Legolas rounded the corner of the narrow cliff path, giving him full view of a welcome sight. The winter daylight was quickly fading into night, and it had been long since the elven Prince had slept in a warm bed. Or quite any true bed, for that matter. Nearing the end of his journey, Legolas could feel the exhaustion he had long fought to keep at bay catching up with him. He had been merely surviving for too long, and his body was now screaming at him to rest, and the Prince could think of nowhere better than Rivendell, the Last Homely House.
The horse plodded carefully down the narrow path that led to Rivendell. The creature did not have the same excellent eyesight as the elf, and thus grew jittery and afraid in the dark. As the darkness encroached, lamps were lit around Rivendell, lighting it with a warm orange glow, making the small city all the more inviting. Not that Legolas came by invitation, but he knew he would ever be welcomed. He assumed that Lord Elrond had known of his approach for some hours now, ever since the Prince crossed into the lands surrounding Elrond's hidden halls. Lord Elrond may have known for days or weeks even that it was in this direction that the Prince made tracks, had word been sent, but somehow Legolas doubted that.
Finally, Legolas turned the horse onto the bridge which crossed the gorge, and passed into Rivendell itself. There he saw only two figures waiting, and was grateful for the small welcoming party, as he was far from being in the mood for chatter. Too often of late he had been felt too frustrated or angry or - Legolas knew not what, but they were not natural feelings for an elf. Tonight, however, he just felt tired.
"Lord Legolas, you are most welcome here," Lord Elrond smiled, his arms open.
Legolas halted the horse, and the groom who stood beside his Lord stepped forward and took the reins. The Prince dismounted somewhat awkwardly. The day had been bitterly cold and threatening snow, although that threat had never eventuated. All the same, Legolas's feet felt close to frozen. He gave Lord Elrond a small bow. "Well met, my Lord."
Lord Elrond nodded in reply. "Supper, bath and bed is in order, I suppose."
Legolas looked sheepish. Did he really look to be in that poor a state? Or did Lord Elrond know more than he was giving on? Now that he was here in front of the Lord of Imladris, the Prince assumed the latter.
The groom led the horse away, the poor animal now steaming in the cold, and Legolas gave the horse a small pat on the hindquarters as it was led past, before following Lord Elrond up the stone steps in an amiable silence to the warm and cozy halls of Rivendell.
"Here we are," Lord Elrond said at last, opening a door to one of the spare rooms in the Lord's own family quarters. The room was of a generous size and had a fire blazing in the hearth, heating the room to a perfectly pleasant level of warmth. Entering the warm bedroom after spending so long in the cold, Legolas felt a chill go through his body. He shuffled towards the fire and warmed his hands beside it's golden glow. His fingers tingled in a not entirely unpleasant way as the blood returned to them, and Legolas rubbed his hands together to speed up the process. A tray of food and a jug of wine were carried in to the room by a server, and placed on the small table where the room's occupant could take meals alone, or with just a favoured friend or two. "Come and eat," Lord Elrond encouraged, taking at a seat at the table, then preceding to pour two glass goblets of wine.
Legolas regretfully moved from his place beside the fire and sat down opposite his host. He took a goblet of wine and put it to his lips, feeling a familiar sensation as the deep red liquid ran down his throat and into his stomach, warming his insides.
"It's a good vintage," Lord Elrond said, making conversation, although being completely aware that the Prince was unlikely to respond. "Eat up, the food is still hot." The host removed the silver lid from the dish, revealing a simple meal of creamy mashed potatoes, steamed winter green vegetables and roast pheasant.
Upon seeing the food, Legolas felt a hollowness in his stomach that he had heretofore been unaware of. He picked up a plate and eagerly served himself. Long had been the weeks since he had enjoyed fare such as this. Lord Elrond set about serving himself a plate with much more decorum than the Prince, but forgave the manners of his guest. As the Prince suspected, Lord Elrond was not naive about the motives behind Legolas's visit, nor of the events of the preceding weeks and months. Of the proceeding years even, for the Prince. How long had Legolas fought to protect the Woodland Realm against the ever-growing threats and darkness which encroached upon that once great and beautiful forest? A decade, if not longer, Lord Elrond knew. Though in the life of an elf, a period of time such as that was only short, any amount of time spent almost constantly surrounded by that level of evil and darkness was hard on both body and heart.
Legolas and Elrond finished the meal, Legolas eating the lion's share. "All ready for a bath?" Lord Elrond asked, finishing the last of his wine.
