Birth of a Faerie Tale: Part II
Author: Sheela

There was indeed some stew left for them, along with fresh bread and some dried meat. Legolas ended up sitting on a barrel that stood at the wall – at Patel's instruction of course. There was simply not enough place for twelve people at the table, the elf had to understand. Legolas had just smiled and nodded understandingly, sending Aragorn a knowing look. But since Selah treated him with a loaded bowl of stew, a big piece of meat and more bread than he could eat the elf was not unhappy with his situation.

Shiara, the pair's daughter had actually gathered the courage to come down from her hiding place; she was now sitting on her mother's lap, staring at the strangers with big eyes. She wasn't much older than five or six years, with blonde braids and a chubby face.

Dinner passed with a flow of pleasant chatter, all depressing thoughts as far away from the minds of the members of the fellowship as possible. Patel talked mostly to Gimli and Gandalf, speaking about everyday business and trade with the dwarves – even though he said that they hadn't heard for a long time from the band of dwarves that returned to Moria. The hobbits entertained them all with some of their very descriptive stories – they were simply a folk of natural born storytellers.

Merry's tale about how he all alone – with a little help from Pippin – managed to save the entire village of Hobbiton from a malfunctioning firework that he had found on Gandalf's wagon had Frodo and Sam, who had been present then, holding their sides with laughter. The grey wizard sent Merry a dark look; his memory of the event seemed to differ slightly from the hobbit's version. But Gandalf couldn't hide the treacherous twitch that played around his lips – the story was just too well `interpreted' and Frodo's and Sam's laughter was highly contagious.

Just once during the evening Pippin's constant chatter steered dangerously close to the reason for the fellowship's journey and their destination. But several kicks against the hobbit's shins and a few well placed steps on his large toes under the table had him quickly redirect his conversation – even though he announced later with a pout that would soon need some kind protective clothing for his feet since they seemed to be the main aim for uncalled fits of violence.

After they had eaten and even the hobbits' hunger was satisfied Selah gently pushed her daughter from her lap and set to wash the dishes. Sam volunteered to help her and after a few repeated kicks from the gardener to enforce his suggestion Pippin also agreed to join them, silently muttering under his breath once more about protective measures and unnecessary violence.

Legolas, still sitting on his barrel, had followed the exchange with amusement when he realized that he was being watched. He turned to see Shiara standing a few steps away in front of him, staring at him with wide brown eyes. Obviously curiosity had won over shyness. The elf smiled friendly at her and inclined his head.

"Hello, netharwenamin," he greeted. "You are Shiara, right?"

Then girl nodded slightly, still staring at Legolas with a serious statement on her face. Then she put her thumb into her mouth and started chewing her nail.

"You're an elf, right?" she suddenly asked around her finger after a few minutes of scrutinizing.

The elven prince smiled and nodded. "Yes, I am. My name is Legolas, it means Greenleaf in your language, netharwenamin."

"What does this 'nessa when a mean' mean? And why do you keep calling me that?" the girl asked sharply.

"Netharwenamin," Legolas corrected her pronunciation gently. "It means `My young Lady.' It's a title for you and I think it fits you. Don't you like it?" Legolas asked.

"I don't know..." Shiara mumbled, uncertain. She sniffled loudly and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand.

The elf looked up from his conversation with the girl briefly and caught Aragorn watching their exchange. The ranger cast him a short grin. It was hard withstanding the young girl's charm and her sweet directness. Legolas smiled back at him; he liked children very much for their honesty and innocence, and this one was no exception. But the elf's thoughts were interrupted by another question coming from his observer.

"Is it true that elves like to kidnap human children, take them into their dark, evil woods and there cook them?" Shiara demanded with a grim look.

Legolas raised an eyebrow in surprise. Where had that come from? He cast Aragorn a questioning look but the ranger merely shrugged – he was just as flabbergasted as the elf at the question.

"Who said something like that?" Legolas inquired.

"My grandma," the child explained. "She told me the story of a young girl who wandered too close to a forest after it had grown dark. The elves who lived in the forest came riding on their black horses of living wood and captured her. They carried her deep into the forest where they killed and cooked her. The elves ate her flesh and made shoes out of her skin and ropes of her hair."

