The stream was flush with melted snow as the breath of early spring infiltrated the Elvenking's land. Two ellyn - too young for burdening wisdom, but too old for many to excuse their antics - kicked at the cool water, relishing in the refreshing caution of peace. A breeze came through and licked half the pair, his dark hair clung stubbornly to his face only to be swept away. His companion laughed from where he reclined alongside, nearly absorbed by the clover.
"There must remain honey on your face from breakfast, Elladan," he said, poorly concealing an ill mannered snort as the wind came again stronger.
With a hefty eye roll, Elladan too allowed himself to lay flat in the carpeting flora. The wind blew past freely, happy with the lack of obtrusion. Until duties came to find them, he remained with none other than the Silvan Prince. Elrohir too had spent early morn with them, but recently was pulled away by Arwen to paint some scenes as he had promised then forgotten. A stern look from her told Elladan he'd eventually be next.
"I wish our realms kept a smaller distance between each other," Elladan bemoaned after a small dose of quiet.
It'd been long since the Elrondionath shared their hours with any soldier of Greenwood the Great, even casual letters had been shirked through the years. Between lessons, and training, and lethal rumors whispering through Arda, there seemed to be not enough hours in the day, nor enough days in the year.
Legolas laughed. "So we may go to and fro as though we are newly betrothed? Sounds lovely, then I could beat you and 'Ro in rounds of archery every fortnight."
Elladan thought of his nana visiting Lorien whenever she thought fit, either bringing along her children or returning with tales for them to drink up. "Yes. Lets." The Prince's last comment went ignored, but the doer knew he'd pay for it soon enough. Legolas turned his head to Elladan, his expression a mix of confusion and mirth. The noldor was acting strangely sentimental. He was close to checking his friend for concussion or fever when Elladan caught his eye.
"Legolas Thranduilion, Snobbish Prince of Arrows and Trees, would you accept my hand in marriage and assist in building ourselves a united front versus brothers, and orcs, and exhaustive mountain crossings?" The proposal was reminiscent of the mock reports the twins would give when Erestor assigned too many books, the words would be arranged playfully as to not discredit information or harm opinions, only as a reminder that giving young elves something thrice as long as their attention spans never worked in anyone's favor.
With only a half thoughtful glance in the direction of one of his "tree subjects", Legolas agreed enthusiastically. Before the subject could wilt away into the humid forest, Legolas turned back to his friend. "When will you be ready with my wedding band?"
Elladan blinked, face blank as he failed to provide an expression to cover his face as he wracked his memory of lessons about the use of wedding bands. Legolas easily deciphered the look with great amusement.
"I cannot believe you have forgotten so easily," he jested, not even sure whether his friend had been taught of such an item. "The wood-elves of old would never let you live this down." Legolas thought back to the ring that his naneth's father had carved for her mother from a great fallen birch, and in turn remembered the similar one she had made for him, lost in the Last Alliance. It was an old tradition that no one really knew the origin of, suspected to do with Doriath's wealth of jewels. Hardly any younger elves participated in present days, the thought of a tree fallen for the wrong reason upon one's finger did not cause easy rest. Forest men had long since taken up the tradition from their community and doubtlessly spread it around the men of the south. Legolas wasn't sure about any of that for he wasn't even sure he'd ever sighted an Adan that didn't hail from Dale, or Laketown. And he didn't love to think about those ones.
At last Elladan's eyes brightened with recognition. "You'll receive it when I borrow from the kindest tree and wash it in the most brilliant river." It seemed to be the correct answer from the way Legolas now grinned at their shared game. The power from his joy seemed to fuel the air so the breeze returned and slathered Elladan's hair across his face once again. "And yet the wind changes direction to smite me?"
When his face was finally clear, Elladan caught Legolas' laugh as he rolled over suddenly and stretched like a cat before pacing around the clearing and kicking some more at the mountain water. "Even you should be able to hear the trees singing, Elladan. They say we shall serve honey cakes at our wedding, and they promise to block the wind." In a proper display of wood-elf, Legolas hummed along with the woody jingle of blustery leaves and spring warmed birds.
It was admirable, proof of the reason outsiders could only describe Prince Legolas as beautiful when asked to share their opinion askew of his renowned father. It took much internal debate to finally separate himself from the forest floor, but Elladan finally joined his friend and betrothed beneath an oak and together they thought of trees, and birds, and sweets.
Elrohir returned not long after, thoroughly splotched with paint and surrounded with content energy. "What are you both still doing out here?" he hummed, "it is nearly time for the midday meal and Arwen wishes to show off our works before then." He suddenly didn't mind being dragged off from such down time so early by his beloved sister when Elladan moved from where he was leaning to sling an arm around his little brother's shoulders while Legolas climbed swiftly from his tree.
"You must understand, muindor, that wedding prep takes much time." Elrohir merely raised an inherited brow at his brother's joke and was again rather thankful for Arwen's timing, for he didn't care to know about whatever wedding was going on during his visit away from theatrical duties back home that reminded him of such.
"Sure, sure," he said in turn. "It won't take long to spar after luncheon though."
And his companions agreed as they made their way back inside the Elvenking's halls, unplanning and unaware of which future would be their fortune.
Visits between the two elven realms used to come nearly every spring. It was said that Elrond's family would arrive like the fresh leaves, patrols would tell of the elflings catching young spruce tips to snack upon when remarking on their coming. Off in Imladris, residents would fondly describe the way Thranduil's clan came with the season's rain over the mountain. More than once had they arrived properly drenched.
Many still didn't know the reason for a lapse of over a decade, but Silvan and Sinda alike allowed a smile as they watched their Prince walk happily without a sword for the first time in years. Perhaps this time before Legolas grew into a captain would be joyful still.
