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Hidden Agenda  by sheraiah

Disclaimer: not mine, never will be.

Legolas paced the length of the room in an uncharacteristically agitated manner, grief and anger both visible in his expression. His father stood silently off to one side, his face impassive save for the cold anger in his eyes. Abruptly, the younger of the two elves stopped and turned back to Elessar.

“Who is responsible for this atrocity?” His blue-gray eyes bored into the king’s, making the king very glad that he and Legolas were longtime friends instead of enemies.

“We have located and taken into custody three men, but we are certain there are at least two more involved. Of course, we are charging them with both deaths,” Elessar replied, his tone carefully neutral. “It is only a matter of time until we have the rest of the men, at which time they will be taken before a tribunal and judged.” Legolas nodded, but Thranduil frowned darkly.

“I fail to see how that will accomplish anything. The crimes were against elves, the matter should be decided by elves,” the Elvenking stated obstinately.

“The crimes took place in Gondor and were committed by men of Gondor; therefore Gondor will judge them and sentence them accordingly. I will have no repeat of this,” Elessar replied with far less heat than he felt. “I know very well what elven justice entails, and it is not harsh enough for a crime of this nature. The penalty for murder in Gondor is death.”

“Adar, Elessar is within his rights to see justice done here in Minas Tirith,” Legolas put in. “He is correct in that our form of justice would not have the same impact. For an elf, our way would suffice but we are not dealing with elves. I trust Elessar to do what is best.”

“I do not doubt you, Elessar. However, I wish to make certain that our interests and our people are protected. As king, you have to be swayed by the wishes of your subjects and them I do not trust them to see the true evil that has been done here.” Thranduil was obviously struggling to maintain his temper and be diplomatic.

“Then it is my charge to see that they do,” the king of Gondor replied without batting an eye. “I will need your input and assistance with that, of course, as well as that of Legolas, Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir, and whomever else you would have present from Ithilien and Eryn Lasgalen.”

“As that is the best I will likely get from you, it will have to suffice. For now. I reserve the right to reprise this discussion if I am not satisfied with the progression of the tribunal.” He shot an incensed look at his son and, with the barest minimum of civility, left the room.

“I am sorry, Legolas. I would not have put you in the middle like that if I could have avoided it,” Elessar clasped his friend’s shoulder briefly, feeling the tension in it with a pang of regret. Legolas shrugged and managed a rueful half-smile.

“I have been on the receiving end of Adar’s disapproval before, and doubtless shall be again. It was not your doing. He expected me to agree with him, but I could not in good conscience do so. We will discuss it later at length, I am certain.” Legolas’ expression was grim and the king winced in sympathy. Adult and leader of his own community though the prince was, Thranduil frequently seemed to see him as the elfling he had long ago ceased to be. It was a frustrating thing for Legolas, and he had Elessar’s complete sympathy.

“To change the subject completely, Gimli arrived a little while ago,” the king stated with a faint grin. Legolas’ face lit up, his apprehension about his upcoming conversation with his father almost disappearing.

“Now that is good news! I think I shall go pester him for awhile before I go see my Adar. If nothing else, Gimli can help me think of arguments to use.” With a parting clap on the shoulder, Legolas took his leave.

 

Legolas stalked through the halls of the Citadel, his expression as dark as storm clouds. His prediction to Elessar that he and his father would have a lengthy discussion had proven more than correct. What had started as a heated discussion had ended as a shouting match and Legolas had walked out. After walking off the worst of his temper, muttering curses in Sindarin, Silvan, the Common Tongue, and even a few in dwarvish inadvertently learned from Gimli, he had calmed enough to seek out the dwarf and request his company on a ride to clear away the rest of his foul humor. Gimli readily agreed and after a brief stop at the stables to collect Arod, they were out of the city and galloping across the fields to the distant trees.

 

Several hours had passed since Legolas had abruptly ended their argument, and Thranduil was beginning to fear that he had angered his son far more than he had originally thought. Arguments were not common between them, but neither were they unheard of and usually ended with one seeking the other out to make amends. Most frequently, it was Legolas who took the initiative and when he did not appear, Thranduil buried his pride and sought him out. His son was nowhere to be found. Swallowing his pride even further, he began to inquire as to Legolas’ whereabouts, again to no avail.

Eventually, he found himself at the king and queen’s private chambers. As it was nearing the dinner hour, both were in their rooms preparing for the evening meal. Although he felt more than a bit foolish, Thranduil asked where he might find his son with the utmost civility. He felt completely justified in his frustration with Elessar, but Arwen was another matter and he would not be discourteous to her simply because of his pique at her spouse.

“I have not seen Legolas since he left my study this afternoon, but I would hazard a guess that he is off with Gimli somewhere. We will see them both at dinner, I am sure,” Elessar stated in response to the Elvenking’s inquiry. “Gimli does not miss meals, even for Legolas.”

“Yes, I am sure he is in his room as we speak. If you do not manage to speak with him before the meal, you surely will afterwards,” Arwen added, placing a hand on Thranduil’s arm. “It will mend, you will see.” She smiled reassuringly at him, not missing the tension in him and shrewdly guessing the reason behind it.

“My thanks. I shall see you at dinner, then.” He bowed over Arwen’s hand and gave Elessar a brief nod before departing. The king and queen exchanged an exasperated look as they finished dressing for dinner.

