Daeron was quite sure he had once been a very personable elf. He had gotten along well with others, had many friends, and had rarely gotten into arguments. Of course, wandering far into the wilds made contact with old friends nigh on impossible, but it seemed his stint in self-imposed exile had also damaged his social skills.
The elves staring warily at him now didn’t seem taken in by his charms, such as they were. Perhaps I simply lost them to bitterness, Daeron thought unhappily.
The elves were a guard patrol who had found him near the fringes of the forest. He had entered Mirkwood with the intention of finding the city in which Thranduil held court, and at this moment it seemed that the best way to get there would be to fall in with this patrol. They were very wary of strangers, however, and even his smile and friendly, open greeting had done little to make an impression on them.
He sighed. “My name is Daeron, once of Doriath,” he told them. “Please, take me to King Thranduil.”
The King of Mirkwood looked pleased to see him, at least. “Daeron!” he cried, almost running from the doors of the palace to envelop him in welcoming arms. “I never thought I would see you again!”
Daeron smiled humourlessly as the King released him. “I became bored of solitude, and of wandering,” he said quietly. “I wished once again for a place to call home.”
“You shall call my home yours, if you wish it,” Thranduil said enthusiastically, drawing him gently inside the shelter of the large doors. “I would be so glad to welcome you.”
“Thank you.” Daeron smiled, a proper smile this time. He looked around curiously as they passed down the wide hall. “This reminds me of home,” he whispered, looking up at the vaulted ceilings.
Thranduil looked at once sad and slightly sheepish. “I think Ada wanted it to feel like home,” he said honestly. Daeron nodded. They said nothing else, and came swiftly to the King’s rooms. “Find Aryanor and tell him to have a guest room made up,” Thranduil told one servant, and instructed another to bring them food and wine. “Temporary accommodations,” he assured Daeron as they sat, “Until we find you somewhere more permanent.”
“You honour me by accepting me into your home so quickly.”
Thranduil laughed softly. “Daeron, I knew you for all of my childhood and more. Why would I not welcome you, old friend?”
Daeron smiled a little to himself. He had almost forgotten what it was like to be with others, others who knew him well, unlike all those he had ever encountered on the road. He had forgotten what it was like to be in the company of friends. A rush of warmth came over him, and he was suddenly very glad that he had chosen to come to Mirkwood over the other elven realms. Though he found it hard to admit, some small part of him had secretly feared that Thranduil would not remember him.
A few minutes later the servant appeared with the food and drink, and Thranduil and Daeron ate in silence for a few minutes. Daeron could tell that the King was bursting to ask him questions, but was politely holding his tongue. He hid a smile at that; the younger, more impatient Thranduil would have been unable to restrain himself.
“I expect you want to know why I came back,” he started.
Thranduil looked hesitant. “Only if you wish to tell me.”
Daeron shrugged. “It is no great secret why I left; but over time, slowly, through the pain, the hardships, the quiet moments and the solitude of the road, I learned about myself. I realized I was holding on to something which did not exist. Once I accepted that, I began to feel lonely, in need of other’s company, of stability and a place to call home. Thus I turned my weary feet back to the abodes of elves.” He paused, looking down. “It has taken a long time for me to know myself, longer perhaps than it should have. But I know now.”
They were silent for a while, Thranduil staring in silence at the table, Daeron quietly sipping a cup of water. “Well,” Thranduil said after the pause, looking back up at him, “You will always be welcome here.”
Daeron smiled. “Thank you.” He looked down at the table in between them. He could tell Thranduil wasn’t feeling quite as comfortable as he had when he started; but it had been important to tell him why he had returned. “Well, I think I have eaten enough,” he said, hoping that this would move them out of the room.
Thranduil nodded. “The room will be ready for you by now, I am quite sure. Please, come this way.”
The guest room was of fairly average size, but it was comfortable and had a warm, cozy feeling. There was no window, but it had a large fireplace with a few chairs scattered in front, and a large bed with a polished wood dresser next to it. A door led off the room into a small bathroom.
Thranduil had been extremely apologetic as he showed Daeron to the room. “It is small, and only temporary of course,” he had said once again as he opened the door. “Hopefully it will be comfortable for you, but if you should need anything, please…”
Daeron had laughed softly and turned, resting a hand on the King’s shoulder. “For all that you have grown, Thranduil, you still worry over such details between friends?” He smiled at the King’s sheepish expression. “This is more than I expected, truly. I am happy.”
Thranduil had nodded slowly. “But we will find you proper rooms,” he insisted, and Daeron hadn’t argued.
He had now been in Mirkwood for a total of two days, and most of them had been spent in this room. To his embarrassment, most of the first day he had spent sleeping. He had completely forgotten what it felt like to sleep in a bed, and such a comfortable one too, that he had indulged himself and spent the day resting. The second day he had discovered a large stash of books in the small bookcase, and had spent the day reading.
On the second evening Thranduil came to visit him. “How are you?” he asked pleasantly as they sat down by the fire. “Galion has looked out all the free rooms; we could go and tour them tomorrow, if you wish.”
Daeron thought about it for a second, and then nodded. Then he hesitated. “I do not have any furniture,” he said quietly. “I have very few possessions.”
Thranduil shrugged. “We can make you some more. Please, do not worry about any of that.”
Daeron hesitated. “Do others…do others not pay for that sort of thing?”
Thranduil shrugged again. “Yes. But…well, you have nothing. I cannot leave you having nothing.”
Daeron sighed. “I accept your charity, then?”
Thranduil grimaced and looked uncomfortable. “Well…it is more…helping a friend in need…”
Unexpectedly, the door swung open and both elves turned to look at it. In the doorway stood a young elf who looked very similar to the King, all long blonde hair and bright green eyes and straight, pointy nose. “Ada!” he said happily, and Daeron nodded to himself. So this is the King’s son.
