suit him just fine, the party would last for three days, and the after-effects would last even longer. With luck, and he was due to some of it, it would be at least four of five days until someone would miss him. By then, he would have left the valley and be lost into the wilderness.

Walking towards the room's balcony, he left the bag of his belongings nearby and took a look around. His room faced towards the back of the house, to the rocky wall of the cliffs behind and the small summer house in the back. It was supposed to be a slight to have been housed here, instead of the front rooms, but Legolas had found it one of the few bright things in all this mess. To have a place to retreat and be separated from the family was a true gift. Now it would be a blessing, because it gave him a discrete path to slip away through the back cliffs and the cascade's hidden paths, which would take him unseen outside the borders of Imladris to the Trollshaws. It wasn't his planned destination, but it would make a good place to disappear and shake any possible pursuits. Legolas wasn't so foolish to think he would be able to leave unchallenged. They didn't want him here, but he fulfilled a role, to moor the Lord of the Valley to Middle Earth and help him to stand the strain of his ring after the departing of the Lady of the Valley.

Legolas had found himself in this situation against his will and obviously against the wishes of the Perendhil family. Despite all their hopes, when the Lady Celebrian abruptly decided to sail after the grief of her attack, Lord Elrond had found himself injured. Although the Elvish Rings had been created to help the elves to keep the evil away, and they were wonderful tools, they took part of their wearer’s strength. As the days grew darker because of the orcs, trolls and other evil creatures growing in numbers and strength, the rings took more and more from their owners, and they had to pour more of themselves into it. Of the three rings's wearers, one was a Maia, one an Eldar born in Aman back in the Years of the Trees, and the last was Elrond, a half-elf. While Elrond did have the blood of the Maia Melian in his ancestry, it was greatly diluted and mixed with mortal blood. This did bind him tightly to Middle Earth, but the mortal blood wasn't fully compatible with his ring, which tried, among other things, to stop the wear of time.

And then, the situation with Celebrian. It was well known that an Elven marriage bond was far more than a ring and a party. In Elrond's case, with his mixed blood and the choice put before him by the Valar, the bond had also been a way to reinforce his ties to the Elven race. When Galadriel had pushed her daughter to marry the then heir-apparent of the High King, they both had expected for her eventually become consort Queen to the Noldor in Middle Earth. However, when the time came, a grieving Elrond had rejected the Crown and declared Gil-galad the last High King in Middle Earth, before retreating to Rivendell. Celebrian had felt cheated of her dreams. She wasn't a bad person, but she had been the late and only daughter of her parent’s marriage, and had been utterly spoiled by her doting father. Her mother, although wise and powerful, still felt the sting of the restricting Noldor's rules which impeded her from being a potential candidate to the Crown. Never mind that the Crown belonged to Fingolfin's line. So Celebrain’s mother had tried to live her dream through her daughter, as it happens with many parents.

The combination of being spoiled and pushed into her mother’s aspirations had made Celebrain a sheltered elleth. Marrying a very special elf, as Elrond was, had been outside of her experience. Elrond, with his mannish blood, was broader and heavier set than an elf, and his Maiar blood gave him visions and wisdom beyond his age. Celebrian couldn't cope with it. The marriage was a failure and she was constantly leaving for months or years to visit her parents homeland, which she still considered her home as well. Until tragedy struck, and she was attacked on the way. With so little to tie her to her husband, she didn't wish to stay in Middle Earth or be married to him. So she announced her decision to sail, and when her family tried to convince her to stay, she recklessly broke off the ties of marriage to Elrond. Wearing the ring to defend Imladris was a huge pressure on Elrond, and the breaking of their bond that, while weak, still acted as an anchor, was too much for him. Elrond had immediately collapsed and had begun to fade. The residents of Imladris had all to panicked, and when Legolas, who had been there in that moment to deliver a message of his father the King, had touched the half-elf to help him up, he had been pulled into a bond. Elrond, instinctively trying to save himself, connected to the first elf that touched him. That was the start of his grief. Legolas had found himself in an unwilling bond with an elf that was an age older than him, literally, and who had just been rejected by the wife he had been married to throughout that age. A wife who had thrown into his face all the things she found lacking in him.
Elrond had closed himself off, unwilling to trust this new bond and used it only as an anchor. That suited Legolas perfectly fine, and he would have been happy to depart for home and leave it as it was, at least for the meantime. But it wasn't to be. At first he had been impeded to depart because they had felt that he couldn't put himself at risk, his home was dangerous, and exposing Elrond to another broken connection so close to the other could be fatal . Secondly, with the emotions being so high and the family so broken, those whom Legolas had considered his best friends and near brothers, had started to treat him poorly without any rational reason. They had dealt with their grief and their anger towards their mother's actions by blaming an easier target: Legolas. They started to make it sound as if he was some gold digger trying to insert himself into their family. And Elrond, who usually could be counted to be the wise and rational one, had retreated into himself and done nothing to stop it. With Arwen gone back to their grandparents, and the collusion of the young heirs of the family and the Lord of the Valley doing nothing to stop it, some of the residents of the House had started to misbehave and they made Legolas' life difficult.

Legolas had been trying to stay calm and wait for it all to blow over. He had kept his father from doing anything foolish by not telling anyone in his home of how he was being treated. He did not want his father to start a war against Imladris. But after three years, and the last bit of bitterness done towards him, he had lost all patience and started to plan his departure. He didn't want a war or more bad blood between their realms, but he couldn't stand the atmosphere of the Valley anymore. He would leave the place and take the long way back home to avoid being taken back. Once there, he would tell his father that He and Elrond couldn't make it work and they were only waiting for a short time to break it off, once Elrond could stand the rift and a better candidate could be found for the bond. He had left a note in that regard for Elrond to read, once his escape was found. He expected that, with the distance, the wise elf Lord would see sense and accept the offer.

But for now, it was time to leave. The occupants of Imladris would have had time to get to the Hall of Fire and start to drink and be merry for a while now and wouldn't be around the grounds. He would only need to be careful of the few guards standing around. Imladris, as opposed to his home, had other things to guard it than elves. Since the goal of those standing guard was avoiding danger from coming inside, not to prevent people from leaving, it should be possible to avoid them in his way out.

Legolas picked his bag of belongings, strapped his weapons on his back and waist respectively, and left through the balcony, using a convenient tree next to it to drop off to the ground. Once there, he went into the small forest to the path near the cliff and started to encircle the house from the north. From there he only needed to go into the northern hidden path which had been shown to him long ago behind one of the north waterfalls. He avoided a patrol at the path by taking to the trees and dropped again to the ground at the base of the cliff to take the narrow path into the rocky heights. This pass was a deep cut into the earth, narrow and serpentine, which went through the cliffs behind the valley and went Northwest to a small clear near the Trollshaws. He didn't want to enter this area, only exit Imladris by it and then turn Northeast towards the Misty Mountains. He couldn't take the pass of Caradhras because it was too well known and he would probably be tracked there. He also didn't wish to cross it alone, as it was a favored pass for the elves. Orcs occasionally made ambushes in it. He expected to find a less travelled pass further north, used by animals, which he could use to cross the Mountains to his home. It was a dangerous way, but he judged it better than going to the more unprotected lands south or being taken back to Imladris at Caradhras.

Finally reaching the waterfall, he took a last look towards the Last Homely House, not expecting to see it again in a long time, if ever. That place had been a home away from home, and the family there were dear friends to him. Legolas had befriended the twins and had become friendly with the elf Lord against his father's wishes. Now he left them, secretly, as if he was an enemy, and his heart felt sore and grieved. He turned his back on the Valley and started on the path home, saying a final farewell in his heart.

Chapter Text

Glorfindel entered the Lord of the Valley study with a firm step and even more set resolution. He had been fighting with himself about this decision over the last three days, at war with his loyalty to his Lord and his family, and the honour he had lived by in both of his lives. An honour he felt he had abandoned with his actions, or his lack of action, over the last three years. Those days he felt that he could no longer be silent with what he had seen, and needed to unburden himself. Elrond was working at his desk studying their patrols reports and looked up to his friend with a welcoming smile that Glorfindel was too sore hearted to return, he stood straight in front of the desk without taking a seat. The Elf-Lord, sensing his Captain's mood, signalled him to sit and waited for him to talk:

"My Lord, I have been wanting to talk to you for a while now, but hesitated to bring this to you because I didn't wish to hurt you further. But today I felt that, while you may be hurt by this, by not talking, a wholly innocent being will be further harmed, perhaps to the point of no return" - said the Vanya seriously. While he was talking, the Lord of Imladris's face had been turning darker and more worried. Finally, after the Captain had finished his rehearsed words, the other asked in worry:

"You are scaring me Glorfindel, and your words are ominous indeed. What is this harm you fear and who is the one at danger of it" - he asked with fear, his healer soul already searching around his domain trying to locate any danger to his people or those sheltered in his Valley. Glorfindel, not surprised by the blind spot in the Lord’s usually wise sight, sighed and thoroughly committed to his path, started to talk again slowly:

"I will talk, but I ask your promise that you will allow me to give you my point of view of this matter and that you will do your best to be as unbiased as you can" - affirmed the Elda, with all the authority his age and experience gave him. Elrond, surprised by the words and its implications, hesitated for a moment. Maybe a part of his mind, which he had been fighting to suppress, already had an inkling of where the conversation was going. However, the half-elf had always lived his life as straightforward as he could and tried to be fair and kind to all. The implication that he may have been turning a blind eye to an injustice grieved him profoundly, the side of him which feared where this was going was silenced by the bigger part of him which had lived through the loss of his parents, his own kidnapping and the loss of his brother, and had promised himself that he would never allow that kind of injustices suffered by anyone if it was in his hand to prevent it. He promised to listen carefully and fairly, and waited for the other elf to start. Glorfindel nodded to himself, his faith starting to be restored when he saw the conflict in the other elf and the way his fair character had won.

"I have been seeing how the residents of Imladris have been unfairly treating an elf whose only fault has been to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe the right one, depending on your point of view. He has suffered their scorn, straight insults, and even physical bullying for years with more patience and nobility than anyone I have ever seen. He was trying to keep, I suspect, the peace of the Valley and avoid further harm to those he loved. But last week, the cruelty of their treatment has reached even the limit of his patience, and I fear he may be planning to do himself harm, if he hasn't already" - concluded the Vanya Captain. The Elf-Lord was deeply troubled and seeing that the blonde had stopped his explanation, asked.

"How have I not noticed this happening? Or my sons, whose work is to keep the peace at the House?" - asked the Perendhil. At this question and the mention of the Lord's sons, the other elf winced in pain and embarrassment, shouldering his part of the blame as he had seen and done nothing. He braced himself for what he was going to say and proceeded to it:

"This is the most difficult for me to say, pray don't interrupt me now because this is going to be as hard for you to hear. They not only knew this my Lord, but they contributed to it. They have been bullying this elf all these years, it is actually their attitude which has fuelled the others, and made all this to get so out of hand by now" - said Glorfindel, while the other fought not to interrupt him when he accused his own sons of these terrible wrongs. At last, the Elda bowed his head and concluded - "I know how grave my accusations are, my lord. And I will accept your judgment if you find them unfair, but my heart couldn't stand another day of silence. My only request to you, if my years of faithful service to you and your family are worth anything to you, is that you check on this elf regardless of what you may do to me now" - the blonde went into his knees in supplication, and kept his head bowed waiting for his Lord’s judgment. Elrond was taken aback by the gesture, as angered as he was by the accusation made, he had known Glorfindel for the better part of two ages and knew he was loyal and a brave defender of his family. If he was saying this now, it was because he genuinely believed it, and not out of any malice. And he would never punish someone for telling the truth as they saw it. He rose from his seat and helped Glorfindel up from the floor, looking into his eyes he said:

"Glorfindel, you have been a loyal friend to me and my family. As difficult as this is for me to hear, I know it has been even worse for you to tell. No punishment will come for you for coming to me in good faith with this. But you have been careful of not telling me the name of this elf, I suspect the reason for it, but now we have come this far, let's finish this once for all, so we can go and help them as they should have been helped all this time and avoid further harm" - said the Perendhil, taking hold of both of his hands, and waiting for the other to finish his plea. Glorfindel, not even able to feel relieved as he knew that the name would be the last blow to his Lord, finally said:

"The elf I've been talking is one well known to you, to us all, but I think none of you have even referred to him by it for a long time. It is Prince Legolas of Mirkwood, and the reason I have now decided to come to you is this: I have heard today, from the one who perpetrated the act last week, that he had his mother's necklace stolen, the only thing he had in memory of her. From that day on, no one has seen him in the Valley, he has barred his room's doors and stayed out of sight all this time. At the start, it was believed that he used the windows to get food from the kitchens, but for the last four or five days there have been no sign of even that." - finally having said all he wanted to tell, the Elda took a heavy step to one of the chairs in front of Elrond's desk and sank there putting his head in his hands. Elrond walked back to his own seat behind the desk and sank wearily there. A silence went into the room while the Elf-Lord tried to absorb this last news. Not only this had been happening under his very nose, not only his sons were involved in this miscarriage of justice, but the victim of it was his own bonded. The elf who, whatever the circumstances of their union, should have protected before anyone else. A small mercy it may be that the prince's father didn't know about this, he was sure of it. As a father himself he would have been storming into the Valley long ago if one of his sons would have suffered like this. Knowing Thranduil, he would have arrived with an army at his back, which was probably the reason Legolas had been keeping his council about it. Further proof, if it was even needed, to the unfair treatment of such a noble spirit.

Elrond couldn't believe that he had left things to become as bad as they had. He had known that he wasn't acting correctly when he retreated from the other elf's presence and pretended that he didn't exist. At the time, he though a kindness to keep his distance, particularly when he assimilated all his former wife's accusations of his mixed heritage which apparently had made him repulsive for her to touch or to bear his touch. The lack of time and his responsibilities had made him an absent husband and his strange visions and even his rare healing abilities, had made him too alien for her to connect to and love. All in all, it seemed that to tie another elf to himself was the worst thing he could do to someone he loved. And, as he had always liked and respected the amiable and unassuming young prince, he had given him the distance he believed he would want from him. After the first few months, his logical mind and wisdom had reasserted itself and he started to understand, with the help of his friends Glorfindel and Erestor, that Celebrian, hurt as she was, had been trying to justify her actions by dumping all the wrongs of their marriage into him. Also, they both had fought to make him understand that the perceptions of the elleth were only that: her own distorted sight of him, and they weren't necessarily valid for others. This was harder to accept for the Perendhil who had always felt different to others, too mannish for the elves and too elven for the men. Even after he had chosen the path of the Elven kind, he still found rejection from some of the more conservative members of the Court of Gil-galad. To avoid further distention and rejection, he had chosen not to take the Crown that Gil-galad had made him heir for and named himself Lord of Rivendell. Gil-galad was the Last High King of the Noldor in Middle Earth. He thought that he had found his own place at Rivendell, with his family and friends, but he understood now that with that decision, Celebrian's and his marriage had taken almost the last blow it needed to crumble. He could see now that, from there on, she didn't even try to pretend to make it work, and started her perpetual travels back to Lorien, as lengthy as she could make them. It was a small miracle that Arwen had been born at all.

Elrond roused himself from his self-flagellation and looked to the other elf, who had been patiently waiting for him to come out of his memories. Getting up from his seat, he looked to his dear friend, who had risked so much to make him see the truth and said:

"We can't leave this to go further, if he has not been seen for five days, and had reasons to be feeling depressed, who knows what we may find. I am sure that even with the things as they are, I would have felt if he had done himself some fatal harm, both as Lord of the Valley and his bonded, but there is a lot of leeway I don't feel comfortable thinking about that he could have done in five days. Starting for one, that he has been lying down in his bed all this time without waking. Let's go now, we may need to forcefully open his door." - the Elf-Lord, once he had reached a decision, was impatient to carry it out, worried as he was about the younger elf’s health and state of mind. Glorfindel, happy to be doing something at last, said:

"I tried to make him open his door this morning before I came to you, my lord. But there was no answer or any noise from inside, that was when I came to your study" - both elves were walking quickly to the back of the house, where the wood-elf had his room. Glorfindel had to lead the way, as the Lord of the Valley didn't know where the prince had his rooms. Elrond felt further ashamed by this, as the family rooms were at the front of the house, even Glorfindel and Erestor, being close friends of the family, had their rooms there. Furthermore, before all this, Legolas had always been lodged at one of the family rooms. This last bit of cruelty made the Elf-Lord want to hunt down his own sons and bring them to task for it, as the matters of the household, after their mother's and sister's absence, had fallen to them. He had felt at the time that the responsibility would make it easier for them to bear the pain of their mother absence, but he hadn't even dreamt that they would use it to harm anyone as they had.

They reached the wood-elf’s room at last, it was the last room at the back of the house, a small suite which had hosted, prior to this, some of the passing visitors to the Valley such as dwarves or men. Elrond went to the door and started to firmly call, saying Legolas name through the door, expecting against hope that he would choose to answer the master of the House, if not his bonded. As Glorfindel had said, no call came back, nor noise from the room, an ominous silence was their only answer. After a few more unbearable minutes of this, while some of the servants of the house had started to appear at the noise, Elrond turned to Glorfindel and said:

"We will have to open it, do any of you have the key for it?" - he asked one of the servants. She was one of the maids who cleaned the rooms and after a brief curtsey said:

"No my Lord, the prince asked for his room's lock to be changed last week, and said that he would take charge of cleaning it up himself. After what happened we weren't surprised, and the master smith took pity on him and change it himself to a lock he vowed it would be hard to pick" - said the maid, with a certain look in her eye, which gave the master of the House the impression she had been long wanting to say this. Elrond turned to Glorfindel and said:

"Get it open, even if you have to knock it down" - and turning back to the maid in the meantime, while Glorfindel and other elf tried to forcefully knock the door down, asked - "What did you mean 'After what happened'? What would make a guest in my House, my bonded no less, change his locks to one not apt to be picked?" - asked the Elf-Lord, fearing the answer, but needing to hear it all. The maid, sensing her master grief, doubted for a moment, but committed to telling the truth after all this time. She said, a bit more gently than before:

"Someone entered his room and ransacked it, my lord. All his belongings except for those he had been carrying: his weapons, most of his clothes, his books, everything. After looking around, he noticed that his mother's necklace was missing. It was the first time I saw the price crying, and it was terrible to see the look on his face. He seemed crushed, like he had lost the last thing that mattered to him. But after a few minutes, he got himself under control and went to talk to the smith. He is friendly with all the servants and the craft masters, so the smith himself returned with him and changed the locks there and then. He apologized, apologized, my lord! For his reaction, and after thanking us for cleaning up the room, he said that he would take charge of it from now on. He assured us that it had nothing to do with our work or professionalism, as we couldn't see the reason he had to do it himself. He dismissed us very kindly, but firmly. None of us have seen him since that moment" - concluded the elleth, a beautiful Sinda woman who Elrond knew had a son long departed for the West, and who had always mothered the young Sinda Prince when he was at the Valley.

At that moment, Glorfindel and his helper broke down the door at last, and with a mighty crash, and they all went into the room, the Balrog-slayer first. To their surprise, after looking around, the room seemed calm, ordered, and utterly empty of any woodland prince. Elrond and Glorfindel entered further in the room, searching for any clue of the wood-elf whereabouts. They looked into the restroom and the balcony, but saw no one. Elrond, at last, saw a letter on the bed, sealed and addressed to him, and with a heavy heart, already fearing to read his contents, picked it up. Glorfindel came closer to him in support and waited for him to open it. Elrond broke the seal and started to read it, his heart fell to his feet and his head bowed in grief. Once he finished, he passed it to the Vanya and sat on the immaculate bed, putting his head in his hands. Outside the room, the other elves looked at each other wondering at the letter contents, which make the Lord of the Valley look that crushed.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked at the end of the passage he was crossing, and checked again his weapons and supplies. This was the point of no return, as from here, he would be fully out the Valley defences. He had felt the place where Vilya's power marked a frontier between Imladris and the outside world some time ago. That had been a strange sensation as he hadn't gotten this awareness before his bond with Elrond. He worried that crossing that frontier would warn the Elf-Lord of his escape. He didn't know that Elrond had blocked so much of the bond, that he didn't feel him as much as he would have under other circumstances. He pressed on even with this uncertainty, since he had come too far not to try. After a few steps, not feeling anything different, he continued his way. Despite of having crossed that threshold, the path was still well hidden and safe to travel, and it wasn't until he arrived at the end of the passage that Legolas would get into the really dangerous part of his journey. Gearing himself for what it was to come, Legolas reached the crack into the rock, which marked the entrance to the tunnel and discreetly looked around, not only to be sure that no one would attack him on sight but to make certain that this path into the Valley remained hidden to the enemy. He stretched all his senses and asked the trees near for their counsel until he was convinced that the clear outside was empty of enemies. He crossed the entrance quickly and climbed the near trees for safer passage, this was like a path on the ground for a wood-elf.

He was at the more eastern part of the lands called the Trollshaws. As their own name indicated, trolls roamed those lands to the travellers' misfortune. Legolas had no plans to enter that forsaken land, he wanted to go north and cross East Rhudaur, which skirted the foot of the Misty Mountains. A small Realm, which had been under Angmar's influence until the Battle of Fornost. Nowadays was mostly ignored, but it was a source of conflict every few years. Some times hillmen, orcs and even trolls tried to organize and took control of the region, being defeated after a short reign. The inhabitants of the area were used to migrate from one place to another looking for a peaceful place to settle. Legolas would circumvent these villages and look for a passage into the Mountains, towards his home. That was the idea anyway and he planned to stick to it. He had studied the maps at Elrond's library, discreetly, and he had found a few animal's tracks marked on them, he expected to be able to find them. He kept jumping from one tree to the next, putting as much distance between Imladris and himself as he could.

Elrond looked to the note in his hands again trying to make sense of it, while he waited for Glorfindel's investigation to finish and for him to come back. The note wasn't too long and was pretty candid, but every phrase was like a dagger to the Elf-Lord's chest. The utter failure that it reflected was almost too much for him to bear. He re-read it for the umpteenth time, trying to see any clue of where the woodland price was heading.


My Lord Elrond,
By now, if I have my way, I am long gone from Imladris and you have discovered my escape. I have to admit that I never expected to link that two words, Imladris and escape. Your home and your family have, in the past, been a sanctuary for me. I am grieved that that is no longer the case, and for my part in this situation, I can only apologize. I hope that you can believe someday, that I would have never insinuated myself into your family, much I had cherished you all as my kin. I have always wished the best for you and yours, even now when I have made an enemy of you, against my own will. I believed that I could stay and make this work, but it has become increasingly clearer to me over the last few years that nothing I can do will make this better. I know your Councilors expected for me to stay safe at Imladris, and avoid the risk of another broken bond so close to the previous one. I thought that I could stay long enough for the bond to stabilize, until you could find a more worthy mate for yourself, someone other than a wild and unwise wood-elf prince, as I heard some of your subjects call me, I think Gandalf did it so at a point, although in that case it may have something to do with the spider we dropped on him. I am sorry I wasn't even able to do this, but I fear that if I were to stay even another season at your House, the risk of a broken bond would happen anyway as I've been feeling the walls closing on me and I don't know where my dark thoughts may have carried me if I stayed.

Please, my lord, if you have ever seen any worth in me, I beg you to let me go freely. I will do my best to stay alive until you can find a worthier mate for yourself. I will never stand in the way of a new bond for you, and willingly give my agreement to free us both of this situation. Think of this, I will shoulder all the blame with my father, as we both know his prideful character would never easily accept this situation. I don't want any bad blood between our Realms. I hope we are of similar mind in this. My only enemy are the orcs, trolls and beasts of the Enemy and I don't want any harm done in my behalf to any other elf, in any way. I hope, someday in the future, we can meet again under better circumstances, and be allies again, if nothing else.

Please, don't tell my father about this, I don't wish him to worry about me, he have enough worries in his mind as it is.

Prince Legolas of Mirkwood
PS: I lost a small necklace at your house, that I was unable to retrieve before leaving, I would be indebted to you if you ever find it and have it send back to Mirkwood.


Elrond could barely process the missive, especially now, as he started to know more and more of what the wood-elf had gone through. Starting by the fact that the younger elf believed that he felt the same as his sons, and blame the wood-elf for this bond. He had been wondering why the prince hadn't gone to him, Glorfindel or Erestor with what was happening, but if he believed this behaviour was endorsed by the master of the House, that he blamed him and believed that he had tried to insinuate himself into his family, no wonder he didn't search him or his closest friends and counsellors for help.

Then, there was the part where the wood-elf believed that he was not worthy of being the Elf-Lord mate. This must be something implied to him because, while the younger elf was unassuming and humble, he had always had a good deal of self-worth, as it couldn't be otherwise, being the beloved younger son of a doting father and a worthy warrior whose people loved for his staunch defence of his realm and his obvious love for his people. The prince had carved his way into his people's love with his very blood, lost in their defence and he did it willingly as his sworn duty. So he hadn't, prior to this, felt that he was unworthy of anyone, neither he thought that he worth more than anyone else.

If that wasn't enough, the last paragraph was the last straw. The fact this young elf wanted to spare him the problems his father rightfully would drop upon his head, broke the Elf-Lord heart. That he was ready to stand aside and shoulder all blame, aware of the pain of a broken bond for the one who lost the connection, while Elrond went on and took another mate... The perendhil had suffered a broken connection only for a few minutes and he couldn't imagine to offer something like that willingly. Or to give that pain into his fully innocent mate. And the bit about the necklace, said like in passing in a postscript, clearly made as something unimportant, maybe with the hope that it would make it more likely to be granted. Elrond was starting to get very angry on behalf of his bondmate, of this prince who had been a true friend to him and his children, obviously a better one they deserved, and had been so poorly treated.

Erestor had been studying his Lord all this time. As Glorfindel, he had felt uncomfortable with the poor treatment given to the wood-elf. He and the Vanya had tried to be friends with the young archer, but it had been a difficult situation as they hadn't wanted to hurt the half-elf and, being his best friends and counsellors, they couldn't expend a lot of their time with the elf that Elrond was avoiding. He had hoped for the twins to come back to their senses, wherever they have lost them, and be friends again with the young elf. But things had gotten so quickly out of hand that no one had known how to react and, as the family had suffered so much, they let it go for far too long. While the young archer had seemed stoically able to bear the small petty actions, and no one had been aware of all the pettiness and bullying he was suffering until now, neither him nor Glorfindel had felt pressed to act, just yet. The problem with immortality is that three years didn't look as so much time, unless you were the one suffering.

At that moment, Glorfindel entered the room, after a perfunctory knock at the door. Marching in front of him, clearly unwilling but too afraid of the Balrog-slayer to protest too much, a young dark-haired elf went to an uncomfortably stop in front of the Lord of the House's desk. Elrond raised an eyebrow at the elf and looked at Glorfindel for an explanation, the Vanya cheerfully explained himself:

"This elf here is Thanon, he was the one bragging this morning of having ransacked the room of your bondmate and stolen a necklace from the room" - the Vanya showed them the delicate swan-like figurine that Legolas had inhered from his long-dead mother. Elrond took the beautifully carved mithril filigree and put it carefully on his desk, the dark look on his sable grey eyes was difficult to hold for the younger elf who immediately tried to excuse himself.

"I am sorry my lord, I didn't mean any harm. I only wanted for the wood-elf to understand that he wasn't wanted here and leave once and for all" - claimed the dark-haired youth. Elrond became even more angry at this and asked in a cold, low voice:

"And who are you to decide that my bondmate, a prince of the Sindar and a guest to this house for longer than you have lived here is or not welcome into my House, his home now too" - asked the Elf-Lord with all the power he had amassed in his long years. The younger elf seemed to shrink into himself, and said falteringly:

"They.... all have said.... that... that.. he did you wrong... my lord. And for the last three years.... none have said the... none have defended.... he has not even defend himself!" - cried the helpless elf, clearly not used to be on the opposite side of this kind of pressure and folded like a wet paper. Elrond denied with his head at this last bit of ignorance, feeling suddenly very tired. Glorfindel, seeing this took the elf arm and said:

"He doesn't need to defend himself of foolish accusations made by clowns like you. My Lord, I will take this dunce out of your sight until you decide his fate, at the very least for destroying someone else property and stealing it." - concluded the Vanya, taking the elf away and giving him into one of his guards' custody. Elrond dropped into his chair back until the blonde entered the room again and closed the door after himself. The Elf-Lord looked to both of his friends and concluded:

"This is my fault, that idiot may have done the wrong but it is my fault that he believed he could get away with it, that he believed that it was right! what he was doing" - said the perendhil. Glorfindel negated with his head and said:

"This blame, we all shared it Elrond, both Erestor and I were more aware than you of what was happening and we left this inertia stop us of changing what we knew it was wrong." - said the Vanya ashamed. Elrond looked at his friends and asked:

"I know you had my wellbeing in your minds when you did this, although I wished you hadn't. But tell me now Glorfindel, we can't lose another minute to this, every moment that pass is one that Legolas is out there alone and can run into trouble. Have you concluded your investigation? Do you know what supplies he took and in what direction he went?" - asked the Elf-Lord. Glorfindel sighed at this and said:

"I'm afraid that I have more bad news. He was clearly being as discreet as he could, he took no horse and barely any food. He took his weapons, maybe a few clothes that survived Thanon's actions, and we believe a sparse equipment for wilderness: a blanket, a flintstone, a pair of knives to prepare the food and a rope. Nothing else has been missed" - concluded the Vanya, and added - "I have been asking to the guards, to try and figure in which direction he went, but so far we have found nothing. They saw no one abandoning the house, no one crossing any of the bridges and, as he took no horse, he could have travelled through the trees in any direction and we wouldn't be any wiser of it. He had the advantage of knowing the Valley very well and the fact that the guards are prepared to protect from the outside, not from inside" - he finished helplessly. Erestor interceded at that moment:

"I saw him at the library several times of late. I didn't think much of it as it was a place he was left alone so I tried not to scare him away. But now I think of it, I remember him studying the maps on the room intently. He may have trying to find a not so obvious path to use" - surmised the clever counsellor. Elrond nodded to this, and went to his own map on the wall behind his desk, looking at the paths out of Imladris. He started to trace the routes outside his home:

"We are surmising that he will try to reach his home, right? In his letter, he asks not to tell his father. The only viable way we could hide this from Thranduil is if he arrived back there before the Elvenking thinks of sending a messenger and we can't show them their prince" - said the half-elf. Both of his friend agreed to this and he continued - "The obvious path for a lone elf is to go straight East or to cross through Caradhras, as is a well known and travelled pass, although dangerous in this season of the year" - continued the elf - "If he is trying not to be obvious, then he will go further south or north to cross the mountains, but we can't know where. We will need to send scouts in both directions. And in the other directions too until we find some hint of his whereabouts" - concluded frustrated. Glorfindel and Erestor had to agree to this, Glorfindel raised again and went to prepare the patrols who would look for the woodland prince. Elrond looked to his other counsellor and said:

"Get my sons here, it is time for us to have an overdue talk about what happen with their mother" - ordered the Elf-Lord, with a dark look on his face. Erestor nodded and raise from his chair to fulfil his command. Elrond stayed alone with his dark thoughts, while he waited for the arrival of his children.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked to the small village in front of him from the safety of the trees. By now, after five days of travelling, his escape must have been detected back at the Valley. He had gone as far north as he dared, skirting the foot of the Misty Mountains and keeping to the trees when he could. After five days, even with his hunting and foraging skills, he was starting to realize that he would need to stop to resupply before he tried to cross the mountain range. In his goal of being careful, he had taken the bare minimum with him, aware that all the supplies in the Valley would not avail him if he was caught before he left. As a prince, however, he had a certain amount of coin at his disposal, which would be useful to get the equipment he needed to reach his home. The problem lay in his need to be inconspicuous, as that wasn't his strong point. As a wood-elf and a prince, he was used dealing with men, but he wasn't good at hiding that he wasn't one of them. His hair, eyes, voice, skin and even posture screamed of his race and royal heritage.

In his travels with the twins, before things had gone sour between them, they had tried to help him to improve his disguise. He had tried many different ways to conceal his differences: hooded cloaks, scarves, and gloves. He had even tried to conceal his voice by making it lower and deeper, and he tried to improve his Westron accent so it wouldn't mark him as a foreigner. He even picked up some dirt, so he wouldn't look as spotless as he usually did. They had reached mixed results with all of it, it certainly made less obvious that he was one of the First Born, but he still didn't go unnoticed. His best bet, he had found, lay in looking like a teenager who had run away from home in search of a better life. That explained his lack of a beard, that he couldn't produce anyway, and made him less threatening. It had the inconvenience of attracting two kinds of problems. Some evil men would wish to use a acquire a convenient lonely child, and also those kind souls who would try to protect him and send him back to his family. He was hoping to avoid the former by not staying long in the towns, and the last by pretending that his family was around. It would be the perfect cover if he entered the small village, Caradruin, with some other travellers as if he was travelling with them. That was the reason he was waiting in the trees, watching for a propitious group of travellers he could join discreetly, a family with older children would be the best.

And, he thought he may have just found what he was looking for. A few meters away from him, a group of men had just appeared on the path. There seemed to be at least two dozen people travelling together, most of them families, but also some single men. They had probably joined together for safety. The families had several children of all ages, from a small baby to some teenagers, with both boys and girls. Most of them were walking on foot carrying many parcels on their backs. There were some mules which were pulling two carts, so presumably they were planning to sell their wares in the town. With all the parcels and people, Legolas hoped he could drop in the back and go unnoticed by both the group and the town’s residents. The elf prince checked his appearance one last time: he had his hood covering his hair, which he had gathered up in a ponytail as some men did, a scarf that hid most of his face, taking advantage of the cold weather to not look too strange, and some fingerless gloves on his hands. It was the best he could do. He waited for the party to pass under his tree, and dropped noiselessly at the back behind one of the carts. He stayed out of sight, and after a few minutes without anyone taking notice of him, he relaxed a bit and stayed hidden with the small cart.

After a while walking calmly behind the carts, a trio of teenagers, two boys and a girl, wandered in his direction, apparently arguing about what they would be allowed to do at the town once they arrived. They seemed to be ignoring him or unaware of him as yet, until the girl spied him next to the carts and nudged her friends. They examined him, trying without success to be inconspicuous. At last, one of the boys who seemed to be the leader spoke to him:

"Hello. I don't know you, did you join with the last caravan?" - asked the teenager, and almost immediately without leaving Legolas room to answer, he continued - "Will you go take a look around the market while your parents put up their stall? We are planning to convince ours that we are mature enough to walk around without supervision, to look at the competition. Do you think yours will allow you?" - Legolas could barely to keep with the questions, but to this last one, he at least could answer honestly.

"I don't think my father will mind if I look around the market" - he said, talking carefully, trying not to be too obvious about his race. The other kids didn't seem to find him too foreign and they nodded.

"Your dad should convince ours then, and what about your mom, she won't say anything?" - asked the girl now. Legolas looked down for a moment before answering.

"She died long ago, it is only my father"- answered the elf, the children looked sympathetic at this but they were used to stories like that. They belonged to a people long accustomed to be under the yoke of tyrants who didn't care about their people. Since their freeing from the Witch-king of Angmar, they had gone through a row of different war-lords who had, in the best of the cases, ignored them as they made their own wars. In consequence, the land was hard to its dwellers, and families lost many of their members to fights, hunger, and worse. These children were thick-skinned, but they still hadn't lost the hope and freedom of their youth. So they recovered quickly from the conversation-killer and continued interrogating their new friend:

"What would you like to do? I want to visit the weapons' stalls. I will learn the sword and become a warrior-for-hire, so I become rich and go south to live in a beautiful villa." - said the oldest boy. The other two rolled their eyes at this, probably having heard it more than once. The other boy pushed him in the shoulder saying:

"You will be a poor soldier. You will probably run at the first orc you see. You will stay poor and build a hut in the mountains" - laughed the younger boy as he teased him. The older boy went after him in a rage, and they both started to run around screaming insults at each other. The girl rolled her eyes at both, and looked to the exotic boy who seemed to be quite shy but, as far as she could see from behind the hood and scarf, very cute. With pretty blue eyes, long blonde hair half-pulled in a tail under his hood, and a beautiful almost angelic face, the boy was very handsome. As with most girls of her culture, she was young but lively and clever, and because she was the second oldest girl of a big family, she expected to be betrothed soon. She wanted a chance to make her own choice, if possible. This boy was a stranger, but so far seemed polite, quiet, and cute. It was a better prospect than she had seen so far, so she tried to talk to him:

"You didn't say what you wanted to do. Are you training in a trade yet?" - asked the girl, who thought him old enough to be under some master’s training. Legolas, who had even less contact with girls in the past than men or boys, looked at her in fascination in return, and answered carefully:

"I am a warrior" - he indicated his bow and long knives, and continued - "But my father didn't want me to learn only one trade so I have training as a scholar and a healer as well " - he had trained to be a diplomat, ambassador, and many other things in his studies as Prince, but he thought that would be the more commonplace parts of his training. Even so, normal men didn't train in several trades, particularly outside of the rich, and the girl seemed impressed as she strayed closer to him and said:

"My uncle is a healer also, he travels from town to town. He said that we need more healers to help our people because we live in such dangerous times. I would have liked to travel with him and learn his trade, but girls are not allowed to do so here. My mother apprenticed me to the seamstress of our former village, but she was killed in the last raid." - said the girl matter-of-factly. Legolas was surprised and a bit appalled by this attitude, as he couldn't imagine having such a cold reaction to one of his teacher's deaths, but he knew that men looked at death differently than immortals. Also, the life in Rhudaur was more dangerous than average, and the people surviving there needed a thicker skin than most.

"I am sorry that you lost your teacher. Is that the reason your family left for Caradruin?" - asked the elf. While he was talking to the girl, they were reaching the town's main entrance and he stayed close to the cart, trying to stay out of the guards' way. The girl was helping him look like another child of the caravan, so the soldiers didn't give them a second look. After the bustle of the entrance, the girl answered him.

"Oh, I didn't want to be a seamstress, but I liked Edsel, and I was sad that she died. My family lost our home in the raid, and it was the third one that season, so my parents decided to come to Caradruin. We plan to sell our wares at the market here and then go further west to Cameth Brin. It is said that the spirits dwell in those lands and the orcs don't dare to enter them" - said the girl, jumping from one topic to the next without pause. Legolas found that he was enjoying the conversation more than he expected. But at that moment there was some commotion on the other side of the caravan when they reached the market. The group was starting to break up, looking for a good place to settle.

"Berylla! Come here, you need to take care of your siblings while we prepare the stall" - called an older woman, that from her looks seemed to have been as much of a beauty as her daughter in her youth, but it was now long weighed down by her cares. The girl, Berylla apparently, went to her mother reluctantly, but at the last moment dragged her new friend with her. Legolas hadn't planned to stay this long with the caravan, but he didn't want to call attention to himself by struggling, so he followed the girl. When they reached her mother, Berylla said:

"Mom, my friend and I were going to look around the market. His father has allowed him to go, please can Gilly take care of the others?" - asked the girl winningly. The mother looked at the elf suspiciously, but not too much so, as he looked young and harmless. Still, she didn't want her daughter alone with an unknown boy, so she said to her daughter.

"You can look around and take care of the boys, Gilly is taking care of the youngest, but you need to take Aeron and Darin" - concluded the older woman. The girl looked annoyed at that, but Legolas looked curiously at the two young boys. They looked back to him in interest too. The youngest seemed to deem him safe enough, and he asked to be picked up like he was another brother. Legolas, surprised but not unwilling because he wasn't used to the responsibility of a younger child, being the youngest of Thranduil’s children, gracefully picked up the child and settled him after a few moments of doubt on his hip. The girl, seeing as the other boy hadn't run away at the impromptu responsibility, seemed more accepting now, and taking his other brother's hand, said:

"Where do you want to go? - Legolas, having decided that the presence of other children would make his less unusual, decided to try to start his own resupply mission and said:

"My father wanted me to buy some of the supplies we will need when we continue our journey. I would like to look around for some of the things we lack"- said the prince going through his mental list of supplies. The girl seemed interested in this, as it implied that the boy must have some money on him and a bit of freehand to spend, maybe. The group of children went on their way into the market like this, looking like any other group of children of the many that populated the market.

Chapter Text

Elrond looked up from his desk when a knock came on his door. He bade his guests to enter, and waited for them to do so. The door opened and both of his twin sons entered the room with curiosity. They had been at the fields training the new recruits with swords when Erestor had found them and relayed their father's orders. Elrond suspected that they weren't aware of the situation, which had accelerated its conclusion in the last few hours, as they had left the house at first light. So he tried to see if they would admit anything to see and judge, if he could, the reasons for their behaviour.

"Good evening sons, how has the training of the new recruits gone?" - asked the Elf-lord. Elladan and Elrohir exchanged a subtle look, but they gamely answered their father.

"They are a bit green Ada. In particular, those who had no previous training with other weapons" - said Elladan, the older twin, to the older elf. His brother nodded in agreement but said nothing. Elrond approved this and questioned something that had been at his mind from the beginning of the morning:

"What do you know about an elf called Thanon? Is he a warrior or a recruit?" - asked the master of the House, watching his sons carefully. The name clearly meant something to them as they both exchanged another look, this time more alarmed. Finally, Elladan spoke for both of them again.

"We know him, he is with one of the patrols. He is passably good with the sword but a poor archer" - said the young elf warily, clearly something about their friendship with this elf made them cautious. Elrond told his news then:

"Well, then if you are acquainted with him, you may wish to know that he is accused of wrecking another's elf property and stealing" - announced the Elf-lord. His sons seemed surprised at this and Elrohir spoke at last:

"Accused? By whom? He is a citizen of Imladris, and well respected. Who would accuse him of something like that? They should have proof of it, not only suspicions I hope. Not trying to rely on their position to accuse an innocent elf" - the younger twin seemed to be warming to the topic while he talked, and Elrond realized that he was aware of the attitude from the other elf, and maybe knew the recipient of his malice, if not his acts. He decided to tarry with his answer, and give him enough rope to see if he would hang himself with it - "I know Thanon wouldn't steal anything, he doesn't need to, anyway and he is a generous elf, it would be out of character" - concluded the young elf. Elrond, looking to his other son, waited to see if he would have anything to add to this. Elladan seemed more cautious than his brother, and maybe wiser to where this conversation was going, and said nothing. Elrond, at last looked at them both and said:

"The elf affected said nothing. Thanon was heard by a third party bragging of his acts and was caught with the stolen property in his possession. There was no doubt of it, and he has recognized his acts if not his blame" - said the half-elf. Elrohir seemed worried at this, understanding that some things had happened while they were training, that he and his brother weren't aware of. He shut up. Elladan had caught on before, and seemed unwilling to say anything else without knowing what had happened. Elrond waited for them, patiently. At last, his younger son was unable to stand the tension, and asked:

"So, who was the elf that was stolen from, and who had their rooms spoiled?" - asked the younger twin coolly . Elrond knew then that the worst he feared was true. He said:

"I didn't talk about any room Elrohir. What makes you say that?" - Elrond asked immediately. Elrohir went white at this, and looked at his brother in a plea for help. Elladan tried to help him:

"You said... you said that they had his property vandalized and stolen, where would that be except for his room" - said the older twin with fake composure. Elrond denied with a shake of his head and said:

"I said nothing of a room, and even if you could think it logical, neither did I say it was a he" - said the Elf-lord disgusted by the acts, and now the cowardice of their denials. Both of his sons started at this, rethinking their words and realizing their mistake. At that, they didn't have any defence to offer and went rigid and proud before their father's desk. Elrond seemed unhappy and torn by this attitude, and said:

"As you have no regret and no apologies to offer, I have no more to tell or ask you about this. I wanted to see if you were involved in the hideous act committed last week, I have no proof of your direct involvement but it is clear to me that you knew about it and support it. At the very least it was your responsibility to watch over the wellbeing of the Valley's citizens, no matter how you feel personally about them, and you seem to have allowed this behaviour. From now on, you are no longer responsible for the well being and peace of the House. I will appoint some else " - said the older elf disgusted. The twins were enraged to be found guilty and dismissed of their duties. Elladan, although angry, seemed leery of further discussing this with their father until they knew more, but Elrohir, much more quick-tempered and having convinced himself over the last three years of the righteousness of their displeasure, said:

"I don't know why that wood-elf had come crying to you Ada, he had no right to do it. He is always thinking that he had more rights than others and he is taking advantage of his position ..." -Elrond interrupted his son's mad bitterness, no longer able to stand his virulence:

"Legolas left five days ago, he does not know of this, neither has ever complained to me or anyone else. I hope you and your brother feel happy, you have managed to drive away an innocent being who had never even tried to defend himself against you, and who loved you truly as his own blood brothers. I think, as your next feat, you can drown some puppies in the pound" - said the Lord, ironically. Elladan and Elrohir looked even more surprised at this, but at least they didn't seem pleased, or maybe they didn't know yet how to feel. The Elf-Lord continued after this pause and said:

"I have called you here to try and make any sense of what happened here three years ago. I know your mother decision has weighed on all of us, but I had believed, before now, that you had come to terms with it and moved on. I admit that my own attitude has been poor and worsened the situation, but I couldn't imagine that you would blame your friend for this circumstance" - the twins, still in shock by the news of Legolas disappearance, looked unable to form an answer to their father. Elrond waited for it patiently, as he knew that it was long past time for this conversation, and it had hurt too many already as it was.

"Naneth was hurt by what happened to her. She wasn't thinking straight when she broke your bond. If she would have had the time to consider it, she would have regretted her actions and took back her words. And she would have stayed instead of leaving" - said the older twin slowly, like the words had been hurting him inside. Elrond rose from his seat and went to his older son's side, putting his hand on his downturned face to raise his gaze to his own eyes. Both sets of grey eyes looked at each other, and Elrond read his son's pain in his gaze. He looked to the younger twin who had been looking to his brother, in him Elrond saw a great anger behind the pain, like he was to collapse with it. The Elf-Lord suspected that he had pushed his rage into his friend as he couldn't with any of his parents. He answered carefully, aware that their mother wasn't present to defend herself and not wanting to taint her image or make her a martyr in her children eyes.

"Your mother and I hadn't a happy marriage even before her attack. You knew that, and were witnesses of her many comings and goings back and forth to her parents' lands"- said the half-elf, and continuing - "Even if she was not happy, we tried to stay together and make it work because of you, and maybe because we didn't want to admit our failure. But it was a weak bond and it didn't survive the weight of her pain. She was rash when she broke the bond, but it was long coming before then. I wasn't expecting it at that moment and caught me unaware, I had been under a lot of strain trying to keep the Valley safe and hidden, that's the reason that it almost killed me. If a compatible mate wouldn't have been at hand, I would be dead by now and we wouldn't be talking right now about this. Legolas only fault was not to run the other way that night, and with that, he saved my life." - concluded the older elf. The twins seemed to be angry at the explanation and resistant to accepting it.

"He didn't have to bond with you, he could have given you his strength without a permanent bond. I looked at the books, you have to know this! You don't need to excuse him" - Elrohir said hotly as he had long wanted to do. Elrond denied with his head and said:

"That is a nice theory but flawed. To start, Legolas has little healing training in matters such as bonding. He has focused on healing the injuries you are more likely to take in a fight. Even you two, who had trained for longer, would have a hard time controlling a bond with your lack of experience. Besides that, you have been reading of a controlled breaking of a link, made by an expert healer, this was an uncontrolled break made by one of the bonded, without any training. The break was careless and hasty, you said before than your mother would have regretted and taken back her actions. With the way the bond was broken, it would have been difficult if not impossible to bring it back. We were never very compatible and the only reason we were able to bond was because it was prepared for over a year with your grandmother's help. The reason Legolas and I were able to bond that quickly was because we were incredibly compatible, and Legolas didn't fight it when it started. If he had, I would have died that same night, as I couldn't stand any more rejection. He had enough mental skills to realize that and opened his mind fully to me. It was a brave deed and poorly repaid." - concluded the Elf-Lord, walking back to his desk chair, and sitting there heavily. His sons deflated at this statement, backed with a healer's experience, and started to show signs of regret. Elrohir began walking around his father studio, restless and unable to let go of his anger, he turned to Elrond:

"But why did you avoided him from that night on? You didn't even try to make it work. if Legolas didn't have a choice and saved your life with his actions, why did you blame him then?" - asked the younger twin, who had been the closest to the wood-elf prior to this. Elrond looked down ashamed at this and said

"That was my own embarrassment at work. I can't bear the thought of what it brought. Your mother's words were hard for me to assimilate. I had known that she wasn't happy with our marriage and I had disappointed her expectations. But she said some more personal things, and I didn't want to impose myself on other elf after that, or face another rejection from someone I cared about. I wouldn't have approached Legolas, because too many reasons before this, not the least one that I'm two ages older than him, but I'm not blind and I've always found him beautiful and caring. He is the embodiment of a Sindar Prince, a full-blooded elf, proud and kind, and an outstanding warrior. I was made very aware that, despite status and ancestors, I wasn't the dream mate of a normal elf. Our circumstances made it impossible to free him of this bond, but I thought it would make it easier if I kept my distance. I know now that I was lying to myself, and cowardly staying away only made it worse for him. I should have faced him and gave him the chance to refuse me." - said the half-elf, ashamed. His sons looked horrified at their father's words, accustomed to his usual confidence and apparent endless wisdom. To find that he had weakness, fears and insecurities as them, shocked them.

"Legolas wouldn't reject you. He has always liked you and he doesn't care about bloodlines or age, he like to judge everyone for their own merits." - said Elladan, ashamed of what he had thought of his friend. He couldn't believe now, with the rage gone, that his friend would have wanted to take advantage of their family. Elrohir, who had been closer to the Prince, resisted accepting that he had no justification to his anger, and punched the wall next to the chimney angrily saying:

"He didn't defend himself! He took it like he deserved our anger! He must have been feeling guilty for something" - cried in helpless rage. Elrond raised again from his seat and took his son's hand, bruised by the hit. Elladan went to his brother's side also aware, more than his father, of all the transgressions they had committed on the young Sinda. Elrond lead his son to the side table, and took care of his hand saying:

"He loved you and didn't want to add to your pain. You forget that he has also lost a parent, even if, in his case, was to death and not sailing. He would empathize with both of you and that would make him reluctant to fight you. He didn't want to disturb the peace of the Valley, and I suppose you two didn't give him the chance to openly confront you. Leaving him little chance for an open talk as would have been his preference" - the twins looked down ashamed again at this. Elrond sighed and, finishing healing Elrohir hand, hugged his sons strongly to his chest. The twins went willingly and stayed at their father's side for a long time, too sore hearted to move after the revelations. Finally, Elrond said, releasing them:

"You should go and rest. It has been a long day for us all" - the Elf-Lord went back to his chair and sat down again. Elladan and Elrohir interchanged looks and Elladan asked:

"But Ada, what about Legolas, where has he gone? Back to Mirkwood? I didn't know a delegation of the woodland realm was in attendance" - asked tentatively. Elrond shook his head and said

"There isn't, and we may hope none comes in the near future. He left alone, without telling anyone. We don't know where" - answered their father. The twins looked even more frightened at this, and Elrohir said:

"But he can't! He will be killed!" - both brothers looked to each other at this and then to their father, as waiting for him to admit that it was all a joke. Their father dismissed it with his head and said:

"Your friend Thanon, the outstanding citizen, was the last straw. He left secretly, without saying anything to anyone, on foot and with barely any supplies" - concluded the older elf, tiredly. He seemed drained and older, as an elf shouldn't look, the twins looked to him scared:

"Ada, what's wrong with you?" - asked the older twin worried. His father smiled faintly and answered.

"I think the distance between Legolas and I is beginning to take its toll" - answered the elf-Lord.

"But you and Naneth have been farther away for longer periods of time, even if he had time to cross the mountains in this few days" - said Elrohir alarmed. Elrond denied with his head and answered.

"It wasn't the same, the bond, if weak, was stable. And you two were born very early, further stabilizing it and adding to it. But now that bond is broken and Legolas and I hadn't done anything in three years to confirm ours. It's weak and has only resisted all this time because of our proximity. It wasn't the fear of danger which made impossible for him to leave for home, even if everyone thought that, even Legolas. I would say this is a fitting punishment for all the pain he had been suffering because of me" - said the older elf. His sons looked ready to argue, but at that moment a knock came from the door. Glorfindel entered the room after Elrond's call to enter.

"My Lord, I have organized the scouts' parties, and will leave with one of them after this. I would like to take the direction you feel is the most likely for Legolas to have gone, if you can think of one. If not, I will take the south route" - said the golden-Vanya, barely sparing a look for the twins. The two of them, aware of what the ancient elf must be thinking of them, looked down ashamed.

"South is good, I can't tell in which direction he has gone." - said the elf-Lord thoughtfully.- "I will be hard to find him even if you take the same route, he is alone and can easily blend with the trees. And he won't trust an emissary of Imladris at this time, so you may go straight past him" - said the elf-Lord darkly. Elrohir couldn't stay quiet a minute longer.

"Let us go with one of the parties Ada, you need him back as soon as possible, before it gets worse" - said the younger twin. Even if he had still been angry with his friend, his father's weakness drove home how necessary the wood-elf was for his well being . But his father was already denying with a shake of his head

"It's necessary for you to stay here, if the worse comes to worse, the Valley can't be left unprotected. I need you here to stand for me, if necessary." - concluded the master of the Valley gravelly. His sons looked horrified. Glorfindel, aware of the pitfalls of an unstable bond (last one had been Aradhel's and they all knew how that ended) nodded and left without further word. The twins were aghast at the consequences of their actions, and incapable to be of any help. They stayed accompanying their father long into the night.

Chapter Text

Legolas had managed to acquire some of the things he needed to cross the mountain. He didn't want to overburden himself, seeing as he was alone and didn't have a horse to share the load. He didn't want to get one for several reasons, because of the quality of the mounts at Rhudaur in general, and Caradruin in particular, was pretty lacking, and because he didn't believe it would be an advantage while crossing the mountains, even with the extra supplies, he wasn't sure yet of the kind of path he would have to use. It may be that it would only be some kind of animal track which would be impossible for a horse to follow, becoming a problem instead of an advantage.

Berylla, or Ryl as she wanted to be called, hadn't known much of the paths he was seeking, as she never had left the area, but she knew plenty about haggling with sellers and was of great help buying his supplies. She was also able to discern the quality in many of the items he acquired, and advised him with the supplies he may need for his way, as she belonged to an almost nomadic people and knew many of the particularities of the region.

She and her little brothers, even not knowing much about him, were happy to help him decide what he (or they, as it was thought that he was accompanied by his father) would need for his travels. He had to curtail some of their ideas, because he, as an elf, didn't need them. For once, he wasn't as exposed to the elements as mortals, neither did he needed any external tool to orientate himself in the wilderness. Whatever he felt he didn't need, he explained away as something his father already had or would purchase by himself, to avoid suspicion. They still got some non-perishable food, the men's version of waybread, a few spare flintstones, some small tools to prepare and eat the food, a pair of blankets and some spare clothes, a bull sack to carry his new supplies, a small hatchet, some candles, and a canteen for water. With that, he felt that he would be better ready to cross the mountain range. Once they were finished, as a token of gratitude for all their help, they went to a stall which sold sweets and treated themselves to some of them. The little boys were ecstatic and Ryl smiled at him sweetly. At that moment, her former companions, who had disappeared before they reached the town, found them again. They had apparently resolved their previous differences, or at least had put them on hold for the meantime.

"Ryl! You have been stuck with the brats, that's a pity" -said the one who Legolas had thought the leader before. Aeron and Darin looked back to him, sticking their tongues out in revenge of him calling them brats. He laughed at them - "Toman and I are allowed to look around on our own" - he puffed out his chest, giving himself some importance. Ryl rolled her eyes at them and pointedly ate the last of the sweets they had purchased. The two older boys looked them enviously while her brothers did the same. They started to complain and argue again, but at that moment, Legolas looked around in alarm, starting to feel uneasy. He felt something wasn't right at the moment. He passed the little boy he had been carrying, Aeron, to his sister and went to one of the lateral streets which led into the market, trying to get a better feeling of what was bothering him. The other children seemed to sense his unease and follow him in silence.

Having reached the border of the market, and before any of them could question him on his actions, the market went into chaos. From one of the opposite streets, a group of orcs and hillmen poured into the town's market with their weapons, attacking everyone on their paths, and ransacking the stalls, taking all they wanted from them. While his companions stayed paralyzed by the attack, Legolas' mind went into a frenzy. He couldn't abandon the children with him to fight the attackers, leaving them defenceless, and he didn't know the town to take them to a safer place. However, he decided anywhere should be safer than where they were now, with the invaders coming closer. He took a look around and decided that the buildings around them, made of wood and with only one or two heights were not a good choice for a hiding place, so he led them away from the market through the street. Keeping to the side, next to the buildings, they tried to avoid the worst of the chaos with the citizens trying to run away from the orcs and hillmen. Legolas managed to keep the children together while he took them away from the fight, until they reached the outskirts of the town and the walls which surrounded it. The entrance was a chaotic sight, where the guards were attacking indiscriminately anyone who got close enough to them, Legolas didn't like their chances to avoid getting involved into a fight, so he looked around for a different escape. It was one of the older boys, who seemed to be keeping a calm head, who spotted the potential escape.

"Look, we can climb that tree and pass the wall that way" - said the boy, whose name Legolas hadn't heard yet. He nodded his agreement and directed the others to the tree. It was a nice old oak which had grown in the shadow of the wall, and with its spreading branches would be ideal to take them to the other side of the wall. The two older boys went first, and Legolas helped the two younger to climb with their sister into the tree, he whispered lowly to the old tree to help them to climb and the oak seemed to move its branches closer a bit, making them easier to reach. Once they were all on the tree, they went over the wall to the other side, Legolas was the last one to cross the wall so he had a perfect view of the two orcs who, having noticed their escape, were heading their way. Without losing his momentum, before he jumped to the floor, he took out his bow and shot two perfect aimed arrows at them. They were dead before they hit the ground. The children looked at him in awe at the show of talent. Legolas lost barely a moment to recover his arrows, and lead the children into the forest. Putting as much distance as he could between the town and them. They went into the forest and vanished into it.

Elrond awoke from a deep sleep. He had been feeling more and more tired as the day passed, and he had gone to bed to take a nap. He rose and took a moment to realize what had awakened him wasn't something happening to him, but to Legolas. He had felt something from the bond for the first time. Legolas had been alarmed and afraid, not for himself but someone else, there was a sense of urgency and protectiveness. Elrond was alarmed in return by this, and tried to reach out to find out more of what was happening with the wood-elf and maybe get a sense of where he was. He felt he was outside and with someone, there was a sense of a forest and a mountain range near. He could feel the cold, crisp but bearable. He stretched his mental sense trying to discern a direction, but the sensation was gone again, as Legolas hadn't opened the bond, only leaked a bit of his emotions because of his distracted state and the focus he needed on whatever situation he had gotten into, had made him lose some of the barrier he kept on their bond at all times. Once he realized what was happening, he closed the bond again, tightly, and all sense of him was lost.

Elrond laid down again, frustrated but unable to do anything about it. He had his hands tied by his own actions. If he had kept his side of the bond open before this, Legolas wouldn't have created such a strong barrier and he may have been able to sense his location. He would have probably sensed him leaving the border of Imladris at that. But the Prince had copied, step by step, as the apprentice of mental skills he was, every block the half-elf had put on. And now it didn't matter that he had lowered down his side of the barrier, the other hadn't noticed or no longer cared about it even if he did. Elrond tried to go to sleep again, going through all the settlements he knew close to the mountains. There were too many, but he had a few more clues for his search.

