Taking a deep breath, Legolas turned towards the throne and bowed respectfully to his father and Lord Celeborn. Then he turned back towards Haldir.
Legolas opened his mouth and closed it again, unsure of what to say. He wanted to say something important and grand, something that would impress Haldir and make him want to be Legolas’ friend. But every sentence he came up with sounded pretentious and overbearing, and he dismissed them all instantly.
He gestured at the three elflings instead, indicating which pathway to take. To his dismay, Haldir said nothing and swept grandly past him, leaving Orophin and Rúmil behind. Legolas stared after him open-mouthed; somehow, even when ignoring him, Haldir was still magnificent.
While he stood watching Haldir, Rúmil pushed forward and grasped hold of his hand.
“Hello Prince Legolas, I’m Rúmil and this is my brother Orophin!”
Haldir stopped and looked back at Rúmil and Legolas’ joined hands. “Hello Prince Legolas,” he mocked. “What a pretty dress you are wearing!”
Rúmil gasped in shock. “Haldir, don’t be mean! I like his dress.”
Orophin looked down and away to hide a grin.
Legolas snatched his hand away from Rúmil. “It’s not a dress, this is a ceremonial robe. It’s worn to…”
“Looks like a dress to me,” Haldir interrupted.
“Haldir!” Rúmil gasped again.
“Oh, stop being such a baby!”
Rúmil took a step back and looked about to cry. Legolas felt a stirring of anger on the young elf’s behalf, despite having labelled Rúmil as a baby himself not so long ago. He said nothing though, not prepared to rebuke Haldir.
Forgotten by all, Halion moved forward and placed a hand on Haldir’s shoulder.
“This way please Master Haldir,” he urged.
Haldir gave Halion a disdainful glare but continued walking.
“Don’t be fooled by the way he speaks, he’s like that with everyone. Once you get to know him he’ll be fine,” Oropher said to Legolas.
“But what about the way he spoke to Rúmil? Doesn’t he like his brother?”
Orophin slowed down, creating some distance between the two of them and Rúmil, who by now had caught up to Halion and was introducing himself. “That’s just Haldir. He cares about us; he just has a hard time showing it.” Orophin looked up to ensure Rúmil wasn’t listening before continuing quietly.
“When the orcs attacked our village, our parents left us to protect Rúmil because he is too little to fight. Haldir hid him under our parents’ bed and packed things around him so he couldn’t see. I wasn’t allowed outside to fight either and they left me with a bow and arrows, and instructions to protect Rúmil.
“The fighting seemed to go for hours, and then I heard Naneth scream and something bang against the door. I raised my bow but something else crashed through the back wall. I swung around, ready to shoot, but it was only Haldir. ‘Pack some bags, we have to go,’ he told me. ‘But what about Ada and Naneth,’ I asked. Haldir looked pointedly towards the bed before looking back at me, he put a hand on either side of my face and repeated firmly ‘We have to go.’ He didn’t say anything more but when I looked into his eyes I saw the truth; our parents were dead. We knew it was not the right time to tell Rúmil, who was already crying hysterically from everything he could hear.
“I packed our bags as Haldir prepared Rúmil to leave. When we were ready, Haldir went to the gap in the wall and looked out carefully. He signalled it was clear and we left. We got to the edge of the village before Rúmil realised we were not meeting our parents. He asked where they were and Haldir said they had told us to go without them. Rúmil started crying again and said ‘No, no, no, I don’t want to leave them.’ He broke away from Haldir and ran towards our home but Haldir chased him quickly and brought him back. ‘We have to go or the orcs will get us,’ he told Rúmil. Rúmil shook his head and looked back to our home. Haldir took his hand before he escaped again.
“We walked for another hour and at the top of a hill, we turned back to look at the village. Everything was on fire. All of us, including Rúmil, knew we would never see our family again. Rúmil fell to the ground crying that he wanted our Naneth. Haldir tried to get him to stand up so we could get moving again – we still didn’t know if any orcs were following us – but Rúmil kept crying and saying he couldn’t walk anymore. Haldir looked at me, took his bag off and handed it over. Then he picked Rúmil up and put him on his back.
“He carried Rúmil for eight hours, only letting go of him once a patrol from Caras Galadhon found us. Not once did he complain about having to carry Rúmil or tell him to stop crying, even though he was just as upset about what happened as Rúmil.”
Orophin stopped there, unable to say anymore, but Legolas got the point. Haldir would do whatever he could for Rúmil, and the same would apply to Orophin.
Legolas thought about a group of siblings that sometimes attended the same lessons as him. The older brother would tease his younger brother and sisters mercilessly and had reduced the girls to tears many times. But if anyone else said anything even slightly bad about his siblings, especially the girls, the brother would defend them in an instant. Thinking about the interactions between Haldir and Rúmil, Legolas guessed this must be what it was like to have siblings.
