Knight Takes King: Part VIII
Author: Muse

Chapter 8 -Homecomings

Legolas had his body stretched in the exact position across the same stone slab he found Akasha resting on the previous night, down to the hands neatly folded over his stomach and eyes sealed behind closed lids. His mind was wrapping itself around the memory of last night, of the kisses they shared. It had been the only thing he was able to think about all morning, although he had not tried to think of anything else. For Legolas, at that moment there was nothing else he wanted to dwell on more than the memory of kissing Akasha

If he concentrated hard enough, he could feel her lips against his. He had kissed many girls before, but could remember none with lips as giving as Akasha’s. They crushed under his, yielding completely against his. He remembered the taste and warmth of her mouth and the sweetness that lay inside, the way her breasts felt crushed against his chest, the way her body felt in his arms. He recalled her scent and reaction to every little newness he introduced her to. He committed every little detail of the night to memory, for he would have to wait a whole week to see her again.

He had not seen the party off that morning. He met with Laistlin and Jamila in the halls as they headed out and bid them a safe journey, but he did not say good-bye to Akasha. They had said their farewells last night in the privacy of her room as he kissed her one last time. They had both agreed not to see each other in the morning. He would have followed the party out of the woods, as he had followed Akasha many times when she traveled through Mirkwood. But he knew not what time Tehran was due, or when King Baraldil and his daughter would arrive. He had already missed the first counsel meeting with the King from the south, and wished to not repeat the mistake. The only reason his father had not acted so harshly that time was because of the tidings he bore.

Legolas breathed in deep, still detecting a lingering scent of the Heedorian princess his heart had grown fond of, but there was another scent as well…one that was even more familiar. Opening his eyes, he turned his head as Salorien approached the slab. She climbed up next to him and sat with her feet dangling over the side, her eyes trained on him.

They stared at each other for several minutes, neither blinking nor wavering, as if each were studying the other’s train of thought. It was Salorien who finally broke the silence first.

*You seem very satisfied with yourself,* she said with no malice or contempt in her voice. *I do not remember the last time you looked so at peace.*

*I do not remember the last time I felt this at peace,* Legolas answered.

*You are not worried that they will not make it safely from the woods?*

Legolas shook his head, slowly rocking it back and forth against the stone slab. *Akasha is strong enough to fight, and I do not think the Steward of Gondor or his men would let harm befall the group.*

*And you are not the least bit saddened that Akasha has left this place?*

*I shall see her again in a week’s time.*

Salorien continued to study her friend. She was trying to be patient and Legolas knew this. He also knew it was only a matter of time before her curiosity got the better of her. He waited, unflinching until again, Salorien gave in.

*Are you going to tell me what happened last night, or am I going to have to beat it out of you?*

Legolas grinned a bright smile that could have rivaled the sun. *Nothing almost happened, for I was close to heeding your warning. And while I do not wish to betray the beauty or the secrets of what transgressed last night, let me simply say the feelings I have for Akasha are returned.*

*Are they indeed?*

The faintest traces of smiles appeared on his lips, drawing the corners up. *Never in my existence have I felt this way about another. It is very peculiar and yet… I feel as if we were linked.* He turned his eyes back to his best friend. *As impossible as it sounds, I feel that we are paired souls.*

Salorien stared at Legolas, but it wasn’t the same studious look as before. It had been a long time indeed since he had showed interest in the opposite sex, other than for the occasionally physical pleasures. Not since they broke up over six centuries ago had the prince even remotely come close to handing his heart to another. She wanted to be happy for her friend’s newfound interest, but she feared this could be worse than the solitary life he was living.

*You know as well as I that is not possible. She is a human. There has never been such a thing as paired souls between humans and elves,* she remarked.

*I know that, but perhaps that is because it has merely never happened before now. I can find no other way to explain how she would be able to not just tell I was near in the woods, but to know it was me every time,* he explained.

*Legolas, it is not possible.*

*But what if it is?*

*It is not,* Salorien insisted, but even as she spoke she could tell her words were barely--if at all--getting through to Legolas.

His mind was already made up and set in stone with the decision. Nothing she could do or say would make him think otherwise. *Salorien, you have to promise me you will not tell a soul about this. Not until I have discovered for certain what is between Akasha and myself.*

*As you wish, but if you take nothing else I say with you take this… watch your heart. Make certain you do not place it foolishly into the hands of one who is not true.*

Legolas sat up and placed a tender kiss on Salorien’s cheek. He would have hugged her as well but the approaching footsteps caught both their attention, and when Tehran appeared at the garden’s archway, Salorien was off the slab and running towards him.

*Tehran!* she shouted before throwing herself into his open arms.

