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A Question of Duty  by daw the minstrel

2.  Making New Friends?

(October 22, 3018TA – evening)


Legolas located the Hall on his next attempt and found Amdir, Annael, and Beliond waiting for him outside the door.  He noted with approval that they too had dressed with unusual care in soft leather jerkins over loose velvet pants.  As he scanned them, he realized with amusement that Beliond was regarding him with equal approval.  Beliond was the warrior whom Thranduil had assigned to train and guard Legolas when he first joined Mirkwood’s warriors, and he still seemed to see Legolas as a youngling who occasionally needed his nose wiped.  All of Thranduil’s sons had been assigned such guards.  In private with one another, they referred to them as their “keepers.”


Legolas drew his three companions to one side.  “I have just spoken to Mithrandir,” he told them in a low voice.


They all looked delighted. “Then we can leave tomorrow,” said Beliond in a relieved tone. “Good.  I do not like being away from Mirkwood when we are so needed.”


Legolas shook his head.  “No.  I gave him our message, but he wishes me to repeat it at a council that Elrond will be holding.  Until then, we must speak of it to no-one.”


“But why?” asked Annael in a bewildered tone.


Legolas had no answer.  “I simply repeat what Mithrandir has told me,” he said.


At that moment, there was a stir in the hallway, and a party of four dwarves swept past the Wood-elves and entered the Hall. They ignored Legolas’s party as if they were invisible although one of them came so close as to actually brush against Annael, who leapt back as if he had been burned.  All four Wood-elves put their hands on the hilts of their long knives, although everyone but Amdir withdrew them again once the dwarves had disappeared.


“Remember where you are,” Legolas hissed softly.  “We will not be quarreling with dwarves under Elrond’s roof.”  Amdir too released his grip, albeit reluctantly.




Aragorn hurried along the corridor leading to Elrond’s Hall, fastening his surcoat as he went. He had lingered, worrying, in Frodo’s room until the last possible moment and now was later than he should have been arriving for evening meal.  He rounded a corner and then stopped short, surprised by the sight of the group standing uneasily just outside the Hall doors.  Elves from Mirkwood, he thought.  When had they arrived?


As he watched, it became evident that the Mirkwood Elves were not the only ones who were slightly unnerved by their presence in the House of Elrond. Elrond’s people skirted around the little group at a distance that was somewhat more than strict politeness required.  He wondered what could have occurred to cause the tension.  Elrond’s folk glanced occasionally at the four warriors’ unsmiling faces and then hastily averted their eyes and moved on.  Aragorn was amused.  He knew from experience how unsettling the unsmiling gaze of Wood-elves could be when something had made them skittish.


The group of Wood-elves moved forward to enter the Hall, and Aragorn’s attention was suddenly caught by one of them who had previously been half hidden behind his companions.  It took him less than a second to recognize one of the sons of Thranduil.  He had seen this young warrior only briefly when he had delivered Gollum into the keeping of Thranduil’s people.  He had stood silently next to the king’s chair, as Thranduil had done all of what scant talking there was. But his blond hair had led Aragorn to connect him to Thranduil and Mithrandir had later confirmed his assumption. Aragorn had taken the trouble to inquire because Thranduil had assigned this young warrior to arrange for the guarding of Gollum and Aragorn wanted to know who he was. What was Thranduil’s son doing in Imladris, he wondered?


As the Wood-elves approached the doors, the guard posted there moved forward uneasily and Aragorn suddenly noticed what was causing his agitation.  Although the Mirkwood Elves had shed their bows and quivers, their long knives were still strapped to their sides. To the guard, who was unaccustomed to Mirkwood’s expectations for formal warrior dress, it probably looked as if they expected Elrond’s people to come swarming over the tables and attack them, thought Aragorn.  The guard stepped forward and barred their way.


“My lord,” he spoke to Legolas.  The impassive faces of all four Wood-elves turned toward him.  “It is not customary to carry weapons into the Hall,” he said apologetically.  “You must leave your knives.”


There was a moment’s pause as the four warriors considered his words.  One of them appeared ready to argue.  Then Legolas spoke. “Leave your knives,” he said curtly, and all four of them unfastened their knives from their belts and handed them to the guard, who sagged in relief. The four of them then strode into the Hall, where Elrond’s steward met them and directed Legolas to a seat at the high table and his companions to places at one of the long tables set at right angles to the dais.


A spirit of mischief seized Aragorn.  He approached the guard and spoke confidentially.  “These Wood-elves,” he began, “you do know that they probably all have daggers in their boots?”


The guard blanched.  “I did not know that.”  He also looked as if he had not wanted to know that.  He looked anxiously at Aragorn.  “Do you think I should pursue the matter?”


Aragorn kept his face straight.  “I think we may trust them to behave themselves tonight,” he said seriously.  “Perhaps tomorrow you can ask for the daggers.”  The guard looked appalled at the prospect.  Having given himself some much needed amusement, Aragorn too entered the hall and sought out a place next to those where the Mirkwood Elves were seated.