The elflings had been allocated the largest guest suite so they could sleep in the same room. Celeborn would be just down the corridor. When they arrived, Orophin and Rúmil looked around the rooms in wonder; they had never seen anything so impressive. Haldir stood by the door looking unimpressed and sighed with apparent boredom. Legolas took no notice and walked straight past him to show Orophin and Rúmil the features of the rooms. He missed Haldir’s disbelief at being ignored.
After showing them the rooms Legolas took them out to see the view from the balcony, his favourite part of the tour. The guest rooms were at the edge of the underground palace making them some of the few rooms in the palace with an outside view. Legolas’ rooms were in the centre of the mountain, where he was supposedly safer, so he cherished any chance to see outside.
Halion moved towards the door. “Legolas, I will go and arrange lunch now. I trust you can bring your visitors to the dining hall in an hour’s time?”
Legolas looked around from explaining the visible landmarks to Rúmil. “Yes, thank you Halion.”
After Halion left, Legolas continued talking to Rúmil while Orophin unpacked his and Rúmil’s bags, which had been brought in earlier by the servants. Haldir claimed the largest bed and lay on top, watching Legolas sullenly.
Eventually Haldir sat up and saw Orophin resting on the bed nearest the doorway, leaving the bed nearest to the window free for Rúmil who preferred that position. He got off the bed and walked out to the balcony to see what had kept Rúmil’s attention for so long. He couldn’t see they were doing anything special, Rúmil just seemed to be gazing adoringly at Legolas.
As Haldir came out onto the balcony, Legolas stopped talking and looked at him. The two stood there watching each other before Haldir went back to his bed without saying a word. Legolas watched him go, ignoring Rúmil who was tugging at his robes trying to gain his attention back.
Legolas was still confused. He didn’t know what was so fascinating about Haldir. Haldir had been nothing but dismissive and rude to him, but still Legolas found himself craving Haldir’s attention. Haldir seemed so sure of himself, so confident, that Legolas felt like a blubbering mess in comparison.
Rúmil gave up trying to get Legolas’ attention and went inside to climb up on his bed. Legolas followed him back inside and sat on the end of his bed facing towards Orophin. The three elves spent the rest of the hour chatting amongst themselves. Legolas looked over at Haldir from time to time but the older elf refused to join the conversation.
After lunch, Legolas took the brothers outside to show them the areas safe from spiders and then back inside for a tour of the rest of the palace.
Due to Rúmil’s young age, the three of them had been excused from attending the welcoming feast that night, so they were free to return to their rooms. Legolas was not required at the main feast either, but still had to make an appearance at the opening ceremony.
Halion was required to assist at the feast, so following the opening ceremony, Legolas had a few hours to himself. He considered going back to the guest rooms to see if Haldir would finally talk to him but decided against it and went for a walk instead.
Legolas had wandered onto one of the palace balconies to gaze up at the stars when he heard footsteps thudding in his direction. Rúmil tore around the corner, tears streaming down his face. The young elf would have run straight past Legolas, but the prince reached out with both arms to pull him in.
Rúmil looked up in surprise at being stopped but as soon as he saw who it was, he flung his arms around Legolas and buried his face in his chest. Neither of them said a word as Rúmil continued his inconsolable sobbing.
Legolas looked down at him, unsure of what to do. Being an only child, Legolas had never needed to care for anyone younger than himself, instead it was always he who was looked after by others. Legolas remembered something his mother used to do when he was upset and slowly raised his hand to rub up and down Rúmil’s back.
When Rúmil’s sobs finally died away and his shaking lessened, Legolas stepped back to look him in the face. Rúmil’s eyes and cheeks were reddened from crying, and his lower lip trembled slightly. Legolas knelt down so their faces were level and gently brushed away some of the tears.
“Are you alright now?” he asked.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
Rúmil started to shake his head but hesitated. “Haldir doesn’t want me as a brother anymore.”
“What? That can’t be right,” Legolas answered, remembering Orophin’s tale. “What did he say?”
“We were arguing about…” Rúmil began. He looked down, suddenly loath to continue.
Legolas placed a finger under Rúmil’s chin and lifted his face. “Arguing about what?”
“About you,” Rúmil whispered.
Legolas frowned. “Why were you arguing about me?”
“Haldir was saying nasty things about you and I kept telling him not to be so mean.”
“What was he saying about me?”
“He said you were a spoilt prince and wore a dress and how Halion has to do everything for you because you don’t know how. And when I tried to make him stop he laughed at me for being a baby and holding your hand and said that I wished that you were my brother instead of him and Orophin. I told him at least you wouldn’t be mean to me like he was and that’s when he said if I liked you so much I should go and be your brother. When I said no, he told me to go, he doesn’t need a cry-baby brother.”
