Laurelin by HobbitDayna

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Author's Chapter Notes:

This story would never have been written if not for a post on Tumblr by vowel Legolas in reply to Orlameobloom. Thank you Orlameobloom for coming up with the idea, and vowel Legolas for posting it.


 LAURELIN 

By Dayna 

Legolas was riding along the north side of the Forest River toward his father's halls, exhausted from destroying a rather large spider den. He had separated from his patrol to gather his thoughts and make a proper report to the king; Thranduil never took the loss of an elf easily, especially when it was kin. Miraear was a fierce warrior and she was well respected among the elves. It grieved him to watch her release her fëa instead of fighting for survival, and he had taken great pleasure in killing the spider that took his cousin's life. 

The emptiness in his chest grew.

He could hear the sound of occasional battle on the opposite shore as his archers protected those carrying the bodies of Miraear and Fion. Authiel had sent him across the river to grieve in peace, and while he had been angry with her at first, he knew she had done the right thing. He trusted his patrol to her, knowing his elves would allow him as much peace as possible before delivering the bodies home for burial. 

The sound of the running river and the chance to catch some occasional sunlight helped ease the heart of the prince as Tinnuroch ambled along the bank. They approached a large open section of the river and Legolas sighed as the sun washed away the darkness that tried to suffocate him. He looked up and saw the Valar Stone standing at the edge of the water and offered thanks for the sun and the feeling of peace that lived there. He smiled and shook his head as he realized Tinnuroch had brought them this way of her own accord, and patted her neck with love. 

"You are a good horse. It is good to have a place of peace in Mirkwood," Legolas said in Sindarin as they paused at the stone. 

He was so lost in thought that he didn't hear the distant cry. Tinnuroch however did not miss it and she twitched her ears, gave a sharp nod and snorted. 

"Tinnuroch, man te?" (What is it?) 

The horse began to canter, heading north into the forest and away from the river. This time he heard the cry and urged his mount to move faster. They were about a quarter mile from the river when they located the source of the noise. Legolas had knife in hand as they approached a small copse of trees. 

The sun broke through the canopy and shone down on a laurel tree and the noisome bundle at its base. Tiny arms waved above the cloth ending in little pink hands clenched into fists, the voice from within shrieking its displeasure. The elf dismounted and cautiously approached the small bundle of rags as Tinnuroch snorted. 

"Henion mellon nin, tanya raumo kuile i' ba!" (I understand, my friend, that noise could wake the dead!) He turned to the baby and squatted beside it. "Ya hyarya lle sinome, pinig? O van oduleg?" (Who left you here, little one? Where did you come from?) 

He unwrapped the child from the cloth and blinked in surprise. "Adan! You are a human child," he said in Westron. "Where is your family?" He gently picked up the baby, wrinkling his nose at the smell. "Oh you are a dirty orc!" 

He thought back to when he was an elfling and had gone to visit his aunt and uncle with Naneth to see his newborn cousin. 

"Isn't she beautiful, Legolas? Here, hold her." 

He took the squirming bundle in his arms and arched an eyebrow at her as Miraear did some rather loud and messy business, then smiled in relief. 

"She smells like an orc," he said in disgust as the adults laughed. "Here, take her back." 

His uncle chuckled and put his arm around his nephew. "She chose you, little green leaf. Come, I will assist you in cleaning your 'dirty little orc.'" 

It hurt his heart to know she was now gone to the Halls of Mandos, but Manwë had sent him a distraction from his grief in this smelly little bundle. The infant was happy to be free of the wrap and to be held, and stopped crying. It stared at the elf in wonder as he spoke, and a bright smile crossed its face. The elf responded with a more contained smile. 

"You smell worse than the humans in Esgaroth," Legolas continued in Westron. "Look at your clothes," he brought the child closer to him and gave a careful sniff, "Ai little one, you do have the scent of orc upon you. Why would a foul beast bring a human child into Mirkwood?" 

The baby began to squirm and fuss in the elf's grip. He sighed, picked up what had passed as swaddling and patted the horse. "Lead us back to the river, Tinnuroch. This little orc needs a bath." 