Legolas closed the bond tightly, scared of what the Elf-Lord could have sensed in his carelessness. Making sure he was no longer leaking anything, he made a mental note to reinforce the barrier on the bond, once he had the time for it. Now wasn't the time , they had reached the inner forest, trying to put as much distance as possible from the town. Legolas had picked the oldest and heaviest of the boys and passed the youngest to one of the older teenagers so they could walk faster and farther away. Even so, after only two miles, the others were flagging badly, and he had to stop to allow them rest. Ryl and Toman sat down immediately and stayed on the ground, the older teenager and Legolas settle down the younger boys but stayed upright. Legolas went to one of the tallest trees, some kind of fir, and climbed it nimbly so he could take a look towards the town. They had been going up on their escape, so with his elven eyesight, he was able to see the village. There was some fires on the inner zone, and at one of the surrounding walls, which had been made of wood. No longer were people escaping, but he couldn't be sure if it was because the attackers had been repelled of if they had taken control of the place. There had been little organization with the guards, so he feared it was more likely the latter.

Ryl looked up from the base of the tree to him and asked:

"Can you see anything? Is everyone alright?" - asked the young girl, showing for the first time how young she really was. Legolas went down again.

"The attack seems to have ceased but I can't see who has won or how the attack has gone for those caught in the market" - answered the elf sincerely. The girl's eyes filled with tears, while the oldest boy throw an arm around her shoulders, Legolas looked away at her reaction. The other boys draw closer.

"What are we going to do? We don't know if our families are captured, or even alive. We have to do something" - said Toman looking to the others for support. Legolas seemed uncertain, as they were children except for himself.

"Do you have any other family you can go for help. If the town has been taken, it will need fighters to be freed." - said the elf, looking around at his companions. The oldest boy denied with a shake of his head.

"My whole family is in that town, there is no one else. Who could we ask for help? There must be someone who cares. Caenir, you have family at Cameth Brin, will they help?" - asked Ryl, passionately. The older boy, Caenir, didn't look too sure about this and said:

"There are some cousins, but we are not close to them, I don't think they will risk themselves for my family". - The boy then looked to the elf and said - "I don't think we had been introduced to each other, I'm Caenir" - he offered his hand to the elf. Legolas took it seriously and said - "I'm Lassen" - using the nickname that his friend and family still used. His name wasn't widely known outside of elven Realms, as he was the youngest of Thranduil's children, but the orcs may be better informed of their enemies' families and royal members and he preferred not to risk it. The other boy, Toman, also introduced himself.

"And what about you Lassen? Have you any family?" - asked Caenir. Legolas had doubts and decided to tell the truth as far as he could.

"None who would care about something happening on this side of the Mountains. I wasn't completely sincere with you. My father wasn't with the caravan, I'm alone here and trying to find my way back home" - Ryl and the others didn't seem very surprised by this news, as they had noticed that he wasn't from the area, and pegged him as a runaway. Caenir seemed more relaxed at this explanation, and accept it.

After that, they kept trying to find some family or friend they could ask for help, but no good choices were found.

Legolas nodded, discouraged but not surprised. He had been hoping to help these young people reach some family, and keep going on his way, leaving their relatives to the task of recovering the town and helping their families. But it seemed that most of them could only count on those captured or worse in the town, and would be left alone if he went on his way. He had little choice, as an elf, he found it abhorrent to abandon children.

First order of business was to find a defendable position where he could leave his companions and return to the vicinity of the town to check the real situation at hand. With that in mind, he turned again to the trees and climbed his fir friend to the top, trying to have a better grasp of his surroundings.

The children looked at him in wonder, as his skill at climbing was like nothing they had seen before, acting like he was climbing a stairway, and the shoot he had done at the wall had been like nothing a normal man could do. Caenir, who was a bit more travelled than the rest, was looking at him closely, trying to see him better under his cloak, no longer suspicious of his intentions but trying to figure out his place of origin. Legolas took no notice of this, as he had no choice but use his full abilities if they wanted to survive this adventure. Looking around the area from his perch, he noticed that they had run in the Mountains' direction. Caradruin laid very close at its feet. The ground kept going higher and not far from their position, there was a rock formation and some cliffs, starting the mountain range. There would be caves and passages, which could be a place to hide, or a nest of troubles. They didn't know where their attackers had come from and the caves of the Misty Mountains were a common place for the orcs to hide. They had no choice but to risk it however, and Legolas went down the tree to communicate his findings to the others. There was a bit of discussion but they agreed with the elf, his experience and authority higher than any of them, and they answered automatically to it. They started again for the mountains, leaving the town behind.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked at the entrance of the town from his position on top of a tree, close to the place he had been less than a day ago, hoping to get in. Today, however, he wasn't planning on entering the town. Having left the children in what he hoped was a safe cavern in the forest, he had turned back to Caradruin, to investigate the situation. Right now, it didn't look good. At the entrance's post, the guards had been replaced by a few hillmen, wild-looking and brutish. Inside the town, the smoke still rose from many sources where fires were still going, and the few town people who could be seen on the streets were being led around by orcs in chains. The town seemed to be completely under the control of these criminals, and the small initial resistance had been crushed for now. Legolas wondered what had made the orcs and hillmen decide to take on a small village like this one, and if it was a sign of a raising warlord in the region. With the information he had managed to gather for now, he decided to turn back to his young friends. He got off from the branch he had used, dropping to the base of the tree. There, he almost jumped back into it when he ended face-to-face with a familiar grey-garbed old man.

"Mithrandir!" - exclaimed the wood-elf, surprised. The wizard looked to the young elf, amused. With his pipe freshly lit in his mouth, he took it out to answer the greeting.

"Legolas Greenleaf. I wasn't expecting to find you here. Are you visiting some friends? I hope they didn't live here, I see that the town below is under new leadership" - commented the Istari, innocently. The elven prince looked to the wizard with narrowed eyes. He wasn't sure of how much the other knew about his life and what had happened in the last three years. He usually wandered away for long periods, and he hadn't been in the Valley for at least a decade. However, he could have passed through other elven's settlements and heard about his bond to the Perendhil there, or received the news by other means. Regardless of his knowledge, he was as inscrutable as usual. Wizards were wizards, Legolas figured that even if he had heard of his bond, and suspected that he had run away from the Valley, he would keep a neutral posture for the time being. He decided to pretend that nothing strange was happening unless he was forced otherwise.

"I was travelling home by a new route and met some new friends. Their families have been captured, or worse, in the town below. They are waiting for my news in the forest" - said the wood-elf guardedly. The wizard nodded at this, like nothing sounded suspicious to him and said:

"We better go back to them then, before they get into trouble. You will need all the help you can get if you want free the town people from their captors. I hope you don't mind my presence" Legolas nodded, relieved, notwithstanding the other considerations, it was always good news to have a wizard helping you. Both of them turned back towards the mountains.

Elladan and Elrohir were training in the grounds with their swords, a demonstration for the elves they were instructing. With Glorfindel gone, the two of them had full responsibility to teach the recruits, however, their hearts weren't in their task. Worry about their father's health and the risks their friend may be facing had them distraught. When they finished their match, after Elladan knocked his brother's sword off his hand, the two of them bowed to each other and their audience, ordering them to pair off and practice what they had seen. They went to the side to watch, and corrected them when necessary. At that moment, a familiar elf exited the nearby armoury, and the brothers tensed in response. Thanon, having left the armoury, took the path to the main house. Elladan and Elrohir went after him, and called out tersely. The other elf looked back to them, with a smile:

"My Lords! I didn't realize you were training the new soldiers" - said the other, cheerfully, as if he had no concerns. Elrohir couldn't stand the elf's apparent cheerfulness, and asked:

"Our father told us what happened, how is that you are here now? We believed you were confined to your rooms"- asked the younger twin. The other elf looked unconcerned and said

"I have been restricted of freedom" - he signalled a guard who had been discretely following him, and had just exited the armoury after him - "I had to return the weapons I had been assigned to the armoury and I have been stripped of my rank and work for the patrols. But until the woodland elf comes back, or the Lord decides he is not coming back at all, they can't dismiss me from the Valley" - said the other elf. He seemed angry when he told them about his loss of status, and remarkably indifferent when he talked about Legolas not returning at all. Elladan and Elrohir looked torn between anger for his attitude, and shame because they would have applauded his actions less than a day ago.

"The woodland elf? You meant the Sinda Price whose father may decide to demand his own justice when he heard about this, right?" - asked another voice from behind them. Erestor appeared from the house like a dark shadow. Angry with all that had happened, on top of Glorfindel having to leave indefinitely, the older Councilor was looking as if he wanted a bit of justice of his own. The younger elf seemed to realize that, at least among this audience, he wasn't going to get much understanding.

"My Lord, I didn't mean anything by it. It was only a small joke that blew out of proportion. I'm sure the elvenking doesn't need to become involved" - said the other elf cowardly. Erestor seemed amused at this.

"You have known his Majesty very little if you think he will consider any damage to his son 'overblown' or beneath his notice" - announced the Noldor, lightly. The younger elf seemed to deflate at this, and started to look less cheerful and more scared. Thranduil's temperament was legendary, in particular when his family was concerned. Besides that, his and the other children's love for the younger on their number was well known in all the elven Realms. Elladan and Elrohir couldn't start to imagine what they would do to someone who had purposely harmed their youngest brother. The rest of Legolas' siblings probably would amuse themselves with whatever their father left of the fool.

Thanon, now looking more than a little green, looked to the twins imploring.

"You will help me, won't you my Lords? You know I didn't mean any harm to that elf? You had your own grievances with him, I know" - said the other. The twins looked disgusted at this, hearing the veiled threat at the end.

"We will need to answer to the woodland King ourselves, and throw ourselves at his mercy. He has the right to ask for his child's pain to be taken out on our hides. You don't need to worry, you won't be alone in confronting his anger. But it would be advisable for you to rethink your attitude. It is true that my brother and my own actions towards Legolas, who was a friend to us prior to this, were inexcusable, but you will need to answer for your own acts. Stealing Legolas' mother’s necklace was beyond the pale. Thranduil will be enraged by it, on top of everything else. You may pray to be expelled from Imladris before that" - concluded the older twin, coolly. He and his brother bowed to the senior Councilor and left the grounds of the armoury to go back to their pupils, who had been looking sidelong at the conversation. The twins barked a few orders to bring them back to attention and continued their drill. Erestor, who had been looking more and more relieved and proud at the twin's changed attitude, nodded politely to the guard, and ignoring the other elf, left for the house to talk to the Valley's Elf-Lord.

Chapter Text

Legolas and Gandalf entered the cavern where the elf had left the group of younglings he had rescued from the attack. The three teenagers and two children rose at their entrance in surprise. They had been lying around trying to sleep, when their friend returned with company. Gandalf was regarded with great suspicion. Legolas introduced him to them.

"Mit... Gandalf, these are the friends I talked to you about. This is Caenir" - signalling the older boy, who bowed reluctantly in polite answer - " Toman " - the other older boy - " Berylla, or Ryl as she prefers" - the girl waved her hand - "and her brothers Aeron and Darin " - the two younger children looked to the old man in fascination. Gandalf smiled to them kindly, trying to seem harmless without much success. He was an unknown entity, when they had already felt so frightened by this day. He passed the children a bit of waybread, which was taken reluctantly, they were torn between their suspicion and their hunger. Hunger won the battle, and the elven waybread was consumed quickly, they seemed to look at him a bit more trustingly then.

"This is Gandalf, a friend of mine" - concluded the elf. Gandalf looked to the elf, surprised that he would still have his hood up, and said.

"I think we should all introduce ourselves properly, shouldn’t we?" - he looked pointedly to the elf's hidden features. Legolas sighed at this, and reluctantly lowered his hood. Once it was down, his fair features and pointy ears made his race obvious, even to the inexperienced children.

"Oh, you are an elf! I thought you may have been a ranger" - exclaimed Caenir, who was a bit more travelled than his companions. The other younglings seemed fascinated, as mortals usually were, when they first met one of the First Born. Legolas bore their curiosity patiently, used to this reaction from the times he had travelled with the twins, who were usually able to blend in better with the men, so he always drew more attention. It was innocent and without prejudice.

Legolas turned then to the wizard, and asked - "Why are you here Gandalf? I didn't realize you travelled in this region" - and signalling towards the children added - "It's fortunate that we crossed paths. Their families are caught by the problems in Caradruin, a party of orcs and hillmen attacked the town and seem to have taken hold of it" - concluded the elf, informing the children of what he had viewed in the town. They looked discouraged. The wizard appeared to take his time to answer, lighting his pipe much to the elf's disgust. He stepped back to the cavern entrance to keep outside the range of the smoke. The old man seemed amused by the typical elven attitude to the pipe smoke, while the children looked interested, as they were still a bit young for it. At last, he started to talk

"You have only children here. We can't risk them, and they would be of little help in taking the town back" - the older boy at least seemed to want to argue for his abilities. The wizard stared at him, and he was unable to say anything at his look - "We need other allies, and those aren't abundant around here" - mused the wizard. Legolas nodded to this analysis.

"What about the Dúnedain?, they fought the Witch-king of Angmar and freed these people of his dark rule, but then they left them to their own devices, and they seem to have gone from one overlord to the next." - asked the wood-elf, who had known those men in his travels with the twins, and found them a dangerous but noble group. The wizard nodded at this suggestion, satisfied.

"It would seem the best opportunity for these people. And I know a group that are close by, and probably available to help, if only we can reach them. I will send word tonight and we will wait for their arrival." - concluded the wizard.

Erestor was talking to Elrond about what had happened at the training grounds, while they were walking the cascade's walkway, as Elrond had needed to leave the house for a while as he was feeling stifled and restless. Now, that at last there was good news, the Elf-Lord seemed satisfied by what his friend was telling him

"I can't be happy for what had happened these past years, or for the risk Legolas is taking right now, but if something good is to come from this and my sons have reached some peace within themselves, I am relieved" - admitted the Perendhil to his friend and Counselor. Erestor nodded his head at this.

"I am relieved as well Elrond, far too long those two have allowed bitterness and anger to live inside their hearts. It is good to see them taking responsibility for their actions and trying to make amends for their mistakes. Speaking of, have you heard from Glorfindel? This whole situation would be perfect if we could be sure that Legolas is safe and sound " - asked the dark haired Noldo. Elrond seemed to lose some of his good cheer at this, and stopped at one opening, looking into the water.

"Glorfindel has sent word, but no good news, it arrived while you were out"- He took out the message and passed it to his friend, along with a more personal missive that Erestor stored in his robes' pocket - "He has found no sign of Legolas on the South route. None of the other scouts' parties have found anything so far" - admitted the Elf-Lord worriedly. Erestor, after reading Glorfindel words, tried to appease the half-elf.

"It's only as we expected. Legolas is a fair tracker himself, he would know how to hide himself. On top of that, the trees and forest animals love him, they would help him before any of us Noldor" - indicated the Counselor. Elrond, situated at one of the openings, looking towards the cliffs, and nodded s in acknowledgement, but didn't seem very reassured.

"I know you are right Erestor, but it is maddening to be unable to do anything. He is out there in danger, and I can do nothing! As I've done nothing for these past three years!" - exclaimed the half-elf, in a surprising show of temper. Erestor, however, wasn't very shocked , he had known the Perendhil when he was a young herald at Gil-galad's Court and knew the passion that hid under the Elf-Lord facade. This was a more natural reaction than the one he had been showing those past three years, the passivity which had allowed the situation to deteriorate as it had. - "I should have talked to Legolas, allowed this bond to follow its natural course, for good or bad. But I was a coward, I've lost so many before that I couldn't stand the thought of another rejection. Legolas tried to reach out at the beginning, did you know? Both awkwardly through the bond, and trying to talk to me in person. I avoided him, put up walls and stayed away, shielding myself with my duties and leaving him no place to reach me. I knew that his upbringing and nature would not let him impose himself on me without a clear invitation. I have been a fool, and I deserve to lose him, I know, but not at the cost of his life!" - raged the Perendhil. He sat on the bench, wearied. Erestor went to him and put his hand on his shoulder in sympathy.

"Legolas is strong and able. He may be young, but he is clever and makes friends easily, he will find a way back to you, and the both of you will find a way to work this out. He will understand and forgive what was done to him, it's not in his nature to hold a grudge. Even in his note, there was more sadness than anger" - said the Counselor.

"And that makes it worse Erestor. I deserve his anger, and Thranduil's. But even now, I don't dare write to his father to admit my faults for fear of what he would do, and the repercussions it would have to my people. Even knowing that I deserve it, I can't risk it, and again other considerations than Legolas's wellbeing must be put before him" - complained the Elf-Lord.

"Legolas didn't want his father to know, precisely because of those considerations. He was fully aware of the consequences. He is a Prince, and has lived with the trappings of it all his life, as you have. He knows the sacrifices imposed by his status and suffers them willingly"- observed Erestor.

"He should have been safe here Erestor. This Home was supposed to be a haven for all who needed one, and it became a jail for him! A jail he needed to escape from. An elf who needed to run away from Imladris! It goes against all I founded this house for. I won't allow something like this to happen again. I want you to help me with this. There must be a way we can notice when something like this happens, before it becomes a problem like the one Legolas suffered" - said the Elf-Lord passionately. The twins appeared at that moment in the walkway, having seen their father and Erestor from a distance and wanting to talk to him.

"Let us do this, father. I know our behaviour has been reprehensible, and you have the right not to trust us with this. But we, better than anyone else, know how insidious this kind of bullying can become, and can spot it better and faster than others. We won't fail you, or Legolas, again" - said the younger twin with an intense attitude. He had been the one who was closer to Legolas in the past, and as such, he felt his betrayal more keenly. He wanted to make amends anyway he could. Elrond looked to his son sternly and ask him:

"And what if the elf threatened is not your friend, or the one who harassed him is?". Elrohir looked down ashamed, but said:

"I have learnt my lesson father, this responsibly had nothing to do with personal feelings or friendships, I won't let them get in the way of doing the right thing" - assured the young one. Elrond nodded at this and hugged his son.

"I don't want you to bury your feelings, Elrohir, those are what makes you the son I love, they are what draw people to you. But you need to recognize them, and not let them control you. There is a place for each, and when you are my representative, you will need to be careful and impartial. It will become easier with time" - said the older elf. The twins nodded and bowed in farewell, leaving with a lighter step than they had in a long time. Elrond and Erestor looked to each other in hope.

Chapter Text

The noise outside the cavern roused Legolas from his light sleep. He rose from his place lightly, and silently and went to the entrance, noting that Mithrandir wasn't inside. From the entrance of the cave, he looked carefully outside and saw the wizard talking to a cloaked figure, while a few others waited a few steps into the forest. Despite the threatening appearance, Legolas’s spirit lifted at the sight, as he recognized Aragost, the son of the Dunedáin's current Chief Arahad. Legolas had met him in Imladris around twenty years ago, at one of the autumn celebrations. As all of his kin, he was serious, kind, noble, and brave. An outstanding warrior and a good ally to have at your back. Legolas stepped away from the entrance, exiting the cavern. The rangers and Mithrandir turned to him:

"My Price, Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo. It has been long since we last met. I'm surprised to find you in this area, but glad that those younglings had you to help them" - said the ranger, with a small smile, offering his arm to the elf in a warrior's greeting. Legolas took it firmly, and returned the salute.

"It is good to see you and your companions Aragost. My new friends and their families need urgent help and I was at a loss of how to help them until I found Mithrandir, it's lucky that you were in the area and able to join us. I can't understand why this company of orcs and hillmen would bother to take hold of a village as small as Caradruin, but they seemed to have started to fortify after the last time we spied on them" - commented the wood-elf, still surprised. However, Aragost seemed unsurprised, and even satisfied.

"This meeting is even more fortunate than you think, my lord. My company and I have been tracking this group for months, as they had been more organized than average and had raised my father's suspicions. I too would like to know how it fits their plans to control a small village near the Misty Mountains" - said the Dunedáin with satisfaction.

"Well, let's go inside and out of sight, and let's try to put together all we know about this company" - said Gandalf, motioning their guests inside the cavern.

"You think they are trying to control the north pass from the Mountains. Not because they want to spy on our movements, but to make the arrival of more troops from Gundabad easier" - summarized the wood-elf. They were in the cavern, gathered around a small fire, while they ate some of the Dunedéin's supplies. His young friends were awed at the presence of the rangers and had grouped together a small distance away on the fire's other side.

"That is my father’s impression. You disagree?" - asked Aragost. Legolas denied with a shake of his head.

"I don't know if I have enough information to disagree, but it seems an ambitious plan doesn't it? Who is leading these orcs and men?" - asked the Elven Prince, worried not only for their current situation, but for his own people. Gundabad was an evil mountain in his mind, even if the dwarves venerated it as their place of awakening. Over the last Age, it had been in the hands of the orcs more often than not. It was worrisome that someone had the ability to order about those orcs' movements, as their former master had been Sauron himself. He decided to make a mental note of this information, to talk about it with his father next time he saw him. Gandalf, who had kept quiet up until that moment, intervened.

"It is ambitious, and it bears watching. It's good to know that your people are this alert Aragost, and now we have the chance to investigate further." - said the wizard, satisfied. And turning back to the wood-elf, he added - "This is something your father would be interested to know, and probably Lord Elrond also, don't you think?". Legolas looked to the wizard coolly

"I was already planning to tell my father of this, once I'm back home. I figured that you might want to visit Imladris when we finish here, to inform Lord Elrond" - answered the prince, with an indifferent air, like he wasn't worried about this future visit. Gandalf nodded to this.

"Wouldn't you prefer to speak with him yourself? It wouldn't be a long detour." - asked the wizard, innocently. Legolas was again left wondering how much the other knew, but answered:

"I have been away from home for far too long as it is, I can't delay much longer. This situation is already bound to postpone my arrival until the middle of the winter. I'm sure you, or Aragost's people, will end in the Valley sooner or later and can inform them as well as I" - said the wood-elf noncommittally. He was spared further baiting from the wizard by the ranger who, despite his curiosity at the strange conversation, had no patience to allow it further, knowing that elves and wizards were the more tireless beings in Middle Earth when arguing and trying to trip each other with clever words.

"Now we have agreed that the situation needs careful handling, we need to plan a way to free this town, without risk for its citizens, and see if it will reveal this new warlord" - concluded the ranger. Both elf and wizard nodded their assent.

The children, who had tried to keep up with the adults' conversation, looked at each other. Finally Caenir, as the oldest, dared to speak up:

"And will you save our families? They are innocent and have nothing to do with this warlord or his plans. We only wanted to make a living" - he asked, bravely.

Aragost looked at him gravely, respecting his wish to save his family, and how difficult it must be for all of them to be in this situation, forced to trust so many unknown people.

"We will do our best. I won't put any other consideration before the safety and wellbeing of the innocents in that town." - vowed the Dunedáin. The children sensed the seriousness of his pledge, and nodded, a bit relieved.

Glorfindel looked to the Valley, frustrated. As aware as he had been when he had started his search of its difficulty, he had hoped to have better news when he returned. As it was, he was relieved not to carry the worst news possible, that something had happened to Legolas and they had arrived too late to save him. That consoled him a bit.

He arrived at the courtyard, dismounting from his horse and leaving him to the groom's care, and he turned to the house. Once inside, he was intercepted by a pair of twins lords.

"Glorfindel! You are back at last. I take it you don't have good news" - said the older twin, with a pessimistic look. Glorfindel, having left just when the twins had started their change of attitude, looked at him surprised.

"I'm not sure what you would consider good or bad news Elladan" - answered the Elda, evenly. The twins looked at each other, ashamed at this, but knowing it was no less than they deserved, and Elrohir answered this time.

"We deserve that Glorfindel. And hopefully, we will deserve all that Legolas shall want to throw at us. It will be good news to us to have him back, whole and sound, to duck us in one of the waterfalls for our behaviour towards him" - answered the younger twin. The blonde looked relieved at this, and looked over his heads to the Elf-Lord who had appeared at the hall, after receiving word of his arrival.

"I'm sure that Legolas will have more class than to take his revenge like that Elrohir. But I'll be certain to suggest it to him, once he comes back" - said his father, looking much calmer to the blonde, even if he also looked drained. He ushered the twins, and the returned elf, back into his study. Erestor appeared just when they were entering the room and Elrond distracted himself by ordering the papers on his table, while the couple greeted each other behind his back with a tender kiss and a hug. Once they were all settled in their chairs, and the twins had taken a place next to the fireplace, slightly apart, trying to be discreet so their father didn't throw them out, Glorfindel gave the verbal report of his search. Although it wasn't the news they would have liked, Elrond felt that it wasn't all bad.

"I think, even with Legolas's skill at keeping hidden, Glorfindel, that you would have found traces of his passage if he had taken the south path" - concluded the Perendhil, thoughtfully. Erestor seemed to agree with this.

"I believe you are right Elrond. Glorfindel might have not been able to spot him, but he would have found traces of him" - pondered the dark-haired adviser. Glorfindel nodded in agreement.

"But where does that leave us Elrond? None of the other scout parties have found traces of Legolas, following your reasoning he must not have left at all!" - exclaimed the Seneschal, frustrated.

"I think he left, but maybe we are giving him far too little credit. He wouldn't have left by the paths known to the Valley" - said the Master of the Valley. Erestor and Glorfindel looked to each other at this, and looked back to the Elf-Lord in question. Elrond raised and looked to the official map of the Valley on the back wall of his study. As he received all kinds of visitors in this room, that map only had the official and known entrances into the Valley. Elrond, who knew his home better than anyone, looked toward the cliffs north of his house. He traced a path with his finger, while his friends exclaimed in surprise.

"Valar! We have been so foolish! Regardless of what had happened these past years, Legolas has always had your confidence, and that of your sons. He knows the secret paths from the cliffs and would have left by them. They go north, parallel to the Misty Mountains, and he could try for one of the less travelled paths at Rhudaur" - exclaimed Erestor, convinced. Glorfindel, however seemed doubtful.

"That region is full of conflict, and the path leads straight into the Trollshaws, if he was going to take one of the hidden entrances, why not one of the others? Such as the one leading to the Ford?" - asked the blonde. Elrond shake his head at this.

"It could be possible, but you weren't here when I made brief contact with Legolas. He is close to the Misty Mountains, I'm sure of it. If he had taken another path, he wouldn't have the time to turn back and get that close to the mountains, with the Trollshaws on one side, and you searching for him on the other. He went north, by the waterfall path, I'm almost positive" - declared the Elf-Lord. The twins, who had kept silent up until now, intervened.

"Ada is right, he left by the cliffs. We showed him that path long ago, and even used it a few times to come into the Valley. He would be very familiar with it. And it would be one of the shorter paths home, barring the direct one. He would have wanted to cross the Mountains as soon as possible. Winter is almost here, and the peaks will be difficult to cross with bad weather." - said the older twin, excited by the discovery. But getting worried at the end, asked his father:

"You said you felt him at the mountains a short time ago, is he crossing them? Or he was still on this side of them?" - asked the younger elf. His father answered then

"It's difficult to judge the distance with the bond this unstable and so heavily shielded on Legolas's side, but I would say he is still near, or I would be feeling much worse" - sentenced the Elf-Lord. The others looked alarmed at this news, even Glorfindel, who was a bit more familiar with unstable bonds.

"You mean to tell us that if Legolas crosses the mountains, you will start to deteriorate further?" - asked the Vanya, worried, interchanging a look with his mate. Elrond nodded at this.

"Yes, I realize now that I started to feel tired when he first left the Valley. It was more and more draining for the next few days, until it stabilized. I have been able to compensate for the drain better, and now it's stable. As we have not improved our connection, the only reason I can think for the stability, is that Legolas had been at approximately the same distance over the last three days. If he starts to move away again, the bond will drain me further" - explained the Perendhil. His sons looked at each other in horror.

"And he feels nothing of this? Is it possible that he stopped where he was because he also started to feel drained?" - asked Elrohir. Elrond seemed to consider this and answered cautiously.

"I suppose it is possible. I can think of no good reason for him to have stayed this long in one place. He would want to cross the mountains as soon as possible, as you said, before the winter and snow are wholly here. But it doesn't fit with what I have perceived of this bond. It is I who need the anchoring and, as we have not formalized it, the energy transfer should be one-sided, from Legolas to me, to strengthen me. I am the one hurt for the lack. If anything, Legolas should feel stronger, as the drain has been so one-sided" - mused the healer, disconcerted. Glorfindel shake off the worry, and made to rise again.

"I will be leaving at once, my lord. I will follow the north passage and look for traces of him in this path" - said the blonde, making as to leave. Elrond looked worriedly to his friend.

"But you have just return Glorfindel. You can't leave again so soon without resting. I will send a scout party" - said the Elf-Lord. The Vanya dismissed it with his head.

"No Elrond, this is too important to leave it into any scouts hands. I know Legolas better than any of them, and when I reach him, it will be necessary to convince him to return, and this can't be done by any scout" - observed the blonde, looking down to his mate in apology. Erestor sent his love back through the bond, both of them loved their friend and would sacrifice much for his welfare. The Vanya bowed again to the Lord of the House, and left promptly to his new search.

Chapter Text

Legolas was, once again, at what he had started to think of as his tree, looking towards the town. This time, however, he was accompanied by Aragost, who had shown, despite not being an elf, a surprising knack for climbing trees. The both of them were watching the town’s defences, and the situation of the citizens inside. It was difficult to figure out how the residents were, or where they were located, from outside. As for the invaders, a few guards were keeping an eye on the entrance from the former guards' post, mainly hillmen, as Legolas had watched before, but the rest of them must be inside the walls of the town out of sight. Aragost leaned towards the elf to speak to him in low voice:

"The walls of the town don't appear to be watched. Can you see anyone on the buildings near, who could be guarding them?" - asked the ranger. Legolas looked to the nearest wall with interest and at the buildings behind them.

"There is no sign of movement in the buildings I can see from here, but if you are thinking of entering the town climbing the walls, we should investigate the walls farther away from the entrance" - observed the wood-elf. Aragost nodded in agreement, and both of them moved to the other side of the town.

On the opposite wall from the guards' entrance, the fence looked to have fared far worse. A few spots on the wall were darkened by the fire, and even a small part of the surface, the size of a grown man shoulder-span, had fallen completely. Legolas and Aragost inspected this part of the wall with interest, as it seemed like the vigilance in this spot was almost nonexistent. Groups of orcs passed the hole into the woods every few minutes, but it was not a permanent post that they could see dedicated to its defence. And no one seemed bothered enough to repair the damage. It seemed that, despite the virulence of the attack and the apparent far-reaching plan their master could have for this town, the actual group in charge wasn't too motivated, past the first assault. Legolas was feeling worried about the families inside the walls, orcs and hillmen weren't known to take good care of their prisoners. They usually killed many in the initial assault and, from those who survive it, they usually picked the stronger and skilled as slaves for their plans. They tortured, played, and finally killed the rest. Time was of the essence if they wanted to have something to rescue. Aragost signalled for them to go back to the others. Legolas nodded and they both went back to the forest, where the rest of the rangers and Gandalf were waiting.

"So, the walls aren't guarded here as far as we could see. And there are small holes in several points of the wall, the most propitious for us would be the one on the opposite side of the guards' entrance. It's situated next to several alleys and buildings, and we could vanish inside them without raising any alarm, if we can pass the opening unseen" - summed up Aragost to the group. The other rangers nodded to this, solemnly. Aragost then looked back to Legolas, as the only one of them who had been inside the town.

"Legolas, do you know where the prisoners could be? Any big buildings that the attackers could use for this?" - asked the ranger to the prince, who had requested all the presents to call him for his name, not his title, as they were all allies here. Legolas, having anticipated this question, answered with what he knew and with the information he had gleaned from the children the day before. They left the children a pair of rangers as defence.

"I wasn't able to see much of the town, because I was mainly in the square market, but I saw some and talked to Caenir, who had visited many of these settlements in the area. He agreed that the town has only one building big enough to serve as a central prison: the City Hall next to the market square. If the prisoners are kept together, they should be there, and even if they are not all inside the building, the market plaza looked big enough to be used as a place to put them. If not there, then we may be out of luck and they are dead or kept as slaves by the different attackers. It will be difficult to release them all at once." - concluded the wood-elf. Aragost nodded to this, as it fit with what he had observed in other settlements like this one.

"We will need to plan for this, could you lead a group to this Hall from the back wall?" - asked the ranger. Legolas agreed to this. Aragost looked to the silent wizard in their midst and said:

"Gandalf, I won't presume to order you anywhere, but a second group of us will be looking for the leader of this attack, and for any stragglers who are kept captured individually. It's unlikely that the real mind behind this is inside the town, but I hope to find some leader with a bit more intelligence to interrogate. I'm sure that your skills would serve us well in this task." - said the Dunedáin to the grey wizard. Gandalf consented to this idea. The ranger then turned back to the others.

"We will wait for the hour before first light. We will use the darkness to infiltrate the town, and take advantage of the orcs hatred of sunlight to help with the rescue of the prisoners. Once the attack is discovered, we will need to be fast. Orcs and hillman aren't known to keep slaves for long. If they start to lose their advantage, they will run away and leave everything and everyone behind, even their allies. They may try to use the prisoners as hostages, so try to resolve these situations as soon as possible. You know what to do" - settle Aragost. They all nodded in agreement and went away to get ready for the assault.

Legolas had once again put on much of his disguise, this time to help him to blend with the rangers and to be better hidden from the orcs and hillmen's sight. He had put his gloves and hood up, and gathered his blonde hair in a ponytail to keep it out of sight. The rangers around him, with their dark hair and clothes, blended wonderfully into the darkness. Gandalf had his own means to stay unnoticed. They all waited for the signal to start their entrance into the town.

Aragost led the way into the village, moving carefully to the opening, and looking around for any orcs lurking near. He disappeared from sight, after making a signal to those behind him, and after a few moments, Legolas followed after him. He reached the wall from the opposite side, but he climbed over it, with the help of a nearby tree, to avoid entering from the same place if they were being observed, and to have a small chance to take a look around before he accessed the town. Once on the top of the wall, he stayed low to it and looked around a bit. The alley they were accessing was empty of anyone, as was the building nearby, as they were both heavily damaged by the fires. After a small pause to take it all in, Legolas signalled his companions and dropped to the other side silently. He caught up with Aragost who was waiting by the near alley, and was looking around.

"I saw no one around" - reported the wood-elf. The ranger nodded to this. They waited for the rest of their companions to enter, until the group of twenty rangers, a wizard and an elf were around the alley. Legolas then, after Aragost signaled, led his own group through the town to the City Hall, trying to keep to the shadows. Aragost, Gandalf, and the rest of the rangers disappeared onto another path.

Legolas and Halath, the ranger in charge of their group, looked to the City Hall building in the first light of the morning. Here, at last, there was some movement. This was a good sign as, while it would make their rescue harder, it showed that there was still a good chance that the prisoners were really inside those walls, and were still alive. A few hillmen were moving around the area, entering the building. Of the orcs, there was no sign, although Legolas suspected that some of them could be inside the hall. Not many, hopefully, as the building had huge windows floor to ceiling as Legolas had observed in his previous visit, and would be hard for the creatures to find shadows there.

Moving to a side wall of the building, the rangers and elf looked for a discreet place to enter, finally finding a broken window almost to the back. Halath looked inside and signalled his intention to enter. One by one, all the rangers and the elf infiltrated the building, through a small storeroom. Legolas went to the door and listened outside. They seemed to be in luck, and after looking back to the rangers, he opened the door and sneaked into the hallway. From there, they went into different corridors to search for the prisoners.

Legolas took the main hall, trying to reach the meeting room where he suspected the bulk of the prisoners were located. Halath followed behind him along with two other rangers. The four of them reached a large door, which looked like it could be the room they were looking for. Halath got closer to the door and looked inside through the dirty glass on top of it. He made a signal to them. It was the moment of truth, because despite all their precautions, they needed to attack at some point, and Halath had indicated that there were enemies inside. They all nodded and got ready for the entrance. Halath kicked down the door and entered, the rest of them followed him.
The first few minutes were chaos as they spread inside the room and started their systematic attack of the orcs and hillmen inside. Legolas took out his knives, as he couldn't risk using his bow in such close quarters, and started to kill one orc after another, trying to keep an eye on his companions for signs of trouble.

The Dunedáin were strong and skilled fighters. This group was used to fight in close quarters. Legolas, as an elf, was naturally agile and adaptable. He was also used to fight among small spaces in the trees of his home. With this advantage was on their side, they made fast work of their far less disciplined enemies. Almost having killed or mortally wounded all the invaders, it happened. The worst-case scenario they had planned for: one of the hillmen took a captured woman as a hostage. He seized her from the hair and put a knife to her neck screaming in his own language. Legolas couldn't understand the words, although he guessed their meaning from the context and, while Halath tried to calm the man down, took a discrete position outside the line of sight of the wild man and drew his bow, shooting him in the neck with one smooth and precise movement. The man fell dead and a terrible silence spread in the room.

All the orcs had already been killed and the few hillmen remaining dropped their weapons and laid then into the floor, awed and scared by the skill of the rescuers. Halath and his rangers restrained them and took them away from the prisoners. Legolas and the others started to release them.

"Berylla!" - exclaimed a woman near the elf, whom he recognized as Ryl's mother. - "My children, they were with you, do you know if they are alive? Please" - begged the woman. Legolas took her hands trying to calm her:

"Madam, I left your children safe and sound outside the town in the company of two of my friends. You will be reunited soon, don't worry"- explained the elf. The woman hugged him tearfully, to the elf’s chagrin, until her husband took her away to calm her. Legolas watched them while, around them, the rangers helped free the other hostages. He felt like he should be doing something more, but the tearful reunions all around him had left him feeling uprooted. He hadn't seen his family for three years and, while he had been away for long periods, this time felt longer. The hardest about this situation was that he wasn't sure of what his welcome would be. He didn't doubt his family's love, just the opposite, he didn't know what to tell them to avoid escalating the problem. At that moment, he saw Gandalf entering the room, and all plans of future reunions left his mind when he saw his grave demeanour.

"Harad? Why would anyone from there would be interested in this town and attack it?" - asked the wood-elf with surprise.

"Indeed. Aragost's people are still rounding up the hillmen and orcs, trying to find the leaders." - explained the wizard.

"It sounds like a wild tale or a smokescreen, I would bet my best bow that no one in Harad even knew the name of this place or where it is located" - observed the wood elf, looking around the place they were in, while he put another document aside. Gandalf had commandeered the former Master of the town's office. He had disappeared after the first attack, and those in the town didn't know if he had been killed, ran away, or had conspired with the orcs and hillmen to surrender the town to them. He hasn't been among the freed prisoners or the dead, and Aragost and Legolas were studying the documents in the office trying to find anything suspicious. They were drawing a blank, as the former mayor, Master Belegurdor, had kept few records. They weren't sure if it was because he was trying to hide something, or was just incompetent. Legolas looked at the next paper in his hand, a list of the births in the town over the last few years. Useless.

"I think this is some correspondence with the Master of Cameth Brin" - commented Aragost, looking to a short letter.

"Anything of interest?" - asked the elf, looking through his stack. A list of names, with no indication of what they represented. Useless again. He was about to put it aside, when one of the names drew his attention. Elrond. He looked to the list with more interest, trying to find any connection between the Elf-Lord and the other names there.

"It looks like some kind of trade agreement. It doesn't seem like this town had a lot to trade with, some raw materials from a small mine in the mountains and, apparently, the wool of this area is appreciated. In return, Cameth Brin would send off some equipment such as bows, swords and shields" - commented the Dunedáin.

"Weapons? That's curious, how many of them? Those kinds of weapons, if well made, are worth more than a few bales of wool or whatever they managed to mine, unless there is precious stones or gold there?" - asked the elf, well used to work with his father's counsellors in trade agreements. He kept studying his own document, most of the names were unfamiliar to him, but he thought he recognized the Master of Bree, Master Appledore. He turned to Gandalf and passed him the list as he would be more familiar with those in the area. Gandalf looked to it curiously, and when Legolas tapped Elrond's name, with more interest.

"No gold or precious stones, it's a quarry, they sold the right to mine for a year. And ten bales of wool. And they received ten swords, a dozen shields, and six bows" - observed the ranger. Legolas looked intrigued.

"He was clearly desperate for those weapons, did he knew they were going to be attacked? I'm starting to doubt that he ran away from here, and I would like to figure out where he is" - commented the elf, surprised. Gandalf, who had finished checking the list said:

"These are all the leaders of the main settlements around Caradruin. He wrote them down for something, was he looking for help? Information? Allies?, I would like to find him too" - commented the wizard. Aragost nodded to this.

"I will send some of my rangers to track him down, alive or dead , he must be somewhere, and there must be some trace left of his passing" - said the ranger. The wizard nodded in agreement. They kept studying their records, looking for any further clues of the attack or the master's whereabouts.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked around the Hall at the group of people there. Ryl and the others had been escorted into the hall by the rangers a few minutes ago. The young girl and her brothers were hugging and being hugged by their mother, between their tears.

Toman and Caenir stayed a few steps away, with serious faces. They hadn't been so fortunate. Toman's father had been killed in the first attack, and her mother was among those who had been directly enslaved by some hillman instead of being left with the main group. She had been rescued but acted almost catatonic, and not even her son was able to touch her. Some of the town's women were kindly trying to help her clean and eat. As for Caenir, Legolas had been told that he had lost all his family a few months ago, he had been travelling with Toman and his family who were far cousins of his mother, until they reached Cameth Brin, to be left there with some distant (and richer) cousins of his father. Aragost appeared at Legolas' side:

"Those boys are brave and clever. But it will be hard for them to get past this situation, without anyone to foster them or to take them as apprentices." -observed the ranger, without looking to the elf. Legolas glanced at him, sideways.

"What do you suggest?" - asked the elf.

"They seem to trust you. You have been good to them" - said Aragost. Legolas looked torn at this.

"I like them, they are brave and who knows the kind of men they can grow to be, if allowed. But they should stay with their kind, I can't bring them with me. My home is not ready to foster mortals for long periods, it's dangerous and isolated from other realms" - answered the elf.

"Lord Elrond has raised many of my kind at his Home, through the years" - observed the Dunádain.

"The Greenwood is not Rivendell, nor is my family as the Perendhil. Lord Elrond's house is a more open place than my own forest. They host many visitors, and it's always open to those who seek help. A man inside my own home could pass decades without seeing others of his kind. As for my father, he trades with those in Lake Town and Esgaroth, but he is wary of men in general and doesn’t encourage them to dwell in the forest. He wouldn't approve of these boys being welcomed into his home, sympathetic as he may be at their plight." - said the elven prince. "Anyway, I wouldn't advise them to be fostered by my kind, even in Rivendell, their situation is not the same as your family, they don't need the safety of the Valley to avoid the enemy's eyes. And they are no children, the different lifestyles would be difficult to overcome at this point of their lives. What about your own people? couldn't you fostered them?" - asked the elf.

"We can, but the ranger's lifestyle is a hard one, probably as different from what they are used to, as life on the elven Realms. I wouldn't force anyone, not of my own people into it, but I understand what you say, as much as I would like them safe and protected with your kind, you are right that it wouldn't be good for them in the long term. Although, I hadn't thought that your people were that isolated" - the ranger looked worried.

"We are, as much as it grieves me to admit it, and I've tried to change it. Year after year, the forest grows darker and we are forced back to our halls. By now, only my people can cross it without fall into some evil. Men and dwarves only use the elven path, never going deeper, and even this has to be continuously defended by our patrols to be kept safe. And, because some wrongdoers belong to those races, my father grows angrier and embittered, and closes our frontiers and his heart to other kinds." - confessed the elf, carefully. There was more that he could have said, because their isolation didn't only encompass mortal races, but other elven Realms were starting to be seen by his people with suspicion, because of the way they ignored their plight, meeting after meeting of the White Council, where they had been invited seemingly as an afterthought. Legolas had served as a bridge, up until now, with other Realms because of his friendship with their leaders, Elrond, Galadriel and even Cirdan. He had spent much of his time as ambassador for his father into this Realms, trying to breach the division. He feared that all his work had been destroyed over the last three years, and this had been the reason he had stayed so long in Imladris, once he had given up on saving his relationship with the Valley's Lord. He had tried to preserve as much as he could from the disaster his friendship with the Perendhil family had become, and keep some semblance of alliance for his people, without any success, as Elrond had avoided him in every aspect: personal and as his father's representative. He had talked to Erestor, Elrond's Councillor and friend, who hadn't been able to comfort him as he didn't know when the situation would resolve or how. He tried not to think too much about it, as he couldn't change it now. He had already done all he could with the letter he had left behind, and he would look for alternatives once he was back home.

"I believe that your people are noble Aragost, and can't think of anyone better to help them to grow into good men themselves. But if you feel that it's not the right path for them, you can give them a choice. Caenir was initially planning to join some cousins in Cameth Brin, and they may foster Toman too. They are old enough to choose the path they desire" - observed the prince, trying to put aside his problems and centre on those of his friends, as they were much more pressing right now. Aragost nodded to this compromise, and went to the boys to draw them aside and present them his offer.

Legolas looked over the teenagers he had befriended over the last few days. Despite their different races, ages, and experiences, they had shared a brief adventure, and Legolas would miss them. After the last three years, their innocent friendship had been a balm in his battered soul, torn apart by the betrayal of those he had counted as his best friends, and the apathy of someone he had looked up to.

He had been in awe of the Elf-Lord, wise and kind, and belonging to a family whose story spanned all ages of Middle Earth. But he had deemed him very much out of his reach for anything besides friendship, even after they had been forced to bond. The Perendhil had been a source of fascination for him for a long time, and he could admit inside his own mind, that he had felt attracted to the older elf since he started to feel attraction for others. But he had been content with the relationship he had with him. To be trusted by the older elf, and accepted inside his family, had brought him a deep happiness. Even if a small part of him had felt pain when he saw him with Celebrian, he had mostly accepted his place, and had been able to feel happy for the other elf's family and happiness, or so he thought. Celebrian's words and actions had been a surprise for him that day, and he still didn't understand most of her complaints towards the half-elf, her contempt for his looks, skills and obligations. His own problems with his bonded had a different cause and, Legolas feared, a difficult solution. And by the time the last of his patience had snapped, when he lost something very precious to him, he reached the conclusion that he couldn't live like he had, waiting for things to change, no matter how he felt about the older elf or what was expected of him.

However, these children had little expectations of him and had included him, for a few hours, in their dreams and mischief. It had been freeing and amusing, but he needed now to return to his life and home again, before the cold of the winter was upon them.

"Na lû e-govaned vîn I wish you well in your travels and with your new fates" - he looked to Caenir and Toman at this, who had decided to join the rangers, and looking back to Ryl - "And I hope you are able to convince your family to allow you to be a healer, it's a noble trade and very much needed in this times." - added the wood-elf, remembering his own besieged home. The young men and woman nodded seriously at him, a bit in awe of him now knowing what he was, even if they weren't aware of his royal title.

"Will we see you again?, Aragost said that you visit sometimes with the rangers and fight at their side"- asked Caenir innocently. Legolas held a grimace at this. It would be unlikely that he would be returning to this side of the Misty Mountains within these young people’s lifetime, with how things stood at Imladris.

The thought of the Valley intruded again in his mind, and made him brush against the wall he kept at his mind, blocking his bond with Lord Elrond. When he had first started this barrier, he had been mimicking what he sensed the older elf had done in his side. Young, and of Sinda descent, he hadn't been taught mental arts, except to defend himself from the enemy's influence in his mind. Elrond however, being both Noldor and part Maia, and having spent his childhood under the guardianship first of the Feanorian's brothers, and Gil-galad after, had been thoroughly trained in much more. Giving the circumstances, age, and training disparity, Legolas had been truly over his head when he formed this bond. He sometimes questioned what had gone wrong that day, that the Elf-Lord had felt was so unforgivable. What act of his had made his former best friends turn on him, to believe that he was trying to take advantage of them and hurt their family. He tried to push this thought away, as it was impossible to tell, and he would probably never know. A voice intrude in his thoughts, answering Caenir's question.

"No even the wise can answer things like that, but I have the feeling that you will meet again" - said the voice of the wizard. Legolas and the others turned to him. The teenagers greeted the old man quickly and, sensing his wish to talk the elf, bid their friend a final farewell with manly arm grabbing and a shy hug from Ryl. Once they had left, Legolas looked to his old friend inquiringly.

"I would like to ask a small favour of you Legolas"- he couldn't help but feel wary at this. The wizard smiled innocently, and continued -"I know you are heading home, and I don't want to delay you further of your departure, but I'm worried for master Belegurdor, will you keep an eye out for him in your way home? If he has been taken prisoner, your path is one of the more likely routes his captors may have taken" - observed the wizard. He nodded in confirmation.

"Of course Mithrandir, I will be wary of any sign of him crossing the mountains. You don't need to worry" - he promised. The wizard nodded, satisfied, and said.

"Perfect. I will take the path south and then west to Cameth Brin, and investigate that side of the mystery. I find this town's master too accommodative to master Belegurdor's whims, he must have given him some explanations to justify himself and I would like to know what he knows." The wizard bid farewell to the prince - "Goodbye my good elf, and may the stars shine on your path. Give your father and the rest of your family my fondest greetings, and the wish that his Realm stays safe and prosperous"

"Novaer Mithrandir, I will pass your good wishes to my father and King, I'm sure he would wish you the best too" - answered the elf, a bit insincere, as he had heard his father curse the White Council and its members several times, although he was usually fond of the grey wizard. They parted then, with Legolas looking for Aragost, to say goodbye to the ranger.

Glorfindel looked to the path in front of him, frustrated, while the two guards with him stayed discreetly behind, waiting for him to decide on a route.

While crossing the cascade's path outside Rivendell, he had been able to find a few traces of an elf passing several days ago. That had been the first encouraging signal he had found in the last week, and he was certain that Legolas was the elf who had taken this path before them. However, things had become more complicated once he had left the cave. He had noticed immediately that the wood-elf had started to travel through the trees once he abandoned the cavern, and that complicated his task to follow, especially after so many days. The trees had been fractious in helping the Vanya to track down the elven Prince, to the point of being sometimes misleading, and he had needed to retract his steps several times when he had gone too long without seeing any sign of the other elf, after some tree had given him the wrong information. He was cursing a particularly lying copse of firs, which had made him lose almost a day, when a familiar voice talked at his back.

"Well that's a serious offence if true, I'm surprised that a tree would lie to an elf like that" - commented the grey wizard, appearing at his side from out of thin air, as it was his habit. Glorfindel looked at him, warily .

"You would be surprised of their attitude, especially when covering for certain woodland prince" - answered the blonde, annoyed. Gandalf looked even more amused by this.

"Ah, so now I see your failing my old friend. How have you become at odds with a wood-elf in a competition where trees and wild creatures are involved? You are not usually that careless."- said the wizard.

"Completely against my will, Mithrandir, I can assure you. I've been two steps or ten behind this elf from the start. Clearly, we in Imladris have become too lazy in our training if a lone wood-elf can slip through our fingers like that. But of course, our young prince has always been something special." - muttered the Vanya, and waving this away said - "Nevertheless, I'm in a hurry my friend, I hope you can forgive me for leaving like this, but we have been delayed a day already and it was a day we couldn't afford." - said Glorfindel, mounting his horse again. Gandalf nodded at this and waved him away.

"Not to worry, my good elf, I'm sure you will tell me the reasons for this peculiar chase in the future. I have my own business to take care also. Pass my congratulations to young Legolas when you catch with him, I wouldn't have believed him so serene to delay as he did, with you and him involved in this competition" - commented the wizard starting again for his path. Glorfindel, however, looked after him in surprise and alarm, and hailed back.

"Legolas! You have seen him! Tell me quickly Mithrandir when you saw him last and where he was headed" - asked the Vanya, urgently. Gandalf looked back to him.

"I wouldn't want to get involved in your games, Glorfindel. I'm sure that an Elda of your status will be able to catch with a young Sinda, no matter how precocious he is, without cheating" - observed the wizard. Glorfindel rolled his eyes at this, not knowing, as it was usually the case, if the wizard was sincere or not in his innocence.

"This is pressing, Gandalf. I'm not in any kind of competition with Legolas, but following after him to take him back to the Valley" - say the Vanya. Gandalf looked disturbed at this, feeling the undercurrents of this went deeper than he was being told.

"Take him back to the Valley? That's an interesting way of phrasing it. I find curious that Legolas would take a path so far north, and that he would travel without any escort. He was very vague about his reasons to do so, and I didn't want to pry at that moment as we had more urging matters to deal with." - commented the wizard, looking to the blonde, inquiring.

"It's a long story Mithrandir, but it's a serious cause which moves me to follow after him like this." - said the Vanya. The wizard looked at him seriously, judging his sincerity.

"You and I have been friends for a long time, and I trust your honesty Glorfindel. But I'm very fond of young Legolas and I wouldn't wish to betray his trust, as it seems to me that he had left your fair Valley and has reasons not to want to come back. Am I wrong?" - asked the wizard, still cautious. Glorfindel looked down, ashamed, and hesitated at how much to share of his Lord's personal life and his family. He looked up at the wizard and said carefully:

"I can't tell you much Mithrandir, as it's not my tale to tell. But Legolas has been living at the Valley for the last three years, to help with a personal situation. However, he hasn't been well treated in this time, and he finally decided to leave, with no word to anyone. I can't blame him for making this decision, and I would have followed him regardless, to escort him home myself, but a situation has arisen in the Valley and it's a matter of life or death. Legolas is needed back to help and time is of the essence." - explained the Seneschal. Gandalf looked severe and grieved at what he was hearing.

"I can tell you are not telling me all the truth, Glorfindel, but I believe that all you have told me is true. I will tell you what I know if you promise me that you will not force Legolas back. And if he freely decides to follow you to the Valley, that you will safeguard him to the best of your ability"- asked the wizard. Glorfindel nodded in agreement.

"To the best of my ability Mithrandir, Legolas will be safe at the Valley, I won't allow the situation which made him leave to continue" - vowed the Vanya. Gandalf nodded and proceeded to tell the blonde the happenings of the last days, and all he knew about Legolas' plans.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked to the path in front of him with determination. He planned to avoid any more problems and, after bidding farewell to Aragost and his rangers a few hours ago, had taken the path to the mountains. The ranger had given him supplies to replace the ones he had lost over the last few days, so he was able to start his journey without more delay. He had been able to get more information on the path he would be taking from the ranger, so he wouldn't be lost in it or get turned around.

As he had suspected from the maps he had discreetly studied in Imladris, there was some animal tracks crossing the range. The rangers also used them sometimes, so Aragost was fairly certain that they would be still usable at this time of the year. He had told him as much as he knew:

"It's mostly animals tracks, maintained by the farmers around, for their own purposes. They use the high ground for their animals sometimes, or keep small bee farms at the mountain. Some places may have fallen into disuse or being overridden by nature." - had told him the ranger.

Besides the cold, which Legolas could bear reasonably well, he was travelling quite comfortably and making good time across the mountain. He hoped to be at the other side in three days at the most, if he was able to avoid any storm in the summits or other surprises. After all the difficulties of the last few days, he hoped for a calmer crossing. He wasn't surprised though, when he found problems.

Legolas looked to the walk below him, flush against the wall and silent. He had been crossing a rocky part of the path, and had been forced to climb a bit to the side because the last storms had crumbled part of the road. Aragost had warned him of this possibility and he had taken with him some rope and other climbing equipment he hoped not to need. While he was above the path, navigating the problem, he started to hear some familiar noises. The sound of a troop of orcs travelling through the path further ahead. Legolas didn't know if this orcs were part of the group that had attacked Caradruin, or if this could be the proof of Aragost’s suspicions and were a group crossing back to the other side from Gundabad, thinking Caradruin was still in the hands of their colleagues. Or maybe a completely unrelated band, the orcs had been multiplying alarmingly fast over the last few decades, and the Misty Mountains were often a breeding centre of the creatures.

Legolas started to nimbly climb higher to try and see the source of the noise, diagonal to the step wall, and careful not to make any sound or set any rock loose to give himself away. From his new position he was able to see the group he had heard, and he breathed in relief. Despite their noisiness, it was a very small group he was seeing, only six orcs bellow him. He was debating with himself about how to deal with them, when he noticed a figure he had overlooked until now, and he held his breath in surprise: a prisoner, and he could guess who it may be, their missing town master Belegurdor. He looked badly treated and Legolas couldn't guess what his injuries were from his position, but his remaining clothes looked expensive and well done. He was dark-haired and rotund looking, fitting the descriptions he had gotten from the town people. He didn't think there were many men around, matching that description, and in the hands of an orc patrol.

Now he needed to plan another rescue mission, this time with him alone.

The wood-elf had gotten as close to the group as he dared. He had spent the last hour scouting around the area, checking for weakness in the mountain and making sure that there wasn't any more orcs around to foil his rescue mission. Now he couldn't afford to lose more time, as the group seemed ready to depart this place. He had placed himself as near as he could to the hurt man, above the path, and waited for the right moment to act.

One of the orcs, probably the leader, went to the man and kicked him in the side to rouse him up. Legolas held his position with difficulty. The man hardly made any noise at the kick, and the orc hit him again. A small groan was heard at this, and Legolas held his breath.

"Maggot! Up now, we are leaving. You are not worth the pain of taking you if you don't walk. I will throw you down the mountain and say to the master that you tried to escape!" - he laughed then, a horrible sound, while the man tried to get up, obviously nursing one or more broken ribs at the least.

When it looked like the man couldn't finish standing, the orc tried to kick him again. Legolas decided to act before he finished breaking the man's ribs and puncture something.

He took out his bow and released an arrow right to the orc's eye, killing him instantly. He didn't stop to see the other orcs reaction, but took advantage of the surprise effect and kept shooting his arrows into the others. He managed to kill two more orcs before they even started their attack on him. The three remaining orcs rushed him at once trying to overcome him, climbing to his position like rats on all fours. Legolas killed one more before they reached him, and nimbly jumped down from his position to the path below, avoiding their attack. From the ground, he shot the two last orcs before they could even turn towards him. He stayed ready in the sudden silence making sure there weren’t any other threats. Nothing moved around him, but still, he used his knife to finish all the orcs within sight just to be sure and then he turned to the injured man.

The man, Belegurdor if it was him, hadn't moved in all this time and remained slumped in the same place as before. Legolas went to him worried and carefully touched his shoulder, calling to him in Westron

"Sir, are you alright? The orcs are death, but you are hurt. Let me help you, I am a friend" - he said, in his more reassuring tone, one he had heard healers use when they were trying to calm their patients. A groan was all his answer, and a small movement while then man laid on his back. Legolas contained a gasp at the sight, he looked very battered up close and Legolas started to fear that this may be beyond his own healing skills. Nevertheless, he started to assess the man's injuries as he had been taught, with eyes, hands, and mind. It wasn't good, and to make it worse, a storm was starting to form in the mountains. Legolas cursed mentally and out loud when the first drop fell in his nose.

Legolas had moved Belegurdor to a small cave near the path after judging that, as bad as his injuries were, it would be worse to leave him outside to suffer the storm’s effects. The man had said nothing to the elf, and actually stayed senseless to the elf's actions. Legolas had divested him of his clothes and dressed his injuries the best he could, but he was worried by the ribs, particularly after having being forced to move him. He had found two broken one and a few others badly bruised. As he had been taught, he had cleaned the area but kept them lightly wrapped to avoid impeding his breathing. However, he was worried about the possibility of a punctured lung, and had been checking him with his mind. He lacked experience with this and hadn't reached any conclusion, so now he was trying to go through all he had been taught about healing while the man kept shallowly breathing at the cot he had gotten ready for him.

Glorfindel looked to town before him feeling sorrowful. More and more, the scene he was seeing now had become an everyday occurrence. Following Gandalf indications, Glorfindel and the two guards with him had reached this small village at the foot of the Misty Mountains. According to the wizard, Legolas and he had helped this town's citizens in their fight to recover their homes from an orcs attack (and some hillmen who had joined forces with the creatures). Gandalf had said that the wood-elf planned to take the paths into the mountains, closest to this town's area. Glorfindel was hoping to reach the younger elf before he had crossed the ranges, and had urged his horse and his companions into a hard march here, reaching the town in a few hours.

