tuxedo_elf: (Tree Light)
Title: An Educational Visit
Author: Tuxedo Elf
Pairing: Elrohir/Legolas
Rating: PG13
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] keiliss
Summary: Elrohir travels to Mirkwood to learn more about the reclusive Silvan Elves. What he gets is a lesson in love, jealousy and heartache.

For Naledi Seren.



Mirkwood, TA 1250.


Elrohir looked up at the dark, foreboding trees that towered above them. They were no taller than the trees of Lórien yet, with their dark, dense leaves, they seemed infinitely less welcoming. Hardly any light broke through the thick foliage and even if he had not known where he was, he would have guessed Mirkwood.

Calling his patrol closer to him, he warned them to be on guard. “The spiders here are no myth, keep your weapons at the ready – I would not take advantage of King Thranduil’s hospitality before we have even arrived.” His own eyes scanned the landscape closely, always on edge, especially when the danger was new to him.

It was not only the spiders he was on guard against – he had been told in great detail about the stealth of the Silvan Elves and had experienced some of it during his visits to Lothlórien. It was said that their Mirkwood kin had, by necessity, become even stealthier and he was determined not to be caught unawares.

It was at times like these that he wished his twin had been able to join him. Although they were often sent on separate missions, they much preferred to travel together. Yet their father had not been able to spare both his sons for the three months that Elrohir would remain in Mirkwood and so he found himself leading the patrol alone.

Still, despite the lack of his twin, he was looking forward to the experience. Mirkwood had been isolated for many years and what little was known about the Elves there dated back to the last Age of Arda. This was a wonderful opportunity to re-establish communications between their peoples, even though he was unsure as to why Thranduil had chosen now to contact them. He only hoped they were not as distrustful of strangers as he had heard.

As they went deeper into the forest, silence fell. Never in his life had Elrohir experienced such a complete absence of sound. Not a leaf moved, not a bird stirred. The soft noise of their horses was almost deafening in comparison. He wondered how far they were from Thranduil’s realm and prayed they had not strayed from the path. His hand clasped the hilt of his sword tightly, his posture tense as he sought for any danger.

His sharp ears detected the rustle of leaves almost too late. He drew his sword, but already he could see dark figures descending. Poised for battle, he could only wait.

He barely managed to conceal a sigh of relief when their ‘attackers’ revealed themselves to be Elves and not giant spiders. Only pride and determination to make a good impression kept his relief from being obvious.

“Greetings.” The apparent leader of the patrol stepped forward. Tall and fair, his face was stern and without a hint of any good humour. “On behalf of his highness, King Thranduil, I welcome you to Mirkwood.” The words were polite and welcoming enough, yet there was a haughtiness to them that made Elrohir stiffen. He could sense no true joy at their presence amongst any of the Mirkwood Elves and he hoped it would not be that way for the entire duration of their stay.

“I thank you,” he replied, just as formally. “I am Elrohir, son of Elrond. “We are honoured to be your guests.”

The Elf nodded, offering no introductions of his own. “This way. We must be quick, as dusk falls the spiders become bolder and their vision in the dark far outstrips ours.” He turned, gesturing for them to follow.

Irritated, Elrohir motioned to his own guards to follow the Silvan party. If this was a taste of things to come, then the months here would be very long indeed.

The Mirkwood Elves led them swiftly through the forest, moving with practiced ease through the dense foliage. On horseback, he found it much harder to keep up and regretted disturbing the well-concealed routes. Yet, had he looked back, he would have noticed that no trace of their passage remained.

Suddenly, the air seemed to lighten, the heaviness vanishing as the trees became brighter and the sound of birds broke the oppressive silence. Here flowers crept in amongst the blades of grass and a low, familiar hum told him that crickets inhabited the surrounding area.

Looking up, he realised he could see the sky for the first time since entering the wood and that it was a bright, sunny day. The difference was startling and he did not understand how it was possible. This was not a protected realm, but yet something held the darkness at bay.

One of the Silvan Elves stopped and came up beside Elrohir. “Welcome to the Greenwood,” he said softly.

*********

Elrohir lay back on the bed in the luxurious rooms he had been assigned. Upon their arrival at the palace their horses had been abruptly whisked away to the stables and their greeting party had vanished almost as soon as they had been handed over to a young advisor with unusual brown eyes whose name Elrohir had already forgotten. The haughtiness of the leading Elf and his refusal to speak during their journey through the wood still grated on Elrohir’s nerves and he was glad the new Elf had been rather more gracious as he showed them to their rooms.