Tehran, eldest child of Thranduil and heir to the throne of North Mirkwood, enfolded Salorien into his arms, clutching her body tightly to his. He knew he had missed Salorien, but did not realize how much until he saw her face. He did not realize how much his arms missed being around her, until he held her close to him. His lips found hers quickly as they shared many successive kisses. For a moment both of them forgot about Legolas, who approached his brother and waited patiently for the greeting to end.

*Legolas,* Tehran embraced his little brother. *Father tells me you have done a fine job in aiding him in my absence. Should I be worried?*

Legolas smiled softly. *I have no wish to overthrow you as of yet.*

Once Tehran released Legolas his arms found their way around Salorien’s slender waist once more.

*Father also tells me that there have been trolls sighted and had I arrived a day earlier, I would have been in the company of the princesses of Heedor… one whose life was saved by your very hand. According to Father, you two were all but inseparable during her stay here,* Tehran commented, giving a smile that could only be translated to brotherly pride.

*They were with us for just over three weeks,* said Legolas. *It appears that trolls are not only in the north part of the woods, as well.*

*Yes, Father informed me that several have been spotted in the southlands. King Baraldil is to arrive shortly?*

*Yes,* Legolas answered.

*Then come, let us enjoy our time together until his arrival. I would like to hear all about the three daughters of Heedor…especially the one who was able to stomach your company for a full three weeks.*

With one arm snuggly around Salorien’s waist and the other draped across Legolas’ shoulder, the three of them made their way deep into the garden.

* * * * * * * * *

Nothing could ruin the blissful mood Akasha was in as they returned to Heedor. Not even the impending punishment she was sure her mother would decree could erase the sense of elation that had been with her since last night. She was sure her mother would ground her, but that didn’t matter to Akasha. In fact, for her it would be well worth it: if she had never ventured into Mirkwood three weeks ago, she never would have been attacked, and she never would have come face to face with the elf she deemed her guardian angel.

Boromir rode next to her when they first departed the beautiful city of the Northern Sylvan elves. He tried to hold a conversation, but she paid no attention to his words. Her mind was focused on Legolas’ kisses, and would not stray to anything else. Eventually, he gave up trying to engage her and rode ahead to converse with Laistlin.

Her first kiss...she wondered if all of them would be that magical, that perfect, or if that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Surely they would all be as spectacular. Laistlin and Alexandor had been courting for well over a year, and her sister still maintained this far away look whenever she had been in Alexandor’s company. The only thing that threatened the complete bliss Akasha was feeling was the knowledge that she would have to wait a whole week before feeling his lips on hers again: a whole week without looking into the deep blue depths that were his eyes, or seeing the sun stretch its rays through those golden locks, or--even more appealing--not seeing him by the shade of the moonlight.

Never had she seen a more beautiful creature than the way Legolas looked last night, bathed in the light of the moon. She wasn’t sure how long they stood out in the garden kissing, maybe minutes, maybe hours. It felt like eternity but still was not long enough. They had retired to her room, as the party began to break up. There they continued to talk until the moon stretched lower in the horizon and began its final decent into slumber for the day.

He kissed her one last time, his lips so soft against hers. His hands held hers gently, securely in his grip. She curled up into bed after he left, not even bothering to remove the gown. When she was awakened a couple hours later by the handmaidens, a violet flower with a yellow center lay beside her on the pillow. She had placed the flower in the inner pockets of her tunic, and the smile had been on her lips every since. She knew that once she got home she would have to monitor her behavior. By nature, she wasn’t a happy child; if she began smiling for no apparent reason, people might become suspicious.

The gates to Indolien lay open as they approached; if any had known of the danger Akasha and Jamila had faced, they hid it well. Other than the occasional greeting and bow they received in passing, nothing was out of the ordinary. The odd looks they did receive were directed not at the princess, but at the strange four men accompanying them. Some of the women and men working in their yards stopped to watch them; once they road passed, the Heedorians immediately began to whisper.

It wasn’t until the castle came into sight that the reality of what was about to happen foreshadowed Akasha’s mood. Upon seeing Alegria stroll through the palace gates, two other guards at her side, the smile returned as bright as before.

She let Jamila down first, who promptly ran towards the lady as fast as her legs would carry her. Akasha was not too far behind, sliding from her saddle before Brontus had come to a complete stop.

“Oh my dear, I am so pleased to see you well. We were all so worried about you,” Alegria hugged Akasha, clutching her to her bosom as if afraid to let her go again. When she finally pulled her away, she cupped her face in her hands and studied the niece she loved as a daughter. There was so much she wanted to tell the girl.

Laistlin came next, giving her aunt a quick hug. Moving much slower and more graceful than her two sisters, already Alegria saw the future queen in the girl before her. She had always hoped when the time came, these two sisters would come to power as her and Relgan had, but with each passing day, she knew the chances of Akasha becoming the Protector of Heedor grew slim. And as she watched the approach of the men from Gondor, hope faded even more.