Of course the elven prince had never actually bathed an infant before and was quite shocked to discover just how slippery a wet baby could be. There were many colorful elvish words spoken as he tried to properly wash her, and Legolas eventually gave up hope of staying dry himself. It took close to an hour to complete the task of cleaning the child and all her garments, partially because the slippery baby was very nearly drowned by her savior. Twice. 

Legolas pulled out the extra tunic from his saddlebag and wrapped it around his little charge as she wailed and struggled against him. She eventually fell into an exhausted sleep and he lay her on the grassy bank as he finished washing her clothes. 

When the diaper was dry enough to use again, the elf struggled with folding the cloth around the sleeping child. "It has been too long," he muttered, "Much too long indeed." 

Finally satisfied with his handiwork, he scrutinized the sleeping child. "What is your name, little one?" The sunlight glinted off her blonde hair and Legolas nodded. "Ech Laurelin estathon. Yes, I found you by a laurel tree and your hair is golden. In honor of Yavanna I will call you Laurelin." 

He clicked his tongue, calling Tinnuroch to him. She ambled over and nuzzled his face, giving a contented sigh. 

"Yes, I too am enjoying the peace and quiet," the elf laughed and stood up to get some lembas from his pack. He took a bite and stared at the baby. 

"I am certain that you will require food when you awake. We are a day's ride from my father's halls, it will be dark soon and I am hard-pressed to find a nursemaid here in the wilderness, let alone your family." 

The elf paced the small area, trying to come up with a solution to a very real problem. He thought about various plants and fruits that might offer sustenance for the child and then remembered the limpe yave that Elladan had given him on his previous visit to Rivendell. The melon had a milk-type substance in the hollow center that might suffice until he reached his father's halls. Legolas had brought some seeds back with him and the trees flourished in Mirkwood, to the delight of all the elves. Unfortunately he was at least an hour's travel from where he had planted seeds long ago. 

"Come Tinnuroch, we must set off before Laurelin awakes. Walk with all care and speed!" 

He gently scooped the sleeping child into his arms and mounted the horse without disturbing her. He hummed a lullaby that his Naneth had sung to him and the baby slept soundly. Legolas was feeling rather proud of himself and was looking forward to sharing this story with his patrol; that is until Laurelin woke up. 

Her little coos and gurgles quickly became the cry of hunger. When the elf didn't provide the requested breast, Laurelin got angry. And loud. Try as he might, Thranduil's son could not soothe the upset child in Elvish or Westron. 

"Ai, din ooma beleg pinig!" (Oh you are so loud for a little one!) 

After twenty screaming minutes they reached the limpe yave tree. Legolas took his cloak out of the saddlebag and laid it on the ground, then put the baby on it. "I am going to get you some food little one," the elf said in a soft voice. The baby cried louder and the horse snorted her disapproval. 

"I shall be as quick as I can," he said as he patted the horse's flank. 

He walked over to a large tree and shimmied up like a monkey. Thankfully the limpe yave was plentiful and Legolas was able to put five ripe melons in his bag. He took a deep breath, relishing in the quiet up in the canopy. He knew the child couldn't help herself, but it was becoming quite wearisome listening to her wails. Just as he realized that he should be hearing her wails Tinnuroch gave a whinny of distress. 

The elf slid down the tree and landed in an attack stance, but there was no one around. The horse whinnied again and pawed at the cloak on the ground. The baby had rolled herself off the cloak and into the scrub lining the river, landing face down in the dirt. In one fluid motion Legolas dropped the bag and scooped up Laurelin with one hand while wiping her face with the other. 

"Av-'osto pinig. Don't be afraid little one." She screamed in fury at the elf as he finished cleaning her nose and mouth. "Lasto nin… listen to me. Tiro nin, odulen an gi meriad. Look at me, I'm here to protect you. Shhhh, shhhh… av-'osto…" 

Laurelin's wails soon became whimpers as Legolas continued a steady stream of elvish while walking her up and down the riverbank. Tinnuroch even walked over and snuffed the baby's head which startled her into silence as her eyes went wide in shock. As the baby continued to catch her breath from her crying fit, the elf walked back over to his cloak and sat down. Tinnuroch knelt down beside him, nodded her head to her left side, then touched the baby's head with her muzzle. 

