A lone figure rode slowly towards the sleeping Minas Tirith. It was well after midnight, and pitch black on this night that Ithil had chosen not to rise, but to the eyes of an elf, the way was well lit by the light of the stars. Legolas was not due in the city until the next morning, and had deliberately begun his journey from Ithilien so as to take best advantage of the serenity of the darkness and the beauty of the night sky that was its companion. A frown of annoyance crossed his elegant features as the starlight to the south disappeared behind rapidly approaching storm clouds, and rather than travel the last few miles in rain soaked clothing, a whispered word to his mount soon had them galloping towards the stone and mithril gates so beautifully restored by Gimli and his friends.
Legolas smiled pleasantly at the stable boy who, knowing the King’s friend was due to arrive and being well aware of the time he usually did so, had stayed awake so that he could take care of the elf’s horse and, on this particular night, deliver an important message. With a curt nod of acknowledgement after hearing the ill news, and the gift of a copper coin for a small hand, Legolas walked swiftly from the stable and through the silent hallways of the King’s house, stopping only when he reached Eldarion’s bedchamber.
Not wishing to awaken the sleeping child, he pushed the door that was standing ajar opening it just enough to allow his lithe form to slip inside and noiselessly made his way to the bedside. Reaching out to gently shake her shoulder he softly called Arwen’s name.
“Oh, Legolas I am so glad you are here!” she exclaimed, clearly relieved to have someone to share some of her burden in Aragorn’s absence. She grasped his hand in greeting and smiled as he gallantly raised it to his lips.
“That can not be a very comfortable position in which to sleep, mellon nin,” he said with a slightly displeased scowl at the way Arwen was sitting hunched over the bed.
“What? No it is not, for either of us,” she replied patting the large belly that contained her unborn daughter. “But Eldarion has been almost inconsolable since the accident and needed me to sit with him.”
“I will take over that duty now. That is after I have seen you to your own bedchamber,” has said he helped Arwen to stand.
“I think I would benefit more from a warm herbal bath to relax my tired muscles before trying to sleep,” she replied ruefully as she tried to take a few painful steps. Legolas could see the sense in her words.
“Wait here, I will not be gone for long,” Legolas said disappearing as silently as he had arrived. Arwen nodded gratefully and then turned her attention back to her son who was moving restlessly in his sleep.
True to his word, the elf was gone less than half an hour, returning with his sleeves rolled up and carrying one of Arwen’s warm robes.
“Come, put this on and I will help you to your chamber,” he said holding the garment out for the heavily pregnant Queen.
“That will not be necessary, I think I can walk the short distance,” she replied, with an affectionate smile for her friend, almost tripping on the edge of the rug near the bed as she made to leave. Legolas caught her and gave her a stern look.
“I will help you,” was all he said as he offered his arm. “I have drawn your bath and your handmaiden has gone to prepare you a light meal and some warm milk,” he told her as they entered Arwen’s bedchamber.
“Dear Legolas, you are so considerate. I am a little hungry, now that you mention it,” she replied with a smile, enjoying the pampering.
“If there is nothing more you need, I will go and stay with Eldarion tonight,” Legolas said as he led Arwen towards the bathing room where the soothing fragrance of the herbs he had placed in her bath smelled so inviting.
“Thank you, mellon nin,” Arwen said reaching up to place a soft kiss on her friend’s cheek just as her maid returned from the kitchen.
“Sleep well, Arwen. I will see you in the morning,” he said as he brushed past the maid who, like everyone else in the palace, including the King himself, was accustomed to the open display affection between the elf and the Queen who it was said had been friends for many centuries.
Legolas made his way back to Eldarion’s bedchamber, entering the room just as the child awoke, whimpering slightly at the pain in the arm he had broken earlier that day. The elf settled moved quickly to comfort the distressed young one, taking the hand of the broken arm in his and singing softly as he soothed Eldarion’s brow with the other. The tender ministrations quickly calmed the child, who rather than fall asleep, awoke more fully, eager to speak with the elf he adored as much as his uncles in Imladris.
“I knew you would come and visit me as soon as you arrived, Legolas, but where is mother?” he asked searching the room for Arwen, suddenly realising she was no longer present.
“In her chamber preparing to sleep, as you should be,” replied Legolas.
“But I am wide awake, can we not talk?” protested the child, attempting to sit up but deciding it too painful to move his injured limb.
“Perhaps for a short while, but only if you remain still,” conceded the elf. “How did you come to break your arm?”
“I fell from my stupid horse,” Eldarion stated angrily, tears welling in his eyes.
