1. Stubborn Hearts
Legolas had been watching the hobbit who was trotting along at his side for quite some time now. He did not know much about hobbits, but from their behaviour since they had left Rivendell he had gained the impression that it was natural for a hobbit to be either merry or hungry most of the time. The hobbit walking at his side was obviously neither. In fact, Meriadoc Brandybuck had a frown on his face and seemed to be brooding over dark thoughts.
"Does something ail you, Master Meriadoc?" Legolas asked finally, not sure whether his help would be needed or welcome, but willing to try.
Merry looked up, surprise in his eyes. It was obvious that he had not even noticed the presence of the elf until now. "In fact it does," the hobbit confessed after a moment of hesitation. "I'm wondering whether it wasn't a very foolish idea to go on this Quest."
This time it was Legolas' turn to be surprised. Most people he knew, who still had some reason left, would have called the Quest insane instead of foolish, but as he recalled Merry and Pippin had insisted quite persistently on being taken along. "You did not seem to have any such doubts in Rivendell," he said, eying the small creature beside him.
"I was thinking with the heart then, not with the brain," Merry replied. "Besides, I had no real idea what I was getting into. I probably still don't have, but I think I'm beginning to understand."
He was silent for a while, and Legolas noticed that Merry's gaze rested on Frodo, who was walking right after Aragorn and Gandalf at the head of the small group.
"What if Pippin and I have endangered the mission instead of helping it by insisting on coming along?" Merry asked quietly. "We are not very useful for things like this, you know? If we had stayed behind Lord Elrond could have chosen someone more suited for the task, another elf perhaps, or a warrior like Boromir."
Legolas was looking forward at the people walking at the head of the group now, too, but his gaze was not resting on Frodo. His eyes were fixed on the tall man in ranger's garb, who was currently engaged in a lively conversation with the wizard beside him. The elf smiled.
"If that is your reason for fearing that your decision may have been foolish, you may call me a fool as well," he said softly.
Merry stared at him. "You? Why would I ever want to call you a fool?"
"Because I have joined this Fellowship for the same reasons you did," Legolas answered. "It is no more my duty to destroy the Ring, than it is yours. I am not bound to it by the deeds of an ancestor, nor did I find it or have an uncle who did. The duty that binds me to this task is a duty of the heart. Apart from the understandable wish to save Middle-earth, of course."
The hobbit's round-eyed astonishment gave way to chuckling. "I noticed that you and Strider - I mean, Aragorn - seem to be close friends," he said then, obvious curiosity in his eyes.
"We are," Legolas agreed. "I have known him from the time when he was still a child and not burdened by any knowledge of his ancestry, nor weighed down by responsibilities or duties. I would never allow him to walk into Mordor or any other dark place alone, even if the only help I could give is to be a familiar presence at his side and to believe in him."
He turned his head and looked down at Merry, his bright eyes serious. "I know you feel the same way about Frodo," he added.
Merry shook his head. "But it is not the same," he protested. "How can you say you are not suited for the task? You are an elf and... and I guess a renowned warrior as well!"
Legolas laughed, and it was the merriest sound the hobbit had heard all day. "Being an elf is not enough to qualify anyone for this task, Master Hobbit," Legolas said, sounding amused. "Among my people, I am still young, and Elrond had mighty elven lords and various renowned warriors to choose from. I do not know why he decided in my favour - though it might have something to do with the fact that he would have had to send me home tied in a sack to keep me from coming."
Merry could not help grinning at that thought. "From all I heard about your father he would probably not have been happy about that," he said.
"Not really," Legolas admitted, though he was quite sure that Thranduil was even more unhappy now, and would probably prefer a son sent home to him tied in a sack to a son who was currently on his way to Mordor with the One Ring and eight companions. Legolas knew that the news would be a hard blow to his father, who loved him dearly. Still, he hoped that the elven king would be able to understand, and forgive him his decision.
