Although it was Thranduil’s place to accept the invitation issued by King Elessar’s ambassador to visit his court in Minas Tirith, it fell to Legolas as the leader of the elvish colony to officially welcome the Prince of Gondor to his settlement. Thranduil was filled with pride as he watched the rare display of majestic grace with which Legolas performed his duty. Likewise, Legolas and Faramir were pleased to see a glimpse of the king Eldarion would become in the young man’s equally regal manner.
To the relief of all, the serious mood dissipated as soon as the formalities were completed, to be replaced by the sounds of light hearted conversations and merry laughter drifting around the glade, reflecting the air of camaraderie and friendship that had developed between the Wood Elves and the Men in the short time since Eldarion’s arrival.
The enjoyment Eldarion and Sarien found in whirling gaily, if not breathlessly around the bonfire in the arms of someone different every time a new dance began, was well known to all the elves and the maidens willingly ensured that neither of the young men suffered for the lack of a partner. Although both were young and energetic, a fact appreciated by the older men of the guard as they sat and watched the revelry, it was Sarien who first admitted defeat, and retired to take his rest while Eldarion continued to enjoy the dancing.
“Legolas, why are you not out among the merrymakers?” Sarien asked as he came and sat beside his friend.
“For once I am not the first, nor even the second most favoured partner,” Legolas commented happily as he watched his Adar and the maiden who was currently dancing with her King, barely avoid a collision with the carefree Eldarion and the lady in his arms. Sarien laughed and nodded knowingly.
“I think you are indeed most fortunate that you need not face unwanted attentions tonight, it can sometime be very tiresome,” the youth said, his light heartedness waning as he spoke.
”I never thought I would hear such words of despair from one as fond of the maidens as I know you to be. I fully expected to see you dance until dawn as you have done in the past, and just as it appears Adar intends to do this evening.” Legolas teased as he studied his young friend‘s face more closely, concern filling his heart for the sadness he saw in the downcast eyes.
“The excitement of the past few days has left me feeling a little drained and as you know, Faramir and I leave for the ranger base at Henneth Annun at first light tomorrow.” Sarien explained, looking up into the depthless gaze and offering a weak smile of apology for the half truth he had just spoken. Legolas sensed there was something amiss, with the youth he had come to know so well over the years since Eldarion and Sarien first met, but decided not to pursue the matter for the moment.
“Aye, he is under threat of Éowyn’s wrath should he not return in time to escort her to Minas Tirith for the banquet next week,” Legolas said, frowning at the shadow of almost pain that his words cast over the young man’s demeanour. Legolas stared at his young friend with one eyebrow raised in query, silently offering his support should it be needed. It was.
“I see I can hide nothing from you, Legolas. A feeling of sadness weighs heavily on my heart and casts a shadow on my enjoyment of the revelry,” Sarien finally admitted, deciding to seek the solace to be found in sharing his problem with a friend as compassionate as the elf had always been to all those he held dear.
“Ai, I think I understand. I hardly ever see Gimli of late so I know how it feels to miss your closest friend. Is there anything I can say or do to ease your melancholy mood?” Legolas asked, assuming it was merely the impending separation from Eldarion that was bothering Sarien.
“Thank you, but nay, this is not about Eldarion. However, I think you may be the best person to help me, if you will,” he asked hopefully.
“Of course I will, what is the nature of your distress?”
The elf listened in silence while Sarien quickly explained his dilemma. The young man smiled with relief when Legolas reassured him that he would see to the matter and that all would be well. They had just finished speaking when the musicians decided it was time to take a well earned rest.
Thranduil and Eldarion returned noisily to their seats, laughing merrily as they compared their states of dishevelment. Belts had been discarded to allow more freedom of movement and now shirts hung open where laces had been loosened by vigorous activity, the fabric clinging to sweat soaked chests, just as long golden locks and shorter midnight black hair clung to faces and necks. The only part of their attire that maintained the dignity of their status was the respective crowns of flowers and leaves for the elf and silver and gold for the Prince that at least held some of the unruly hair in place.
Eldarion and Thranduil exchanged a private look of amusement at the sighs of disdain for their lords that both Stewards breathed almost in unison, and their laughter burst forth once more.
As they had done the night before, the revellers settled around the bonfire, eagerly waiting to hear more tales from the past. This time, however, it was not Thranduil who took on the role of story teller, but Faramir. It had taken one or two cups of wine, an insistent plea from Legolas and much coaxing on Eldarion’s part before the Steward acquiesced, but their efforts were well rewarded. The words the much learned son of Denethor used spoke eloquently of the Steward’s love for his people, his White City and the forests of Ithilien, and wove a magic of a different, but no less mesmerising kind, than that which Thranduil’s tales had done. The elves were intrigued to hear of the history of the Numenoreans as told by one of their descendants, albeit a very distant one and they mourned in silence with Faramir as he spoke of his beloved brother and the vision that haunted his memories of the grey ship that carried Boromir‘s body away.
Thranduil was no less affected by this gentle and loving man’s sorrow than the others, and to Faramir’s astonishment, the King‘s sweet voice filled the glade with a lament for the passing of a brave and much adored warrior. Faramir felt the comforting touch of a hand on his shoulder and eyes bright with unshed tears told him that Legolas also still grieved for the loss of his companion of many years ago. No longer able to contain his sorrow, Faramir unashamedly allowed his tears to flow freely, finding some solace in the arms that now enfolded him in a brotherly embrace.
Thranduil exchanged a glance with his son, indicating he understood and approved of Legolas’s display of compassion and affection for the man. So it was that when the last melancholy note had faded into the still night air, he kissed his son’s brow and bid him good night, indicating to the other merrymakers that the evening was at an end.
Soon all had retired to their rest, leaving Legolas and Faramir alone with their thoughts.
“Boromir was an honourable man corrupted by an evil beyond his power to resist. Your brother did not deserve to die for his weakness,” Legolas whispered softly against the greying hair, his quiet words of consolation putting a slow end to the tears.
“As you have always reminded me in my moments of despair,” Faramir replied, wiping his eyes and attempting the barest hint of a smile for the elf who had become a good friend over the years. The crackling of the dying embers seemed to signal an end to the sorrowful mood and Faramir rose to search for a much needed cup of wine.
Legolas, the call of the sea ever on his mind, took the opportunity to learn of the outcome of Faramir’s visit to Dol Amroth several months ago. The Steward often travelled to the sea side city on business for the King, and on his most recent trip he had also delivered the letter Legolas wrote to the master shipwright.
“Have you heard from your kin in Belfalas since your last visit?” he asked, accepting the wine Faramir offered him with a nod of thanks.
“Indeed I have and I am pleased to inform you that out of respect for the Firstborn, and as mark of gratitude for allowing them to study Cirdan’s plans, you will be gifted with the materials you will need to build your ship, when the time comes of course. The day that Eldarion will inherit the throne is still many years away, and one I will not live to see,” Faramir said, unafraid to acknowledge his own mortality.
It was a fact the elf could not deny either, just as he could not deny that the grief he knew he would suffer at the loss of his mortal friends would ever be an ache in his heart. An ache, he realised in a sudden moment of clarity that Thranduil, who had befriended the mortal Elendil, understood all too well.