As Legolas was led to the high table, he could see that places were being hastily removed and chairs rearranged.  Once seated, he found that two of the dwarves were also at the high table two spaces to his right.  Both dwarves glared at him, and Legolas found that there was something uncomfortably familiar about the one closest to him.  Surely the Valar would not have been so unkind as to place him in the company of one of the dwarves his father had imprisoned, he thought unhappily.  The two chairs between him and the dwarves were empty. He prayed that they did not stay that way.


As if in answer to his prayer, a tall blond warrior seated himself gracefully to Legolas’s right, blocking his view of the still-glaring dwarves.  He relaxed a little and then the warrior introduced himself.  “I am Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower,” he said serenely.  Legolas’s mouth fell open for what seemed like the tenth time that day, and he found himself staring in silence at the legendary figure who sat next to him tugging at a too-tight collar. Becoming aware of the silence, Glorfindel looked at him out of the corner of his eyes.  “You are Legolas Thranduilion,” he said helpfully.


Legolas snatched at his wavering dignity and managed to respond.  “My lord, it is an honor to meet you.”


Glorfindel smiled.  This was presumably not the first time that a young warrior had behaved like a gaping idiot in his presence.  In a transparent effort to set Legolas at ease, he began asking him about the level of Orc activity that Legolas’s party had met crossing the Misty Mountains.  Legolas had barely had time to say something more or less coherent before everyone rose.


Legolas too came to his feet and looked around.  Through a door at the rear of the Hall entered the most beautiful maiden Legolas had ever seen.  “The Lady Arwen,” announced the herald, and the maiden took her seat between Glorfindel and the dwarves.  When all had been seated again, she leaned around Glorfindel and spoke to Legolas.


“Welcome to Imladris, my lord,” she said. “My father sends his regrets that he will not be here tonight but begs that you will enjoy our hospitality.” Then she smiled at him and Legolas smiled back in what he hoped was a charming manner. She settled back in her seat and began to speak to the dwarf next to her.  Legolas was as jealous of the dwarf as he had ever been of anyone in his life. And he was not much comforted when an older Elf slid into the seat to his left and introduced himself as Elrond’s advisor Erestor.


Food was now being served. A platter of small roasted birds on a bed of berries was set on the table in front of Glorfindel, Legolas, and Erestor.  Glorfindel served Legolas and then himself as he continued to chat about military matters, and Legolas relaxed enough to look around the Hall.  Two long tables were placed perpendicularly to the dais on which the high table was located.  On the near end of the table to Legolas’s right were seated the other two dwarves and two hobbits, neither of whom was Bilbo, whom Legolas remembered from the events which had apparently included Thranduil’s imprisoning one of the dwarves at the high table. The hobbits appeared to be doing most of the talking in that group and the dwarves were laughing.


Close to the near end of the table to Legolas’s left were the other members of his own party. They were engaged in conversation with someone whom Legolas had not previously noticed and whom he now recognized instantly: Aragorn, the Man who had captured Gollum and brought him to Mirkwood.  Legolas’s attention was immediately caught.  He had been impressed by Aragorn’s capturing of Gollum, a task that had taken him to Mordor and back.  He had also been intrigued by Aragorn’s wide travel over Middle-Earth and by the trust that Mithrandir so obviously placed in him.  Moreover, there had been something about the Ranger that had struck him as familiar, as if he had met Aragorn before, although he knew that he had not.  He had regretted having no opportunity to speak with Aragorn then and was dismayed that news of Gollum’s escape was likely to eventually be part of any conversation they now had.


Concentrating on the interaction between his comrades and Aragorn, Legolas accidentally caught his fork with his sleeve and brushed it off the table.  It fell to the floor with a clatter. A servant hastened to bring him another but, off to his right, he could hear one of the dwarves saying “Someone should tell him that that’s a fork and that civilized people use it instead of their hands to eat with.”


Glorfindel and Arwen both began to speak rather more loudly than they had been doing, but Legolas’s sharp Elven ears still heard the other dwarf respond.  “Perhaps he’s drunk. His father is fond of wine as I recall.”  It took every ounce of restraint that Legolas possessed to ignore both dwarves and respond to Glorfindel’s rather desperate inquiry about training procedures for Mirkwood warriors.




Aragorn paused in his conversation with Annael to take note of the tension that was evident at the high table.  The three Mirkwood Elves also now focused with narrowed eyes on Legolas and the dwarves who sat near him.  A wave of misgiving suddenly washed over Aragorn.  He was reasonably certain that the Mirkwood Elves really did all carry daggers in their boots.  He wondered now if he should have encouraged the guard to confiscate them.




Legolas could not remember a time when he had been more relieved for a meal to end.  He bowed to Arwen, Glorfindel, and Erestor, ignored his other table mates, and left the Hall with Amdir, Annael, and Beliond in his wake.  He did not hesitate before turning left and leaving the house to seek dark and quiet under the stars in the garden.