It seemed Queen Rilorn had finally roused Thranduil from his office, for he sat sternly between his wife and the Lady of Imladris and endured their doting when the children arrived, Arwen tucked between her brothers with Legolas trailing behind. Elrond greeted them warmly, turning the table's attention toward the new arrivals.
"Good day, children," Lady Celebrian smiled. "I take it you all had an exciting morning?"
The four took in their own dirty and colorful appearances respectively and flushed. This was not the way one would typically greet such distinguished Elf Lords.
Arwen smiled. "Of course we did," she replied, taking the remaining seat beside her mother. Shrugging, the remaining ellon filled in around the table.
Talk of the morning faded far from discussion as they feasted and shared company for the last time within the Elvenking's halls.
Imladris was homely; a land of healing, a land of waiting. Summer time had finally come, evaporating the last of the soft rain and cloaking the Last Homely House in a veil of beams. Hoofbeats roused no special attention as visitors often came about in search of refuge and peace as Lord Elrond intended. Reading in the garden, the valley's master decided to linger a moment longer as he spied a young minstrel approaching the entrance in his stead.
"Mae govannen, mellon nin! Nearly had I thought I was imagining," came Lindir's voice, a smile could be heard on his lips. This piqued Elrond's interest from where he sat little ways off.
A familiar voice flitted through the grounds, chuckling at Lindir's claim. "Well met indeed, figment or otherwise."
At that, the Lord of the valley moved briskly against the still afternoon, eager to see if the owner of this voice had truly come to his valley. He came to the scene as the new rider was dismounting, a groom already at the horse's side. The visitor was a lovely sight. His pale yellow hair gleamed golden in the sun, the flora surrounding him seemed ever more green. Elrond's scrutinizing healer's gaze caught on evidence of several hidden ailments before flicking to meet the elf's.
"I hardly expected the season's change to bring a wood-elf to this valley. It has been a long time, Legolas Thranduilion."
The Prince in question placed a hand over his heart and bowed per elvish custom. There was guilt in his dark eyes, and his stance was uncomfortable. The peredhil almost approached Legolas but the instincts only a father could hone told him not to come closer or risk trample. All was justified when his twin sons emerged from the establishment and came running down the stairs.
Elladan stopped short of his friend, hanging back to gauge the situation as Elrohir ran on, pulling the long lost friend into a hug. Legolas was stiff and unsure, but finally melted into the embrace - Elladan too quickly joined, critiquing eyes temporarily relinquished. Though, as heartwarming as it was to see childhood friends reunite in war stressed times, something just wasn't right.
Elrohir's frown grew as the trio separated. "Do not think everything is well and happy only from your proof of life," he said. Elrond's look of reprimanding was only half hearted, though it appeared as scary as ever. The younger twin's anger wasn't without cause, those who knew him well could see the concern overlapping his features.
"No, you are right. Forgive me, my friends," Legolas sighed.
"All is forgiven, penneth." Lord Elrond rested a hand on the Prince's shoulder, discreetly probing with his healing energy. Elrohir's face had already softened, Elladan remained silent.
It took little persuasion to move so somewhere quieter. The main garden of Imladris was filled with sweet smells and fresh ambience. Legolas settled into the grass, leaving a nearby bench for the peredhil. None took it. The company settled around him, breathing in the fresh air in replacement of conversation.
"How are affairs back home, Legolas?" Elladan asked casually. Even the nature surrounding them seemed to await the elf's answer.
"Things are fine." His voice was soft, yet guarded. "But let us not speak of hard times. For the moment let's enjoy the season." So they did.
Unspoken, Legolas' ribs creaked with the ache of his head. The garden was dizzying and the trees whispered condolences and fears in his ear. News traveled quickly by arboreal means. Every time his mind drifted and sleep tried to claim him, Feren's instruction rang through his thoughts.
"Tell them of the forest's disease, I will redirect your father's ire and keep the gates ready. Good luck, my prince."
Confusion came easier than sense, it'd been a long set of decades - even longer than those that felt comparable to an ent's lifetime as an elfling. He had tried a dozen methods of getting the commander to reveal his father's secrets (Thranduil kept more than a few as of late), but nothing worked. Feren had even laughed at Legolas' royal threats, knowing the family too well to fear any punishment from his prince.
Legolas' stomach churned at the idea of describing the former Greenwood, even to those he knew would drop everything to help. Rotten wood with dead elves falling out, darkened paths and abandoned wildlife trails. Mental maladies… no, he wouldn't be inflicting such things on his friends within their peaceful valley.
Guilt once again clawed at his disobedient thoughts; tellings of Lady Celebrian's containment and sailing had even spread to the locked Mirkwood. Some troops had told Legolas of the twins making their presence known to orcs and all over living things at the edge of the forest, worrying him immensely. Even now, he could tell this family was far from healed. Notes of sympathy may have been the last communication from the Elvenking's realm to outsiders, and that was so long ago.
A hand wrapped itself around Legolas' own, breaking his line of thought. "You have no obligation to tell us anything that does not concern us, but please, spill your heart before it breaks open." The strength of their presence followed Elladan's voice and broke through Legolas' walls, searching for cause, for reason behind the devastation. The songs of the trees grew louder and overwhelmed his fragile elven soul. Everything became too much - he'd grown unused to such life after surrounding himself with the screaming, decaying earth his people unfortunately lived upon.
Swallowing every emotion that had undoubtedly hit the surface to worry his friends more, Legolas sighed and laid back in the grass. "I have word from Mirkwood. We wood-elves may not live much longer."