Legolas sighed inwardly. Such tales were the underlying cause for much hatred between the different races. Somebody would make up a gruesome story about the atrocities of another folk and pass it down from generation to generation. So fear, mistrust and hatred were built up and once created they were hard to impossible to kill. The girl's father was an example of such things. People weren't born hating each other, they were taught to.

"So is it true, Master Elf?" Shiara demanded again. "Are all elves evil like my grandma said?"

"No, netharwenamin it is not true," Legolas answered, looking at the girl intently. "With the elves it is like with the humans and all other creatures on Middle Earth: There are good ones and there are unfortunately also some bad ones. But because one bee has stung you that doesn't have to mean that they are all evil, for they still give us their sweet honey. Do you understand?"

Shiara nodded thoughtfully. By now, Aragorn, Frodo and Merry were listening intently to the elf's words. The rest of them were still doing the dishes or engaged in conversation with the farmer – even though he kept sending the pair long side glances, for he too was half listening in on their conversation that was becoming more and more interesting.

Once again the girl spoke up, with yet another question – all former shyness was long forgotten and she was standing directly in front of the elf, her arms crossed in a demanding gesture. "But then why did Grandma tell me that story? Surely she wouldn't lie to me!"

"Maybe she didn't know it any better, netharwenamin. Did your grandmother ever meet an elf?"

Shiara shook her head, sending her two braids flying. "No. But she told me that the father of her friend once saw a band of elves riding by when he was still young, so she knows a lot about them!" She stated with all the innocent conviction that only a child could hold. Aragorn fought to contain a grin. Yes, so the grandmother knew a lot about elves.

"And my grandma is a wise woman because she's really old and knows everything." The girl said proudly.

"And how old would `really old' be, netharwenamin?" Legolas asked her.

"Really, really old! She's over fifty years old, almost sixty!" Shiara explained, nodding seriously. Legolas nodded his assent in tune with her, his face perfectly serious.

At the table the people who were listening into the talk were fighting hard to keep themselves from laughing out loud. Aragorn had turned eighty some years ago and Frodo was fifty years old, so they both counted for `really, really old' by the girl's definition, a fact that Merry found highly amusing.

But if the two `really, really old', then what was Legolas? The elf was well over two thousand five hundred years old! The hobbits admired Legolas' ability to keep a serious statement in this conversation and Merry vowed to find out how he did it – this might prove handy in some situations.

"Ah, I see. Really, really old," the elf consented with a perfectly straight face. "Well, as to the story your grandmother told you, I don't think it is true. Maybe somebody heard something about a girl wandering into the woods where elves lived and he embellished it with a little too much creativity. And when your grandmother heard the tale, she believed it to be the complete truth just like you did, netharwenamin."

Again Shiara nodded thoughtfully; Legolas' explanations sounded logical enough and seemed to make her reconsider some of the things she knew. The elven prince decided that perhaps such a discussion was becoming a little too demanding for a five year old, so he opted for something new.

"While I cannot be sure if it is based on the same facts as is your grandmother's tale, my folk has a ballad that is very similar it. If you want me to, I could sing it to you, netharwenamin, and you can decide for yourself if it is true or not."

A smile spread over the girl's face and she nodded eagerly. "Yes please, I'd like that very much, Master Elf," she said.

"So, come here." Legolas patted his knees, indicating her to sit on them. Shiara hesitated for a moment, then took a deep breath before she let the elf pull her on into his lap.

At the table Patel looked up sharply from his conversation with Gimli and Boromir and tensed visibly. He had been watching the elf's actions carefully and with distrust for the entire evening. To see his only daughter sitting on the stranger's lap didn't sit well with him. With a grim look he slowly let his right hand travel down to the club that was leaning beside him against the stool, ready to strike out at the elf any second, should he dare to harm his child. Worried by the farmer's reaction Aragorn touched the hilt of Andϊril hanging at his side, and saw Boromir do the same.

Feeling the sudden tension in the room, Legolas looked up from the girl on his lap and glanced shortly at Aragorn and Patel. After an extremely brief look, he returned his attention to Shiara, pretending that nothing was amiss.

