One Kind of Ending
There was no doubt it was late, even in the black forests of Mirkwood, where the light rarely penetrated the foliage above even amid midday. Somehow in the heart of the night the darkness of the forest was deeper and the quiet was punctuated only by the natural sound of the deep forest. But the forests of Mirkwood could never be deemed sleepy, even when the night reigned supreme and most sentient beings had retreated to their beds and the dreams that awaited them there. Mirkwood was definitely different. Even so, most of its inhabitants had allowed for the festivities to wane and for thoughts of deep slumber to enter their minds. Few were still awake, and one in particular was loath to be But then again, she was also afraid to sleep.
As was typical for any elf living within the borders of Mirkwood, Aeslin, the youngest child of the King, moved silently through the trees, easily navigating through the meandering corridors that connected the living spaces of the Royal Court. She knew her route by heart so her steps never faltered despite her troubled state of mind. Within moments she had reached her destination and, silent as a shadow, slipped through the doorway. Gliding across the room, she hesitated at the side of the bed for the briefest moment before sliding beneath the sheets next to its already sleeping occupant, positioning herself on her side with her back touching his. She felt some of her anxiety ebb at the contact and forced herself to relax.
“Aren’t you a little old for this?” came a voice fighting the pull of sleep. Aeslin sighed, a frown creasing her pale brow. She had been sure he was asleep. She heard him roll over and prop himself up to face her. Turning, she found herself looking into the reprimanding blue eyes of her older brother. She was tempted to make a biting remark in effort to disguise her fear, but despite Legolas’ comforting presence, her stomach was still knotted with anxiety. She thought she had been hiding it well enough, but evidently, it was pronounced enough that her brother noticed.
“What worries you little one? It has been a long time since you’ve felt the need to come to my room in the middle of the night. Is it tomorrow? Is that what troubles you?” Now she did get defensive.
“I am not such a little one anymore, brother. I have already lived through my third century and I am nearly upon my fourth. I am about to leave in the morning to further my studies as a healer, just as I have always wanted. I am no longer so little as you still suppose.” Even in the dark, she could tell he was raising a skeptical eyebrow at her. He knew her too well. She sighed. “Yes. Tomorrow is what worries me.” Legolas didn’t say a word, but instead pulled his little sister into his arms, hugging her close. It was a long time before he spoke. He sensed that she just needed the comfort; after all, what was coming had been her decision – mostly.
The instant their Father had realized the extent of her gift of healing he had schemed to somehow whisk her away from the increasing dangers growing in Mirkwood. Especially after the loss of their mother shortly after Aeslin’s birth he had planned for something like this, subsequently prodding Aeslin towards a future as a healer at the emergence of her gifts. Of course, any healer of note journeyed to further their knowledge under Lord Elrond in Rivendell, especially if one had the potential that the young princess of Mirkwood possessed. Besides, Imladris was far away from the multitude of dangers that inhabited the dark forests of Mirkwood.
After Legolas’s birth, his mother hadn’t really considered having another child. Eventually though, she began to wish for another, but after many long years she began to wonder if she’d ever conceive again. Many more years passed, turning into decades and then centuries, but she was eventually gifted with a daughter. Queen Lasbereth was ecstatic, and King Thranduil shared in her joy. However, the love they bore their long awaited daughter was soon joined by the overwhelming concern for her safety; Mirkwood was by no means a safe place. Even the heart of the Woodland Court was not free of danger.
And then tragedy had struck, and Lasbereth fell in battle against the Gundabad Orcs when Aeslin had reached barely more than half a century. The loss of his wife and her tempering influence changed Thranduil, and soon Aeslin’s resemblance to Lasbereth compounded his already intense fears for her safety. Aeslin and Legolas were all he had left of his wife. So, ignoring the heaviness in his heart, the King decided that fostering Aeslin in another realm would be far safer than allowing her to stay in Mirkwood. His decision was something Legolas grudgingly agreed with. He loved Aeslin dearly and had gladly served as her protector all her life. As such, he hated the prospect of parting from her.
“You will be fine, little one. Rivendell is a wonderful place, and I am sure you will be happy there. Lord Elrond is a fine teacher and you are sure to become a powerful healer.” As he spoke his words of encouragement, Legolas could feel Aeslin’s slight frame relax and her breathing slow as the anxiety began to bleed from her body again. “You truly have nothing to fear, dear one.”
It wasn’t long after that he was assured she was asleep. For a long moment he fought with himself over whether or not to return her to her own chambers, but he finally decided against it. It wasn’t exactly a decision that his Father would condone. He hadn’t even approved when she was a tiny elfling, distant and proud as he had become. Legolas didn’t care though. Aeslin was his baby sister, his only sister. She had learned early in her young life that she could always go to him when she felt alone or scared.
Besides, he was going to miss her too.
So it was that the next morning Aeslin began her journey to Rivendell in the company of her elder brother and a small escort of elves. There was no fanfare to send her off and little in the way of pomp, save from the King of Mirkwood. He saw her off, but as per usual, his affection and sorrow was severely limited by his strict sense of pride. It simply would not do to indulge in a show of emotions. Thranduil was far too grand for that. He needed to set an example of strength and perseverance. Sending his daughter away was the logical thing to do when her safety was in question; a decision his repressed emotions fought against. Nevertheless, he bid her farewell while privately his heart fought against a tide of sorrow that threatened to overwhelm him as his wife’s death had. Yet that sorrow never graced his features as Aeslin turned her face from him and left behind the only home she knew.