A tall figure detached himself from the town's entrance and walked in their direction. Now he was closer, Glorfindel was able to see inside the man's cloak and recognize Aragost, the son of the current chief of the Dunedáin.

"My lord. Mae govannen to Caradruin. What brings Rivendell's Seneschal this far north? Can I help you?" - asked the ranger, giving a courteous bow to the Elda. Glorfindel returned the greeting.

"Mae govannen Aragost, Gandalf directed me here when we crossed paths a few hours ago. I'm following after Prince Legolas, as he is urgently needed back into the Valley. Gandalf told me he was planning to cross the Mountains near here?" - he asked. Aragost looked as serious as usual. If he found this chasing game strange, his face gave no sign of it, and looking back to the Vanya answered.

"He was, he left at first hour this morning, so he must be well into the mountain path now" - answered the ranger, looking up to the sun, now past its zenith. Glorfindel nodded at this, having expected it.

"And can you direct me to the path he is using?" - he asked. The ranger agreed to this, and gave him the directions, but looking to the horses when he had finished, he said.

"I don't believe your horses will be able to take this path, my lord. As I said to Prince Legolas, it's a narrow trail at places and badly maintained. It may be that the last rains had made some stretch to disappear and you will need to climb" - observed the ranger. Glorfindel nodded at this, resigned.

"We will leave the horses at the foot of the mountain, they are elven horses and will wait for us" - he agreed to this. The ranger, well used to the elves clever and loyal mounts, and said nothing more to this, bidding the Vanya farewell. Glorfindel and his companions continued their path.

Legolas looked at the man with alarm. He had been checking his supplies, wondering if he should look for some more food, something more palatable to a sick man, and to perhaps find a source of water, when the unconscious man had started to sound like he was having difficulties breathing. He went to his side, worried, and checked on him. Even in his inexperience, he quickly realized the problem: as he had feared, one of the ribs had punctured the lung, and the men had started to choke in his own fluids. He was breathing shallowly and coughing, which aggravated his state, and his lips were starting to look blue.

Legolas tried to keep calm, although he knew he was short on time and even shorter of skill to save this man. Still, he couldn't stay here and do nothing, so he reached again with his mind inside this man's body, trying to find a way to save him. Maybe it was because he was fully focused on this man's healing and that made him lower his barriers trying to reach out to him, or maybe because healing was such a part of his bonded, that he instinctively reached in the direction some part of him knew there was help. Whatever the reason, he suddenly felt another presence with him watching the man's dying body:

He has a punctured lung - he heard Elrond's voice in his head, sounding surprised but already focusing on the more pressing problem.

He has broken ribs, how do I help him? - he asked trying to focus on the dying man and this unexpected help.

Let me show you, it's actually quite simple if you know what to do - said the healer calmly. Legolas nodded mentally and followed step-by-step what Elrond was telling him. Even at some points, where the operation was particularly delicate, he felt the Elf-Lord taking control and do it himself, while he looked on in fascination. The two of them spend some indeterminate time draining the fluid from the lung and then repairing the damaged organ and the broken ribs responsible. At the end, with Belegurdor stable and well into his way to be healed, Legolas laid down next to the cot, gasping. He felt drained beyond anything he had ever done before, his hair plastered to his face with sweat and his limbs feeling shaky. But he felt good as well, happy to have saved this man's life and satisfied after having given his all for this to happen. He still felt Elrond's presence in his mind, also satisfied and proud of their work.

You did well. This man will live to thank you for his life - said the calm voice in his head. Legolas felt again as he had before, with this elf approval: happy and accomplished like he would fight a Barlog if only this elf would ask it from him. He tried to suppress this thought, having already paid a high price for this attitude.

Thank you for your help, I wouldn't have been able to save him without you - he thought, a bit grudgingly, but still truly thankful.

There is no need to thank me. You are my bonded and all my skills are at your disposal if you need them - answered the Perendhil.

Are you? - he couldn't help but ask.

Am I what? - asked the other, sounding confused. And Legolas was amazed at being able to feel those emotions through the bond. To even being able to have this conversation like this, it was incredible to be able to talk to someone, leagues away from him.

My bonded. You say that as if there wasn't any doubt of it, but it hasn't felt like that over the last few years - he observed. Elrond seemed to feel ashamed at this.

I'm sorry Legolas, that was my fault. I've treated you terribly, in every aspect of this bond - the older elf confessed. Legolas took a deep breath at this. After three years, where he had driven himself crazy trying to figure out the reason this elf had rejected him like he had, he had imagined many times what he would ask him if he ever had the opportunity. But now he had, he found that he wanted one answer first.

Why did you do it? I only wanted to help, if you didn't want this bond I would have released you from it the moment you ask it of me. You were my friend, I never wanted to hurt any of you, or force my presence into your family - even in his own mind, it felt like a wail. Elrond quickly answered him.

You did nothing wrong! It was all on me Legolas. You saved my life - Elrond sounded firm at this. - I was an idiot. Celebrian's words hit me hard, and I didn't want to tie another elf to me, after having being told I was such a failure as a mate

You weren't a failure. Celebrian and you wanted different things that's all. It's not your fault, and she shouldn't have thrown all the wrongs in your marriage to you. She was a part of it too. - he answered.

And our own bond? Is it not my fault for all the wrongs in it? - asked the Perendhil, grimly. Legolas mind went blank at this, not knowing how to answer. Finally, he said.

You didn't give it a chance because you didn't want it, because you didn't want me. I don't blame you for it, after Lady Celebrian, an uncouth wood-elf must have been a terrible change. - he said, a bit relieved of being able to have this out in the open, even if it was painful to say it, and continued before Elrond could interrupt him -I heard some of the other elves in Imladris. I wouldn't have thought before that there was so much differences between us, that they would think that of me. They had been so kind to me before, in my visits there, but I suppose it wasn't the same to have me as a friend of the twins versus a mate to their Lord- he sounded resigned in his own mind. Elrond spoke then.

You are nothing of that! You are a prince of the Sinda, and more than worthy to be anyone's mate. And you are anything but uncouth. You are polite, kind, brave, you have been schooled by the best, including those in my own home. There has been no difference between your education and that of my own sons. And if there is any difference, it's in your favour, as you have been schooled as a royal prince. Who has told you different? - he asked suspiciously.

Legolas didn't want to accuse anyone of this, as he felt that it was the truth, as painful as it was. However, he still wasn't skilled enough to avoid remembering some of the worst confrontations he had at the House, once he had started to remember. Elrond seemed focused in on these memories, Legolas didn't have the strength to fight, and he was actually starting to feel lightheaded after spending so much strength healing Belegurdor.

Elrond sounded calm again then, and comforting. - Rest little one, you have done well . Are you in a safe place? - He agreed mentally, as the cave was tall and well hidden. He would hear anyone trying to enter well before they sensed him. Elrond then took advantage of the open bond, and his own weakness as tired as he was, to reach into his mind and encourage him to sleep.

Legolas's last thought was about the unfair advantage the older elf had. A small laugh followed him into sleep.

Chapter Text

Elrond focused again in his own studio, now that Legolas had drifted into sleep. Still, he kept a small part of his mind linked to the other elf, both to monitor his health and state, as much as he could with him unconscious, and to avoid him closing the bond again. Similar to a small wedge in a door, he could now keep the link open between them, and impede the wood-elf on barring the connection again.

Elrond rose from his seat and went to the map he had spread at one of his tables, where he usually planned the patrols and scouts' routes with Glorfindel and Erestor. Now he had a detailed map of Rhudaur on top of it. With such a prolonged contact with Legolas, he had been able to get a good sense of the distance and direction he was from the wood-elf, and he used this to try to figure out where he was located. Looking north, he studied the towns around the more likely area within the distance he had discerned. It was still a good amount of them, Daenost, Lastwood, Maos Fao, Caradruin, Tuin Dinele, Tandauer...

Erestor entered the room, after a perfunctory knock.

"Glorfindel is following Legolas into the mountains, he has found a sure signal of his passing" - said the dark-haired counsellor, giving Elrond the note he had. - "A bird brought this"

Elrond read the short note, noting Gandalf and Aragost's names in it and, more importantly, the village's name: Caradruin. He nodded to himself, satisfied:

"He is no longer there, but close by. Glorfindel should reach him tonight, unless he misses the cave he has taken refuge in" - affirmed the Elf-Lord happily. Erestor looked at him in surprise, and looking at him more closely, said:

"That wasn't a guess. And you look different than this morning! You have made contact with Legolas!" - he exclaimed surprised. Elrond smiled.

"Just a bit ago, he was healing a man he had rescued, and he needed my help" - he admitted. Erestor looked even more impressed.

"Rescuing a man! Why am I not surprised? And you treated a man from miles away, through a bond. I don't begrudge you the price you pay for it, Elrond, but I have to admit that I envy you the skill. To be able to reach that distance to heal a man you have never met through another's elf..." - he trailed off. Elrond looked embarrassed and proud at once.

"It wasn't me Erestor. Legolas did much in his side, I led him, and instructed him what to do, but the strength and willingness was his, It was only the more delicate work that I did directly. And I couldn't have done any of it with other elf. Legolas' mind is... extraordinary, as is his fëa, it was only his attitude and his wish to save this man which allow us to save his life" - he admitted, proud of his mate. He looked to his friend, aware of the difficulties he and Glorfindel suffered with their bond, and the frustration Erestor felt with what he thought was his failing.

"And despite all the strength you poured into this healing, you look much better than this morning" - commented Erestor, pleased. Despite his own situation, he was a noble and generous elf, and he was relieved of seeing his Lord this recovered.

"I am, the bond has almost stabilized, as much as it can in this situation. The open and prolonged contact made it stronger than ever. And even now, I'm keeping connected to Legolas" - he admitted.

"I'm glad Elrond, You are looking almost back to yourself, much better than you have in a long time, even longer than the last three years" - he admitted, delicately. Elrond agreed to this.

"As I said to my sons, my bond with Celebrian was as weak as it could be. It had the bare minimum to survive, and Galadriel had to help us to create it in the first place, our minds weren't compatible. Legolas' mind and mine are, however, very compatible. That's the reason the bond formed so quickly, even with my fading. And how it has survived all these years despite not doing anything to strengthen it." - he said. Erestor nodded to this.

"Well, hopefully, Glorfindel will be able to catch with him tonight. But what is this about healing a man? What trouble does that young one has gotten into now?" - he asked curious. Elrond proceed to tell his friend all he knew about Legolas' last adventure.

Glorfindel gave the orcs' bodies a brief look, already inspecting the area around trying to find clues of the elven price's whereabouts, as he did not doubt that this was his doing. He only needed to see the perfect shots in the orcs' bodies, some of them done in quick succession, to be certain of it. One of the guards hailed him then.

"My Lord! Someone was hurt here" - he said, pointing the blood in the path. Glorfindel studied the marks there, reading what had happened hours before.

"Someone was captive then. There are traces of a bounded body here and here. And he was hurt before he rested, his movements were heavy and sluggish to leave so much trace." - he observed out loud. - "There is a small mark here, of softer boots, Legolas or an elf anyway, as he is very light. He carried the injured away, or he wouldn't have left even that small trace. And now we can follow it and find both of them, hopefully" - exclaimed the Vanya, satisfied. The three of them followed the faint marks farther up the path, until they reached the small cave entrance, a bit higher in the rocky wall above the path.

Glorfindel ordered the other elves to stay back, and climbed himself into the opening. He moved inside carefully, looking around for the wood-elf. He saw the small pallet at the back, with a wounded man on top of it, and a few other supplies scattered around, but no sign of the other elf or anyone else. He stepped into the man's direction, but froze at sensing someone drawing an arrow behind him.

"It's sad times when an elf draws on an elf" - commented the Vanya, without moving. A small exhalation sounded behind him.

"So it is, if it makes you feel better, I wouldn't attempt to actually release the arrow. Your husband is a fearsome elf, and I wouldn't dare draw his ire" - commented the wood-elf, lowering the bow he had been holding. Glorfindel turned in his direction, and looked him over, relieved. After the last few days, he could barely believe that he had finally reached this elusive elf.

"So he is, Erestor is not an elf to be trifled with, and I know that better than anyone." - Glorfindel admitted, and continued - "You have sent us into a merry chase, my prince". Legolas huffed a laugh at this, and touched his hand to his chest in respect.

"I'm sorry my lord that you were importuned. I didn't want for anyone to follow me, and I hoped that my letter would have made my feelings clear" - commented the wood-elf. And then he grimaced a bit - "I said hoped not expected" - he muttered, as if he was answering someone. Glorfindel, who had lived a long time and knew some of the most famous pairs in elven history, recognized this behaviour at once.

"Elrond has made contact!" - he exclaimed, happily. Legolas rolled his eyes at something and said out loud.

"I made the contact, really I did! I needed help to save Belegurdor. I maybe didn't do it on purpose, but I did it anyway" - argued Legolas, a bit hotly.

Glorfindel repressed a smile at this, wondering what Elrond was saying on his end. To be honest, he was relieved of finding the elven Prince whole and healthy, and having started some kind of contact with the Elf-Lord. He left the other elf arguing with his bonded for the moment, and turned back to the man responsible for this small miracle, Belegurdor apparently, and kneeled at his side to check on him. He seemed pretty battered but alive and stable. He sensed the healing ribs and repaired lung and felt greatly impressed by both the wood-elf behind him and the elf-lord leagues away who had, between the two of them, been able to collaborate to heal the man in front of him. It was no small feat, and he wouldn't have believed possible if he wasn't seeing it with his own eyes.

"Your friend looks stable and well cared Legolas. Who is he and why was he captured?" - he asked interrupting the discussion, which had drifted into how Elrond had sent Legolas into sleep. He could predict a great amount of teasing and fun with those two in the future, if they continued this way. He couldn't wait for it, as worried as Erestor and him had been for both of them, they deserved a bit of fun in return.

"He is Caradruin's Mayor. That's the village a few leagues from here, at the foot of the Mountains" - Glorfindel indicated that he know of it - "It was attacked a few days ago, and Gandalf, a group of rangers and I helped to rescue it" - said Legolas, skipping over his own role in the rescue, Glorfindel would investigate it further later, but he allowed him to continue for now - "Aragost and his rangers have been following this group of orcs for a while now, and he is worried of a deeper plot to this invasion. Gandalf agreed on this. Master Belegurdor seemed to know something about this threat, as we discovered he had been stocking up weapons before the fight. I don't know what yet, he has been unconscious since I found him" - concluded Legolas, looking a bit worried, and checking on the man again.

"He is just unconscious Legolas, you did a magnificent work healing him, even with Elrond's help" - comforted the Vanya. - "He will recover just fine. This tale is a disturbing one, I don't care for this strange movements so close to Imladris" - commented the Seneschal. Legolas agreed to this.

"Neither did I, or Gandalf. He went to Cameth Brin to investigate further, and I promised him to keep an eye out for master Belegurdor" - he said, looking down to the unconscious man. Glorfindel nodded to this and looked to the wood-elf he had been following over the last week. He asked with caution:

"What are your plans now, Legolas? Are you planning to go back to Mirkwood, or will you return with me?" - he asked. Legolas looked at him in return, curious.

"Why were you following me Glorfindel? I expected that someone would try and follow me, but I didn't expect you. I believed that you, and Erestor, understood my situation and felt a small sympathy for my position. I assumed that you would allow me to leave, after all, you better than anyone know that no place is fully safe." - commented the wood-elf. He seemed to reach inside, clearly listening Elrond's arguments. He looked surprised and then worried. - "Unstable!?" - he listened some more, looking more and more grim. He looked back to the Vanya then - "Alright, I see why you are here then, sympathetic or not, you wouldn't leave your Lord to suffer, neither would I anyway, no matter how much I feel otherwise" - admitted Legolas.

Glorfindel felt relieved by Elrond's ability to explain the matters directly, although he worried about Legolas' conviction that they wanted back just because of the danger to Elrond. As Legolas had surmised, he felt sympathy for his plight would have followed him, not to take him back, but to protect him in his journey home, believing that it was his right to return to his family after the treatment he had been suffering. But he felt uneasy at Legolas' attitude, as he seemed to believe his value to them consisted only in his bond to the elf-Lord. Before he could think of a way to broach the issue, Legolas kept talking.

"I will return with you Glorfindel, for now at least. But I can't abandon Belegurdor like this, we need to take him back with us" - Legolas looked down to the man, while he started to repack his supplies.

Glorfindel turned back to the entrance of the cave, and signalled the waiting guards to enter. Both of them climbed quickly and addressed the elven Prince when they saw him. Legolas greeted them both by name, gladly. Despite his problems with some of the elves in the Valley, Legolas got along very well with most of the crafters, servants, and soldiers - except for idiots like Thanon that believed they could climb higher in the Valley's politics if they pander to the twin Lords' whims. - he was kind, polite and remembered the name of all he had been introduced. And he had met most of the guards of the Valley, having joined in many patrols in the past.

Glorfindel indicated the injured man and ordered them to improvise a stretcher to move him. Both guards departed at once to get the supplies they needed for this, while Legolas and Glorfindel packed the wood-elf meagre belongings.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked again to the small town in front of him, this time from the path instead of the trees above him. Still, he was starting to feel tired of seeing this small village again and again. Behind him, Gwachenir and Glasdil, the guards who came with Glorfindel, were carrying the stretcher they had fashioned from a few branches and blankets. Belegurdor had remained unconscious over their journey, with the judicious help of some medicine and Elrond's healing tricks. Legolas was beginning to understand why he spent so much time unconscious in the Healing Halls, unable to escape. Elrond's amused voice sounded in his mind.

My healers are well trained, they know all your tricks. They have standing orders to sedate you from the moment they see you enter their domain - said the Elf-Lord. Legolas fretted at this, irritated with Elrond’s familiarity and deciding to ignore him focusing again in his surroundings when he saw Aragost appearing at the entrance of the town. He walked to them.

"Your highness, is this Master Belegurdor? is he alright?" - asked the Dunedáin, getting closer to the stretcher and signalling two of his companions to relieve the elves. Gwachenir and Glasdil gladly passed their burden over the rangers at Glorfindel's signal.

"Suilad Aragost. We think it likely that he is Master Belegurdor. I found him yesterday, captured by a group of orcs. They were taking him back to their master. He was badly treated by them and we have healed him as best we could. Lord Glorfindel, Gwachenir and Glasdil helped me to bring him back" - Legolas explained to the ranger. He grabbed the man's arm in greeting, glad to see him again. Before this last adventure, he had always worked with the Dunádain accompanied by the twins, so they had been the ones who deal with the men directly. And he had kept their interactions more impersonal. Not because he didn't want to know them, but because it had been easier for everyone at the time. Over the last week, he had come to appreciate Aragost and his men's competence, and his endless composure at the adversities.

Aragost led them into the town's Hall where the men had created a small healing area. They settled the injured man next to a pallet, and transferred him from the stretcher into it. The small commotion confirmed his identity as the town's Mayor , and an older man arrived from the back to check into him. Aragost turned back to the elves.

"Has he said something? About himself or the attack?" - asked the ranger, worried. Legolas denied with a shake of his head.

"He has been unconscious the whole time since I met him in the mountain. The orcs were planning to take him back to someone, but they didn't look too worried about his health. If I hadn't found them when I did, I doubt he would have survived the crossing." - Legolas explained to the ranger.

He wouldn't have. With his lung punctured as it was, he wouldn't have lasted the night - said Elrond, who had been silent up until this moment, but was paying attention to the conversation. Legolas accepted that opinion, as it came from the healer.

"He has been expertly treated, I don't know how you managed it my lord, but he is very lucky of having ended into your care." - the healer interceded after finishing his check on Belegurdor. The man focused on the new arrivals and asked - "My Lords, this man was close to death. Who healed him?". After a few moments of doubt, Legolas spoke out, feeling uncomfortable at being the centre of attention:

"I was the one to find and help him. I learnt healing from the Lord of Rivendell " - he admitted sincerely , but trying not to give too much away. Men's attitude about certain things was sometimes strange, and Legolas didn't want to stumble into one of their weird hang-ups. He didn't want to give away too much information about Elrond and their bond, or having that connection questioned.
You have been a good student. Even with the bond, I couldn't have helped you to save that man if you didn't have the skill for it. I only led you with my knowledge and experience, you were the hands who healed him - muttered Elrond in his mind. Legolas shrugged mentally.

Alright, it was a joint venture. We both saved him - he accepted, for now. He sensed Elrond's frustration at his unwillingness to take the credit. But he didn’t feel like accepting the opinion of someone who had ignored him for the best part of the last three years. Even if he understood that the half-elf had been hurt by his former wife’s actions, and he could accept that he made a poor substitute for the elven Lady, his trust in the Elf-Lord had been broken, and that was harder to heal than any physical injury.

"I've heard of Lord Elrond's skills, I'm honoured to see his work even at the hands of one of his students. I now believe the stories." - commented the man. - "I don't need to do anything further here, he should awake soon, and he is well" - he said to Aragost. The ranger nodded in thanks, and the man left to keep treating other patients. The ranger turned to the elves then:

"Are you going to wait here until he awakes, my lords?". Legolas and Glorfindel looked to each other, hesitating.

"We are needed back at Rivendell, but I don't believe the matters are so pressing that we can't wait a few more hours. I would like to know what Master Belegurdor knew that made him to prepare this town for war. And why those creatures captured him to take him back to their master" - commented Legolas thoughtful.

I agree. You can delay a bit more to investigate this issue. Caradruin is too close to Imladris to ignore this attack - advised the Elf-Lord in his head, sounding increasingly worried this time.

Aragost's father, Arahad, suspects a darker plot - Legolas informed Elrond, remembering his previous conversation with the ranger. Elrond focused in that memory. It was a curious sensation to have someone reviewing his memories with him, strange but not unpleasant, although he figured he would feel differently if it was a memory he didn't want to share. Right now, even with the things as they stood between them, it felt good to share the burden of that suspicion with the one responsible for the safety of the Valley. He caught the shared worry from Elrond's mind, and his agreement with Aragost's theories.

"We can wait a bit, if it seems like the delay is too long, I will leave one of our guards here to hear Master Belegurdor's testimony." - decided Glorfindel. Aragost nodded in agreement and they settled to wait for the man's awakening.

Elrond looked through his books, researching all the information he had about the region's history and past political struggles. It was a dark picture: wars, famine, warlord after warlord trying to win the upper hand to rule over the beaten-down population. After being freed from Angmar's influence, about five hundred years ago, the region had gone through many upheavals. This was an area which had been barely stable before. No warlord had managed to control the place for longer than a decade, and most of those rulers had been killed by their successors.

A small knock sounded in his door, and he called his visitor in. The twins entered the room and looked to their father, surprised. He was more energetic than they had seen him in years.

"Ada? Is there something wrong?" - asked Elladan, too wary after last week happenings, to feel happy about seeing his father looking this lively. The twins had just returned from a patrol and didn't know the latest news. Elrond looked at them, thoughtfully, aware that they would want to know of their friend's whereabouts, but also that Legolas wouldn't want them to.

Don't - said Legolas in his head, having overhead the thought and paying him attention now. Elrond was once again impressed with Legolas' quick learning of the bond. The wood-elf had been helping around the healing halls while they waited for Master Belegurdor to awake, but he had been using the bond to keep an eye on the Elf-Lord, like he had been doing with the wood-elf. - It was worse when they had warning of where I was or when I was going to get somewhere. I don't want for them to have time to get ready for any nasty surprise - warned the wood-elf.

Elrond sensed that the wood-elf didn't trust him not to tell the twins, and was waiting carefully for his decision. He felt torn knowing the twins' change of attitude, but he understood Legolas's own position and his distrust. Legolas stayed silent in his mind, cautious, waiting for his decision. Elrond realized that this was a test, would he choose to tell his sons the truth even after the way they had treated the wood-elf, without any proof of their change of heart but their words? Or would he respect his bonded wishes, even if with his own empathy he could feel his sons' remorse and pain at the lack of news?

"Glorfindel is in a small village at Rhudaur, it has been attacked by a group of orcs and hillmen. The rangers are there and they have retaken the village, but Arahad is worried this attack is part of a bigger plot. That a new warlord is rising and taking control, trying to move troops this side of the Mountains. It's worrisome to have them do so to a place so close to Imladris" - he deflected the truth, but keeping the source of the knowledge hidden. The twins got distracted at this information and the appearance of a new threat, and looked over the maps of the region that were still spread in one of the tables.

"Why does Arahad thinks that now? That region has been surviving orcs' attacks for years" - Elladan asked looking at the maps.

This group was better organized. They had been systematically attacking towns near the mountains for months. Caradruin was the third one, Daenost and Eastwood were taken before. The same pattern: a quick attack with both orcs and hillmen, they destroyed their defenses, and then most of the orcs left the town to the hillmen's control going after the next one, recruiting more men. Those men captured by Aragost's rangers admitted they had been promised the town's control in return to turn a blind eye to any orcs troops passing by. And that they would supply them if asked. - explained the wood-elf after hearing the question. Elrond relayed this information to his sons, looking like he had read it in Glorfindel's report. He marked the other two towns, further north from Imladris in the map. The three of them looked to the pattern, worried. Had this group been moving their way south, to the Valley?

Aragost appeared at Legolas' side, and the elf looked up from his work, in question. He had been replacing the bandages in a small boy's arm.

"Belegurdor is awake" - informed the ranger. Legolas acquiesced, and after finishing to tie off the bandage, follow the ranger. A near healer took his place with the boy. They crossed the room towards the small corner where they had placed the town's master. Glorfindel was already at the man's bedside, and a healer was giving him a small amount of water. Aragost introduced him to the man, and he looked awed to the elven Prince, after the introductions he started to talk:

"I've been told that I owe you my live your highness, I can't thank you enough for the pains you and your friends have taken in my behalf" - started the man, hoarsely, but surprisingly polite. Legolas waved his gratitude away.

"I'm glad, Master Belegurdor, that I was able to help you. It was a happy coincidence that I took the same path as the orcs who captured you" - he said. Aragost spoke then, asking one the question they had been pondering about:

"Why did they capture you Master Belegurdor?" - asked the ranger.

"They wanted to make an example me, of what happens to those who oppose them" - answered the man.

"And did you? Oppose them? Daenost and Eastwood were taken by the orcs, but Caradruin has been unbothered for a surprising amount of time, giving its location" - observed Legolas. He sensed Elrond's attention from the bond. The man looked to the wood-elf, ashamed, and said:

"I didn't at the start, my Lord. You need to understand that Caradruin is such a small village. Nobody cares about us, and times had been harsh of late" - he paused a moment and correct himself - "They have always been hard, but the last two years we have been barely able to keep afloat. The harvest has been scarce and the raids continuous. The people have been leaving because they couldn't feed their families. And then... a letter arrived" - he paused, looking conflicted.

"A letter?" - prompted Aragost looking to Legolas sideways. - "We didn't see any suspicious letter when we were looking in your office" - commented the ranger. Belegurdor looked surprised and almost offended by this. Aragost explained- "We were looking for clues of your whereabouts Master Belegurdor, but we didn't find any evidence to explain your last actions". Belegurdor looked a bit appeased by this, and continued his account.

"I burned it as ordered. I burned all the correspondence from that source. They arrived every other week, dropped by a bird so black that you couldn't see it in the dark, except by its glowing red eyes." - Legolas was starting to have a really bad feeling about this. As dramatic as the turn of phrase sounded, he remembered to have seen such birds back home during his patrols South, entering the dark tower of Dol Guldur. For a while now, Legolas and his family had suspected that the tower had become home again to a dark power. They didn't dare to name it, but the presence felt familiar to the wood-elves, who knew their forest as another member of the family. Elrond's deep concern over the bond resounded in his mind, although he felt him trying to find an explanation.

That's concerning, even more so if you have seen these birds in Mirkwood, so far away from here. I know your father has suspicions on the current master of Dol Guldur. - spoke Elrond in his head. - Ask him who signed the letters

"How were the letters signed? And when did they start?" - asked Legolas.

"They started to arrive nine months ago, and they were always unsigned" - answered Belegurdor. Then, noticing their looks - "I know, it was suspicious. I shouldn't have trusted something like that, but at the start it looked like fighting it would be worse than let it go. They didn't ask for anything too bad, only to ignore the crossing orc's patrols. They promised that they would bypass the town if I didn't take notice of them. Who would I tell of them? So I ignored them, and they didn't attack us as promised" - explained the man. Aragost looked grave at this and Glorfindel continued their interrogation.

"And then? At some point, you must have ceased your collaboration if they marked you as a traitor". Belegurdor nodded to this.

"Yes, my Lord, after the first few months a new letter arrived with more demands. They started to ask for supplies for the patrols" - admitted Belegurdor.

"What kind of supplies?" - asked Legolas.

"Food and raw material such as wood and ore " - he answered.

"What was your answer?" - asked Legolas.

"I couldn't give them what we didn't have!" - exclaimed the man, starting to cough. A healer gave him a bit more water. He paused for a moment, drinking, and then he continued less hotly - "I couldn't give it to them, and I couldn't answer them as the bird never stayed past the delivery of the letter. So I didn't do anything. The delivery date passed, nothing happened and I thought they might leave us alone"

"But they didn't" - asserted Aragost. - "You started to stockpile weapons and shields" - observed the ranger. Belegurdor nodded, looking wretched.

"When another month passed and nothing happened, and no more letters arrived, I thought they had forgotten about us" - admitted the man - "But then, the patrols started to get closer. They didn't leave us alone this time, the seamstress daughter was found with her throat slit and an orc weapon next to her. I knew, sooner or later, they would come for us."

"So you started to stockpile weapons. But weapons alone are no defence, and the orcs attacked anyway and overpowered your people. Why didn't you asked for help? You had no training to use those weapons or a way to defend the town from a frontal attack" - asked Glorfindel.

"To whom? I didn't know where to turn, and I could offer almost nothing in return for the help. I asked Cameth Brin's master for weapons. I knew he had been receiving similar missives, because he is a cousin on my mother's side. But Cameth Brin is stronger and richer, and have better defences, they were able to resist them. He sent me some, as a favour although he was able to get a deal for our mine, one of our few assets. But it wasn't enough, and when the attack came, we weren't ready. Then you came and fought them back, and the orcs took me away to their master as a traitor. They thought I had asked for your help, and they wanted to make me pay for it. To send a message to everyone of what happened when you opposed their master." - concluded Belegurdor.

Ask him why he didn't come to us for help - interceded Elrond then. He had been feeling more and more disturbed at the other side of the bond.

"I saw a list on your office, many names of other leaders and majors around the area. Didn't contact any of them?" - he asked. Belegurdor rejected this idea with his head.

"I didn't believe that anyone would help us" - said the man. Legolas looked towards Aragost, and insisted.

"The rangers make regular patrols around here, and Rivendell is not too far either. Both of them are known enemies of the orcs and would have been interested in knowing that orcs patrols were crossing the Mountains, if nothing else. They would have helped you if you had just asked" - observed the wood-elf. The man looked almost angry at this.

"I don't know these people, or elves, my lord. We are plain people, we don't know about the great Lords politics. As for the rangers, they..." - he trailed off at this, clearly not knowing how to phrase the distrust Aragost's people invoked in this lands. Both because the fear and ignorance that had grown over the years, and because the enemy had made a good work dividing people who should have been allies. Aragost didn't look offended at this, but Legolas felt irritated and a bit disheartened: the enemy had created this distrust which did half of the work for him.

Chapter Text

Legolas stopped for a moment sitting above his horse, and looked to the beautiful sight allowing the peace of the Valley to enter his mind. Even though the experience of the last three years was negative, something about the Valley's atmosphere made Legolas happy to be here again... until he remembered that this wasn't a refuge for him any longer. Now it could be even more of a prison, would he be allowed to depart if things didn't work as expected? The bond had been silent for a while now since Legolas had felt the threshold of the Ring's defensive barrier.

For a long time Legolas had felt very out of his deep with this bond, and now it had come to his attention just how much he didn't know about it. Was Elrond blocking the bond again? He didn't feel a barrier like before, but he couldn't be sure that there wasn't one. How balanced was it? Young as he was, Legolas wasn't ignorant or naive and he had realized that Elrond could be getting more from him than he from the Perendhil. He hadn't been able to find reliable information about this kind of bonds in his discrete incursions into the library and he didn't have anyone to ask. So he had been learning through his own experience, copying Elrond's actions or experimenting, but that didn't replace the knowledge he lacked.

He realized that he had stopped for too long at the pathway when Glorfindel turned towards him, patiently waiting from a few steps ahead. He allowed his horse to follow Glorfindel's towards the front courtyard leading to the entrance steps and the main house.

It was the last hour of the evening and the courtyard was almost empty, except for a few servants coming in and out the house for the last tasks of the day. A few of them looked to the new arrivals with curiosity and Legolas felt their gazes lingering on him. He had kept the disguise he had been using among the Men, wearing a dark cloak with its hood pulled up and his hair tied back in a ponytail under the cloak. He had his winter clothes and fingerless gloves so in whole, he looked from afar like one of the rangers. He didn't expect his disguise would withstand a closer look, but he hoped for a small reprieve from the inhabitants' curiosity and gossip.


He and his companions dismounted off their horses at the front steps, while the grooms arrived to get the horses. Legolas didn't pay them any attention, however, because his focus was in the figure walking down the steps of the house: imposing as usual, Elrond Perendhil, Lord of Rivendell, and his bonded.

"Mae g'ovannen! I'm glad to see you back safely" - Glorfindel bowed in answer to this while Legolas touched his hand to his chest in the elven sign of respect proper for his station. There was a time when he would have greeted the Elf-Lord back and claimed his happiness for being back, but this wasn't those times anymore. He wasn't going to make a scene here, in the middle of the courtyard among witnesses, but he felt little happiness at the moment and only a lifetime of respect for this elf, and the manners taught to him as a Prince, restrained him of saying it out loud.

The two guards bowed from their positions a few steps behind the lords. Elrond looked at them, gratefully:

"Gwachenir, Glasdil thank you for your efforts in mine and my bonded's behalf, I will make sure you are rewarded and that you can enjoy a rest after this". Glorfindel nodded his head to them and dismissed the two elves. Legolas went to them and offered them a warrior gesture, taking each of their arms in thanks and exchanging a few words with them. Then he turned back to Elrond and looked to Glorfindel:

"Thank you for coming after me Glorfindel, you and Erestor have been true friends to me all this time. If someone had to follow after me, I'm glad it was you and not someone else. But I'm sorry for the inconvenience." - he offered to the Elda, touching his chest respectfully. He was aware of the Vanya's loyalties, but he was grateful for his and Erestor's continuing kindness in the last few years. Glorfindel looked to the young Prince gravelly.

"It was my honour young one. Under different circumstances I would have happily escorted you back home" - Glorfindel said grabbing the younger elf's shoulder in comfort. He turned to Elrond again. - "My Lord, I should go to wash up and look for my own bonded. Erestor likes to check that I've not come back with any new holes" - the blonde commented with a cheerful smile. Elrond waved him away:

"Go, Glorfindel, you have more than earned a good rest. Tell Erestor not to worry about anything, you two should spend some time together". Glorfindel bowed one last time, and left through one of the doors into the house, leaving the two bonded alone together for the first time.

Legolas looked to Elrond with trepidation. After three years trying to talk with this elf to try and resolve their situation, now he had him in front of him he didn't know what to say. He felt disconnected, like this was a strange dream he had entered...or a nightmare. The bond was curiously calm now they were next to each other although he was able to feel Elrond's apprehension. The Perendhil finally started the conversation:

"I'm glad you decided to come back Legolas, would you come with me to my study?" - Elrond asked. Legolas hesitated, feeling at a disadvantage in this situation. Elrond caught his reticence and rectified. - "Or maybe we could go to one of the family gardens, it will be private enough and we will be more relaxed there" - he entreated him.

"I would like to go to the gardens and rest there for a bit. It has been a long time since I was able to just relax" - Legolas admitted remembering how tense he had felt in the past, fearing to have another unpleasant meeting with the twins or some other residents who were against his presence, sometimes very aggressively.

Legolas and Elrond entered the private garden at the back of the house. Going to the central fountain, Elrond left Legolas to choose a place to sit. The wood elf went to the nearest bench under a huge oak and seated at one of the ends. Elrond took his place at the other end trying not to crowd the younger elf. The bond had settled once Legolas was inside the Ring's influence and he had been trying to keep both of their privacies now they weren't risking it breaking completely. Legolas was looking fixedly to the garden avoiding his eyes and clearly had no intention to start any conversation. He decided to test the waters:

"I'm glad to see you whole and safe Legolas. When we found your room empty and closed we were worried about you" - Elrond said softly. Legolas looked at him sideways but without making eye-contact

"How did you know that I had left? I'm surprised that you even knew where I was lodged" - Legolas said, ironically. Elrond flushed in shame and admitted.

"Glorfindel came to see me when he was unable to reach you. He was worried about you when he heard about what happened in your rooms. And that reminds me..." - Elrond reached into his pocket and drew a small pendant from it, offering it to the wood-elf. Legolas took it reverently, caressing the small swan filigree. He settled around his neck again and under his shirt.

"Hannon le" - he said levelly. Elrond sighed at this.

"I'm sorry it was stolen from you. The elf responsible for it was demoted from his position and stripped from his responsibilities. He is waiting for his final fate" - he said. Legolas raised his head in curiosity at this and Elrond continued - "I've been waiting for you to set his final punishment. You were the one who suffered from his malice and I would give you the chance to confront him before he is expelled from the Valley". Legolas finally looked at him and Elrond was surprised to see the rage in his eyes.

"He will be punished for this?" - he asked this mildly despite the anger. Elrond was taken aback and answered carefully.

"Of course, that kind of bullying is not allowed at Imladris. This House was designed to be a refuge for all. I don't accept that kind of behaviour among my people, much less towards my own bonded" - he said with strong conviction. Legolas looked back to him in a challenge and asked:

"And will this be the punishment for all who behave or have behaved like that?" - he asked. Elrond was starting to understand the meaning of those questions. He answered even more warily.

"I won't accept senseless malice in this Valley. That much is certain. I don't want you to think that the people who had tormented you all these years will escape unpunished." - he said. Legolas was starting to look darkly amused by this.

This whole conversation wasn't going in the direction Elrond had expected, and Legolas' reactions were more guarded than he had been in the past. The wood elf reached back to the old oak, like he was trying to find comfort in the ancient tree, and maybe he was. Elrond had never been sure of the abilities the wood-elves had with nature, and particularly those of the Mirkwood's Royal Family. There was much secrecy and lore about the legendary bond they had with their forest and the link they had with nature in general. Legolas had used his skills in the past to bond with the trees in the Valley and he had shared in the past some backhanded comments about some tree gossip or to complain. Some of the older Elda, like Glorfindel, had some skill to communicate with wildlife and nature, but it was a skill born of age and was limited to understand their language. Legolas' skill and his family was something else, something different, and the trees and animals actively loved them and protect them. Even from other elves. Now Legolas tilted his head back to the tree, like he was listening to something beyond Elrond's hearing, and looked back to him.

"I'm not interested in the punishment you give to the elf who ransacked and stole into my rooms. They were, after all, just following in the steps of those who should have known better. To punish them and not those they looked up to, it would be a poor justice. But this is not my home and I'm not their Lord. I'm tired now and I would like to rest. Where will I be sleeping this time?" - he asked tiredly. Elrond wanted to argue some more and reach inside the wall of ice that Legolas had built around his heart, but he realized that he needed to be patient and allow the younger elf his space. He brushed briefly against the bond but retreated at once when Legolas stiffened. He could feel a flash of ire before the first of the walls blocking the bond went up again. He rose from the bench and tried to apologize:

"I'm sorry Legolas, I won't do that again without your permission. Of course you are tired, I shouldn't have started this conversation today. I have your room ready to use. And all those things which we were unable to save have been replaced. Allow me to escort you there, Legolas. You should rest now and we will talk more once you have rested some" - he relented, moving toward the house. Legolas followed after him in silence.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked around his new rooms guardedly, having never been in this one before. Elrond had led him to the family wing, close to the Elf-Lord's but not uncomfortably so, and left him to wash and rest before dinner. The room was airy and bright with huge crystallized double doors leading to a balcony facing the front courtyard. He had been in similar rooms to this one in many of his former visits to the Valley, before he had gotten bonded to its Lord and was relegated to the rooms at the back of the house. But this room had been prepared for his presence and someone had spent a lot of time and thought trying to make him feel at home.

He saw most of his things, the ones he had left behind in his escape, scattered around the room having been recovered from his former lodgings. There were a few books placed on his nightstand. He had taken them from the library a few weeks ago, they were about the wars in the First Age. A pair of spare boots next to the bed had survived the destroying of his belongings because he had taken them to the cobbler. Some of the maps of the area he had been studying before he left, were placed on the desk. The room was beautiful in warm colours with small decorations very much to his taste. Like the small horse figurine in the side table next to the window or the sea painting over the fireplace. Someone had taken some pains to make this room feel as homely as possible and for him to be comfortable in it. Erestor? Elrond? He wasn't sure. He wasn't sure how he should feel about it anyway, the former had tried to be a friend over the last few years, but his loyalty had been ultimately to his lord, and the later... it may be a case of too little too late?

Leaving his small bag of belongings next to the door, he walked to the closet and opened it, trying to judge how many of his clothes remained. He wanted to wash before going to bed, and probably skip dinner, but he figured his clothing situation was probably dire. Whoever had ransacked his rooms before he left had been particularly focused on destroying his clothes as it was almost the only belongings he had with him. All the rest, books and maps belonged to the library. When he had come to Rivendell he hadn't been planning to stay as long as he had, and once he had been forced to stay, the situation hadn't been ideal and he hadn't wanted to ask for his belongings to be brought here until things were more settled, which they never became.

When he opened the closet he was surprised to see it full of clothes. Most of them newly made, and the others being his clothes restored to their former state. He caressed a few of the new tunics, surprised by the quality of the fabric. Despite coming from Rivendell's tailors, the style and colours had been fitted to his own preferences. He wondered about the one responsible for this kindness and if it was the same person who had prepared the room.

He took a light tunic and breeches and went to the washing room to clean up. This was something he had missed in the rooms he had been assigned previously. Being as they were rooms prepared for minor guests, he hadn't his own private bath. But this room belonged to the family and their closest guests and friends, so it was equipped with all the luxuries. Getting into the sunken bath, he opened the faucet and started to fill the bathtub, leaving his clean clothes in a small stool to the side. He walked around the room while the bath filled, picking up all he needed: scent oils, washing cloths, and towels.

When the bath was almost filled to the brim, he closed the faucet and undressed quickly, getting into the water with relish. He entered the bathtub and lowered into the water, up to his neck, letting out a relieved sigh while all his cares were washed away. Legolas was a practical and frugal elf, but if he had a true weakness, it was his love to be clean. And he enjoyed relaxing in the water, washing all the cares of the day away in it. His own rooms back home had a huge bath in it and he had always been given rooms with a private bath here in Imladris... until last time.

Drifting away in the bathtub, he felt he could let go for the first time in weeks. The time before the attack in his room and the theft of his mother's necklace, he had been feeling more and more the animosity coming from certain factions of Imladris' population. Over the last three years, he had found some disdain, hidden insults, and petty actions against him. But the last weeks before he left, it had reached a critical point which had culminated in the destruction of his belongings and the theft of the necklace.

He didn't know if anything would be different this time. Elrond have looked different than he was before. Cautious and worried, but focused on Legolas for the first time. But he had looked worn down and weighed down by something, the bond? Legolas didn't want to expect anything about this situation again. He had come back because, as angry and hurt as he was, he didn't want to risk the safety of one of the main Free People's bastions in their fight with the darkness. There wasn't any other reason... there wasn't...

He roused himself from the water when he felt he was starting to drift away, and started to clean himself up. He wanted to wash up and rest, and left all his cares for tomorrow.

Elrond knocked softly at Legolas' door. Waiting a few moments for an answer which never came, he knocked again, calling softly Legolas' name through the door. There was no sound inside the room and the Elf-Lord stayed undecided in front of it. It was a few minutes to dinner and he wanted to check on Legolas and escort him to dinner if he wanted to go. He had been talking to Erestor, and he had confirmed to him that the wood-elf usually skipped almost all meals or went straight to the kitchen to eat. He didn't know what to do to start to make amends with the younger elf, but he was ready to make use of all the patience he had learnt over the last two ages and wait out his bonded.

After a few minutes without an answer, he started to worry about the other. He had looked whole and unhurt but he couldn't be sure of what his clothes may hide. Glorfindel had given him and Erestor a quick summary of what he knew about Legolas' travels and the wood-elf had been involved in at least two major fights that they knew. He knew that his bonded may take this as a breach of his privacy, but now he had started to worry about it, he couldn't stay away until he was able to check in on the other.

He put his hand in the door's handle and try to open it. The handle yielded and he was able to open the door a bit. He entered the suite slowly, looking around for the other elf. The doors of the balcony were opened slightly with the curtains half-closed moving in the slight breeze. He was able to see the bed in the shadows of the room and the figure resting on it.

Elrond got closer to Legolas' sleeping form in the bed and looked down at him. The wood elf was resting in his side in a fetal position, hugging one of the pillows. He was dressed in a light shirt and pants. It was one of the clothes he had ordered to have made when he had discovered the destruction of the prince's belongings. Also, he had noticed the scarce number of clothes the younger elf had with him and tried to mend the situation. It had helped him to keep busy while they waited for news from the scouts' parties. The whole staff had been happy to contribute in all kinds of ways: making clothes in the wood-elf style, and restoring those which weren't badly damaged. Erestor had taken charge of moving Legolas' belongings to a more appropriate room. Elrond had helped to decorate the room in the style Legolas' had shown interest in the past. Elrond had felt both proud by his people's kindness and ashamed by his own past actions.

He looked now to the younger elf, lying sleeping in his bed. He shouldn't be intruding in his privacy now he knew he was alright. But he stayed for a few more moments looking down at his bonded. He looked calm, relaxed and innocent in this moment. Elrond knew that this elfe was a fearsome warrior and his calm facade could change in an instant. The bond was thrumming happily in the background, Legolas sleeping conscience had relaxed the barrier he had raised in the gardens. But Elrond didn't try to breach in his privacy this time, but he kept his mind loosely linked to the younger elf, slightly touching the edges of the bond, feeling the strong soul at the other side and allowing it to sooth his frayed nerves from the last few days.

Legolas moved slightly in his sleep and Elrond froze in his place, knowing he shouldn't be here watching him sleep without his knowledge. After a few moments, Legolas settled down again and Elrond left out a small sigh of relief. He decided to leave before he woke up and moved away with a parting look to him, deciding he would send word to the kitchen to send some food later.

He reached the door and crossed it, leaving Legolas to a well-deserved rest. He didn't look back and so didn't see the focused gaze of the wood-elf lying on the bed.

Elrond looked at the garden from the window of his study, watching the blonde elf wandering among the trees. It has been two days since the wood elf had returned to Imladris, and he had been barely able to get a glimpse of him since he left him sleeping in his new rooms. The moment the younger elf noticed him watching, he disappeared. He was certain that this skill at vanishing like smoke was something Glorfindel would want to explore and teach their own troops. Also, he would want to explore the wood elf infallible sense of when other people had him in their sights. Elrond was sure he wasn't even using the bond, which had been closed off since their first conversation in the gardens.

Legolas stiffened on the ground below and, after a moment of hesitation, jumped into the nearest tree and vanished into its top. Elrond repressed a frustrated sigh wondering how the wood elf had been able to sense him this time, as he had been watching from inside the room and behind the curtains. The mystery was solved the moment after when a dark elf entered the garden looking around like he was looking for something. Clearly, Legolas had heard the approaching elf and hid as he often did when one of the Valley citizens appeared within his senses. Elrond had been unable to find a pattern of what elves Legolas eluded, so he had concluded that Legolas avoided those who had bothered him in the past. The Elf-Lord couldn't be certain, but he had been making a mental list of those he saw his bonded avoiding so he could check again in the future when he had more information. Elrond was about to turn back to his work when he caught sight in passing of the intruding elf and stiffened in recognition. Thanon, the elf who had precipitated Legolas's escape when he destroyed his room and stole his mother's necklace. Elrond turned from the window and went to the door in haste, worried about the dark-haired elf's intentions.

He went through the house and outside to the garden in minutes and stopped cold when he reached the garden. Legolas had dropped from the treetop and was confronting his attacker who seemed to be aggressively pressing into the wood-elf's personal space. None of them seemed to have noticed him, focused as they were in their discussion.

"I hope you don't believe that anything has changed from the last time you were here. You are still a worthless wood-elf from a family of upstarts who dare to call themselves royalty" - the former guard said with malice. Legolas looked at him evenly.

"I do believe things have changed. You are no longer a guard, are you? It seems to me that your thoughts are not so widely shared as you thought they were" - the wood-elf observed. Elrond stayed quietly next to the garden entrance, hidden by a rose bush.

"That makes you very happy, doesn't it? That I was demoted because I was the only one who dared to say what everyone is thinking. But it is only temporary, once Lord Elrond manages to get rid of your worthless self finding a more worthy elf to bond, I will be reinstated with honours" - the other elf boasted. Legolas looked unimpressed by it.

"I am sure you are right. Maybe you should propose yourself as an alternative? Surely someone like you must have a spotless bloodline. Full of names attached to the history of elvenkind, Noldor's names anyway. We should go now to Lord Elrond and present him this alternative. I'm sure he hadn't thought of it as busy as he is and will be grateful with your initiative" - Legolas stepped away from the dark-haired elf and started towards the house. The other elf grabbed his arm in rage, with a bruising grip. Elrond abandoned his hiding place at once, moving to intervene.

But he had apparently forgotten, as many did when confronted with this beautiful elf, that underneath that delicate-looking face and body, there was an amazing warrior who had been fighting and winning battles in one of the most dangerous forests of Middle Earth. The moment Thanon touched Legolas' arm trying to restrain him, the wood-elf grabbed the reaching hand and twisted it which made the angry elf shout in surprised pain and fell to the ground.

Elrond reached both elves at that moment, looking surprised at the elf twisting in pain on the ground. Legolas looked back to him evenly, as he was daring him to chastise him for his actions. Nothing was farther from Elrond's mind, he had been looking at the younger elf in awe.

"Here is your Lord then. I'm sure you can explain to him your thoughts in person" - Legolas said with an impassable look on his face. Another voice interrupted them.

"Well, I would certainly like to know why a guard of Imladris would attack a Prince from an allied nation to the point he needs to defend himself?" - Gandalf appeared at the garden looking down to the former guard with disgust. Legolas and Elrond turner to the newcomer.

"Mithrandir, you always appear out of nowhere" - Legolas said to the wizard surprised. Elrond looked to his old friend, startled but not surprised because he had felt him enter the Valley’s protections a few hours ago. But he had forgotten about him when he had seen Thanon looking for Legolas.

"You are welcome as always old friend. I'm sorry you have arrived to see this disgraceful sight" - the Elf-Lord commented looking back to the kneeling elf.

"Thanon, I thought you couldn't get any lower or be more foolish than you already were. But I was clearly underestimating you. I can't imagine what you are hoping to accomplish persisting with this attitude, but I won't allow this to go any further. " - Elrond said looking grave and angry as any of those present had seen him in a long time, if ever. The discharged elf looked to his Lord pleadingly.

"My Lord! This wood-elf is the disgrace. You can't allow him to stay here! You shouldn't lower yourself to get involved with the likes of him. You don't need to be worried about his savage family. Any of us in Imladris will fight to the death to save you from this demeaning bond" - the former guard claimed from the ground. Legolas didn't look surprised at this affirmations and seemed externally unaffected by the insults to himself and his family. But the small barrier he had raised in the bond wasn't able to hide the hurt and anger he was feeling inside. Gandalf spoke up.

"The ignorance you show about you forest kin should be addressed" - the wizard commented, and looking back to Elrond said - "My old friend, I'm offended that I wasn't invited to the ceremony. I've always felt that the two of you were singularly well matched. With all due respect to the Lady Celebrian, I know you two didn't have much in common."

"Thank you Mithrandir, I appreciate your well wishes. But what should we do about you?" - he looked to Thanon coolly. He checked on the former's guard hand, finding it a bit bruised but not broken and signalled him to raise. Thanon stood up rigidly before the three of them. Elrond looked back to Legolas.

"Legolas, I would like to deal with this now. Would you like to be present? The insult was to you and your family" - the Elf-Lord asked carefully. Legolas nodded with his head thoughtfully.

"I would. I don't care about his thoughts on me or my family but as Mithrandir said, his ignorance should be addressed and I have a few thoughts on it." - the wood-elf said. Elrond nodded to this and addressed to Thanon again:

"Present yourself to Glorfindel. You are to wait to be called in your rooms. I don't want to hear you have been wandering around until I call for you. Am I understood?" - Elrond asked. The former guard looked suitable cowered at the Elf-Lord blazing look and turned away to the house without any further word. Elrond then indicated the others to follow him to his study.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked around Elrond's study, trying not to feel like a naughty elfling about to be scolded by the Lord of the Valley. He had spent many years playing around the House with the twins when they were all younger and got into his share of trouble with the half-elf when they had been caught in some mischief. Elrond had been always endlessly patient and kind to the young Sinda, and Legolas was often more worried about disappoint the older elf than afraid of being grounded. After he had grown up and started to see the older elf in a different light, his feelings had changed also. He had wanted to be taken seriously and not as naughty child. Even if he had never expected any relationship with the - he thought - happily married Perendhil, he had at least hoped to be an ally and friend with the elf he respected so much.

But now his perspective had changed once again. He had learnt that the marriage he had thought solid and happy, and the perfect family he had loved as a friend, wasn't as perfect as he had thought. He had found himself in a situation he had never expected to be in or hoped for. In the middle of the family as Elrond's bonded, but pushed into that situation against all his wishes, born only by the need of saving the older elf life. His former friends reactions and following attitude had taken him by surprise. He wasn't surprised or worried by the reaction of elves like Thanon, who thought he had been trying to "better" himself up by marrying into such a renowned family. He knew the more conservative of the Noldor looked down at the Sinda and Sylvan elves and he had encountered those opinions before. But Elladan and Elrohir had been his friends, they had known him since his infancy and he had grown with them as his best friends. The three of them had fought against all old prejudices on both sides: the Noldor opinion of the wood-elves as wild and unwise, and Legolas' own family who had blamed the Noldor for Sauron's remaining influence and the loss of two thirds of wood-elves soldiers, and their former King, in the Last Alliance.

Legolas and the twins had persisted in their wish to be friends and succeeded in maintaining their relationship, travelling between the Realms every other decade or having patrols together and exchanging letters when they couldn't visit.

Therefore, their attitude and open hostility had taken Legolas completely by surprise. He had been blindsided for the first time when they had joined in on the petty insults. It had been during the first meal he had attended after sending his companions back to Mirkwood to notify his father of the happenings in the Valley. He had, at the time, tried to put himself in their place and had not answered any of the provocation by them or their cohorts. But it hadn't stopped. Meal after meal, training after training, when he walked the gardens or he visited any public space, he had found himself accosted and insulted by them or their new "friends". He had been relocated to new rooms, outside the family wing where he had been living at every visit he made from their earliest acquaintance. And he had been unable to find a way to change things. When he had tried to talk them, they had avoided him and outright rejected any private talk with him, helped by their new group of friends. So, he had tried to avoid them and all public encounters, joining the staff in the kitchens and Glorfindel in the patrols all the times he was allowed.

This had worked for a while, particularly when his father had sent Gallion and his older brother, Calimmacil, to visit after receiving the news of his bonding. They had stayed for almost half a year at the Valley and Legolas had been able to use them as a buffer with his detractors. They hadn't dared to bother him with his family around. But Calimmacil and Gallion had eventually left for home, carrying the message back to his father that he was fine and waiting for a better solution. Legolas had been trying at the time to avoid any difficulties between the two Realms, and believed that the situation would improve. It hadn't.

Thanon had been a particularly tricky case, he hadn't paid much attention to the guard prior to three years ago. He had been a background figure among the citizens of Rivendell and he hadn't known him before he started to bother him. Legolas had known that some of the Noldor, particularly those who had lived in Gil-Galad's Court and hadn't sailed back to Aman after the last War, still had prejudices about the Grey elves as they called them. It was the same among his own people, many of them still counted the Noldor as responsible for the fall of Doriath. However neither him nor the twins had ever allowed that people to influence their friendship. But then Elladan and Elrohir had started to join Thanon and a few elves like minded. Legolas didn't know the former guard’s background or the reasons he had for his grudges, but he had been made very aware that he and his friends wanted him gone as far away as possible. And that they had found, at last, support from the twins. And that had when the problems had started.

Legolas musings were interrupted by Elrond, who had been talking to some guards before entering the study with Gandalf. The grey wizard looked to the wood-elf curious but looking back to Elrond said.

"Well Elrond, this is an interesting situation you have at hand" - Gandalf commented to the Elf-Lord. Elrond nodded thoughtfully and looked back to the wood-elf.

"It is, I haven't been aware of it until a few days ago. And even then I wasn't aware that it was this bad. Legolas, can you tell me more about this? I didn't want to involve you in this so soon after you have come back but it is clear to me that I need to deal with this as soon as possible" - Elrond said. Legolas hesitated, wondering how to phrase it.

"I didn't know Thanon felt like this until three years ago. I never crossed paths with him, or if I did I didn't talk to him. I don't believe that we even shared a patrol together. He may have been there, but he wasn't among those I treated in Rivendell" - Legolas started to say carefully - "Then three years ago, he and his friends seemed to be everywhere. I found them at meals, at training, waiting at the corridors. I was made aware that they didn't support my presence here at the Valley and thought me too... uncouth to be their Lord's bonded". Gandalf took out his pipe, but didn't light it up at Elrond's dark warning look. He said instead.

"Uncouth? A Sindar prince? That's bold of them" - the wizard commented. Legolas smiled to him and said.

"Is it? They don't believe my family claim to royalty a worthy one. They only think Noldor's Royalty worthy of their titles" - Legolas answered. Elrond looked enraged at this.

"The Sinda throne and culture is as old as the Noldor! You are kin to Elu Thingol, as I am, and he awakened at the same time as Finwë. It is ignorant of them to claim otherwise or to disclaim your family right to rule which is supported by all the wood-elves." - the Perendhil said. Legolas nodded with his head to this.

"I think they are conveniently forgetting that part of your heritage. Or maybe they think your claim should be better to rule the wood-elves and we should be subservient to Rivendell's rule" - Legolas shrugged his shoulders.

"I would like to see them say that to Thranduil! " - Gandalf exclaimed. Legolas smiled a bit at this and said.

"So would I. It would be an interesting conversation. Although it would make too clear how bad things have become here. And I don't think his reaction would be good." - Legolas admitted. - "I don't believe that is the real reason for their hostility. After all, both the Lady Celebrian and your children have also Sinda blood through Lord Celeborn" - Legolas observed. Elrond agreed to this.

"And so am I, through my mother. I agree with you. This situation is not as it seems. It is a ridiculous excuse and I can't believe that all of them are this ignorant. I will call him here and see what he has to say. We will start with Thanon and work our way through his friends." - Elrond decided. He went to the door and ordered the guards to bring Thanon in.

Thanon entered Elrond's study escorted by two of Rivendell's guards. He looked coolly unaffected by the Elf-Lord chilly gaze. Elrond had asked Gandalf and Legolas to sit next to him, behind the desk, showing a unit front. Legolas had accepted reluctantly, well aware that the differences he had with the Elf-Lord shouldn't be shown before someone as Thanon.