"This is the tale of Equona, the girl who went to live with the elves in the woods."** With that Legolas began to sing, his low, rich tenor filling the room with ease. The tune was sweet and soft and soon Shiara was beaming at the sound of it. But she wasn't the only one enchanted by the song. All other activities in the room stopped, the men interrupted their conversation, and Selah put the dishes down, all eager to hear the elf sing.

The ballad was about a young girl named Equona who was lost in a forest after her parents had died in an accident. A band of elves found her and took her with them to their hidden village. Equona was adopted by an elf and grew up in the forest among the elves, knowing nothing of the hardship of humans; her life was peaceful and she had everything she could ask for. As she grew older she fell in love with an elf from her village, and they married. Legolas sung of how the couple played in the white snow of winter, lived in the blossoming trees of spring, kissed underneath the stars in the warm summer nights, and danced among the multicolored leaves of autumn. As the years passed Equona aged more and more, as humans do, while her husband Galen remained young. But no matter their appearance, nothing could surpass their love for each other. Eventually Equona died and Galen buried her in the forest, so that she was forever part of it. The sky wept for days and the winds and leaves whispered of the woman that had lived in their midst that was no more. Their grief was all- consuming and did not end for years.

Legolas sang the last part in his own language; it sounded beautiful even to those who didn't understand it. Of the twelve people in the farmhouse, only Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo were able to understand what the elf sung. Galen had grieved terribly for Equona for he loved her more than anything else. Without her he could see nothing of the beauty in life and he lost all hope. Everything reminded him of his lost love, and so he built a ship and set sail to the Undying Lands in the West. But the omniscient sea he sailed upon knew that not even the eternal bliss of Valinor would be able to make Galen happy again after the death of Equona. So the sea sent a storm that capsized Galen's ship and the elf drowned in the deep ocean, allowing him to reunite with his Equona in death.

The last note of the song lingered in the room for a moment, and seemed unwilling to leave. After it had ended, there was only silence; even the crackling of the fire seemed hushed. Nobody said a word for a long time, awed by the elf's voice that had filled the room moments before. Even Aragorn who had grown up among elves and knew of their talent for singing was momentarily enchanted. Sarah had tears running down her cheeks, Sam was fighting back tears of his own, and Aragorn thought he saw a suspicious-looking glittering in the corners of Gimli's eyes.

Shiara, still sitting on Legolas' lap, was staring at him with wide eyes and her mouth was slightly open. Then she started clapping and the magical silence in the room was broken. Patel shook his head as if clearing it from something unwanted. His statement, which had seemed almost serene moments ago, turned grim as he hardened himself once more, calling the hatred he held for elves back into his mind. But the people around him were oblivious to this transformation.

"That was so wonderful!" Shiara exclaimed, hugging Legolas spontaneously. "Thank you, Master Elf!" He smiled softly at the girl's enthusiasm.

"She's right!" Pippin confirmed. "It was great, Legolas!"

"Yes, it really was, Mr. Legolas!" Sam wiped his eyes furtively with his sleeve.

Legolas smiled at the compliments and mocked a bow. "Thank you, friends. It was my pleasure to sing for you."

"Where did you learn to sing so well, Master Elf?" Shiara asked, still full of questions.

"We elves are a musical race, netharwenamin. If you think me a skillful singer, you should hear a professional elven musician – they can enchant you and make you forget everything but their voice."

"Oh, would I could hear them one day!" the girl exclaimed.

"The gods may prevent that!" Patel grumbled, drawing their looks on him. "Bewitched songs from a bunch of worthless root-eaters about trees and stars that make good and honest people forget their work. Really!" He spat and caused everybody to shut up immediately.

Shiara just stared at him without replying, knowing like any young child that whatever her father said about anything was the unbreakable rule, regardless of her own opinion. The members of the fellowship looked around uncomfortably; the formerly serene mood in the house had been broken and tension hung heavily in the air once more. Even Gimli, their `main communicator' with the farmer didn't know what to say to lighten the mood. While the dwarf did generally share the man's opinion about songs about trees, wind and stars, he had, if he was being honest about it, profoundly enjoyed Legolas' performance and was incensed at Patel's harsh words about it. The hobbits looked enraged, Merry was clenching his hands to fists at his side.