Thranduil looked confused. “Suilaid, Legolas. What is it?”
Legolas blinked, glanced almost furtively in Daeron’s direction, and said, “Oh, Galion said something about broken wine bottles in the cellar. It seemed important, maybe you should come and have a look?”
Thranduil shrugged. “I am sure Galion can handle that. Would you like to come in? Daeron and I-”
“No, I must be going,” Legolas smiled, “Nice to meet you!” And then he was gone.
There was silence for a few seconds. “So, that is your son,” Daeron said softly.
“Yes,” Thranduil nodded. “He is…well, he is Legolas.”
The rooms that Daeron eventually moved into were quite far from the main thoroughfares of the palace, and Thranduil would as often complain about the long walk as he would tease Daeron about hiding from the world. In truth, Daeron simply found these rooms far more peaceful.
He’d received no more visits from the King’s son, and had had no reason to think about him until he was approached by the young elf one evening after dinner.
“Would you like to have a few games of chess with Ada and I in the library before you turn in, Daeron?” Legolas asked, very politely.
Daeron couldn’t decide if the politeness was hiding nerves or if it came naturally to the young elf. In any case, he nodded. “I would love to.”
Daeron had always been rather good at chess. King Thingol had been a good match for him, and they had spent many hours locked in gruelling tests of skill and ability. Neither Legolas or his father were quite so skilled, but they made more than acceptable opponents, and chatted so easily with each other that Daeron found himself saying little.
He was happier to observe, in any case. The changes in Thranduil were interesting, saddening and heartening at the same time. The young, innocent boy was replaced with a King with all the responsibilities of the world on his shoulders, but there was experience and understanding in him now as well. And the love of the people he ruled was clear to see.
His son Legolas was young, barely past his majority and full of youthful eagerness. He was lively and quick to smile, but could talk so well Daeron sometimes thought him older than his mere fifty seven years. The whole evening had been somehow brighter and livelier than most, and Daeron knew he could put that down solely to Legolas’ presence.
After a little while, though, he stood and said his goodbyes. He liked to walk through the palace alone sometimes; he had always done the same thing back in Menegroth, and it felt like he was getting to know the place as he walked slowly, taking it in.
He was almost back to his rooms when he heard footsteps behind him. Turning, he was surprised to see Legolas jogging down the hall after him. “Sorry,” the young elf said as he reached him, slightly out of breath, “You left your book behind.” He held out a small volume covered in green leather.
Daeron took it curiously. “Thank you but…this is not mine.”
Legolas blinked. “Ada said…” He glanced back over his shoulder. “Would you like me to take it back?”
Daeron smiled slightly. Thranduil was probably recommending the book to him. “No, I will keep it. Thank you again.”
“Well, I can recommend it,” Legolas said with a smile, “It is one of my favourites.”
Daeron flipped the book over and looked at the cover, but there was no title. “What is it?”
“Stories,” Legolas said, smiling, “About the First Age.”
Daeron looked down at the book. “About the First Age…” he said quietly. How funny that Thranduil would send you with that particular book. Is the boy I once knew cunning now too? he thought affectionately. “I am sure I will enjoy it. Thank you again.”
Daeron had taken a while to settle in to his surroundings. He didn’t want people to know who he was at first; the level of fame he seemed to have acquired as the tragic victim in Luthien’s story was disconcerting. Eventually, though, people stopped staring and felt more comfortable around him as the novelty of his appearance wore off.
He wouldn’t say he was sociable. In fact, compared to how he had once lived surrounded by friends, he was a recluse. But he talked to a few people, and now and again looked in on a few of the particularly gifted musical students. Thranduil presented him with beautiful new instruments of his own at nearly every Begetting Day he had, and then provided him with a cupboard to keep them all in as well.
So far, Daeron’s favourite was the harp.
It was a beautiful thing, carved from rosewood in a classical shape, with twisting vines curling in woodwork up the pillar and around the neck. Small animal faces peered occasionally from behind the strands of the wooden plants, and roses were carved here and there. It had thirty-four strings and sounded just as beautiful as the one he had lost many years ago, even if he had once thought that impossible.
He had asked Thranduil whether it would be possible to go out into the forest at all, and each time the King had looked nervous and refused to send him out without a guard in tow. Daeron usually left the guard in a clearing somewhere and took to the trees, spending hours sitting among the high branches, letting the wind clear his head and thinking about what he could put into song. He had not composed a song of his own for years; at first his hands felt rusty as he tried to scrape out a melody from the strings, and every composition felt worse than the last, the sheets piling up crumpled around his desk.
One evening, he found himself asked about his work by Thranduil over dinner. “It is not going well,” was all he said, and Thranduil simply grimaced and didn’t say anything more.
The next day, Legolas knocked at his door.
Daeron was surprised to see him. He and the Prince interacted a fair amount; he found the younger elf charming and endearing and good company. But Legolas had never sought him out independently before; they always conversed at formal functions or were in each other’s company while with Thranduil or other friends. That didn’t mean, however, that Daeron wasn’t happy to see him. “Good morning Legolas. How can I help you?”
Legolas smiled. “Today, I shall be the one asking that question, my friend! I have heard you go out into the forest occasionally.”
“To try and gather inspiration for my work, yes.”
“Good,” Legolas grinned, “Would you object to coming out with me today? I too love to walk in the forest in my free time.”
Daeron smiled softly. “I would be delighted.”
They set out mid-morning, and by mid-afternoon they had wandered a fair way into the forest, and further than Daeron had been before. Legolas didn’t seem scared or nervous within the trees as some others did; they were admittedly very close to the palace and the protection of the guards. Legolas had brought a small picnic, which he suggested they sit down to eat by the time it was late afternoon.
