“Wait, why are we here?” Gimli asked, muttering under his breath. More trees. Legolas laughed gaily.
“Oh Mellon, relax.”
“Why. Are. We. Here?”
“This is my home.”
The dwarf glanced around again. The trees were giant and dense, stretching over the path they were walking in and thrusting it into shadow. Some were black, some had recovered and were green, and some were oddly right in the middle. Gimli remembered that the forest had been diseased by evil, giant spiders and orcs lurking. After Sauron’s downfall though, and thanks to the Elves determination, it had been mostly cleared away. Glancing over, Gimli saw the thoughtful and vaguely sad look his friend’s eyes held, even in the way he walked. Yes, the dwarf knew him well. Granted, they had saved the world together.
“What’s that for?” he grumbled, not wishing to admit he was concerned. Just as he could see through the Elf however, Legolas could see right through him. The latter chuckled.
“You look deep in thought.”
“Oh, just memories.”
“The last time I was here.”
Legolas stopped suddenly, laying a hand against his companion to stop him as well. His blue eyes were alert.
“I know you’re up there.”
Gimli looked around. There was no one. Was his friend going crazy?
“Um, Legolas…”
Elves suddenly dropped out of the trees, cloaked and holding bows and knives. One, a smaller figure than the rest, raised a hand and signaled them all to lower their weapons, approaching the two quickly. After looking them up and down, they stepped up to Legolas and seemed to analyze him closely. Before Gimli could account for it however, Legolas had moved swiftly and pushed down the hood, revealing a She-Elf. The female could have been Legolas’s twin, except for the fact that her hair was brown and she was, of course, female. The Elf whispered something under his breath, before pulling the She-Elf close in an affectionate hug. Gimli was confused. Since when had he had friends (or more?) other then the Fellowship?
“Gimli, this is Èlarièl. She’s perhaps the only other close friend I have. We trained together since I was a teenager. A young one.”
The She-Elf smiled at him and bent, offering a hand. Gimli took it and kissed it.
“Gimli son of Gloin, at your service.”
She laughed and drew her hand back.
“Oh you’re a charming little fellow aren’t you? I didn’t quite expect that reaction, but I quite like it. Though I’m certainly not royalty like Blondie Jr over here.”
Legolas’s blue eyes widened as the dwarf turned slowly, completely indignant.
“I hadn’t told him.”
Her eyes now widened and she laid a hand on his arm.
“You’re what? When you said this is your home I thought you meant home, not kingdom. You little-”
The Elves drew back their arrows quickly, all aimed for him in a second. Legolas raised a hand and waved them back, reaching it then around Gimli’s shoulders.
“I’m sorry Mellon. I didn’t mean to keep it secret, but I just didn’t consider telling you. I’m not overly concerned, nor proud of it. And heavens, I’m just the prince.”
“Just the prince. The only one,” Élarièl laughed, pushing him playfully. Gimli couldn’t help but smile. He immediately liked this creature, one who was playful and clearly affectionate toward his friend.
“So then, why aren’t we at the palace?”
Both Elves fell quiet, and he had a feeling this wasn’t a happy topic.
“Well, I was… banished. Before the fellowship, Mellon. I can’t return to my people.”
He looked toward the She-Elf, who was quiet as she hung on her friend’s arm.
“And you?”
“I was not, but would have gone with him if he’d had allowed it. Too concerned,” she rolled her eyes.
“I didn’t want you hurt. Or worse. You’re all I had to come back too,” Legolas replied quietly, swiping a loose tendril of hair away from her face. Gimli braced himself. Elves were known for being romantic… She blushed and turned, finishing, ” But I’m not leaving him this time.”
“And all of you?” the dwarf asked, gesturing to the ten others.
“They’re my personal guard. They’ve been ordered to stay with her for long, it is now their decision. She’s with me now.”
The Elf replied, turning to the others. They all dropped to one knee and the one nearest spoke.
“I believe I speak for all of us my lord, we would no rather be with anyone but you. We will follow where you lead. And I’ve been assigned to you since Queen- since you were an enfant. I ain’t leaving now.”
Gimli found himself deeply touched by the act. He knew one thing: Elves were certainly loyal. But he now wondered of Legolas’s mother. Why had they not mentioned her yet? He hoped his young friend had been spared losing a parent.
“I believe it might be wise to leave, before we-”
Before he could finish more Elves jumped down from the trees, quickly forming a bigger circle around the smaller one.
“You were saying?” Èlarièl sighed, gesturing all the others to lower their weapons. Gimli moaned. This could be complicated.
“Welcome back Sir,” one of the Elves muttered, running a hand through their long hair. Legolas took no notice of how he was back or why, but soaked in the sight of his home. Well, former home. He knew better than to call it that. Glancing over at the She-Elf beside him, he gently laid a hand on her arm. She shifted her blue eyes to meet his, and gave a small cocky smile.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten you into this mess.”
She shrugged.
“At least we get some action around here now. We’ve been sitting ducks… pretty ducks, but undoubtedly sitting.”
He laughed softly, the sound of it odd even to his own ears. To laugh. He hadn’t laughed in a long while…
“And here we are.”
The all too familiar sight of the immense throne pavilion came into view, and ascending the stairs so did the figure on top. The usually sharp and icy blue eyes were dreamy, holding memories from some happier time Legolas had no doubt as he toyed with something in his hands.
“My lord,” the lead Elf began, stepping in front. Slowly the Elvenking looked at him.