Legolas understood the gesture and smiled. "You want to hold her?" He looked down at the baby and spoke in Westron. "Tinnuroch is a naneth pinig who thinks I am no good at caring for a baby, so she is going to hold you, little one." 

He propped Laurelin against the horse's shoulder and set about preparing her food. As he worked, he sang a song about Yavanna, and how she brought forth Telperion and Laurelin, the trees of light. 

The infant was transfixed by the song and watched as the elf cracked open the fruit, careful to keep the sticky liquid inside. He added some water to thin down the milk and offered a spoonful to the baby. 

"Try this, Laurelin," he said as he put the spoon to the child's lips and laughed at the face she made. "Oh come now, my skills are not that bad." 

Her frustrated wail said otherwise. 

Tinnuroch turned away from the noise and snorted loudly. She wouldn't look at the elf as he explained the situation to her, and he became frustrated. 

"I was not trained in child care, little mother. I cannot nurse her as a mother would." 

Laurelin became red in the face and began to choke from the force of her sobbing. Legolas picked her up and patted her back to get her breathing again. He walked up and down the small path trying to calm her down and figure out how to make her eat. She eventually found her fist and alternately sucked or chewed on it which gave him an idea. 

He took one of her clean rags (no sane person would call them clothes or proper swaddling) and put the corner of it into the limpe yave milk. When it was saturated he pulled her fist out of her mouth and replaced it with the cloth. She was not too happy with the switch at first, but then she started to suck the liquid from the cloth. It was a challenge rotating the milk-dipped corners into her mouth, but after a few minutes she seemed to catch on to the routine. 

It was a slow process, but finally the child seemed satisfied enough for Legolas to try something new for her. He undressed her from his tunic that was now covered in the sticky liquid, leaving her in just her diaper and propped her up against Tinnuroch again. He then broke off a small piece of Lembas from his remaining square and crumbled it into tiny pieces, dropping them into the milk. The lembas expanded as it absorbed the liquid, so he added some more water to thin the mixture a bit more. He waited until Laurelin opened her mouth in a yawn and poured a drop on her tongue. This was greeted with a look of surprise and he placed the spoon on her lips, tipping the contents into her mouth. She tried to suck on the spoon, getting mad when she couldn't have it, but the elf prince persevered and was fairly successful at feeding his young charge. 

Of course she wore quite a bit of her meal, so Laurelin found herself being bathed in the river for the second time that day, along with the elf's extra tunic. This turn went much smoother than the first, and she was soon clean, full, diapered and dressed in her own clothes again. She cooed and babbled at the elf and attempted to play with his hair, laughing when he told her no. 

"You are a different child when you're happy," the elf commented as he laid her down on his cloak and handed her the spoon to play with. 

He glanced up at the darkening sky and pondered his next move. A single elf traveling by horse at night could well protect themselves against attack, but Legolas was no longer alone. He did not relish the thought of setting up camp, nor could he imagine fighting any foe with a child in one arm. 

"Ai Elbereth," Legolas sighed as he watched Laurelin successfully roll over onto her stomach, push herself up and look around with wide eyes. "What am I to do?" 

A breeze began to blow, causing the brush, reeds and leaves to sing their windsong. The elf laid on his back next to the baby, placing his hand on her back and closed his eyes as he listened to the forest speak. Off in the distance he could hear the elves singing the songs of lament and loss and he pinched the bridge of his nose as he tried to make sense of death. 

The elfsong changed and it took a moment for Legolas to process it as the wind carried the music. It was an ancient song of protection and he knew then that he and his young charge would be safe if he chose to travel at night. 

Laurelin gave a little squawk and the elf opened his eyes. "Tired of the view, little orc? Well, it is time for us to head to my father's halls, and time for you to sleep. But before we go, I will make sure my cloak is protected from any business you make during the night." 

He rolled her over and checked her diaper to be sure it was still dry. He then took another piece of cloth and made a second diaper to go over the first. Once that was secure he swaddled her in his cloak and cradled her in his arms. 

Tinnuroch stood and shook herself off, then walked to the river for a drink. The baby squirmed in the elf's arms, turning her head to try and see beyond her wrapping. 