“Come,” he said mysteriously, “Follow me.”
He took a right turn off the path they were following, into the depths of the trees. Daeron followed him with slight caution. “I used to wander everywhere as a small child,” Legolas explained as he led the way, “I would drive Ada to distraction, always wandering off. But while I did, I found this…” He stopped and held back a curtain of vines, revealing a beautiful, shaded, perfectly secluded glade.
Daeron stared at it with wide eyes. “It is beautiful.”
Legolas laughed. “I thought so. It will be the perfect place for a picnic. Come.”
The glade was small, closely packed with trees on all sides. The vine covered entrance they had come from seemed to be the only way to access it. The grass was thick and lush and comfortable, almost like a carpet; Daeron laid down on it gratefully and stared up at the huge white clouds that rushed over the deep blue sky. “It is very peaceful.”
“I come here a lot, when I need to get away,” Legolas explained. Daeron could hear him rustling in the bag he had brought.
“Is it not quite a long way from the palace?”
“No, we are quite close here.” Legolas set a few wrapped parcels down on a cloth between them.
Daeron sat up and looked at him curiously. “I thought we had wandered quite a significant way from the palace. We have been walking nearly all day.”
Legolas’ eyes flashed with mirth. “We have been walking around the palace,” he said, slight mischief in his eyes. “In a wide circle.”
Daeron laughed, and took a stick of lembas from the spread in front of him.
Time passed fast in Mirkwood. All too soon Legolas seemed very grown up to Daeron; taking on princely duties and becoming responsible, a leader of men. He was good at it, but Daeron ached to see some of that youthful innocent being taken from him.
Three years had passed since Legolas’ two hundredth birthday when he sought Daeron out by himself again. The bard had never asked him why he hadn’t independently sought his company after their trip in forest; he assumed Legolas had become busy. They still saw each other, and Daeron was content with that.
Legolas found him in the gardens; or rather, sitting on the wide windowsill of one of the walkways that edged the gardens, one of the few parts of the palace with windows to the outside. Daeron silently invited him to sit with him, and they sat in comfortable silence for a long while.
“How are you?” Legolas finally asked after a while.
Daeron paused as he considered. “Well enough.”
“I heard you performed a few days ago.”
Daeron winced slightly. “If performed is the right word. I did not give a formal concert; simply played a little music in the Hall…”
Legolas smiled sadly. “I wish I could have seen it.”
They were quiet for a few seconds. “The next time I play,” Daeron said slowly, “will be when you are there. I promise.”
From then on, it seemed as if Legolas were always away, busy, on trips or visiting here or there. Daeron didn’t see him for a long while. Sometimes a year could go by without a sight of him. They were not exactly daily fixtures in each other’s lives, but Daeron found himself starting to miss the young Prince while he was away.
When he realized he had seen neither Legolas nor his father in a long while, he sought Thranduil out in the office the King seemed to have been locked in for the past few weeks. “Come in,” came the weary call from inside when Daeron knocked.
“I hope I am not interrupting you,” he said as he entered.
Thranduil was sitting behind the desk, a slew of papers in front of him. He smiled tiredly. “No- well, not really. Please, sit down.”
“You have been in here a lot recently,” Daeron commented as he sat. He gestured to the pile of paperwork. “Busy?”
Thranduil nodded. “Not for very much longer, though, thankfully. The party from Imladris will be arriving soon, and after that I will not need to be doing so much organizing and…” Thranduil gestured vaguely at the papers.
Daeron shook his head slowly. “I am afraid I really am becoming a recluse. I had not even heard there was a party coming.”
Thranduil smiled. “Have you been composing?”
Daeron laughed quietly. “For all the good it is doing, yes. I will admit it is a lot better than when I first started, but sometimes I feel I will never reach my previous standard…”
“Maybe you should let someone else hear these pieces?” Thranduil suggested. “You never know. You could be being too harsh on yourself.”
Daeron sighed and shook his head. “No, I do not think so. Anyway, perhaps you will hear something soon. I promised your son that the next time he came to a gathering I attended, I would play. I assume he will be attending the gatherings in the Hall once the party from Imladris is here?”
Thranduil smiled and nodded. “That would be good, my friend,” he said, a slight sly look in his eye, “We can showcase your musical talent.”
Daeron shook his head exasperatedly and stood. “You have not lost your rivalries, I see,” he laughed.
Thranduil scowled at him, and Daeron took his leave, laughing.
The party from Imladris arrived the next day. It turned out that Legolas had been part of the group responsible for leading them to the palace, which Thranduil seemed very pleased about. “Very good,” he explained to Daeron as they walked toward the gates. “Very proper, you know? Fitting, for the King’s son to greet the heirs of Imladris on their arrival to the forest.”
“The heirs?” Daeron queried. “Elrond’s sons have come?”
Thranduil nodded. They had reached the doors of the palace, which were being pulled open to allow them to pass. They paused for a few seconds as the great stone structures swung outward slowly. “It will be one of the few times I have met them. They are similar in age to Legolas, I think.”
Daeron smiled. “Does he know them well?”
“No, not particularly. I am sure they will be eager to get to know one another, though. Riding and hunting and sparring aplenty, I should think.”
They exited the palace to the bright sunshine outside, where a group of courtiers and guards were awaiting the arrival of the diplomatic party. “It sounds like they will have fun,” Daeron said as they descended the steps. “Is that all the Prince and Elrond’s heirs are expected to do while they are here? Will there not be scores of meetings and such?”
Thranduil sighed. “I would not say ‘scores’, but some.” He smiled, “Still, there will be time for fun and games.”
