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A little Nudge Out of the Door - старонка 6

Mines of Moria, attempting to salvage relations between the wood elves

and the dwarves. Thranduil had waited for nearly a hundred years

before telling Legolas how his mother died; she had perished along

with two hundred dwarves in an attack by an unspeakable demon,

awakened by the dwarves’ careless mining. The dwarves still hoped to

dwell in Moria, but no elf would go there willingly. Thranduil often

regretted having told Legolas the truth at all, but his eldest son and

heir, Crown Prince Berensul, had insisted at the time that it was his

brother’s right to know. All the same, Thranduil had once heard the

servants remarking that Prince Legolas had terrible nightmares


He broke his mind away from these difficult thoughts and surveyed the

crowd again, milling in the rooms with their walls opened wide to

reveal the forest, which gleamed red and gold as the sun set. A number

of the competitors and their young friends had chosen this room as

their meeting place, and there was scarcely anyone there within three

thousand years of Thranuil’s age. He hoped he had not been too

distracted while speaking with Mithrandir, lest some of these

mischievous young ones overhear their conversation. Legolas did not

need his victory of the day being overshadowed by gossip over who his

bride might be. Especially when his father still could not bring

himself to admit that Legolas was ready to take one. 


Faron of Imladris, to his credit, had not been attempting to eavesdrop

while he waited for Prince Belhador outside the royal chambers. But as

they went to join their friends, they happened to pass King Thranduil

and the wizard Mithrandir just as they were speaking of Legolas and

Lady Narmeril, and specifically, of a “match.” There could be only one

reason why Merilin’s mother and Legolas’s father would have been

talking of matches on a day like today. Belhador stiffened in

astonishment, and it was all Faron could do not to freeze in his


It was not as if the talk of marriage was absent from this Gathering,

in fact, it was a matter of some importance every time. Participation

in the archery competition was limited the elven warriors-in-training

who reached a particular age during that century, and a novice could

only compete once. It signaled the second coming of age, when an elven

warrior was ready to completely take on the responsibilities of

adulthood--meaning they could begin joining war and hunting parties as

equals rather than novices…and marry. Any elves who made it through

the rigorous physical and disciplinary demands of warrior training

became highly eligible and much sought-after matches. And the

Gathering of Realms provided the greatest opportunity in any hundred

year period for the parents of noble elves in this group to meet and

discuss matches along with the business of Middle Earth. There were

always wagers cast (Faron had wagered a pearl on Princess Lalven and

Eregolf of Lothlorien), and it was a given that before the end of the

Gathering, some betrothals would be announced, hopefully to the joy of

all concerned. 

But Legolas and Merilin? 

When one thought in a practical way, the idea made sense; Merilin was

a ranking Lady of Mirkwood and well-regarded and proven among their

people, more than acceptable to the king‘s family. Legolas was a

prince and judging by his performance today, any elf lady would be

glad of a marriage to him. But as a friend of them both…the idea

seemed utterly bizarre. They were friends, yes, but their relationship

had never gone beyond easy camaraderie in the training fields and

halls of Mirkwood. 

When they were a safe distance away on one of the balconies, Faron and

Belhador turned to each other and exclaimed simultaneously, “Did you

hear that?!” 

Then they both paused and laughed helplessly. Belhador gripped the

sides of his head in amused dismay, “I had entirely forgotten that

Legolas would also be of marrying age now. I should have suspected

there would be offers to him, but…Merilin?” 

Faron had been thinking on it, and finally said, “I suspect this match

was to the mind of Lady Narmeril, rather than Merilin. I cannot

imagine either her or Legolas instigating such a thing. They do not

seem, er…” 

“Soulmates?” offered Belhador, and they began laughing again. “Poor

Legolas, he will be so mortified.” 

“To say nothing of Merilin,” Faron agreed. “We should place a wager on

which of them says no the most swiftly.” 

“It would be a tie,” Belhador laughed. “By Iluvatar, I am not ready

for this. I had not even considered who might seek a match to my

brother. My youngest brother, being offered marriages. These next two

days are going to be frightfully amusing.” 

