Disclaimer: Everything belongs to the Professor.

Author's Note: Well… It was quicker. A little. ;) I hope you enjoy this story. There's one more chapter after this one to finish this, and then just one more major fic to go in this arc, though there will be some more gapfillers at some point.

Many thanks to everyone who reviewed!


One Year Later: Mithrandir

"The sons of Elrond were unable to accompany me, as they wished to do," are Mithrandir's first words. "They send their regards, as do Elrond, Glorfindel, Erestor and Lindir. Glorfindel added some remarks about the importance of weapons training but I will forbear to repeat them, since I can see you do not need the advice."

Legolas cannot hold back his smile as Mithrandir, with twinkling eyes and a fine disregard for the possibility of being hit by a stray arrow, cuts across the archery field to reach him.

"Did you walk all the way from Imladris, my lord?" he asks.

"I walked all the way from the Shire, and stopped at Imladris to ask if Elrond had had tidings from Círdan. I do hope your father will let you accompany me to the Shire one day. I believe you would like the little folk, and they would be utterly fascinated by Greenwood's warrior-prince."

"Little folk?" asks Rochendilwen, who is supervising the training session with Legolas. "Do you mean Dwarves?"

"Dwarves, fascinated by a young Elven lord? Not in the least… although Legolas can be persuasive when he chooses. But that is a thought to be pursued another time. It is Halflings I mean, or, to give them the name they call themselves, Hobbits. They are very different from Dwarves. For one thing, they are quieter." He glances at the archers, who have stopped their practice to watch his progress. "You do not mind if I steal Legolas, Rochendilwen?"

"Of course not," she says, smiling, as Mithrandir takes Legolas' arm and urges him in the direction of the forest. "But on your head be it if he is late for War Council!"

"We are not going far," Mithrandir assures her.

He is true to his word. He leads Legolas only far enough into the forest to be clear of eavesdroppers before, with his customary directness, he comes to the point.

"Your friends are worried about you, Legolas. Elladan and Elrohir told me that your recent letters have been… lacking… in your normal cheer."

Legolas suppresses a sigh with difficulty. "Do they make a practice of complaining to you when my letters do not satisfy them?"

"Only when they think there is reason for concern. Much has happened since, under these very trees, we had a conversation about trust and the loyalty of your friends. The sudden and unexpected departure of Thorontur's daughter for Mithlond gave rise to speculation, much of it, I suspect, baseless. Still, from what little Elladan and Elrohir were willing to tell me, the truth is bad enough." He pauses, studying Legolas, and then says, "They wanted very much to come here themselves, but they are occupied with matters in Eriador."

"My father is worried," Legolas says quietly. "He tries not to show it, but I can see it. He fears that the time is fast approaching when the doom of Middle-earth will be decided."

"Thranduil is no fool, and in his own realm he knows and hears things that even Elrond and Galadriel do not. That is partly why I have come." Mithrandir looks about, spots a fallen log, and seats himself on it. "Old men must rest their legs, whether or not the warriors of Thranduil must. Come, sit with me."

Legolas drops next down to him. "Why are you here?"

"What Thorontur did was terrible." Legolas stiffens, and Mithrandir's hand lands on his arm. "Hear me out, Legolas. I do not defend him. I can guess, better than most, how terrible the consequences could have been. His action – or, to be precise, his inaction – nearly led to your death. He might have caused a catastrophe of untold proportions. If the power in Dol Guldur claims the stronghold of the Elven-king, as could well have happened if you had died, it will only be a matter of time before the malice spreads. You and your fellow-warriors do more than you know towards keeping Middle-earth safe."

"My father would hold the borders against Dol Guldur, no matter what happened to me."

Mithrandir shakes his head, but evidently decides not to pursue that argument. "If Thorontur's actions have cast a shadow on your spirit, Legolas, our Enemy, the Enemy of all the free peoples of Middle-earth, has won a mighty victory. Do not give him that victory."

"I think you overestimate what I can do."

"Do I? I will tell you what I have noticed in the very short time I have been here. You are not yourself. I have not heard you laugh once since I arrived. That disturbs your archers. They communicate their worry to their friends, and the forest responds to the spreading unease. You have more influence than you know… Your spirit has grown clouded, Legolas. I do not know by what miracle Thranduil managed to raise a child untainted by darkness in the shadow of Dol Guldur. I know you would not see his effort come to ruin. At least for your father's sake, let me help you."

"I do not think you can help me, my lord."

"You felt the same way when Lindariel died," Mithrandir says calmly. At Legolas' flinch, he goes on, "Forgive me for awakening painful memories. I have no choice, and I think you have strength of character enough to learn from the past. You saw your mother killed by one who should have defended her with his life. You were very nearly killed yourself. You certainly suffered far more than you did under Melda's attempt to poison you. Yet, although you grieved, you learnt to smile again. What is different this time?"