They said nothing more, as the gates opened then and elves on horses began to ride through into the wide courtyard. Daeron recognised Legolas’ bright head of golden hair, and the different colours of clothing that marked out the visitors from Imladris. Riding next to the Prince were two elves with midnight-dark hair, exactly identical and talking to him animatedly. Her descendants, Daeron thought to himself. They look like her, a little. And he found that the thought brought him no aching pain of longing, as it once might have done; only a small sense of regret, that she would never be able to judge her great-great-grandsons for herself.
Legolas rode up to them, flushed and smiling. “Greetings, Ada, Daeron,” he said cheerfully, nodding to both of them. “I accompanied the party from Imladris from the border of the forest, being there at the same time myself.” A happy coincidence, Daeron thought with a smile. Or not, knowing Legolas.
The young Prince introduced them to the members of the party, who were all pleasant and were welcomed warmly by Thranduil. As he had expected they might be, they all looked very interested in Daeron.
In the evening, Thranduil’s cooks had prepared a huge and delicious feast to celebrate the coming of the guests from Imladris. Daeron found himself seated on the High Table among the visitors and important personages, surrounded on all sides by people he did not know. He took a deep breath; this was probably an oversight on Thranduil’s part, seeing as he knew that Daeron was generally not as outgoing an elf as he had once been. He determined to make the best of it, and chatted as much as possible to the elves around him. Most were very interested in where he had been and how he had come back to live among the elves in Mirkwood.
Eventually the crowd moved through into the Hall, a large room with large fires in hearths around the outside edges. There were chairs and cushions arranged as seating and several servants wandered around with trays of glasses. Daeron took one and seated himself on a chair, sipping it slowly and glancing into one corner of the room. He had brought the harp down earlier in the day, and it now sat in a concealed corner under a silk cloth, waiting.
A few others began to play, someone on a lyre picking out a melody whilst someone on a drum gave him a slow beat. Daeron looked over at them just as a young woman he occasionally tutored picked up a flute to play an accompaniment to the tune.
Then he was surrounded by laughing and smiling courtiers, and the night wore on.
Eventually when things had died down a little, a familiar face sat down slowly beside him. Daeron smiled at Legolas as the young Prince looked slightly hesitantly at him. “Do not worry. I have not forgotten my promise. There has been no opportunity yet, unfortunately.”
Legolas cast a glance back at the crowds; Daeron could see the twin dark heads of Elrond’s sons, facing away from them, engaged in a conversation with someone else. “Do you like them?” Daeron asked, sudden even to himself.
Legolas turned back. “Yes,” he said simply. “They are nice.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Daeron knew he should say something, make conversation, and normally would have; but something held him back, though he could not say what.
Then Legolas stood. “Come, it is too loud in here. The atmosphere is wrong for music just now, I think.”
Daeron nodded, and followed him outside. The young Prince strode determinedly down the hallways and out to the front gates. “You wished to sit in the gardens?” Daeron asked him as he pushed open one of the huge front doors.
Legolas smiled slightly. “Not exactly.”
Guards looked warily at them as they approached the gates to the outside, but Legolas reassured them with a few quiet words and soon they were off, alone, into the night. The young Prince didn’t answer Daeron’s queries, simply kept going on smaller and smaller paths until he turned off and tramped through the forest. Having a feeling he knew where this was going, Daeron followed.
Sure enough, Legolas swept back a curtain of vines and there was the quiet, sheltered glade they had sat in so long ago. He went softly over the grass to the middle of the clearing, tipping his head back to look at the sky. “It has been a while since I have come to this place,” he said quietly.
Daeron followed him slowly and stopped a few paces away. “You have been busy.”
Legolas nodded, still looking at the sky. “Too busy even to take you up on your offer.” He tipped his head back down and looked over at Daeron with sparkling eyes. “Until now.”
Daeron laughed softly. “I did not even bring my harp.”
Legolas shrugged. “No matter.”
“No matter to you,” Daeron said, still chuckling, but he sat down on the grass, and Legolas sat down beside him. Looking up at the stars, Daeron was struck by just how much things had changed, but also by how much they hadn’t. Even now the whole of Doriath and Beleriand and all the people he had known were gone, he still found himself sitting out under the stars, about to start a song. He closed his eyes and knew which it was he was going to sing.
Stars are out of place,
Everything is new,
Everything is changed,
A child has to learn,
On his own,
You get too close to a bird,
And she'll be gone …”
It was so silent when he’d finished, Daeron felt something was missing. Then he realized; usually, there would be applause.
“It was sad,” Legolas said, very quietly, beside him. Daeron turned to find the young Prince looking at him with mournful eyes. “Do you still feel sad here, Daeron?”
Daeron smiled slightly, and reached forward to pat Legolas’ hand. “Young one, I am old, and from a land that is dead. I will always feel sad. But,” he titled his head slightly, “that does not mean I cannot be happy, too.”
The next time the twins visited Mirkwood was for Legolas’ four hundredth Begetting Day. They had become firm friends by then, and he was delighted to see them, and though definitely not the vain type, Daeron could tell he was secretly enjoying being the centre of everyone’s attention.
The feast and party laid on for the young Prince were all very much to his liking, and he was a most gracious receiver of gifts. Daeron hoped he would enjoy his own gift, though he was fairly sure he would. He had spent a very long time crafting it, surprising even himself with the amount of time and effort he had put into it, and with the result produced.
Legolas’ eyes were bright when it was Daeron’s turn to present his gift to him. He grinned up at him, quiet and politely waiting for him to speak, but looking so excited that the older elf couldn’t help but be put in mind of an overexcited elfling. He laughed quietly. “This is my gift for you,” he said, holding out the cloth covered gift.
Legolas took it gently, because from the shape it was already quite obvious what it was. He pulled off the cloth cover to reveal the beautiful harp Daeron had spent the past months creating. He didn’t say anything for a moment, just stared at it with wide eyes, and Daeron smiled. He didn’t need words; the look on Legolas’ face told him all he needed to know.