The guards left the room after a signal of Elrond, and Thanon stood before the Elf-Lord waiting for judgment. Elrond, apparently relaxed, sat back against his chair and looked to the former guard in silence, until he started to fidget under the cold grey eyes. Finally, the Perendhil started to talk:

"Thanon, this is the second time in less than a week that you stand before me accused of behaving in a manner not fitting for an elf of my house. The first time you were accused of stealing and destroying my bonded, Prince Legolas," - here Thanon twitched in a gesture of anger that he quickly tried to smooth - "belongings. Lord Glorfindel was witness of your bragging of these acts, and you didn't refute them. For this you were demoted of your rank and expelled from the guard. Now I, myself, have been witness of your harassment and insults to this same elf. I find difficult to explain this behavior, but I have brought you here to listen to your explanation for your actions. This is your chance to defend yourself" - Elrond concluded and looked to the guard expectantly.

Thanon started to talk, fixing his gaze in the Elf-Lord:

"My Lord. I don't know what you mean me to defend from. I am loyal to you and your House. The wood-elf is not a fitting mate for a descendant of the House of Finwë and I've only wanted to make him aware of it" - Thanon answered with firm voice. Elrond started to feel angrier and angrier at this pigheaded attitude. He smiled coolly to the guard, and he seemed to relax until he started to talk.

"So, you are saying that my mother wasn't a fitting mate for my father?" - he asked him. He started at this and looked surprised at this comparison. He started to talk immediately:

"Of course not my Lord! The Lady Elwing was a great Lady, heir of Doriath" - the guard exclaimed surprised like he hadn't thought about that. Legolas intervened then.

"And descendant of the Lady Nimloth, and King Elu Thingol also. Both Grey elves. Although I am not sure why are we are stating our family names. Elves are not like other races, we don't choose our mates based on our titles or bloodlines" - the woodland prince observed, looking fixedly to the Noldor elf. The guard turned to the Sinda prince and said in rage:

"You can't compare Doriath to Mirkwood! Oropher is only a minor noble who claimed to be a King for a few wild elves who followed him!" - he said, not thinking about his words, only trying to shut up the other. Legolas looked back to him impassably and said.

"My grandfather hailed from Doriath and was a descendant of King Thingol's brother. We are kin to him the same as Lord Elrond and his family. Of course, we aren't kin to Queen Melian. The wood-elves who followed my grandfather out of Doriath, chose him and my family to lead them after Thingol's death, as it was their right without any clear heir and Doriath destroyed. Those who wished it, followed the Lady Elwing to the Havens, but she didn't want to lead the remaining elves from Doriath" - Legolas said. Elrond intervened then.

"My family didn't want any claim to rule the wood-elves. We didn't want any claim to rule the Noldor either. The only rule I ever wished was over Rivendell. Thanon, Legolas is right, our people doesn't use bloodlines and titles to judge others worth as mates. And if we did, I can think that many would judge my own bloodline with more suspicion than a pure Sinda prince." - Elrond observed, remembering Celebrian's words about his mortal heritage. Legolas and Gandalf looked at him sideways at this words. Elrond ignored this for the moment and continue - "Regardless of your thoughts, that doesn't give you the right to harass anyone in my home. If you don't want to involve yourself with our woodland kin, that's your loss, but this behavior is unacceptable" - the Elf-Lord concluded. Thanon clenched his fist at this.

"My Lord. My loyalty to you is complete. My family followed you from King Gil-Galad's Court to Rivendell. The late King wouldn't have wanted this for you..." - Thanon started, Elrond interrupted him.

"Ereinion would have been ecstatic about this. He didn't believe that Celebrian and I were a good match and he spent most of his reign trying to improve our relations with Oropher's Realm. He would have been matchmaking from the first day." - Legolas looked interested at this point. He had been born at the end of the Second Age, but he barely remember his grandfather and didn't remember the last High King of the Noldor at all, he would have been too young if he had even been in his presence.

The bond was still closed, but at this distance Elrond sensed his interest and he caught that last thought and said:

"Your grandfather was terribly proud of you and show you off to all of us over the meetings we had before the Last Alliance. Ereinion found you very interesting, and now I think about it he was particularly interested in you, more than any of your brothers. I wonder if he sensed something different about you, all our family had a certain touch of foresight" - he said thoughtfully. Then he focused back in Thanon:

"I am grieved that someone in my Home, in the Realm I created to be a refuge to all free people, that someone would judge another for their bloodline. I would have never expected this of my own people. The refuge I expected to have created is obviously false" - Elrond concluded sadly. Thanon said quickly.

"My Lord! We respect your desire to make Rivendell a refuge and we are proud to defend this Realm! This is the Last Homely House this side of the Sea" - Thanon said. Elrond denied with a shake of his head.

"It isn't. If someone in my house have been harassing others for their bloodline and race, then this hasn't been a refuge for them. And if I haven't been able to notice this behavior all this time, that was happening to my own bonded... I fear to find who else has been suffering. Those feelings and attitudes have been growing around me without noticing, you talk like you are not the only one feeling like this" - Elrond said. Thanon looked torn at this, having clearly not expected this argument from the Elf-Lord.

"We never meant to disturb your designs my Lord" - he said carefully. He had started to look less and less sure of himself. He looked torn at what to say next, like he was fighting with himself and Elrond waited him out - "When the Lady Celebrian left and your bond to the woodland elf was announced by Lord Erestor, we didn't understand the reasons for it. We feared that you had been forced to make it for some reason. And when the family seemed to avoid or outright reject him, we believed we were right" - he said. Legolas turned his head away, and Elrond looked back to him for a moment feeling the spike of pain he couldn't hide from the bond. The wood-elf looked back to Thanon and said.

"But you were very quick to assign blame, weren't you? You say this now to excuse yourself but you have been insulting my family for three years. Calling me and my people uncouth, unworthy, wild and unwise. I don't accept this even if you believed that something wasn't right about the bond. You didn't have any right to insult me like that or to insult the woodland Realm and people. And you certainly didn't have any right to attack me or destroy my belongings" - Legolas said coolly, with an undercurrent of anger. - "The ignorance you have shown about my people and my culture shows that you Noldor haven't learnt anything about us in almost three Ages" - the prince concluded. Thanon looked about to defend himself but Elrond intervened then, rising from his seat and walking to Thanon until he was standing in front of him, looking him in the eye.

"Prince Legolas is right. Regardless of the situation, you didn't have any right to do what you did. If you had any worry or question you should have gone to me or to any of my advisors, not take justice in your hands. I don't want this kind actions or ignorance persisting in my Realm. And I don't want to hear about these kind of attacks by any of those who live in Rivendell. I am not sure if your attitude can be changed but I will do my best." - Elrond said - "I want the names of all your friends. All of you who feel like this and I want a full confession of your acts, and don't bother to lie to me. I will contrast this with Prince Legolas, and I will believe every word he says. I want every petty act, insult, or anything you have been planning.". Thanon looked furious and like he wanted to make the most damage he could. He said.

"I will give you my friends names, and I will start with two you will find familiar my Lord" - he started. Legolas straightened in his seat, already knowing where he was going to start - "Lord Elladan and Lord Elrohir" - he concluded satisfied.

Elrond took a step back as he had been hit when hearing these names. He took back his seat and looked back to the elf in front of him.

Chapter Text

"My Lord, the Lords Elladan and Elrohir joined my friends and I, and it was their attitude towards the elven Prince which made us believe that something should be done about him. We thought it was the family stance to this situation and would have never dreamt to stand against our Lords" - Thanon concluded with an innocent look which couldn't hide his smug attitude.

Elrond took a step back from the former guard, looking as if he had been hit by Thanon's words. Legolas felt torn. On the one hand, he had been more hurt by the twins actions than any others and he felt they should answer for it at some point. He had been wanting an explanation from Elladan and Elrohir from day one. On the other hand, it grated somehow that someone would use this as an attack against Elrond, if nothing else because he felt he was the only one with the right to use it if it was his wish. He wasn't ready to admit any remaining loyalty to the Perendhil family at this point. He didn't want to even think about it for too long.

As a Prince of an elven Realm involved in a continuous war, Legolas had been groomed from infancy in all the Royal Court protocols and nuances, in particular those they had been forced to implement in these difficult times, where division could be their worst enemy. Because of this, one of the first lessons he had learnt when he was a child, had been for the family to show a united front before the Court. It didn't matter how angry he was with his father or how much in disagreement he was about his decisions. He would fight that fight in private. It is true that his siblings and he could, and would, disagree with their father's decisions at their Councils, but once a path was decided, they would rally behind the King. The same could be said about any attack to their family or any of its members. He may want to shout one of his brothers for their actions, he may feel slighted by some of their decisions, but they would fight within the family apartments. And if any outsider attacked one of them, they would all defend them, particularly if they tried to use one of them for this attack. There was, of course, exceptions to this rule. Someone who had done any abuse of their position, who had done harm to other deliberately, or who weren't behaving as a fair ruler for their people. Legolas took his position as Prince of his people very seriously, and he would defend them even from his own family if necessary.

Now, Thanon's actions were pricking all of Legolas's teachings about family and the defense of it. Legolas was terribly angry about the twins attitude. He was hurt by them and wanted them to answer for their actions and the insults made to him and his family. If Thanon, and his friends, would have been compelled by the twins into their actions towards Legolas, Legolas wouldn't feel the need, or wish, to intervene. But Thanon had been a willing accomplice in this, and in many cases, an instigator for the worst of their actions. He had used the twins' pain and blinded judgment as an excuse to unleash his malice upon Legolas with impunity. Because he wanted to hurt him. Now he was taking advantage of their actions towards Legolas to accuse the twins and excuse himself as an innocent led stray, and to hurt the Perendhil family that he claimed to serve, as much as he could.

Still fighting his own thoughts and feelings, he rose from his seat and took a step towards Elrond until he was side by side with him, brushing his shoulder with his own. Looking back to Thanon smug face, he locked gazes with the Noldor guard coolly, until Thanon started to falter in his attitude looking a bit nervous at the elven Prince’s cold facade.

"Thanon, I'm surprised by your attitude. Not only do you show no regret for your actions, but you seem dedicated to make as many enemies as you can in your path to destruction" - Legolas started, raising his hand to Elrond's elbow and leading the elf-Lord back to his seat in a show of solidarity. Elrond was surprisingly obedient to his guidance and sat back at his chair, maybe startled at this unexpected contact. Legolas caught his eye for a moment, while he was escorting him to the chair, before he turned back to Thanon - "Now, you are trying to excuse your actions by mentioning Lord Elladan and Elrohir. And you are trying to use me as your tool for this diversion. Let me tell you something. Any explanations I'm owed from them, I will ask them in person. Any problems I have with them and their treatment of me are mine to hash out with them. Any reparations I need from them, I will deal out to them, this has nothing to do with you. Or with your little troupe of lackeys. You forget that it was me you attacked, and I will not be an accomplice in this. Now, Lord Elrond asked you a simple question, to name all your companions in this venture. If you don't want to collaborate, you need only say so. I am sure one of your friends would feel more collaborative once they have been told the score." - Legolas concluded, turning his back to the dark-haired elf and retaking his seat, nodding back to Elrond.

Elrond felt the shock of Legolas's actions, his touch and his words, echoing inside him. He had never seen the wood-elf behaving as much as an elven Prince as he was seeing him now. His whole posture and attitude reminded him of his father's, and grandfather's, attitude and their teachings about family loyalty. With his own background, Elrond had never lived through the rigid Royal protocol he knew existed in Mirkwood. Not even as Gil-Galad's herald and heir. The late High King had been a fair and kind leader. He had ruled a mostly peaceful time, relatively speaking compared to the First Age, until Sauron had reemerged in Mordor and started his war on them. By then, the war had started in earnest and Elrond had abandoned the Court of Lindon for the battlefield and Rivendell.

Circumstances in Mirkwood were very different. Without a Ring to defend their borders, Oropher and Thranduil relied only on the strength of their soldiers, in their full undivided trust, to keep them safe in the forest and united. While the forest grow darker and their people started to suffer the influence of the dark forces in their own homes, the elven King had needed to send his own family, his own sons, to lead and fight among their troops as a sign of the commitment he had with the safety and wellbeing of his people. His children had rose to the challenge beautifully and became their people's heroes and beacons of hope, fighting and bleeding in their fight against orcs, spiders, wargs and all kinds of evil forces which tried to take control of the elven Realm. That symbol of hope they represented, forced them to keep a more rigid public attitude than the one they had at Rivendell. Behind closed doors Legolas and his siblings were as loving family as any other elven one. Thranduil doted on his sons, particularly the youngest one, and was as protective of them as a mother bear. This was known all around the elven Realms. But in day to day issues, before the Court, the King demanded from his family a united front for their people, so they would feel safe at their leadership.

This would explain Legolas present attitude at Thanon's accusations. As angry as he was about the twins he wouldn't want it to be used against the Perendhil. Elrond didn't know how to feel about this. On the one hand, he had felt his sons genuine regret at their actions and he didn't want to put it through a public trial which would put the focus in all the private problems they had as a family. On the other hand, he didn't want to make it easier for them that he would for the other guilty parties in this situation. Legolas deserved a fairer treatment than he had been given so far, and he wouldn't get it if the main guilty party wasn't judged among the others.

Gandalf, who had been sitting at the back forgotten by all, interceded then:

"It is clear to me that this situation has gone too far in too many levels." - the wizard said, rising from his seat. Elrond turned back to the wizard. - "I don't believe mere words will convince this elf or those who think like him to change their minds. I propose a solution to this dilemma, Elrond if I may?" - the Perendhil nodded back to the wizard in agreement - "I have the need of a few helpers for a task I am involved. It is a grave situation and it will need be investigated thoughtfully. It will be useful for me to be able to delegate some of this tasks to others. You and your companions can be given a choice, to wait for Elrond's decision whatever it is, or to accept this task with me." - the wizard concluded. Thanon looked ready to accept there and then, so Gandalf added - "I warn you, this task won't be easy or quick. You may be committed to it for years, or you may never come back from it. And once you accept it, you won't be able to turn back from it, and lastly... if you survive... you won't be the same" - Gandalf finished darkly.

Legolas, who had been listening to the wizard with curiosity wondering if the task had anything to do with his last adventure, looked a bit skeptical at the last part but said nothing. He was very aware that Gandalf's offer was a double edged one. If Thanon and his friends accepted it, it wouldn't be an easy path to take. Not only the grey wizard was always involved in the most dangerous affairs imaginable, which made the survival of his less-durable companions less than certain, but making that kind of deal with one of the Istari had deeper consequences that it seemed at first sight. Gandalf looked like one of the more laid back and 'homely' of the Maiar, but he was an emissary of the Powers and as such he worked with his own rules, to get involved in his affairs was a weighty decision. Legolas had no doubt that anyone who went with the wizard into this adventure would no longer be of concern to him or any other wood elf, regardless of the outcome. And maybe by going with him they could do some good to the fight against the darkness and compensate their actions in some way. Legolas would agree to the justice of this path if their actions helped to make the life of his people safer. Elrond for his part, probably having similar thoughts, nodded in agreement at the wizard offer and said to Thanon:

"This is your choice then, for you and your companions. You will have until the end of the week to think it through and give me your choices." - the elf-Lord concluded, calling for the guards outside to take him away. Thanon looked about to argue but under the cool grey gaze of the Perendhil, left the room without another word. Leaving the two elves and wizard alone in the study.

Elrond turned back to his companions, now they were alone. Once Thanon had left the room, Legolas had risen for his chair again and walked towards the window. He was looking blankly into the dark courtyard outside. Gandalf, after looking at the wood-elf thoughtfully, turned back to Elrond and said:

"This has been an interesting experience Elrond, but I've been wandering around for weeks and watching over reckless younglings is hard work. Don't make that face Legolas, you are as reckless as they come" - he added despite the fact that Legolas had not turned around and still had his back to the wizard. Gandalf continued - "I would like to retire now if you are so kind to give me a bed to rest on" - Elrond nodded with his head and called an attendant to accompany the wizard to his usual rooms. Legolas turned back from the window, looking as if he wanted to escape as well. Elrond did not wanting to lose this chance and said:

"Legolas, I would like for you to stay, please. I would like to talk with you for a bit" - the wood-elf looked torn between the wish to fly and his ingrained good manners. Good manners win, barely, but the younger elf stayed at the window, well away from the elven Lord. Gandalf left the room accompanied by one of the servants to his usual rooms, not without giving the wood-elf a loaded final look that Legolas was unable to interpret.

Elrond decided against going back to his seat. Trying to put the younger elf at ease, he walked to his shelves and started to talk lightly.

"I was very grateful at your actions today Legolas. I know my sons have done nothing to deserve your loyalty at this point. And their actions were more reprehensible on many levels than Thanon's because of their position at this house, as my sons and heirs, and your long standing friendship. But I believe that the three of you need to work this out among yourselves before any official punishment can be given." - Elrond said carefully, testing the wood-elf’s mood. Legolas stood, looking towards the dark exterior with his back to the room. Elrond wasn't able to judge his reaction to his words. The prince finally started to talk.

"I don't know how much you know about what have been happening over the last few years. I don't know how much you care about what has been happening." - Legolas started. Elrond made a pained noise at his words, but he continued talking without taking notice of it - "I didn't come back for revenge or reprisal, my Lord. I came back because, regardless of all have happened over the last three years, I don't want you dead or hurt. I don't know how much you have considered me family, but you were family to me long before we were bonded. You all were. Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen were as dear to me as my own siblings. I trusted them and loved them and would have defended them against any pain if it was in my hand to do it. I don't know how much of that remains, if any." - Legolas concluded, and turned back to the Elf-Lord. Looking straight into the grey eyes of the Noldor, the younger Sinda would have felt too intimidated to continue just a few weeks ago. But now, after all the pain and the desperation which had led him to escape the Valley, he felt bolstered to say what he thought, what he had wanted to say for years. Looking into the Perendhil eyes, he said:

"It's no longer important. It is clear to me that what I felt about your family, it wasn't returned. But that's not the important part. We need to decide what we are going to do with what we have. As far as I can tell, you were at risk when I left the Valley. The bond is not stable enough. It is clear to me that I am not enough for you as a bonded in any long term situation and that you don't actually want me in that role. I accept this" - at that moment, Legolas faltered for a moment, but swallowing down his pain, he continued - "When I first left, I left you a letter with an offer. You had time to think it through, what do you think about it?" - he finally asked.

Elrond felt a great weight fall on his shoulders at Legolas' words. It was clear that the younger elf didn't trust him enough to give him another chance, and that he wouldn't be easily swayed. When the last words of the other sank into his conscience, he was taken back to the moment he had first read Legolas' letter and the horror he had felt at the time. He tried to remember the offer he had been given at the letter:

"You mean about stepping aside for me to take another mate?" - he asked, feeling again the rejection he had felt originally at the thought of it. Legolas, however, nodded in agreement.

"You have had time to think about an appropriate candidate, surely? I am sure that Rivendell is full of people which could be a better fit for you" - Legolas said. Elrond went to Legolas' side at those words, feeling unable to keep his distance at the dispassionate voice. Closing in on the wood-elf, he ignored the distance Legolas was trying to keep, and took him by the shoulders. Legolas went rigid at his actions, but Elrond ignore it this time and said:

"I understand you are angry and hurt with me, Legolas. But regardless of how cruel and unfair I've been this past years you can't think me so evil that I would do this to you. That I would hurt you like this after you have saved my life" - Elrond said intensely, trying to make the younger elf understand. Legolas looked taken aback at his reaction. The sudden closeness of the older elf, which he had kept at arm's length since his return, had an unexpected effect reactivating the dormant bond they had and Legolas could feel the fear and worry the older elf was feeling at his proposal.

"I do not understand. What is wrong with transferring this bond to someone else? Someone better for you?" - Legolas asked, trying to put back the barriers on the bond, without much success. Elrond visibly tried to compose himself again, releasing Legolas' shoulders but picking up his hand, trying to impress the severity of what Legolas was proposing to the younger elf.

"To break a bond like ours Legolas... I don't know if I have the words to explain. I know your kin don’t usually bond like this. I realize that this kind of bond is foreign to you, but for the Noldor, we have been bonding like this from the beginning. It is a sacred bond, and it is a privilege to form a connection like ours. A true bond made without ceremony that connects those who are so very compatible that it doesn't need any effort. There is no better elf for me, and not only because this bond formed as it did, but because I've known you all your life Legolas and I know your heart and soul. And your offer... To break a bond like ours Legolas... as hurt as I was by Celebrian's actions, it was but a taste of how painful it would be to break our bond. Even if we both had lined up some volunteers to become our mates, I am not sure if any of us would survive the breaking or would be sane enough if we did. The last bond like ours was formed between Fingon and Maedhros and that was ages ago. The only reason Maedhros survived as long as he did after Fingon's death was because of his Oath, and you remember how that ended when he fulfilled it, don't you?" - Elrond asked. Legolas, who had been schooled by the best, at Elrond's own house, remembered the fate of Feanor's first son:

"He jumped into a volcano" - he said with a calmer voice than he felt. Elrond nodded grimly.

Chapter Text

Elladan and Elrohir entered the courtyard of Rivendell tiredly. They had been scouting the Valley defenses for three weeks, travelling around the outwards outposts and inspecting their situation. Rivendell, with its Ring of Power, had stronger defenses than other elven Realms. Its stronger defenses lay in the secrecy of its location, reinforced by the Ring's power, and the natural defenses of the Valley, strongly fortified by the mountains around. However, neither Elrond nor Glorfindel had ever liked to rely only on those advantages. Both were aware, by bitter experience, that sometimes the things that make you strong can also be your greatest weakness, your blind spot. So they had scattered around the Valley perimeter guard outposts which guarded the inner Valley, manned by elven warriors. This work was usually a mild one for the elves appointed to it, as most of the time nothing evil could cross the Ring's influence into the Valley. So they were also in charge of scouting the outer borders of the Valley for travelers in need of help, to be Elrond's eyes and ears about anything happening around them, and generally staying ahead of any possible threat to them or their neighbors.

Elladan and Elrohir had been going through these outpost, inspecting the state of the buildings, the state of the guards posted to them, and their attitude. To make sure they had all they needed to do their work as well as possible and that they hadn't lowered their guard. As needed as this inspection had been -the twins had found plenty of weakness to correct and report to their father- Elladan and Elrohir suspected that their father had given them the work to get them out of the way. The twins weren't blind to their father’s disappointment in them and the consequences of their actions. It was weighing heavily on them to be so helpless to do anything about their friend's disappearance. To be unable to mend that they had caused. Elladan, the more sensible of the brothers, had needed to hold back his twin from doing something reckless, such as leaving their duty to track down Legolas themselves. Elrohir's conscience was slowly wearing him down and he wanted to make amends any way he could. But Elladan was wisest of their actions and their father's own situation with the wood-elf. As much as he also wanted to make up for their actions, he knew it was long past the time they could do this easily by asking for forgiveness. They had a long way ahead of them before they could even start to make up for what they had done. And right now, it wasn't their needs that were important, but Legolas's and their father's ones.

With that in mind, he had held back his younger brother and stayed at their appointed duty, even with the suspicion that maybe they were being kept away from the house. A suspicion which had become almost a certainty when a message from Erestor had lengthen their work away from the house another week. He had, for once, kept his thoughts to himself without sharing them with Elrohir and persuaded him to stay away.

Getting off his horse now, he was trying to be circumspect in the inspection of his surroundings and the attitude of those who were in the courtyard, trying to find any hint in their faces of the presence of certain elven Prince in the house. To his uttermost frustration, no one was giving anything away. Elrohir has noticed his distracted attitude and was looking at him curiously. Elladan ignored his twin's questioning look and turned back to his horse to take his gear off the animal's back. Getting and shouldering his bag and weapons, he caressed Calad's head in thanks for his service before he allowed the groom to take him away. He turned back to the house and started for the stairs there, before he stopped suddenly when he noticed his father's presence on the steps. He didn't know why he was so surprised as the Elven-Lord had always tried to be there to welcome them home when they arrived. He inspected his father's face trying to read his mood. But the Perendhil was as difficult to read as usual, not giving anything away. Elladan walked to his father, his brother joining him on the stairs and they both stopped before the Elf-Lord bowing slightly in respect and waiting for him to talk. Elrond looked them over checking for injuries and, when he was satisfied of their health, he said:

"Elladan, Elrohir. Welcome back. You must be tired from your travels. You surely want to go to wash up and rest, I won't delay you for long. But I would like a word with you in private. Come with me" - he asked them, before turning around to the house. The twins looked to each other in question and followed him inside the building without a word.

Once they had reached Elrond's study, with the door closed behind them, Elrohir was unable to wait for another minute and exclaimed

"Ada! What is the rush? Has something happened? Has Legolas been found?" - he asked in a rush of words. Elladan didn't say a word, but looked to their father in question, waiting for the answer to his brother's questions which were also his. Elrond walked to the fireplace and with his back to them, started to talk:

"I've brought you here to talk with both of you and inform you of the latest news before you heard them from someone else." - Elrond started in his measured voice - "As you may have guessed, Legolas has returned to Rivendell" - Elladan and Elrohir looked to each other in grateful relief, although Elladan felt worried at their father's dark tone.

"He is back! Where was he? How did you find him? When can we talk to him?" - Elrohir asked anxiously. Elladan didn't feel as optimistic as his brother about the answer to these questions, but he waited for their father's answers regardless.

"He came back ten days ago. You will have to ask him if you want to know about his travels, but son" - at this, Elrond turned back towards them and looked to Elrohir seriously. - "You will find this difficult to do at the moment. I don't believe Legolas will easily trust any of us and you will not force him to talk." - their father concluded. Elrohir, who had been stepped back at their father's tone, looked back to Elladan in question. The older twin looked at their father and asked carefully, weighing his words.

"He is angry with us, isn't he? And he doesn't trust us" - he started, and without waiting for his father's answer he continued - "I'm not surprised. He shouldn't trust us, or even talk us ever again" - Elrond nodded with his head at this.

"He is angry and hurt and distrustful. You can't be surprised about this. I've been hearing about what has happened over the last three years and I'm only surprised that he lasted this long before he did something reckless or left" - Elrond looked even more grave at this and continued - "You should know that Thanon and his companions have left the Valley" - Elladan and Elrohir looked down ashamed at the other elf's name and then up again at the news.

"Left? You have expelled them from Rivendell?" - Elrohir asked carefully.

"In a way. They have been given a choice, to stay and face my judgment or to join Gandalf in a grave mission to redeem themselves. Most of them have joined the wizard and will spend the next few years helping him track down this new 'leader' that has been attacking the settlements around here." - Elrond explained.

"And the rest? You said most of them" - Elladan asked.

"They have left the Valley for the Havens. They may stay there with Cirdan to help him in his quest to keep it safe for those who want to leave this shores, or maybe they will sail and look for peace in the East. It is clear to me that the bitterness which lead them to attack Legolas has a deeper root than him. It is rooted more in the complicated history we share with our woodland kind, and they will need to find peace at their own pace. Legolas has agreed to this sentence as long as they have no chance to bother any of his kind again. Cirdan will keep an eye on those who decided to stay in these shores." - Elrond explained his sons. The twins looked to each other in question, and Elladan took the lead again to ask what they were both thinking.

"And what about us? Our behavior towards Legolas was as reprehensible as Thanon's or any of his friends. Even worse, taking into account that we are your sons and were Legolas' friends. Will we have the same choice as the others?" - Elladan asked, bracing himself for the worst. Elrond looked to his sons sadly.

"As my sons you know your responsibilities are different than others. So, any punishment I give to your will be different too. I won't lie to you, you both deserve to face consequences for what you have done and allowed others to do in your watch. You are not only my sons and heirs but you were responsible of the peace and safety of the people of this house. Legolas wasn't safe or happy in this house. He have suffered for three years the disdain and attacks of those who, following your example, thought he had done wrong to me and my house. Oh, I know Thanon and his friends were only looking for an excuse for their prejudices" - Elrond interrupted Elladan defense - "That is the reason why they are facing the consequences of their actions right now. But you allowed them to use your grief and bad judgment to excuse their wrongdoings. And because the two of you were involved, it made it easier for them to get away with it, without anyone speaking up to me or others about what was happening." - Elrond concluded. Elladan and Elrohir looked cowed at that, facing again the wrong they had done.

"So what is to be our punishment Ada?" - Elrohir asked. Elrond looked to his younger son with dark eyes and then to Elladan, finally he said:

"You are to leave the Valley" - Elrond sentenced gravelly. Both of his sons looked at him in muted horror. Despite all they had heard, they hadn't thought they would be expelled from their home. Elrohir couldn't avoid an exclamation of fear, while Elladan took his hand in support. Elrond denied with his head at their expressions - "You are not being expelled from Rivendell. Despite all have happened, you are still my heirs. But you will need to make reparations for your actions, learn a lesson of patience and consequences, and win back the trust of those who dwell in this house. Your actions, while unchecked, weren't unseen by Rivendell's citizens. I can't allow for anyone to think that your behavior is acceptable or that it will be treated differently because you are my sons" - Elrond said seriously. Elladan and Elrohir looked at each other in silent communication and the Elladan took the lead as usual:

"And where are we to go, Ada? We will accept your judgment as it is more than fair and we already repent of our actions and want to make reparations" - he asked for the both of them. Elrond nodded gravely and said.

"You will serve your sentence in all the elven Realms. And you will receive different lessons from each of them" - Elrond said. The twins looked surprised at this. Elrond continued - "You will start with Lothlorien. I want you to go there as my emissaries, to explain the Lords of that land what have been happening here. I am sure that Lord Celeborn will find very interesting the tales of your treatment of his kin" - he said, reminding his sons of their grandfather’s link to the woodleves, as both him and Thranduil had been kin to Doriath's King, Thingol. Elladan and Elrohir shuddered at the thought, as much as their grandmother Galadriel was legendary and sometimes eclipsed her husband, no one in their family would overlook the Golden Wood Lord as any less than he was: one of the few survivors of the First Age. Elrond nodded, satisfied at their reaction - "You will learn there, I think, a good history lesson and the meaning of family". Elladan looked a bit spooked at the thought and asked.

"How long will we be there?" - Elrond looked thoughtful.

"As long as it takes. I've talked to Galadriel. I haven't told her the story, as that's your duty, although I wouldn't think she is at all in the dark" - the twins shuddered again at that thought - "But she implied she would give you the time to think about you have done." - he said vaguely. Elrohir dared to ask then

"And from there, to Mirkwood?" - he asked. Elrond nodded with his head.

"I don't want for Thranduil to find out what has happened from rumors. You will go to him and personally explain to him what happened" - he said. The twins looked to each other alarmed again.

"He will throw us into his dungeons! And that, if he doesn't do something more permanent" - Elrohir said, fearfully. Elrond smiled a bit at that.

"I know the rumors, but I've known Thranduil for over an Age, he is fair and yes" - he smiled a bit humorously - "He will be furious, you will learn a lesson of bravery just by confronting his ire. But he won't do anything permanent to you. For anyone else, if I understand Mirkwood law correctly, you would be indentured for life to the royal family as compensation. As my heirs, this cannot be, so you will probably have to serve for a while in the forest. It won't be easy, but I don't think it will be too much for you, will it?" - he asked the twins. They both nodded to their father, and Elladan said.

"It won't be worse than what Legolas has gone through Ada. We won't complain if they want some payback for that" - his older son said. Elrond touch his forehead to his son’s in comfort and said.

"The wood-elves are fairer and kinder than others credit them. You have known Legolas for a long time and you know this. But they also are fiercely protective of their own. You will need to prove yourself to them, but they will not mistreat you. You will learn much from them" - Elrond said. - "And once you have finished there, you will go to Cirdan" - he concluded. The twins looked to each other at that, wondering if that last assignment would be easy. Elrond read their minds and said.

"Cirdan already knows what happened, as he has accepted Thanon's friends in his service and to keep an eye on them. He will probably know even more of the details by the time you go to him. As with your grandfather, he looks poorly to those Noldor who think themselves superior and he has lived through many of those. I think he can teach you a lesson or two on what is really important. You will go there, once you are finished in Mirkwood, to inspect how things are going with Thanon's friends. And Cirdan will give you the duties he feels are fit for you. You will help him until he sends you back" - Elrond concluded. The twins nodded in acceptance of their sentence. Before they could leave his presence, Elrond called one last instruction to them:

"There is one thing you will need to do before leaving" - he said to them. Both twins nodded as one, already knowing this last thing.

"We need to talk to Legolas" - Elrohir said, grimly. Elrond nodded to him.

"Yes, he can ignore you after, and certainly he doesn't need to accept any apology you make to him. But you should clear the air with him, even if he is not ready to trust anything you may say to him. It may be that he won't listen to you and you will need to wait until you come back" - the twins nodded unsurprised at this, and Elladan asked then.

"Where can we find him then?" - Elrohir dared to ask his father. He was surprised at the strange face his father made at his question.

"You will find him in the library" - he said. Elrohir looked surprised to his twin.

"The library!" - not that Legolas wasn't found at the library sometimes, as he was clever and learned. But for his father to say it like that, it seemed like he was spending most of his time there. Elladan spoke up then, figuring something was up with that.

"Why is he in the library?" - he asked his father. Elrond smiled faintly.

"He is researching bonds" - he admitted. The twins looked to each other unsurprised this time.

"Well, that sounds...logical, isn't it? But why are you looking like that?" - he looked dubiously to his father's attitude. Elrond nodded to his sons' confusion.

"It is logical. I can't fault him for trying to understand this bond. It's not that. It's the reasons he has to do this research" - he hesitated for a moment and continued - "He doesn't trust the information I gave him, so he is looking for confirmation." - he admitted. The twins looked confused at this.

"What information he is not trusting Ada?" - Elladan asked finally. Elrond smiled again, sadly.

"Mostly everything. How it was formed, the kind of bond it is, the fact you can't easily break it or transferred it to someone else" - he said in an even tone. Elladan wasn't fooled in the least.

"Break it or transferred it?" - he asked, horrified. With his Noldor upbringing, he had been taught the importance of those bonds. But he was aware that their woodland prince hadn't that kind of teachings. He and his brother looked to each other in mute horror.

Chapter Text

The library of Imladris was one of the remaining wonders of Middle Earth, it holds most of the knowledge the Noldor elves had gathered in three Ages, and as much of the knowledge from other races as Elrond had been able to compile.

Legolas had always been fascinated by the great airy stances to read and reflect, and the great dark rooms to better preserve the precious tomes. Some rooms were reserved for the work of Rivendell's library staff, and they were continuously working there. Elrond's scribes worked all the time to copy the books from the shelves, so they could be used as daily resources not only seen by a few privileged. Elrond was of the opinion that knowledge should be shared as much as it could be. Legolas had appreciated this feeling, although he knew it was not always implemented as it should. Among the free races, it was difficult to get everyone to cooperate in such a venture. Each race had their secret techniques, text, languages... and they were resistant to share them, especially taking into account that all of them had, at some point, been at war with each other. Even the different clans of elves had history and bad blood between them, as Legolas had suffered in person.

Even Elrond and his people had their own secrets they wouldn't disclose, even in Rivendell's wonderful library. The story and making of the three elven Rings for one, was such a secret, even the current owners of the Rings were something no one wanted to confirm. Even if some of them were pretty obvious.

Legolas placed a book in the discarded pile with disgust. He had planned to research three main subjects he felt were related to his current situation: he wanted to know about bonds, all kinds of bonds, mental, romantic, friendship, brother-in-arms even so he could try to understand his own bond and figure out the limits, characteristics, etc. Secondly, he wanted to know about the elven Rings, figure out which one Elrond was wearing and how it affected the elven lord and therefore how it affected Legolas and their bond. At lastly, he wanted to know about the Perendhil, the half-elves, their story, characteristic, how it had shaped and affected the Lord of Rivendell, and therefore, how it affected Legolas.

Of these three subjects, he had started to research bonds, because he felt that was the most pressing to his current situation, also the other two subjects he cared mainly to figure out how they altered a normal bond, so... bonds first. His results had been pretty mixed, with ups and downs. He had found a lot of tales of bonds in the elven history: some romantic like Fingon and Maedhros, Melian and Thingol, Tuor and Idril, Luthien and Beren, even Aredhel and Eöl although this last pair was open to discussion... some epic-friendships like Ecthelion and Glorfidel, Turin and Beleg (that pair, some also put them as romantic) and some brothers-in-arms like Finrod and Beren, Turgon and Tuor, Rog and Penlod... Mostly of them were Noldor or involved one Noldor or a Maia. However, while the tales were described in many books sometimes in painstaking detail, sometimes with endless discussions about the nature of the bond, he hadn't found so much information about the bonds themselves. After a while, he had decided he had approached his research wrong. He had been looking for an essay describing bonds in history and philosophy, but maybe he should look them up in the healing and science section. Looking for a more physical approach.

After that decision, he had been more successful. He had found many essays expounding the nature and uses of bonds in healing. How a bonded pair became more difficult to harm, how to use them to reinforce a flagging health on a pregnant elf, how to improve your abilities using the knowledge of your partner... Legolas wasn't surprised that bonds were so revered by the Noldor as the abilities they afforded were innumerable. It also didn't surprise him that they hadn't taken among the Sindar. To his Sindar sensibilities, as useful as they sound, they gave the bonding pair quite the dependence on them and the other side of the bond, and the tales of the consequences of a broken bond also filled the books around him: Maedhros madness after Fingon's death, Luthien's choice, Turin failing to recognize his own sister after the death of Beleg.

Legolas wasn't sure if all the information he had gathered was useful for his current situation, and nothing he had read had explained to him how bonds were created with enough detail for him to make any conclusions of how his own had been done. He had gotten the impression that some of them were easier to create than others and there was some natural compatibility involved, but it wasn't clear to him how to test that compatibility between a potential pair. Given his own experience, and Elrond's insinuations, he suspected Elrond and him had that natural compatibility between them, as their bond appeared to have formed almost by its own. Legolas couldn't tell if this was a good or a bad thing at this point. A voice intruded in his solitude.

"If you wanted information, I could have helped you find those books, you know? That is actually one of my functions here" - Erestor commented, appearing from behind one of the high shelves. Legolas looked up from the book he was reviewing to the dark-haired Noldor. He hesitated for a moment before answering the older elf.

"I am aware of your duties Lord Erestor, and I know that you know this library and its books better than anyone except maybe Lord Elrond" - Legolas nodded in agreement. He hesitate how to phrase the next part and he said, trying for tact - "But I want to find the answer myself, not to be...led to them" - he explained. Erestor seemed to read between the lines or maybe had been talking to Elrond because he wasn't fooled.

"You mean you don't trust me, or anyone here, to give you the answers you want instead of a carefully censured version that we want you to believe"- he said directly. Legolas wasn't surprised by his straightforward approach. Erestor wasn't known for beating around the bush. Legolas decided to answer him in kind

"I mean, I want to try to find the answers by myself so I can trust them as much as possible. Taking into account that this is Lord Elrond's house and Lord Elrond's library and if he wants to hide a book or ten so I can't find relevant information to my situation, I can't do anything to avoid it and, actually, I probably won't even notice it" - he said plainly. Erestor nodded in response.

"I don't blame you. In your place, I would feel the same as you. I can tell you that Elrond hasn't taken a book from this library to impede your research and that I wouldn't led you astray because as a scholar, that would be against all I stand for. But that wouldn't change anything, would it? You would need to trust my word for it and, for three years, all of us who stood by and did nothing to help you have our very characters in question, don't we?" - Erestor asked. Legolas didn't feel that warranted an answer, so he kept quiet. Erestor snorted at his silence. He took a few steps like he was going to leave, but at the last moment he turned around and took the seat before Legolas, nervously putting his hands before him and looking down at them as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world. The elven Prince looked at him in curiosity. He had known Erestor for a long time, studying under his tutelage when he was younger, and he had never seen him this skittish in his life. Whatever he was gearing himself to tell, it was clearly not a simple issue. Finally, after checking no one was close enough to overhear, Erestor started to talk:

"I understand your trust in us is broken Legolas, and I don't blame you. What was done to you was a travesty, something I had hoped we had left behind us after the wars of the First Age. I would share a tale with you. I don't do this as a play for forgiveness because I know that will take time and patience. But some things can be permanent and some mistakes can't be taken back. I want to help you and I hope you can learn from my experience and avoid some of my own mistakes." - Erestor said in grave voice. Legolas, after hesitating for a few moments, closed the book he had been browsing and turned his whole focus on his former teacher.

"You may have noticed by now, that Noldor's marriage bonds are very common, particularly for those of us who were born during the First or Second Age. Now you are aware of the scope of abilities afforded by those bonds, have you noticed that not all of us who are married have the use of those skills?" - Erestor aked. Legolas nodded carefully, as he had indeed wondered about it.

"When Lord Elrond communicated with me from a distance, I wondered why this wasn't a more common skill among scouts and messengers. If we had a bonded pair in each side of a communication path we could have accurate information almost instantly. I figured that would be very grieving for the bonded pair, to be apart for long periods of time and given what I've been reading it could be a dangerous affair for put half of a bonded pair in a dangerous assignment" - Legolas explained. Erestor smiled at him like he did when he was younger and reached a correct conclusion but it lacked to take into account the hidden trap.

"It is so. Messengers and scouts are dangerous jobs and with a pair bond like that, it's common for them to ask for a safer assignment and also for positions which allow them to stay closer to their bonded. Of course there is always the need for compromise, and many warriors, for example, kept their positions even after bonding because they are needed. But we try to shift the more dangerous assignments regularly." - Erestor explained. Legolas nodded in understanding because he knew, even without those bonds, they did similarly in his father's Realm. Erestor then asked - "Glorfindel also doesn't have the possibility to stay grounded and safe. As Rivendell's Seneschal and Commander of Elrond's armies he is always running patrols and going into missions." - Erestor continued and looked to Legolas expectant. Legolas asked the obvious question.

"Why don't you use the bond to communicate? You have been bonded from before I was born but I've seen Glorfindel sending messages by bird or elf. He would have sent them with you if he could" - Legolas observed neutrally. Erestor nodded in agreement.

"That is correct. We can't talk to each other with our minds. Our bond is weaker than many and barely allow us to send emotions when we are really close, and to share some strength when needed. Actually, as someone with Vanya blood, Glorfindel is able to send his thoughts even from long distances." - Erestor explained and looked down to his hands. Legolas looked at him thoughtfully, still not fully understanding the point of the story.

"Then why the two of you can't do this? You are Noldor and you have loved each other for a long time, you can't be having the problems I have with Elrond." - Legolas asked, intrigued despite himself.

"I was captured as a child and lived as a thrall for the Easterlings for decades. Until the War of Wrath sank Belerian, and we could escape" - he admitted. Legolas blinked in surprise, fascinated. Erestor continued thoughtfully. - "When I managed to rejoin civilization, I travelled among the Wandering Companies and, after a while, joined Gil-galad's Court. But I lived most of my formative years among thralls and slaves, and no matter how much time passed, I couldn't forget" - Erestor explained. Legolas nodded and ventured.

"And that impedes you from sending messages through your bond?" - he asked, still unsure of how this applied to his own situation. Erestor waved his hand as if he was dismissing that.

"When I met Glorfindel, at Gil-galad’s Court, he had just arrived from Aman with the Istari. He was reborn, golden, bright and light of spirit. Just about the opposite of me. But despite that, we became friends and it became obvious that we were well matched together. Well, obvious for Glorfindel anyway" - Erestor smiled at the memory - "But for me... the memory of my parent's bond was almost faded and the only experience I had with mental arts were Morgoth's slavery and thralls bonds. I had expended a long time defending from that, so when Glorfindel tried to connect us..." - Erestor trailed off.

"It didn't take?" - Legolas asked. Erestor snorted.

"That's an understatement. The bond was so natural and easy, It was so easy to get lost in it... The memories that it brought back were too much, I wasn't ready and we didn't realize that could happen so we didn't have a healer at hand. I rejected the connection so suddenly and violently that I harmed myself. I went into a deep sleep and stayed like that for months. I lost part of my memories, some of them never to recover them and the part of me which would allow me to bond... it never recovered" - he concluded.

Legolas shuddered in response. As much as he hadn't grown with the knowledge of those bonds and he hadn't actually searched for one of his own, after a few days researching them, he had started to understand how they were seen by the Noldor. They were a fundamental part for a couple to feel joined. Marriages between Noldor and other elves, who sometimes didn't involve those bonds, were usually not seen by other Noldor as 'valid'. It's true that all elven marriages went deeper than just the party and the family blessings. All elven couples joined their fëas when they married and Legolas knew his father had felt his mother's death long before he had been notified of it. But Sinda and Sylvan didn't go as deep as Noldor did, joining minds, sharing experiences, working together and combining abilities. And so, they didn't feel the lack as much. Legolas didn't have a normal bond with Elrond, and it had been closed for most of their relationship, and still he could already feel an instinctive rejection to Erestor's tale.

Erestor seemed to understand his feelings even if Legolas tried to keep a calm facade.

"I know. You don't need to hide what you feel to spare my feelings Legolas. Even you, who didn’t grown with these bonds are starting to understand the loss Glorfindel and I had suffered. There is a reason I wanted to tell you this, to share this tale with you, and it wasn't to ask for your pity" - Erestor said kindly. Legolas was starting to see where this was going at last.

"Lord Elrond has already warned me that to break or transfer this bond to someone else is a difficult and dangerous enterprise, leading maybe even to madness. From what I've been reading the last few days, it seems like it's something than almost no one has even considered. And now you came to me with this tale, which I'm aware can't have been easy for you to tell. You are worried that I will do something irreparable in my rage, aren't you?" - he asked. Erestor nodded to the younger elf, leaning on the table with his hands tightly pressed.

"We are. I know you were badly treated Legolas, and that Elrond, and many others in this house, owe you a great apology and more than a few reparations...but please, if I my experience can lead to something good, let it be a warning for you. Don't do anything you can't change later. The first damaged by any permanent choice you make, will be you. And some things can never be repaired, no matter how much you regret it later" - Erestor concluded earnestly.

Legolas looked thoughtfully to the older elf, aware of how private he had always been. Even with the anger and distrust he still felt for most of Rivendell's inhabitants, he couldn't reject this painful olive branch his former mentor was trying to give to him.

"I have heard what you have to say Lord Erestor, and I understand and appreciate how difficult it was for you to tell me this. I won't let this lesson you have come to teach me be lost. I don't fully believe that there is no alternative to this bond, or some way to alter it at least, so we can make our own choices. Just because the Noldor revere them as they do that they don't dare to challenge them when they are formed doesn't make them immutable. But I won't do anything rash, that much I can promise you. And I will consult with Lord Elrond before I try any possibility. I didn't come back here to spare Lord Elrond from suffering from this bond just to turn around and break both of our minds in some reckless decision." - Legolas concluded.

Erestor looked unsatisfied at his answer but unsurprised. With the trust in them as low as it was with Legolas, it was too much to hope for him to trust any of them at their word. But at least, he was wary enough not to make any permanent choices just for spite. It would have to be enough for now. Erestor had known the elven Prince since he was a child and he knew he wouldn't back up in his word. He rose from his seat and bowed to the younger elf in respect, returning to his duties while leaving Legolas to continue with his research.

Chapter Text

Legolas returned the last book to its place in the shelves and gathered in his arms the ones he wanted to take with him to his rooms. Rivendell's librarians allowed the residents of the valley to borrow a few books for small periods of time, if you returned them as soon as possible and in the same condition as they were when you took them. Legolas usually stayed at the library anyway because there, he had a working space and plenty books for cross-referencing while he was researching.

It was almost dinner time now, and he needed to go back to his rooms while the staff worked in setting the library to rights after a whole day of people working in it. Legolas went to the Noldo in charge of taking notes of the loaned books and smiled to her in greeting. In the last few days he had become friendly with many of the library staff, who found him a polite and quiet visitor, so he had become a favorite of them.

"Healing again?" - Saelhel asked, a silver haired young scholar who worked in the library for access to its extensive knowledge. She picked up the two books he was taking and noted down the titles in the library record book. Nobody, except for Elrond and Erestor, knew what he was researching about, and the books he took out covered a lot of topics, so he suspected there was a bet going about it among the library staff. The librarians were always trying to wheedle some information from him and Legolas usually played along just enough to keep them guessing.

"And history. I'm branching out, I needed a small change of subject tonight" - Legolas smiled, showing the second book title for her record taking 'History of the Second Age' by some Noldor author. He wondered what the gamblers would make of it.

He had heard some speculation around, when they didn't notice him near, about what he was researching and why: male pregnancy to give Elrond another child, improved healing with marriage bonds -for some reason he had some reputation of getting often hurt, he couldn't figure out why-, healing basics -some speculated he was trying to find some common ground with Elrond-, and so on. With this new topic, probably some of that theories would be dropped and some new would surface. Only for that reason it was worth to take the book, as for the book itself, Legolas didn't expect much of it but he hoped some information about the elven Rings. He doubt there would be too much of detail in the public books of the library - he was sure there was many titles with better information in Elrond's personal library which weren't available to the general public - but he wouldn't be worse than now. At worst, it would make a good book to fall asleep to, some of those Noldor authors were dry to say the least.

After a bit more small talk with Saelhel, he wanted to keep the good will of the library staff after all, he took his leave and went back to his rooms.

Crossing the corridors at this hour, he was able to avoid the worst of the rush of those who would be leaving for dinner soon. But he still had enough time to reach his room where he would leave his books and wash up while others went to dinner. Once the corridors were again empty from people, he would go to the kitchens for some food. The kitchen staff was used to this routine by now and would leave a plate ready for him next to the entrance. The first days, they had offered to take his food to his room if he didn't want to brave the dining halls, but Legolas felt guilty about the extra work he was imposing in them and preferred this compromise. Still, Rivendell's head cook had a soft spot for the Sinda Prince, so kind and polite to them, and would often make Legolas's favorites, instead of the fare which was served in the main room. Legolas, not going to the dining room, didn't know about this and thought lucky to get so many of his preferred foods.

As with other people in the valley, like the ones who had prepared Legolas's rooms, Rivendell's kitchen staff tried to improve Legolas stay in the Valley. Maybe to make up for the previous years, or maybe just because they liked the young Prince.

Legolas reached his room without incident and, after leaving his books in the table next to the bed, for 'light' reading tonight, he went to the en suite bathroom to wash up. Whiles he was reading and washing up, he lost himself in his head going over what he had been reading this evening. He hadn't been lying to Saelhel when he said her that he had been branching out healing because he need a change of subject. He was starting to suspect he couldn't learn much more about this bonds from the library books. Two things had become clear to him: one, that Noldor revered those bonds and that colored the way they saw them. And two, every couple and bond were wildly different from each other. The mental skill of each one of the pair, the trust among the couple, the compatibility between the personalities... every factor made the difference between a bond like the one Erestor and Glorfindel had, where they can barely sense each other in the same room despite the love they shared, and a bond like the one he shared with Elrond, where they could share skills at great distances despite the problems they had otherwise.

Having finished his bath, Legolas dressed in a comfortable lounging clothes and prepared for his foray into the kitchen. Slipping out of his rooms, he went down the stairs towards the House's kitchens. This was a familiar path to the wood-elf, who had crossed that hallways to steal into the kitchen with the twins for centuries, in kinder times when they were still friends. As he had recalled them from his memories, just when he was turning into the kitchen's hallway, he saw two familiar forms in his path. Sheer instinct made him stop in his tracks, looking to the older elves in trepidation. Elladan and Elrohir looked to each other in their usual silent communication and Elladan seemed to be the designed speaker for the two, because he took a small step ahead of his twin and started to talk:

"Legolas" - Elladan said softly, treading carefully like Legolas was a scared child he needed to soothe before coming closer. Legolas looked back in silence, keeping his eye in both twins while surreptitiously trying to see if someone else was in the hallway behind him. It wouldn't be the first time they had tried to ambush him alone and trap him between them and their new friends. He remembered then, those friends had left with Gandalf into their new quest or with some guards to Cirdan's domain. Still, he didn't feel any safer at this unexpected encounter. It was clear that the twins had come here specifically to meet with him. Probably having studied his habits since they had returned. He cursed himself for having let himself to relax this last weeks, thinking Elrond sincere at least about what had happened. He decided to treat this situation as he would with an unexpected foe. He would stall for time while he searched for a way out.

"Elladan, Elrohir" - he answered at last in as even a voice as he could. Measuring the path ahead of him, he decided he couldn't go forward to the kitchen doors without having to pass next to the twins. Behind him were the service stairs he had used to come here, he started to back up towards them. - "I didn't realize the two of you weren't using the main dining Hall, I will come back later" - he said trying to leave as soon as possible. Elrohir made a strangled sound behind his brother but Elladan silenced him with a look and turned back to Legolas, raising his hands pleadingly.

"Please Legolas, we didn't come here for food. We were trying to talk to you in private, but we didn't feel we had the right to go to your rooms. And you hadn't been anywhere but there and the library. We feel this was the only time we could find you alone" - Elladan said with a calm but pleading tone. Legolas congratulate himself in his successful escapes to the woods. Clearly, they had been discreet enough not to be noticed. Although now, he would have preferred to have the trees to escape than this dark hallway. Without stopping his backing up, he answered.

"You will forgive me, I'm sure, if I told you I'm not feeling reassured that you were trying to get me alone. I am, by now, very aware of your opinion of me and I don't need any further reminders quite yet." - he said, almost having reached the bottom of the stairs. Elladan and Elrohir had been following after him, keeping their distance but not letting him get away.

"We haven't come here to insult you Legolas, or to make any more threats to you. Things have changed these last few weeks, we have..." - Elladan trailed off, not sure of how to explain the change of heart his twin and him had. - "...we have realized we were wrong" - He admitted finally. Legolas stopped at the bottom of the stairs looking a bit surprised. As much as he didn't want to believe anything those two had to say, he was surprised at this admission. Both twins were prideful and he had barely ever heard them admit they were wrong, certainly not to him. Mostly he had heard them admit that to their father, sometimes to Glorfindel and Erestor, but no one else. He couldn't help himself to point that out and ask.

"Wrong? I never heard you to admit that to me. And wrong about what? Over the last few years there has been a lot of conversations, if you can call them that" - he said the last part ironically. Elladan flinched in response, hearing it and clearly remembering how some of those conversations had ended. Insults and threats had been the norm that past few years. They had never physically assaulted Legolas - the ransacking of his room had been the worst of the physical violence he had suffered - but there had been plenty insinuations about dire consequences if he ever tried to replace their mother's place in their father's heart or bed.

"Our treatment of you these past years was wrong Legolas, and none of our words in that time were worth the education we have been given by our tutors." - Elladan said, clearly repeating some agreed words between him and his brother. Elrohir nodded behind him. Legolas felt unable to believe this sudden change of heart.

"And you reached this conclusion by yourselves?" - Legolas had stopped at the bottom of the stairs, ready to take them if any of the twins made any motion to rush him. The older elves, however, had stayed a few steps away, a distance enough not to make him feel too crowded, but close enough to make their conversation private if anyone else appeared. - "Over the last three years you have accused me endlessly of" - he started to count aloud - "Taking advantage of your father's situation, forcing your mother to leave by attaching myself to Lord Elrond, trying to raise myself above my station, trying to insinuate some obscure wood-elf agenda to some dark end... have I forgotten something?" - he asked ironically and continued before any of the twins could defend themselves - "Nothing I said, if I was allowed to say something, was taken into consideration and I wasn't allowed to defend myself. You didn't even give me the courtesy of talking me alone, give our long-time friendship a chance and talk this through among us. You were always followed around by your new 'friends' and avoided me otherwise... and now you have suddenly discovered you were wrong... I don't know if I care to know, because it's not going to change anything but... what brought this change?" - he asked, already suspecting the answer. As angered as the twins had been, there was a reason which may had reached them in their mindless path to destruction: further loss to their family.

Elladan and Elrohir looked to each other again, using their connection to search for an answer which allowed them to save some of their former friendship. They were aware it wasn't looking good for the two of them. And as Legolas knew them and their way of thinking, they were also aware of how the elven Prince thought. Giving the last week’s discoveries, he would already have formed his own opinion of the reasons for their recent change of heart, and he wouldn't believe them sincere in their regret. Elrohir, the more impulsive and sincere of the two of them, decided to speak then.

"It's not what you are thinking Legolas" - he said earnestly. And at Legolas skeptical look, continued - "After you left the Valley, Ada called us to his study"- Legolas looked interested at this new information despite himself, and listened in silence. Elrohir kept talking at his interested look, hoping to reach his former friend - "He was furious with us by our behavior, that he hadn't been aware before" - he added forcefully at Legolas renewed skeptical look. He realized then that, more important than he and his brother's situation with Legolas, it was his father and Legolas's relationship which had suffered the most by their selfish attitude. And they needed to repair their part in that breakage, even more than they needed to make up for their own actions. - "He didn't know Legolas, truly. The last few years, after Naneth rejection" - he choked a bit at the word - "He was crushed, not because they were a successful marriage - I realize that now - but because she threw in his face all the fears he had about himself" - and here it came the part where he and his twin didn't feel proud of - "And Elladan and I took advantage of his distraction, while he tried to put himself together, to enact our own misguided revenge. We though he was too hurt to defend himself and..." - he trailed off remembering Elrond's words about the bond he had formed with the wood-elf. -"We thought you formed a bond with him unnecessarily" - he admitted. Legolas looked too surprised to answer warily at that last part.

"Unnecessarily? I formed the bond?!?" - he exclaimed, almost angered and continued - "I didn't do anything but touch him, to try and help him to go to the healers!" - he said. Both twins looked unable to process this new information. Legolas looked beyond offended, almost as offended as he had been when they had purposely insulted him in the past. - "I didn't meant to form any bond with Elrond, it wouldn't have even crossed my mind that I could or should! I didn't know what was wrong with him, the fact that Lady Celebrian had broken their bond unilaterally and left him unmoored was explained to me much later!!" - he almost shouted, while surprise, anger and offense warred inside him. Always calm and collected, it was weird to see the Sinda Prince lose his cool in any situation, but he had been blindsided at what he saw as a new attack in his character.

Elladan and Elrohir looked even more sick than they had when they had first recognized their wrongful actions. They had backed up from the other elf with every word they heard, and they looked to each other helplessly. Their initial intention with this confrontation had been to clear the air the best as possible before they were forced to leave at the end of the week, but they hadn't been expecting this. Even as wrongly as they knew they had judged the other elf, this was even worse. Not only Legolas hadn't tried to form a permanent bond with their father, he hadn't even tried to form a bond at all! In their pain they had forgotten a key trait of their friend and his people. The bonds which were so common and revered for the Noldor were barely known among their woodland kin, so they wouldn't be able to recognize a failing bond when it happened and Elrond had fallen to the ground for the pain of it. All this time, they had though Legolas had taken advantage of the situation to form a bond with the Lord of Rivendell. Even after they had been forced to admit by their father that he hadn't done this on purpose, they had though it had been an accidental bonding while he was trying to help the older elf. Now, they realized he hadn't even known what was happening, and he had only reached out for the older elf.

Did they father knew this? Did anyone?

After his outburst, Legolas looked almost drained of words and sat down at the bottom of the stairs, putting his hands to his face. The twins looked at each other helplessly, not knowing what to do now.

Chapter Text

Legolas looked through the window of his bedroom, hidden behind the curtains to the crowd below in the courtyard. He didn't need to ask what was happening as this day has been marked in his mind all week: Elladan and Elrohir were leaving for their 'exile'. They were settled above their horses and Elrond had finished his farewells, his face grave, while some of the servants and soldiers were wandering about watching the young heirs leaving the Valley. At the last moment, just when they were clearing the courtyard, passing through the archway leading out in the forest, Elrohir took a look back to the house settling his gaze just into Legolas's window. For a moment Legolas and he made eye contact, even if Legolas wasn't sure he could be seen behind the curtains, but after a few seconds, Elrohir turned back in his saddle and crossing the archway vanished from sight. Legolas let go of the breath he had been holding.