 

Thranduil stood in the formal dining hall of the citadel, glass of wine all but forgotten in his hand. He had yet to catch sight of Legolas, and was beginning to become annoyed all over again with his errant offspring. It was not like Legolas at all to hold onto his anger this long. He frowned as he spied Elessar’s ally, Prince Faramir approaching him. The man bowed respectfully and addressed him in flawless Sindarin.

“King Thranduil, if you would please be so kind as to accompany me, King Elessar wishes a moment of your time. It is of the utmost importance.” The man gazed at him expectantly. Thranduil’s first instinct was to become even more annoyed but he caught himself, remembering that Elessar would not ask for anything trivial, and gestured for the prince to precede him.

 

Elessar’s squire was tying on the last piece of his king’s armor as Faramir and Thranduil entered the room. The Elvenking started, surprised to see his host in full armor and apparently ready to leave. Elessar sent his squire away with a kind word and further instructions before turning to Thranduil.

“I have been informed, since we last spoke, that Legolas and Gimli went riding beyond the city gates this afternoon.” He paused, visibly steeling himself. “The horse that they rode has come back alone. I am leading a troop out to look for them. Do you wish to accompany us?”

“Yes. I shall meet you at the gates.” Thranduil removed his robes, revealing the simple white tunic and dark trousers that he wore underneath. Elessar nodded.

“I have sent for your weapons. We will leave as soon as your assistant arrives with them.” The two kings exchanged a grim look, knowing that only something very grave would have unseated Legolas from his horse.

 

For an experienced ranger, it was a simple matter to follow Arod’s path back to the city. The horse had eschewed the roads, preferring the straightest route back to his stables. Once they reached the trees, it became appallingly clear that whatever had befallen Legolas and Gimli was no accident. Signs of a fierce struggle were readily visible. Utilizing his formidable skills, Elessar read the ground.

“They were confronted here,” he said softly, down on all fours and practically crawling so as not to miss a single sign. Legolas reigned in Arod, and tried to turn him here. The horse fell, spilling his riders. Gimli stood here, Legolas here, guarding each other’s backs. They fought, and Gimli was knocked aside, and rolled to here.” Elessar lifted some low hanging branches, revealing the prone figure of the dwarf. Swiftly, he knelt by his friend, searching for signs of life and breathing a deep sigh of relief when he found them.

After assuring himself that the dwarf’s injuries, while serious were not immediately life-threatening, the king of Gondor returned to reading the ground. “Legolas tried to fight his way to Gimli’s side, but was prevented. A net was thrown over him. He struggled, and was overpowered, then bound and carried to ….here.” Elessar straightened and swore furiously, staring at the ground at his feet. “A cart. He was placed in a cart and taken back towards the city.” He turned to the Elvenking. The elf’s eyes had turned to flint-hued ice, fury and fear warring for dominance in them. “We will find him,” Elessar stated with quiet determination, meeting the stormy eyes with great effort. Thranduil stared back for a long moment, and then nodded.

Gondor’s king swiftly arranged for three of his men to take the injured dwarf to the Halls of Healing, instructing them to relay his wishes for Gimli to be cared for by the queen’s brothers. He then turned back to the daunting task of finding Legolas. Thranduil’s hand suddenly shot out and grabbed his arm, startling him. The Elvenking spoke softly and rapidly in Sindarin.

“Elessar, I know well that you love my son as you would a brother and that you will do everything in your power to find him. However, if the ones who took him have harmed him, they shall pay for it and if he dies, so will they. I will slay them myself.”

The elf turned on his heel and mounted his horse, his attention focused on the tracks of the cart. Elessar stared at him for a moment, and then shook himself back to the task at hand. He would have a quiet word with Arwen about Thranduil’s outburst when they returned to the Citadel, hopefully with Legolas among them.

 

Legolas’ abductors proved to be much smarter than Elessar had originally given them credit for being. The cart had headed directly for one of the more heavily traveled roads to the city. Once there, it was impossible to track, save for searching all divergent paths to make certain that it had not turned off the road. It had not and the king was certain that his friend had been taken into his city. The prospect of conducting a thorough search of the city was a daunting one, and Elessar gave it much thought during the ride back to the Citadel. Grid searches, house to house, would likely be the best way. He rapidly calculated the number of men needed to conduct a search of that magnitude quickly. Too many, he decided. He would have to settle for raising a general alarm, search methodically the most likely places for Legolas to be hidden, offer a reward for information leading to Legolas’ return, and hope for a miracle.

Thranduil, for his part, had said nothing after his fierce words to Elessar. The elf kept his emotionless mask in place, listening intently as the king and his soldiers spoke back and forth, but making no effort to join in the conversation. His mind was solely on his son, and the deep fear in his soul that he would not see Legolas again. The Elvenking feared few things. Indeed after his long and wearing battle against the Shadow, after losing his father and brother, and as a consequence of that, his mother during the Last Alliance, and especially after losing his queen to an orc’s arrow, he had scant cause to fear anything as he had so very little to lose. Legolas was all the family he had left to him. Losing his son would be the death of him, he had no doubt. He had meant every word he had said to Gondor’s king. If Legolas were to die, Thranduil would slay the ones responsible for it before succumbing to his grief. After all, in that event, he would literally have nothing left to lose.

TBC, and I’m afraid I’m not going to be at all nice to Legolas or Thranduil in the next chapter. Elf owies ahead, you have been warned!





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