“What happened?” demanded Beliond.


“Nothing,” Legolas responded shortly. “The dwarves were being dwarven.  I ignored it and you all will too.”


Amdir snorted.  “I cannot understand why Elrond allows those greedy, grubbing little creatures in his house.”


“Amdir, I said that we will ignore it,” warned Legolas sharply. “Curb your tongue.”


Amdir made a face, and Beliond caught his arm.  “Come,” he said grimly. “I think it is time that you and I returned to our quarters and had a little chat.”  With that, he dragged Amdir off toward the barracks, leaving Legolas and Annael alone. 


Legolas shook his head and then the two of them walked through the sweet-scented night in companionable silence.  Stars stretched out overhead in careless density, as if Iluvatar had flung them with both hands, crying “See what I have made for you.”  In the presence of the stars and his oldest friend, Legolas finally began to regain some of the poise that this stressful day had stripped from him.


“What were you and Aragorn talking about?” Legolas finally broke the silence by asking.


“The dwarves, oddly enough,” answered Annael. “I asked him why they were here.  He said that they had arrived only yesterday and were seeking Lord Elrond’s advice on how to deal with some new threat from the Evil One.”  Like many Mirkwood Elves, Annael was careful to avoid speaking Sauron’s name, but they both knew whom he meant.  “Apparently,” Annael went on, “the dwarves on the Lonely Mountain have been told that if they do not cooperate, they will be targeted for destruction. The men of Dale have been told much the same thing.  The dwarves wish to remain loyal but they also seek help so that they can survive.”


Legolas digested this unwelcome news for a moment. The Lonely Mountain and Dale were entirely too close to Thranduil’s stronghold for this news to be anything but terrifying. “Adar must be told at once,” Legolas murmured and Annael nodded, although Legolas had been speaking as much to himself as to his friend.


Legolas sighed.  “Why is it that it is so hard to remember who the enemy is sometimes?” he asked.  Annael looked at him questioningly.  “You were at the Battle of the Five Armies as well as I was,” Legolas went on.  “For that matter, Amdir and Beliond were too, and I am certain one of those dwarves who were goading me tonight was also there.”  Legolas settled on a bench that backed up against a tree and then leaned back, drawing comfort simultaneously from the stars and the feel of the tree against his back.  Annael sat beside him and waited for Legolas to go on.


“I hated it, you know,” Legolas said cryptically, but Annael nodded.  He did indeed know that Legolas had hated being part of a force whose first objective had been to appropriate dragon treasure.  “I was happy when Adar turned us aside to aid the people of Esgaroth and happier still when he finally told the Men that he would not start a war for gold.  But the dwarves . . .” he let his voice trail off and sighed again.  “The only thing that kept us from slaughtering one another that day was the arrival of the Orcs and the wolves.  All our good intentions would not have done it had our common enemy not descended upon us.”


Annael shrugged.  “Gold lust is a powerful force in dwarves,” he said.


“Aye, and in Elves sometimes too,” Legolas agreed soberly, recalling some glints in his father’s eyes that he would rather not have seen.  He looked at Annael again.  “But are we so stupid that we cannot remember who the real enemy is unless he is right in front of us?”


Annael smiled slightly.  “Apparently you are not,” he said in a serious tone.  He then added, “You will have to keep an eye on Amdir, though.  He is spoiling for a fight.”


Legolas grimaced. “I know. I cannot understand why I brought him on this trip.”


“I can,” said Annael, surprising his friend.  Legolas looked at him.  “Do you not think you have taken care of him long enough?” Annael asked gently.  “His brother has been in the Halls of Mandos for a long time now.”


Legolas leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and regarded his clasped hands.  “You are right, of course,” he said. “But I cannot seem to shed the belief that I have an influence on him.”  He grimaced and then the two of them leaned back again to enjoy the night.  After a moment, Legolas began to sing. Annael joined in and the songs of Wood-elves were added to the songs of Imladris that drifted like the scent of flowers through Elrond’s gardens.


On a nearby balcony, Mithrandir and Elrond sat quietly listening while Sam watched over Frodo in the chamber within.  “I must remember to speak to Legolas,” said Elrond, recognizing the voice.  “He said he had a message from Thranduil for me, but Frodo’s condition left me to respite to hear it today.”


“No need,” said Mithrandir. “His message was actually for me anyway, and I have spoken to him.  You should invite him to the council, though.”


“I had intended to. Thranduil will need to be warned.  And Legolas may be able to contribute some insight about the Nazgûl.  Mirkwood has had closer experience with them than anyone.”


Mithrandir drew on his pipe and blew a smoke ring.  “You may find that Legolas is useful in other ways too,” he said vaguely.


Elrond smiled at him.  “Now I wonder what you mean by that,” he said.


Another smoke ring joined the first one. “I am not sure myself,” Mithrandir said. “But few things happen by chance and Legolas is here, so perhaps here is where he was meant to be.”


An urgent call from Sam drew their attention and conversation about anyone other than Frodo was over.


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