The next morning Balved found himself summoned by Legolas. He went to the prince’s chamber and knocked on the door. Legolas opened it and let the boy in. Balved bowed.
“You called for me, Your Highness?” his usual curiosity getting the best of him.
“Legolas is fine, Balved. If you are to be my squire I want you also to be my friend,”
“Yes, Prin-, Legolas,” Balved said.
“Now, as your first act as squire, help me get this blasted armor on!”
Balved smiled and lifted the chainmail shirt off of the bed. He helped Legolas get it on, and began fastening the clasps.
“Do you have armor?” Legolas asked.
“I have leather armor that belonged to my father, see?” He parted the front of his cloak, revealing a close-fitting leather vest underneath. He let the cloth fall and began tying the black collar around Legolas’s throat. He worked in silence for awhile, and then spoke again.
“I pledge my life to you, Legolas. My father and mother came from Mirkwood, and though I have never seen it, I would fight for it’s prince.” Legolas smiled.
“It has grown less beautiful than the Greenwood it once was, but I hope for your chance to see it,” Legolas said.
Balved smiled, finishing the second wrist-guard. Legolas reached for his knives and quiver which were laid on the table. But Balved got to them first.
“Let me,” he begged. Legolas held out his arms and the young doorkeeper crisscrossed the sheaths across Legolas’s back, buckling and straightening them with deft fingers. He then took the quiver, and brought the leathers back around, fastening the buckle tight against Legolas’s chest. He stood back while Legolas fastened a black belt around his waist and put on his cloak.
“You are a warrior,” he whispered in awe as he surveyed his work. Legolas picked up his bow.
“Come, we must go down to the docks,” he said.
Rayn joined them on their climb down the mountain. King Yardan and the other members of the council met them at the stair-like foot. A crowd of elves had also gathered. Legolas in his silver and Rayn in her gold shone like the Lamps themselves. A murmur went up from the crowd.
Yardan stepped forward and placed a circlet of gold, set with emeralds around Rayn’s head, he turned to Legolas and placed one of silver, set with black stones, on his head. He backed away and bowed.
“I give you my utmost blessing, Elf-Prince of Mirkwood. May you return hastily, and may you bring back many!” The murmur turned to a cheer as Legolas, Balved and Rayn walked across the dock and stepped into the boat. Erindor dropped next to them from an above rope and proceeded to pull in the gangplank. Rayn waved at the elves on the shore, and the cheer turned into a roar. The anchor was lifted, and the ship took off, heading south to join up with a great fleet from Avathar. Legolas turned and walked across the narrow deck, followed closely by Balved.
“Ahh, a pleasure it is to be on the great water again,” Legolas said, smelling the salt and letting the surf spray his face.
“I have only been fishing here in small boats, never on a voyage,” Balved replied. “It amazes me that you crossed the Sea in a boat little more than a canoe,” he continued.
“It was supposed to take two, but my friend Gimli, Dwarf-King of the Glittering Caves stayed behind. I hope, when I finally get back to Helm’s Deep, that I see him again,”
“He is a dwarf?” Balved looked skeptical. “I have heard and read of them, and do not like what I have heard.”
“He is different. I spent a year traveling with him, and he beat me in battle, he was the best friend I had,” he sighed. “But the call of the Sea was stronger than any tie I had with anyone there, and so here I am,”
“Maybe that was for the good of all,” Balved said.
“Maybe,” said Legolas.
§ § §
The swift elven ships made short work of the leagues to Avathar. By the end of the second day they had reached the southeastern ranges of the Plenori Mountains. Erindor came to Legolas, wanting to speak with him. He found Balved at the door to the Prince’s cabin.
“Let me through,” he said.
Balved, though intimidated by the weather-beaten elf, stood planted in front of the door.
“I will announce you,” he said.
“I can announce myself,” Erindor tried to push past the boy. When Balved still didn’t move, Erindor lost his temper. He grabbed Balved by the shoulders an shook him.
“You little…” he didn’t get far. Legolas, hearing the commotion burst through the door. He gripped Erindor’s neck in his strong hands and shoved him against the wall. He growled menacingly in the Sea-Elf’s face.
“Touch my friend again…” he didn’t finish his sentence.
Releasing his grip, Legolas walked back through the open door. Erindor followed him, scowling.
“I wished to speak with you, Legolas,” he said, trying to keep the edge out of his voice. “To remind you that when we get to Middle-earth, then, and only then are you in charge. In Avathar and on the ocean I am Admiral, and everyone takes orders from me,” he finished, his voice dripping with an unsaid “challenge that”. Legolas sat calmly down on his bunk.
“That seems fair, dividing up the authority,” Legolas smiled mischievously. Erindor looked threateningly at Legolas. Turning around, he stormed out the door.
“What did you do to him?” he asked.
“I gave him not resistance, but a sarcastic joke, and he went away; mad, but he went away,” Legolas replied. Balved laughed.
“You are a wise one,” he said. Legolas placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“You will learn, and one day you will be as wise as I,” he said. A noise outside startled them.
“What could that be?” Legolas said to himself. He went to a small window in the little cabin.
Gulls wheeled around everywhere, crying and calling, their music pulled at Legolas’s heart, singing to him, whispering again their subtle, “Legolas, Greenleaf…”
He leaned against the wall, letting the cries of the gulls take over his heart and mind. A peaceful sound, but full of life.
“Master?” Balved said, puzzled.
“I am glad I came,” Legolas said, unhearing.
“Rayn said you were afraid,”
“What else did Rayn tell you?” Legolas said, still barely conscious of those things around him.
“I cannot, and would not say,” said Balved.
“As you wish,” Legolas said, still dream-like.
Balved sighed. His master was not listening to him, he could plainly see. He got up and went to the door.
“Let me know when you are next awake, Master,” he said. Legolas nodded. Balved smiled and shook his head, and let the door fall shut.
§ § §
The sun was almost below the horizon when they docked at Avathar. In the dim light Legolas could make out many piers and docks. Boats laid in the water or on the beach, along with fishing nets and poles. Erindor appeared as Legolas, Rayn, and Balved exited the ship.
“I will have a fleet ready by the day after tomorrow, be here that morning,” he said, and walked off into the darkness. Rayn began to walk toward the mountains.
“Come,” she called back to her comrades. “Erindor is clearly not going to help us find a place to rest, so we must find one ourselves.” Legolas and Balved followed her.
Rayn went on for awhile, through the peaceful lanes and streets in Avathar. No elf was about, save for the members of the crew on their ship, who hastened to their homes. Rayn stopped at the trunk of a large tree.
“What a treasure!” she exclaimed to herself, looking up. “Any one of those branches would make a fine bed!” She jumped up, and caught onto a branch. pulling herself up easily, she swung higher, searching. When she found a suitable place, she lay draped amid the branches, as at home as she could be.
Legolas, knowing much in the way of trees, followed. He, too, found a thick branch, and arranged himself expertly between it and the trunk. Balved climbed up as well, less gracefully than the others, and soon, though he squirmed some, he was settled.
The moon shone on them as though the Valar themselves watched. The elves lost themselves in their own dreams, eyes wide open, but minds elsewhere. The night was bathed in silver light and black shadow, most beautiful to behold. Somewhere a gull called the last, mournful cry of the night. Though he did not realize it, Legolas’s heart beat a little faster at the sound.