"That was Bregolien," Legolas mutters.

"That was Bregolien," Mithrandir concedes, "whom you never particularly liked, who made no attempt to be likeable, who, when he was supervising your weapons training, showed a streak of ruthlessness that should have warned everybody that his soul was twisted. This, on the other hand, is Thorontur, who has been a second father to you. His betrayal is greater, and you are angrier."

"Why could he not trust me?" Legolas bursts out. "If he had told me what he knew…"

"As you told your father your suspicions of Saeldur?" Mithrandir's voice is still sympathetic, but there is an unyielding edge to it. "As I recall, we discussed that. At the time, you did not want to tell Thranduil anything that might prejudice him against Saeldur. Have you changed your mind since?"

"Saeldur has proven himself. I was right to trust him."

"What if you had been wrong? For Melda to poison you, and hope to do so undetected, required a peculiar combination of circumstances. You were gravely injured, your father and Arbellason were not here, Barancrist and Feredir were not here. Saeldur, on the other hand, could kill you without needing to wait for anything."

"There was never any evidence that Saeldur was guilty of wrongdoing."

There was, one of the trees interjects.

Legolas shoots it an irate glare. "Hearsay that could mean anything is not evidence."

You overheard the conversation yourself.

"Enough," says Mithrandir, beard twitching in amusement. "Legolas, I am not asking you to forgive Thorontur. You did that already without anybody's prompting, when you persuaded your father not to punish him. I am asking you not to make your decision to forgive him meaningless. You harm more than the Woodland Realm if you harbour resentment. You harm yourself… and, by extension, more than you know."

Legolas wants to answer, but he truly does not know what to say. He does not even know what he is most angry about – that Thorontur did not trust him, or that he has been put in this impossible position.

"It is not easy, I know," Mithrandir says, seeming almost to read his mind. "But you must do it if you are to find peace within yourself."

"How?" Legolas asks. "Even if I wanted to… Do you think I do not want to forget all that has happened? I would give anything to erase it from my mind."

"That is entirely the wrong attitude, although it is unsurprising under the circumstances. It was an unpleasant time, and it is only natural that you should want to forget it – that you should try to forget it. But that is not in the order of things. Eru intended Elven memories to be long. That is a blessing… and, sometimes, a curse. You will never forget what happened, Legolas. It is pointless to expect such an event. You must accept it. Learn from it, as you would learn from a loss on the battlefield. But do not let it consume your life."

"I thought I was not letting it consume my life," says Legolas with a wry smile. "Perhaps I was wrong."

Mithrandir's brow creases. "Has nobody spoken to you of this until now?"

"Saeldur did, at first. It was because of him that I spoke to Lord Thorontur at all." Legolas shrugs. "It did not help, and he did not bring it up again. I think he realized there was no point."

"Saeldur did not mention it again?" Mithrandir looks contemplative. "That concerns me. I had imagined that Saeldur would be violently opposed to Thorontur, given his… impetuousness. And his loyalty to you. If he insisted that you speak to Thorontur, he obviously saw what Elladan and Elrohir judged from your letters… It is most unlike him to give up."

"I was surprised as well," Legolas admits. "But not displeased."

"Regardless," Mithrandir says, with a brisk return to his normal manner, "this cannot continue."

"What would you have me do?"

"I cannot order you to give up you anger, and I would not if I could. But go and speak to Thorontur – and not as one who has been forced into an unpleasant situation and is gritting his teeth until he can leave it. Speak to him. Listen to him. I think you will find his affection for you is undiminished." Reading Legolas' doubt in his eyes, Mithrandir goes on, "He did make a mistake. It very nearly cost him dearly. I think he will be more anxious than you could possibly be to avoid such a situation again."

"But –"

"For the good of all Middle-earth, Legolas, you must make peace with yourself. You cannot do that until you make peace with Thorontur. Do it in whatever manner you choose, but do it."

Faced with Mithrandir's earnest expression, Legolas cannot but acquiesce.

As they make their way back to the stronghold, he offers to escort Mithrandir to his father's study, more to put off the inevitable moment than anything. Mithrandir, eyes twinkling, accepts. He keeps up a steady stream of idle conversation, most of it about his recent stay in Imladris and much of it slyly uncomplimentary to its Master's policy of not trading with the Shire for pipeweed. Legolas cannot hold back his laughter.

By the time they have arrived at the King's study, Legolas is in a much happier mood.

Thorontur emerges from the study just as they reach it. Although the watches have been peaceful of late, he has the pinched, strained expression he has worn since Melda was caught – no, Legolas, realizes, before that. He has not seen Thorontur smile since before he himself was injured.

It is no effort to say, then, "Would you care for an archery contest, my lord?"

Thorontur's smile when he realizes that Legolas is, in fact, addressing him, is bright enough to make up for all the past months.


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