"You make me sound like a small child," Legolas smirked.
Lord Elrond shrugged.
Legolas smiled, despite his tiredness. "I suppose one has been prepared for me whilst we ate?"
"You know my household too well," Lord Elrond said, pushing back his chair and standing up.
Legolas did the same and followed Lord Elrond into the adjoining bathroom, which was lit by candlelight and, had it been a clear night, starlight from above. However the night was cloudy and dark, so it was simply the yellow glow of the candles giving light to the room. The bath water steamed, and there was a distinct smell of lavender and peppermint, the healing oils of which Legolas suspected were in the bath. He undid his tunic, when he noticed that Lord Elrond was still in the room, standing beside a table upon which lay a towel, fresh small clothes and a pale blue linen tunic and trousers, into which Legolas would change after his bath.
"Take off your shirt," Lord Elrond said, observing closely the Prince's every move.
"How do you…?" Legolas began, his mind to tired to know remember the most obvious.
"First and foremost," Lord Elrond said kindly, taking Legolas's tunic and mail from him, "I am a Healer. I know when I see one in pain. Take off you shirt and let me see."
"It's fine," Legolas said defensively, suddenly feeling very self-conscious. It wasn't fine, of course, but he'd been dealing with the pain. It had been no more than a mere irritation. Only, much like the exhaustion, it was now catching up to him. Legolas pulled his shirt up over his head and handed it to Lord Elrond. The Healer placed the soiled clothing on the wooden chair beside the table and moved slightly toward the Prince.
"I would ask you to tell me wear exactly it hurts, but the bruising betrays it," Lord Elrond said, gently running his fingers across the yellowing bruises on Legolas's back. The Prince shivered at the touch. "You muscles are tight, too."
"I know," Legolas stated bluntly.
"You were thrown into a wall or the ground," Lord Elrond said. It wasn't a question. The candlelight was more than enough for him to make his diagnosis by. "More than once."
Legolas did not find reason to reply.
"Into the bath, now. I'll tap on the door in twenty minutes when it's time to hop out."
Legolas gave a nod and Lord Elrond left the Prince alone in the bathroom. Legolas stopped off his boots, trousers, socks and small clothes and slid into the steaming bath. He was glad to be alone, so that none heard the moan escape from his lips as his tired body was engulfed by the steaming water. His feet tingled as his hands had previously as the hot water returned full feeling to them. Legolas lay back and let his muscles relax.
Was Rivendell not in the north? Rivendell had baths and roast pheasant. It was warm and caring and safe. It was beauty and light and hope, the Prince thought, a small smile on his lips. Legolas did not wish to go any further north, at least not for tonight, and tried to force his father's words from his mind. If Thranduil had known this Strider's father, then surely Lord Elrond would have too. How did Legolas not? His name was familiar, but no matter how long he dwelled upon it, Legolas had failed to place it. Arathorn. He knew that name. Legolas furrowed his brow. He knew he knew it…
A gentle tap at the door followed by a call of "Legolas?" woke the Prince from his reverie. Despite his protesting muscles, Legolas forced himself to sit up.
"Aye, my Lord."
"Very good," Lord Elrond called through the door.
Legolas pulled himself out of the bath and dried and dressed. Perfectly clean clothes, another small luxury he had to long forgone. He re-entered his assigned bedroom and found Lord Elrond standing by the fireplace. The blankets had been pulled back on the bed, which could not look more inviting.
"I have not enjoyed a proper sleep in quite some time," Legolas said, sliding into the bed. The blankets were thick and warm, the sheets were soft. The Prince lay down, his weary muscles glad to do so, and looked at his host who stood staring into the flames of the hearth.
"It is likely a mortal sleep shall take you," Lord Elrond said, not looking away from the fire. It was seldom that elves fell into the state of mortal sleep, as so long as they could enter the elvish dreams, but Lord Elrond suspected it had been long since Legolas had even achieved that level of peace of mind.
"Shall I dream?" Legolas asked. He knew not if he wished to or not. Should the dreams be pleasant, then them he should enjoy. But should he find them to be otherwise…
"That I do not know," Elrond said, finally turning to face his tired guest. "But within this Realm and within this House, few know little but peace," he said kindly.
Legolas gave his host a small smile and settled into the bed, resting his hands across his chest, staring up at the star-painted ceiling. As the fire flickered it lit the stars on the ceiling it such a way that the stars looked not to be a painting at all, but like the true night lights, shimmering far away and overhead.