"Ah, you want to see where you're going, is that it?" Legolas shifted her so her back was against his chest while her stomach was on his forearm. Her response was a rather large belch for someone of her size and the elf laughed loudly. "Oh, you are indeed a dirty little orc!" 

When his mount was ready the elf settled himself astride her and she ambled into a gentle canter. The baby gurgled happily and reached for Tinnuroch's mane, grabbing a large fistful of hair which she promptly put into her mouth. When he turned her around to face him, Legolas' hair became the object of desire. 

"Ai, pinig orch il i' findl!" (Ah, not the hair little orc!) He took the spoon out of his bag and handed it to Laurelin, who chewed on the handle for a few minutes before she began to hit the horse, the elf's knee and her own head before dropping the spoon and crying for it. She played this game until the elf tired of stopping to retrieve his spoon. 

By this time the sun had completely set and Legolas started to sing. He switched Laurelin from her forward-facing position to a reclining one, allowing his body to sway with the movement of the horse. Within minutes the child was fast asleep. 

"Oltho vê Laurelin." (Sleep well, Laurelin.) 

It was a long and thoughtful night for Thranduil's son as he carried the infant safely through the dark forest. He honored his cousin's memory by singing their favorite songs and remembering time spent together at feasts and in battle. But his most repeated thoughts were of her as a tiny elfling; learning to walk beside him or trying to string an arrow in her bow. 

"Ai selen, nínion an gurth dhîn! Govano in nothrim în adh i mellyn în mi Mannos," Legolas cried in despair. (Oh cousin I weep for your death! May you meet family and friends in Mandos.) 

Laurelin startled awake at the cry and the elf swayed to put her back to sleep, remembering how his aunt taught him to sway with Miraear. He looked down at the baby and his fëa felt some peace again. 

"I had not realized the comfort caring for a small one brings," he said as she fell back asleep. "You have helped me grieve my loss and given me hope for the future. The Valar work in mysterious ways." 

They traveled through the night and by morning had covered almost twenty-five miles. Tinnuroch had slowed her pace for the last two miles, plodding along the riverbank bringing them to where the Enchanted River joined the Forest River just after sunrise. 

Laurelin began to stir in his arms so Legolas guided Tinnuroch to a small grassy patch and dismounted. While the horse went to the river to sate her thirst, the elf set the baby on the grass beside him and quickly prepared her breakfast and clean cloths to change her before she awoke. 

She hadn't quite woken up yet so he sat down beside her and began to unwrap her from his cloak. "Echuio pinig. Ídhrog vant? Ai, I should probably speak Westron to you shouldn't I, little orc? Wake up little one. Do you want some food?" 

He quickly undressed her and changed her diaper before settling down with his bowl and spoon to feed her again. He had an extra cloth ready this time to catch any spills and this feeding was much more successful than the first. The elf also offered the child some water from his cup which didn't go as well as he'd hoped, but all in all he was satisfied. 

The final ten miles to his father's hall was a quiet and peaceful ride. Legolas was aware that archers were all around them, but none made their presence known. Laurelin was the happiest she'd been since she was found by the prince and enjoyed telling him all about her ordeal up to when he found her. At least that's what the elf thought she would be saying if she could actually speak. 

A few hours later, Legolas' patrol was waiting for him at the entrance of the woodland king's halls. As he approached they greeted him with a song of victory and lament. He could see the two biers that bore the slain and his throat tightened. When he had dismounted, the singing stopped and the doors were opened for the patrol to enter. Thankfully, Laurelin had fallen asleep. 

As they walked to the Great Hall, Legolas had two distinct lines of thought: one being his report to his father about the spider nest they had discovered and the demise of Fion and Miraear; the other was of couples he knew who might enjoy caring for a little one. And secretly, he hoped he would be able to teach Laurelin archery as he had taught Miraear. 

Thranduil sat on his throne and watched the patrol approach, trying not to focus on the two biers that stayed at the entrance to the hall. He would not look at anyone in the party but his son lest he search for a missing face; however he had already sensed one who was missing which told him all he didn't want to know. The familiar pain came to him again and he prepared himself for his son's report. 