“We found some folk you might wish to see. Banished folk, may I add.”
The Elvish prince watched nervously as his father stood, and finally let his eyes wander down to the group. He stopped dead still for a second, before laying the stick and whatever he was holding down and hurrying down the steps. To the younger every step seemed like doom. Thranduil arrived at the bottom of the steps and in front of his son, quickly gesturing to the guards to release him. He turned first however to Èlarièl, with a stern look and hands behind his back.
“I believe I have told you not to associate with anyone on the path who is banned or unfriendly small one?”
She sighed and looked up to him. Though she had nothing but high regard for her king he sure could be annoying.
“Yes my lord.”
“And yet again you disobeyed my orders?”
“It wasn’t her fault Ada. I hugged her,” the other cut in, blushing mildly. Thranduil glanced from the first to second and then smiled, letting it slowly split his stern demeanor.
“Valar am I glad you did.”
Stepping forward the Elvenking seized his son in a hug, drawing him close and letting his fingers run through the familiar blond hair.
“Oh Legolas. My son…”
The above mentioned Elf looked around in surprise.
“Um, Ada I…”
“I’m so glad you’re back.”
He drew back in surprise, studying his father, confused.
“But Ada you banished me.”
“It was the most foolish decision I ever made. I regretted it near immediately, but it was too late even then.”
He glanced over at his friend as if to ask whether she knew of this or not. She just shrugged and smiled, drawing her wavy brown hair out if it’s braid.
“How have you entertained yourself Ion-Nin?” Thranduil asked, at last releasing his child from the hug.
“Plenty. But, nothing of importance.”
“Nothing of importance.”
Gimli snorted, shaking his head.
“Ah Legolas, you’re too modest.”
All the Elves studied him in fascination. Here was a dwarf who addressed their prince like a friend.
“And this is…” the Elvenking began, bending to meet the dwarf’s eyes.
“This is Gimli, son of Gloin. A friend Ada. A good friend.”
“Sure,” he sounded skeptical as he stood, but signaled for them to release him as well.
“I do wish to know where you’ve been,” he added, flicking his blue eyes to his son’s face.
“Of course Ada. But all in due time. You needn’t be concerned.”
There was a sudden ruckus among those assembled, as a messenger Elf skidded into the room.
“My lord- lords, there is war brewing on the horizon. Our army is prepared to leave upon your word.”
Thranduil turned sharply.
“Where is it?”
The Elf bit his lip and glanced down, before meeting the Prince’s eyes. He read something in them, something no one would dare say.
“Gundabad. They are at Gundabad.”
His father’s eyes narrowed, and he could see the tears brimming in them. Emotion, conflicting emotions, raged across the king’s face, which seemed to have gained ten thousand years of care in a few seconds.
“Ah. I see.”
“Ada I will take them-”
“No!” Thranduil barked, his eyes flashing. He calmed in an instant though and took his son’s face into his hands.
“No. I cannot lose anyone else there- no one. Not you, most of all. I will go.”
Èlarièl stepped forward momentarily.
“I could take them sir.”
“No, not you either. That’s too great a risk as well, for multiple reasons,” the Elvenking sighed, throwing Legolas a glance. He took the hint and moved in front of her, reaching a hand behind him to grasp hers. She gave his a small, affectionate, but reluctant squeeze.
“Oh fine. But one of these days…”
After getting a sharp glance from her king, she fell silent and scurried alongside her friend to keep up as he saw his father off to battle. Gimli ran into them in the hall and tried to tag along, but had issues keeping up.
“Dratted Elves. Have to be so much taller…” he panted heavily as he finally caught up, watching the Elvenking muster his army and rush off. Legolas didn’t look overly happy about being left, nor did his friend, but neither said a word as they turned and trudged back to the kingdom. Cursing under his breath, the dwarf picked up his feet and jogged after them. The taller figure walked slower, allowing the slender one gripping his arm to keep up, and at the moment being deep in thought. Gimli could hear an earnest conversation take place between the two.
“Èlarièl, I must go after them. My father doesn’t know what’s waiting for him…”
“He ordered you to stay.”
“He wouldn’t know until I was there.”
“Legolas… I don’t like this.”
He turned and took her hands, the silhouettes of the two shining through the trees. The dwarf sighed. What next? Some ballad, some confession of love? Perhaps even sappy caressing, or if he was lucky a proposal.
“Too bad.”
Wait, that was all?
“When have I ever steered you wrong?”
She snorted.
“Oh let me tell you Mellon.”
“Let’s not. Èlarièl I’ve been through worse…”
Ah here it came.
“I can’t afford losing you though. For real,” she replied, brushing a hand across his smooth cheek. Gimli braced himself.
“I’ll be fine.”
“That’s what you said last time.”
“But I’m here.”
Here it came… but instead, she threw her slender arms up in the air.
“And you’ve been banished, walked all the way across Middle Earth, been tormented by orcs-”
The dwarf started. He didn’t know this part…
“Please don’t hurt yourself.”
“I won’t.”
She shook her head and scurried off, heading towards the Elven village while he continued on to the palace. Gimli caught up.
“You like her.”
“She’s a close friend. We’ve known each other for a while.”
“So you’re telling me you do like her?”
Legolas’s blue eyes twinkled merrily.
“If I told you friend, I’d never live it down.”
The dwarf laughed, a deep throated one that rumbled inside.
“‘Tis true Master Elf. All too true. But perhaps Aragorn shall read you better upon our next visit.”

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