It was late in the day when they arrived, though Elrohir had still expected to be received by the King. He was most surprised to be informed that they would not be seen until the following morning. A servant had come to draw a bath and provide a most welcome hot meal, yet the lack of a formal greeting seemed rude to Elrohir. Still, he reminded himself that he was here to learn and that, because it seemed strange to him, it was not necessarily wrong.

Deciding there was nothing he could do about it, at least without causing an incident, he checked in briefly with the rest of his guards, assuring himself they had also been tended to, before retiring to his room for the night. No matter his concerns about the coming weeks, sleep did not evade him as he curled up in a bed for the first time since leaving Imladris.

*********

The following morning saw Elrohir awoken by a servant bearing a pail of hot water for washing. Still tired from the journey he thanked the Elf and went into the bathing chamber to make ready for the day.

It was only once he was ready to leave that he realised he had no idea where meals were served or how to get there.

He contemplated simply going to look, though knew there was a risk he would stumble into somewhere he had no business being. Or he could simply stay put and hope he was missed, though if he was not he knew he might be alone and hungry all day.

Deciding to compromise, he sat down on the bed. He would wait a little while and if no one came, he would take a walk and hope to find someone who could point him in the right direction.

Not more than a few minutes had passed when, much to his relief, there was a knock on the door. On opening it, he was surprised to see not a servant, but the same Elf who had greeted them yesterday.

“Good morning.” The Elf smiled and Elrohir was surprised at the total difference in demeanour, so much so that he wondered if this was actually the twin of the Elf he had met the day before. After all, he knew first-hand that such things happened.

“Good morning.” He stepped aside, letting him in. “I hope I am not late, I was not sure where to go.”

“You are not late, in fact I came here to escort you – the palace can be quite a maze until you know it well.” Another smile. “I also wish to apologise... if I am right, then I offended you yesterday. I am sorry for that. I am Legolas, son of Thranduil and as such dare not speak my name outside the protected realm. Our patrols are tense affairs and it can create inaccurate impressions.”

Elrohir was, to say the least, extremely surprised. Not only at the revelation that this was the Prince of Mirkwood, but at the dramatic shift in attitude.

“I understand.” He smiled himself now. “Although I have never had to conceal my own identity, I can understand the need to do so. Think nothing of it, it is already forgotten.”

Legolas looked relieved. A visiting dignitary was the last person he wished to offend. “Thank you. Come, let me take you to the dining hall. I am sure you must be hungry.”

Elrohir could not deny that and willingly followed the prince out into the hall, wondering what other surprises awaited him.

*******

The dining hall was like nothing he had ever seen before. Set deep in the caves, it had been carved out with great precision, grand archways of rock separating it into a number of sections, all filled with elves sitting around long tables. There were no windows, it being too deep, but the whole area was painted, pictures of trees, birds and animals covering every inch of space. Even the high roof was made to look like the sky. It was then that Elrohir made the connection to the lost realm of Menegroth and remembered that there may still be some refugees from that time here.

“Anyone who lives or works in the palace can eat here,” Legolas explained as they made their way through to the far end of the hall. “There are smaller dining areas also, but most prefer to gather here. Some sections are only for those of certain professions, but most allow families and friends to eat together.”

They reached the far end of the hall and went under an archway to where a smaller table sat on a slightly raised bed of rock. Several elves sat there and, laying eyes on the powerful-looking Elf at the head of the table, Elrohir knew he was finally face-to-face with Thranduil.

“Father, may I present Elrohir, son of Elrond.” Legolas ushered him up to where the King sat.

“It is an honour, Your Majesty.” Elrohir was surprised that their formal introduction was taking place in so casual a setting... all he had read had led him to believe that the Elves here were very formal. He was fast being proven wrong. “I thank you for letting me come here to learn more about your people.”

Thranduil waved Elrohir to sit in a nearby chair. “It is an honour to have you here, Lord Elrohir. Too long have my people been isolated, perhaps this will start to change things. I apologise if not speaking with you yesterday was offensive – it is our ancient custom to let travellers rest unless the matter is urgent.

“It was confusing,” Elrohir admitted. “However that is why I am here, to learn about your ways. I hope it is an encouraging sign that I am learning already.”

