Ulmo found Nienna wandering her brother’s halls. He stole up silently behind her as she stood on a balcony, and placed his face close next to hers.
“Alone?” he asked.
“Always,” she replied.
“Maybe it is time we both walked accompanied by another. Our wanderings alone have taken their toll on our minds. Will you walk with me, Nienna?” Ulmo asked.
Nienna took a step away from him, strolling down the path. He followed and drew up beside her, looking at her expectantly. She still did not speak, formulating her answer in her mind.
“It depends,” she said finally. “On how far and how long you wish to walk.”
Ulmo’s un-webbed hand, clawed and scaled, but gentle, slipped into hers.
“From one end of the sky to the other, and to the end of the ages of Men,” he said.
Nienna’s face did not change from its serene expression.
“I will dwell on this, and return,” she said, and turned from Ulmo, her hand dropping from his.
“Very well, fair Vala,” Ulmo whispered, almost to himself though he knew she could hear. “The tide rises and falls on your decision.”
§ § §
Legolas prepared for his departure. He packed his belongings and, it seemed, he had to drag his heart with him and pack it, as well. His expression displayed neither sadness nor meloncholy, though Balved could sense his master’s displeasure at leaving all he had behind. He was silent as he placed the black and silver mail on Legolas’s body, his hands were swift and made hardly a sound as he bound and tied, buckled and cinched, tugged and fastened the many pieces of Valinorian armor to his master. At last he strapped the knives to Legolas’s back. His thoughts dewlt on the first time he had done this. And the second, when Legolas had proclaimed Balved his friend. He remembered the very first time he had ever met Legolas, when he had been a doorkeeper, and not a warrior. He sighed as he finished. Those days seemed so long ago.
Legolas’s steps seemed slow and dragging as he walked to his father’s quarters. He stopped before the wooden door, unlike the other doors in the palace, it was smooth, stained dark brown, one piece of wood. He put up is hand slowly, lethargically, as if in a dream. He did not want to knock, but he must. He must.
Thranduil’s door thumped softly. The King did not have to open it to know who was there. He rose from his table in the center of the room and went to the door. He pulled on the ornate handle, the only decoration on the thing, and stared into the eyes of his only son.
Legolas stood there, his eyes shining with unshed tears. He fell into his father’s arms, overwhelmed with his grief. They stood there for many minutes, one on the one side of the doorframe, the other across from it. One in the hall that would lead him anywhere in the kingdom, one in the room that was his home. At length Legolas pulled away from his father’s embrace.
“Farewell, my son,” Thranduil said.
“Farewell…” Legolas struggled with his words. “Thranduil,” he finished.
Legolas strode down the hall, his back to the King Thranduil looked after him, mouth open. Legolas had not said “father”.
§ § §
The Army was ready.
Sleep was ready.
Balved was armored and Aer was circling above the ranks.
They were ready.
Legolas exited the palace and leapt atop the white horse’s back, Balved quickly mounting behind him. The Elven Prince drew a knife with one hand, his other clutching tightly to Sleep’s mane. As the blood-red light overtook him, he cried out with a loud voice saying:
“Forth the Undead! Thus sayeth the King!”
“Thus sayeth Manwë! The Undead ride forth!” the cry from the army was a deafening roar.
Thranduil watched these happenings from his balcony above the heads of the army. He saw his son glow with bright color, and Balved behind him turn a white gold. He heard the sound from the throats of the Undead, he heard the cry of the gull who circled above his own head. He smelled the unfearing death on the wind, felt the chill of fear himself. But Thranduil, King of Mirkwood, was senseless and uneasy. The army began to move, Legolas at their head, leading the great army of the Undead to the northwest. Toward death.
Thranduil turned from these sights to his chamber. He strode to the table in the center of the room, the table that only a few hours ago his adopted son had sat at and eaten upon. The Woodland King sank into a chair and bent with his elbows on his knees, and his tired head in his hands.
§ § §
The Army tore over the land. Legolas had sheathed his knife and now concentrated on direction, holding onto the mane of Sleep, who’s rest had freshened him anew, and now aided him in his great speed. Legolas guided his army as straight as the land would allow, heading as much as possible as the arrow flies for the border between the northern lands and Helcaraxë, the Grinding Ice. Aer flew a little behind him, allowing the Prince to spur Sleep on toward the path of death, the pathway that the Elves might very well not make their way out of alive.