“What did Orophin say?”
“Nothing, he always goes along with whatever Haldir says.”
Legolas frowned, something didn’t sound right. By this time though, Rúmil was crying again so Legolas pulled him in for another hug while he thought about what to do.
“My Lord, may I be of assistance?” a hesitant voice interrupted.
Legolas looked up to find one of the guards assigned to the guest rooms hovering close by and nodded at him.
“You can fetch Halion for me, thank you.”
“Yes my Lord.” The guard nodded and left straightaway.
“Rúmil, I am sure that Haldir was just saying things he didn’t mean. I am sure he still wants you for a brother.”
“No he doesn’t! He called me a cry-baby.” Rúmil was crying even harder by now, so Legolas fell silent. He would try again once Rúmil had settled down.
A few minutes later Halion appeared with the guard and looked at the boys in concern. “Master Legolas?”
Legolas stood up and looked at Rúmil hesitantly before making a decision. “Halion, Rúmil will stay with me tonight. Can you please make sure that Rúmil’s breakfast is sent to my chambers in the morning? Oh and do not tell Haldir or Orophin where he is either.”
“As you wish,” Halion answered in surprise. “What will he sleep in though? They would ask questions when I go to their rooms to get his nightwear.”
“No, you need not go to them, Rúmil can borrow something of mine. If you really have to tell someone, then only tell Lord Celeborn or my father.”
“Very well,” Halion replied as Rúmil let out a loud yawn. “I will inform Lord Celeborn and the kitchen of the new arrangements. But first, it is time for bed.”
Halion sent the guard back and escorted the boys to Legolas’ room, noting with interest that Legolas took hold of Rúmil’s hand to lead him along. Considering how Legolas reacted when Rúmil grabbed his hand earlier, Halion was pleased that he seemed to have overcome his aversion.
When they arrived at Legolas’ rooms, Halion left it to Legolas to find a spare nightshirt while he took Rúmil to the bathroom to clean him up. He wasn’t sure what had happened that night, but he wanted to make sure no physical harm had come to the elfling.
After that was done, he took Rúmil back out to the bedroom to get changed while Legolas took his turn in the bathroom. Halion was touched to see that as well as a nightshirt, Legolas had found a stuffed toy that had been one of his favourites when he was about Rúmil’s age. Legolas claimed to be much too old for such things now, so Halion was surprised he had thought to find one. It occurred to Halion that Legolas would have made a very caring older brother, had circumstances been different.
Rúmil sat on the bed, his head slumping to the side as he sought to stave off falling into reverie until Legolas returned. Legolas came back and climbed into bed. Halion lifted the covers enough for Legolas and Rúmil to settle down.
“I will go and let the kitchen and Lord Celeborn know what is happening. I will be back soon to blow out the lights.”
“Thank you Halion,” Legolas replied.
“Thank you,” a soft, belated reply from a sleepy Rúmil followed as Halion closed the door behind him.
Halion went to the kitchen first to leave a message for the morning shift’s cook and then made his way to the celebration hall. Most nights, Halion would stand in the doorway long enough to get the King’s attention and give a simple nod to inform him that Legolas was in bed for the night and all was well. This evening he would need to speak to the King, so he remained still when he got his attention. Thranduil frowned in concern but waited for a break in the conversation around him before gesturing at Halion to enter.
“Is there a problem?” Thranduil asked as Halion approached.
“My Lords,” Halion bowed, making sure he had both Thranduil and Celeborn’s attention. “There is no problem with Legolas, however,” Halion turned to Celeborn, “My Lord Celeborn, Rúmil will spend the night in Legolas’ chambers.”
Thranduil looked at Halion in surprise. “Legolas is having someone stay over?”
“Yes my Lord,” Halion replied. “I am not completely sure what happened, as neither seemed inclined to tell me the details, but it appears Rúmil had some sort of quarrel with Haldir this evening. He was quite upset when I came across him with Legolas. Legolas seems to have taken it upon himself to be Rúmil’s guardian for the night. He has even given him Roggy,” Halion added.
“Roggy?” Celeborn asked in confusion.
Thranduil smiled. “That is the name of a toy Balrog Legolas used to play with when he was younger. It was his favourite possession and no one else was allowed to touch it.”
“Oh!” Celeborn nodded in understanding. “Rúmil is very fortunate then! All of his toys were lost when their village fell. Galadriel and I have given him some as replacements, but none of them have the sentimental value of one like a Roggy.”
“Indeed,” replied Thranduil.
“Perhaps it is time to say good night to our sons, Thranduil,” Celeborn suggested.