Legolas had opposing feelings about this departure, even more after their encounter two days ago at the kitchen hallway where he had finally spotted a shadow of his former friends. The twins and he had been friends and companions from the moment they met, a millennia ago when Legolas had been barely out of childhood, fascinated by those fascinating identical elves. The twins, for their part, had been so happy to finally find a friend who would treat them as normal elves not children from legends and strange creatures to be watched from afar. They had fought their families initial resistance, the division between their Realms and the ongoing duties the three of them had which kept them away from each other for years.

All the difficulties in their path had made their friendship stronger and through that growing bond, Legolas liked to believe they had been able to pull their respective Realms and families closer, improving collaboration and communication, if only because they had little secrets between them and they kept each other apprised of any problems they or their Realms faced. The twins had been the ones to inform Legolas of the fall of Arnor, the return of the Witch King of Angbard and the struggles among the Man with the breaking down of the Northern Kingdom of the Dúnedain. In return, Legolas had informed the twins of the darkening of the Greenwood, until it came to be called Mirkwood, much to his father's displeasure, and the return of some dark force to the tower of Dol Guldur, along with his father's suspicions of the source of that evil. All that accounts had been relayed to their respective fathers and, in that way, both Realms had kept informed of the problems arising at each side of the Misty Mountains.

In the hallway, two days ago, Legolas had again seen the friends he had yearned for so long, and who had been driven away by the grief of their failing family. Their shock at his announcement had been the last piece of a long-standing misunderstanding, and Legolas wasn't sure if he had in himself to be further offended by the assumption that he had known what was happening three years ago. The fact the twins had believed he had been trying and failing to make some kind of temporal bond to drag Elrond out of the fugue he had fallen at Celebrian's actions would have been amusing if the consequences of the last three years hadn't been so painful. Even if they no longer believed he had taken advantage of the situation to ingratiate himself in his family, for them to think he would have been so rash to try any kind of healing at that moment was still wholly offensive.

A knock in the door jolted him out of his musing and he left the window to answer it. At the other side of the door was Elrond himself, still dressed in his formal clothes after having bidden farewell to his sons. Legolas and the elven Lord looked at each other in silence for a few moments.

"I apologize for disturbing you. I wished to talk to you and I took the chance you were awake, can I come in?" - he asked. Legolas hesitated minutely, over the last few weeks after Elrond had confessed the nature of their bond, he had left him alone so he could come to terms with it in his own time. Legolas had been using that time to research as much as it was available of bonds in the library, also withdrawing from the elven Lord. But he knew sooner or later Elrond would confront him again, he hadn't expected to be so soon after the twins departing. He took a step back from the threshold and motioned him inside.

"Come in. I didn't expect anyone this early but I can never sleep much past sunrise" - he admitted, leading both to the small seating niche where he spent his evenings after the library closed to keep reading whatever book he had taken out. Currently, he had a book detailing the time just at the end of the War of Wrath. As far as he had been able to tell, it had been about then when the two half-elves had been given the choice to follow one of their parents' races. He hadn't found much about it, or how than choice had been given but he had been drawn in the book's descriptions of the Valar, the Elven army came from the Western Shore and the fall of Morgoth.

Elrond followed after him giving an interested look to the book he had been reading. He took it in his hands and opened it to the marked page, reading briefly at the passage he had been last night. He then looked up to Legolas and commented.

"This is an unusual book to choose, I thought you had been researching bonds?" - he asked, letting the book down and taking a seat in one of the small couches. Legolas took the seat in front of him and answered.

"I've been researching all I could that had anything to do with my situation" - he admitted. Elrond looked surprised at the answer and asked.

"And what does the last great battle of the First Age have to do with this situation?" - Elrond asked, looking fascinated. Legolas raised an eyebrow in answer and observed.

"You were there, weren't you?" - Elrond looked bewildered at that answer and admitted.

"I was. I was very young then and I didn't participate in the fight but I was at Ereinion's camp at the time" - he said warily. Legolas nodded his head as he had something confirmed.

"You told me this bond was something unique. A Noldor bond revered for over three Ages isn't it?" - he asked. Elrond acquiesced with a nod of his head, without saying a word, waiting to see Legolas's point. The Prince continued

"But my people don't create these bonds. At the start I was focused on seeing how it could be broken or transferred" - he persevered despite Elrond's distressed noise -"Just because Noldor believe it can't be done it doesn't make it true. I wanted to see if it had even tried. It wasn't easy as your library is written mainly by Noldor's authors"

Legolas smiled wryly and continued -" and even the books not written by them, don’t talk much about these bonds because the Sinda and Sylvan don’t usually bond this way. It's true that elven marriage bonds are created all around our race, my own people don't perform these ceremonial bonds, they only let them develop as they may, without any strengthening as the Noldor do. If any of those bonds ended being unconsciously as strong as ours is, they wouldn't talk much about it as it would be considered a potential weakness: to attack the couple you only needed to harm one of them, or at least that's what my people would believe. So after a few days, I decided to turn into another research path. I've been researching other mixed couples trying to see if that made the bond different in some way."

Elrond nodded again, impressed.

"And then I realized something." - he declared, he had all Elrond's attention by then - "Neither of us are actually Noldor" - Legolas concluded. Elrond seemed to be surprised at this observation. Legolas, who had by now realized that part of Celebrian ranting of Elrond's origins had harmed the Perendhil in a place where he didn't know he could be harmed, hastened to explain further not wanting, even after all the pain he had undergone, giving the wrong impression

"I know you were brought up as Noldor, and you and the people of Rivendell follow that culture, but by blood and family, you are much more Sinda than Noldor. Idril Celebrindal was truly the only Noldor you have among your ancestors." - he said.

Elrond was awed by this unexpected rationalising he hadn't been anticipating, he had almost forgotten why he had come here to talk to Legolas. Once again he was amazed by the Sinda Prince before him. He had been expecting him to have been fruitlessly researching ways to break the bond in the library or maybe getting ready to do something heedless.

However, Legolas surprised him by trying a much different approach to the matter. He was intrigued, he had never thought of studying the bonds in that light and wondered if anyone had made any investigation of them from that perspective. Did the differences between the different elves bring different gifts into the elven bonds? His healer mind was very absorbed by this question. He had noticed the differences between this bond and the one he had with Celebrian but he hadn't, arrogance again?, considered the reasons for that besides the compatibility between their characters. He hadn't wondered if Legolas’ different history and training could make that much of a difference.

"That is very interesting. I don't think I ever contemplated this. As you said, your own people don't bond in this way so the only possible pairings we could ask, with Sinda or Sylvan, would be combined ones." - he reasoned out loud. Legolas nodded in answer.

"It's even more complicated. Most pairs don't have any way to compare their bond to any other. Is it stronger? Weaker? Do the different circumstances make the sharing of abilities harder because they are so different, or better because there are different skills to share? Maybe two healers have a harder time sharing healing talents because both of them have their own ways to do it" - Legolas reflected.

The two of them seemed to have forgotten the reasons they had not to talk to each other, so deeply involved they were with this mystery. Elrond, as an accomplished warrior as he was, was at the core of his being, a scholar. He had spent the last Age in Rivendell recovering and preserving all the knowledge he could get his hands on. That, and healing, were his true callings. If he would have been born in a normal family, not the one he had, he would have been exclusively a healer and a scholar.

As for Legolas, the woodland Prince had always been drawn to the warrior way, but because of his standing as a Prince he had a more thorough education than many of his companions, and he had learnt the importance of it. He had felt it was his duty to pursue the paths of knowledge he had access to, to better improve his people's lives. And over time he had learnt to love it too, the beauty of knowledge by itself, not only for the benefits it gave him.

They spent a long time arguing back and forth all the venues Legolas had been exploring in his research, taking out his notes and going over them with Elrond. The elven Lord's insights were a good contrasting point to Legolas's arguments with his healer training. Almost an hour went on like that until Elrond finally had been through Legolas's main research points and leant back in his seat.

"It's an incredible achievement you have reached Legolas, with this new research. I would like to have you in my workroom, I've missed the way your mind functions. You seem to have a way of thinking about things in a different way, to look elsewhere where others have not." - Elrond complimented. Legolas looked down in answer, embarrassed, seeming to remember why he was here abruptly.

"I didn't think you would welcome my presence there my Lord" - he said softly. Elrond seemed to remember too and looked to the younger elf solemnly.

"I would very much like you there Legolas. I am serious when I say I've missed you. You don't need to give me an answer now, but I would like for you to consider it in the future when you start to trust my word again" - Elrond said seriously. Legolas looked at him at least, his blue eyes darker than usual in an unspoken emotion.

"When I trust you again? I know this may be petty, but I don't know when, if ever, I will be able to trust you again my Lord. It's..." - he trailed off, confused. Elrond leaned forward in earnest.

"Please Legolas, I understand it's difficult for you. I know it will be difficult for me to hear also, but I would like to know how you feel" - Elrond pleaded. Legolas looked at him dubiously but finally yielded a bit.

"I don't know if I can explain it in words" - Legolas started deliberately. Elrond seemed to fade in the background while Legolas turned his focus inside

"I have known your family all my life. You, Celebrian, your children... I always felt that you have accepted in your family as one of your own, don't misunderstand me, I love my own family and I wasn't looking for another one to compensate for any failings in mine. But it's true that life in Mirkwood has become progressively harder and darker in the last few centuries, and that I had found a safe haven here in your home with your family. Here at least, I felt a part of my family was safe even if those in Mirkwood weren't. So, Celebrian's attack was a painful blow to me also, to realize not even this part of my 'family' was safe from the reach of evil"

Legolas's focus wasn't on Elrond anymore and he seemed to have almost forgotten his presence, but he refocused on him then,

"When Celebrian was rescued and brought back to Rivendell, I believed that maybe things would get better again or at least it was in the right path, and it seemed like that at the start. But that day at dinner when you started to argue... it was terrible to watch, you have always seemed so composed and controlled and Celebrian so calm and serene. And then, when you went down to the floor without warning, I didn't know what to do, how to react" - he remembered then, the twins' presumption and raised his head to look into Elrond's eyes. The Noldor seemed to understand what he was thinking.

"I talked to Elladan and Elrohir before they left. They were worried and guilty to have thought what they did about your actions" - Elrond said. Legolas raised his eyebrow in question.

"And you didn't think like them?" - he asked curiously. Elrond smiled at the question and denied with a shake of his head.

"We haven't gotten a chance to talk about this before Legolas. I know your trust in us, in me, is very low. But I've known you since you were a child Legolas" - Legolas blushed at that thought a bit, remembering some of his... more questionable decisions over the years, some of them this elf have been a witness.

"I know your character, I know how you behave and how you react to an emergency. I know that, when you came to me that day, your only thought was to assist me. You reached towards me and offered your hand in help, and it didn't cross your mind, even for a moment, that a bond would be forged between us. I've taught you in my halls and I know how much you knew about healing and bonds, so no, I don't believe you would have heedlessly tried a healing bond at that moment even if you have been able to recognize what was happening."

Elrond smiled at the thought a bit and raised Legolas's lowered blushed face - "You are brave and bold, and that is useful as a warrior, but you have learnt to temper that with patience and consideration, and that makes you an even better prince. You have never risked other people's lives with a rash decision, your own yes, but no others, not knowingly. I know the kind of elf you are Legolas, and I would put my life in your hands without a moment of doubt. And that is what I did that day, and I don't regret it, I'm only grieved it brought you so much pain because of my stubbornness and that of my sons" - Elrond concluded.

Legolas looked at him in silent wonderment. Here he remembered again, the attachment he had started to feel years ago before everything had gone wrong. In the last few centuries, now he was an adult, even in elven thinking, he had started to visit many of the others Realms trying to help his father and their people: creating and strengthening alliances, sharing information, fighting the growing number of dark forces... he had been able to meet Elrond less like a child or the twins' friend and more like an equal and someone Elrond could talk and confide on their quest to join their people against the growing darkness.

His father would say he had been influenced by the half-elf in his stance about their people's best interest, and he would be right. But Legolas thought Elrond was right: their only chance to fight and win this fight was standing together. So he had become Elrond's ally in getting the woodland Realm among the leaders of the White Council, present and interested in the affairs of Middle Earth and its people.

The consequence of this had been many missives exchanged between the two of them, among the official ones sent to his father.
Many visits to the Valley, sometimes disguised like visits to the twins. And many gatherings, which went long into the night, where he, Elrond, sometimes Erestor, Glorfindel or Gandalf too, tried to find some order or reason in the last of the enemies movements or actions. Legolas had thought the elven Lord beyond his reach, but he hadn't been able to fight the feeling which had started to grow in him. That was, in the end, the reason he hadn't been able to fight the twins’ bullying and insults: he hadn't planned anything they had accused him, no. He wouldn't have dreamt to come between Elrond and Celebrian. He would have never admitted his feelings about Elrond at the half-elf or anyone else, but he had wanted to. He had wanted to come clean and accept it and maybe then he would have been able to move on. By the time of that fateful day, where Celebrian had broken her marriage bond and set him, unknowingly, on this path, he had been planning to leave and travel around for a while. Try and put some distance between him and Elrond and learn to live with the feelings he knew should stay buried forever.

Legolas rose from his seat, trying to put some distance between him and Elrond, fearing that despite the barriers, Elrond would be able to sense what he was feeling right now. After three years of pain and Elrond's indifference and ignorance of it, he couldn't recover what he had felt before. The almost worship he had felt, the admiration for the Perendhil and the sense he had at the time that the elven Lord couldn't do any wrong had disappeared long ago.

Elrond had shown himself as fallible as anyone else, and Legolas had to admit that was to be expected. But even knowing that he had placed him in a pedestal too high for anyone to be, the pain he had felt when he failed him was still a tender wound in his soul.

Elrond rose from his seat too, at his movement, not wanting to lose the small step they had taken.

"Please Legolas, don't go. Don't leave now, when we are starting to talk. I know it's hard but I don't want to lose you again. Please, stay with me. Talk to me, tell me how foolish I've been these past years, tell me how you have suffered. It will be hard for me to hear and hard to tell for you, but it can't be worse than this silence between us" - Elrond pleaded, placing himself firmly in front of the wood-elf.

Legolas looked at him, at the edge of a decision, not knowing what to do. How much to admit. If he should stay or run away again.

Chapter Text

Legolas turned back again towards the window overlooking the courtyard with a pensive mien. Elrond fell back into silence, waiting to see if he would reveal more of his feelings. While he was waiting for Legolas to talk, he looked around the room trying for a change of subject which allowed him to stay a bit further. His gaze caught into a letter open in the table in front of him. He was surprised to recognise the handwriting and a fast look to the end of the missive confirmed his suspicions.

"Arwen has been writing to you?" - he asked surprised.

Legolas looked back to him, looking down to the letter he had forgotten at the table. After a few moments of clearly debating with himself about what to say, Legolas started to talk.

"Your sons have been a trial to bear, all these years. But have you wondered how your daughter felt about what has happened here?" - Legolas asked finally.

Elrond felt confused at the unexpected question. Up until now, he hadn't thought about Arwen and her reaction about what had been happening at the Home all this time. If he had spared a thought for his absent child, he had thought her unaware of the Valley's happenings and he had been relieved if anything else that she had been spared. He feared his rather optimistic view was about to be challenged.

After Celebrian's attack and return to Rivendell, all their children had stayed at the Valley trying to help her to recover and return to normal. Arwen, being the only female in the family, had tried to be her mother's confidant and source of strength. But she hadn't been able to help her as much as she would have wished. Celebrian hadn't wanted to burden her younger child with the suffering and torture she had born at the hands of her captors. Elrond knew Arwen had felt helpless at being unable to help her mother, and he feared that burden she had put into herself had chased her away from the Valley the minute her mother had chosen to leave for the Havens. Arwen had made her goodbyes with her mother in private, and only the two of them knew what had passed between them. Elrond had felt an additional pain in the parting between them, although he had been unable to figure out what had happened. Now he wondered if Legolas had a better idea of what had happened and if and when he had further contact with his younger child.

"I haven't talked to Arwen in a while and she hadn't shared much of her feelings in her letters" - Elrond commented thoughtfully, now he thought about it, she had been suspiciously shallow about what she shared in her letters. A lot of comments about her grandparent's dinners and her friends' last antics and little about her feelings and what she had been gone through at her mother's leaving. Legolas allowed a smile at this.

"And haven't you found this of note?" - Legolas asked turning back towards Elrond to look him in the eye. Elrond nodded with his head pensively.

"I hadn't before now, but now I do. Have the two of you stayed in contact?" - Elrond asked, trying to remember if there had been any communication coming from Lorien to Legolas. He couldn't remember any, but the missives could have been passed personally from Lorien's guards directly to the Prince, without his notice. He recalled that Legolas was good friends with many of the Lorien's soldiers and they would have been happy to volunteer to pass any messages between the two of them.

"We have. Although I've always been closer to the twins than to Arwen, we used to be friendly if not as good friends as I was with Elladan and Elrohir. We didn't have as much in common but I've always liked her and found her clever and kind of heart. You are aware that she had inherited your far-seeing abilities, aren't you?" - Legolas asked. Elrond nodded with his head. Legolas continued

"She doesn't have enough experience to understand much of what she sees, but the visions come regardless and she had been often disturbed by some of them. A night, after Celebrian returned from her imprisonment, I found Arwen in the corridors. She was disturbed by some strange dreams or visions she had gotten..." - Legolas trailed off, hesitating. Elrond had started to feel intrigued and progressively more worried about this recalling how he felt when he was younger at some dark visions. Not being able to understand what he was seeing was almost as disturbing sometimes than when he saw some dark path in the future.

"Did she tell you what she had seen?" - Elrond asked worriedly.

Legolas hesitated again, clearly not wanting to break any confidence, but he finally revealed.

"She saw her mother's decision to break your bond and leave before Celebrian did it" - Legolas said, and then amended quickly at Elrond's incredulous expression - "Well, she didn't understand what she saw at the time, what she saw was the consequences of her decision... our bonding" - Legolas explained. Elrond felt aghast at the revelation and looked to the prince inquiringly.

"And you found her after that vision? While Arwen has always been the more mature of my children, it couldn't have been easy to see that and being unable to understand how the bond came to be, the conclusion she must have reached..." - Elrond trailed off. Legolas nodded in agreement, ruefully.

"She was angered at the start. She couldn't see why and how the two of us had been bonded and she thought it was a sign of her mother's death. When we met in the corridors, unexpectedly , she was outraged. I think she may have thought I was coming from your rooms or something" - Legolas blushed at the thought.

Elrond felt worried at the outcome of that meeting, but given Legolas was here now and he didn't remember having him at the Healing Halls at that time, he could only speculate that nothing too drastic had happened at the time. He dared to venture a very small smile at the thought of his beautiful daughter's reaction at that assumption. Legolas made a face at his amusement.

"It was very embarrassing! You can laugh it now, but I wouldn't want to confront your daughter again in a situation she was actually on the right side of an argument like that. It was scary even if I was fully innocent!" - Legolas complained, and then denied with his head. - "But she is quick and a good judge of character. She realized at once that I was horrified at the accusation, and not because it was true but because it was the furthest thing from my mind at that moment. I almost left the Valley that night" - Legolas confessed. Even with the bond closed as it was, this close it was easy to pick up some of the stronger emotions leaking through it. A part of Legolas regretted he hadn't taken the chance to leave at that time. Elrond couldn't blame him.

"But you didn't. I would have been dead if you had, but you couldn't know that. Why did you stay?" - Elrond asked. Legolas smiled a bit bitterly and said.

"I didn't know that. When Arwen confronted me with what she had seen, I denied it with all I had and returned to my rooms to pack up, I was that confused. I was almost ready to leave when Arwen came to my rooms even more disturbed than she had been before. She came in without knocking and gave me another fright."- Legolas smiled at Elrond’s face at his daughter's actions. Arwen was every inch of a Lady when she wanted but she was very much able to ignore conventions when it suited her.

"I tried to turn her away, not wanting her to be found in my rooms on top of everything else. But she was stubborn and, taking advantage of my embarrassment, she made me promise to stay a few days more until she had talked to you about her vision. That was two days before Celebrian broke your bond" - Legolas revealed.

Elrond was astounded at this tale and didn't know how to react. It was clear to him that Arwen had contrived to have Legolas at hand when Celebrian broke the bond. Legolas smiled at Elrond's face of understanding.

"I couldn't have known what would occur. But Arwen did. After what happened at the dinner, while you were taken to the healers, I went to Arwen to confront her with what had happened. It was clear to me that she had seen further in the future after I had left her in the corridor that night, and she had decided to act in consequence"- Legolas said. Elrond could already figure out the answer but asked nevertheless.

"What did she see that made her lie to you so you would stay, did she tell you?" - he asked.

"She saw your death, of course" - Legolas answered and continued. - "When I arrived at her rooms, that time around I wasn't worried about appearances, she was crying. She couldn't have chosen a better way to calm my anger if she tried. But I could tell, those weren't fake tears. She was crying like her soul was breaking. I have only cried like that once: when I was told my mother had been killed in the North. I knew at once what she had seen at her vision and that her actions had been born of love, not selfishness. But regardless, the guilt she felt at the position she had put me was boundless. I could only take her in my arms and let her cry. When she started to recover, she told me of her vision. That you would die if I left before we were bonded and she couldn't accept that. I absolved her of all blame there and then. I couldn't say that I would have not stayed if she would have told me of her vision, and while I would have preferred she had trusted me, I couldn't blame her for doing everything in her hands to save you. If I would have had that choice before me when my mother was killed I would have taken it too." - Legolas admitted, he sat down again, waiting for Elrond's reaction.

Elrond was speechless at what had been told. He had been suffering from visions most of his adult life. He had struggled with the moral aspect of the choices he was forced to make when the different paths he saw caused pain to people, particularly people he knew, and even worse when they caused pain to people he loved. He would have spared his daughter from knowing this pain if he could, but this was another of the gifts his line was given. He was grateful for Legolas forbearance and forgiveness at the consequences of Arwen's schemes.

"Is this why she left so suddenly? She felt so guilty about what she had done to you that she couldn't bear to see what it would come from it? She couldn't have predicted how her brothers would react. Or did she see that also?" - he asked, trying to reconstruct what had happened with this new knowledge. Legolas made a strange face at that question and Elrond tensed again, sensing he had stumbled into something else he didn't know.

"As far as I know Arwen didn't know about the twins' reaction until they started to act up." - Legolas said carefully. Elrond fixed his grey eyes into the prince's blue ones, trying to find out what he was hiding. Legolas was, unsurprisingly, a blank wall. Elrond pressed a bit more.

"Then why did she leave like that then? I wasn't at my best at the time, and I remember she felt so distraught at the time I talked to her, that I didn't want to make her feel as if she had to stay. So I didn't push much about her reasons to leave." - Elrond stated, remembering out loud. He looked at Legolas again, sensing he knew more than he had been telling. Legolas looked very reticent to talk.

"If she told me something in confidence, I couldn't break that by telling you about it, you will need to talk to her about it. Actually, I would encourage you to do so . I know Arwen had been talking to her grandmother about her visions, but... I don't know if the Lady's advice is something I would recommend" - Legolas made an embarrassed face - "I can't argue with her wisdom, but I sometimes feel her advice is given more like a ruler than as a grandmother. " - Legolas related deliberately, carefully weighing his words. He looked enough disturbed about what he knew that he carried on, warily.

"I can tell you that what happened with Celebrian was a turning stone with Arwen's abilities, your death wasn't the only thing she saw. She didn't understand all she had seen but the little she had been able to put together made her farewells to her mother even harder to make. And that weighed so badly on her than she went to her grandmother's for advice and succour. It wasn't that she didn't want your help but she didn't want to worry you with all that was happening here at the time" - he concluded, clearly unable to say more without breaking trust with Arwen.

Elrond was the one to rise from his seat this time around and started to stalk around the room restlessly. It was too much information at a time and he wasn't unable to figure out how he felt about all that he had been told. Besides that, Legolas was looking at him carefully from his seat, trying to judge if he had been mistaken at telling him this tale. Elrond forced himself to remain calm and think rationally about what had been revealed to him.

"I thank you for your trust Legolas. I know it can't have been easy to tell me about this without Arwen's leave. I can sense your sincere worry about her and I can only be grateful for your continuous friendship with my family and particularly my children. Arwen has been lucky to have your support in this, I promise I will inquire in this matter without implicating you further." - Elrond said carefully.

Legolas nodded relieved, this had been weighing heavily in his conscience for a long time. Elrond felt the shame of his actions again: if Legolas had felt more assured of his welcome he would have come to talk to him about this a long time ago. He felt a rush of affection for this brave elf before him who could find it within himself to worry about someone else's problems even when his own seemed so large. He chose to change of subject again

"Regardless of the way it came to be, I am glad that Arwen has been a source of support for you, she has, hasn't she?" - he asked, making note of writing his daughter as soon as possible. They clearly had a lot to talk about. He would need to be careful of how he phrased his questions so he didn't give away Legolas's mediation.

Legolas smiled sincerely at the question.

"She has been that. She writes to me every other week to check on me here. She has been aware of her siblings' attitude, if not the worse of their actions, and she had tried to help me with that. Much of what I attempted when I tried to talk with them at the start was under her advice. And when it was clear they couldn't be reasoned, Arwen gave me a lot of ways to avoid them. She was always trying to convince me to go to you for help, or if not that, to talk with Glorfindel or Erestor. I think the only thing that prevented her from writing any of you herself was the threat that I would leave the Valley if she did. She wasn't very happy with me when I left anyway I can tell you that, this was the first letter to reach me since I left the Valley" - Legolas admitted woefully.

Elrond, who had been wondering about that, smiled at the thought. Arwen was a kind soul and it must have been bothering her to be unable to help. The news of Legolas's escape must have left her more than a bit worried.

"I take she wasn't happy that you left ?" - he commented. Legolas denied with his head.

"She wasn't. She understood my reasons but she thought it was a dangerous decision, both for me and you. Even without knowing all about the bond she seemed to understand it would put a strain on the bond. Does everyone know about this besides me?" - he wondered out loud. Elrond denied seriously with his head at that.

"No really. She must have seen something or maybe she was able to understand what was happening with the news she received. If this bond was a normal one, you should have been able to leave, at least for a while. Bonded couples aren't tied to each other for eternity although it is common for them to stay close to each other as you would have read in your research?" - Legolas nodded his agreement, Elrond continued - "When a pair first bond to each other, they usually take time to get used to each other and their new bond. That allows the bond to stabilize and grow naturally until both sides learn how to share their abilities and strength. But ours wasn't a bond like that" - Elrond trailed off for a moment. Legolas stayed silent waiting for him to continue. Finally, Elrond continued his explanation - "Our bond was created spontaneously when Celebrian broke our own bond. It was an instinctive reaction of my mind to supply a new bond which would stabilize my mind when Celebrian's action pushed it to its breaking point. With the strain of the broken bond and my responsibilities with the Valley's defences, I couldn't repair the damage by myself."- Elrond explained.

Legolas looked conflicted at the explanation. He felt every time they talked about this, new things were revealed.

"You said this kind of bond was different than the norm. That it would be painful to break. But you didn't tell me why or how the bond was created in the first place" - Legolas observed. Elrond nodded in recognition.

"I wanted to give you some time to come to terms with it before I laid everything I know before you. Forgive me if I've been mysterious about this. You are owed the full truth of what had been done to you and what you have tied yourself to." - Elrond admitted.

"Well, I'm listening to you now. I would like to know how this bond was formed and why, and why you fall sick when I left the Valley. I think I'm owed an explanation for all this, aren't I?" - Legolas said, making himself more comfortable in his seat.

Elrond nodded in agreement taking a breath, started to talk again while Legolas listened to him with growing fascination.

Chapter Text

Elrond felt his mind wander into the past while he prepared to start his story. How could he share the Ages old pain he had gone through? But he had to try. Legolas, despite his optimistic attitude and hopeful approach to life, had known pain and loss. If anyone could empathize with Elrond's loss was the brave soul before him.

"You will need to be patient with me now. For me to explain why and how this bond formed you need to know and understand a bit more about my heritage and my past. I think you have already gathered that from the materials you have been studying" - Elrond started. Legolas nodded in agreement but kept silent waiting for the older elf to continue.

"I am, as you well know, the descendant who came from the joining of two elven lines - Finwë's and Thingol's - and the race of Men. When I chose the elves as the race I wanted to join my fate with, I wasn't aware that so much expectation would be put into my shoulders. Ereinion Gil-Galad, already the High King, took me under his wing and protected me as much, and as long, as he could. But even then, he started to train me as his successor, knowing my fate would be a difficult one. My brother was long dead by the time I was named Gil-Galad's herald and successor and I started to lead his troops to fight Sauron's return. Celebrimbor had been killed, and with him, the last link to Feanor's surviving family - Maglor had long vanished from elven sight and, if he is still dwelling in Middle Earth, he kept his council - Gil-Galad, Galadriel and I were the last tie to the Exiles, to the Noldor who had come to Middle Earth to fight against Sauron. It was natural that Celebrimbor sent his last creations, his last-ditch weapon against the betrayer, in our way."

Elrond raised his right hand then, and Legolas was able to see the golden band surrounding his middle finger, it was a discrete band with a blue gem in the middle and he could barely believe that this was one of the Elven Rings, the one which helped to keep Rivendell protected. It was deceptively delicate but beautiful. While Legolas wasn't a smith, his father had schooled thoughtfully to distinguish materials and quality. Even without knowing this ring to be the last work of one of the best smiths who had lived in Middle Earth - some argued he could have surpassed his famous grandfather - he could recognize as the marvel it was. Elrond looked down to the Ring in fond remembrance.

"This is Vilya, the Ring of Air. Gil-Galad took possession of it when Celebrimbor sent it to us, but he bequeathed it to me once he started to suspect he wouldn't survive Sauron's fight. He also had the gift of foresight to an extent, you know? As a descendant of the line of Finwë, he was able to see a bit in the future. Not as well or as far as someone as Galadriel, who had made a study of it and learnt the skill at Melian's hands, but enough to start to make dispositions a few years before the start of the Last Alliance. Among those, it was to give this Ring to me, but it was clear even then that I would have a hard time harnessing its power." - Elrond explained, his deep voice and engaging countenance giving life to his words. Legolas was almost able to see the three wise elves in deep council about the Rings' fate and Middle Earth's. Elrond's words arose Legolas' memories and the suspicions he had when he first entered the bond and later confirmed during his research.

"The Elven Rings were made to protect and preserve. There would be a certain incompatibility with your mortal ancestors, even if you have chosen the elven fate" - Legolas affirmed, sure of this conclusion at least. Elrond nodded with his head in agreement.

"Indeed. From our childhood, even before any of us had known of our choice, it was clear my brother Elros had a different stance towards life. He was fearless, more careless to danger. He took risks when I held back, he pushed ahead when I advised for patience. Even though after I grew and started to mingle with other elven children, if you compared me to them it was just the opposite. I was, compared to them, what Elros was compared to me: more reckless, more impatient, less afraid of mortality. Vilya's nature is at a fight with all of that: it tries to slow the wear of time, to preserve the present, to stop the decay of time. From the moment I put it on it was clear I wouldn't be able to stand its influence on my own. I would have declined its possession, sent it to someone else maybe. But another solution was suggested." - Elrond explained and looked back at Legolas expectantly. It wasn't a hard conclusion to make, Legolas obediently recited his theory.

"You were advised to get married. To get a bond with some elleth or edhel, a fully elven one, so you would have a grounding to Middle Earth." - Legolas said, keeping his conclusions as detached as he could. Elrond knew he suspected there was more than a bit of ambition in the elleth chosen.

"Galadriel was among those who knew my struggle with Vilya. I can't be sure who was the first to offer the idea of a bond as a solution, but it soon caught. It solved two problems in one, as a Royal yourself, you know the pressure there is for heirs in the King line" - Legolas nodded tiredly. Fortunately for him, he was the last of four children and his older brothers and sister had already formed their own families, which lifted the pressure over him quite a bit.

"Well, with Sauron at our borders and war on the horizon, even the mildest of the Royal Councillors wanted for me to secure the succession line. Several elleth names were offered, I was affronted because it isn't our people’s way to make marriages of convenience and I felt I was being corralled into a decision which would bond me forever to someone I didn't want and who didn't want me. I was quick to point out that, with our people’s low birthrates it wasn't even certain that I could have a child before the war started, even if the ladies were sent for immediately. Galadriel, who had been biding her time I realized later, offered her daughter's name then. She was with her in Lindon, a well-bred lady who would agree to the nuptials as she was, Galadriel said, already in love with me" - Elrond said. Legolas, who probably remembered some of the things Celebrian had said that night three years ago, struggled to keep his face at rest and not show any reaction.

Elrond smiled ironically.

"As you heard three years ago, Galadriel's words weren't exactly true. In her defence, Celebrian had claimed to find me 'interesting' and 'handsome' after a few brief meetings around the palace. Ereinion was sceptical about it and I should have taken his opinion more seriously. Celebrian didn't know me, she wasn't aware of all the implications of my heritage, all the differences in my behaviour, my body, my healing skills and my far-sight. And all the implications these differences would mean for my partner." - the elven Lord was uncomfortable with this part of the tale, baring his deficiencies, as Celebrian had called them, even to Legolas who had already heard Celebrian's opinion. He struggled to get past his feelings and being as objective as he could.

"She was also unaware of the responsibilities I had as Gil-Galad's Herald and heir. Or the responsibilities I would have if I was ever called to step into his place. Her parents had sheltered her as much as they could from the hardships of it. Even after the scare, they had in Ost-in-Edhil, getting away just before Sauron's army arrived at its doors, Galadriel had protected her daughter from the reality of the war and the sacrifices we were all making to survive it. Celebrian didn't expect a marriage where I was almost immediately sent to the front lines of war and stayed there for years. And, when I finally returned, she didn't expect me to reject the High King crown or understand my reasons for doing it." - Elrond said sadly.

Legolas, who had figured much of this tale by now, said carefully.

"I always wondered about your reasons for that. Why did you reject the crown of the High King? Not that I blame you for doing it. It seems like every one of them had such dark ends. Even Gil-Galad, who was arguably the more successful of them, his final fate was banished under Sauron's sorcery." - Legolas said thoughtfully.

Elrond shivered at the image Legolas had conjured. Gil-Galad end had been hard to accept even for those who had seen it in person. He had such a big presence and had been so kind and brave, he didn't deserve the fate he had been handed .

"I didn't want the position, neither I thought I would be able to lead our people better as a King that I would be able to help as Lord of Rivendell. That if I was able to join the people under my banner. Even as Gil-Galad's Herald there were people who didn't accept me, and my mixed heritage, as worthy of the High King's crown." - Elrond said. Legolas nodded in agreement.

"I don't think my father would have railed our troops again to any new High King. He was effectively over with that 'Noldor nonsense' as he called it. To be fair with him, he was as suspicious of you Men heritage as he was of your Noldor one. He felt you were partial to them and forgot your Sindar roots and put the well-being of the wood-elves below Men's wars and Noldor's ambition" - Legolas concluded.

Elrond could see where Thranduil was coming from and felt more kindly about the Elvenking if that was his reasoning, it was fairer than some other he had found in the past. He couldn't even say he was wrong in his judgment. He had always felt closer to Noldor culture than to Sindar, in account first of Maglor and Maedhros's influence and Gil-Galad's after. His memories of his mother and the time he and his brother had spent with her were almost faded after the long years after Sirion. And after his brother's death, he had felt the duty of watching over his descendants and made his best effort to ensure their survival as much as he could. He couldn't remember anyone trying to teach him about his Sindar heritage. He said as much to Legolas.

"Well, I think you seem so at home with Noldor's culture that none of us ever thought you would have an interest in learning about the Sinda, outside a scholar interest I mean. I can't talk for my fellow wood-elves, but I have found a certain... arrogance in my dealings with the Noldor when a matter of cultural differences was brought up. Thalon wasn't the only one who thought my people are wilder and less wise, as I think Mithrandir put it once. As you can see even the Istari have their own biases , although I think a spider was involved in that situation..." - Legolas trailed off, distracted at the memory as he usually was. It was difficult to forget a Maiar running about the forest being chased by a drunk spider. The drunk part of the spider was where the wood-elves entered the tale. A small miscalculation, and probably their laughter, hadn't helped the situation. Elrond's laughter intruded into his thoughts, and he raised his head suspiciously. Elrond rushed to apologize.

"I am sorry, we haven't been this close for this long since you returned to the Valley. I can't help to catch some of your stronger thoughts when you are this close! But I can't be sorry to have caught that memory, now I know why Gandalf is always so cantankerous when he is asked about his recommendations travelling into Mirkwood!" - Elrond said among badly hidden amusement.

Legolas, as uncomfortable as he still was about the bond, couldn't regret to share this particular memory, even unaware as he was when he started to do it. This was as good revenge as he could have hoped for the unfair attitude the wizard had taken after that small affair. He brought the memories carefully to the fore, it wasn't like the wood-elves could know the wizard would wander into the nest they had been dosing with eh... bad quality alcohol. They had been trying to kill two birds with a stone, getting rid of the evidence of their -failed- experiments trying to make a personal stash of alcohol, and see if they could get rid of that stubborn nest so close to the palace by making the spiders more malleable. It had gone quite badly as the spiders had become disoriented yes, but were still very fast - even if prone to crash against the trees all the time - and it had become difficult to keep them inside the borders of their group.

They had almost gotten rid of all them when Mithrandil had arrived at the clear below them and had a drunk spider crash into him. The spider, as drunk as she was, had unexplainably become quite enamoured of the wizard and started to chase him around. The wizard curses had been heard from the palace, and the elves had been unable to be of much help laid down as they were by the mirth. Legolas had been able to recover, and put an arrow between the spider's frontal eyes, while she was well..., he hadn't wanted to look close enough to know. The wizard had been unbearable while they escorted him to the King, and he had begun his revenge by telling the King of their antics! but he had regretted it when Legolas had been forced to explain his father, in all detail, what had happened. Thranduil had been far too amused at the wizard's misadventures to be too forceful in his words to his son and his companions.

Elrond had tears of mirth now, after hearing about the whole affair. Legolas felt entitled to this revenge after the unfair rumours the wizard had spread around. But now, at least, Legolas and his friends were avenged, he was sure Elrond would never live down the wizard of his unfortunate adventure with the spiders.

He couldn't regret this small pause in the difficult tale Elrond was telling. Even with all the pain he still bore at what happened, Legolas had noticed how difficult it was for the older elf to explain the circumstances of his marriage, and Legolas was too kind not try to ease the telling where he could. He had raised from his seat and put a small kettle to the fire to heat, to make some tea while Elrond recovered.

Elrond seemed to finally overcome his fit and took the offered cup of tea with a small smile, plans of asking the wizard about this affair in the more inconvenient moment possible. Legolas returned to his seat with his cup and waited for him to return to their previous conversation. Elrond continued with his explanation about what happened after he had renounced the High King crown.

"As you can imagine, Rivendell was in an uproar when I returned from the war, as it was most of our Realms. It got only worse when I announced my renouncement of the High King’s crown, and declared Gil-Galad the last High King in Middle Earth, he had well deserved that title. Many felt entitled to try to make me change my opinion, some who considered me selfish and reckless in my decision, my mother-in-law among them. But I stood firm in my conviction and I thought at the time that Celebrian stood with me. She didn't say anything otherwise and I was too overwhelmed at the time to realize she wasn't saying anything positive either. Elladan and Elrohir were born a few years later and I realized then that she thought her duty was made, that she felt it was her duty and nothing else. Even if she felt she hadn't been given her due as she had been promised to be the Queen of a High King, not the Lady of Rivendell" - Elrond explained in a sad voice. Legolas was unable to think of anything to say to that. It was so separated from his feelings and experience that he couldn't even start to understand her point of view.

Elrond continued after another sip of his tea.

"She was a wonderful mother to the twins and a dutiful wife, but that was all she was to me. Our marriage had started to sour by then, she felt cheated of the promised made to her and the day-to-day dealings with me were not what she had expected. I was too different from what she had known before, of the elves she had known in her mother's realm." - Elrond continued, Legolas felt confused at that statement, even if he vaguely remember some of Celebrian's comments.

"Too different? In what sense? I mean, I've always found you and the twins very different from my people but I've always thought it was your Noldor heritage. Glorfindel was also very different from my own experience. Lorien's culture is closer to Noldor than to Sinda isn't it?" - Legolas commented, thinking of his visits to the Golden Realm. While it had been closer to his home than Rivendell, with their tallans and some Sindar customs, the influence of its Noldor Lady was clear in every aspect of their lives. He couldn't imagine life in Rivendell would be that different for Celebrian, who would have been even more influenced by her mother. Elrond interrupted his musing with another short laugh.

"You are kind with your thoughts Legolas, it wasn't the culture of Rivendell she found offensive, it was my own person. The fact you would compare my differences, a half-elf, with Glorfindel's, a Vanya elf born in Aman, shows the kind of elf you are. Celebrian wouldn't have put Glorfindel and me in the same thought." - Elrond explained bitterly. He recovered with difficulty and continued. - "She found my body offensive because she found it coarser and broader and hairier than any other elf. She found my mortal blood too harsh to her senses. And the other part of me that wasn't elven, my Maia blood was too strange to her. My farseeing, my healing skills, took me away from her comprehension, they shook her up when I rose from a strange dream. She didn't understand them and she didn't like them" - Elrond concluded finally.

Legolas felt uncomfortable at all those confessions. Many of it he had been able to gather over the time he had spent at the Valley as the twins' friend, some he had pierced back from Celebrian's words that night. But now they had all been explained by one of the main players he felt embarrassed on behalf of the half-elf, and more than a bit angry at the attitude of the former Lady of the House, who he had always found kind and compassionate in the past.

Elrond left out a sigh now, after having reviewed all those painful memories. He tried to go back to track with the reason for this tale.

"I have told you this so you can both understand how delicate the balance of the bond was by that night, and also so you will understand, if not forgive, my actions after" - Elrond continued with grave mien. Legolas returned his full attention to the older elf, curious at that part.

"Actions? Or inaction, you mean?" - Legolas asked a bit bitterly, remembering the older elf absence over the last few years. If it wasn't for the absurdity of the thought, he would have believed he had left the Valley altogether at some points as little he had been able to see him. Elrond's face reflected his shame again.

"I was... my mind was badly damaged after Celebrian's actions. If the bond between us wouldn't have formed the moment it did, I would have faded within that same night, inevitably. The bond between us was formed because of our compatibility. I told you this before, a bond like ours is one in a thousand. It has been rarely seen among our people and it's very much searched for and revered by the Noldor. On top of that... it was also created in a rush and a very difficult situation. " - Elrond grave face hold Legolas' attention

"My mind was badly damaged and the bond between us not only created a link between our fëas, but it started the arduous process of healing the damage done to my mind and soul. Your soul was..." - Elrond smiled a bit here - "A light from the shadows I was drowning into. A more shallow bond with a different elf, less 'compatible' wouldn't have been able to heal me. But, because it needed to heal so much damage, and because we didn't follow through the bond with a closer relationship" - Legolas blushed at the implications -"That made the bond both stronger and more fragile at the same time. It bonded us closer than many other similar bonds and at the same time made it harder for us to be apart." - Elrond hesitated there for a moment before he corrected himself - "Made it harder for me in particular, to be away from you. Because of how it was formed, there was unevenness in the balance of the bond. I have been taking more from you than you from me, and when you left, that made my situation very difficult"- Elrond concluded, Legolas looked interested at the older elf.

"Glorfindel said you could die, that I needed to come back because of it. You said, when I first arrived here, this bond couldn't be transferred, even if it wasn't a marriage bond because the two of us have never been involved with each other. It's all linked together, isn't it?" - Legolas asked. Elrond nodded with his head.

"Your research is very interesting and innovative, and I would love for you to continue with it. I think it could be of great help to us. But if your purpose was to find a way to break this bond, I don't think you will find it there. I told you already, these bonds have been seen before among our people, and the consequences for them breaking haven't been good" - Elrond answered.

"Jumping into volcanoes , choosing mortality, abandoning their people for sailing... most of these stories are from your own family anyway. Maybe it has more to be with your family drama than the bonds?" - Legolas asked half-seriously. Elrond laughed at the question.

"Ereinion thought the same as you. Maybe that's the reason he never married at the end. He thought our family had too much talent for drama." - Elrond admitted. Legolas nodded with his head in agreement.

"That sounds sensible, I like it. He sounds very level-headed for a Noldor, I would have liked to meet him" - Legolas commented. He was feeling more relaxed with Elrond, going back to their former dynamic of teasing. Legolas had, once he had been able to get past the older elf’s famous name and family, got very comfortable with the Peredhil who was very similar in his attitude to his sons' irreverent demeanour, despite the appearances. He had been missing the easy back-and-forth talks and easy jokes of the past.

"He would have liked you. Very much so" - Elrond said, taking Legolas back from his musings. - "He would have been very angry with me these past few years and wouldn't have let me get away with my foolish attitude." - Elrond revealed - "He would have called me all way of foolish and forced me to confront my fears and you"

"And we are back to the inaction" - Legolas said. Elrond nodded.

"I was a coward. That shouldn't come as a surprise to you. Celebrian's words were very difficult to accept for me. I should have talked to you, tried to come to some kind of accord between us. But I couldn't stand the thought of another rejection. To have Celebrian words confirmed by another source. So I convinced myself that I was doing us both a favour by giving us some time to get used to the situation." - Elrond's word seemed to release some weight from his shoulder, as difficult as they were to admit.- "Of course, in my effort to keep my distance I didn't see what my sons were doing, and I ignored all your attempts to communicate with me thinking they were related to our situation and not a plea for help. That was unforgivable Legolas, I don't have words to apologize". - Elrond concluded.

Legolas had been looking down the floor, fighting his own emotions while Elrond concluded his explanations. Finally, at those last words, he raised his head not sure yet what he was going to say.

Chapter Text

Legolas was feeling bewildered by Elrond's tale. He had known the Perendhil had his own story and baggage. After his research, he had surmised there was more to the story than he had been told so far.

Celebrian's words before she broke the bond, witnessed by all in the dining hall, had been something he hadn't considered all that much. Naively, he had thought them an excuse for the action she was going to carry out. He didn't think they were important or relevant out of that context or that it had been something she and Elrond had been contending all their marriage.

The complaint about Elrond's decision to abdicate his position as Gil-Galad heir after the King's death didn't make any sense to Legolas. As a prince, even without being his father's firstborn, he had been schooled by the best. He knew well the uncertainty that followed the High King’s death, and having heard the tales of the aftermath of the Alliance, he wasn't surprised Elrond decided to step down. He had been curious about the exact reasons, about what had gone through Elrond's mind at the moment, but he had studied the consequences of that battle, watched them first hand among his people. Even if the battle was counted as a victory for the free people, its consequences made it very difficult for the Perendhil to claim the Crown. Legolas knew his father had taken charge of the Mirkwood troops after his grandfather's death, and left without any leave of Elrond or any of Gil-Galad generals. His actions had made very clear he didn't consider his people under any rule but his, and none had dared to defy him.

The rest of Celebrian's complaints were almost as foreign to Legolas as the first. She seemed to complain about his Sight - like he could avoid having it -, his healing skills and duties - those were a bad thing? -, his half-blood heritage - that one almost made Legolas blush, he had always found each one of the Perendhil... well lovely to say the least -, finally she had even complained of his responsibilities as Lord of the Valley. By then Legolas had not even thought she was trying to make any sense at all, taking into account she had complained about Elrond's abdication as a High King, did she think that would have come with fewer responsibilities?

But for Elrond those complaints hadn't come from nowhere. He had heard them before, over and over if his story was true, and they had been souring his marriage and dimming down his self-confidence. For Legolas, who had always perceived the half-elf as a legendary warrior and the wise Lord of Rivendell, it was a shock to know he could feel doubts about his worth. He wasn't so naive to think the same who would think his family worthless wouldn't have similar thoughts about an elf with mortal blood. He had even witnessed some of that as a friend of the twins, but he had thought Elrond above all criticism by now.

All this was going through his head during Elrond's tale, and now he was again apologizing about what had happened these past years, he realized he needed to give some kind of answer. But he didn't know how to answer. Nothing of this changed what had happened to him, it's true, but it was also true than to keep hold of his grudge wouldn't change the past either. Legolas was not a vindictive elf, he was also very much a prince of Mirkwood and as such, from the first moment, he tried to look for a solution which wouldn't harm his people or their alliance with Rivendell. When he had thought he wasn't accepted as Elrond's bonded, that he was considered unworthy and all the friendship he had cherished in the past were lost, he had decided to leave peacefully and let the past go as best as he could.

But now he knew Elrond's mind wasn't what he thought it was, and he was confronted with many questions. Should he give their bond a chance? What was Elrond even wanting from him? There was a difference between liking him as a friend and as an ally and wanting the bond to become a true marriage.

Nothing in Elrond's tale clarified that question. Elrond had professed to admire him and esteem him, but he didn't know if he felt any attraction for him. And at this point, Legolas wasn't sure about his feelings any longer. Before all this had happened he had felt attracted to the older elf, respected him, but all that had been put on hold on his mind because of the other's marriage and shoved down into a place Legolas didn't dwell on . Legolas wouldn't have ever dreamt of getting involved with Elrond, wedded as he was. He had admired the Lord when he first met him, then he had turned into an important ally when Legolas had grown and become his father's emissary, and finally, he had shifted to a cherished friend rivalling Legolas' friendship with the twins one he had been able to get past the Lord's mask and know the elf behind it.

Legolas took a deep breath and looked back to Elrond. The Perendhil had stayed silent after his last apology, letting the younger elf to process all he had been told. Legolas admired again the patience and empathy of the older elf, and that last observation tipped the balance for him, and he suddenly knew what he wanted to say:

"All these years I have admired you and tried to model my behaviour after what I have seen you do. As my people's prince, when I needed to treat with different people to mine, with the men of Dale, with Lorien's diplomats or Cirdan's emissaries, it wasn't my father's teaching I used. As much as I love him, I don't think anyone would call my father 'diplomatic'" - Legolas smiled at the thought and Elrond returned his smile.

"He has his moments, but his strengths lie elsewhere" - Elrond admitted...diplomatically. The word resounded in the bond between them, and Legolas laughed softly.

"My point stands. I have somewhere to go with this" - Legolas continued - "I have always admired you, but I have always seen the success, the victories, I have never witnessed the failures, never known how you approach defeat and loss." - Legolas admitted. Elrond stayed silent waiting for his conclusions - "And I think that's the reason when this happened, I didn't recognize you, so I thought what had changed you had to do with me, but it didn't, did it?" - Legolas asked. Elrond nodded thoughtfully with his head.

"I didn't realize how it would seem to you or other people, and that was a mistake. But no, my reactions had nothing to do with you whatsoever. You were the only silver lining in that situation" - Elrond admitted. Legolas nodded along.

"You made a mistake" - he sentenced, and smiled a bit - "that shouldn't be a surprise. It was a serious mistake and it hurt me" - Legolas admitted softly. Elrond dared to reach his hand towards him and Legolas accepted the comfort, reaching back with his hand until they met midway in the table between them. He kept hold of the older elf hand, giving it a soft squeeze, and continued. - "But I forgive you for that mistake" - Elrond closed his eyes in silent relief, a small tear going down his cheek - "I have some responsibility for this" - Elrond opened his eyes alarmed and Legolas continued before he could interrupt him - "I should have pushed, I should have confronted you. I should have forced you to listen to me, to reject the bond if it was your desire but to put an end at what Elladan and Elrohir were doing" - Legolas made a face at the names. - "They are your sons and your heirs, and if I had spoken before maybe this could have been stopped before they went too far" - he admitted. Elrond rushed to argue that point.

"You are not responsible for their behaviour. They are both of age, my heirs as you said and Lords of Rivendell, they should have known better" - Elrond said. Legolas nodded in agreement.

"I know, and I don't feel guilty about their behaviour. That's on them as you said. But they were my friends and I'm sorry I wasn't able to steer them away from this. To spare them the consequences of it . But I was the focus of their anger and I couldn't help them" - Legolas concluded sadly. Elrond nodded in agreement. Legolas then continued.

"I don't know where we can go from here, I don't know what you expect from me or this bond" - Legolas admitted - "But I don't want to be angry anymore. I don't want to nurse this grudge as our people do sometimes to the point we have hurt each other so much it no longer matters who was right or wrong" - Legolas trailed off thinking of his father's attitude that Legolas had tried to change time and time again. He sent a mental apology to his father for his lack of understanding.

He turned back to the older elf in question.

"What do you want from this, my Lord? You have insisted again and again this is not a bond that can be broken, but I don't know what you expect from me and this bond" - Legolas finally risked asking . Elrond raised his sharp grey eyes and looked to Legolas. Blue and grey locked.

Elrond felt a great rush of relief from Legolas' words. He should have expected Legolas' reaction, the younger elf was kind and empathic. He was always putting himself in the other's place when he could. Always trying to meet in the middle of any conflict. Still, kind and fair didn't mean he could forgive easily for what had been done to him, and he was more than meeting Elrond in the middle.

Elrond was unused to feel this humble by someone less than half his age. He had, often, took the role of a teacher for this young elf as he had with his children, but now he found himself in the position of being the one being taught: kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

Did he dare to hope for something else? Did he want it? Did Legolas want it? The nature of their bond seemed to suggest he did, or that he had at some point, Elrond reminded himself. They couldn't have a bond this deep without some underlying feelings between the two of them. While some times close friends formed bonds, their nature and reach were different from the one he shared with Legolas. Some awareness from each other and sometimes mind-speak could be expected between close friends, but their sharing of energy, skills, feelings and thoughts were beyond what a friendship bond could reach.

Again, Elrond noted to himself, Legolas' feelings could have changed over the last few years. Even his current forgiveness didn't mean he would wish to expose himself to that heartbreak. He wished he could know what the other was feeling, he wished the bond could be opened again. This would be easier if it was. He pushed softly against Legolas' barrier, just a polite push like a soft knock to a door, and held his breath for Legolas' answer.

Legolas kept his attention on Elrond's reaction to his words and question. The Perendhil seemed to waver between relief and wonder at what he was hearing from Legolas. After his question, he seemed to turn inside for an answer, while keeping his hold to Legolas' hand. Legolas left his hand relaxed in Elrond's hold and kept quiet waiting for the older elf to process his question.

Finally, he felt a small "knock" in his mind, polite and wary but there. Legolas was conflicted, he had kept his mind tightly closed since their first conversation after he arrived back to the Valley. While they had shared some emotions and even images the few times they had been close to each other, it had been mostly unintentional, at least from Legolas' side.

Now he had a decision to make, he knew Elrond wouldn't force him to open up his side of the bond, but wouldn't it make this conversation easier? You could hide, but lie within the bond? that just was not possible, that much Legolas was certain. Their feelings would be a dead giveaway about it if any of them tried to mislead the other. Even closing the bond would be a signal of something amiss by itself. It was now a matter of faith, did Legolas trust Elrond not to take advantage of his experience and Legolas's lack of it? Even at his angriest, Legolas hadn't thought Elrond as evil. He had made mistakes and been selfish in his pain, sure, but Legolas didn't think he would purposely harm him or take advantage of him.

With that in mind, he carefully opened his side of the bond and sent a tentative tendril of his mind outside, looking for Elrond's conscience. He felt a bit foolish in his actions, feeling every bit of an infant trying out his first mental steps.

Elrond didn't leave him hanging for long and he felt the presence of the older elf delicately surrounding his own. Elrond felt warm, solid and powerful within this mental landscape, he surrounded Legolas’ own conscience with such a careful tenderness that Legolas felt comforted and cared for. Legolas wondered how his conscience felt to the older elf.

Alive, fresh, like the first breeze you feel when you step outside in the morning. - a voice answered in his mind. Legolas was taken aback for a moment before he realized he was projecting and Elrond had answered.

Why do you want to talk like this? - Legolas asked, they had after all, just connected like this when Legolas had been at distance.

You know already, you can't lie through the bond - Elrond confirmed his suspicions.

I didn't fear that you would lie to me - Legolas observed. Elrond fondness surged around him.

I'm glad But I don't want any further misunderstanding. This will make that easier - Elrond admitted. Legolas sent his cautious agreement back.

Well... out loud or like this, my question stands, what do you want from this? - Legolas asked, uncertain. Elrond's side of the bond was silent for a few moments, but then Legolas started to feel the older elf's. He tried to identify what he was getting.

Elrond felt scared but hopeful, the fear felt dark and slimy, while the hope was warm and light. Legolas couldn't tell why he was feeling as he was, what was what scared him and what made him hope. He tested the connection "poking" the dark feeling. It seemed to amuse Elrond somehow and the older elf sent warm appreciation back. Legolas sent a wordless question, wondering where the fear came.

I am afraid it's too late, that I have already made too many mistakes and I will lose this chance with you - Elrond said softly. Legolas hesitated in answer.

I don't know what you want from me. For the longest time, you seemed like you just wanted me to strengthen you but kept my distance - Legolas answered, he couldn't help the angst he felt at that thought, as he was only worth the energy he gave to the older elf. Elrond answered immediately, sending the feeling of upset and plain "wrong" at that conclusion.

It was never that, you have been a source of strength and light in my life, long before this bond was created, but that wasn't your source of worth to me. You are kind, brave and clever and I've always wanted you at my side, in whatever way I could have you - Elrond said forcefully. Legolas felt his deep conviction within the bond, it felt strong, weighed. Still, Legolas wasn't fully convinced.

I was the twins' friend, I must have been just a child at your eyes. - Legolas observed, wondering if that was still true. He had worked for years to work as both an emissary for his father and besides work for an alliance between the two realms, but he had always feared his relative youth was working against him.

You started as my sons' friend, but you soon became much more. It was a source of conflict for me, I knew I shouldn't feel as I did for you. You deserved far more than I was able to give - Elrond admitted, projecting a slippery feeling through the bond. Legolas wasn't able to recognize it at that instant. But he could answer to Elrond's actual words.

You were married - Legolas observed, the feeling intensified then, and Legolas finally recognized it as shame. Elrond was ashamed about what he had felt for Legolas - You mean to tell me you felt attracted to me before Celebrian broke your bond? - he asked, barely daring to hope. Elrond cautiously sent his confirmation, Legolas was surprised. Despite all he had read about bonds and Elrond's previous hints, he hadn't fully believed the older elf could be attracted to him. - You were very discreet, I never suspect that was how you felt about me - Legolas admitted.

I never wanted for you to know. It wasn't right of me to feel as I did for you. I had accepted my choice long ago, I knew when I married Celebrian what I was renouncing in the future, or at least I thought I knew - Elrond confessed.

Did you know how I felt about you? - Legolas finally dared to ask.

I suspected. I never wished to push too much to be certain, but you were... - Elrond hesitated for a moment and Legolas pressed for him to finish - you were young at the start. It was pretty obvious at some points. You learnt to hide it better when you become older - Elrond's kind amusement made Legolas want to hide and never show his face again in Rivendell. He had hoped he wasn't so very obvious. It was a hopeless expectation, it was probably just a rite of passage for every young elf to ever go through Rivendell, to have a crush on the Peredhil . Probably Elrond's advisers made bets about the timing and length of the crushes. Elrond's bright laughter warmed Legolas' mind.

You overestimate my appeal. I was always too strange, too foreign for most to accept. Much less to feel attracted to - Elrond said, self-deprecating. Before Legolas could think of any rebuttal, Elrond continued - I will give you that my position as Gil-galad's heir first and then as master of Rivendell bought me some attention, but I always knew it wasn't me they wanted... until you - Elrond concluded warmly.

Legolas felt at a loss of how to answer, while he was ashamed of how obvious he had been with his attraction for a married elf, he couldn't hold in that shame if what Elrond was saying was the truth. He had always felt attracted for the older elf in a way which had nothing to do with his power or his position. And he had never expected anything to come from that attraction or acted in any way to attract the older elf in return. Elrond again responded to his inner musings.

You didn't. Your honest attraction was always polite and never invasive. I was flattered and only felt frustrated because I wasn't free to return it. - Elrond said forcefully again.