King and Prince both looked pleased and Elrohir relaxed somewhat as servants began to lay out plates of food.

Much to his confusion, however, no one took a morsel. Unsure, he also held back, waiting to see what would happen. When the gong sounded, he almost fell off his chair in surprise, frowning as something that sounded decidedly like a chuckle came from the Prince.

Silence fell as the sound filled the room, the only noises coming from small children and parents who tried to hush them.

Recovering, Elrohir watched as Thranduil stood. When he spoke, his voice seemed to carry in the great halls. “My people, another sun has risen, another day begun. May the food the forest has given us give you strength to be all you can be as you start your daily labours.” Then he sat and the noise resumed as the people began their meals.

The short offering was new to Elrohir and he leaned over to ask Legolas about it. “Is that customary?” he queried. At home meals simply started when everyone had a plate.

Legolas nodded. “Food is sometimes scarce here, so we always thank the forest for providing for us.” He began to fill his plate. “Tonight you will hear the dinner offering also.”

Elrohir had not realised how such simple differences would come as a surprise to him. But, with the prince seemingly willing to explain, he was certainly hoping for an enjoyable learning experience.

Breakfast was a pleasant affair, with many foods familiar to him. The only thing he found hard to swallow was the tea which, in his opinion, tasted like something his father had forced down him the last time he had been injured. Politely declining a refill, he chose instead to fill his glass from the pitchers of sweet apple juice that were readily available.

Conversation was light during the meal and it was not until the plates were empty that the topic returned to Elrohir’s visit. It had already been agreed that the warriors who escorted Elrohir would join those of Mirkwood for the duration, however Elrohir’s plans were rather less clear. All he knew was that he was to learn as much as he could about the Elves there, but had been given no guidance on how to do that.

“I fear I will have little time over the next few weeks,” Thranduil apologised. “An unexpected trading opportunity has arisen and our people need the supplies. Therefore I have turned your education over to my son – I am sure he is as capable as I in teaching you what you need to learn.

In truth, Elrohir was relieved. Legolas was closer in age and status to him than his father, and although they did not yet know each other, the morning had given him hope that they would be able to get along. “Thank you, Your Majesty,” Elrohir replied. “That will be most agreeable.”

*******

“Usually I train with the guards after breakfast,” Legolas explained as they walked through the palace. “Tomorrow you may join me, if you wish. Today I think it would be better to get you acquainted with the palace, in case you need to make your own way somewhere when I am not around.“ He led Elrohir down a wide corridor. “The library is down here... unfortunately very little new information comes our way these days, but we still have a collection dating back to the First Age.” They stopped in front of great wooden doors, carved with tall trees that reached up to the ceiling and pushed them open.

To Elrohir’s great surprise, they opened with ease, not a creak escaping as the room beyond was revealed to them. He glanced over at Legolas and caught the Elf smiling, but he said nothing. Deciding to query this later, he followed the Prince into the room.

It was vast, cavernous. Along the walls shelves had been carved from out of solid rock, not an inch left unused. Tall ladders rested against them, the only means of reaching documents from the highest shelves. Away from the walls were more shelves, these made of ancient wood. Back to back they ran along the length of the room, the end of which Elrohir could hardly see. So enthralled was he by the sight that he almost missed Legolas directing him through a small archway, to a room where, although shelves lined the walls, the centre of the room was filled with desks, most occupied by quiet Elves, their heads down as they worked.

“Here is where the librarians, scribes and junior councillors work.” Legolas kept his voice soft. “Despite a lack of new information, there is always plenty to do.”

Glancing around, Elrohir felt someone looking at him. Turning, his gaze fell on the young brown-eyed Elf who had shown him to his room the night previously. A little unsure as to why he was being looked at so intently, he simply smiled.

The quiet, solemn Elf did not smile back, but only returned his gaze to his work, leaving Elrohir feeling unsettled. So unsettled, in fact, that he did not hear Legolas talking to him.

“Lord Elrohir? Are you well?” It was the concern that finally reached him.

“Yes, Your Highness... I am sorry. I was... lost in thought.”

Legolas frowned. “Perhaps you need some fresh air, it can be stifling in here when you are not used to it.” He put his hand on Elrohir’s shoulder and guided him out. “And I think we can dispense with the titles, if you are agreeable.”

Had Elrohir looked back, he would have noticed the young Elf staring covetously at the Prince.

End chapter 1

April 2013

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