The patrol came to a halt at the base of the steps while Legolas continued up to his father's throne. It was then that the king noticed the small bundle in his arms. 

"Man sa?" Thranduil asked sharply, pointing at the bundle and completely forgoing protocol. 

"Mae govannen, Ada," Legolas replied, an amused smile on his lips. "It's a baby. She is adan." 

"Adan? O van odul?" 

"I found her by a laurel tree a quarter mile north of the Valar stone, so I have named her Laurelin in honor of Yavanna." 

Legolas lifted the edge of his cloak to reveal the sleeping baby's face. "And since she is human I wish for us to speak Westron in her presence." 

"You speak as if you wish to keep her as a pet," his father retorted. "I will not have a human living in my halls as Elrond does. Have a scout take her to Esgorath and be done with her." 

"If that is your will, I will take her myself, with or without your leave." 

No other elf would have the temerity to speak that way to the king, and the flash of anger in Thranduil's eyes was only matched by the protective defiance in the eyes of his son. And whether it was the will of the Valar or simply a rest completed, Laurelin chose this moment to awake from her nap. 

Neither elf had noticed the child had opened her eyes, so when she reached for the prince's hair and cooed, both elves were startled; however her babbling was even more of a surprise. 

"Ahhh da! Ah-da-da-da!" 

"So, you have found yourself an elf-father in Legolas, have you," Thranduil asked the infant, and the prince saw his eyes soften almost imperceptibly. She gave a high-pitched squeal in reply and the threat of a smile played at the corners of Thranduil's lips. "Your bright spirit matches your name, little one. Come, let me see this little human." 

Legolas held the child out to his father whose smile was, while restrained, brighter than anyone had seen in a long while. He took Laurelin and held her out at arm's length, scrutinizing her as she shrieked happily, waving her arms like a fledgling. 

"Who would leave you in the woods to die," Thranduil pondered. 

"I believe orcs had taken her from her family," Legolas said as the king sat on his throne with the baby on his knee. "But why or how she ended up so deep in Mirkwood remains a mystery." 

"Yes, a mystery indeed." He looked up at his son and saw the shadow of grief in his eyes. "And where are Fion and my niece, Legolas?" 

Legolas' jaw tightened and his eyes widened. He quickly recovered, but not before he glanced at the two biers just outside the hall doors. 

Thranduil's face was a mask as he tilted his head slightly to the right. 

"How?" 

"Ungol Útheniniel," the prince said quietly, dropping his gaze to the floor. When he looked at his father again, his eyes burned with anger. "Miraear saw the queen attack Fion and we went to his aid. Útheniniel turned to fight and we had the upper hand, but Fion had been stung and was mortally wounded." 

The king's face darkened, eyes burning like his son's. "I could have healed him." 

"Authiel was with him and knew he could not survive. She called Miraear who held him as his fëa departed. 'Please my love, I cannot remain in Arda without you,' were the last words Fion heard. My cousin was so overcome with grief that she became reckless in her attack. Útheniniel found her mark easily enough, and my knives found theirs buried in her vile black heart." 

"Ai Fion, Ai Miraear! Nínion an gwannad dhîn," Thranduil said as he placed his right hand over his heart. (Oh, Fion, oh Miraear! I mourn your passing.) 

Laurelin watched the elf, eyes round with wonder. As he bowed his head in grief, his spring crown was within her reach and she grabbed hold of it with both hands. Quite proud of her new acquisition, she vocalized her pleasure as she parted the king from his crown. 

It was a surreal sight to see a human baby holding the king's crown, and the elves just stared, wondering what their lord would do as the child put one rounded twig in her mouth. 

"Ai Laurelin," Legolas said and stepped forward to take her prize away, but was stopped by the raised hand of the king, head still bowed. "Ada?" 

In spite of his grief, Thranduil began to chuckle, stood up and twirled with Laurelin at arm's length. 

"Do you know who did the same thing to me more than a thousand years ago," he asked the giggling child. "A little orc named Miraear. Do you remember, Legolas?" 

The elf prince smiled. "Yes Ada, I do remember." 