Worried, Aragorn looked at Legolas. The elf's race had been terribly insulted and it wouldn't surprise him if the prince would now pursue revenge and attack the farmer to defend their honor. But Legolas did no such thing. Unmoving, he sat on the barrel at the wall and merely looked at Patel with an unreadable statement, seeming to consider his actions. When he finally moved to stand, the farmer grabbed his club again, ready to defend himself. Sensing a fight, Aragorn felt for his sword for the second time that night, and saw Frodo and Boromir do similarly; Gimli seemed unsure what to do and which side to choose.

But Legolas surprised them all. Instead of attacking, he bowed slightly and spoke. "It has become late and I believe we're all very tired from our journey up and down Caradhras." Looking at his companions shortly, he raised a hinting eyebrow.

Frodo was the first to understand and yawned grandly, nodding in agreement. Following his example Gandalf also yawned heartily.

"Oh yes, very tired," the wizard mumbled. Infected by their friends, the three other hobbits had to stifle yawns as well, more or less successfully. From there, it spread until everybody in the room, with the exception of Legolas and Patel, was yawning. Aragorn fought to hide a grin, as they were a real picture: nine fully grown men (or hobbits, dwarf, woman and wizard), with their mouths standing wide open.

Legolas grinned openly before he nodded gratefully at Frodo and Gandalf, and then continued. "So, if you permit, I will go to sleep now, for my bones are weary and I long for a good night's rest. Good night to you all."

"He's right, I dare say," Gandalf agreed. "I think it would be best if we all headed to bed; we shall continue our journey early tomorrow morning. Good night, my friends."

Legolas smiled before he picked up his cloak, pulled it tightly around his shoulders. He walked out, closing the door silently behind him.


After the elf had left, Patel visibly relaxed and they all busied themselves with preparations for the night. Selah set up a comfortable nest for the hobbits, consisting of several blankets and pillows under the roof. It looked so inviting that after thanking the farmer's wife for it several times the foursome practically collapsed on it; within minutes, they were sound asleep in the one and only true hobbit fashion: as one heap of blankets, cloaks, bodies, curly heads and furry feet.

As the sleeping arrangements were made in the warm house, Aragorn couldn't help but think of his elven friend in the barn. He could hear the wind howling outside and the rattling of boards. Inside the room the fire was slowly dying down, still emanating a pleasant warmth that would keep them comfortable throughout the night – while the wind was whistling through the small holes and slits in the wall of the wooden barn, bringing a chill to the bone of its residents. The only reason that Legolas was out there now were the prejudices that their host held against the race of the elves; the race that Aragorn had grown up with, the race of those he called foster father, brothers and his beloved. It wasn't really fair that he, who'd been Estel among the elves for longer than Patel had been alive, should sleep here in the warmth of the house while Legolas was hosted no better than an animal.

Finally coming to a decision, the ranger sighed deeply. Calling himself several kinds of a fool, he grabbed his pack, he pulled his cloak around himself and headed for the door.

"You can have the bed, Boromir," he called over his shoulder before walking out the door without further explanation. The warrior of Gondor frowned but didn't ask for anymore reasons. The other human generally knew what he was doing, and Boromir certainly wouldn't complain about having a more comfortable bed for the night than a bench next to the fireplace.

Aragorn hurried across the courtyard towards the barn, the cold wind pulling at him mercilessly even on his short way. The barn door creaked loudly as is was pulled open only wide enough to let the man slip inside quickly. Looking around briefly at the pathetic accommodations, Aragorn wondered yet again why he was doing this – Legolas certainly wouldn't have asked him to. Sleeping in a drafty barn when could be lying in a warm, soft bed was simply insane. Yet when he saw his friend, the son of Arathorn knew that the decision was the right one. The elf was standing next to Bill the pony, stroking the animal's mane, whispering soothing words quietly to him. Legolas' pale elven skin and his green and grey cloak shimmered in the dimmed light of a single candle that was standing on a small ledge; every now and then the light would reflect in his blonde hair, making it look like pure silver.