Legolas then dared to say what had been in both of their minds all this time.

You are free now. We both are. What do you want to do now? - he asked, barely daring to breathe while waiting for the answer.

Chapter Text

Elrond used the hand he still had linked with Legolas's to draw closer to the younger elf across the table that divided them. He went down to a knee before the archer, while still holding his hand. Legolas looked down at him, a bit startled to find an elven Lord suddenly kneeling at his feet.

"Elrond?" - he asked out loud with a small voice. Elrond smiled in the startled blue-eyes of his bonded and raised Legolas's hand to his mouth, softly kissing the knuckles.

"What do I want to do?" - Elrond said musingly. - "I would love for us to give this a chance if that is what you want also" - he gestured between the two of them. When Legolas nodded in thoughtful agreement, Elrond continued - "I would like to spend time with you again, as we have in the past, before this." - he continued - "To hear your opinions again and share mine with you. To share this home with you, my home. To show it to you and show you its secrets and share the responsibility of it and its people with you."- Elrond then smiled bashfully, his grey eyes gentling while he turned Legolas's hand around and brought it to his mouth. Before Legolas could react, he gave it a small kiss in the palm before lowering back and taking it between both of his hands. - "And I would like for us to become closer, to try a real relationship" - he admitted.- "To be with you, and share my life, and my bed, with you and... " - Elrond trailed off for a moment - "And wake up together. If that is something you would want too".

Legolas looked down to their joined hands thoughtfully. For the last three years, he hadn't expected this. Not even at the beginning, before he realized Elrond would withdraw and ignore the bond as much as he could, he hadn’t expected a true chance with the Perendhil. The elven Lord had always seemed far beyond his reach, and the last few years had made him question if that wasn't for the best after all.

But now, Elrond's explanations had cleared Legolas's last remaining anger, if not all his pain. And the older elf's open regret and his wish to make up for what had been done to the wood-elf were a balm to Legolas's fëa, and Legolas felt he would eventually recover from that experience. While he wouldn't, nor wanted, to forget what had happened, he would be stronger for it. He already was, and Legolas vowed to himself that he would use his own experience to help others.

Legolas looked to Elrond again, who was patiently waiting for his answer and probably reading his mental process through the still wide-open bond. He raised his free hand to Elrond's face and finally dared to touch him as he had wanted for a long time. Elrond closed his eyes briefly at the feather-soft touch, while Legolas traced the mobile eyebrows who had indicated the elven Lord displeasure for as long as Legolas had known him - several times in Legolas own direction. He brushed the high forehead, down the straight nose, until he reached his lips. He stopped there, his fingers hovering over Elrond's lips while he mused in his answer. He brushed them finally with the tip of his fingers, and Elrond closed his own eyes again. Legolas lowered his forehead until he touched Elrond's, and closing his own eyes, said out loud:

"I am afraid" - he admitted softly. Elrond nodded against his forehead without losing contact or opening his eyes.

"I know you are. I can feel it, and it's breaking my heart to sense it, knowing I can't heal this as easily as I have healed your hurts in the past" - Elrond said sadly. Legolas shivered softly when he felt Elrond's breath in his face while he talked. Still, he kept his own eyes closed, liking the intimacy without having to confront Elrond's keen grey eyes just yet.

"I want to stop being afraid, to trust you again and move on from this pain. But I don't know how. I don't know where to go from here" - Legolas confessed. He felt Elrond moving his face from his, and then the feel of two hands cradling his face. That made him open his eyes. Elrond's face was still close to his, and the older elf was watching him with a soft expression Legolas had never seen in his face.

"We will work on this together. We will go slow and I will regain your trust again. There is no rush in this Legolas" - Elrond said, while softly caressing his face. - "As long as we try together, it will get better" - Elrond concluded. Legolas bit his lip in thought at this, and he saw Elrond's eyes draw unerringly to his mouth. That gave him the courage to ask the next question.

"How close is close? Are we going to...?" - he trailed off, losing his nerve along the way. Elrond's smile was a thing of beauty and Legolas realized how long it had been since he had seen the older elf truly smile. Elrond didn't bother to answer the question with words this time, finally closing the distance between them and pushing his soft lips against Legolas's.

Elrond felt his heart racing to escape the hold of his chest while he finally touched Legolas's lips with his. The bond had been wide open all this time, and Legolas's honest attraction all this time, and his, admittedly, disconnected thoughts about Elrond's eyes, hands, eyebrows? had given Elrond the courage to close that last distance and kiss him without the fear to be rejected.

Elrond hadn't realized how forced his interactions had always been with Celebrian until now. Particularly at the end of their marriage. Their bond had always been testimonial, they could barely sense the other was alive or close by. But no thoughts or feelings were transferred over it. Elrond suspected their marriage would have died a quick death if he had been aware from the start of how difficult Celebrian had found to reconcile with his more 'mannish' attributes.

This bond with Legolas, however, as strained as it had become over the last few years was something else altogether. And as it had been denied for far too long, now they had finally started to make peace with each other, it was making its need known forcefully. Elrond cautious kiss had opened the gate to a flow of feelings and heat that swept Legolas and Elrond with it.

Legolas’ surprise at his actions flashed through the bond and was quickly followed by a rush of heat. The younger elf settled his arms above Elrond's shoulders taking advantage of Elrond still kneeling before him, and Elrond felt Legolas surprise - and a new spike of heat - when he noticed Elrond's wide shoulders and strong arms. For the slim wood-elf, to sense Elrond's stronger frame both as a Noldor and with his mortal blood was a different experience than he had been used to, even though he had noticed before, it was different to be able to sense it and touch it. But Elrond felt Legolas enjoying the difference while trying to explore it, instead of being repulsed by it.

Elrond, for his part, enjoyed the feeling of having the slighter elf in his arms at least, taking advantage of the nearness to caress his back and his soft hair while his mouth explored the others'. Despite the uncomfortable position he was in , he didn't want to lose the contact after having been without it for so long. From long before Celebrian had chosen to finish their marriage, Elrond had searched Legolas's presence in his life, if only as a friend. He had enjoyed the younger elf's keen mind and youthful exuberance, his optimistic approach to life and the nobility of his actions. And in the deeper part of his mind, he had allowed himself to enjoy to see up close the lithe body and delicate features while he enjoyed his presence in his life and his home. Never in that secret fantasies had ever imagined he would manage to get him in his arms for real. But now he could and he had him.

Legolas, who had left his seat and kneeled before Elrond while they were kissing for easier access to the other, separated his face from the other and looked him in the eye, raising an eyebrow.

"Were you fantasising about me all this time, my Lord?" - he asked in a mock-scandalized tone, showing the resurfacing incorrigible spirit he had always displayed prior the last three years. His irreverent humour was starting to show again and Elrond was grateful for its reappearance - although he suspected he was trying to put some humour in the situation - also it allowed them a respite of the forceful awakening of the bond's needs. As much as Elrond wanted Legolas, he wouldn't want to rush the younger elf to something he wasn't prepared to give, much less when he was still leery of Elrond.

"You can't be that surprised, my prince. I may have been unable to openly show my appreciation for you, but I was barely discrete searching for you when you came to the Valley" - Elrond said, playing his part trying to ease the situation. Legolas raised both of his eyebrows now, in real shock.

"I thought you wanted my help!" - he said. Elrond laughed softly, kissing his shocked face again for a moment before he answered him. He took his hand and helped him to raise from the floor and they both took a seat in one of the seats, close together not wanting to lose contact for now. The bond pressure to get them closer was encompassing them both, but he sensed he could keep it at bay for now.

"I did Legolas. Don't get me wrong. You have been a blessing from the moment you took over the reins of Mirkwood's diplomatic relationships with other Realms. And I am not the only one thinking this, I was relieved when we started to exchange information and you acted as an intermediary between your father and the rest of us when a common strategy against the Dark was needed" - Elrond said, now seriously. Legolas looked at him in suspicion. Elrond smiled again - "But I can't deny I took advantage as I could when you came to the Valley. I wouldn't put you in risk or my own desires but I was..." - Elrond trailed off in thought, remembering the darkest parts of his marriage which had been lifted, a bit, by the presence of his friends and a beautiful elven prince in particular - "I was happy to have you here when you came. I tried to share as much time as I could with you without it seeming unseemly, I envied my sons' chance to be free with you." - Elrond's face darkened at that last thought - "And it angers me that they threw away the friendship you shared in the way they did. I can't believe they would behave as they did after all you have gone through together" - Elrond said. Legolas's face was thoughtful after that, fully distracted at that train of thought and grateful for the distraction.

"Did they know how you feel, do you think?" - he asked then. Elrond looked surprised at the question but gave it the thought it deserved.

"I don't think so. They haven't said anything about it all this time, and I think it would have come up by now if they did" - Elrond said pensively.

"I do wonder, though, if a part of them had noticed it and that guided some of their actions. It would make a kind of sense in retrospective. Some of the things they did were completely overblown if they thought I was the only one who was interested and who was trying to... seduce you I suppose" - Legolas said. Elrond shrugged minutely.

"Their actions weren’t rational so I wouldn't be surprised that some of their motivations were hidden, even from themselves. That is something they will need to work during this time they have been given to learn and make up for their actions. I can only hope they will take advantage of this time and the experience of those they have been sent to" - Elrond admitted neutrally.

Legolas looked pensively to the elven Lord, he could barely believe that the twins had left the Valley for their own punishment and he wondered how the older elf felt about it. He started to talk, slowly.

"I can't imagine it is easy for you to see them leave the Valley. I don't expect this would be something the two of us can talk about easily, but you don't need to hide your pain about it. I understand that you are their father, regardless of how they have behaved with me" - Legolas said. Elrond caressed his face in wonder, always amazed at the younger elf’s empathy and wish to make things better for others, despite his own pain. This conversation wasn't what he had wanted to start right now, but it was a good distraction from the heat they had been swept by previously.

"I haven't wanted to make things harder for you talking about them. But it's true they are something none of us can't help to think about. I know the way they treated you is unforgivable and something the three of you will have to resolve in the future if you wish to go back to some semblance of friendship. You are right, they are my sons and I love them regardless of what they have done. But right now I am having a hard time separating my children from the adults they have become. And to explain how I missed the change." - Elrond admitted.

Legolas nodded in silence, he couldn't explain the twins' change any more than Elrond, despite him having first-hand experience with it. He took both of Elrond's hands between his and squeezed them softly in support. Elrond seemed to return back from whatever path his dark thoughts had sent him and smiled the wood-elf in appreciation.

"We can't do anything for them, at the moment. They need to reach a place where they can heal by themselves before it, and I suspect Lorien will be a good place to start. If they survive Arwen's rage that is" - he smiled with certain mischief. Legolas felt they had recovered sufficiently and he could return the conversation to their current situation. - "This bond is something I haven't felt before, as nice as that kiss was, it got out of control really fast" - he observed - "Even now, I couldn't continue this conversation if I wasn't keeping contact with you, is this normal? I don't think I have read something like this in the library" - Legolas admitted.

Elrond nodded with his head in agreement, letting go for the moment the issue of Arwen's retribution. He suspected Legolas wouldn't give him any more answers about it anyway. Focusing on the present, he could feel the heat and want in his own body, but the bond was making it harder to ignore his needs, amplifying the feelings they already had, and making them more pressing. As Legolas had observed, the touch of their hands was helping him to keep it controlled.

"I know what you mean, from the moment I kissed you it has been difficult to keep my mind focused on the conversation. I don't want you to think I'm rushing you or that I am not respecting the pain you have gone through" - Elrond explained - "I don't think I've read a reaction like this in the library either or hear something similar from those who have bonded in the past. If I was to venture a guess, I would say the fact we have been bonded this long without setting the bond has something to do with our reaction now" - Elrond theorized out loud. Legolas blinked at that in surprise.

"You mean it is pushing us to... what? Sleep together?" - he felt uncomfortable being so crude with the older elf, who he had admired for so long, but he didn’t know other way to ask it.
"Intimacy at least" - Elrond smiled following Legolas’ trail of thought. He didn't blame the younger elf for his reaction, he could well imagine how he was feeling although it made him feel old. - "Bonds like ours are a mechanism of our people to strengthen the original relationship. In our case, our compatibility as a couple is pushing us to get closer" - Legolas frowned in response.

"You make it sound as if it was something alive and aware" - he commented. Elrond denied with his head.

"Not at all. Think of it more like a natural process like your heart beating or breathing. If you were drowning, all the instincts in your body and your mind try to make it that you reach the surface to breathe" - Elrond explained. Legolas's face cleared a bit at that although he still looked sceptical.

"You mean this bond is trying to strengthen our relationship by pushing us together? Even though we may not be still ready for it? What is the sense of that? It doesn't seem very efficient" - Legolas observed. Elrond nodded in agreement.

"Not all the instincts are good every time, in the same way, someone drowning can fight their rescuer because they don't realize they are trying to help them to the point they both may die" - Elrond observed - "We need to find our own pace for this. I am not a young elf Legolas, I can control myself so this relationship has the space to grow without pressure" - Elrond promised, kissing the hand he was still holding courtly. He then raised from the seating to his feet.

"I should leave now then, back to my duties. I think I've given us much to think about and I should leave you to think alone and without pressure" - Elrond said. Legolas rose from his own seat and nodded in agreement.

Elrond walked back to the room's door and turned back just before he reached it. Legolas still stood next to the sofa they had been sitting on.

"Can we dine together? I would like to spend more time with you" - Elrond asked, feeling a bit as a youngster asking for a date. Legolas nodded after a moment of hesitation.

"I would like that, perhaps I can show you what I've been researching after? You said you were interested in the results of my studies" - he offered then trying to meet Elrond in the middle. Elrond smiled in response and agreed. Then he finally left the room, leaving Legolas alone at least wondering how things had changed so fast and what that meant for him and his future.

He walked back to the window still lost in his thoughts looking at the path the twins had taken as they left the Valley, wondering what his former friends would say about this if they still were friends he could go for advice. For the first time in a long time, he felt again the pain of loss at that friendship which had helped him in the past to survive so many dangers, physical and emotional.

A small pulse of the bond reminded him he wasn't alone anymore, and never again as long as Elrond had something to tell about it. The Perendhil didn't intrude directly in his thoughts but Legolas felt his support and shared pain, and he left it to comfort him. Hugging his arms around himself, he embraced that feeling and laid down in the divan allowing the warm feeling to give him strength and lightened his burdens.

Chapter Text has been very difficult to accept the fact Arwen doesn't even want to talk to us. We knew what we were doing was wrong, even when we were doing it, there was a part of us which understood we were going too far. But the reaction of someone who has suffered the same as we did, our own sister... after we disclosed our actions, without even giving details... she just walked away! And she did know much of what we had done, it was the details she didn't know, those which made her walk away from us. She didn't want to talk to us, eat with us or have anything to do with us. I don't blame her but it has made the time here even harder. I think this has been a further lesson for us, we didn't fully understand how isolated Legolas must have felt all these years at the Valley.

You will be happy to know Ada, that Elrohir and I are being thoughtfully educated about every painful wrong we made to Legolas. And we can't even start to consider this as just payment for our deeds, after all, we have earned this punishment, where Legolas didn't.

I wish we could learn a way to compensate him for what we did, but I am starting to suspect that is not something we can learn even if we spend the rest of this Age wandering around every Realm of the elves.

Your sons always,
Elladan and Elrohir

Elrond put down the letter at the desk thoughtfully. This was the third missive he received from the twins since they had left the Valley six months ago. That by itself was a sign by itself of how dreadfully time they must be having at their grandparents' Realm. The twins weren't known for being such dedicated letter writers. They were actually well known for leaving the Valley for months without giving any sign of life until some well-meaning chieftain of the Dúnedain, or some kind ruler sent word of their presence. Sometimes a few months after they had left again, not realizing the twins themselves hadn't sent words of their whereabouts.

Their situation wasn't any surprise to him, given that he had several accounts from others of what was happening at Lothlorien, he picked Arwen's last letter.

...jokes they said! They had the temerity to tell me it had started with small jokes. Like, oh how fun it would be to corral our former best friend, who is still disoriented by a bond he had never expected to have and that his people don't usually create, and ask him a few impertinent questions about his attraction to our father. And the reason he had to form a bond with him. Like Legolas even knew how to purposely form a bond with anyone or that he could have forced you, an elf Lord, master of mental skills and ages older than him into a bond you didn't want. Sometimes I wonder if my brothers skipped all our classes with Erestor. Are you sure he didn't lie to you about their schooling? I mean, they are somehow annoying and I wouldn't be surprised they would have agreed to some kind of pact of silence so they could skip some classes and he could get rid of them for a while...

Elrond couldn't help the smile that came to his face at Arwen's ranting. He was happy to see she seemed to have recovered much of her former fire which had been apparently quenched by the visions she had been having of late. He was still not entirely certain of the scope of all she had seen in her visions. But Legolas had been right about the need of talking it over with her. Even reading between lines in her letters, it was clear to Elrond that Galadriel's advice, as wise as the Ages old Noldor was and even with her being Arwen's grandmother, the help she gave seemed to have more focus on figuring all the content of Arwen's visions than helping her to deal with them. Elrond didn't agree on anything which made his beloved daughter awake at night with nightmares of not seeing her family ever again.

With a sigh, he picked up the last of the letters of this batch which was coincidentally the longest, a missive from the ruler of Lorien herself, his former? mother-in-law.

... I am glad to hear you have started to heal somehow Elrond. I know that you, and Gil-Galad at the time, thought that I pushed Celebrian at you for the ambition of having at least a part of me in the High King's throne. I believe I deserved that assessment. It is true that I didn't think much of you at the beginning. I thought you were just a wild boy my cousins had rescued for the memory of Findekáno. There was some similarity between the two of you and my Valiant cousin, and that would be just the only thing which could have broken my damned cousins from their blood-blind mindless attack.

That similarity probably saved your life at the time. But when I started to know you, once Elros had left us for his island and mortality, I started to see some likeness in other things. I don't think you could live in the household of Maedhros the Tall and be ignorant of what he felt for my fair cousin. And how he felt in return. I have to make a confession, and I hope you understand how difficult this is for me, even with the distance of time and the two of them long dead. I, at the dawn of the time, when the sun and moon didn't yet exist, loved my cousin.

Findekáno of course, not that crazy Feanórian. He was kind, brave, cheerful and so very beautiful. But he never had eyes for anyone but our fair, redhead, Oath-mad cousin. Not even after Alqualonde and the ships. Not even after the Ice. Not even after Maitimo the well-formed became Maedhros the tortured, and was ruined and ugly with scars and lacking a hand. But that only made me love him even more, to see that loyalty which made the core of him. That was the reason I left for Thingol's kingdom, and the reason I never returned to Belerian's Noldor Realms.

But when I met you and your brother you brought all that back. Even if by then I had already met Celeborn and felt in love with him, and had a child together. I don't want you to think I ever think of you in any romantic way, my former son-in-law. But I noticed where your gaze wandered, where your interest mainly laid, and where it didn't. And I have to admit that it burned. To see someone so much like Finno, again uninterested by my daughter, beautiful, kind, refined...

I admit that I wondered if Maedhros in his madness had... done something he shouldn't to you. I was relieved to see he hadn't, that his treatment of you had always been paternal... when he was well enough to pay attention to you, that is. Don't make that face I know you are doing, you were young and I wanted to make sure you were alright after having lived with them so long. You would have done the same in my place, your mind wasn't so guarded at the time and it was easy, and harmless, to enter it without your noticing and calming my fears.

And I admit that I saw you were a good elf and that you have learnt much in Maedhros household about ruling and fairness. I saw a glimpse of the wise and compassionate Elf Lord you would become and I also saw that you wouldn't, by your own volition, marry any elf-maiden. Already then you were too wary of your differences, and already then you had other preferences. But you were Gil-Galad's heir and our people still needed hope. And I thought that a marriage with my child would give that to the Noldor. And that you would learn to love my beautiful child, and that she would find in you a good mate. That you would protect her. And yes, maybe a part of me wished for my daughter to have what I had always been denied.

And you did, you were good to her. I know you were. But what I didn't predict and you can laugh at me if you want, is my own daughter's reactions. All my plotting and I couldn't understand my own child's feelings and how they would affect her and your relationship. I confess I was worried when the two of you were unable to make a bond by yourselves, and I tried to convince myself that your mortal blood had made it difficult. But it wasn't that, was it? That is obvious with your current bond. The two of you, my Celebrian and you, weren't even a passable match. Gil-Galad knew this, he was furious with me for making you think the marriage was necessary and a good idea. He never wanted to influence you in your decisions, always too aware of the dual-role he played as both your guardian and your king, and unwilling to take advantage of your trust.

I can't apologize completely, and I think this you will understand. Because with all the pain, this marriage created my beautiful grandchildren and I know neither of us can regret that outcome, although right now some of them seem to have... Valar Elrond! how can they have strayed that far in the fair Rivendell? Where did they learn so much cruelty? Is this another sign of Marred Arda? I always thought that Indis line, my line and yours, had been spared of the cruelty that so easily blinded my uncle and his sons. Ridiculous, I know. To think that Feanor and his sons were in some way flawed and we were inherently good. But having a display of how cruel we elves can be, and have it so cruelly shown by my own grandchildren... I haven't been brave enough to write Legolas and ask how he is, will you pass to him my best wishes? I hope he is recovering from the evil shown to him. I have known him all his life and I know him to be a kind and fair elf, but no one would blame him if he chooses never to forgive those foolish children of yours. We can only hope that Thranduil doesn't ever hear all they did to his favourite child. I don't think Aman would be far enough for them to run if he had a glimpse of the worst of what happened there. I hope you know what you are doing sending them there to make amends. I hope they are planning how to convey what happened at the Valley so they don't get thrown into the dungeons for a few centuries...

Elrond sighed again at Thranduil's mention. He hadn't been certain about sending the twins to the Elvenking either. But he felt his own hesitation came not from the leader but from the father. He knew Thranduil never would harm his children or any other elf for what it matters. He would make them uncomfortable for sure, he would deal his own justice on those who had harmed his child. But he would be fair, and he would make sure the twins left his Realm with the skills they needed to be better elves, and maybe, better friends. That was all he could hope for his sons. It was out of his hands anyway, he would need to answer his correspondence at some point. But first, he wanted to convey Galadriel's well-wishes to his bonded. That gave him an excuse to seek the younger elf again. He hadn't seen him since breakfast and he was feeling his absence already. Elrond felt as a young elf again, but he didn't want to miss any other chances with Legolas. He couldn't deal right now with the rest of Galadriel's comments or apologies, half-hearted as they were. Yes, he couldn't regret his children existence either but the thought of the older elf manipulation, even when she knew or suspected that her daughter and him didn't match in more than one level... it didn't bear thinking at the moment. He would need to meditate on it or their relationship would be now forever marred it, and they couldn't afford dissension at this moment. He was reminded of Legolas' advise about Arwen and his fear that Galadriel advise to her came more from the elven leader than from a grandmother. He suspected, in this area, his bonded insights were clearer than any of his own. With that in mind, he felt the need to find him and refresh his spirit with the sight of that bright féa.

It was midday almost, and he was certain the wood-elf would be wandering the gardens making friends with the trees, or in the healing Halls researching some medicine. Legolas had spent the last few months getting reacquainted with every citizen of the Valley, from the cooks to the soldiers, and of course every tree within range. He had also tried to improve his healing skills with all the resources the Last Homely House had, including Elrond's knowledge.

Elrond would seek him out, if he was out in the gardens, maybe the younger elf would teach him again how to converse with his favourite trees. The bond was giving them much to experiment with sharing skills with each other and Elrond was enjoying the experience like he was in his first century again.

He walked out of the door looking for his bonded.

Legolas laid down on the branch taking advantage of the clear day to relax in the sunlight. He had been feeling a bit stuffed in the house this day with the amazing weather outside, so he had decided to take his correspondence to read in the trees. He suspected he would need the calm of the trees before long. He had recognized the handwriting of one of the letters he had received. Although the twins had been writing Elrond for a few months now, this was the first time he received any correspondence from them. Had they waited this long to give him time to start to forgive them? Or they didn't know what to tell him before now? Maybe he was overthinking this, and the twins were only writing him as a part of their sentence.

The only way to know was to open the letter and read it, and Legolas was reluctant to do this. He had been hurt far too much and too long already for him to trust easily again.

Before he could make any decision, he saw a familiar figure walking out of the house and looking around. He felt confident he knew who the elven Lord was looking for, peering into the trees' branches. Legolas got up from his branch and walked from tree branch to tree branch towards his bonded until he was poised just above the older elf in the tree. Looking down to Elrond, he realized the Noldor wasn't yet familiar enough with the trees' voices to notice they were singing his presence above him.

Smiling a bit, Legolas decided to have a bit of fun with the Noldor and sitting down in the branch just above Elrond, hugged it with his legs and let himself drop to the side appearing upside down next to Elrond's face. The elven lord couldn't help jumping in place at the unexpected action, Legolas just smiled wickedly.

"Legolas! I wasn't expecting you to appear like that" - Elrond said, looking to the upside-down face level with his.

"I figured you were looking for me, you told me last time not to jump in front of you when you came to look for me" - Legolas observed calmly. Elrond almost rolled his eyes in response.

"I should have known you would take that as a challenge to do something even more outrageous to surprise me" - Elrond commented with fake annoyance. The bond between them thrummed with fond amusement. Legolas raised - lowered? - his eyebrow in response.

"Surprise? With the trees singing along like that?" - Legolas asked, truly confused. Granted Elrond couldn't yet understand the trees but surely by now, he heard their voices?

"It's not my first instinct to listen to the trees as you do, tithen ernil" - Elrond said fondly, walking to the face in front of him and daring a kiss to the mouth within reach. They had still a long way from intimacy or the trust they had before. But Legolas had been allowing Elrond some small touches so they could move on to a deeper relationship. Legolas smiled in the kiss, and when they separated jumped down to the floor twirling mid-fall to fall on his feet.

"We clearly need to train your ears a bit more if you can ignore them when they are like this" - Legolas commented and grabbed Elrond's arm companionably. He was still dubitative with asserting his position next to the elven Lord, but it was in Legolas' nature to be brave and forthright so he pushed ahead steering the older elf with him - "What brought you outside at this hour? I would have thought you would stay at your studio for at least a few hours more, brooding" - he observed while he led the older elf to a nearby seat in the shadow of his favourite oak.

Elrond raised his eyebrow, amused at the younger elf’s assessment. The two of them have been carefully feeling around each other's pains and traumas. It had been a hard learning process but they had to start recovering a bit of the companionship they had enjoyed in the past and Legolas had started to show a bit of the humour and teasing that Elrond had loved in the past. The wood-elf was brave, kind and wise, but he was also brash, wild, and fun-loving. And as most of the wood-elves, he loved to make well-natured fun of the more serious Noldor, and tease Elrond out of any bad mood he fell into.

"Brooding?" - Elrond asked, amused but trying not to show it. It was a lost battle to hide emotions with the bond and they being this close, but it was a game they had started to play to make the other vocalize what was troubling them.

"Absolutely!" - Legolas exclaimed, seating his bonded decorously down on the bench while he sat sideways, with his arms around his crossed legs in front of him and one of his hands still holding Elrond's arm - "I could feel your brooding before you took a step outside the house. It is like a cloud above your head, my Lord Elrond" - Legolas gesticulated to a place above Elrond's head. Then showing he was still a brave prince of the woodland Realm, he continued - "What did those letters say that made you like this? I have thought the twins were reconciled about the consequences of what happened here and went voluntarily to Lorien" - Legolas observed, deciding not to beat around the bush about what would have been writing to the elven Lord - "I appreciate the... care you have been taking with what happened Elrond. Don't think I don't or that I haven't even noticed it. I have and I am grateful. But I am not an elfling and I wouldn't want for you to close up your feelings about your sons. I can't be as unbiased as I would be otherwise. But I understand they are your children, no matter what they have done, and I won't blame you for loving them and missing them" - Legolas said softly now, dropping his other hand to grasp Elrond's.

Elrond raised Legolas' hand to his mouth and kissed it in thanks, while his eyes glistened with tears he refused to let fall. He took a shaky breath and looking into kind, understanding eyes he started to talk.

"They are... finding it difficult to accept other people’s attitudes now their deeds here are widely spread in Lorien. Their sister has become your staunchest ally in the Golden Wood, in this quest to make them learn and start to repay for their actions. I can't but feel so proud about the elleth she has become, but it makes the contrast with her brothers' attitude even harsher" - Elrond explained. Legolas smiled fondly at Arwen's mention.

"She is... protective" - Legolas admitted - "...with anyone she takes into her heart. And she is brave in her defence of others. I am lucky to have her on my side, I wouldn't want to be in the twins' place. She is sure to be making their lives miserable for a while. She has always despised injustice and those in power taking advantage of their position. The twins couldn't have annoyed her more if they tried"

"That they have. I have received a letter from each one of them. Elladan and Elrohir are fully cowed by their sister, and Arwen is almost to the point to tie them to a talan and leave them there for a fortnight. She has not received the details of what happened...well" - Elrond said, touching the letters he still had in his pocket. Legolas grimaced in response to the last part.

"Valar yes. She had a few words for me too. She has been scolding me for letting it get this far and for hiding the true scope of what was happening here from her" - Legolas hesitated a bit then and then decided to disclose the letter he had received - "Whatever she has been telling them must have made some impact in them. I just received a letter from them this morning" - Legolas declared. Elrond squeezed the hand he was holding in his now.

"What did they say?" - he asked worriedly. Legolas shrugged his shoulders.

"I still don't know, I haven't been brave enough to open it yet" - he admitted taking it out of his pocket again to show the unbroken seal to Elrond. The perendhil looked down to the letter concerned, before raising his sable-grey eyes back to the elven prince.

"If it is of some consolation to you, from the letters I have received they seem to be genuinely sorry for what they have done. They have probably just written a stream of apologies and little more" - Elrond guessed. Legolas nodded with his head.

"I gathered that from our last meeting"- he admitted, remembering the ambush near the kitchen. He looked down to the letter again, hesitating. Finally, he opened it and started to read while Elrond fixed his whole attention in the bond and his eyes, watching for his reaction.

Chapter Text

My Lass melon prince Legolas,
I am hoping this letter reaches you, and that you will actually open it and read it instead of throwing it to the fire as I am sure you are tempted to do. I will feel very foolish (although I know I would deserve it) if after all the time spent fretting about it, you don't even read it. I suppose it would be one of the punishments my brother and I must suffer for our actions, although it feels like another loss in a sea of so many of them already. Not so long ago, or so it feels for me, it would have been you I would have asked for counsel about how to apologize for my actions. our soft-hearted wood elf prince.

Without your wise guidance, I fear this effort will fall short of what you deserve but I hope you know this missive is more sincere than any words I have pronounced over the last three years Valar Lass how could we. I will do my best to write to you in this medium what I should have been telling you in person these past years.

The first thing I should have asked you is, are you all right? I know I don't have any right to worry about your health even less of a right to worry about your mental state but it has been in my mind for weeks. We have been studying under grandmother's healers and they have, surprising no one, been very focused on bonds and marriage links. We have even met a few bonded pairs and they are working with us and answering our questions. In particular we have one of those pairs assigned to us by our grandmother (or us to them). They have been a bit dismissive with us, ironic and snippy You would like them, Airo and Artiel have worked as a healers' bonded pair for a long time and they are amazing! can father and you They are very interested in some study you have been making about bonded pairs and the sharing of skills? Anyway, they have made clear that they don't care all that much for my brother and me, but because grandmother has ordered them to instruct us about the intricacies of a bonded pair they are doing that work diligently. I am sorry to be the recipient of their hostility, is that how you felt? Some days have been very tense but we are working out as well as we can, although I think Elrohir is having a harder time than me he is sweet on Artiel I think He would like to have a chance to know them under other circumstances. I would too. But being a witness to their bond has given me a different perspective on them. Of yours with father, and father's with mother.

So that takes me to my next question, do you love are you interested how are you and father doing I know, again this is a question neither of us has any right to make anymore, and I remember we have made it with less than kind intentions but this time I actually mean it. Believe or not, I truly wish that the two of you are working out your differences. I know father has always liked you and admired your spirit and kind soul and I think there was some admiration of your body going too Now that the veil of my rage has lifted, I can see more clearly how difficult things have been between him and mother and how unfair it was to put the burden of their failed marriage on the most innocent party of all, you. I am sure you have heard this from more important and trusted parties than me, but it has to be said. My parents were never happy with their marriage. It was a difficult concept to accept for me and my brother, even if Arwen is apparently already in peace with the idea and she has been happy gleeful really to 'explain' it to us. They weren't 'just' having a fight that night, it wasn't about the suffering of our mother among those monsters, it was the last chapter of a story which has been deteriorating for an age. A story, we have been told, that was doomed from the start did you know grandmother orchestrated the whole thing? what is wrong with them? Grandmother has told us the edited story of their engagement. I hope neither of us is ever forced to make an arrangement like that, it looked doomed from the start. But you already have, haven't you?

And I suppose this is the last question I should have asked to you, or maybe the first, as your so-called friend. Is this how it felt for you? Were you afraid to be bonded to our father? I know the two of you got along rather well and that you admired him you aren't discrete enough about your attraction, that you may even like him (that is the grain of truth we latched on to attack you) But that isn't the same as to want to be forcefully bonded to him, is it? I can't start to imagine how difficult must have been to be bonded to someone you liked under those circumstances. Someone so much older and as grave as our father is, no matter how much we love him his story has made him such a solemn elf... I can't stop imagining how afraid you must have been and how much you must have needed a friendly ear.I have nightmares about you deciding to

And that is maybe our worst crime, we were your best friends and we failed you when you needed us the most, turned from friends to foe without any warning when you must have been at your lowest. And for this, I apologize Legolas, from the deepest part of my heart. I can't turn time back, I can't change what I said or what I did. I would if I could, I would kill a thousand orcs and fight the dark lord if only it would allow me to go back three years ago to be the friend you deserved. We swore a millennia ago that we would be the best of friends, that we wouldn't allow those petty arguments between our kinds, those ridiculous misconceptions and age-old disputes to come between us. And now we are forsworn, like our kind of old we made a promise beyond our ability to fulfill. I think we are going to pay for this for a long time Legolas, and we deserve it.

But you didn't. You have been true to your oath and a better friend to us and our family than we deserved. I am sure you will find a way to make it work with father, and you will be happy. Know now, because I wasn't able to say this to you in person because I am an idiot I will have to tell you in this letter, but it is nonetheless true: I am happy for you. I wish you happiness and I have wished you this from the moment I met you. Any period of time I have said something else, I wasn't myself and for the monster I became, and I am ashamed.

It won't happen again, no matter if you never forgive us, as it is your right. If anything good can come from this, it will be this: I will never be that kind of monster again. This promise I won't break Legolas. I can't change what I did to you, but I have decided that I won't allow anything similar to happen to someone else. The words we used to hurt you - words we never thought, those were just an excuse - are my new enemy. I know you have always hated, even before all this, what you called the 'Noldor arrogance towards the rest of us'. And you fought to find a middle ground between our kinds. Well, I am fighting for this too Legolas, I hope I will be good enough this time around to keep my word.

I finish this letter with a sliver of hope Legolas. I don't deserve your forgiveness, I have done nothing to earn it. But I am working to change that. I hope someday, we will meet again and you will see once more someone worthy of your friendship. Know that I will always be your friend, even in the distance, to the end of the world.

Take care of yourself and take care of father too. I don't have to tell you he has been badly damaged. But I know you would never hurt him and if someone can heal his world-weary soul it is you. You both deserve happiness and I know in my heart you are well suited to give it to each other.

All my love and eternal friendship,
Elladan Elrondion

Dear Lass,
I know what Elladan would say if he was reading this. He would say we no longer have the right to call you that, do we? And he would be right I know, but I don't want to call you anything else but I don't know how else to address this letter. I have a pile of papers discarded as big as my waist, and yet I am unable to write something that feels right. So I have decided to carry on and hope for the best.

That has always been like me, hasn't it? The more reckless of father's twin sons. The crazier, the more impulsive one. I liked to be this, to be someone people looked at and didn't know what I would do nextI think I was almost proud of that distinction. I thought it wasn't a bad thing to jump before looking, to use my instincts and take the leap, to make judgments in an instant and act in consequence. And it was good sometimes, I was a balance to my brother's calmer approach, and between the two of us, we could do anything (or so I believed). That was my rationalizing when Elladan, father, Glorfindel, Erestor, and even you warned me that I was being reckless. I wasn't thinking it all through. Because it brought us something precious too, didn't it? It brought us your friendship. Anytime anyone tried to make me think twice before doing something, I thought of the first time we met and how I jumped - literally jumped, remember? - at you and ask you to play with us. Mother almost fainted but Elladan came and he smoothed it over and we three became friends. Aran Thranduil's face was hilarious So it worked! That was what I held to, and no one could make me change my opinion. I could jump ahead and if anything or anyone needed to be mollified, Elladan or you would be there to do it. That worked well enough for me.

Until now, until those last years. I didn't think twice (or at all some would say) did I? I saw what happened between father and you, I saw mother leave immediately after, and I formed my conclusions. What happened couldn't have been on purpose. My mother didn't abruptly break her bond with my father and left him floundering in pain, about to die with the trauma of it. My parents' marriage hadn't been about to collapse or a failure from the start because that would mean there wasn't a way to turn back and become a real family again. Or even be a family again in the future when we all sailed. So I chose to believe my mother's actions were an accident. She didn't mean to do what she did, and it would all have worked out if only she had a little more time to realize what had transpired and gone back to father... if only you haven't reached out to him and formed that bond.

I know what you are thinking. I have been told this by everyone until it has become a mantra in my brain. Mother's actions weren't an accident. She didn't even stay the night after she broke the bond. She was already packed and left straight after. They couldn't have worked out their differences because there wasn't any common ground to work to start with. And most important of all, father wouldn't have lasted the hour if you hadn't bonded with him. But see, I didn't see that at the time. Because I made a split-moment judgment. As I always did, as I have always done and nothing had gone wrong because of it before, or so I believed (I am sure father would have a different tale to tell).

Regardless of the past, this time did it, this time I made a rushed stupid reckless decision about who was in the wrong and acted... and this time no one stopped me. Because everyone was so hurt, so distressed or distracted by what was happening that no one had the time to spare for me and my stupidity. It wasn't Elladan's responsibility to be my keeper, it wasn't father's, Glorfindel's... it was mine, and I failed. Worse of all, I dragged Elladan down this path with me. For once, he was vulnerable to my influence to my evil and allowed my judgment to stand and we both went down a path we didn't know how to turn back. And it cost us everything. It cost us you Besides the wrong we did to you and to father with our actions, which will always be my worst crime, I am sorry for having dragged my brother down with me.

If you have some pity to spare Lass, please spare it for Elladan. He tried to stop me didn't want to hurt you w I don't know how to explain it, but he didn't want to do what we did. He knew it was wrong and it was the pain of mother's leaving tied to his unwillingness to leave me alone which made him act as he did. I wasn't backing off, and I convinced him you had done us wrong so he joined me, his judgment wasn't clear. Even though, it was he who stopped me from acting out worse than we did. I imagine you think what we did was bad enough but trust me there were worse things, although I don't blame you if you don't believe me.

I don't know if this letter counts as an apology or if it is only a long-winded excuse. I don't mean it like that, I suppose I just wanted to give you a glimpse of my inner thoughts or something like that. You told us once you didn't know how we could have been friends in the past if we truly believed the words we were saying. Maybe this letter is a last-ditch attempt to explain how it could be possible that we were friends but we acted as we did. Because you were my friend Legolas, believe that if you can't believe anything else from me. My friendship with you was the most genuine thing I have ever felt. I haven't been a good friend I grant you that, but that was on me. I hope...

I wish you happiness with my father Lass, I don't know if we will meet again, so I wanted to tell you this now in a letter. I hope you will read this for curiosity if nothing else. Once this punishment is finished, I don't know what I will do, or where I will go. I know I don't want to cause you any more pain ever again, so I don't believe I will return to Rivendell. Father and you deserve to make a happy home there without my presence bringing up bad memories. So I guess this is the end of our path together, be happy my friend, and make my father happy. I beg you, he has been alone for so long. He deserves happiness and I think you can give it to him, and be happy yourself.

All my love,
Elrohir Elrondion

Legolas lowered his hands to his lap, his eyes lost on the tree-line. Elrond, who had stayed silent so far, placed a hand over Legolas' after a few moments.

"Legolas? Is everything alright? Do you want to talk about it?" - Elrond asked carefully. Legolas turned his gaze back to Elrond and denied with a shake of his head helplessly. He wasn't sure how to explain what he was feeling so he opened the bond to his mate and showed him.

Elrond gasped in response to the influx of emotions and thoughts, but he soon got a hold of himself and was able to send soothing thoughts to his mate. That helped Legolas through the first shock and in turn, allowed him to start to process what he had read. Legolas' eyes filled with tears.

"Oh, Legolas! Come here" - Elrond opened his arms and Legolas collapsed in the Perendhil's strong arms. He buried his face in Elrond's shoulder and cried for the first time in three years for the friends he had lost.

Elrond kept his arms around his mate while he left all the pain out. He was aware - he could sense it through the bond - that the younger elf wasn't crying about the lost friendship, because he had grieved for that long ago. But now, when it seemed like Elladan and Elrohir had started to return to their former selves, Legolas was once again reminded of what he had lost. He needed to come to terms with the fact that the past was gone for good. Even if Elladan and Elrohir returned to their former selves, the trust they had betrayed couldn't be recovered. The finality of it was another loss.
Elrond kept the younger elf close and tried to give him as much relief as he could with his embrace, trying to say without words he wasn't alone.

Elrond caressed the sleeping face of his young bondmate while his mind ran in circles. After Legolas' tears had run out, Elrond had led him out of the gardens and into the house again. He had brought Legolas to Elrond's rooms where he had tucked him into his bed. Bringing Legolas here, to his sanctuary, had been instinctive. He had seen his mate distressed and he had wanted to protect him, so he took him to the safest place he knew: his own rooms. Legolas had still been too out of it to muster a complaint, and he had collapsed gratefully on Elrond's bed without a word.

Elrond couldn't deny the rush of pleasure which shot through his body at the sight of Legolas lying asleep at his bed, despite the current circumstances.

Speaking of which, he looked down to his lap, his sons' letters were still clutched on his left hand, unread. Legolas had given them to him before he fell to sleep saying he could read them if he wished. Elrond had mixed feelings about this, while he was happy Legolas trusted him with them it was also a clear example of how bad things still were between the three of them. Before all this, neither his sons nor Legolas would have allowed some else reading through their correspondence. It would have been filled with confidences, secrets, and even mischief. Neither of them would have allowed one of the 'adults' to grab a hold of them. But now Legolas' only delay when he gave him the letters had been a slight worry on the back of his mind that the content of his sons' words could hurt Elrond somehow.

Elrond sighed wearily and opened the pages, picking up Elladan's letter first as he had seen Legolas do. His oldest son' words were a far cry from the confident elf he had raised but also a return to the kind elfling he remembered. Elrond felt his heart sinking and soaring in turns while he read the letter to the end. Elladan's realization of the state of Elrond's previous marriage, his badly-written concern about Legolas' situation and his guilt-ridden apology were heart wrenching to read for his father. Still, the letter held a small measure of hope and Elrond hoped that things would improve in the future. He knew Legolas had been badly hurt... but the fact he would still have tears to shed after having read his former friends' words attested that all hope wasn't lost. Elrond didn't expect for the three of them to return where they had left it, but maybe with time they could build something new. Or maybe it was a father’s hope for his sons' future. Despite Elladan's hopeless words he knew his son well enough to know he wouldn't lose hope to regain his friend's trust some day. It could take forever but as elves, time was something they all had to spare. A nagging thought about the choice of the Perendhil crossed his mind briefly but he turned his attention back to the second letter, not leaving that dark thought to grab hold on him.

Elrond hesitated before he picked up Elrohir's letter. He had noticed Legolas' reactions had been more jumbled while he read this missive. Elrond knew his youngest son wasn't as skilled writing down his thoughts as Elladan, but he hoped he hadn't made a new mess of the things. Finally, he picked up the letter and started to read.

Half-way through the letter, he understood Legolas' reaction. Elrohir's words felt... darker than his twin. Elrond knew his sons' characters were very different despite the likeness of their looks. Where Elladan was calm, kind and reflexive, Elrohir was wild, more selfish and reckless. At the same time, where Elladan was more isolated and aloof, his younger twin was able to make connections and emphasize better with other people. They usually were able to balance each other and find a middle ground on their interactions with other people. It had always worried Elrond, that co-dependency, as his sons still had to deal with the outside world.

Elrond didn't remember having been like that with his own twin. Elros and he had discovered very young that none of them could be certain the other would be forever at their side - even before Elros had chosen mortality - so while they loved each other dearly, they hadn't expected to be always together as Elladan and Elrohir did.

Elrohir's letter showed he was more aware of the perils of the situation than Elrond had given him credit. Not only that, it seemed that where his son had at one time believed his dependency on his brother's calmer influence wasn't a problem, that was no longer the case.

His younger son's tendency to... drama came through loud and clear in his letter. He had gone straight to the opposite side of the argument in barely a few months. Where before, his close bond to his brother had been a strength, now he judged it a curse. It was a reaction so classically Elrohir that Elrond wasn't even surprised by it. Elrond had the feeling he owed Legolas more than he had suspected for reigning in his sons as he had all those years if this was the result of them being on their own without the woodland Prince's influence.

Elrond put down the letters on the table's bedside and laid down next to Legolas' sleeping form. He didn't dare to draw Legolas into his arms without his consent but he settled behind him on his side, letting the warmth of the other's body lull him into sleep. It wasn't lunchtime yet, but Elrond felt they both could use a bit of a rest. He was worried about his sons' wellbeing, but it was almost out of his hands. Before he fell to sleep, he sent Galadriel a brief mental message warning her of her grandsons' state of mind. Over that distance and with the kind of bond they shared, he couldn't be more precise - Elrond would need to write her a letter - but Galadriel sent him a brief acknowledgement and that would need to be sufficient in the meantime. Elrond would worry later how to approach what he had learnt, for now he hoped Galadriel would be able to keep his sons safe even from themselves if necessary.

Elrond's mind started to blur and his eyes got unfocussed while he joined his mate into the dreams world.

Chapter Text

Legolas restrained himself from jumping out of the bed by sheer will. He fought to slow his heart and breath, still reeling from the strange dream he just had. Feeling another's body behind him, he was rattled enough he needed to turn back to figure out the identity of his bed partner. Elrond's sleeping face brought him back to his current situation and he tried to remember why he was in Elrond's bedchamber.

After the twins' letters, Elrond and he had started to share room and bed. Reading that letters had felt for Legolas like some kind of release... as he had finally been free of the guilt of having been unable to change the twins' attitude and the terrible spiral of darkness they had entered. Although he had always known he wasn't responsible for their behavior and that he had done everything he could to avoid conflict, very deep down he had feared there was something he could have done and didn't. They had been his best friends for so long and they had gotten each other through so many difficulties that it was hard for Legolas to let go of the idea of a miracle cure for their irrational anger. But their letters and their admission of guilt had finally given Legolas the last needed push for him to let it go.

And with that, he had been able to truly start to advance on his relationship with Elrond. They hadn't crossed that last line to actually be intimate - just yet - but Legolas has felt more and more comfortable with the elven Lord. He enjoyed spending their evenings together and going to bed together, talking into the night. He liked seeing the softer side of the other elf and helping him to relax from the day's stress, talking about the problems he had dealt with. And Elrond had shown him how much he appreciated him, how much he liked him, admired him, and respected his opinion.

They had started to share more and more physical intimacy, touching more freely, hands and shoulders, sometimes leading each other with a touch on their backs. Those small gestures which made a couple. And of course, they had continued kissing more and more intimately. Legolas suspected one of them would soon crack and they would take that last step, all the attraction and desire he had long shared for the older elf had slowly returned with the forgiveness of his actions - or inaction - leaving him ready to be the one to give that last push.

Now awake, he stayed in bed , not wanting to wake the older elf while he tried to understand the dream he just had. The images were as clear as real memories - like elven dreams generally were - but where his dreams usually took him back to known places and people, this dream had been very different.

---------------------------------------- Dream sequence --------------------------------------
He had been in a broad terrace facing an enraged Sea. Even if he had never gone to the coast, to Cirdan's Realm, he had readily recognized the shore as the one facing the Great Sea and The Straight Road. The place he was standing was a bit harder to recognize. The great stone terrace was clearly a Noldor structure: solid, magnificent and made to impress. Even Rivendell, which was as Noldor as its master was, had a more delicate structure. This place had been made in another Age. Legolas' quick mind had gone through every coastal Realm he could think of in Ages past and he would bet his bow he knew what place this was.

A voice behind him made him turn away from the grey sea to look into a familiar face, even if he had never seen this elf alive.

"Legolas, Prince of Greenwood the Great, it's an honor to meet you" - Ereinion Gil-Galad said in a measured voice. Legolas hand went to his chest and he bowed his head in recognition of the last High King in Middle Earth.

"Aran Gil-Galad, the honor is mine. But I am surprised to meet you like this. My people are not prone to have visions of the dead" - Legolas said, a bit bluntly. He wasn't going to pander to Royal protocol within his own mind. The High King laughed delightedly at his words.

"Oh, Elrond will have his hands full with you. This is my revenge for every time he forced me to bow to convention. I would count it as a personal favor if you keep this blunt speech in your dealings with Elrond. He needs someone who will give him the plain truth among so many couriers" - Gil-Galad had approached him from the other side of the terrace until they were barely a meter apart. From this separation, Legolas noticed the other wasn't as solid as he had thought from afar.

"I am not in the habit of lying or pandering to others" - Legolas admitted, still wary.

He still didn't understand what was the meaning of this dream or vision. He had heard about mortals' dreams, fantasies they imagined in their heads and 'lived' through when sleeping. But Legolas, as it was with all elves, usually walked through his memories when sleeping, organizing his memories and reliving them. It was unheard for him to have a dream like this one. It looked closer to some kind of vision - or contact with Mandos' Halls given Gil-Galad presence - which made no sense whatsoever. Legolas wasn't Aman-born, Noldor or had Maia blood. Despite his mother's blood and his father's age, his family didn't have the gift of foresight or any other similar mental skills. Or they hadn't up until now.

"I have been told you were brave and honest. And I can see it, you are as straightforward as your grandfather. You are a credit to your father and your people. It is a relief to see Oropher's line thrive even in these dark times" - Gil-Galad had walked to the balcony's banister and was looking towards the sea, lost in thought like he could see beyond the darkness in the waves.

Legolas was still disconcerted by this whole experience.

"Why are you here Sire? Why have you made contact with me and not Elrond? And how can you have made contact with me in the first place? My people have little skill with visions or talking from afar, never mind with those living in Mando's Halls" - Legolas spread his arms signaling their surroundings. Gil-Galad looked at him sideways without turning from the sea.

"I am contacting you because I wanted to talk to you. And you must have noticed by now that Elrond and you are sharing skills, not only improving on those you have some measure of ability before - as your healing - but getting some you never had in the past. Those will only grow in the future" - Legolas looked to Gil-Galad appalled.

"You mean to say I share Elrond's mental abilities?" - Legolas asked, his mind focused on Arwen's reaction the last time he had seen her in person. Elrond's own reactions to his visions he couldn't judge by himself, the older elf was too controlled and they hadn't been together long enough - or in an intimate situation so far for him to assess how the visions affected him. But Legolas wasn't too eager to discover how that particular ability would affect him.

"In some ways. It's not a natural gift for you as your empathy for the beasts and the trees is, but it is something Elrond will share with you through your bond. You will gain a measure of it, although... maybe it will show itself in different ways than Elrond's, like through this dream" - Gil-Galad explained patiently.

Legolas was as fascinated with the other elf as with his words. While his father and his family, in general, hadn't thought much of the High King - particularly after the Last Alliance - not even Thranduil had been able to give a truly negative opinion of the Noldor. Gil-Galad had been kind, wise, clever and brave and he had died, like all his predecessors, fighting against the darkness to keep his people safe for another Age. Regardless of the loss they had suffered during the war, including their own King, there had been some positive aspects: it had allowed an Age of peace, even while the darkness had started to encroach their lives once again over the last few years. Still, as much as he enjoyed the opportunity to meet the older elf, he didn't understand why he was here, talking to him.

"But why me? Why haven't you contacted Elrond instead if you desired to talk to someone at Middle Earth?" - he asked. He didn't know the reasons Gil-Galad had to contact him - and the older elf didn't seem to have any rush to share them - so he insisted on this enigma.

"I can't contact Elrond, don't you think I have tried? The pain and guilt are too strong in him. He is blocking me as he has done for the last Age. Do you know how long I have waited for someone strong and close enough to him - and a reason strong enough - to make this contact? And you are such an interesting elf, I am delighted with this opportunity" - Gil-Galad said, fondly exasperated. Legolas detected an undercurrent of sadness on the older elf and his kind heart went out for him. He stepped closer to the other in unconscious response and Gil-Galad's expression gentled noticeably.

"What about the Lady Galadriel or her daughter Celebrian? Or Elrond's children?" - he asked surprised. Even knowing the truth about Celebrian and Elrond's marriage, he couldn't believe that Elrond's former wife wouldn't have helped her late King to contact her husband. Gil-Galad’s expression upset that hypothesis.

"Celebrian? She never liked me. She veered between being contemptuous of me and my position - believing like her mother that the High Crown should have gone to Galadriel as the older descendant of Finwë, never mind the Crown never went to Finarfin's line in Middle Earth - and jealousy at my relationship with Elrond" - Gil-Galad stated with an even voice even if it looked like he was struggling to keep it so.

Legolas was too surprised by those words, to react - no one had dared to talk badly of Celebrian at Rivendell, even after her actions three years ago - and was still wondering about the implications of her jealousy and the reasons for it when Gil-Galad continued like he was reading his mind.

"She had no reason for her jealousy. Elrond is my younger cousin and he and his brother were my wards for a long time. I love him, but it has never been romantic for either of us. But Celebrian didn't accept her husband could have other loyalties or a life before her and interests beyond her own experiences" - Gil-Galad expanded. Legolas nodded gravely, surprised by the picture the other was forming of the elleth. Even after all he had heard about Celebrian and her relationship with Elrond, he was still surprised at times like this. Very few at the Valley dared to talk badly of the Lady, despite all and Legolas had only known her as his friends' mother. She had seemed to him aloof but loving of her children. He had taken any strange attitude from her as a Noldor’s strange pride and attitude.

"I am glad for the opportunity to meet you, Sire. Even more so knowing how dear you are to my bonded. I had already got the impression of this, given the way he talks about you, but I am glad to confirm it was mutual" - Legolas said quietly, remembering Elrond's occasional mentions of the older elf. He had long formed the idea that Gil-Galad was often in the other's mind, leading his decisions and reactions as Lord of Rivendell even if it was a too painful memory to speak his name out loud most of the time.

Gil-Galad's smile was a thing of beauty and Legolas remembered then that the Finwion’s were famous not only for their brave deeds but for their dramatic aspect. Elrond had inherited a good deal of his good looks and presence from that line. And now, Legolas suspected he had learnt many of his mannerisms from the elf before him.

"The pleasure is mutual Legolas, can I call you that? We are family after all" - Gil-Galad smiled at Legolas' assent - "It weighed heavily on my conscience that I allowed that marriage. I feel so relieved to know Elrond has found someone like you at least" - Gil-Galad continued. Legolas flushed in response and wondered how that was possible in a dream. Gil-Galad laughed softly, but kindly continued without remarking on it -"This visit would be worth the effort just for the pleasure of meeting you. But I am afraid I have another reason to visit you" - Gil-Galad explained.

Legolas’ focus returned to the matter at hand. As glad as he was to know this legendary figure, he had suspected there was another motive for his presence. A reason 'strong enough' Gil-Galad had said. Gil-Galad nodded seriously, again seemingly reading his mind.

"Those of us who have departed Middle Earth, no matter the way, can no longer participate in your affairs. However..." - Gil-Galad smiled again. Legolas was surprised by this cheerful elf from the elf he had always heard described as 'serious' and 'grave' - "I have been given a boon, because of my actions during my time in Middle Earth and the sacrifices I made" - he explained. Legolas nodded in silence, not wanting to interrupt. Gil-Galad continued - "It won't surprise you to know that the darkness is growing again in Middle Earth. You have seen this in your own homeland. Your father, King Thranduil, is aware of this. Elrond knows this as do every elven leader and some of the main clans among Men and Dwarves our allies from old. It is a well-known darkness" - Gil-Galad admitted sadly. Legolas felt a shiver go through his back.

"Well known? What do you mean? My father has always felt that the darkness which encroaches and attacks our forest was far too familiar" - Legolas asked carefully, memories of a dark tower, well into the forest flashing through his mind. Gil-Galad nodded grimly now as serious as Legolas had always heard him described.

"Your father is wise and I have always said your people's sense of your home wasn't being respected well enough" - Gil-Galad affirmed.

Legolas flushed again, flattered.

"He will be glad to hear you say so, my Lord. Although I don't care to be right in this instance, while my father has feared the return of the dark for a long time, we would prefer for the situation to be less dire than before" - Legolas said. Gil-Galad nodded unsurprised.

"There is still hope for Middle Earth Legolas, but I don't need to tell you every warrior will be needed before the end" - Gil-Galad stated seriously - "Your people haven't stopped the fight, because the fight hasn't permitted them to. But some of our Realms have been more... relaxed those past years. Our people have become complacent, and turned to old envies and pettiness like the ones you have suffered in the recent past" - Gil-Galad's face was a study of anger now and Legolas was happy he wasn't the focus of that feeling. He didn't try to interrupt the older elf - "I can't apologize enough for what you have suffered. Some of those prejudices existed and grew in my own Court. I am sorry I didn't do enough to stop them" - the King looked grave and weary. It was a familiar look Legolas had seen both in his father's and Elrond's face, the face of a leader bowed down by too much responsibility. It triggered the same answer as it would have from one of those elves.

"Your Majesty. You are not responsible for what some of your people choose to think, even less so now. I have heard of your reign and you are well known as someone who tried - and managed, even if briefly - to join all our peoples under your banner. You showed respect for my grandfather and my people, and not even my father will tell something worse of you that to call you 'misguided'" - Legolas said earnestly and honestly - "You dealt with my kind fairly and you led by example, respecting all your allies" - Legolas reasoned. Gil-Galad had smiled again at his words and he laughed softly again at his conclusion.

"You are very kind, and I see I will have to accept your words as you look as stubborn as your grandfather too" - Legolas nodded in assent, smiling - "My heart feels lightened knowing you are in Rivendell now" - Gil-Galad admitted. Legolas felt a shot of uneasiness at his words.

"You have decided to contact me Sire, risking much if I am not mistaken. But your warnings are still vague. An old enemy is still between us, and you feel I am needed in Rivendell? Gandalf has been investigating strange troops movements North from here. My people are still besieged by the darkness which has crept in under our noses. Wouldn't I be more useful elsewhere? The Valley is well protected as you well know" - Legolas said carefully, wary of mentioning the Elven Rings, even inside a dream. Gil-Galad nodded in approval.

"Gandalf's investigations are more important than you know, although I don't think he will be able to discover as much as we would like. The enemy has already detected his presence and is acting to shut down that source, Gandalf will be too late to catch something of worth there. I am sure he is already suspicious about the implications of what you told him - regardless of what he finds - and will keep a wary eye on the area. Your presence there won't be of help by this point. But not all dangers come from outside as you well know. And even in the safest haven, help can be needed. And I tell you now, Elrond will need your help and you will need to make Rivendell your home to be of help to him" - Gil-Galad said with certainty.