The harp was what would have been called a ‘folk harp’, small enough to play in your lap or on a table, and the perfect harp for a beginner. Daeron suddenly felt almost embarrassed as Legolas ran his hands over the carving of wild roses that ran up the sides of the soundbox and over the neck. Curling over the pillar were the words ‘I ‘Lîr En Êl Luitha 'Úren’.
Legolas looked up at him and they held each other’s gaze for a moment. The young elf’s smile was brilliant, and he must have understood from the look on Daeron’s that he already knew his gift was appreciated, because the first thing out of his mouth was, “Will you teach me to play it?”
Daeron did, in the end, teach him to play the harp. Legolas became very enthusiastic and rather good, spending a large amount of whatever free time he had practising and playing. His friends would all clamour to hear him play tunes in the Hall whenever they gathered together, and Daeron noted with some pride that his student had a natural grasp of the music coupled with a good technical skill that set him apart from other musicians.
Whenever he told him something like this, however, Legolas would always casually brush him off. “I am not as good as you, Daeron,” he would always say.
Daeron would scoff and say he had been practising for thousands of years, of course Legolas wasn’t as good, how could he think to compare himself? But Legolas would only smile, nod quietly, and continue to compare himself to his teacher. It was slightly infuriating, but also quite flattering that the young Prince held him in such high esteem.
Daeron had not seen Legolas for the past few weeks. Thranduil said he had gone out on a border patrol, and would not be back for quite a while. Where before he had only missed him a little, now Daeron found himself often wishing the Prince were here or thinking that he should show Legolas this or tell him that or remember to bring this up in a discussion with him. Sometimes he wondered at how quickly the young elf had stolen into his heart.
He would have met news of Legolas’ return with relief, had it not come as it did.
A young elf, a servant, came jogging up to him while he sat in a covered corner of the gardens, reading through a music sheet one of his pupils had written. He took on students more permanently now, and was encouraging them to nurture their talents as composers themselves. This student’s work had obvious bursting passion, but the technical accuracy was a little out and the key change in the fifty-third bar was deplorable. Daeron was just considering how best to amend the damage when the young messenger arrived. “Lord Daeron,” the boy panted, though Daeron had thought he had banned them from calling him that, “the Prince has returned injured, my lord. The King thought you would like to see him.”
A little cold hand of fear clutched at Daeron’s heart, and he stood swiftly. “Is it bad?” he asked the servant as they turned to head inside.
“Not particularly,” the boy said. He seemed fairly unconcerned, which soothed Daeron’s worry a little. “Just an arrow wound in the upper arm, and a fairly deep cut across the stomach. He should be fine in a matter of weeks.”
“A healer-in-training, are you?” Daeron asked wryly.
The boy blushed. “Well, the Healer said all that,” he murmured, looking at the floor.
Daeron laughed. “Do not worry,” he reassured his younger companion, “It is good you remembered.”
They entered the Healing Room a few minutes later, with the boy excusing himself at the door. Thranduil was sitting on a bed a near the end of the room, talking to Legolas who was propped up on a pile of pillows and looking fairly annoyed. “A whole month!” Daeron heard him exclaim, “I cannot believe it. A whole month!”
“Even you cannot heal in a day, my friend,” Daeron laughed, coming closer. Both father and son looked up at him, Legolas’ expression turning sheepish and Thranduil’s smoothing from annoyed to a slight smile. “Besides,” Daeron said before either could speak, “perhaps then you can learn with my other students how to write music for yourself, now that you are so proficient at playing.”
Legolas’ eyes lit up, and Thranduil laughed quietly. “I told you that you would find some way to keep yourself entertained,” he said quietly.
“Is it hard, to write your own music?” Legolas asked eagerly.
Daeron shrugged. “That depends on whether you like it or not, I suppose. I like it. Some of my students do not.”
The young Prince insisted that he start as soon as possible, so Daeron returned to his room to collect some books whilst Thranduil returned to his duties. The King caught his arm on their way out of the Healing Room. “Thank you for looking after him, mellon nîn,” he said quietly. “I hope he will be a good student.”
“He has been one of my best, so far,” Daeron smiled. “I am sure he will excel at this as well.”
Thranduil looked at him for a moment, a strangely confused expression on his face, and then nodded. “Well, have fun.”
Legolas picked up the basics of composition fairly well, though he didn’t make any outstandingly brilliant melodies in his first attempts. “You should not be discouraged,” Daeron told him. “Many are, and thus do not practise their craft; but abandon it, believing themselves to be incapable. Many start off as average, unoriginal, but become great.”
“Did you start off as average?” Legolas asked him with a slight smile.
Daeron smiled. “I did not write a piece aged twenty that moved people to tears, if that is what you are thinking.”
“You started when you were twenty?”
Daeron shrugged. “I started learning to play the flute when I was nineteen. I started the harp when I was twenty-eight. It is, I think, what convinced me that I would dedicate my life to music.”
Legolas looked away, smiling. “Your favourite instrument.”
“Well.” Legolas stood, “Forgive me, but I have had just about all I can stand of the little lines and dots, as interesting as they are. Would you like to go outside?”
Daeron nodded slowly as he cleared away the sheets of paper they had been looking at. “Did you have somewhere in mind?”
Daeron wasn’t quite sure when he’d come to think of it as ‘their glade’, but that was what it had become in his mind. They visited it often and spent long nights staring up at the stars, conversing or, sometimes, not needing to. It was a place that instilled a great sense of calm in Daeron. He had been trying to compose a song to dedicate to it for a long while now, but nothing quite seemed right as of yet.
Tonight was another beautiful, perfectly clear night and the stars were spread across the sky in gorgeous, spiralling patterns. They had stared upward for a while when Legolas said quietly, “I want to ask something, but I am not sure if it is too…forward.”