“For shame, Brother,” Princess Limloeth had come up quietly while they

spoke. “You may amused, but Legolas will not be. Poor boy. Think what

an ordeal your coming of age was--how many offers had you before the

end of the Gathering?” 

“Four,” Belhador admitted, grimacing at the recollection. “None of

them even remotely tempting. For that matter, it has been centuries

since, and I still have not been tempted. Of course, I might have

received more if Berensul had been married by then, but he was not.

Most of the lords and ladies were attempting to foist their daughters

upon him rather than me.” 

“For which you are eternally grateful, I’ve no doubt,” remarked Prince

Berensul, walking up to them. “Why the sudden talk of matches? Has

someone received an offer?” 

“Can you not guess?” demanded Limloeth, looking disgusted. 

The Crown Prince of Mirkwood frowned thoughtfully, as though running

all the eligible young elves through his mind. Then his eyes popped

open. “No!” 

His siblings and Faron burst into laughter. “It has happened, I fear,

my brother,” Belhador gasped, wiping tears from his eyes. 

Lowering his voice to a delightedly scandalized whisper, Berensul

asked, “Legolas?” At their nods, he demanded, “Who?” 

Struggling to control himself, Faron grinned, “The Lady Merilin.” 

“What?! Impossible!” Berensul exclaimed.  

Affecting a pose, Limloeth replied, “Why not, Brother, she has rank to

recommend her, and she placed fourth in the Trial today. What

objection could one have to such a marriage?” 

“I object to incest, sister, and that is how it would seem,” Berensul


“You are right, my lord,” Faron agreed. “Indeed, I think that is why I

found the idea so disturbing in the first place. Legolas and Merilin

have been comrades in arms all throughout their training as novices.

We are taught that we are brothers in training. I do not know what

possessed Lady Narmeril to suggest such a thing.” He moved away to

peer back into the crowded hall and see if Merilin showed any sign

that her mother had broached the subject yet. 

Limloeth pulled a face, “Lady Narmeril’s skill at arranging

advantageous marriages for her daughters is will known. I suspect she

looked too closely at the advantages such a marriage would bring and

not at the drawbacks.” 

“Such as the very strong likelihood that both her daughter and Legolas

will be violently opposed to the idea,” Belhador observed wryly. “What

a relief that our father has at least been sensible on the subject of

our marriages. He would not push Legolas into a union without making

sure it was to his liking.” 

“I wonder how Father will feel when Legolas finally does choose a

bride,” Limloeth murmured thoughtfully. “He is his…he is the last,

after all. Father will be lonely without him.” 

Berensul’s expression darkened somewhat, “I fear for everyone’s sake

the day our father becomes lonely.” 

Just then, Faron came back. “Poor Merilin looks rather dismayed. I

suspect Lady Narmeril has told her of the offer.” 

“And very much like her reputation, Lady Narmeril doubtlessly made the

offer without bothering to determine her daughter’s feelings on the

subject,” Limloeth remarked, narrowing her eyes. “At least Legolas

will be done that much courtesy.” 

“Speaking of which, should he not be here by now?” Berensul observed.

The group looked around and could see no sign of Legolas in the crowd.

“He returned from the training rooms some time ago.” 

“Perhaps we should see what is delaying him,” Belhador suggested.  

“Go then, but Belhador,” Berensul waited until his younger brother

looked at him, “say nothing of the match. It is the king’s prerogative

to speak with him.” Belhador paused, but evidently agreed and nodded,

hurrying through the crowd to the hallway leading to the royal


He entered his youngest brother’s chamber and nearly groaned; Legolas

must have fallen asleep after returning from the Trial field. If the

newly-recognized warrior did not make an appearance soon, Thranduil

would come searching for him, and all the glory of Legolas’s victory

would be soured by his embarrassment. Like all elves, Legolas had a

desire for self-improvement, but the youngest of Belhador’s brothers

was perfectionist to the point of being obsessive.  