When he heard somebody enter the elven prince turned around abruptly, ready to defend himself. Recognizing Aragorn in the semidarkness, Legolas relaxed visibly. However, he still frowned.

"What are you doing here?" he asked sharply.

"This is a free land of Middle Earth. Every man is entitled to sleep where he wants to, you know," Aragorn replied easily, opting for a light tone. Slowly, he walked closer to the elf who was still standing next to the fellowship's pony.

Legolas narrowed his eyes dangerously. "This is insane, and you know it, Aragorn," he hissed. "Go back into the house. You'll rest far better there."

"I'm perfectly capable of choosing my sleeping place and company by myself, thank you, my friend. I know what I'm doing," the ranger answered seriously, stopping only a few feet away from the elf. "Go on and keep playing the martyr for the elven pride if you must, Legolas. But don't expect me to just stand by and watch it. I owe the elves just as much as you do so I'll do what I must to honor them – even if that means sleeping in a lousy barn with an arrogant prince who won't recognize a gesture of friendship even if it hits him square across the face." He gave the elf a hard stare.

Legolas looked aside, rebuked. "Forgive me and my harsh words, my friend," he mumbled. "I appreciate this gesture very much." After a pause he looked up at Aragorn again. "You don't have to do this for me, you know?"

Aragorn's features softened and he gave a small smile. "I know. But, believe it or not, I'm not only doing this for you. I do this for myself as well." Closing the distance between the two of them, he clasped the prince's shoulder. "Come now, Legolas, let's rest for the night. We're both weary from our travels, and the hay does look surprisingly soft and inviting."

Legolas nodded his approval and after a last pad for Bill they slowly wandered towards the huge pile of hay, Aragorn lighting the way with the candle.

Dropping his bag at the foot of the haystack, the ranger was just about to let himself fall into the dried grass but Legolas held him back the last moment. Receiving a questioning glance from the man for this action, the elf grinned and pulled aside a handful of hay, revealing a single egg underneath it.

"You wouldn't want to sleep in that, nor would you want to face the wrath of the hen this egg belongs to," he explained. Then both of them burst out laughing helplessly at the undeniable absurdity of their situation.

When they had calmed down again, the man and the elf settled down for the night in the hay, careful not to sit on another egg. Burying themselves underneath their cloaks and the straw, they wished each other a good night; Aragorn blew out the candle and darkness fell across the barn.

Shifting lightly in his place to find a comfortable position for the night, Aragorn listened to whistling of the wind outside and the breathing and stamping noises of the animals. The sum of these sounds was wonderfully lulling and the ranger found himself drifting towards the realm of sleep when he heard a quiet "Thank you, mellonamin" from the person lying next to him.

He smiled against his cover and replied, "You're welcome, mellonamin. You're welcome."

Just when he was about to fall asleep, Aragorn was woken once more by the creaking of the barn door. He could tell from the way he tensed that Legolas had also heard the sound. Anxious as to who would disturb their sleep, the ranger sat up quietly and stared into the direction of the entrance. The door slowly opened, creaking in the movement. All Aragorn could make out in the dim illumination coming from the moonlight outside the barn was a dark, cloaked figure that stepped inside carefully.

`A Ringwraith!' the man thought, alarmed. What was the creature doing here? How had he found them and why wasn't the black rider inside the house where Frodo was sleeping with the ring?

Quietly – apart from occasional creaks – the creature closed the door behind himself and sneaked closer. Alerted, Aragorn put his sword at his side and heard the elf next to him shift in the hay; carefully feeling for his daggers as well, he became ready to defend himself. Then Aragorn noticed something and did a double take. The dark figure, stepping hesitantly towards them, was far too small for a Ringwraith; rather is was about the size of a hobbit. Either that or a human child like...

"Shiara!" Legolas exclaimed next to him, having recognized the figure in the darkness with his elven eyes. He sheathed his dagger again and sat up. "What are you doing here, netharwenamin?" he asked in a slightly reproachful tone.