“I would like to, but as host, I must remain here,” Thranduil gestured out over the hall where the celebrations showed no sign of slowing down. “Legolas understands that I cannot go to him on busy nights. That does not mean that you cannot go to Rúmil however.”
Celeborn thought for a moment. “And if your most important guest insists on you accompanying him on a walk? A walk that just happens to take us past your son’s room?”
Celeborn and Thranduil looked at each other, a slow smile crossing Thranduil’s face.
“Then I would have no choice but to accept!” Thranduil replied as he stood and bowed to Celeborn. He made his excuses to the remaining nobles then returned to Celeborn and gestured towards the door. “After you.”
Thranduil, Celeborn and Halion walked swiftly to the prince’s chambers. Halion opened the door to let the two lords in. Celeborn walked around to Rúmil’s side of the bed while Thranduil stood back to watch. He did not miss the sudden joy on Legolas’ face at the unexpected visit.
Celeborn sat on the bed near Rúmil’s feet and gestured for him to come closer. He gasped in mock horror as Rúmil crawled out from under the covers. “Someone stole your hands!”
Legolas had found the smallest nightshirt he owned, but it was still too big for Rúmil and the sleeves too long for his arms, leaving the material flapping about past the end of his hands. Rúmil giggled at Celeborn’s reaction and climbed into his lap.
Celeborn settled him comfortably and rolled up Rúmil’s sleeves. “There they are!” Rúmil giggled again and Celeborn wrapped an arm around him. “Now, tell me what happened between you and Haldir.”
Tears welled in Rúmil’s eyes again but he slowly repeated what he had told Legolas. Celeborn looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. “Rúmil, Haldir was only teasing you. He does not really want you to stop being his brother. He loves you very much.”
“That’s what Legolas said.”
Celeborn smiled at Legolas gratefully. “Well he is a smart elf then, you should listen to him.”
Rúmil looked up at Celeborn doubtfully. “So why is he so mean to me then? And why was he being so mean to Legolas too? He barely spoke to Legolas today but was still mean.”
Celeborn shrugged. “Who knows? Probably even he does not know why.”
Rúmil lay his head on Celeborn’s shoulder and yawned again. “He shouldn’t be mean. It’s not nice.”
“I agree,” Celeborn replied. “I will have to speak with him. But for now…” Celeborn stood, placed Rúmil back under the covers and kissed his forehead. “You must sleep.”
Thranduil stood just inside the door, his hands clasped in front of him, watching Celeborn with Rúmil. He had noticed Legolas sending him longing glances while they watched, but his dutiful son knew better than to say anything in front of their guests. Thranduil himself very much wanted to go to Legolas and spend his last waking moments with him, but it had been bred too strongly into him not to show emotions in front of outsiders.
Celeborn finished settling Rúmil and walked back to Thranduil, looking expectantly between him and Legolas. Thranduil looked at his son and then at Rúmil who had settled happily after talking to Celeborn and was now drifting into reverie.
“I’ll wait for you outside,” Celeborn finally said, seeing Thranduil would not budge. He had known Oropher well and knew exactly how he had raised Thranduil.
Thranduil nodded, concealing his relief, and made his way to his Legolas. They spoke briefly before Thranduil kissed his son goodnight. As he left the room, Halion extinguished the lights and they left the boys to sleep.
Later that night, as Legolas lay in reverie, dreaming of his mother, something in the room attracted his attention. Realising something was wrong with Rúmil, Legolas blinked his eyes several times to wake himself up fully and looked over at him. Rúmil appeared to be having a nightmare. Legolas watched him for a moment, trying to work out what Rúmil was muttering. Legolas realised he was calling for his parents.
Legolas reached over and gently shook Rúmil’s shoulder. It took several attempts before Rúmil woke.
“It was just a nightmare,” Legolas told him consolingly. “You have nothing to worry about.”
Rúmil blinked at him, half asleep, but nodded his head.
Legolas grabbed Roggy and placed him in the young elf’s hands. “Keep him with you, he will protect you.”
“But he’s a Balrog!”
“He’s a good Balrog,” Legolas insisted. “My father gave him to me not long after my mother was killed and told me he would keep the nightmares away.”
“I want my Naneth,” Rúmil stated, his lower lip starting to tremble.
“I know you do,” Legolas replied. He draped an arm over Rúmil’s side. “Come here.”
Rúmil snuggled up to him, Roggy squashed between them. Legolas felt tears prick his own eyes as he remembered the nights he had woken up crying for his mother after her death. He held on tighter, now taking as much comfort from Rúmil as he was giving. He felt Rúmil’s smaller arm wrap around him in response and they remained that way until they both finally drifted back into reverie.