Daeron laughed. “Legolas, I have known you for a while. I cannot think of many things that would be too forward.”
“What I mean is, I think it might upset you.”
Daeron paused. “Legolas,” he said quietly, “Please, just ask.”
“I just…” Legolas paused for a long moment, “I wanted to know more, about…Doriath.”
There was quiet for a few seconds. “I do not think that would upset me, not anymore,” Daeron said quietly, “In fact…I think it would be nice. To share it. What did you want to know?”
Daeron laughed. “Really, anything? Shall I tell you what we ate for dinner each night?”
Legolas laughed a little. “How about where you were born?”
“In Menegroth, in the Healing Hall. I was born and raised in Menegroth, lived almost my whole life there. I spent my childhood years running through those forests, playing, chasing, we would climb the trees too. Sometimes we would go down to the brook…there were small fish, and in high summer the light would dapple the water, and you could only see the fish where the sunlight hit the water…” Daeron paused for a moment, hit with the weight of his memories. Tell him anything? There was so much. “Near the city the space between the trees was all grass, so thick and soft you could have used it for a bed, and do not think we did not. Many nights we spent outside, both as young children and as adults. I started learning to play my first instrument at nineteen, I told you that, yes? There was a clearing ringed by trees so tall they met over the space and formed a roof; we would hold outside concerts there, and weddings. I first played there, as part of a group. I performed there solo for the first time when I was sixty-three. It was the most nervous I have ever been in my life!” He laughed quietly.
“What did you play?” Legolas asked softly.
“The harp. A beautiful one I had, back then, though I have a lovely one now. It was a folk harp like yours, and the crown was carved like an eagle. I loved that thing, loved it dearly. I took it to the Mereth Aderthad with me…”
“You were at the Mereth Aderthad?” Legolas asked with wonder.
Daeron smiled and nodded. “Yes. It was very exciting, and very beautiful. The pools of Eithel Ivrin…They were like nothing I had ever seen. They were so clear! You could feel the power of Ulmo all around you, even I, who had never been to the West. There were so many people, and they all looked so different! You understand, I had never seen anyone who was not one of the Sindar or the Nandor before. These Noldor were so dark-looking, and so fierce!” He laughed quietly. “They were very intimidating at first, but they were very happy to see us. Ai, and at first their Sindarin was atrocious! But they learnt well, I must say. They tried to teach me some of their Quenya, though as you know that was soon outlawed. A pity, for I learned some very beautiful songs in their language which did not translate well…”
“Did you perform yourself?”
“A little. I was still quite young then, and unsure of myself. I was accompanied by my kinsman Mablung, whom I am sure you have heard of. He was always so adventurous; there was no doubt that he would accompany me. He encouraged me, nay, almost forced me to play something, though I was very reluctant.”
“Why?” Legolas asked, “Everyone hails you as the greatest musician of Endor, after all.”
Daeron laughed. “So I have heard. Well, I was still young and shy. Nay, I am still shy. Anyway, there had been so many wonderful performances; I felt I could never live up to anything anyone else had done. And I was so scared in front of all these strangers! And there was one, who I am sure you have heard mentioned, the son of Fëanor-”
“Yes. They all say I was the greater musician, but let me tell you, I did not feel it. He was so much older, so much more confident; the way he moved the music with such skill, it looked effortless.” Then Daeron laughed suddenly. “You know, so many people asked me what I thought when I first saw him. Usually I told them all of that. And you know, I did think all that. But do you want to know the first thought that came into my head?” He laughed again. “I remember thinking, ‘He is so much more beautiful than I am!’ Somehow, I thought that was more important!” He laughed again, hearing Legolas chuckle beside him. “You can see, I really was young. Very young.” He sighed. “But I was right on one score.”
Legolas leaned up on one elbow. “Oh? What was that?”
“I was always second-best in looks. He was a very beautiful elf.” Daeron shrugged.
“I do not think that is possible,” Legolas said quietly.
Daeron looked round at him, one eyebrow raised. The young elf blushed and swallowed, then looked away. “Did you know Lord Celeborn while you were there? And Ada?” he asked hurriedly.
Daeron nodded softly. “Both of them. Celeborn was near my age, but I remember your Ada as a baby, as a child, and how he grew to adulthood. He was a lively child.” He paused. “He was a lot like you, actually.”
Legolas smiled. “I remember Lord Celeborn said that once.”
Daeron chuckled. “He would know. He spent a lot of time with your Ada when he was growing up. They were close friends.”
They sat in quiet silence for a little while. Legolas seemed shy and embarrassed; Daeron hoped he wasn’t still thinking of what he had said earlier. Though now he thought about it, maybe he should be thinking more about it…He shook his head. Luckily, Legolas asked, “Did you sit like this, out under the stars?”
“Yes,” Daeron said quietly. “I remember when there was nothing but the stars. They are the first thing I remember, the stars above me. They looked different then; they were so bright, so much brighter than they are now. We used to stay out for hours and hours, for the whole night, lying in the treetops sometimes, just staring upward. Everything was so peaceful in those days, before the war, before Morgoth began to move…” Suddenly Daeron realized his throat was closing up, and there were tears on his face. “I wish you could have seen it, Legolas,” he choked out, “Everything was so-it was so beautiful-I-”
He felt Legolas softly take his hand. “I am sorry,” the young elf said quietly. “I should not have asked.”
Daeron shook his head violently, sitting up but retaining his hold on the Prince’s hand. “No, no, I should talk about it…I…it should be remembered.”
Legolas nodded, sitting up too and taking both of his hands. “Maybe you could do something…I do not know, a book or a song or something…to remember it…”
Daeron laughed bitterly, and felt more tears fall. “Oh Legolas, how I have tried. How I have tried to put my feelings into a song, to sing it all out…” He shook his head again. “I do not know if it will ever work.”