Belhador had taken Legolas on training exercises and hunts many times,

and could count the number of times in the past two hundred years that

Legolas had ever missed a shot. They stood out in his memory because

they were so few, and because Legolas would rebuke himself for weeks:

practicing endlessly and questioning his own skill. Belhador sometimes

worried about Legolas and knew he was not the only one who did;

Berensul had once confided his fear that if Legolas should ever make a

serious mistake, he might fling himself from a treetop. The sons and

daughters of Thranduil had all been taught that while failures should

be avoided, they should be accepted and learned from when they

occurred, and then it was necessary to move on. Legolas did not seem

to grasp the part about moving on. 

Speaking of which, if their father should arrive… “Legolas?” Belhador

made his voice nonchalant as if all were perfectly normal. “You had

best wake up and dress now. The banquet begins in two hours, and we

must show ourselves soon.” 

Legolas’s eyes focused immediately from the vacant stare of elven

sleep, and he sat up in dismay, “How long have I been asleep?” 

Belhador shrugged, “I’m not certain when you returned, but the sun is

down.” At his brother’s expression of horror, he laughed and said,

“Oh, be easy, my dear brother, everyone is so busy telling and

retelling every detail of your triumph that no one noticed you had not

yet arrived in person. You’re not yet late. Come, dress yourself and

let’s be going.” 

Legolas hustled into his formal clothes, (Mirkwood green and brown,

threaded with gold in a leaf pattern), and stood in front of the

mirror while Belhador helped him make himself presentable, asking

nervously, “Did our father ask where I was?” 

Belhador opened his mouth, but from behind them a voice said, “There

was no need.” It was Thranduil.  

Belhador paused from straightening his brother’s tunic and felt

Legolas’s shoulder go rigid under his hand. Again, he felt the urge to

groan. There was another odd thing about his youngest brother. King

Thranduil had treated all his children with affection when they were

very young, Legolas most of all. None could deny he had raised them

with strong principles, and had been a good parent, in spite of his

other shortcomings. Queen Minuial’s untimely death had not harshened

Thranduil as his elder children had feared, but the opposite--he had

become more protective of his youngest son. Belhador had never even

heard the king raise his voice to Legolas. So he could not fathom why,

out of all of them, Legolas seemed intimidated by their father.

Sometimes even afraid of him. 

Thranduil remained in the threshold and said, “If you please,

Belhador, I would like a word with Legolas. You may rejoin our


“Yes, Father,” Belhador said obediently, with a glance at his

brother’s reflection in the mirror. Legolas looked as though he

expected Thranduil to come down on him like a raging orc, though the

king never overreacted in such a fashion--at least not toward Legolas.

He knew it would do no good to speak to his brother with Thranduil

waiting, so he gave his father a smooth bow and departed the room,

praying this ridiculously minor incident would not put a damper upon

the entire evening. 


Thranduil spoke briskly and casually, as he had planned to bring up

the distasteful subject, “I was glad you had the chance to rest before

the evening. The banquet will doubtlessly run long , and I had feared

you would be tired from this morning. I was just coming to wake you.”  

He sensed his son’s intense relief at not being chided for sleeping,

and knew he was about to alarm him again, but this conversation could

not wait much longer. Narmeril would doubtless want to know what reply

Legolas had made before the evening was over. Remembering what

Mithrandir had advised, he kept his voice neutral, “My son, before we

go out, I must speak with you concerning a matter of some importance.”  

Legolas stopped fiddling with his tunic and turned to face his father,

giving him his complete attention. Thranduil closed the door behind

him and took a deep breath, “You are aware, of course, Legolas, that

at this Gathering, you have shown yourself not only ready for full

adulthood and battle, but also for marriage.” Legolas blinked--the

idea had obviously been an afterthought to this event. Thranduil said

blandly, “I have already been approached by the Lady Narmeril about

the possibility of a match between you and her daughter, the Lady


If there was one thing that would serve Legolas well in his royal

duties as a Prince of Mirkwood, it was his composure. But at this
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