"Yavanna has brought light into our dark hour and given this little one a piece of Miraear's fëa to ease our grief." He brought the child to his chest and took the crown from her, placing it on his head again. "It has been so long since we have had a young one," he said as he kept Laurelin from pulling his hair, "I had forgotten the joy they can bring, even amidst grief. We are going to keep her while we search for her family. In the meantime, have Thalion prepare the garden while you choose the saplings to plant in the memorial garden for your two warriors." 

Legolas bowed to his father and turned to go down the steps, pausing for just a moment as the king began to sing a song to Laurelin. He smiled as he recognized the tune from his own childhood. Just as she eased his own grief, this human child would help ease his father's grief as well. 

-oOo- 

A month passed and the elves had found much joy in having a baby among them. Thranduil had sent scouts to Esgaroth, but no one knew anything about a missing infant. Laurelin learned to crawl, much to the delight of her foster parents Ralnor and Meleth, and of course Legolas.

Whenever the prince would walk into the room, she would squeal and demand to be picked up. The prince would gladly oblige her, and Meleth would smile at him. He, in turn, would shake his head. 

"I am not looking to raise a family, Meleth. I have a kingdom to protect." 

"But you are so good with her, no matter what Tinnuroch says," she would reply with a wry smile. 

One morning the steward of the king came to Meleth's chamber looking for the prince. "He has taken Laurelin to the memorial garden, Arphen" she replied to his inquiry. 

The steward found the two of them sitting on the grass in the memorial garden between Fion's elm sapling and Miraear's rowan sapling, the baby alternately playing with the prince's hair and a rag doll as he told her the story of how his cousin and Fion met and fell in love. Arphen cleared his throat to announce his presence.

"Mae govannen, Arphen," the prince said as the steward stepped forward. 

"Mae govannen, my lord, hello little orc. I know you are just recently returned from patrol, but Nithron has been sent by Ralnor who is in urgent need of assistance." 

The prince laughed as he stood up and brushed off his clothes, "What trouble has he gotten into this time?" 

"I know not, I am simply the messenger. However, if the blood stains on Nithron's boots are to be believed, I daresay they are beset by orcs and are in need of you and your best warriors. The patrol was sent to the mountains of Mirkwood, near the Celduin." 

"I shall gather The Elite at once. Thank you for your keen observance, my friend." 

Arphen smiled. "It is good to know you finally trust my counsel, my lord." 

"I have ever since I came of age," the prince replied as he rubbed his left shoulder at the phantom pain. "I learned that lesson all too well; father saw to that." 

The steward smiled, "And well you should have." 

"Inform the king to increase the watch until my return." 

"Yes, my lord." 

Legolas scooped up Laurelin and handed her to the steward, and she promptly grabbed at his braids. 

"Ai, pinig orch il i' findl," Arphen cried as the baby grabbed a large handful of hair and pulled it. 

"She will have your hair," the prince chuckled as he picked up the doll Laurelin had been playing with and handed it to her. "This is but a momentary distraction, but it does help." 

The elder elf gave a dismissive sniff and sat in the spot vacated by the prince. "We shall see." 

Shortly after the prince left, Thranduil came into the garden to find Arphen prying his brown hair from a chubby little fist. 

"I'm really starting to wonder if all orcs start life like this and just don't have any guidance," the king said, sympathizing with his steward. 

Laurelin turned at the sound of his voice and grinned broadly, releasing Arphen's hair as she reached for the king. He gave a low bow placing his summer crown just beyond her reach, forcing the steward to put her on all fours so she could chase her favorite toy. She tried to grab the elusive crown that was so-close-yet-so-far-away, and the king smiled. 

"Look how well she is crawling now Arphen! I think little Laurelin is going to catch a crown today." 

"Ralnor called for aid, sire. My lord Legolas has taken The Elite and answered the call. He requests you increase the watch until his return." 

Thranduil straightened up, crownless, and frowned. "Rarely do I see a moment's peace, steward. Could you not wait until we leave this sacred place to drag me back to kingly duties?" 

"My apologies, sire." 

The baby gurgled and cooed at the crown in her hands and began to chew on one rounded twig. The king sat down beside her and began to sing, causing the tips of his crown to quiver making her laugh. Thranduil stretched out on the grass between the two saplings, continuing his song and Arphen bowed to the pair. 

