Elrohir, his armor smeared with black blood, and a long streak of red seeping through a bandage upon his arm, came near, leaping over the mouldering bodies of goblins as he came.
A tone of sadness lingered in the very air about him as Legolas lifted his eyes from the line of fallen Elves he and others of his kinsmen had gathered from among the dead. He glanced at Elrohir who, with a small, sympathetic smile slowed as he drew near and stopped, his own eyes lighting upon the scene that Legolas now turned his eyes back to.
A young Elf lay among the dead, hardly more than a boy he was, and no older than three hundred years. But for the bloody gashes crossing his chest, he could have been mistaken for one who was sleeping. His head was tilted to the side, his sightless eyes reflecting the shimmering crimson light that lingered in the western sky. His youthful face bore a look of such peace that it could only have reflected the serenity he had found at last in Mandos. Legolas mourned for him, for he had known the once outgoing youth, but sadder still he was for the boy’s father, who knelt beside his son’s body, gently holding his limp hand, his eyes gazing unmoving upon the lad’s face.
“Legolas,” Elrohir murmured once again, his voice subdued and heavy now as he placed the haft of Legolas’ lost knife into his hand. “I found it in-, what was left of the goblin the Eagle plucked off the mountainside.”
“Thank you.” Legolas muttered in a heavy voice as he hefted the knife’s comfortable weight in his hand, and glanced down at the once bloodied weapon, now shining again. Elrohir must have cleaned it off for him, for Legolas could see his somber countenance reflecting in the blade.
“Gandalf sent several of the Men from the Lake to search upon the slope where you told him you had heard Bilbo’s voice last.” Elrohir added in low tones.
“And?” Legolas ground out, hating the answer he awaited.
“One of the Men found him.” Elrohir managed a weak smile. “Weary and wounded, but alive. They took him to the tent where we have lain Thorin.”
“Ah, good.” Legolas breathed, sheathing his blade beside the other knife upon his back. “Come, my friend.” He said in a low voice to Elrohir, nodding at the grieving father who mourned over his son. “Let us leave them alone. None that I care for fell in this battle. I have no right to stay in such a hallowed place.”
Elrohir said nothing, but followed behind as the elf prince turned away, and strode across the valley toward a low hillock where a tent had been erected.
His father and Gandalf stood near the tent door, with Dain and Bard beside them. A short distance away, Beorn, still in his bear shape, was lumbering about, tumbling with his great forepaws, the bodies of goblins and wargs toward a growing mound where the Men of the Lake were preparing to set a torch.
Gandalf’s face was weary, and his arm lay in a sling. But as Legolas and Elrohir approached, his countenance visibly lifted, and he raised his uninjured hand in greeting.
“Hail, Son of Thranduil!” He greeted in the Common Tongue. “It is good to see you safe.”
“And you, Mithrandir.” Legolas returned with a widened grin, his eyes trailing over the Dwarf and Man, before returning to his father’s eyes. Dain had a cloth wrapped about his head where a spot of blood showed through. And Bard carried a long gash upon the side of his bearded face. Legolas’ father was the only other one besides himself, who had gone unscathed.
“I only now left Lhachion, Father.” Legolas muttered in the tongue of his birth, knowing the others need not understand.
“And what of his son?” Thranduil asked in a softened voice.
“Aldarohir was dead when we found him.”
Thranduil accepted the news with stalwart grace as he swallowed a sudden surge of emotion and nodded his understanding.
“Thank the Valar that I need not take the same news to your mother as Lhachion will, to his wife.” Thranduil muttered to the ground. “The poor lad.”
Dain and Bard, standing nearby, did not understand the exchange between father and son, though they sensed the weighted, underlying emotion beneath the words. Dain humphed softly beneath his breath leaning heavily upon his great mattock he had set upon the ground, and glanced thoughtfully downward.
At that moment, a flurry in the nearby doorway caused everyone to glance up, and Bilbo came tottering out, his nose as red as a cherry, and his eyes swollen and red. A small blanket he had wrapped about himself, as he shivered in his misery.
“Hullo, Legolas,” he muttered in a ragged voice that caught upon his words as he spoke, “it’s good to see you’re all right, at least.”
Wiping his sleeved arm noisily beneath his nose, he glanced at Gandalf, and chokingly managed, “He’s gone, now. Thorin is.”
With that, he turned, and tottered off down the hillock, his little blanket still wrapped about his shoulders while behind him, Gandalf, with Dain upon his heel, swept through the doorway of the tent to see for themselves the truth of Bilbo’s choked words. Elrohir and Bard followed behind Dain, their steps slower and subdued. But Legolas watched after Bilbo as the poor Hobbit staggered away, to slump down at last near the bottom of the hill, and bury his little face into his hands, mumbling softly to himself as he sat.
Thranduil had been the only other to remain outside the tent at Bilbo’s news, and now father and son stood alone before the door.
Legolas glanced at him, surprised to see wetness shimmering in his father’s eyes.
“Father?” He inquired, turning to him.
“I-,” Thranduil muttered, running a hand over his mouth, “It has never been as easy for me as it is for your mother, to express emotion. You know this but-,” he paused again, drawing in a low breath, “this battle, when you lead the charge, not once but several times-,” Thranduil gulped hard, visibly composing himself before he continued, “I have never been more fearful for you, nor so proud of you. Not since the day you were born, when I held you for the first time, and listened to you wailing for your mother.”
Thranduil chuckled softly, and Legolas joined him as his father tightened his jaw thoughtfully and glanced at the ground. “Less than an hour old you were, and already wise enough to favor her over me.”
“That could not have been so, Father.” Legolas cajoled gently.
“No, I lack her sympathetic nature. I know I do.” Thranduil added as Legolas began to shake his head. “But it is my hope that you understand that I love you no less than she does. You have been all that a father could ask for, my son. You have ever honored me with your valor and your nobility. No father could be more proud of his son than I am, of you.”
At these words, Legolas gulped hard, nearly overwhelmed as Thranduil set a hand solidly upon his shoulder, then suddenly drew Legolas close in a warmhearted embrace.
“Elrond’s young ward is a wise maiden, my son. I do not doubt but that she sees all that you truly are. Do not fear.” Thranduil gruffed at last, drawing back.
“What do you mean by that, Ada?” Legolas asked, calling him by the name for him he had not used since he had been a child.
“You know what I mean, Legolas.” Thranduil muttered with a smile as he swiftly blinked the moisture from his eyes. “You know.”
And at this, Legolas glanced away, his eyes falling upon the Hobbit huddled at the base of the hill. Though in his mind, he could once again see Lalaith’s smiling eyes. And in his heart, he understood his father’s words.