Every since Akasha was a little girl, it had been Alegria’s hope she would follow in her footsteps. For the whole of her life, Akasha had done just that. But now, Relgan was changing everything: she no longer wished Akasha to lead the life of a warrior. And if things went as planned, that life would be lost to the child. Alegria had fought hard for her apprentice, but in the end, the queen would have the final say as to the fate of her daughter.

“Aunt Alegria, I would like to introduce you to Lord Boromir, Steward of Gondor,” Laistlin announced when the man was close enough.

He offered his hand as if he wished to place a delicate kiss on the outstretched hand, but Alegria wrapped her hand around his forearm, the traditional greeting of soldiers.

“Greetings, Lord Boromir, and my thanks for baring my nieces safely through Mirkwood. Come,” Alegria gestured forward with her arm. “The queen awaits you all in the drawing room.”

* * * * * * * * *

Legolas almost fell out of his seat, which would have been hard to do for any creature, but especially an elf.

*Are you alright?* Tehran questioned, observing the startled way his brother was looking at Baraldil’s daughter.

*Yes, it is just… her eyes.*

Baraldil, along with a handful of other southern Mirkwood elves including his daughter, Calarhen, sat at the round table in Thranduil’s council hall. The elves from the south were different in appearance to their northern cousins. Unlike the blonde elves of Thranduil’s kingdom, the south elves had a light bronze hue to their hair, a mixture of blonde and brown. It was believed the southern elves that resided in Mirkwood were a result from the union of the northern Sylvan elves and the Gray elves of Rivendell. They had characteristics of both, but belonged to neither.

Legolas had seen the southern elves before, but as Calarhen sat across from him, he was once again staring into the golden orbs of Akasha’s eyes…but they belonged to someone else.

*It is not polite to stare little brother,* Tehran teased. *Even at a creature with eyes as lovely as hers.*

It was on the tip of Legolas’ tongue to respond, but it was neither the time nor the place.

“Welcome, Lord Baraldil,” Thranduil greeted, switching to the common tongue.

There were as many different dialects for elvish, as there were elves. Even in Thranduil’s long life, he’d yet to find a race that spoke it the same.

“I wish we could be here under better circumstances,” Baraldil stated.

“As do I, but perhaps this is the nudge we need to unite our people.”

Baraldil nodded. “The young girl that was attacked…where is she now?”

“I am afraid you have missed her,” Thranduil answered. “She and her sisters left this morning for their home.”

Baraldil frowned slightly. “That is too bad. I would have liked to talk to her. She is the first to have been attacked by a troll for quite some time.”

“You may be able to converse with her yet. Heedor has an annual spring festival in a week. I thought perhaps you and your daughter would like to accompany us when we attend this year,” Thranduil suggested.

“I would be honored.”

“In the interim, Legolas was the one that… brought the young girls here. He fought the trolls, perhaps he could answer some of your questions.”

“It must be a brave thing, fighting off five trolls,” Calarhen stated, her eyes boring into Legolas. “I hear they are fierce opponents.”

“By the time I arrived, there were but two left. Akasha had slain the others.”

Calarhen’s eyes widened a bit. “I thought these were young girls?”

“Young by our standards, but we have learned that Lady Akasha is not the average girl by any race’s standards, save maybe her own,” Legolas answered.

“Perhaps over dinner Legolas can indulge us about his encounter,” Baraldil said with a slight smile. “Although I believe your son is being modest. He has already developed a sound reputation for his bravery.”

Legolas remained silent, concentrating on not blushing, a task that grew increasingly difficult under Calarhen’s unwavering gaze.

“Is there an idea of where the trolls are coming from, or why they are choosing now to reappear?” Thranduil asked.

“I do not know if the evil is limited to Mirkwood only,” Tehran stated. “According to Lord Elrond, there have been orcs and ogres sighted near Rivendell. It seems as if an evil is creeping back into the world.”

“Evil has always been here; it has merely been lying dominant for hundreds of years.” Baraldil pointed out. “I do not think I need to remind you of Smaug and the battle with the orcs after his destruction.”

Legolas for one would never forget that battle; it had been the first one of his life. It had also been the one in which he was near mortally wounded. There by the grace of the gods and the healers did he manage to live to tell the tale.

“We must decide if now is the time for action, or for caution,” Baraldil stated.

“I see that we can ill afford to let the trolls once again get a foothold in Mirkwood. Action is needed. What we must decide is what action to take.”

Nods of heads around the table let Thranduil know his words were those in the hearts of others. His eyes scanned the faces of all the elves there before coming to his sons. A great well of pride went through him at seeing his two children at the table, taking part in the fate of their home.

“We must first determine how great in number the trolls are,” Legolas announced.

“Agreed,” Tehran backed his brother. “There is no sense in blindly going to fight an enemy we know little about.”