“I doubt that any horse that was a gift from King Éomer can be called stupid,” Legolas pointed out quietly. “Mayhap it was the rider who was at fault?”
“I might not have held the reins tightly enough when we jumped over the hedgerow,” Eldarion admitted with some reluctance in between sobs.
“I see, but is that the reason for your tears or is it because I distinctly recall you promising your father that you would not attempt anything as dangerous as jumping your horse while he was away?” Eldarion‘s cheeks coloured with shame at the reminder of his broken promise, but shook his head.
“You do not understand. The healer said my arm will not be mended in time for the archery contest and it is not fair!” he shouted angrily. Legolas moved to Eldarion’s uninjured side and sat beside him, placing his arm around the boy’s shoulders.
The contest, which was only for those too young to train as soldiers, was the first to be held since Legolas had assumed the role of archery master. He had first offered to teach Eldarion out of his love for Aragorn and Arwen’s son, but when others young boys had come to the practice field to watch, with no little envy, Aragorn had granted permission for Legolas to run a proper class. As a reward for their dedication to their lessons and their increasing skill, Legolas had planned a small tournament so that the parents of the boys could see how ell their sons were progressing. Aragorn was due back from a trip to Rohan the following day and the contest was planned for a week after his return.
“There is no need to raise your voice, my hearing is better than you know, and so is your mother's, who I might remind you, needs her rest,” Legolas gently reprimanded the child.
“Sorry,” mumbled Eldarion, his cheeks burning with shame.
“Besides you are mistaken, I do understand your frustration. Would you like to hear of the time I broke my arm?” he asked replacing Eldarion’s fury with curiosity. The boy nodded enthusiastically and nestled Legolas’s chest as the elf told his tale.
“It was many years ago, when I was about the same age as you are now that Adar gave me my first bow. Like you, I was only allowed to use the practice arrows which would not injure anyone should my aim go astray, and for a while I was content to abide by Adar’s rule. However, one day I decided that I was a good enough to be allowed the privilege of using the arrows the archers used but Adar refused permission, so I waited until everyone was attending the evening meal and then stole some arrows from the armoury, intending to use them and return them before anyone noticed they were missing.
I went to the practice field and managed to hit the centre of the target with every arrow except the last one which ended up in the branches of one of the trees due to my poor aim. I climbed the tree to retrieve it, but it was lodged tightly in the trunk and I when I pulled a little harder, it came loose causing me to lose my balance and fall. I broke my right arm, just as you have done.” Legolas paused for a moment as he recalled just how painful that had been.
“You fell from a tree? Master Gimli says it is unheard of for a wood elf to do that!” exclaimed Eldarion, clearly astonished by Legolas’s admission. The elf laughed merrily.
“Young elves have been known to do so, but none in Mirkwood, as it was known before you were born, would ever admit such a thing. Even now I see no reason to point out his mistaken impression,” he said with a smile of affection for his dearest friend. He would never hear the end of it if Gimli learned he had fallen from a tree, no matter the circumstances or his tender age when it happened.
“What happened to you when King Thranduil learned of your injury?”
“And my act of disobedience?” Eldarion nodded.
“Adar was very upset and disappointed in me for my behaviour, and that hurt more than any pain from my broken arm and his refusal to give me permission to enter the midsummer archery tournament combined. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Aye, Father will likely be angry with me for breaking my promise.”
“Indeed he will,” agreed the elf. “But also remember that, as the King’s son, it falls on you to show good behaviour by example, which I did not and which was the reason my Adar was so upset with me for acting against his orders.”
“But as the King’s son, can I not just change the day of the contest?” Eldarion asked suddenly, his face brightening at this idea. Clearly the child had lessons to learn, but Legolas knew it was not his place to teach them. He sighed and shook his head, vowing to speak with Aragorn as soon as he returned.
“I would never abuse the respect for my position as Thranduil’s son in such a manner, nor should you as Aragorn’s heir. As archery master I will not permit it. There will be other chances for you to compete and I see no reason to delay this one simply because you wish it,” he told Eldarion.
“Then you are mean and I do not like you any more! Go away!” Eldarion cried with childish unreasonableness, moving as far away from a stunned Legolas as possible.
“As you wish.” The elf knew it was merely the child’s anger and frustration speaking, but nonetheless the words hurt with a pain that was difficult for his tender heart to bear. Without another word he left the chamber, and unwilling to disturb Arwen, he sought out Faramir and asked him to watch over Eldarion until Aragorn returned.