"I shall await your return to your chambers, sire. Find peace where you may." 

-oOo-

Two days later Legolas returned in the afternoon alone and went straight to the king's chambers without waiting to be announced. When he emerged a few hours later, the prince went to clean up and from there went directly to Meleth's chambers. There was a pink cloth tied to the door handle, so he tapped quietly on the door. Meleth answered and ushered him into the bedroom where Laurelin lay sleeping peacefully in her cradle. They stood there for a moment before going out to the patio, and it was Meleth who spoke first. 

"What is it that grieves you, mellon nin?" 

The prince got a far-away look in his eyes, "I took The Elite to aid Ralnor's patrol on the eastern side of the Mirkwood Mountains. Yrch. When we arrived, the battle was fierce; elves and dunedain were fighting side by side." 

"Dunedain? How did they come to be so far East into Mirkwood?" Meleth recognized the darkness that suddenly covered his face and took his arm to prevent him from turning away. "Tell me what you know." 

"There were human women in the caves, captives of the foul beasts. It seems to be great sport for orcs to have human females as slaves for their personal pleasure..." 

Meleth put her hand over her heart. "Ai Elbereth, no! 

"They have been kidnapping human women from villages all across Eriador," he said bitterly. "These were taken from their village in the Ettenmoors. The warriors gave chase with the clan close behind, following them through the mountain pass. There were a few children and an infant who were with those taken. All of the children were found in the first day, abandoned on the trail. When they reached Mirkwood the non-fighting women and children went to Esgorath with escort while the rest tracked the orcs, hoping to save the women and the one babe not found with the others." 

"You believe it to be Laurelin," Meleth asked as she walked back into the bedroom to retrieve the baby. "Why?" 

Legolas sighed, "I overheard the child's father speaking to Ralnor. His daughter has golden curls and shares her father's birthmark, a crescent moon. His on the forearm, hers..." 

"On her back," Meleth finished and handed the sleeping child to the prince. The baby stirred at the movement but didn't waken. He flushed suddenly, guilt written on his face. 

"Ralnor and I have not told them we have her," he whispered. "I did not want to believe her family was found." 

Meleth placed one hand on the child's head and the other on her friend's arm, her smile warm. "You have done well to keep this secret, wise Prince Legolas." His look of confusion made her chuckle. "When the dunedain return, you know we will have a feast for them. And that is where we shall present them with a gift beyond measure. Come, let us prepare for celebration!" 

-oOo- 

King Thranduil offered a small garden just inside the gates for the Dunedain to camp in safety. The elves sang songs of peace and healing as they tended to the wounded. Meanwhile, word was sent to Esgorath that the captives had been freed, and the next day the Dunedain women and children were brought to the woodland realm. When reunions were had and all were settled, the elves provided a feast of rejoicing for the families, with many songs and dances to the delight of all. Before the meal was served, Thranduil came to the garden and asked the chieftain and his wife to approach, and he spoke to all. 

"Fearful is the wrath of a Dunedan; frightening beyond measure is the combined wrath of Dunedain, and the yrch were treated to the most terrifying wrath of all when man and elf combined forces." The men cheered and made a general ruckus until the king held up his hand for silence. "Evil knows no bounds, and will search to break and destroy their strongest enemies. But not this day. Your victory was complete and brings much joy," he then turned to face the couple, "yet I know you still carry deep sorrow. I am not one to ask anyone's forgiveness, but this day I ask for yours." 

The chieftain looked confused, "Lord Thranduil, you have shown us nothing but kindness and assisted us in our most dire need. I, nay we are indebted to you; my forgiveness is yours, though I cannot fathom why you need it." 

In reply, Thranduil swept his left hand toward a side entrance where Legolas was standing, holding Laurelin in his arms. As the prince walked forward, the king spoke again. 

"The forgiveness I ask is in for delaying your reunion with your daughter." 

They stood staring at the child in the arms of the prince, unable to move or speak. Laurelin was facing forward, chewing on the head of her cloth doll, completely unaware of her parents or the gathering in general. At last her mother found her voice. 