Legolas was starting to feel a sense of resistance and loss. While he had accepted Elrond and their bond, accepted the older elf's apologies and attempts to make amends for the past, he still felt that his own people needed him home. He still felt the forest as his home and expected to return eventually. Even if he had to shoulder the burden of coming and going between the two Realms because Elrond couldn't leave the Valley. Gil-Galad words hinted something else. He seemed to expect for him to renounce his own people and truly welcome Rivendell as his true home. Legolas' mind was in turmoil and he didn't know how to express his rejection to the older elf without offend the High King.

"The forest is my home, Majesty. I can't renounce my people or my family, I am their prince and they need me" - Legolas said carefully. Gil-Galad's face was kind and understanding.

"I am not asking you to renounce your heritage Legolas. I understand what you have sacrificed all those years by staying with Elrond and I know your people's desperate need. Indeed, I suspect you will always be needed there. But the struggle your people are going through can't be solved by the strength of arms, although it can be delayed. At some point, it will be your work to lead those who can confront that evil there so it can be cast away. But it is still too soon for that, you will need to find the right moment and the right... persuasion. And for that you need to be away from there" - Gil-Galad smiled mysteriously after pronouncing those words and Legolas wondered distractedly if Aman came with an introductory class at being cryptic. Maybe you couldn't live there if you didn't learn the skill. All the people Legolas know who had dwelt there - Glorfindel, Gandalf, Galadriel - were well known for their twisted way of talking - "What I ask from you is something different. Don't make Rivendell just another stop, a place you need to stay for a few months or years because of duty. Don't do as Celebrian did" - Gil-Galad said darkly.

Before Legolas was able to respond or ask for clarification, the dream or vision started to fade. Gil-Galad barely managed to give him a few parting words.

"You are more important than you know Legolas, not just because of your title or your bond to Elrond. Souls like yours will soon be key for the fate of the world. You will be the representative of our race in the last battle of our kind against the darkness. Use these years wisely. I hope we will meet after all those struggles and you will tell me your tale in-person. And give that idiot Herald of mine my love, tell him he is in no way guilty of my death, I chose my fate and he never was able to impede me from doing anything..." - Gil-Galad's voice faded while Legolas started to awake.
------------------------------------ End of dream sequence ----------------------------------

After a few moments grounding himself to reality and remembering the strange dream, he was still confused by all of it and unsure if it had been a real vision of the former High King. He sensed movement behind him, however, before he could reach any conclusion. Looking back, his eyes locked with familiar grey eyes and Elrond smiled in response to his surprised gaze.

"Good morning Legolas" - Elrond said softly. Legolas opened his mouth to answer but he felt unable to say anything. Elrond raised his hand to Legolas' face and placed it in his cheek tenderly.

"Are you feeling alright dear? You slept the whole evening and night since yesterday" - Elrond's eyes were roaming all over Legolas trying to check his condition.

Legolas found his voice finally at his mate's worried tone.

"I had a dream" - he said, his mind still reeling. The images of his dream playing around his mind, he lifted his hand to place it above Elrond's using his sense of tact to make sure he was awake and aware. Elrond's brow started to furrow, worried at his reaction.

"A dream? Was it a nightmare? Are you alright?" - he asked worriedly, closing the distance between them and surrounding Legolas with his arms protectively. Legolas denied with his head in response.

"It wasn't a nightmare, but I am not certain what it was really. It felt so real... " - he said with an intrigued tone. They had focused their research on the sharing of abilities, particularly healing skills. Legolas healing of the Town Master at the mountains had been done when the strength of their bond was at its lowest, so the potential for good had led them to focus on that aspect but Gil-Galad's words have felt right and Legolas didn't have any other explanation to justify for him to see the older elf in that way.

He was, however, a bit worried about sharing his experience with Elrond, aware of the pain and guilt the other elf still suffered at the mention of his late friend and King. Gil-Galad's warnings, however, urged him to talk and he did finally, taking both of Elrond's hands in his and looking at him into the eyes.

"I dreamt, or had a vision... according to my own dream" - Legolas smiled self-deprecating. Before Elrond could start to question him, Legolas continued with the harder part - "I saw a strange castle in my dream, a great fortress made of white stones in front of the Great Sea" - Legolas explained.

Elrond froze at the description, clearly ringing some bells of familiarity. Legolas hesitated at the next part but finally continued at Elrond's questioning - and surprisingly impatient - look.

"There was another elf there with me, someone I hadn't met before but whose face was very familiar to me from books and portraits, all of them around this house" - Legolas explained. Elrond's hands tightened convulsively in his hands despite the expression on his face had frozen, his voice was almost a whisper when he asked.

"Ereinion?" - he said with the look of someone almost too scared to believe. Legolas nodded in response and Elrond closed his eyes looking pained. Legolas stayed silent, with his hands still in Elrond's, sending his support through the bond. Elrond opened his eyes at the mental contact and prompted.

"Show it to me" - his voice sounding a bit stronger. Legolas needed a moment to understand what he meant and once he realized, he hesitated just for an instant before he brought the memory to the front of his thoughts figuring Elrond would know how to read it.

Elrond stayed silent for a few moments while he reviewed the vision. The feeling was a strange one for Legolas who never had shared his memories in that way with someone else. He didn't 'review' it with Elrond but he could feel - if he concentrated - what the other was seeing like he was seeing it himself from the distance. Elrond's face cleared after a few moments and he rose from the bed walking towards one of the side windows to look to the early morning light, lost in thought.

Legolas left him to his thoughts, rising from the bed and starting his morning routine, washing and dressing for the day. Over the last weeks, most of his things had started to drift into Elrond's rooms from his own. Even his laundry had started to be delivered at Elrond's rooms as the staff had realized of his presence there most of the nights. He kept a wary eye on the older elf in the meantime but Elrond didn't move from his place next to the window, and the bond stayed silent besides a vague sense of confusion, happiness and.. frustration? Elrond looked back to him at that moment, smiling wryly.

"Ereinion always said I was too stubborn for my own good and too set in my own opinions. I am sure - as frustrated as I have probably made him for blaming myself for his death - he must be delighted to have been proven right. If I hadn't spent the last past age blaming myself, he could have contacted me long ago. It's ironic, to say the least" - Elrond revealed in a lighter tone than Legolas had expected. Clearly reading his face - or the bond - Elrond explained.

"Even if I couldn't talk to him myself, it is an immense relief to see him again through your eyes. See him free and as clever and quick-witted as he was at the more peaceful moments of his Reign is incredible. I can't thank you enough for this gift Legolas" - Elrond stepped to Legolas’ side and surrounded his face with his hands, giving him the softest kiss he had ever received. Legolas felt flustered by Elrond's gratitude, feeling he had barely done anything, and saying it so.

"You don't need to thank me. I was barely more than a vessel for that message. The King was the one to reach out to me, I admit I would have never thought of it, never believed possible" - Legolas explained, Elrond caressed Legolas' cheek denying with a shake of his head.

"You are kind enough, strong enough and generous enough to have forgiven me and given this bond a chance and make it possible Legolas. Ereinion said this himself, he had been trying for a while and he never managed to reach someone with a link strong enough to me to make it feasible. Ereinion is the last of my family, the last link to my father's lineage . Only through someone with a strong, familiar bond to me, he could have reached me" - Elrond had surrounded Legolas' shoulders with his own arm and led him to the outer room, for the breakfast some kind soul had prepared for them, while he explained.

Legolas allowed the movement, but he wasn't convinced by the explanation.

"Gil-Galad said that Celebrian wouldn't have allowed the connection because she didn't like him or his relationship with you" - Legolas said evenly, trying to keep his thoughts - and Gil-Galad's opinions of the elleth - to himself. Elrond's wry look told him he hadn't been fully successful, which wasn't a surprise as he had seen the memory and heard Gil-Galad's opinions by himself - "But you have other friends who knew the King - Glorfindel and Erestor came to mind - and three children. I am not complaining about this contact with me, I was honored to meet him and I have always been curious about him and mourned the fact I was too young to meet him before he died. But still... why couldn't he contact you before through one of them?" - Legolas asked.

Elrond smile was kind and fond:

"I don't think you are aware of the rare soul you are Legolas, and I say this with the uttermost admiration and respect. Your generosity of spirit and kindness are not the norm, despite how evolved some of our race believe we are. I am sure Ereinion tried all your other potentials before you became my bonded and he was able to reach you. But I am not surprised he couldn't reach me through them. Erestor's experiences make his mind a closed wall for anyone" - Legolas made a face at the memory, he had forgotten - "Which makes Glorfindel's the same, even if they aren't able to share a bond he has mirrored his bonded. As for my children, neither of them has inherited - so far - the gift of far-talking - or ósanwe as it is commonly called - or any other of our line skills except for Arwen's apparent introduction to foresight. For the count of our people, they are still young, so maybe they will develop those skills in the future, but for now, they can't do this so Ereinion couldn't reach them" - he rose a hand before Legolas could say anything else - "And before you ask again, Galadriel's opinions of the King were similar to her daughter, he couldn't have reached me through her. Even if he would have tried and I suspect he didn't, the feeling was entirely mutual in this case" - Elrond finished wryly.

The two of them had sat at the breakfast table and Legolas decided discretion was the better part of valor and started with his food without making any comment to that. Elrond smiled again at this and said nothing else. The two of them got engrossed on the food for a while, lost in their own minds trying to absorb Gil-Galad's - and Elrond's reaction had finally convinced him that he had actually talked to the former High King - warning.

Legolas was nursing a cup of tea by the time he felt he could ask something again. His mind having assimilated all the information, he felt he could try and analyze the warning given.

"Gil-Galad said 'a familiar darkness' was growing again. As far as I could understand from his words I get the impression he was warning us of another war, with an old Enemy" - Legolas said slowly. Elrond, who had his own tea in his hands, nodded in response but specified.

"He didn't say there would be war, he talked of 'battle' true... and he said all warriors would be needed. But I don't think it will be something so straightforward as a war. I have always believed that the 'Last Alliance' would truly be the last time our kind would be fighting in such a way among the other free people. I fear the darkness is growing again, and we will need to fight again. But we won't be sending armies again to Mordor" - Elrond said plainly, stating their Enemy even if he didn't name him. Legolas was surprised by his words but he didn't contradict the older elf. He had, however, other questions.

"And what about me? And my people? Maybe there won't be a formal alliance against the Enemy, but my people are fighting and dying in the forest. Can I stay here, safe, while every knife, sword and bow is needed in the defense of the Greenwood" - he asked.

Elrond's demeanor was grave and he thought his answer carefully.

"I can't deny the circumstances your people are facing. And I can't claim an objective perspective in this. But I agree with Ereinion: in your home you are only another arm to fight, even with your title - your father has other heirs - even if you have been an amazing general for your father's troops, there are many others. If you stay here, you can represent your people's interests outside of the Greenwood. Be a source of information for your father and a voice for your people in the other's Realms. Ereinion said that - at some point in the future - you would 'lead those who can fight the darkness' to your home so it can be cast away. Look for that moment and fight for your people to be helped" - Elrond said passionately.

Legolas' mind was a whirlwind of confusion. He had been able, so far, to avoid thinking of anything permanent about his situation. Through the last few years, he had believed that Elrond didn't really want him and was just biding his time to find someone better. After returning - and Elrond's apology and attempt to make up with him - he had been too focused on his doubts about forgiving the Perendhil to think further about the implications of that forgiveness. But now he realized there was another decision he needed to make if he forgave Elrond. If he decided to make up with the elven Lord and formalize their matter-of-fact union with his own agreement. If he did all this, he would be making Rivendell his home, because no matter how accommodative the other elf would try to be, he was the Lord of the Valley and he couldn't leave it. Legolas, on the other hand, was the youngest child of his father's Realm, so it seemed unavoidable he would be the one who would need to leave his home.

If he wanted for this to work there was no other choice. He may be able to travel from Realm to Realm to visit his family, but he didn't want to act as the former Mistress of the Valley had and make that a habit where he spent more time at his family's Realm than his bonded's. Gil-Galad's words had left his mark as it had probably been his intention all along. Still, he felt conflicted and pained by the conclusion.

He finally raised his face again to lock gazes with Elrond's patient silver-grey eyes, who seemed to see into his heart and understand his conflict. Legolas nodded as he had made a decision and said.

"I need to write to my father. And I think he will want to send a representative to talk to me if he doesn't decide to come himself"- he proclaimed more bravely than he felt. Even if he loved his father and his family - and was sure of their love in return - he wasn't unaware of Thranduil's temper and his probable reaction to the situation at hand. While the King had been kept informed about the bond - and the circumstances around it, to save Elrond's life - he hadn't been aware of Legolas' situation: the past three years happenings, his escape or returning, or the fact that Elrond and he were trying to make a real relationship out of the circumstances. If Legolas decided to stay at Rivendell in a permanent fashion... Thranduil wouldn't be shy giving his opinion.

Thinking of Thranduil as his father, Legolas hadn't wanted to worry him about things he couldn't change. As his King... the situation was more complicated, Legolas was Elrond's bonded after all and even despite their problems, his loyalty should have gone to him on their bonding day. Taking into account Legolas' own misgivings of the consequences of his father storming into Rivendell if he heard about their treatment of his son... consciously - and even unconsciously sometimes - Legolas had avoided giving up too much of what was happening to his family... which his father should have expected actually. It was surprising that Thranduil hadn't sent a spy to check on what had happened at Rivendell... or maybe he had?

Legolas' eyes went wide at the thought and he went back in his mind through every arrival at the Valley over the last three years trying to pinpoint who could have been the snitch.

How much did his father really know?

Chapter Text

Legolas had to admit, if only to himself, that he was starting to feel a bit paranoid. Since he had started to wonder about his father's source of information in the Valley, he had been unable to see any elf around Elrond or himself without wondering if they were reporting to the Elvenking.

His letter had been sent a few weeks ago and now it was only a matter of time for the response to arrive. Legolas wasn't sure what form that answer would take. Would his father send one of his trusted councilors to talk to Legolas? Would one of his older brothers or his sister come to see what was happening in Rivendell - and with Legolas - to report back to their father? Would- Valar protect them!- the Elvenking himself arrive in the Valley to see with his own eyes what his youngest son had gotten involved in ?

The possibilities were infinite and Legolas wasn't sure what he should expect. He could admit in the intimacy of his own mind, that he was - from a certain point of view - his father's favorite, and that the Elvenking's love for his youngest child made him a little bit protective of him. With that in mind it was difficult, even for Legolas, to foresee the older elf's reaction.

Closing the book he was most definitely not reading, Legolas rested his forehead against the cover in frustration, unable to concentrate on anything but his progressively wilder theories. A voice intruded his concentration.

"Saelion is a bit dry, but I have never seen anyone with that face of despair at his writings" - Erestor's familiar voice said from the front of the table when he had appeared while Legolas was despairing. Legolas turned his face up so he could look to the older elf without raising his head and fixed a critical eye, irritated.

"Saelion should have been banned from writing anything longer than a list of tasks, and I am sure he would manage to make it long and useless" - Legolas retorted irritated, his mind momentarily diverted of his worries.

He was certain that it wasn't just his lack of focus today that had made this morning so utterly wasted. He had been looking for information about his newly discovered ability to share skills with his bonded, still trying to understand how he had been able to meet with Gil-Galad in his dreams. But this particular author had managed to write a whole series of useless books where he was obviously talking about something he had never experienced. Unfortunately, Legolas hadn't known this before he gathered the books and started to read them. In his innocence, he had thought that an author who had written seven books on a subject must have known what he was talking about.

Wrong. He had spent seven books wildly speculating about the second-hand experiences of other elves. Most of whom hadn't really wanted to talk to him about their bonds in the first place, because they felt it was a too personal experience to be written about. So this Saelion had decided that his observations on the couples should be enough to write seven books about the bonds and the sharing of skills.

Erestor laughed softly at his words, his lack of denial a clear display of his thoughts on the elf and the books as the Master librarian would allow to show.

"Still, you look particularly uneasy this morning. I have seen you drifting away again and again until someone gets near you and then you are as tense as a bow" - Erestor hesitated visibly before getting closer to the younger elf, lowering his voice - "Have you been having any problems with the House or the Valley, Legolas? Has anyone been bothering you?" - Erestor asked softly.

Legolas was surprised at the question and then, when he understood the implication, felt nonplussed. After all the times he had been stalked, bullied and outright insulted over the last few years and no one had ever bothered to ask what was happening, now he wasn't being bothered, someone decided to ask. Sometimes in the past, Legolas had gotten the impression that people like Erestor had cho sen not to ask to avoid having proof of what was happening.

He knew the circumstances were complicated, that both Erestor and Glorfindel had their hands tied by their Lord's inaction and their loyalty to him and his House. And that, when Glorfindel had finally acted when he felt Legolas physical integrity was at risk, he had risked his position.

Still, the irony of the current situation wasn't lost on him and he was finding it difficult to let go of the resentment he felt at being questioned now, when he no longer needed the help.

Something on his face must have given him away, or maybe Erestor's guilty conscience was at play because the dark-haired counselor sat down in front of Legolas. He checked around to make sure they were alone before he started to talk again in a low voice.

"I have never apologized for the last three years, have I? Glorfindel risked his position and then his life, going after you, but I haven't redeemed myself in any way, have I?" - Erestor said sorrowfully, his face pensive.

Legolas said nothing and that was an answer by itself. Erestor nodded as he had talked out loud.

"I hope you don't believe that I haven't apologized to you because I didn't feel guilty Prince Legolas " - he started formally.

Legolas raised his head surprised at the title. Erestor smiled wryly.

"You aren't fond of waving your position or your title around as some others do. You are - if you allow me the observation - one of the humblest Royals I have ever met and I have known quite a bit of them" - Erestor explained easily before continuing - "But you are a prince of the last elven royalty we have left on Middle Earth, and now you are my Prince too, as a lord of Rivendell and Elrond's bonded" - Erestor concluded.

Legolas felt lost at the convoluted explanation.

"I'm afraid I don't understand where you are trying to go, Lord Erestor" - he admitted freely.

"I know. As I said before, you aren't fond of using your titles, but in this case, I am afraid it is pertinent to the situation. As Elrond's chief Councilor it is my responsibility to act when Elrond or his heirs are not able to do it themselves. Do you understand this?" - Legolas nodded in response, remembering his older brother's similar position at his father's side.

Erestor continued with a smile.

"When Elrond and you bonded, your position became automatically second only to Elrond's in the Valley hierarchy because of your position as his bonded and your own royal title. If something would have happened to Elrond, it was - and is - your responsibility to act on his behalf and for the better interests of Rivendell. You have become our Lord and our Prince, and Elrond's Consort"

Legolas’ mind went blank for a few moments in surprise. He hadn't thought about that before. At home in the forest, his older brother was the Crowned Prince and Thranduil's firstborn - and without a Queen in attendance - was expected to stand in for Thranduil if the King was away or indisposed. Legolas hadn't likened his position as Elrond's 'consort' to the one his mother would have had if she was alive because Celebrian, as far as he had observed, hadn't ever stood in for Elrond in any situation. The role of substituting Elrond had fallen to Elrond's main Councilors and friends, Erestor and Glorfindel, or his sons, depending on the situation and the availability of every party.

Now he was thinking on the issue, he felt a rush of delayed worry about the position he would have been placed in if Elrond would have failed to fulfill his obligations during the last three years, if he had become sick or left the Valley for any reason.

"If I would have been forced to act on Elrond's behalf over the last three years... it would have soon turned into a disaster. With the heirs of the Lord of Rivendell at odds with his Consort and their opposition and disrespect out in the open... the people of Rivendell would have straight out rejected my rule or, even worse, they may have become divided at a moment we couldn't probably afford it, with Elrond indisposed" - Legolas said slowly, his quick mind trying to catch up with all the implications. He looked up to the dark-haired Councilor.

"How is that related to the matter at hand?" - he asked, intrigued now.

Erestor, who in all the time Legolas had known him had always been calm and collected at every situation, looked torn now.

"I haven't apologized to you directly, because I felt I don't have the right to your forgiveness. I wasn't unaware of what you were going through, even if I didn't know the extent of it, Legolas. And knowing it as I did, I did nothing" - Erestor explained sadly.

Legolas reflected on those revelations before he spoke carefully, thinking out loud.

"You were kind to me all these years Erestor. This library was a heaven to me, a place where I could be unbothered by anyone. Not even the twins dared to cross you by harassing me here. I know it was difficult to balance your loyalty to Elrond and the Valley with helping me. Why do you feel this guilty? It's not like anyone else stepped in to help" - he asked.

Erestor let out a sight in response, he composed himself after a moment and explained.

"I don't know what you think about my actions. We, Glorfindel and I, both kept a close eye on the situation ready to step in if your physical integrity was at risk, but I have realized since then that the mental stress was just as bad as any physical risk, and it was our mistake to overlook this. I don't have a good explanation for it, we are both old and maybe we didn't fully appreciate how painful your situation had become and how long and stressful three years of stalking and bullying could feel for the one suffering" - Erestor said. Legolas raised an eyebrow in wonderment.

"While they didn't physically harm me, the situation had scaled pretty badly by the time they decided to destroy my rooms" - he observed. Erestor nodded in agreement.

"I suspected something like that. I feared what would happen if I went to Elrond with what was happening and his response was... too rash, and damaged the bond. He wasn't... rational those first months, even the first year. I feared he would do something which would make the bond unstable and he would become sick because of it, forcing you in the position of authority as his Consort. I dreaded the situation would soon become a disaster if you were forced into an official position in the Valley with the situation as tense as it was" - Erestor concluded.

Legolas was surprised and belatedly scared at the possibilities. He hadn't even contemplated such a situation, despite his experience as his father's representative.

"Glorfindel didn't tell me of these fears when he first apologized" - he said suspiciously. Erestor nodded in response.

"Glorfindel is even older than me and has a very different history, his actions are rooted in a different set of morals. He spent centuries in a martial-law situation where it was inconceivable to go against the designated ruler. He respected my fears and agreed to avoid direct action but his main reasons to act are always the wellbeing of the Perendhil who he has sworn a loyalty vow and his own set of morals and duties, both explicit and self-appointed. You are Elrond's Consort and the twins are his sons and heirs. He felt conflicted about what side he should pick between the three of you, and with Elrond's fragile recovery at Celebrian's actions, he decided to wait and see what would happen. I hope you believe me when I told you it wasn't easy for him to wait. His first response is always to react, and do nothing went against his very nature" - Erestor explained.

Legolas felt he understood the burden Erestor had born on his shoulders over the last three years, he had needed to choose the less damaging choice for the stability of the whole Valley. Legolas was familiar with that kind of decision . Living in Mirkwood wasn't easy for those who chose to dwell there and it wasn't easy for the leaders making decisions which could lead others to their deaths. Thranduil's choices had put his own children in danger time and time again for the defense of the forest.

"I understand the difficulty of the choices you had to make. Still, I don't agree with them. I think that with your support and Glorfindel's and without involving Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir could have been stopped long ago and the fact they ran unchecked for so long caused damage to the peace of this Valley beyond the suffering inflicted to me" - Legolas said softly, his clear blue gaze direct.

Erestor's ashamed gaze was unable to sustain his own for too long.

"You are right, and I expect my reckoning will come sooner than later. Your father won't let this insult to you and his people stand for much longer. He is getting impatient for the twins to cross his kingdom" - Erestor admitted. Legolas felt a shock at the words.

"My father?" - he asked with surprise , looking at the dark-haired counselor in suspicion while his mind was already forming a theory even before Erestor's wry smile confirmed it.

"Nominally, the twins have the responsibility to formally explain to the Elvenking about the reasons for their punishment. But Thranduil isn't a foolish elf, he had been suspecting foul play in the Valley for a long time. You shouldn't forget he is as much your father as he is a king, and an old one at that. Probably, he read a lot of more in your letters and bland reports than you meant for him to know. I have been noticing the movement of his agents here in the Valley for a while" - Erestor explained. Legolas let out a low groan of despair at the news.

"How bad is it?" - he asked, defeated. Erestor laughed at his expression.

"He probably knew of your escape from the Valley a few weeks ago. You had some poor elves scrambling around the Valley trying to locate you before the King was to know about your leaving and decided to move his troops here. Half of the patrol's members Glorfindel led after you had some kind of link to the Elvenking" - Erestor said, matter-of-fact. Legolas left his head fall again to rest against Saelion's book. It was at least serving a purpose, if not what his author had intended.

"How long has he been spying on me?" - Legolas asked alarmed. Erestor shrugged minutely.

"He wasn't worried before, Elrond and he have a non-spoken rule to stay out of each other's business if the situation isn't critical, we have enough problems with other Realms like men and dwarves to have to worry about our own kind. As far as I can tell, given his lack of reaction previously, he didn't have any reason to ask for reports previous to your escapade" - Erestor explained. Legolas made a face of disgust.

"Does he know the reasons for my leaving? How much does he know about what happened here?" - he asked worriedly. Erestor shrugged.

"Not the twins' actions against you although he probably suspects their involvement by now given their public punishment. They will, of course, have to come clean once they reach the Elvenking's domains. But he knows that you weren't well-received as Elrond's bonded by some factions of the Noldor. He is aware that you haven't been living as Elrond's bonded prior your escape, and of course, he knows you left the Valley after some attack was made on you" - Erestor concluded.

Legolas took a fortifying breath at the older elf's words. It wasn't as bad as it could be - if his father didn't know the particular insults and slights made on Legolas - but it wasn't good either. The fact Elrond and he hadn't lived as a bonded couple wasn't a secret, his father was aware of the circumstances of their bonding and Legolas had hinted in his letters that he would look for a way to resolve the bond and return home. Therefore, the fact that some of the Noldor didn't want Legolas as Elrond's bonded wouldn't worry his father too much, he may dislike the implied insult but he would let it go if it meant Legolas would have an easier time returning. The destruction of his room and his belongings, on the other hand, would have put his father into a temper - particularly as it had been bad enough it had prompted Legolas to leave the Valley. Also, if the news of Legolas and Elrond's improved relationship - and the implication of a permanent bond - reached him before Legolas' letter...

Legolas returned his focus to Erestor, his mind already forming a strategy.

"You are feeling guilty about what has happened here over the last three years, aren't you?" - he asked directly.

Erestor nodded warily in response

"And you know who my father's spies are" - Legolas affirmed with a devilish smile.

Erestor's nod was less wary and more intrigued now

"You are going to help me to save this situation then" - Legolas said firmly, his tone leaving no room for refusal.

Erestor looked resigned to his fate but he followed the blonde prince without complaint while Legolas led them away from prying ears.

Lindir was having a very nice day so far. He was overseeing the preparations for the Mettare, the last day of the year, and Yestare the first day of the year. Elrond had approved the celebrations of this year to be particularly lavish in honor of his bonded’s return and their renewed bond. While there wasn't an official announcement, it was an open secret that the Lord of the Valley and the golden prince were trying to give their bond a chance.

Lindir was happy to help in any small way he could. While he wasn't close friends with Lord Elrond or the Prince, he was friendly with both and as Elrond's Master of Ceremonies he wanted to make the celebrations a day of happiness for the couple. Lindir was a kind soul who had watched with pity and horror how the sons of the House had treated their former friend with the silent consent of most of the Valley.

When Legolas had disappeared for weeks, Lindir had breathed in relief. As worried as he was for the young prince, alone and probably not in the best state of mind, he firmly believed it would be an improvement to the atmosphere he had been bearing over the last few years at the House.

Lindir wasn't a Lord or a Noble but part of the Valley's staff, and they had been the silent witness of the Prince's situation, helping him where they could. Legolas hadn't probably noticed how much they had been keeping an eye on him, or how worried about him they had become over the last months when the situation had seemed to scale beyond control and Legolas' mood seemed to turn progressively darker and he became more and more isolated.

Finishing his notes on the Cook's plans for the festival's menu, he turned around to go to the pantry and talk to the elf in charge of the supplies. He stopped in his tracks when he found himself face to face with the object of his musings, who had entered the kitchen and was looking around.

"My Prince!" - Lindir exclaimed, surprised. Legolas turned towards him with a smile on his face.

"Lindir! Just the elf I was looking for" - Legolas said brightly. Lindir blinked in surprise.

"Your highness? Were you looking for me? Did you need something?" he asked confused. Legolas, while he was kind and friendly with Lindir showing interest in his life and work when they crossed paths, wasn't interested in the ins and outs of festivals so he and Lindir usually had little to talk with each other after the usual pleasantries. Lindir couldn't remember the last time the blonde Prince had searched him out.

Legolas smiled wider.

"I have a small favor to ask of you, nothing which will give you more work to do, don't worry I know how busy you are. As I know you are very organized I am sure you already have noted down everyone who is going to attend the festivities, haven't you?" - Legolas asked intently.

Lindir was disconcerted at the petition but saw no reason to deny it.

"I do my Lord. I have the detailed list of attendants and the placement at the tables" - Lindir answered carefully. Legolas continued smiling in return.

"Perfect. I would like to take a look at that list and maybe make a few adjustments. I have been informed that some of those who will be attending the festival will be members of my father's Realm and it is just fitting that I make an effort to make them welcome, don't you think Lindir? Some of them have been around for a while now and I hadn't realized, can you believe it?" - Legolas explained with wide-eyed innocence.

Lindir felt suspicious already but he complied with the request and took out a list from one of his pockets. Legolas took it and went through it quickly, his features calm, giving nothing away. He took out his own parchment - filled with notes Lindir wasn't able to decipher - and made a few annotations in it.

When he finished his notes, he returned the list to Lindir with another smile.

"Thank you Lindir, you have been most helpful. I may send you a few small changes with the seating for some of my father's people but nothing major, just to make sure we don't offend anyone. Is everything alright with you? Do you need any more help for the planning?" - he asked solicitously. Lindir denied with a shake of his head, disconcerted.

"I have enough help, my Lord. The festival planning is proceeding as expected, you don't need to worry" - Lindir answered.

"Oh, I am not worried Lindir. I know we can count on you to make this a successful night. I am sure you have it all in hand. I will get back to you with this as soon as possible. Continue with your work please, don't let me interrupt you any longer" - Legolas concluded.

Making a brief gesture of farewell, Legolas disappeared as quickly as he had arrived leaving Lindir looking after him in confusion, wondering what the elven prince was planning. He also felt his heart soar in happiness at seeing the younger elf animated, planning and plotting, as lively and quick as he had been at better times.

Legolas entered his rooms after a well-spent day. He had been using Erestor's information about his father's spies to do some damage control as belated as it was.

He had divided his father's agents into three blocks: the ones who were there openly acknowledged by Elrond - nominally called ambassadors, but every party know them as spies -, those who were discreetly watching and informing the Elvenking but weren't known as his agents - messengers, traders, some elves who were training as healers under Elrond but still were well-known dwellers of the Forest Realm - and the most difficult block, those hidden agents for the Elvenking - elves who had married to Rivendell's citizens but were still loyal to Thranduil, wandering elves who had ended up Rivendell but had still links to the Elvenking too remote to be traced back without some research... mostly those who couldn't be marked as Thranduil's spies at first sight.

Legolas had spent the morning trying to manage the information his father's spies were sending to him while at the same time keeping an eye out for those spies that weren't obvious at first sight. Legolas had lived his entire life under the watchful eye of his father and his spies so he was well-used to avoid them and sometimes even use them for his own ends. He was aware their presence was a fact of life as Elrond probably had his own agents at Thranduil's Realm. And Legolas wanted as much control as he could of the information his father received of the happenings at the Valley. Also, they could be useful to judge the mood his father would be when he received the news of Legolas' decision to stay at the Valley, permanently.

So, it had been a quite an interesting day overall, Legolas reflected while he stripped off his clothes and entered the bathroom to wash off. He was relaxing in the water when he heard someone entering his rooms from the main rooms, he called out to his bonded, feeling him through the bond.

"You look... accomplished" - Elrond commented from the threshold, looking down at him in the sunken bathtub.

Legolas stretched in the water happily, as it was common with elven kin he wasn't ashamed of his body or his nudity. So, despite the state of their relationship hadn't reached that intimacy, Legolas didn't feel self-conscious with Elrond in the room when he was washing. Elrond and he had been slowly coming to terms with their new relationship over the last month and they had been progressing slowly. Legolas had been still on the mend from what he had gone through over the last three years and Elrond had made a life of being patient.

"I am. I have been thwarting my father's informants all day. I can honestly say he will have a hard time spying on me for a while until he manages to get different spies in place" - Legolas said cheerfully.

Elrond laughed in response.

"I should feel bad for him as I know how good you are dodging his attention, but his informants have been driving Erestor crazy lately and he has placed so many people around here that I am starting to have more of his people near than my own lately" - Elrond commented while entering the room. He hesitated minutely before he asked - "Is there room for one more or do you prefer to be left alone? I can go wash in my own rooms and return to escort you to dinner" - he said carefully. Legolas turned to look at him testing the bond, feeling just hopefulness and care.

"I would like the company" - he said slowly, laying down a bit further in the seat to show a relaxed stance, displaying his trust for Elrond.

The Perendhil smiled and walked to one of the benches to disrobe. Legolas half-closed his eyes to give him some privacy but he wasn't able to resist a peek on the older elf. He had seen both of the twins naked at different times - the three of them had travelled and fought together often in the past and such things were impossible to avoid - and he had noticed the differences which marked their mortal blood: broader shoulders, a smattering of hair-chest where pure-elves hadn't any, a bit coarser skin and a general impression of more weight. Where elves seemed to barely touch the earth and walked slightly over any surfaces, barely making a mark or sound, the Perendhil were closer to men, stepping more heavily when walking or running.

The twins had shown these differences to a certain extent but Elrond showed them even more so. His constitution was closer to men than his sons, heavier in body and coarser in the skin. Even his face showed his age to a certain extent. Where Glorfindel - who had been born at the Ages of the Trees - or even Cirdan despite the beard, had a flawless skin completely devoid of lines, Elrond's skin - while nowhere wrinkled as a man - had small lines of age around the eyes and mouth. Legolas thought those features gave the older elf character, marking him as belonging to a unique lineage - which was central to the elven history - and made him even more handsome. But he had realized those were some of the things Celebrian had found distasteful and therefore made Elrond self-conscious of his body so he had been careful not to bring attention to them for now.

He closed his eyes fully before he was caught spying and rested his head against the edge of the seat, letting the water wash away the day. He heard Elrond entering the tub on the opposite side but he stayed relaxed in his side, waiting to see what he would do.

He felt the water moving close to him before he heard Elrond softly talking.

"You look like some kind of water spirit laying there. I always envied the effortless ability you Sindar have to meld with any natural element" - Elrond commented and Legolas felt him caressing his floating hair. He opened his eyes to see Elrond resting next to him, his head turned on his direction, eyes soft and tired.

"I know some of my kind have gotten into trouble with mortals when they confound them with 'unnatural spirits'" - Legolas said thoughtfully his mind turning to the past - "I did run into some trouble myself a while ago with a men party who risked entering my father's domain" - he confessed. Elrond picked up his hand this time and brought it to his mouth, kissing it softly.

"Did you? I haven't heard that tale. I can't imagine your father let them escape intact" - he observed. Legolas turned his hand in Elrond's hold and touched his cheek in response to the kiss, caressing the skin while his mind turned to the past.

"He was outraged. He captured them and threw them into one of our deepest cells and rejected even talking about releasing them for months" - Legolas admitted - "He thought it fitting to let them locked forever as they had been trying to... capture me. Apparently, they were, well... fascinated, and believed I would bring them luck if I married one of them. My father's troops caught them following me around arguing if I was male or female and to decide who I would marry" - Legolas explained carelessly. He hadn't understood his father’s outrage at what he felt had been a minor misunderstanding.

Elrond didn't seem to agree - given the look on his face - and he grabbed the hand on his face and interlaced their fingers, bringing both of their hands to his chest.

"I am surprised that your father has allowed you to leave the forest ever again. Let me guess, you were the one trying to convince him of having mercy on those men?" - he asked dryly. Legolas smiled sheepishly, already realizing that Elrond's point of view was closer to his father's than Legolas'. It was probably a father thing.

"They didn't mean any harm, they were just ignorant merchants who hadn't ever come across our kind before. There was no harm done and they couldn't capture me any way" - Legolas observed, daringly closing the distance between them and laying his head on Elrond's strong shoulder.

The bond between them thrummed happily at their closeness. Legolas usually kept his end slightly barred even now, but they had relaxed the contact over the last few weeks and they could sense each other’s emotions in the background. It was still strange for the wood-elf to communicate through the bond when they could talk out loud but he didn't block Elrond's attempts. Still, the older elf usually respected Legolas' sensibilities and kept the bond-speak to the minimal.

Elrond let out a long-suffering sigh at Legolas' answer and placed his arm around him, kissing the forehead conveniently placed next to his mouth.

"You are a nightmare for anyone trying to protect you, I can imagine that troop of rough merchants coming across you, helplessly unable to resist you. I bet you were leading them out of the forest, weren't you?" - Elrond asked. Legolas could feel him, torn between amusement and worry.

Legolas smiled in response to what wasn't being said and decided to distract him a bit, climbing on Elrond's lap with a smooth movement. Elrond's breath caught in his throat and Legolas felt him growing interested under him. He caressed the broad shoulders before he leaned further on his chest, enjoying the differences he could feel between Elrond and himself.

"I tried to get them out of the forest before my father caught wind of what was happening. The trees were being really helpful that day ! They don't like strangers under their branches and men are too careless of where they lit their fires. But we came across one of the patrols and Tauriel took umbrage about what they were talking about" - Legolas explained distractedly.

Elrond, on the other hand, wasn't even trying to pretend interest in the conversation any longer. He was now focused on the body above him. The two of them had been circling around this kind of closeness and this was the nearest they had gotten to take the next step in their relationship. He caressed the smooth back of the younger elf before he sank his face in the slim neck of the blonde, kissing softly the smooth skin there.

Legolas let out a small sigh and cradled his face lovingly, caressing the dark tresses and combing the soft hair back. Elrond raised his grey eyes to Legolas', made darker by his arousal.

"We haven't talked about this" - Elrond said softly. Legolas raised an eyebrow in question.

"If you are worried about my virtue, you are a few centuries late by now. I am younger than you, yes, but I am not a child. I know what I am getting into" - Legolas observed, choosing humor over the offence.

Elrond sighed, his face musing.

"I know you aren't a child and I would need to be blind and deaf not to hear about the speculations of your... abilities around here. But I don't think you fully comprehend what you are getting into, I am not as other elves" - Elrond said, his voice reluctant like he was forcing himself to follow through.

Legolas paused in his automatic response, thinking through Elrond's concerns. He straightened from his resting position against Elrond's chest and looked down into the older elf's expression to judge his mood. He faltered a bit before he finally decided there wasn't a delicate way to ask and asked as straightforwardly as he could.

"Besides the obvious? I mean, there is no place to hide much right now" - he gestured the bathroom and their naked forms - "I have already noticed some differences between the two of us, is there anything else I should know?" - he asked, lowering his hand to Elrond's chest, caressing the hair there until he circled the closest nipple.

Elrond let out a deep breath, his own hands drifting to Legolas' waist, pushing him down further into his lap. Legolas felt Elrond's interest firming against him and he moved slightly to get some friction. Elrond grey eyes flashed with arousal and that was Legolas' only warning before the other grabbed his nape and dragged him down for a deep kiss, the bond vibrating with excitement .

After a few moments of exploring each other's mouths, Elrond sank back again and responded to Legolas' almost forgotten question.

"Most of what is different is obviously visible right now, some have found the differences distasteful in the past. I take you don't... mind?" - Elrond asked tentatively. Legolas cradled Elrond's face again and lowered his forehead to his, still breathless in response to the kiss.

"Mind? I would say just the opposite. I think it's pretty obvious I don't object to anything right now" - he moved again against Elrond, giving to the temptation to brush his very interested cock against Elrond's middle, the water making his movements lazy.

Elrond placed one of his hands tightly on Legolas' hip while the other crept into his lap, getting hold of Legolas' erection in a firm grip. Legolas gasped in response, his own arms tightening around Elrond's neck.

"You don't seem to object, certainly" - Elrond said evenly, his hand moving with his words making the younger elf lose track of their conversation.

Elrond took advantage of the distraction to took Legolas' mouth again in a brushing kiss while he continued the movement of his hand, his own hips constantly brushing his cock against Legolas' backside for friction until he needed more stimulation and took his own erection in his other hand to move alongside his caresses to Legolas'. They continued for some time before Legolas spoke again, huskily.

"I do like this" - he smiled, caressing the hair on Elrond's chest, his thumb brushing Elrond's nipple. Elrond laughed softly before he gasped again.

"I am glad" - he rasped, his voice going rougher while he got closer to his release. Legolas kept caressing the broad chest while his mouth kissed and licked the strong neck and his hips kept the teasing friction on Elrond's cock.

Both of them reached release, one after another, and Legolas left his weight to rest fully against Elrond's chest. Elrond supported him against his body kissing the crow of his head tenderly, while he recovered his breath. It had been a soft interlude, made almost dreamy by their surroundings, but Legolas liked the feeling of closeness he was getting and he felt they had overcome another hurdle.

He recovered and after a few minutes of enjoying Elrond's warmth and, with his mind engaged again, he started to feel curious.

"What brought you here anyway? It's not dinner time yet, I thought you were busy with preparations for the new year celebrations" - Legolas commented offhandedly. He was feeling too relaxed to care much about Elrond's reasons to visit.

Elrond sighed in response, his mind clearly trying to avoid returning to the real world.

"We just received a response from Mirkwood. Your older brother and sister are coming in representation of the Elvenking. They will arrive within the week" - Elrond explained shortly.

Legolas felt any relaxation he had gotten from the interlude, disappear at the news.

"Both of them?" - Legolas exclaimed, surprised - "Aye Elbereth" - he said helplessly at the news.

Both of his older siblings. Both of his very protective older siblings.

Chapter Text

Elrond looked to the courtyard from his place at the main house's steps, his external demeanor as calm as it usually was.

His inner thoughts were a different story altogether. He didn't think he had felt this nervous since his brother and he had stood waiting at Gil-Galad's tent after Maglor and Maedhros had sent them away to the safety of the High King's encampment.

Like it happened that time, he felt he had everything against him for their visitors to like him. His past, his family, his former choices... it was nerve-wracking to wait for his visitors to arrive and even Legolas' presence at his side did little to calm him down.

Finally, Glorfindel’s mounted form entered the courtyard closely followed by a troop of mixed elves, the Rivendell blues and grays mixed easily with the green and brown garments of their visitors.

And in the middle of that group, two blonde heads lowered their hoods to look around. The two royals were as blonde as Legolas but the similarities mostly ended there. Elrond - who had only met them in passing long ago and had never had the same relationship with them as he and his children had with Legolas - looked at them in curiosity. Both of them were taller and bulkier than Legolas slim form - even his sister looked like she was fitter to the sword than the bow - their features were handsome and fair as elves usually were but lacked Legolas' delicate beauty. The older male had broad shoulders and hazel eyes which seemed to see everything around him. The female was as tall as her brother with the form of a sword-woman, and her brown eyes also missed nothing around them. They looked, in summary, a lot like their father Thranduil: formidable and majestic. It was clear that Legolas, while could not be mistaken either as anything but his father's son, had inherited his mother's more delicate beauty and grace.

"Amarien! Calenion!" - Legolas muttered at his side, his body tensing with the effort to remain next to Elrond instead of going down to greet his long-missed siblings.

Fortunately for Legolas' nerves, the two older elves didn't waste time looking around, their attention clearly caught with their younger brother more than Elrond's beautiful house. They dismounted gracefully and leaving the reins of their horses with their companions, rushed to the house's front stairs where the Master of the house and their brother were standing waiting not so patiently.

"Hîr nin, Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo" - the older, Calenion, said easily with his hand to his heart. He was quickly mirrored by his sister at his side.

While their words were courteous and their gestures polite and respectful, their eyes betrayed them: they couldn't stop looking at their younger brother instead of their host. Elrond didn't take offence, he was actually relieved at seeing Thranduil's formidable oldest son and heir, and the King's second oldest sister so completely focused on their long-missed baby brother, even to the point of rudeness. It actually raised them in Elrond's eyes. Thranduil and his brood had the fame of being exceptionally closed off in public, making it difficult to read what they were thinking or feeling if anything at all. Elrond's long acquaintance with Legolas had taught him to read that particular wood-elf - notably when he teamed up with his sons in one of their escapades and they were trying to hide something - but he had heard of Legolas' sibling and they were rumoured to be nothing like their baby brother. He had expected to meet some very aloof prince and princess.

Nothing could be farthest than that. Elrond rushed to give the appropriate words of welcome, aware that none of the trio around him was paying any attention to them but they needed to be told so they could finish the formalities and allow the siblings to really greet each other.

"Welcome to Imladris, your Highnesses. Prince Calenion, Crown Prince of the Greenwood and Princess Amarien. Welcome woodland warriors, the Last Homely House welcomes you for as long as you wish to dwell here in peace among its people, and I hope it is for a long time. Be at ease here, you are among friends. My bonded has longed to see his family again" - Elrond said easily and honestly. As nervous as their visit had made him - had made both of them - he was aware of Legolas' longing to see his family again and he could only hope that they could reach an agreement which would make Legolas' decision to stay and give their relationship a chance as easy as possible for everyone.

At his words, the people around them relaxed while they started to dismount and the Valley's staff surrounded them to help them to release the horses from their burdens.

Legolas' bright smile was a sight to behold and Elrond felt some weight he hadn't known he was carrying lift from his heart when he saw it. The younger elf seemed to have forgotten all his nerves and worries now he was before his siblings again.

"Brother, Sister! Mae g'ovannen!. Welcome! You and your companions, it has been far too long since we met last. I am pleased to see you here safe and sound and I can only thank your escort for their diligent care" - Legolas said cheerfully, his gaze jumping from his siblings to the woodland's warriors scattered around the courtyard handing the care of their horses to the Valley's stable hands.

Elrond watched the reaction of the hardened woodland warriors with amusement as they seemed to grow in height at their prince's words. They placed their hands to their hearts as one, bowing towards the youngest prince, and one of them - a tall redhead with complicated warrior braids - took a step forward to talk.

"It is good to see you safe my prince" - the warrior said with easy confidence, clearly familiar and at ease with Legolas.

Legolas looked like he would have rolled his eyes if it wasn't supposed to be beneath his dignity. There were some laughs around them and the two older siblings were unable to keep their hands off their brother.

Calenion almost tackled Legolas to the ground, clasping him to his chest like he wouldn't let go of him for a while. Amarien hugged them both from his other side, her arm surrounding her little brother and her hand caressing the hair away from Legolas' face, which he had buried in his brother's chest. The three of them seemed very engrossed in each other and Elrond decided to give a few moments of privacy - as much as you could have in a public courtyard - walking away towards the warrior who had answered Legolas.

The redhead was taller than the average wood-elf and his braids, while Elrond wasn't familiar with their specific meaning, he was aware that the complexity of them indicated a high ranked and skilled individual. He bowed again to Elrond when he noticed his approach and Elrond smiled in return.

"I am Elrond Perendhil, I don't think we have formally met before so forgive me for my approach. Legolas and his siblings seem to need a few moments to greet themselves in peace. Am I mistaken to think you have some authority among your warriors?" - Elrond asked the other elf while watching him in curiosity. His words towards Legolas showed some familiarity with the Prince and he seemed genuinely glad to see him safe and sound.

The other elf, who had returned his attention to the siblings, turned his focus to Elrond. His eyes - sky blue - focused on the older elf with sharp intelligence and he seemed to make a quick decision.

"I am Nathor, Captain of the South Company of the Greenwood" - the elf introduced himself.

Elrond lifted an eyebrow in surprise at the title. He was well aware of the significance of that patrol and any elf who led patrols in that area wasn't just another captain. Dol Guldur was in that zone and Elrond remembered what Legolas had heard from Caradruin's Master, Belegurdor.

"It is an honour to meet you, Master Nathor. I am aware of the skill and bravery needed to lead that patrol" - Elrond said, his own hand going to his chest in a signal of respect. The redhead grinned amicably in response to his words and gesture.

"You should be, my Lord. Your bonded is the one who led us when he was in the Kingdom" - Nathor said easily.

Elrond was surprised again at the news and looked behind him towards Legolas, who had managed to escape his brother's arms but ran straight into his sister's. Nathor snickered at the disgruntled face the younger prince was making before he turned back to Elrond and asked.

"I gather by your expression that you didn't know this. I am not surprised, we keep the information under wraps for their protection when one of our royals takes this kind of position. It would defeat the purpose of lending their experience and skills to those patrols if the Enemy discovers their presence and focuses on them" - Nathor explained. Elrond nodded unsurprised by the wood-elves decision, his tactical mind having reached the same conclusion.

Nathor then returned his attention to the siblings, his expression thoughtful.

"He looks better than we feared. We have heard many rumours back home" - he admitted openly. Elrond felt a frisson of worry at that statement. He wished he knew more about this elf in front of him or that Erestor - who knew every elf of notice everywhere - were here with him. He wasn't sure how much he could trust this elf before him, wondering if he was Legolas' friend and had been truly worried about him or Thranduil's agent and was fishing for information.

Whatever else he was, Nathor wasn't dim. He took a look at Elrond's expression and his tense silence and reached his own conclusions.

"Legolas and I grew up together in the Greenwood. My father died at the Last Alliance and the King took my family and me under his wing. He placed my sisters and I with his own children to learn among their tutors and, once my mother finished her grieving, offered her a choice of placements at the household. She chose to learn at the healing halls figuring that at least one of us would turn to the warrior's path and wanting to be able to help when that happened" - Nathor explained, his mind turned to the past.

Elrond stayed silent, surprised by the information. While Thranduil was a good King, Elrond hadn't expected for him to take that much interest in the fate of one of his warrior's family. Nathor showed again his ability to read Elrond's mind - or maybe he had heard that reasoning before.

"My father was Oropher's standard-bearer. He went to the war with the King and was the one who brought the news of his death back to Aran Thranduil, he then died of the gravity of his wounds. I think he made a strong impression on the King, he was the one who told my mother what had happened to my father and how much it had meant for Aran Thranduil to have the confirmation of his own father's fate. Given how many of our people just disappear and never returned and how their families suffered because of that, I think it was really important for him" - Nathor concluded.

Elrond nodded in response. He hadn't at the time had the presence of mind to really talk to Thranduil after the battle and all their losses besides the expected sympathy words they both had granted the other for their pain. He suspected a great part of the Sinda King's attitude towards Elrond and his people came from that battle and its consequences. Elrond had always wondered if that breach could have been saved if he would have made the effort to reach out to the woodland King at that time.

It was too late now for regrets. Elrond didn't have the presence of mind at the time - with his best friend and King dead and no body to mourn - and no one else at the High King’s encampment had the authority to save that breach. Maybe if Legolas and his own sons had been born and older, and already friends at that battle, they could have saved that situation... but it was useless to speculate at this point in time. He turned back to the warrior who was patiently waiting for Elrond's further questions and smiled at him again in gratitude.

"You have kindly answered many of my questions but you must be tired from your journey. I would have much to ask you if you allow me the curiosity, nonetheless what the Captain of Thranduil's more crucial patrol is doing escorting his children into their visit here. But I think that can wait until you have rested a bit and restored your energies from your travels" - Elrond said, waving his hand towards the House. Legolas' voice interrupted then.

"Yes, Nathor. I am also curious to see you here. Particularly when remembering some of your opinions about wood-elves 'trampling around the outside world when there were good orcs to kill in the forest'" - Legolas commented reaching Elrond's side and looking down the stairs to the other elf, still at the lower step of the stairs. The redhead, who had been watching the prince unimpressed, raised an arrogant eyebrow in response to Legolas' quote.

"My Prince, there are still good orcs wandering in the forest as you said. But for some reason, they seem to be tamer than usual of late. I wouldn't want to draw any conclusion between their ferocity - or lack thereof - and the absence of certain reckless prince. However, rumours reached us that a spot of problem happened north of Rivendell. Something that involved even the presence of Mithrandir and for some reason you name seemed to be involved. So, I decided to volunteer on this mission to see if I can figure out the puzzle" - the Captain explained calmly, his face blank and innocent like he was making a report.

Legolas' expression wasn't so controlled. He had alternated between amused, briefly offended and disgruntled, finally returning to amusement again when the other elf concluded his words before he turned his own expression blank. His siblings had reached them again and they were flanking their brother, their expressions gleeful at their sibling' predicament. It was clear that this kind of accusations had been done before to the young Prince and they were all waiting for his defence. Elrond himself had sometimes wondered if he, and his sons, had some kind of quality which attracted danger to them.

Legolas seemed confident he could get himself out of the situation, his hand confidently grasping Elrond's arm while waving everyone to start to walk towards the House, cheerful and careless.

"Nathor, my dear friend. I am glad you have decided to take a look at the outside world again. It is clear to me that you may have an askew vision of it. I understand that expending so long among some of our worst patrols can make you think that every and the worst creatures of the Enemy are dwelling under our trees. And I won't deny they are among the worst of the lot. But there are orcs, trolls and many other dark creatures in many other places. Even at the towns north, south, east and west of Rivendell I am sure. I don't know what rumours have reached you, but I assure you I haven't found any special problems around here. If I made a visit north a few months ago and Mithrandir decided to follow that same route, I am sure it wasn't because of anything I did" - he concluded straight-faced.

Elrond was impressed by the string of barely truths his bonded was spouting with such an innocent face. It was - maybe - true that Legolas' actions hadn't been what had prompted Gandalf to investigate the orcs movements on the Mountains, even if he was the one who had brought it to his attention. It was actually the orcs' actions which had instigated the wizard on his chosen path. And it was certainly true that there were orcs everywhere and Legolas hadn't found any 'special' situation when he reached the attacked town. But the fact he had found such a problem so close to Rivendell during his escape and that he had gotten involved not only in the fight but in the rescue of the citizens and the recovery of the city... Legolas was probably more used to that kind of situation than many, arising from his travels certainly, but for most people that wasn't a 'normal' situation.

Legolas' siblings and friend were still spluttering at his cheek while Legolas led them out of the courtyard and into the house itself. Elrond was impressed by his calm and practised way of avoiding explaining himself and the situation at hand. It was clear that his friend would bring up the situation again - and his siblings given their expressions - but Legolas had mastered the art of keeping his answers light in conjunction with some well-placed diversions. Altogether he was able to avoid his overprotective family from trying to ground him permanently.

Which Elrond suspected, it wouldn't work anyway to keep him safe. Legolas was able to find trouble in Aman if necessary.

Legolas looked down the table towards the seats where the woodland's soldiers had chosen to sit. Nathor among them, the rat. He was sure his friend, as a Captain of Mirkwood's forces, had been invited to the main table. But his wily friend had chosen to stay with his forces. That would make it easier to keep with the gossip and the chatter of the Valley. Now the dinner was all but finished, their guests were talking among themselves while drinking some of Elrond's spirits, unwilling to leave the merry ambience.

Legolas caught Erestor's eye, who was seated at the head of one of the lower tables with Glorfindel - very close to the Mirkwood's troops - and nodded slightly to him. Erestor signed in return and turned in his seat to call one of the tables' servers, starting a hushed conversation with her.

"As glad as I am to see you at home scheming with Erestor, should I be worried?" - Elrond's low voice asked in his ear.

Legolas looked at his bonded sideways, locking gazes with his grey eyes. He had his thoughts derailed when he saw the amused look the master of the House was sporting at the idea of his second in command plotting with his bonded at the dinner table. He looked happy and amused by the fact, instead of worried despite his words.

Legolas decided that he liked his relaxed stance very much and smiled back mischievously.

"I am certain that nothing Erestor and I may be plotting should come as a surprise to you" - Legolas observed.

He had noticed that Elrond had been looking tense and worried since the arrival of his family had been announced. He knew the reputation his family had regarding their protectiveness of him. So it was good to see Elrond more relaxed now he had met his siblings and they hadn't attacked him on sight. Not that he should become confident by their mild greetings or the general easygoing facade they presented. If he knew his family - and he DID - they would most certainly be reserving their questions for the appropriate moment.

And those questions wouldn't be asked calmly, he mused while a group of musicians and dancers arrived at the room. He exchanged a grateful look with Erestor while the group started to position themselves around the room and people stopped talking and returned to their seats to pay attention to the spectacle. He held back a smile when he saw his friend's face of disgruntlement. Now the musicians were here, it would be rude to walk around the room looking for interesting gossip, he would have to return to his seat and - at best - make conversation with his neighbours. Legolas’ smile finally slipped out when he saw the elves Erestor had placed around the Mirkwood's warriors. A few of Elrond's kindest nobles who wouldn't dream to gossip about their Lord or his bonded.

Satisfied to have derailed his friend's questioning for the moment, he returned his attention to his siblings. The two of them had been seated at the main table at Elrond's right side - while Legolas was at his left - as a sign of respect for their position both as Thranduil's children and as siblings of Elrond's bonded.

Calenion seemed to have been waiting for Legolas' attention because he raised an eyebrow when Legolas looked at him.

"I see you are up to your old tricks, young one" - he commented, and turning to Elrond he explained - "He enjoys frustrating any and all attempts to keep track of his movements back home. He has a well-placed system - formed by many of his friends - to distract the attention of our father and us until it's too late to stop whatever hair-brained scheme he is planning to do. I am surprised that Nathor, who has often been part of your plans, is now trying to go against you" - he observed.

Legolas gave his older brother his best innocent look. He could feel Elrond's amusement - and some outrage - through the bond. Clearly the older elf was remembering some of the times he had used that technique against him with the twins' help. He was surprised that the memory of his old friends wasn't as painful as usual.

You have started to make peace with what has happened. Elrond said through the bond.

Legolas was surprised that the older elf had chosen this day to push this issue. Maybe Legolas' sibling's presence had reminded Elrond that Legolas had a life outside the Valley and he needed the reassurance of the bond. The two of them had barely talked through it since Legolas had returned to the Valley and Elrond hadn't pushed for it before. They had shared feelings and images, but words seemed more intimate somehow and Legolas hadn't really thought about it for a while. He felt Elrond's tense form at his side waiting for his reaction. He kept his gaze on his siblings while he tried to decide how he felt about this new intimacy Elrond was inviting him to share. He knew that the older elf would respect his wishes if he decided to keep withholding this part of the bond, but was that what Legolas wanted?

It all boiled down to a matter of trust and whatever Legolas really wanted to make this work. And Legolas had already made that choice, and it wasn't in his nature to do things half-way.

I believe I have he answered, his meaning twofold. Elrond’s smile was bright and full of peace, and he took hold of Legolas' hand to kiss it lovingly. Legolas flushed in response while his siblings looked on in interest, clearly realizing there was something they were missing.

"Well. I wasn't expecting that response, my Lord" - Amarien said, her laughing voice drawing their attention again - "Do you realize that he will use these tricks against you at some point, don't you? He doesn't hold back for love, or loyalty, or any other noble feelings you can think of because he always has - or feels he has - a noble, good reason for his actions" - she warned Elrond, just half-joking.

Legolas turned his innocent gaze to his bonded, already aware that the other wasn't fooled in the least. His words confirmed his suspicions.

"It's not so easy to fool me as you fear. I have done my share of misleading when younger. Also, I believe that my young bonded hasn't fully realized the implications of trying to divert someone when you share... as much as we do" - Elrond said to the Princess although his gaze didn't leave Legolas', his words were serious but his grey eyes betrayed his amusement.

"You, young? I thought you were born grown and wise as the Valar" - Legolas teased back although he felt uneasy at the back of his mind when hearing Elrond's words. They hadn't progressed as with their bond as much as they had with their relationship once it had become stabilized. He tried to keep his mind focused on the issue at hand however, not wanting to think about that with his siblings attention on him.

"I was scrawny actually. Twins are usually smaller than average" - Elrond revealed, his voice fond and melancholic as it usually was when he talked about his twin. Amarien, kind and emphatic, rushed to change the subject.

"And you were born with trouble following your steps, little brother. Father has always told how you were born in the middle of a storm when mother and he were travelling home, instead of in our healing halls as you should have if you hadn't arrived early. He felt that was a warning" - she said, her voice amused although Legolas noticed she was watching Elrond's actions very closely.