Shoving these and other thoughts aside, the elf put one hand on the hobbit's shoulder. "Let us hope that a stubborn heart will be enough to make up for any lack in strength and wisdom," he said, smiling softly.
Merry nodded, smiling back at the elf. "Thank you," he said, his eyes serious.
"Somehow, I'm feeling much better now," he added after a moment. "In fact I think I'm hungry. Sam must still have some of that dried meat left. Would you care to have some, too?"
"No," Legolas answered, suppressing a smile. "I am not hungry yet."
"I'll never understand how elves and men can grow so tall from eating almost nothing," Merry remarked, shaking his head. "I'll bring some more meat, in case you change your mind. Just a moment!"
The hobbit quickened his pace to catch up to Sam who was walking a good distance in front of them, right next to Frodo. Legolas almost winced when he heard something clatter loudly in the hobbit's backpack. He had long since decided that there could be nothing noisier than a group of hobbits, men, and one dwarf moving through the wilds. How Aragorn had ever managed to get the hobbits to Rivendell without being discovered immediately was beyond him.
His gaze wandered back to Aragorn and Gandalf. Whatever the two of them were deciding right now, and in whatever dark places all of them would find themselves before long, if friendship could prove to be stronger than greed and fear, then, maybe, they had a chance to succeed - and to survive.
Perhaps Elrond's choice had been influenced by similar thoughts in the end. Though that still did not explain why there had to be a dwarf among them. Still, if this Quest gave him a chance to save his land and his people, and to keep an eye on Aragorn, Legolas decided that he would be able to tolerate the presence of a dwarf, if he absolutely had to.
Mirkwood, Palace of the Elven King, at about the same time:
"He has done what?"
The messenger winced and wished with all his heart to be in any other place but here right now. "He has joined the Fellowship, Sire," he answered almost apologetically. "You know how the prince can be, your Highness. It was impossible to hold him back."
Thranduil closed his eyes. The elf braced himself for another outburst from his king, but it never came. Instead, Thranduil opened his eyes and looked at the messenger, taking in his travel-worn appearance for the first time.
"I will want to talk to you later," he said. "But now you should go and take some rest. You must be tired from your journey.
In spite of the clear dismissal the messenger hesitated, well aware of the pain he had caused with his words. "I am sorry," he said finally, knowing there was not really anything else he could say. He turned and left, closing the door silently behind him.
Thranduil remained standing in the middle of his study for a while, then he walked slowly over to one of the large windows and looked out into the Queen's Garden. It had always been one of Legolas' favourite places whenever he was home. The king sighed. It was not difficult to understand why Legolas had acted the way he did, especially after learning that Aragorn had volunteered to accompany the Ringbearer.
Legolas had done what he considered to be his duty both to his realm and to his friend. Still, Thranduil found himself wishing that he had locked Legolas in his room and sent someone else to Rivendell with the news of Gollum's escape. At least Elrond had finally told him the truth about Gollum and had not tried to lie to him about the mission of the Fellowship, though he had taken a considerable risk in doing so.
Thranduil shook his head. He had never had reason to doubt the sanity of the Lord of Imladris before, but now he was very close to doing just that. How could Elrond send his only child to Mordor with the One Ring and a dwarf as company? The elven king had to suppress the sudden urge to grab some weapons, get his horse, find his wayward son, and drag him back home.
But if he was honest with himself, he knew that there was no safety to be found within these borders any longer, and he doubted that even he himself would be able to drag Legolas anywhere against his will. For the first time he found himself wishing that Legolas had become a scholar, or perhaps a bard, instead of a warrior. If Elrond had been here now, he would have had a lot of things to say to him.
Unconsciously, Thranduil sat down in one of the chairs, still staring out of the window and wondering where his son was, and whether he was still safe. He knew there would be no peace nor real rest for him now until the fate of the Ring and the Fellowship had been decided, whatever that fate might be.
- The End -
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.