"It cannot be…" 

"I found the child in the forest a little over a month ago," Legolas said as he stepped closer. "Ralnor has been fostering her with his wife; you spoke of your child to him and mentioned she shares your crescent moon birthmark. This child has a crescent moon on her back." 

The mother reached for the child. "Gilraen?" 

The baby looked up at the woman and studied the face before her, then looked at the king who gave her a warm smile. 

"Go on, little orc." 

Legolas handed the baby to Ivorwen who started crying as she clutched the child to her chest. Dirhael wiped his eyes and embraced the both of them and didn't let go until Gilraen started to fuss. He then turned to the prince and the king, placed his right on his heart and bowed his head, even bending slightly at the waist. 

"My lords, I would forgive you till the end of the age and beyond if it meant I would have my joy returned. Hannon le is inadequate, but my thanks and joy runs to the very foundation of Arda." 

-o0o- 

One Hundred Eleven Years Later 

Arphen approached the throne and gave a small bow. "My lords, a ranger has come with the creature Mithrandir spoke of." 

"I shall meet him, Ada," Legolas said as he rose from his seat. 

"We shall go together," the king replied. "Mithrandir said he was to be delivered into my hand." 

They could smell the captive well before they reached the gates and grimaced as Arphen opened them. Huddled before them was a pile of bones covered in greyish skin pulled taut. The creature was bound and gagged, the lead held by a ranger of the North. 

"Mae govannen, Thranduil o Mirkwood," he said in a quiet but gruff voice and bowed. "Mithrandir asked that I bring the creature Gollum to you once found." 

The king gave a disdainful sniff at the creature, then raised a hand to call forth a guard. "Take the filthy creature to the dungeon, and send word to the wizard that he is here." 

The guard nodded and took the rope from the man and had to drag the whimpering creature away as it fought against his new captor. Once he was gone, the ranger took a deep breath and exhaled with a small smile. 

"That was the cleanest breath of air I have taken in more than a month." 

The corners of the king's mouth showed the barest hint of a smile. "Only for Mithrandir would I do this; he must hold you in high esteem…." he trailed off, waiting for the ranger to give his name. 

"I am called Strider." 

The elves exchanged a brief glance before each gave a slight nod of their head. Then the king turned to go. "My son Legolas will see that you have a comfortable place to sleep this night." 

Man and elf stood and stared at each other for a moment before the woodland prince spoke. 

"Mae govannen, Aragorn Arathornion." Strider grasped the pommel of his sword and Legolas held up his hand. "Peace Strider. Lord Elrond felt the woodland realm should be kept abreast of Middle Earth's future, as it is one we all share. Your secret is safe." 

He let go of his sword and gave a nod. "Geheno nin, Legolas Thranduilion." 

"Come, I shall show you to your chamber. But first, I have something you may like to see," Legolas said, leading the ranger into the halls, stopping in a small parlor. "Wait here, I shall return in a moment. Arphen will bring you something to eat and drink." 

Aragorn paced as he ate some of the best bread and cheese he'd had since his last stay at Imladris. As he drained his wine goblet, Legolas returned and bade him sit. 

"There is one other reason Lord Elrond told us of your lineage," Legolas said and produced a small dagger from behind his back, "knowing that the son of Laurelin-Gilraen would hold a special place in our hearts." 

The ranger took the dagger and stared at it in wonder, turning it over several times before looking up at the prince, eyes wide. "This is a blade of Numenor, from the house of Isildur. I carry its twin." He pulled an identical blade from his belt. "Tradition says the sister-blade is carried by the protector of Laurelin of the Woodland Realm… But I thought it was just a story." 

"It is," the prince replied, "one we sing of on occasion. I was that protector for a short time, and if ever you are in need, I shall be once more." 

Gilraen's son slid the blade back in its sheath and reverently handed it back to the prince. "She would have appreciated that," he said, his eyes gathering a mist of tears. "And if my mother's faerie tales of you hold true, then I would be glad of it as well."

Legolas took the dagger and clasped Aragorn on the shoulder. "Come, let us dine on good food and memories, mellon nin. And know that until time itself winds down, you have the friendship and the bow of Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood and finder of the little orc who would give birth to the King of the Restored Realm."

 

The End


Chapter End Notes:

 

 



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