A battered party of elven warriors wound their way through the imposing trees of Mirkwood. Their clothes were torn and stained with the blood of orcs, spiders, wargs, and their own silvery-red blood. Dejection and grief emanated from the patrol as they carried those too wounded to walk on their own and the dead back to the Elvenking’s realm. Two elves kept their senses tingling, listening for any sign of approaching enemies.

King Thranduil had sent the patrol down south to a small outpost near the Mountains of Mirkwood to eliminate what had been reported as “a band of orcs and wargs. There are not very many now, but assuredly, the numbers will go up.” Several young warriors who had returned from a trading venture with the men of Esgaroth had volunteered to go within the hour. Lead by Thranduil’s youngest son, Prince Legolas, the war party had departed with a determined air, certain they would return before too long. They were wrong.

While the wood-elves had been busy defending their borders from the forces of Dol Guldor, the Necromancer’s power had spread farther then most of the Eldar had thought. A large section of the great forest which had not too long ago been light and green was now dark and oppressing. The war party had had to fight an entire nest of spiders and a roaming band of orcs before crossing their intended prey. By this time, several elves had been cut down and the rest were still recuperating. The number of the enemy had risen since the scout had reported. Though they fought with a vengeance, the fact that they were outnumbered began to show and they were forced to retreat.

Now, yet another section of their home was under the Necromancer’s control.

As the elves neared the outskirts of the dwellings of their people, one or two of the elves saw them and the burdens they carried and turned away, anguish on their faces. The same reaction mixed with cries of shock and weeping greeted the group as they progressed towards the palace.

Ellith, Ellyn, husbands, and wives — all armed — mourned the deaths of more of their kin. But there were no elflings. For fear of losing their children early and exposing them to the harsh reality of life in this realm where battles were everyday occurrences… Many couples stoically bore the pain of not hearing childish laughter and play in their lives. After Dol Guldor was defeated, then there would be elflings.

One silver-haired elleth gracefully jumped out of an oak, hopeful eyes scanning the returning elves for her brother. Her eyes widened with shock, head shaking in silent denial when her gaze found his pale, lifeless face.


King Thranduil thrummed his fingers on the wooden tabletop impatiently as he listened to the voices of the men of Dorwinion laud their items they had brought to trade with him, suppressing a strong desire to stand and shout at the traders to simply state the price they desired for their goods. Needless to say, it was very dull to be cooped up in this room all day long with various traders from various settlements, all trying to get the final price in their favor. Especially when they prattled on and on like this, over-exaggerating the quality of whatever it was they traded with him. The elvenking conveniently overlooked the fact that his elves did the exact same thing when they traded with men or dwarves.

He allowed some of his frustration to show on his face and the spindly merchant who had been giving a lengthy account of the superior quality of the soil in his area and the careful care in which everything regarding the grapes and making of wine was done hastily finished.

At last, Thranduil thought wryly. The elf opened his mouth to start the negotiations when the door abruptly banged open. All heads at the table instantly swiveled to see who was interrupting. Thranduil glowered; whoever it was had better have a good reason for disrupting the meeting.

His only daughter Princess Merillas entered, acknowledging the hasty bows of the elves and men with a dip of her silvery-gold head. Thranduil felt his pulse quicken slightly; if Merillas was interrupting, she had important information or news. She strode purposefully towards him, meeting his cold expression with a look of urgency in her eyes. She gave the men a faint nod as she walked, but when she reached Thranduil, completely disregarded them. The elleth leaned down and spoke in a soft whisper only elven ears would hear.

“Forgive me for interrupting, my lord, but Prince Legolas’ patrol has returned and Captain Morlin thinks you should come. He says it is urgent, but would not tell me why.”

Thranduil kept his emotions masked by narrowing his eyes slightly, even though he was inventing logical reasons for this in his head. “Very well. Complete these negotiations for me, will you?”

She gave an almost imperceptible nod. “Yes, my king.”

Her displeasure at being left to deal with the traders showed in the slight bunching of her jaw muscles. He gave her a small smile; no one in Mirkwood’s royal family enjoyed this part of being ruler. Straightening, Merillas faced the men and put her hands on the table decisively as Thranduil rose. “Well, gentlemen, my liege lord has kingly duties to attend to at the moment. You will have to be content with me now.”

The elvenking noticed looks of curiosity shot his way and smirks as the men scrutinized Merillas, no doubt thinking they would get deals extremely in their favor with her in charge. All of the traders and elves in the room stood and bowed as their king left.

Once the door closed behind him, the king lengthened his stride, concern thrumming through him. The elves in his path swiftly stepped aside and bowed, waiting respectfully until he had passed before raising their heads and continuing on their way. Thranduil did not even acknowledge them as thoughts vied for attention.

Perhaps Prince Legolas has found more massive spider nests…

Perhaps Dol Guldor’s offense is lessening…? No…

Perhaps Legolas is injured?

With this sentiment in mind, Thranduil sped up even more, weaving his way through the halls to the main door to the palace. He all but threw the doors open to enter the courtyard. Near the innermost flets, a large group of elves gathered. He made for them and nearly shouted with relief when a golden head emerged from the crowd and made for him, grey eyes quite clearly masking some intense emotion.

Thranduil slowed as his son stopped a few feet away, relief coursing through his veins that Legolas was uninjured. In fact, not even a hair was out of place.

“What happened, Legolas?”

His son gave him a half-puzzled, half-dreading look. He took a deep breath and stared at his father in the eye, using the familiar way of address as his father had. “Father… I am Celeblas, not Legolas. Legolas is…”

Thranduil felt like banging his head against the wall. His two sons looked so much alike, everyone had trouble telling them apart. Except when they talked that is, for Celeblas’ voice was much harsher than his brother’s. The elvenking noticed that Celeblas was eyeing him with barely concealed apprehension and that his eyes were very bright, even for an elf.

“What is it, Celeblas? Where is…”

Just then, two elves backed out of the crowd, carrying a stretcher towards Thranduil. A sickening feeling started to grow as he quickly put together the facts and came to a conclusion. He barely felt Celeblas’ comforting hand on his shoulder when he saw Legolas on the stretcher, cold, pale, lifeless, with bloody wounds on his body and a smashed skull. The ground seemed to swoop under him as his stomach dropped. Thranduil clenched his fists, frozen in disbelief as he stared at Legolas.

This cannot be happening. This is just a nightmare. It cannot be real!

But it was real. His son was dead. Legolas was dead.

He was unaware that Celeblas’ hand on his shoulder was trembling with scarcely controlled grief. He was unaware of the sympathetic and tear-filled gazes of his people. He was unaware of Captain Morlin and several elves of Legolas’ patrol telling him what had happened. All he could see was Legolas’ bloody, pain-filled face.

Legolas was dead. No. No. Nonononono!

A cry of anguish tore itself from his lips as the sun peeked over the treetops.


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