The figure pulled aside its cloak, revealing a small lantern that was hidden behind it. The lamp cast a soft light, illuminating the girl's face. Realizing that she'd been caught, Shiara gave up all attempts at moving noiselessly and rushed over to the two people in the hay.

"I wanted to see if you are all right, Master Elf," she confessed, starting to climb up the haystack to where Legolas and Aragorn had lay down. The elf reached to help her with the last few feet so that the child wouldn't accidentally drop the lamp and cause a fire.

Flopping down next to the two adults, Shiara eyed Aragorn critically. "My father gave you a place to sleep in the house, so what are you doing here in the barn?" she asked him with a dark look, as if she was disappointed, or maybe upset to find him here.

The ranger snorted. "Don't I wonder that myself?" he mumbled, his tired bones and stiff muscles making him wish he'd just ignored his own sense of duty to the elf and had gone to sleep in a comfortable bed.


Forcing those gruff thoughts from his mind, Aragorn smiled at the young girl – it wasn't her fault that he was exhausted, tired and moody and neither was it Legolas'. "I guess I came here for the same reason as you. Legolas here is my friend – has been for quite some time now – and I wanted to make sure he's alright," he explained.

Shiara nodded thoughtfully, watching them both. Then she looked closely at the elf. "I want to be your friend, too, so I'm also sleeping here!" she finally declared, huddling against him and almost knocking the lamp over in the process.

The two warriors were taken aback; not so much by the statement itself – children in that age did make fast friends at times – but by the vehemence with which it was declared. The girl's tone didn't allow any contradiction. Legolas shot Aragorn an half surprised, half amused look over the child that was hugging his midsection affectionately. Then he smiled and hugged the girl back softly before he carefully freed himself from her grasp and made her look up at him.

"I feel very honored that you wish to be my friend, netharwenamin," he told her. "But you don't have to sleep here to receive my friendship. Go back into the house, it's warmer there."

Shiara shook her head, sending her hair flying. "I'm not cold, I've got a thick cloak, you see?"

"But you're parents will worry for you if they wake up in the middle of the night and find you gone," Aragorn interfered, trying another approach.

However, the girl shook her head again. "Nay, they never wake before sunrise, no matter what happens. I'll stay here." she declared for the second time, cuddling closer against the elf again. Aragorn and Legolas looked at each other and then simultaneously shrugged helplessly. The girl's mind was made up, and obviously their chances to change her mind were slim to none.

Dramatically heaving a sigh of defeat, Legolas ruffled Shiara's hair. "Alright, netharwenamin, you can sleep here with us," he told her.

Squealing in delight, the girl huddled deep into the hay, making a comfortable nest for herself next to her new friend.

Praying that he would finally be granted some sleep, Aragorn blew out the lamp and wished his sleeping companions a good night. After the obligatory rustling, shifting, and trying to find a comfortable position, silence fell over the three of them.

Soon the ranger felt his eyelids drop. Outside, the wind was still blowing, harder now, causing the boards to rattle and crackle. Synchronously with these sounds, fearful intakes of breath and silent, startled squeaks could be heard, coming from the young child lying in the hay. Obviously the barn wasn't as pleasant a place to sleep as Shiara had imagined it to be – even with an elf at her side. Well, it wasn't really Aragorn's problem. He was too tired to care now whether a little girl was afraid of strange noises in the darkness; the ranger had had a hard and tiring day in long and hard journey that wasn't over yet.

But just when Aragorn had thought this a new sound was added to the background noise: The soft sound of an elven voice singing quietly to the frightened girl that lay cuddled against his chest. The tune was slow and pleasant; the elven words, sung in a low tenor, were melodious as ever in their sound. Everything in the barn fell silent at the sound, Shiara forgot her fears over listening to Legolas, the animals hushed their noises in order to hear him sing; even the wind outside seemed to slow down for it. After a moment Aragorn recognized the song – it was an elven lullaby. Growing up among elves the ranger had heard it often in his childhood. Now the song brought back pleasant memories of this blissful time and eventually Aragorn drifted into peaceful slumber.

When Legolas had let the last notes of the song fade out, all that could be heard in the barn was the deep, regular breathing of two sleeping humans. At this a content smile appeared on the elf's face, hidden by the darkness.