"It is strange for an elf to be born ahead of time" - Elrond commented, his healer's interest awakened, looking back to Amarien in question.

"The times were already complicated. Mother was worried about the rumours of the War and the Alliance Gil-Galad was creating. They were attacked on their way back from a visit to her family and the storm allowed them to escape the orcs but the stress triggered the birth. Father had to help her to deliver little Legolas. He was the first to hold him in his arms and that is, I think, what has made him the favourite" - Amarien said, fondly looking at her younger brother. Legolas made a face at the familiar tale.

"You were born in the middle of the forest then, no wonder you have such a bond with the trees" - Elrond teased him.

"I have always felt at home among them" - Legolas admitted.

"He has. We never find him amongst the trees when he uses them to hide. They shelter him like he was their child" - Calenion complained - "You will have a difficult time convincing them of your good intentions if he uses them. You don't know embarrassment until you are caught defending your intentions to an oak "

Legolas laughed in response, remembering many of those instances.

"I am surprised you didn't just escape into them a few months ago, Legolas. They wouldn't leave anyone to find you" - Calenion said in a mild voice although Legolas could sense the tension on him. Elrond tensed beside him too.

"What makes you think I wasn't just taking a trip north. It wouldn't be the first time I have travelled to one of the neighbouring towns to help" - Legolas asked, not trying to avoid the truth but intrigued by his family's conclusions and trying to figure out how much they had been told.

"Alone? Without the twins?" - Calenion asked wryly. Despite he was expecting it, Legolas was unable to suppress the flinch at their mention and his brother's face hardened at that - "So that is true, also. Something has happened between the three of you" - Calenion said in anger his gaze already turning towards Elrond. Legolas rushed to intervene.

"Peace, Calenion. You don't know what has really happened. And I won't rehearse the last three years here, before everyone" - Legolas said quickly, starting to get irritated. This was the reason he hadn't wanted his family's presence before as much as he had missed them. He hadn't wanted to have to justify himself on top of everything else that was happening. He looked around their table neighbours who were politely ignoring their hushed conversation but Legolas was certain had heard everything. He turned back to his siblings, his anger fading when he saw their genuine concern.

Your family is right to be angry. You don't need to protect me from the fruits of my own deeds Elrond said softly

I don't want for them to think they can attack you like I was a helpless child who needs their protection Legolas admitted And I don't want our intimacy to be spread around the House. The twins made enough harm already venting their opinion to all and sundry

"I'm sorry Legolas" - Amarien said sadly, reaching for him with her hand - "You need to understand how difficult it has been for us to be in the dark about you and what was happening here. All our siblings wanted to come and check in you. You are lucky that father didn't decide to come himself!" - Amarien said.

Legolas placed his head on Elrond's shoulder sensing his bonded's short spike of panic. He was torn between amusement and his own panic to the thought of his father's arrival to Rivendell.

"Father hasn't left the forest since the last White Council meeting hasn't he? And that was what? A hundred years ago?" - Legolas observed, trying to keep Elrond's fear in check. It would be amusing for a grown - Noldor - elf to be afraid of his father if Legolas didn't feel a bit of apprehension himself.

"More or less. Our King claimed those Councils were a waste of time. He, as you know, feels our people is being overlooked by the Wise, and our plight ignored. He claimed he would focus his attention on our people and wait no more for others to help" - Calenion recalled - "However, he would have come here for you Legolas if it wasn't for the message you sent" - he concluded. Elrond turned towards him surprised.

"I take you don't mean that last message?" - he asked. Calenion denied with a shake of his head.

"I mean the one Legolas sent about the troops movements at the Mountains and the messages that man was receiving. Father agrees with you, Legolas" - Calenion said to his younger brother, his face serious again - "He didn't dare to leave the forest with what he suspects is happening there. But he asked us to represent him as he was here" - Calenion concluded, his smile too sharp to be soothing.

"You are right we shouldn't talk here, gwining. But tomorrow we will talk" - Calenion said, his tone firm reminding Legolas very strongly of their own father. He conceded with a defeated sight before turning his attention again to the musicians, although his heart wasn't really on it.

It was going to be a difficult conversation.

Legolas laid at the bed, still musing on what had been told at the dinner. He couldn't do much about his siblings proposed meeting but to bear with it and try to keep it civil. His mind then turned to what Elrond had said at some point.

He hadn't given a lot of thought to their bond over the past weeks since they had started to make progress in their relationship. Although it had been central to the reasons his life had changed in the last three years, once he had returned to the Valley their progress in their relationship, in general, had been more important in Legolas' mind than the bond itself.

Of course, he had realized - and maybe that was the reason he hadn't focused as much in it - that with their relationship becoming closer and more intimate, the bond had grown and became more stable.

Elrond's response to his sister's words of warning had, however, brought to light some of the drawbacks he hadn't focused too much with the bond.

He remembered how Elrond had used the small slips of the bond to track him down when he ran away. And that was when he was walled up against him! Even if he were to draw his walls up again at some point, it would be a dead giveaway of his intentions. Not that he was an elfling who wanted to play tricks on his bonded or the household - as he admittedly had when he was younger - but the fact he couldn't even travel even as close as Bree without Elrond knowing rubbed him wrong somehow. The loss of his long-fought freedom, which he had defended against his father's temper time and time again, was distressing.

Elrond entered the bedroom, already dressed for bed and Legolas focused his attention on him. He narrowed his eyes towards the older elf, unwilling to accept that the bond they shared meant he couldn't implement some of his... riskier schemes. There had to be a way to keep the bond calm without alerting the other of some... activities. He made a mental note of the new line of research he would be following as soon as he could. He even had a few ideas, while he was trying to find ways to break or transfer the bond to someone else he had found some interesting possibilities.

I can't wait to see what you find Elrond's mental voice caressed his own thoughts while he laid down at the bed next to Legolas. He laid on his left side looking to Legolas' form with open appreciation. Legolas, however, wasn't ready to let go of that idea yet. Elrond hadn't sounded disapproving, but he didn't seem to believe it was possible.

Are you implying that with this bond I won't have any privacy any longer? Legolas asked, perturbed. Elrond's presence in his mind made it impossible for him to miss this. He picked up Legolas' hand and squeezed it gently.

You have privacy. Actually, you have already noticed that you can focus your thoughts just to send me what you want me to hear. But you also know that any strong emotion will draw my attention, the same way it will draw yours to me Elrond explained, his mental voice soothingly. Legolas looked up to the ceiling, his mind still trying to understand all he was being told.

"Your mind is much more disciplined than mine. You barely leave your feelings to take hold of you" - he said out loud.

"I am openly more reserved than you, that is true. But you have been noticing more of my feelings that you realize although most of the time you don't pay attention to them. And that is what I meant before, don't think that because I can feel all you feel when I am focused on you that it is true for every moment of the day. If I was paying attention to what you feel or think every moment of every day I would be living your life instead of mine" - Elrond observed.

Legolas tried to understand what Elrond was saying.

"You mean that most of the time, this bond is like any other sense. You can hear other people's conversations if you leave a window open but you need to be listening to take in what they are saying" - Legolas said slowly. Elrond smiled pleased, his hand now caressing Legolas'.

"Exactly, that is a good analogy. Your mind and mine will always have an open window between them. But only when I am focused on that window I can make sense of what you are doing. Of course, like a conversation next to you, if you 'scream' something it will draw my attention immediately. Strong feelings or focused thoughts do that" - Elrond concluded, laying down fully on the bed and opening his arms invitingly to Legolas.

Legolas sighed but drew closer to him, laying his head on Elrond's broad shoulder while his arm rested on Elrond's stomach. He brought his hand up to the older elf's chest and started to play with the cordons of the older's elf sleeping shirt.

"And that is what you meant when you said I couldn't get away with as much as I have in the past. The moment you focus on me you would know where I am and what I am doing. And maybe, if I was worried or anxious enough, I would draw your attention even sooner" - he said flatly, trying and failing not to feel trapped.

Elrond caressed the blonde head on his shoulder, soothing the younger elf with his calm motions while he thought how to answer.

"I understand this situation is not something that you people are used to. These bonds we Noldor cherish and encourage are not part of your culture" - Elrond started thoughtfully.

Legolas denied with his head without talking.

"I, however, grew wishing for the time I would find an elf who would share their whole being with me. I got a glimpse of how that would feel through the bond with my twin. Twins, as you may know, usually share a bond similar to the one we share now - without the romantic parts. You may have noticed this with my sons"

Legolas nodded in response, remembering the twins habit to talk without words and their uncanny ability to know where the other was and how he was feeling.

"When I lost Elros, first to his Kingship and the distance between Lindon and Númenor, and then to the Mortal path, I was able to stand his loss because I knew I had the chance to forge a closer bond with another elf. When I married Celebrian..."

Here Elrond faltered in his explanation, prompting Legolas to draw closer to him, setting almost on top of the other. Elrond hid his face in Legolas' blonde tresses, grateful for the gesture, and after a few moments, he continued.

"I hadn't expected a perfect bond. By then, I was aware of the pitfalls of my position and heritage, and the rush we had for me to find someone to ground me left me with few choices for a grand romance. But I had expected that we would be friends at least, and maybe from that, we could grow closer. I didn't expect a great love, like the one my parents had, but I wished to find someone who would fill the void my twin had left behind" - Elrond admitted, his voice sad and weary.

"That is a normal wish" - Legolas observed softly resting his face in the hollow of Elrond's neck. Laying as he was just on top of Elrond, he could feel his reaction to his nearness and he smiled in Elrond's neck. Elrond felt his amusement, regardless, and tapped Legolas' behind threatening.

Legolas tried to squirm away from Elrond's hold but the other elf took advantage of his superior strength and bulk to roll him over to lie on his back in the bed, with Elrond on top of him.

"It was a normal wish" - Elrond said, continuing their conversation even while he kept Legolas pinned to the bed - "I didn't think I would need to wait over two thousand years to find my perfect match" - Elrond said, his hands wandering over Legolas' body.

Legolas' twitched in place, not really wanting to escape or stop Elrond's caresses but not wanting to concede just yet either.

"You are trying to distract me from what is a real concern" - he complained breathlessly when Elrond reached his waist and slipped a hand below his shirt to reach the soft skin of his belly.

"Am I?" - Elrond muttered distractedly, his hand busily rising from below taking Legolas' sleeping shirt with them.

Legolas took advantage of his distraction to flip them over again, sitting on Elrond's stomach and taking off his shirt with a smooth movement. Then he placed his own hands at Elrond's chest and started to open the older elf's shirt, efficiently divesting him from it and taking advantage of the newly bared skin to map Elrond's chest hair with interest.

Elrond laid placidly on the bed, letting his beautiful mate explore at will while his own hands went to Legolas' legs to keep him in place.

Legolas smiled down to him wickedly, raising a challenging eyebrow.

"Don't believe I am so easily distracted. We are going to return to this discussion later, but now I am going to demonstrate to you that it was worth the wait" - he affirmed.

Elrond smiled up to him, his mind clear and his heart certain.

"I would have waited ten times that time if you were waiting for me at the other side melda" - he said with confidence, his hands going to Legolas' head and bringing down for their first kiss of the night.

The next day, they would have to confront Legolas' family, the boundaries of their relationship and their future together.

But tonight... tonight, they were just two souls who had found each other at least, through time and pain. Against all odds, their pasts, their families... they had managed to hold on and reach this moment in time where they have the chance to be happy.

Legolas would grab hold of that happiness. No matter what, they would find a way, a middle ground where they could be together and happy.

They just needed to find a way to survive his family's visit first.

Chapter Text

Legolas entered the training grounds closely followed by Amarien and Calenion who were watching their surroundings with attention. Legolas was certain that beyond their task to check on his health and mental state - and happiness in general - the two of them had been tasked by their father to no-so-discretely spy on the Valley's forces and training methods. The fact they were all allies and family by now wouldn't negate some friendly spying Legolas supposed. It was part of the game Elrond and his father had been playing for centuries now and Elrond had sent him on his way this morning with a kiss and a smile, their bond buzzing with his amusement at his siblings' petition for Legolas to show them around.

Legolas found the whole thing utterly absurd and complicated. He knew that Elrond and Glorfindel would have been happy to exchange some training between the Realms if they could only agree to it, but Thranduil's wish to keep control and independence of the rest of the world wasn't conducive to those exchanges.

So they were doomed to these kinds of subterfuges which weren't fooling anyone. Legolas repressed a long-suffering sigh.

"You look a bit tired, muindor" - Amarien commented, her tone innocently inquiring but her eyes sharp.

Legolas wasn't the youngest of his family without knowing how to answer fire with fire.

"I am a bit. I could have used a few more hours of sleep today but your message at the crack of dawn woke us up" - he responded, his wide blue eyes clear like the sky. He heard Glorfindel's strangled cough at his back but he didn't pay him attention while looking into his sister's eyes.

Calenion snorted in response, shaking his head to their sister.

"I can't believe you would try that with Legolas, Ama. He has perfected the art of innocent responses" - Calenion observed, his voice reluctantly admiring.

Glorfindel laughter wasn't hidden now. Calenion turned his attention to the blonde warrior. Despite the fact Calenion wasn't a short elf, the Vanya was still almost a head taller than him, and he looked up and back to him from where he was walking behind the siblings.

"Lord Glorfindel, I am curious to know how you train your soldiers to fight in tight surroundings. You see, we at the forest are usually unable to choose our ground to fight the spiders and the orcs and it is quite common to end fighting among the tree trunks, branches and sometimes even around rock and cliffs. I see that you seem to favor the sword which we have found difficult to use in such situations" - Calenion commented, his tone professional while he looked between the training soldiers and the warrior behind him.

Glorfindel nodded in agreement at the question and the two of them started a lively conversation about training methods and the best weapons to use in different terrains and against different foes.

Amarien and Legolas wandered away from them, walking around the grounds in silence until they were out of hearing range. Legolas noticed his sister's actions but allowed her to draw him away, aware that sooner or later one of his siblings would find the way to talk to him alone.

They reached the side of the grounds farthest from the house and Amarien easily grabbed onto a low branch and started to climb one of the trees. Without a word, Legolas followed closely behind her until the two of them reached the top and took a seat on one of the broader branches. Only then did Amarien start to talk again.

"You won't be surprised to know that we have been very worried over the last few years" - she started, and Legolas nodded in response - "The news of what had happened here was scattered and your letters didn't make it any more clear" - she raised her hand before he could protest - "I understand you were constrained about what you could write down. If I have understood what this bond of yours with Lord Elrond is about, is for the better to keep it as quiet as possible as it could be used against any of you" - Amarien said - "But that left us with vague letters and the news the envoys were told to convey out loud because it couldn't be written down. And you know that these Noldor bonds are not known among our people, so we didn't know what to think about the fact you needed to stay here" - Amarien concluded. Legolas narrowed his eyes in thought.

"Did you think I was forced to stay?" - he asked in curiosity. He had tried to avoid giving too much information in his letter to his family, both as Amarien had insinuated because it was dangerous information to be intercepted and also to avoid the risk to betray himself in some way and get their attention focused on him.

The last thing the situation with Elrond and the twins had needed was his family intervention. He had been unhappy and felt harassed by the other elves, and their entourage, but he hadn't felt physically in danger - until the breach into his rooms - and he had wanted to avoid escalating the problem into a political situation.

He felt he had managed to avoid that so far, and he didn't want to create a problem now that he had finally started to make up with his bonded and his tormentors had been sent away to serve their sentence among other realms - which got them out of his hair for now.

Amarien, who had been watching him closely, answered his question.

"Were you? I can't imagine anyone would have an easy time trying to force you to do something you don't wish to do - even father has a hard time with that, even since you were a child! - but I can easily imagine some people using your goodwill and kind nature against you to get you to stay" - Amarien observed accurately. Legolas repressed a flinch at her words, as close to home they had hit.

"The bond wasn't stable enough for me to leave, that is true. But I willingly decided to stay so it would get stronger and so Elrond and I wouldn’t be in danger. Or our home either. You know that if word of the bond went out and I was known to be in Mirkwood that every orc in the vicinity would have tried to capture me and kill me to weaken the Lord of Rivendell" - Legolas admitted carefully.

Amarien's brown eyes were sharp on her brother but she visibly softened at Legolas' words.

"We are always in danger Legolas, like our father's children. We would have protected you and you would have been with your family. Not alone, among this Noldor who didn't appreciate your sacrifice. Because they didn't, did they? What did happen with the twins Legolas?" - she finally asked.

Legolas sighed in response, turning his gaze East like he could see his home from here. Then he started his tale.

His sister went silent with his words, her face getting progressively darker with every word from Legolas. She was taking it about as well as Legolas had expected.

Not well at all.

Elrond looked up from his desk at the knock to his door and called his visitor to enter. Glorfindel came into the studio, his face as serious as Elrond had seen it. Elrond rested back against his chair and waited for his friend to talk.

"The princes and princess have gone into the trees for some woodland conference or something. The Princess cornered her younger brother first and they were talking for a while alone and suddenly, the older Prince received some signal - I have said before those wood-elves use bird sounds to communicate - and he went to the forest without any explanation" - Glorfindel reported.

Elrond nodded unsurprised and raised an eyebrow to his friend's dark mood.

"It was bound to happen that one of them would get their brother alone and that Legolas would confide in his siblings, were you expecting any different?" - he asked.

"Given the efforts he has made to avoid word of what had happened to reach his father, yes! I was expecting for him to avoid giving anything away" - Glorfindel admitted. Elrond shook his head at his friend's naive view of the situation, not at all surprised that his young bondmate had a clearer idea of how to deal with it with the least damage for everyone. Glorfindel was an unparallelled warrior and a wise and kind elf. But he had stayed away from politics both of his lives - Elrond wasn't certain how he had managed that as a Lord of Turgon's Court, but he had managed.

"Legolas didn't want word of what had happened reaching his father - and siblings - from second-hand sources filtered by their interests. He knows he can't keep all has happened here from his family - if nothing else, the twins will eventually go to Mirkwood and it's part of their penance to explain to the King the reasons for their punishment" - Elrond started to explain patiently. Glorfindel shrugged in response.

"So he didn't want for someone else to tell his father, he wanted to be the one to tell his family?" - he summarized.

Elrond nodded.

"Yes. Also, the fact he is talking to his siblings doesn't mean he is going to tell them all" - Elrond observed - "To say nothing would be suspicious and would end with Thranduil sending an army to the Valley thinking we are having his son threatened or something like that. But aren’t we elves known for being able to answer a question without answering? You don't need to worry" - Elrond teased his friend.

Glorfindel laughed.

"And that blonde Prince is better than most with that" - he admitted. But his expression was still worried, Elrond sighed.

"I trust Legolas to be diplomatic, Glorfindel. Whatever he chooses to reveal to his siblings, he will make certain that it doesn't end with the wood-elves declaring war. But it won't be... flattering to my sons or me. And that is fair, isn't it? Legolas wasn't happy here for three years, he had to put up with my sons' abuse and my neglect. If his siblings come to me for retaliation for that, it's no less than I deserve" - Elrond concluded grimly, the memory of his actions had been soothed by Legolas' forgiveness. But he hadn't forgotten his guilt or forgiven himself.

Glorfindel didn't have any argument against that. The blonde bowed in response to Elrond's words and left the studio without a further word.

Legolas' leg was absently dangling from the side of the branch he was perched while he laid down on his back looking to the blue sky visible between the top branches. Both of his siblings were still muttering angrily at their spots on the branches below. Legolas had decided to leave them to process what he had told them for a while before he tried to reason with them. He looked down but his brother's dark curse let him know he was still too angry to talk reasonably about what had happened, so he closed his eyes and let the breeze and the soothing noise of the swaying branches around him lull him to sleep.

"Legolas?" - his sister's voice awoke him from his slumber. Legolas opened one eye to the sight of his sister's face a palm away from his own . He blinked in surprise at the nearness of her, seeing his older brother on the branch behind her.

"Amarien? Calenion?" - he said softly, reorienting himself. Given the light, he had slept for about half an hour.

"Yes, muindor. You are always getting sleep on the top branches. You are going to fall someday, we are wood-elves, not birds!" - Amarien responded, her familiar complaint bringing a smile to Legolas' lips.

"The tree wouldn't let me fall, you know that. I have never fallen from a tree, and I am not planning on it" - Legolas answered, as usual, rising from his position to look down at her where she was standing on a branch below to wake him.

"What you plan and what happens around you aren't exactly the same, are they? I don't believe you planned to get bonded to your Noldor" - Calenion said wryly. Legolas was pleased to observe that while his tone wasn't happy, he had worked out the worst of his rage. That was what he liked about his older brother, he had a quick temper and was easily riled up, but he was also quick to vent his rage - never against anyone, he mostly liked to walk around cursing out loud and sometimes kicking the furniture - and once he had recovered his temper, he usually tried to rationalize what had been told to him and find some solution or common ground.

"I didn't plan it" - he admitted.

"But now you are planning to make it work. You are planning to make it real" - Amarien stated her tone making it a statement and not a question. Which wasn't a surprise because it had been said so in Legolas' letter to their father which his siblings had undoubtedly made aware of.

"We are making it work. Elrond and I have always been... close. I have liked him and admired him for a long time. His marriage wasn't a happy one or made for love. He wouldn't have broken the bond with her himself, and neither of us would have chosen to start this the way it did. But it has, and we are trying to make it work" - Legolas said softly, but his voice went firmer while he talked - "We, wood-elves don't make these bonds as the Noldor do, but those bonds are not something just for the Noldor. It's just something we have disregarded because they did them, so we are happy to only use the natural bonds we create between close friends and family and avoid to reinforce them as the Noldor do. We make similar, but shallower bonds among us trying to keep it as superficial as possible. But those are the same bonds which allow us to be aware of danger within our families and close friends. What let father know when mother died" - Legolas swallowed tightly at that, the memory still fresh despite how young he had been at the time. He forced himself to continue - "I still don't know if the Noldor are right to strengthen those bonds as they do, or we are the ones in the right. I don't know if they are a strength or a weakness. But I have come to understand why they revere them so, and why they look for them. And I have one now and I will respect it and fight for it, and for Elrond" - Legolas concluded, his voice firm and his gaze unwavering.

His siblings shared a loaded look between them, their meaning clear to Legolas even without words. It was the long-suffering look his siblings made when Legolas made a decision they knew he wouldn't be moved from.

"You know that is not getting Lord Elrond out of having a serious conversation with us, don't you?" - Calenion said finally, his voice resigned but firm. Legolas raised both of his eyebrows in response.

"You know I am no longer a child you have to protect, don't you?" - he countered easily before continuing - "If you want to talk to Elrond, it's your prerogative. But I am not leaving you alone with him, and if you try to talk to him alone about this I will feel no guilt to send a few missives to certain people giving away every one of your most embarrassing moments" - Legolas raised his chin in defiance.

"Valar knows what you consider my 'most embarrassing moments'" - Calenion responded after a moment of pause, his hazel eyes wide in response to the threat. He finally nodded in acquaintance - "Very well. We will talk to your Noldor together. But you can't protect him from everything. I will like to see you making the same threat to father when they next meet each other" - his brother observed. Legolas shrugged.

"I am worried about now, if and when that time comes I will think of something. With luck, enough time will have passed that father will have more important things to worry about" - Legolas said satisfied.

Calenion's incredulous look in response to his words was amusing. Legolas was aware that the chances of his father 'forgetting and forgiving' were slim to none, but he won't let that worry him now. It was a problem for the future.

We are coming over Legolas' soft voice said over the bond. Elrond raised his gaze from the list he had been reading and looked towards the garden where he had thought his bonded was with his siblings.

They have watched Glorfindel's trainees and now they want to corner you with their questions Legolas answered to his unasked question.

Elrond leaned back against the chair in thought.

I am surprised that the two of them have lasted this long, to be honest. I expected them to start their interrogation the moment they arrived in the courtyard Elrond admitted. He wasn't happy about having to answer questions about what had happened in Rivendell - and how much he had allowed or lost sight of over those years - but he knew it was his duty to assume responsibility for his part in the whole mess before Legolas' family. They had the right to ask him atonement.

I am an adult, and I was the damaged party. My family can ask as many questions as they want. To both of us. But I won't allow them to make any other judgement on you. Legolas said, irritated. Elrond had to repress a smile at the protectiveness. As much as he didn't deserve it, it had been a long time since someone had wanted to protect him. Glorfindel and Erestor were protective of him, in a way, but it was also a part of their duties.

Gil-Galad was also protective of you, as his little visit to my dream-space showed. Legolas reminded him wryly.

At the reminder of his friend’s visit and words, he asked.

What will your family say about that? I don't see them feeling happy about the fact you will be staying here, and even less if they think 'Noldor nonsense' - I think your father used to call it - is involved. Elrond asked, feeling Legolas was getting closer to the room. He felt Legolas almost mental shrug.

I don't think I will be giving them any details about that. Gil-Galad's message may have rushed the decision but it was always going to be necessary to make it. And it would have been a necessary choice for anyone I may have fallen in love unless they were from Mirkwood. Legolas observed, stubbornly to Elrond's eyes.

Legolas' mental snort was not fitting to an elven Prince. Before they could continue arguing, he felt him at the other side of the door to his studio, just before he heard the knock.

He called them to enter.

Legolas walked into Elrond's private study, his siblings entering after him. He boldly walked towards Elrond and after giving him a quick - and pointed - kiss, grabbed one of the visitor's chairs and placed it next to Elrond, showing his siblings a joined front.

Calenion and Amarien took two other chairs and sat down after Elrond's gesture.

There was a small silence then and Legolas suppressed a smile when he realized the reason. Now they were before Elrond in private both of his siblings seemed to have realized who exactly they were planning to interrogate. Unlike Legolas, who had spent a great deal of time in Rivendell since his childhood and into adulthood, his siblings had only come to the Valley a few times and they had never been alone with its Lord without their father taking the brunt of the conversation - and Elrond's attention. However, now they had asked for an audience with him - demanded really - and with Elrond waiting patiently for their questions, they were getting self-conscious.

Legolas tried to see what his siblings were seeing. Elrond was dressed as he usually did when working at his study: long robes of deep blue with silver accents - the colours of his House - which were comfortable to move and work behind a desk and nothing like the elaborated clothes Elrond used to formal audiences, but formal enough from wood-elves standards. Taller than average - even for a Noldor - and with broader shoulders than normal too owing to his mortal legacy. His long, dark hair was weaved intricately into braids reminiscent of how their father braided his hair for serious occasions. Legolas knew that Noldor wore it that way routinely but their siblings probably associate it to their father's attempts to intimidate. To finish, his silver-eyed gaze was the one thing which really showed his age, and in it, you could see the proof that this elf had been born in the First Age. One of the few elves remaining who could say that on Middle Earth.

Yes, Legolas thought amusedly, neither Calenion nor Amarien had any idea of how to deal with Elrond. Thranduil was a King and older, and he was still sometimes intimidated by Elrond, not that he would ever admit it, but Elrond's legacy and the skills he had inherited from his grand-grand-etc-grandmother made even his formidable father nervous.

As for Legolas, he had the fortune of having lost any sense of awe the tenth or so time Elrond had needed to cure some scrape or another - some of them had been pretty embarrassing. His friendship with the twins, and Arwen too, had transformed Elrond over the years from formidable Elven Lord of Legend into a closer figure, someone who could lose patience with them, who could be scared, angry or felt helpless.

Legolas would have left his siblings stewing in their own nervousness if not for Elrond mentally nudging him.

As interesting as it would be to see if your family is able to turn someone into stone just by looking at them - as some legends said of your grandfather - I don't think that is the reason your siblings came here Elrond observed calmly.

Legolas' mind got slightly sidetracked at the mention of Oropher while he spoke out loud, trying to break the ice.

"Elrond, you have met my brother and sister already. Prince Calenion and Princess Amarien, my oldest siblings. They have come here in representation of my father Mirkwood's King" - Legolas started, his mind still wondering how Oropher had managed to spread that legend around.

He single-handedly managed to destroy a nest of trolls Elrond explained wryly His escort had been killed and he managed to get captured on his way to a meeting with the High King. By the time we managed to catch up with him, he had destroyed the whole nest in revenge for his people's deaths. He concluded, while he nodded to the other elves in the room.

"I don't believe I have ever had the pleasure of meeting with your siblings alone, your father is very protective of his children, and he seems to think me a bad influence" - Elrond smiled, perfectly at ease with having two conversations at once.

Legolas sighed silently. That sounded as his grandfather indeed. He had known him for a short time as elves measured time, as he had been very young when the war of the Last Alliance started, but he remembered his strong temper and a quick mind. He always seemed to be doing something, in his way to do something or planning to do something. He had always made time for his family, and many of his plans had involved escaping Legolas' tutors or infiltrating the kitchens. He had been a wonderful King and even better grandfather.

With the memory of his grandfather still fresh in his mind, he looked to both his brother and sister uncomfortably sitting in front of them, and wondered what would have Oropher made of the current situation.

I suspect he would have found the whole situation hilarious Elrond admitted After he had threatened me thoughtfully, of course

Legolas shook his head in response and seeing his sister's questioning gaze rushed to remember what they had been talking about.

"I suppose that father has already given me up as a lost cause" - Legolas observed wryly. Amarien made a strangled noise.

"That is not true! He is more protective of you than anyone else, you have always been too wild to control" - she said exasperated. Legolas laughed in response.

"And he thought what? That he could send you two to threaten my bonded - three years after the fact, by the way - to behave himself?" - he asked, starting to get amused by the situation.

"We didn't realize this situation was meant to be permanent until a few weeks ago. You had given us the impression that this bond wasn't planned for and that neither of you wanted it" - Calenion observed, his manner calmer than Amarien. He focused his attention on Elrond now able to hold his gaze it seemed - "There is something I would like an answer to. I love my brother more than anything and I would be the last one to say he is not worthy of anyone out there, but I know how some of the Noldor see us" - he observed.

Legolas tensed, wondering how much it was good guessing on his brother's part and how much it was information.

Elrond, however, looked unfazed even if Legolas felt his tension within the bond.

"You haven't asked a question" - he observed.

"Why my brother? You were surrounded by people, or so I have been told. Besides your family, who were obviously not an option, there were a dozen people within reach. Noldor nobles, closer to you in mind and age than my little brother" - Calenion had clearly given this a lot of thought - "I know Legolas didn't know what was happening. I don't know if I understand even now how it happened. But you must have known. You are Noldor, and you are a healer. You must have known" - he said, his voice showing his frustration.

Elrond shook his head in response.

"I don't think you understand how rare this bond with Legolas is. You have done your research and I would like to know where, as I know the knowledge of these bonds has been lost from your people for a long time. However, even with all the theoretical knowledge you have acquired, you haven't reached understanding. You say there were other people there, people you think were more compatible with me than your brother" - Elrond said musingly.

Legolas tensed beside him at the concept. He hadn't thought about it for a long time, and he could now barely believe now that he had contemplated transferring the bond to someone else. Elrond seemed to feel his distress because he sent him a soothing mental caress, like a mental hug. Externally, he extended his hand and Legolas grabbed it tightly.

"But this bond had nothing to do with what culture you have been raised in , or how many years separate us. It's nothing like that. It's not about what we have in common as much as Legolas complements me and I complement him. We have the right amount of things in common, so we can understand each other and we love similar things and believe in similar concepts. At the same time, we have elements which are just the right amount different. We complete each other and made each other whole." - Elrond explained, his mind focused on the explanation but words weren't what Legolas was focused on.

Elrond's feelings came across very strongly along with the bond and they were... beautiful. What Elrond was saying was reflected in each of the feelings Legolas was getting from the bond. He utterly believed that Legolas was the one for him, his perfect complement. Someone who completed him, who made him whole. Legolas could have kissed him. Actually... Legolas turned in his seat and kissed him fully on the mouth, trying to cover all he was feeling but was unable to explain in words as beautiful as Elrond's had been.

Legolas had managed to forget that they had an audience until the clearing of a throat broke them up from their kiss. He turned back to his siblings irritated, he wanted to take Elrond away from the room and into their bed.

And, for the first time, he felt it was their bed and their rooms. Not just Elrond's. But first, he needed to deal with his annoying siblings.

"Well? Does that convince you or did you need something else?" - he asked.

Calenion and Amarien exchanged a loaded look, but his brother finally sighed.

"Don't think we have forgotten about the twins, little brother, but I think we will have them at our mercy soon enough, and maybe with whatever their explanations are, we will have more questions to ask" - Calenion warned him, but his smile gentled the threat. It was clear that, whatever he understood Legolas and Elrond's bond or not, he had felt the truth in Elrond's words.

"So, do we have your blessing?" - Elrond asked pointedly. Legolas almost held his breath at the question. Even if it wasn't necessary, as his father's representative - and the Crown Prince - Calenion had the authority to approve his bond and, in consequence, formalize the alliance between their realms. He waited for his brother's answer.

Calenion hesitated for a moment before he rose from his seat and walked to Legolas' side. Legolas rose from his chair at his brother's gesture, looking up into his familiar hazel eyes. Calenion's serious mien changed into a fond smile and drew Legolas into his arms.

"I have wished happiness for you from the moment mother placed you in my arms, muindor. I can see you have found something special with your Noldor and I won’t stand in your way. Neither would our father, he gave me strict instructions to make sure you were safe and happy" - Calenion said gently while he withdrew from the hug and placed his hands on Legolas' face to look at him closely. Whatever he saw there, he sighed - "I am worried about what has happened here over the last three years, but I can see that Lord Elrond and you are working through it. I hope you will tell us someday, but I can wait for that time" - he concluded, kissing Legolas' forehead in blessing.

Legolas felt tears slipping from his control at his brother - and his father in a way - words. He grabbed his brother's hand and pressed a filial kiss in his cheek.

Amarien, who had been patiently waiting behind their brother, drew him in his arms already crying. She whispered words of love and blessing in his ear while she kissed him on each cheek, hugging him then against her chest.

In the meantime, Calenion turned towards Elrond - who had risen from his seat looking at the procedures with a fond gaze - and offered him a formal bow, his hand over his heart.

"You are welcome into our family my Lord. The only thing we ask from you, and you can take these words as they were said directly by my father, is that you take care of Legolas. He is our most precious member, and every one of us would walk into the fire for him" - he said formally. Legolas, still in his sister's arms, saw Elrond nod in response.

"You have my word. I will do everything in my power to protect him and make him happy. You can throw me into the fire yourself if I ever fail in it" - he vowed.

Legolas almost rolled his eyes at the over-protectiveness all around the room. He patted his sister's arm before he let go of her and walked back to Elrond's side, taking his arm and turning back to his siblings.

"I am glad that the two of you are feeling better about my bonding and my relationship with Elrond. I hope you will trust my word now when I tell you I am happy " - Legolas said bluntly.

Calenion nodded in response.

"You say that as if you aren’t able to lie about your health and general well being. I am glad this time you were telling the truth but you will excuse me if I don't apologize for wanting to see you with my own eyes when I have witnessed you trying to hide a broken arm and two bruised ribs saying you were 'just fine'" - Calenion observed wryly, his good mood restored. Elrond almost snorted in response, looking down at Legolas.

"Good to know that attitude wasn't just reserved for me and my Halls. I was wondering if all wood-elves considered that any injury which they are able to hide somehow wasn't serious enough to be treated immediately" - he commented, his voice fond.

Amarien laughed."It's not an unusual trait among the woodland warriors. But I would say that none of them carried it out as far as my little brother. He is known to twist the word 'fine' until it has lost all meaning" - she said laughingly.

Legolas rolled his eyes again, almost letting go of Elrond's arm, but the Perendhil grabbed hold of it and kissed his hand in apology although his eyes betrayed his amusement.

"Oh, I see. You are bonding over your terrible experiences with me. I should have known this would happen" - he said, falsely irritated as he was happy to see Elrond and his siblings getting along.

His sister wasn't fooled anyway.

"And don't we have a lot of tales to tell about you? You may regret not letting us rough him up gwinig, it may have been better for you" - she said.

Legolas repressed another sigh but allowed Elrond to draw him into his arm, resting his head on the broad chest of his bonded, letting his family start to know each other, his mind happy and fully at peace for the first time in years, with all his loved ones at peace with each other.

Chapter Text

Elrond looked around his courtyard thoughtfully. He was impressed by the organized chaos that his bonded and his Captain had managed to create in such a short time. Legolas and Glorfindel had arrived just a few minutes ago from their last patrol around the South region of Rivendell.

Over the last few months, after Amarien and Calenion - Legolas' siblings - had left the Valley, Elrond had noticed new energy filling his younger mate. Legolas seemed to be much more at peace now he had his family's blessing than he was before. It was clear to Elrond that the youngest Prince of Mirkwood had been feeling guilty for his 'abandonment' of his people. His brother and sister assurances that they were happy for him and he deserved to find happiness had released him from that burden.

Even Thranduil had sent two letters to both his son and Elrond giving his blessing to the match. Elrond was intrigued to know what Amarien and Calenion had told their father for him to send - for Thranduil - an amicable letter. He didn't know the full content of his letter to Legolas, but the wood-elf had lost the last of the tension he still felt after reading his father's words and told Elrond that the Elvenking gave his blessing to the Perendhil and was now considering him family.

Elrond didn't know if he should feel scared by that and Legolas' amused grin hadn't helped.

"I am certain that they are as bad as each other. Are we certain that allowing the two of them to patrol together is the best idea we have had?" - Erestor's amused voice asked from the doors of the house where he had just arrived to see the chaos.

"I am uncertain about the wisdom of it, but they are clearly having fun" - Elrond admitted looking at the number of horses the stable hands were trying to lead out of the courtyard and into the stables - "I didn't know we had so many horses in Rivendell. For what it matters, I would say there are more horses now than soldiers, how is that possible?" - Elrond wondered out loud.

His mate's bell-like laughter warned Elrond of his approach before the blonde archer came to his side and into his arms.

Another difference with this more relaxed Legolas was his easy way with affection. Elrond had forgotten - after what had happened over the last three years - how tactile and charming his younger mate had been before he had lost trust in Elrond and his family, and everyone in Rivendell in general. Wood-elves were less reserved than their Noldor and Sindar cousins, and while Legolas was mainly Sindar, he had grown in the Sylvan culture where touch was seen as part of their language.

Now he felt secure in his affection for Elrond and free to enjoy his life in Rivendell, Legolas had returned to his old self.

With the added perk that being Elrond's partner gave him free rein to a lot of touching, kissing and general affection. Legolas respected Elrond's - and the Noldor in general - wish of being formal when the occasion called for it, but they had compromised when the situation was more informal.

Like Elrond coming to the courtyard to check on his mate's return. Elrond, while surrounding his mate with his own arms, had to admit that he was enjoying Legolas' easy affection. It was an amazing contrast with his previous experience and left no doubt in his mind that Legolas wanted him and enjoyed his presence - and his body - near him.

After a short chaste kiss to his bonded, he drew back undeterred to lift an eyebrow in question to the blonde - blondes, as Glorfindel had just arrived to greet his mate.

"What is the meaning of the horses? I am certain that some of those I haven't seen before in my life. And while I admit I don't know every horse in my stables, some of them aren't even elven horses. I am certain that most of our horses don't belong to those breeds" - Elrond questioned looking from Legolas to Glorfindel wondering which one of them would break first.

Unsurprisingly, his bondmate was the first to fold. Not out of any fear of Elrond's anger or retribution, but probably because he wanted to convince Elrond of the righteousness of their choices.

Also, he was shameless when he created chaos in Elrond's house. He felt he and his people needed to be shaken up once in a while to keep sharp.

"There was a bit of a commotion we came across when patrolling the South border" - Legolas started, crossing gazes with Glorfindel. Elrond looked up to the Vanya Captain in question. The older elf looked back unashamed.

"It was the smugglers the Dúnedain warned us about" - Glorfindel explained. Elrond looked back to the number of horses in his courtyard and felt his surprise - and suspicion - grow in response.

"Do you mean to tell me that those horses are stolen?" - he asked warily. Legolas' smile wasn't reassuring.

"Most of them were wild horses, belonging to the free herds which roam the plains South of here or to the East. I think some of them may come from the region of Rhûn, East to Mirkwood. I have seen the breed before" - Legolas commented thoughtfully.

"But those smugglers had little skill in training horses, so they stole them from others who had captured them and trained them. The smugglers we captured... hadn't been very cooperative about the original owners of the horses, although they had no choice but to admit they weren't theirs" - Legolas continued their tale. Glorfindel nodded in agreement with the explanation before taking over.

"Well, they tried to lie at first. But it was clear that they had no love for the beasts and the poor animals shared that dislike towards their current handlers. They were badly kept in too small enclosures, and it seemed like all of them had suffered the taste of the whip at some point" - Glorfindel related darkly.

Elrond shared his dislike but he was aware that some men used the whip as a training tool, and as distasteful the elves found that it wasn't enough to give them the right to intervene or take away their rightful property.

"Tell me you have more than that to demonstrate they have stolen those horses and they are unlawfully taking them somewhere to sell?" - he asked both of them.

Glorfindel shrugged uncaringly, but he answered.

"They were sneaking around our South border, trying to stay out of sight of our people but taking advantage of Rivendell's protection" - Glorfindel started ticking the points with his fingers - "Their leader's looks coincided with the smuggler leader Aragost had warned us, and he had some letters similar to the ones Legolas and Gandalf found up North" - he continued. Legolas nodded in agreement with the last point.

"We were never able to see the letters because Belegurdor had burnt them, but the way they acted and where those smugglers were trying to head... I think it all belongs to the same group, or at least it's led by the same mind, although I couldn't prove this. It's just a gut feeling"- Legolas admitted. Glorfindel defended the younger elf's conclusions.

"I trust Legolas' instincts. He is the one who has more contact with the dark forces of all of us in the last few years. He has seen the orcs movements and strategies at Mirkwood up close for a long time and he has gotten a good impression of how they think and act now. His knowledge is fresher than mine or anyone else here" - the Vanya observed.

"I trust your instincts Legolas, and Glorfindel's own experience which makes him trust you" - Elrond conceded looking back to the horses below. Erestor interceded then with his own question.

"Where is this leader now, then? I didn't see you come with any prisoners. Did he escape or got hurt?" - Erestor asked.

"Aragost and his people took him and his companions. They had been looking for him for a long time. Apparently, the smuggling is just a recent change of occupation and he was being searched for more serious crimes. Aragost promised that he would find what he could about the smuggling and send word with what he got" - Legolas explained. He had stayed at Elrond's side during the conversation, but now he started to step back and towards the house - "I should clean up a bit, passing the last four days taking care of those horses was not a clean occupation" - he admitted, nodding back towards the still full courtyard, although most of the horses were under control by now, and being led towards the stables.

Elrond, however, looked suspiciously at his mate, and quickly snatched him back to his side looking him over critically.

"Do you need the healers? Are you in one piece?" - he asked suspiciously, using the bond to give his mate a quick check.

Legolas rolled his eyes in response, opening his arms and turning around to show his health.

"I am fine. Those smugglers wouldn't have been able to hit a Mûmakil if it was stationary and two feet away from them. They took advantage of the dark to steal away the horses and rarely came to a fight. They surrendered immediately when they realized we were an armed - and trained - group" - Legolas said disgustedly. Elrond heard Erestor suppress a snort of laughter at his mate's attitude and Elrond had to suppress his own smile. Legolas seemed personally offended by their incompetence.

"Very well, go on then, to clean up. I know how you dislike uncleanness" - Elrond teased him softly. Legolas looked like he was thinking of pouting but he rolled his eyes again and left for the house.

"He is looking like himself again" - Erestor commented when the wood-elf had entered the house and was out of hearing range.

"He is much better" - Glorfindel said, surrounding his own mate with his arms, while the three of them walked back to the house in a more sedated pace than Legolas. - "He seems to have settled down at the Valley easily and seamlessly. He is a good match for you Elrond. Will he be joining the patrols officially?" - Glorfindel asked.

Elrond nodded with his head.

"He will join the patrols" - Elrond explained - "As he did at Mirkwood, he wants to help to defend the Valley. Although, as my mate, he will be needed at the Valley, so don't place him on the patrols at fixed rotations" - Elrond concluded entering the house.

"I am glad. He is well-liked among my soldiers. I will not need him all the time, but there are a few missions I think that his help will be very welcome" - Glorfindel commented - "And now, I will look for my own bath. I don't have our woodland Price obsession for cleanliness but even I have reached my limit after four days among all those horses" - Glorfindel admitted while bowing to Elrond.

Elrond waved him and Erestor off to their rooms before starting his own way to his study.

Legolas submerged into the water of the sunken bathroom with an exclamation of relief feeling the grittiness of the last few days washing in the warm water. Despite the other's teasing, it has been a long time since he had gotten that dirty outside a battle. He dared anyone to keep clean after the last few days.

The herd of horses the smugglers had may have at some point been trained or tamed but after a few months with those horrible people, they had clearly lost most of their trust towards men. Aragost and his Dúnedain had been unable to even get closer to the enclosure and it had fallen to the elves to rescue the animals.

They had behaved marginally better for the elves, at least they didn't try to bite them or kick them when they came closer, but it was still a far way from accepting most of their ministrations. It had been a tiring time and a bit heartbreaking when they had lost three of the horses.

But now he was back home, Legolas could at least relax and let the worst of his mood wash away into the warm water. He lathered his hair and submerged down to clean away the foam before picking up a cloth to clean up his body.

He almost jumped out of the water after his last thought ... home?. When had he started to think of Rivendell as home? It was true that since his friendship with the twins he had denominated the Valley a 'home away from home'. But never before in his own inner musings had he named Rivendell home, and he didn't know how to feel about it.

I am glad to hear you called my home so Elrond's soothing voice said over the bond.

Legolas forced himself to relax in the water again and start to clean himself with the cloth before answering.

"You would, wouldn't you? It is what you - and Gil-Galad - wanted, isn't it? For me to see the Valley as my true home" - he observed without rancour.

I want you to be happy Elrond responded calmly, his love sent through the bond. And it's my deepest wish for you to find that happiness with me

Legolas sighed in response, unable to muster any anger. It was impossible to be angry at those loving words. It wasn't Elrond's fault that he was the Lord of Rivendell and one of the four Elven leaders at Middle Earth. Despite Legolas' own title, he wasn't as tied to Mirkwood as Elrond was to Rivendell and it only made sense that he was the one who had to renounce his home for their relationship to work.

Legolas had come to terms with this even before his siblings visit, but it had been his brother and sister's blessing and supporting attitude which had freed him from the guilt he felt at leaving what had been his home for so long.

Still, among all that 'rational' thinking, it was hard for Legolas to accept that every part of him had embraced Rivendell as his new home. Even his own subconscious. Over the last few weeks, he had been surrendering the last ties he had to his former home. He would always be a wood-elf and Mirkwood's youngest Prince, yes. He would always have his family there and visit when he could. But that was it, it would be a visit, not a return home. And his priorities had shifted.

Over the last few weeks, he had started to build his new position as Elrond's mate. Going through the work of the patrols, helping at the Healing Halls, talking to the housekeeping, the cleaners, the cooks, the seamstress... Elrond had introduced him to his Council, named him his representative at any time he wasn't available and sent the official communication of his new role to the other leaders. He wasn't sure how Elrond's other Councilors had felt about his presence there or how Cirdan or Galadriel had felt about his new position at Elrond's side, replacing Celebrian.

My Councilors like you as they always have. Don't let the foolish attitude of some elves make you believe that all Noldor think like them Elrond said firmly. Legolas felt his own scepticism transfer over the bond without saying anything out loud You will see this in time, I only ask you for you to give them the chance to prove you wrong Elrond asked him. Legolas sighed.

"All right. But I reserve the right to fight back if any of them tries to insult me. Or my family" - he said calmly. He wouldn't accept that kind of attitude ever again. He felt Elrond’s agreement over the bond.

And his protective anger.

You are not only allowed to defend yourself. I strongly ask you to do it. I will beg you to do it if necessary Elrond said And you will tell me, and Glorfindel or Erestor right away. I won't allow any of them to disrespect you and I won't allow a repetition of the past years He concluded darkly.

Legolas hummed noncommittally while cleaning himself. He felt Elrond's grumble over the bond at his lack of an answer.

Love, this is not only about youElrond said cajoling I understand you are used to fighting your own battles and I respect that He continued before he decided to play dirty But you are not the only wood-elf staying in the Valley or going through here He observed logically I want to know if I can't trust in one of my Councilors. If one of them is that bigoted I need to know because their advise and help may be biased and someone can be harmed because of it

"Oh, very well. I will tell you" - Legolas conceded irritated at the low blow while he rose from the bathroom and went to the towels to dry. He would fight his own battles, but he wasn't going to risk someone else getting hurt for his silence. He couldn't live with that guilt and he wondered if anyone else had been hurt over the last three years.

"Erestor has been investigating and it wouldn't be anyone fault except for the perpetrators meleth" - Elrond said out loud entering the room.

Legolas looked up from his drying, mopping his hair with one of the towels while he had drawn the other around his slim hips and cocked his head in question.

"Aren't you supposed to be... doing something important in your study?" - he asked curiously, blankly, about what Elrond should be doing but pretty certain that it didn't involve being in their bathroom.

"I was looking at the healing supplies, but given our four-legged new guests and the state they have apparently arrived at it's a lost cause until they have been treated. I will visit the stables later, but for now, I have a few free hours" - Elrond said innocently like he hadn't used the distraction of the horses and the excuse of their arrival to get out of his boring task!

Legolas was impressed.

Elrond had reached him and he took the towel in his own hands, taking over the task of drying Legolas. Legolas passively accepted the action while looking at Elrond through his lashes. Elrond put away the towel and led Legolas to a stool, starting to brush his long blonde hair. Legolas felt his eyes slip closed at the soothing feeling, relaxing in his stool while letting Elrond take care of him.

"Your presence in my Council is invaluable Legolas. I hadn't realized how many of them were exclusively Noldor. I needed a different perspective, and I have for a long time" - Elrond continued their previous conversation. Legolas shrugged slightly without opening his eyes.

"How is that you didn't have any Sinda or Sylvan in there anyway? You have Sindar blood" - Legolas asked curiously. He was still surprised by the strange Noldor dynamics of the Valley taking into account that their leader was barely a quarter Noldor.

"Many of them I inherited from Ereinion. I wish to make Rivendell a refuge for all free people but the culture I was brought up was indeed Noldor for most of my formative years. The earliest of them with some of the oldest of our race" - Elrond admitted - "I never lived in a Sindar or Sylvan Realm or household".

Legolas went through that thought in his mind. It made sense when explained like that. Elrond had lived very briefly with his parents at Sirion. He didn't know if that home could be called a Realm, and it had probably had been a mixed one in any case as Earendil had grown at a very Noldorin Realm - Gondolin - and Elwing had been barely three when her parents were killed and she was taken away from Doriath.

The next years, after the escape of his parents to Aman and what that brought, Elrond had lived with Maedhros and Maglor - the Kinslayers - and as Noldor as they came. And after that, they had been sent to the very Noldor Realm of the High King Ereinion Gil-Galad.

In summary, Elrond had little practical experience of that part of his heritage except for his own studies. It didn't surprise him that he had never tried to even imply any right to rule over the wood-elves.

Elrond had been brushing Legolas' straight hair absently. He must have been very distracted by his thoughts because Legolas knew his hair, as straight as it was, barely needed a bit of brushing. Elrond seemed to notice it because he started to braid it in Legolas' customary style. Legolas allowed him to do it, Elrond loved to play with Legolas' hair which was so very different to his own untamed mane. Elrond's hair wasn't very cooperative, wild and a bit curly. He loved to bury his hand and comb Legolas' soft long hair which never tangled and fell like a cascade when let loose.

"I will be happy to inject a bit of my people's culture, vision and opinions in your Council" - Legolas offered, returning his mind to the discussion they had been having - "Although I still think that your Councilors won't be happy about that" - he raised his hand to prevent Elrond from interrupting -"Not that any of them has been anything but polite to me so far. But I expect that will last until the first time I disagree with them" - he shrugged.

Elrond accepted that with a nod Legolas saw at the mirror, finishing Legolas' hair deftly and offering his hand for Legolas to rise. Legolas left him to lift him and Elrond drew him to his arms. Legolas' almost naked body got bumps at the touch of Elrond's warm hands and soft clothing.

"I am sure you are up to the challenge to change their opinions. I won't interfere as long as those are expressed politely" - Elrond pre-empted Legolas' warning. Legolas smiled into the broad chest at how well his bonded knew him. He felt Elrond's love and pride over the bond.

Legolas snatched his arms around Elrond's neck and brought his face to his for a loving kiss which turned quickly passionate. Legolas explored his mate's mouth before leaning back and say:

"Enough of that. I will be happy to deflate some Noldor pride soon enough. For now, I want to take care of something else" - he pressed against Elrond's front and quickly noticed his growing interest.

Elrond's arms stayed around Legolas' slim waist to keep him close to him.

"I agree. We should continue this... discussion elsewhere?" - he prompted warmly, while starting to walk back to the bathroom's door - and towards their bedroom.

Legolas returned to Elrond's mouth quickly - and happily - following the movement outside the room.

They had all the time in the world to talk later.

Elrond caressed the blonde head on his chest aimlessly, his mind again focused on Legolas' words at the bathroom and his wish to implicate his mate in every aspect of the Valley's life. One of the things he had grieved the most about his previous marriage had been how little interest Celebrian had on the Valley, its inhabitants and the rule they were supposed to share.

Elrond knew then - and it had been brought in sharp relief at Legolas' words - that part of that detachment came from the very different culture Rivendell represented in contrast with Lorien's. While Galadriel had been born in Aman and grew among the Noldor culture, the Lady of the Golden Wood had long adopted the culture of her husband and his people. And the two of them had brought up their daughter in that society, so the change it had supposed for his former wife to adapt to the life in the Valley had been severe. Elrond wasn't surprised she hadn't wanted the responsibility to co-rule among people so different from hers.

"She could have adapted" - Legolas' sleepy voice said. Elrond looked down to the head resting in his chest, seeing he had his eyes still closed. He smiled fondly and kissed the forehead warmly before answering.

"Perhaps. Not everyone has that skill. Some people find it very difficult to change" - he conceded brushing back the blonde hair, still braided as before and barely mussed. He looked at the tamed mane fondly, he was certain his own hair was a mess by now.

Legolas opened one eye to look up to him before saying.

"It is. A real mess. You will need some serious work to clean that up or your Councilors will be shocked" - Legolas warned, turning his face back to his chest and closing his eyes again. Elrond let out a warm laugh.

"I am sure they have seen worse. I am sure they have seen me worse than that. Unlike you, my hair doesn't stay perfect even in a gale" - he complained playfully.

Legolas snorted in laughter.

"Your hair doesn't stay put walking down the stairs! Who did you inherit that mess from?" - Legolas asked, laughing and finally renouncing to pretend to sleep. He rose from Elrond's chest and sat cross-legged next to him, his chin resting in his palms looking down at Elrond's lying form with the curiosity of a child.

Elrond placed a self-conscious hand on his hair, thinking back at the question.

"I'm not certain, to be honest. My father used to wear his hair short as mortal men do, not even to his shoulders. My mother had beautiful long dark hair. It was, I think, and a bit curly but I can't remember if it was difficult to brush. I would say, it probably came from her although I have heard that my grand-some-uncle Fingon had very abundant, very curly and very untamable dark hair so it may have come from there too" - Elrond answered thoughtfully, mind going back through what he knew of his family line. He felt his mate's amusement.

"Fingon? High King, Fingon the Valiant?" - Legolas asked surprised - "Who would tell you that? Doesn't seem like something you could read in a history book" - Legolas shook his own beautiful hair, combing it absently with his fingers, letting it look almost perfectly brushed.

"Maedhros" - Elrond remembered - "He was... very badly damaged by the time Maglor adopted my brother and I, both in mind and body. But in his more lucid moments, the only thing that seemed to bring him happiness were his memories of Fingon" - Elrond explained evenly. Legolas nodded thoughtfully.

Elrond let him think but the mention of Maglor and Maedhros, which always brought the idea of family to Elrond, sparked another question in Elrond and he took his mate's hand to bring his attention back to him.

"I have been curious, and you don't have to answer if you don't wish to but...What did your brother tell you before leaving? You have seemed much more at peace and relaxed after that, and as grateful as I am for whatever has brought you that peace, I would love to know the reason" - Elrond asked, looking up to his mate’s clear blue eyes. Legolas didn't look uncomfortable with the question, but thoughtful like he wasn't sure how to explain. He took a few moments to gather his thoughts before he started to answer.

"Amarien and Calenion's visit released a weight from me, that is true. Their blessing and the blessing of my father through them freed me from the guilt I had been feeling by choosing this path without my family. That would have been enough for me to find happiness here with you and in the Valley" - Legolas started - "But you are right that Calenion took me aside to talk me further" - he admitted - "He, more than any of my other siblings knows me very well. He knew that, despite my family's blessings, I would still feel the burden of having left my people's fight when the situation at the forest was getting darker every day" - Elrond made a small noise of protest at that. Legolas smiled in response - "I know. I know that I am just an elf and Calenion told me that too. He said that I had the right to find my own happiness, as any of our people do every day. I am not the first wood-elf who has left the forest to follow the one they love and that helped me a bit. To know I am not alone in this" - Legolas admitted with a sigh - "Still, as a Prince, I have always been taught that we should be held to a higher standard than the rest"

"Our positions indeed afford us some privileges and many obligations" - Elrond conceded cautiously.

"Exactly. So I told him that to Calenion, and he said that those burdens were shared among all of us. The Royal family has the obligation to lead our people and stand strong against our enemies. But that was a burden distributed between all of us, and we individually can be released for other obligations as long as the family keep their obligations intact" - Legolas explained before hesitating to tell the following part. Elrond squeezed his hand encouraging - "He said it's the same here with your family. You have to lead Rivendell, but your children do too. However, Arwen is living with her grandparents and the twins have been sent away to comply with the terms of their punishment. That lets you here alone to shoulder that burden. And now I am here, with you, we can share those responsibilities and so my family have basically released me to a different duty" - Legolas shrugged.

Elrond shook his head in wonder.

"I shouldn't be surprised to learn that you have been feeling happier those past days because you feel you haven't run off from your obligation to the forest but you have taken a different one" - Elrond said, unable to decide if he was feeling relieved or offended by the implication. Legolas must have sensed some of it because he rushed to say.

"I want to be here! I love you and I am where I want to be" - he said quickly, laying down on the bed and over Elrond's prone form, bracing his hands on Elrond's chest - "But now, I am not feeling as guilty leaving Mirkwood and my family. Maybe I could be of use there, but I am not indispensable for my people or my father" - he explained, before lowering himself to Elrond's chest resting his chin in his folded hands - "But you need me here too. I can be useful here, and help you. Besides the personal side of our relationship, I can be useful at the patrols with Glorfindel, at your Council giving you the Sindar's perspective you are lacking, maybe even giving you a break when you are overburdened" - Legolas said cajolingly looking up to him with a wide-eyed, clear gaze.

"So I got a bondmate and a secretary?" - Elrond asked, arching his eyebrow forbiddingly.

"A partner, a friend, a bondmate, a lover and yes, someone to share your burdens, and maybe, in very counted occasions, your paperwork" - Legolas ticked off with his fingers - "And if that doesn't show you my love, I don't know what it will" - he concluded with a firm nod of his head.

Elrond tried to hold on to his offence, but Legolas' cute look was too difficult to resist. He broke out laughing bringing up the beautiful face and kissing his annoying mate in a hopeless effort to shut him up. Legolas allowed the kiss but his smiling smug mouth made Elrond drag him around until the blonde was under him. He decided the discussion was over and tried kissing him again until the two of them got lost again in their passion.

He had all the time in the world to return to that. What it mattered it was they had that time together. Legolas' light was something Elrond would hold on with both hands and forever.