Legolas looked distressed. “I really should not have brought it up.”
Daeron squeezed both of his hands. “No, I enjoyed talking about it, really. Sharing…sharing some of my home, with you…as you have shared yours with me.”
They looked at each other in silence for a long while, unreadable emotions flickering over Legolas’ face while Daeron knelt, heart pounding rapidly though he could not say why. The silence felt heavy, intense, full, almost uncomfortable as it never had before. Daeron could not think what to say.
“Did you ever come back?” Legolas finally asked. “After you left Doriath…did you go back, before…”
Daeron shook his head. “Never.”
Legolas frowned. “I…I am so sorry…I-”
On impulse, Daeron pulled him close, into a hug. “Please, do not worry about me,” he said, close to the Prince’s shoulder.
The Prince’s arms rested lightly on his own shoulders. “If you insist.”
Daeron pulled back and stood in a fluid motion. “Come,” he said quietly. “I did enjoy tonight, no matter what you may think,” he said with a slight smile. “But it is getting late.”
Legolas took his outstretched hand and stood, and they started back into the forest. “I would hear more of it,” he said quietly, “If you ever want to talk about it.”
Daeron nodded. “I might just.”
When Daeron heard that Legolas was going to the Council Elrond had summoned in place of his father, some small fear nagged on him, deep in the corner of his mind. He escaped to the gardens and the peace he normally found there, but the feeling would not leave him alone. He was sitting restlessly on the wide windowsill where Legolas had once found him before when the young Prince approached again, slightly hesitantly. “Do you not approve of my going?” he asked softly, standing a few feet away.
Daeron sighed. “It is not that I do not approve,” he said, “But that there is something looming, something that I fear, that will involve you.”
“I do not know what, but I know something will happen to you, when you go to that Council. You…you will come back to me changed.”
A long silence hung in the air. Daeron cringed internally; the long silences had been growing between them, and he was old enough to know what that might mean. To know what it might mean, but have no idea of how he felt about it.
Legolas coughed and said hesitantly, “I will return, though. I can promise you that.”
“Can you?” Daeron looked up at him, finally meeting his eyes.
Legolas looked determined. “Yes.”
Daeron looked away first, looked out over the gardens with a heavy sigh. “I shall not forgive you if you do not.”
“I always have before.”
“This will not be like before.”
“Daeron,” Legolas said slowly, “I am only going to attend a Council. I have been to Imladris in the same way many times before without mishap. What makes you think it will be different?”
“Trust me. I…I can feel it.”
Hesitantly, Legolas came to sit next to him. “I do not want to leave you like this,” he said, almost whispering.
Daeron didn’t look at him. “Legolas…I said before, I do not disapprove. In fact, I want you to go. You need to go; this will be a journey on which you discover yourself. But I just…worry.” He laughed suddenly, laughed at himself. “Of course I do. I am a fool, after all.”
Legolas shook his head. “That is not true.”
Daeron shrugged, and then looked at the Prince. He was looking at him intensely, his eyes focused on Daeron’s. The musician shifted awkwardly. “When do you leave?” he asked quietly.
“In a few hours. I…I came to say goodbye.”
Daeron nodded. “Well…goodbye, then. Good luck.”
Legolas nodded, and they looked at each other for a long time. Daeron felt the incomprehensible urge to blush, and looked away. “You remember, you promised to come back.”
Legolas sighed, so quiet Daeron almost didn’t hear it. “Yes, I promise. I will.” One of Legolas’ hands twitched, almost as if to reach out…But it stopped, and the Prince got up from the windowsill. He turned and smiled down at Daeron. “As much as I would like to astound my friends with my compositions, I will leave my harp here. Will you look after it for me?”
Daeron smiled. “Yes. I will take good care of it. I promise.”
Daeron eagerly ate up all the information he could about the Quest, about the battles for Middle-earth, so much so that he almost missed all the news about the battle that took place in Mirkwood itself. He barely knew that Thranduil was leaving until the King came to him to discuss plans of what to do should their army fall and should Sauron overthrow the Kingdoms of Men and come to assert his dominion over the elves.
Daeron woke up in the middle of the night, terrified from flashbacks in dreams to the worry and sick fear he had once felt at the war against Morgoth, coupled with the new terror of this war they were embroiled in now. At times he would curse at nothing, feeling so small and so helpless, useless and completely unable to do anything. But most of all he would chew his nails and twist his hair over thoughts of the young, so very young, Prince of Mirkwood who was even now right in the thick of all the fighting and all the danger.
He promised to come back, was ever the mantra he said to himself, trying to quell the fear and the undeniable fact that a promise was just words; fate had a much, much stronger hand.
Daeron got into the habit of playing Legolas’ harp instead of his own; for some reason, it comforted him. He played through old songs, songs he had once learnt under the never-ending starlight of Beleriand, under the old trees of Doriath. Sometimes they brought all his sadness rushing back to meet him, though, and he would curl up in the dark at times and think of all those times his friends had not made it home, all those people he had never seen again. Even though many promised they would return, a treacherous voice would sometimes whisper, but he pushed it away stubbornly.
The news of the victory came on swift wings, one of the beautiful eagles who had ever been the bearers of tidings. The bird came to an exhausted landing in the courtyard outside the main gates, and was so exhausted from his flight that he had to be brought food and a long drink of water before he could properly give them the message they had waited so long to hear. Daeron was standing right next to the bird as he told his story, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Is Prince Legolas all right?”
And he knew then, of course. Or rather, he admitted it to himself.
The sky was a deep, dark blue, very nearly black. The stars were all out, shining brightly and proudly in their sky, unconquered by the previous dark. The wind moved softly and gracefully through the trees, whispering to itself in the growing dark.