Baraldil nodded. “We should double our scouting teams in both the north and the south. We should also try to discover their lairs.”

Again, heads nodded around the table. Ideas were tossed out and the elves of Mirkwood began to devise a course of action that would once again render their woods a safe haven.

* * * * * * * * *

Boromir and his men followed Laistlin and Jamila, who walked behind Akasha and Alegria. If the wound in her thigh was bothering her at all, she did not show it. She walked proudly next to her aunt as if she were one of the guards that trailed the group.

“How angry is mother with me?” Akasha asked, actually becoming concerned for the first time since Legolas’ lips touched hers as to what her punishment would be. She had a moment of panic when she thought her mother might prohibit her from attending the spring festival; but as she hardly attended it in the past, that would not be a fitting punishment. Perhaps it would be to attend them, which would be no punishment at all, as she would get to see Legolas…even if it were from a far.

“She was very worried about the two of you,” Alegria revealed.

Akasha said nothing. Her mother had never worried about her a day in her life; she saw no reason for her to start at that moment.

The trip to the drawing room was not a long one from the entranceway, and the door was already opened in preparation for the party’s arrival.

“Mama,” Jamila again took off at a run and wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck as she was lifted into the queen’s embrace.

“My precious, precious darling. Are you alright?”

“Yes mama,” Jamila answered.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes mama.”

The girl was lowered to the ground as the queen approached the rest of the party. Her eyes fell on Akasha with a look that could only be akin to disappointment in her eyes. She did not ask her middle child how she faired, nor did she address her in any manner.

“Lord Boromir, I presume,” Relgan approached the man, extending her hand.

Boromir took it lightly, kissing the back as he bowed before the queen.

“It is a pleasure to make you acquaintance, your Highness.”

“Please, rise son of Gondor. It is I that am in your debt for returning my daughters to me this day. You must be tired after your journey.” Relgan clapped her hands and out of the doors on the side of the room two male servants appeared. “Show Lord Boromir and his companions their quarters.”

The servants bowed to the queen, turned and bowed to Boromir before gesturing for the group to follow them out the door.

“Laistlin, why don’t you take Jamila to the kitchen. The cook has prepared a tray of cookies for your return,” Alegria suggested.

Akasha gave a soft internal sigh. She knew this was coming; she had just hoped she might have a moment or two before the boom was lowered upon her.

Laistlin closed the door behind her, giving the best reassuring smile she could to her sister. Alegria took her place behind the middle child of Relgan, as if she was the girl’s commanding officer and standing trail along side her.

Relgan walked over to the window and gazed upon the courtyard below before turning to her daughter. Akasha stood stiffly with her head held high, bravely waiting to face whatever punishment Relgan deemed fit to dispense. She had a strong will and an indomitable spirit. It was something Relgan never nurtured, but greatly admired in her daughter…which perhaps made what she had to do even harder. She did not wish to break the girl, and prayed that her indomitable spirit would see her through.

“What you did was inexcusable,” she began. “You not only put yourself in danger needlessly, but you endangered the life of your sister as well, a life you are supposed to protect. You are almost eighteen years old, Akasha. You are too old to run off into the woods playing.”

“But I do not go there to play,” Akasha defended.

The look her mother gave her not only silenced the rest of the protest that was on her tongue, but it made her wish she could swallow back the words that had been spoken.

“I suppose this is partially my fault. I let you go on like this for far too long. You must learn responsibility. I have said this for years but instead of enforcing it, I have been lenient on you…but it ends here. You are not a warrior or a soldier, but a princess with responsibilities. And you must act accordingly. As of this moment, your training is suspended.”

A look far beyond terror crossed Akasha’s face. When she had thought of the punishment she might receive, never in her worst nightmares had it come close to what was playing out before her. “I know it was stupid and foolish of me to take Jamila into the woods, but please-”

“There are far more important things for you to learn than the skill of a sword. Heedor stands on the threshold of war with Eriador, and you must learn that your place is not with your aunt on the battlefield. You are destined to be more than a simple warrior.”

“But I do not want to be more than a warrior. Since birth I have trained to take Alegria’s place, or to fight by her side. You cannot take this away from me now. Please, Mother, it is all I have.”

“The decision has already been made. Until the festival, the city is off limits to you. You are restricted to the castle and its grounds only. Is that understood?”

Akasha was too stunned to speak. All she could do was stare at the woman before her as tears formed in her eyes.

“Is that understood, Akasha?” Relgan repeated forcefully.

The girl before her jumped, but ever defiant, did not answer. Instead she threw open the doors and ran from the room. Tears streamed down her face as she fled down the hall and up the stone steps to the safety of her room. Once there, she barely shut the door before flinging herself to her bed, her face shoved into her pillow to muffle the sound of her sobbing.

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