"Quel kaima, melloneamin." *Sleep well, my friends* Legolas whispered just before he fell asleep as well.

The fellowship rose early the next morning (some less out of free will than others) and prepared to continue their journey. Their destination for the day was to enter the mines of Moria which they would reach at sunset. It was a clear, cold day and the morning sun was shining brightly, promising them good traveling conditions. Before they left, they were treated with a opulent breakfast and to the hobbits' delight Selah equipped them with enough fresh homemade bread to last for three days.

After that, it was time for the goodbye. Standing outside in front of the farm house, Gimli thanked Patel again for his hospitality and friendliness and wished him only the best for his future. The farmer in turn wished them all a pleasant voyage to wherever it might lead them and for Gimli that his mining may be ever fruitful. In front of the entire fellowship, Shiara was again very shy, clinging to her mother's skirt, half hiding behind it. She kept sending Legolas longing looks, as if she wanted to tell him something badly, but she did not speak up.

When Gimli had finished his farewells the group turned to be on their way. But they were stopped by Legolas with a determined "Wait" which earned him eleven curious looks.

Then the elf stepped forward to Patel who eyed him suspiciously. Ignoring his dark look, Legolas presented the farmer with three gold coins. The man's eyes light up at this, even though he still remained skeptical. From the greedy glittering in Patel's eyes, Aragorn could tell that he was barely keeping himself from snatching the money from the elf's hand. Three gold coins were an incredible amount of money for a simple farmer. When Legolas spoke up he had the undivided attention from all present people.

"Before I left my home my father gave me these and told me to use them as I would," the elf explained. "In the forest we have not much for these little gold things, but I know that they are very valuable for humans. And while I know that real hospitality and kindness such as you showed us cannot be repaid by anything, I do hope that this gift will be valuable for you as well." With this he placed the coins in Patel's hands. The farmer alternately looked at the money and at the tall creature before him, undecided what to say or do.

Aragorn also watched his elven friend. Legolas had told the man an outrageous lie: Elves did very well know the value of gold and it was common knowledge that especially Legolas' father Thranduil had strong love for the metal. Rumor had it that the king of Mirkwood spend several hours a day counting and admiring his treasures. It wasn't very likely that he'd tell his son to spend his precious gold on whatever he pleased, much less on some ungrateful humans. But Legolas wasn't his father; a fact that he proved again and again, just like now.

Finally Patel replied to the gesture, partly thanks to the expectant glares he kept getting from his wife. "Th... Thank you, Master Elf," he mumbled indistinctly, refusing to look at his benefactor.

"Yes, thank you very much!" Selah confirmed with an enthusiastic smile, grabbing Legolas' hands and giving him a firm shake.

The elf merely smiled and inclined his head. "You're welcome, my lady," he said. "But we must be on our way now. Farewell." With this, he turned and the fellowship started to walk away.

But the group had not yet reached the gate when they were stopped yet again.

"Wait!" came a high pitched shout. "Please! Wait!" The nine travelers turned to see Shiara rushing towards them.

"Master Elf! Please wait!" she shouted, halting in front of them, her shyness defeated. Legolas smiled and knelt down so he was on eye level with the girl.

"What is it, netharwenamin?" he asked her.

"Will I ever see you again, Master Elf?" she inquired. "After all you said you were my friend now!"

"Of course you will see me again. I will come and visit you when you've grown up."

"You promise?" Shiara asked unsure.

The elf nodded. "I promise by my name as Prince Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood, son of King Thranduil," he told her, using his full name. Delighted, Shiara hugged the prince while her father's jaw hit the ground at the mentioning of the elf's title and status.

After some time Legolas freed himself gently from the girl's embrace and stood up. "I fear we have to go now. But we will meet again, netharwenamin," he said. "Namaarie. Lissenen ar' maska'lalaith tenna' lye omentuva. Farewell. Sweet water and light laughter till next we meet."

"Farewell, Master Elf. My friend." Shiara stepped back slowly and waved goodbye until the fellowship had disappeared from sight.

Many adventures awaited them...

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