Daeron sat in the middle of the glade, at peace, feeling intensely connected with the nature around him. He had brought Legolas’ harp with him instead of his own, and it rested on the grass in front of him, unplayed as of yet.
Today was the day Legolas was expected to arrive back home. Daeron knew he would be disappointed and perhaps dismayed that he would return home and Daeron would not be there waiting for him in the courtyard, but the musician knew he simply could have handled meeting him again in a setting like that. He needed calm. He needed time, to go slowly, to get things right.
Faintly, he heard footsteps through the trees behind him. His heart jumped into his throat, but he kept still, sitting on the thick grass. He heard the curtain of vines brush aside, heard the pause as the person stopped for a few seconds, then kept going. He turned his head slightly, just to confirm what he already knew.
Legolas looked puzzled as he sat down on the grass beside him. “You were not in the courtyard,” he said, his voice soft as a breath of wind.
“Sorry,” Daeron said, then winced at how blunt he sounded. “I could not…I did not know how…”
“Things have changed,” Legolas said simply.
Daeron nodded. Took a deep breath. “I said you would come back to me changed,” he said softly. Legolas nodded. “I did not realize…I, I too would change.”
There was a silent pause. “Change how?” Legolas asked, softly, ever so gently.
Daeron brushed his hand absently over the harp by his knees. “Here,” he whispered, handing the harp over. “I added something.”
Legolas took the harp and brushed his hands over it, examining it. “A new inscription?” he queried quietly, turning the harp to look.
It was a new inscription. Only two days ago Daeron had carved the words in curling script onto the back of the soundbox.
“Linnon am meleth vîn,” Legolas read quietly. He looked up. They looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment. “I thought you would think it odd,” Legolas admitted in a whisper. “I always felt like a child next to you.”
Daeron smiled. “There are no whys and wherefores for the heart,” he whispered softly.
Legolas smiled, so wide Daeron thought he must hurt his lips. “I have never heard anything of which I am more glad,” he whispered softly, moving to kneel before Daeron and taking his hands. “I feel I have so much to say. So much has happened to me. Like you said, I discovered myself. The true depth of my courage. But I realized…my heart was here.” He smiled down at the harp. “And I think, when I asked you to take care of my harp, I meant…”
“To take care of your heart,” Daeron finished. Legolas nodded, slowly.
Daeron kissed him then, softly, and felt strong arms hold him tight the way he always knew they would. The stars wheeled in the sky like Daeron’s thoughts wheeled in his head, and the night seemed to go on forever.
A year passed, and the tumults of the world settled. Daeron learned that his beloved’s heart was called to the sea, and that he wished to go away to settle in Ithelithen and make a garden, and to replenish and make green the white city of Gondor. But he lingered here in the Greenwood, for he would not depart until Daeron came with him.
Daeron climbed to the highest branch he could reach in the tallest tree he could find, where he had a great view over the softly rolling heads of the trees. He had always thought it looked like a storm-tossed ocean.
The sea had never called him before. Always he had been tied to the trees, content to wander under their leafy shade and find peace with the calm and the age of the tall, stationary beings around him.
But that was before, before he had opened his heart to a young Prince who was so full of vibrant energy that one mere year of being his lover had stirred Daeron’s placid, contented heart to move with the passion to see more, to reach out and touch some new, other world. He had not told Legolas yet that he wanted, like Legolas did, to move to Ithelithen and Gondor and make that life together; but he did.
He just needed to say goodbye to the trees first.
After a long time, he moved from the tree and sought Legolas in the one place he knew he would always find him. The vines covering the entrance to the glade were dotted with small white flowers as he pushed them aside, smiling to see the golden-haired Prince already spread-eagled on the grass.
He sat up as Daeron came closer. “I brought this, as you asked,” he said, holding up the harp.
Daeron nodded and took it out of his hands. “I wrote something,” he said simply, and sat, drawing the harp to him. He forestalled Legolas’ question by running his fingers softly over the harp strings, and then slowly constructing his melody.
When the music had taken shape, he softly began to sing;
“Man eneth lín?
It is written on the wind,
O man dôr túliel le?
One that has gone away,
Under the stars,
Where once was home,
I felt alone,
Until I heard you say,
Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo
The stars blessed us that day
For I am an old heart,
And you are a young soul,
Melin ceni hin lîn síla i 'eladhach
I hear your voice on the wind,
Saying to me,
Goheno nin, ni quorya,
In sorrow, while you are gone,
And I will be with you until the end.
Le no an-uir nîn?”
Legolas had a small smile on his face. “It is a mix,” he said slowly, “Of Sindarin and Westron.”
“Naturally,” Daeron said with a smile. “We shall soon be speaking such, no?” When Legolas looked at him in surprise, he said, “I want to go to the Land of Men with you, Legolas.”
Legolas looked ecstatic and shocked at the same time. “Truthfully?”
“Yes,” Daeron laughed, “You have stirred this old heart, young thing. You have me wishing for adventure once again.”
Legolas smirked, and said with a wink, “Melin ceni hin lîn síla i 'eladhach.”
Daeron kissed him softly, and said against his lips, “Linnon am meleth vîn.”
I 'lîr en êl luitha 'úren (The song of the star enchants my heart)
Linnon am meleth vîn (I sing for our love)
Man eneth lín? (What is your name?)
O man dôr túliel le? (From what land do you come?)
Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo (A star shines on the hour of our meeting)
Goheno nin (Forgive me)
Melin ceni hin lîn síla i 'eladhach (I love to see your eyes shine when you laugh)
Avo acheno (Don’t look back)
Hebo estel (Have hope)
Le melon (I love you)
Goheno nin, ni quorya,(Forgive me, I’m drowning)
Hain ú-‘rogon, (I do not fear them)
Le no an-uir nîn? (Will you be mine forever?)