Pairings: No pairings for this section
Word Count: 9850
Disclaimer: If I owned it, the story would be crack
Summary: Fíli and Kíli are actually Legolas' time-traveling love children from the future. This changes everything.
All elves know their own blood. Manwë's children recognize their kin by the feeling in their bones, just as they sense the seasons and the song of distant stars, and Legolas has never had reason to doubt this before now.
He's never doubted the truth of his own blood ties but now he is staring down at thirteen captured dwarves and his instincts are screaming that two of them are his. Not just his blood but children of his body and that's impossible. Legolas is sure that he'd remember lying with a dwarrowdam, let alone fathering two children, and these dwarves do not appear to have Sindarin parentage.
The taller one could almost pass for a stunted changeling but the shorter one is about as dwarvish as a dwarf can be. He's all beard and boots and braided mustaches; the only remotely elvish thing about him is the color of his hair.
Indeed, Legolas stares at the pair in a mix of shock and disbelief until a furious growl draws his attention and he turns to meet the livid gaze of Thorin Oakenshield. The elf prince recognizes the dwarf from the golden days of Erebor.
“Stop your staring, elf!” Thorin snarls fiercely. “You have no business with my sister-sons. If you deal with anyone, you deal with me alone!"
Apparently, the dwarf lord claims kinship with the two dwarves who call to Legolas. However, that just makes this situation even stranger because Thorin does not sing to the prince's blood at all. Indeed, Legolas knows that he did not bed the dwarf lord's sister; although he's gotten black-out drunk a few times, Dís is not the sort of dwarrowdam that one forgets about.
So the elf ignores Thorin, dismissing the dwarf's claims and anger with a shrug. Then he turns to his scouts and orders, “Bring these dwarves to my father's palace. The king will want to question them about their trespassing.”
Legolas needs to talk to Thranduil. He needs to know if his father feels the same connection and he doubts that Thorin would come with him willingly. So the dwarves will just have to come as prisoners.
The prince stands apart as the other elves shove Thorin and his companions into a single-file line, confiscating the dwarves' weapons over their protests. As long as Legolas doesn't actually look at the group, he can almost ignore the thrum of recognition that pounds within his chest. But then one of his warriors grabs the blond dwarf's arm and his pained grunt snaps the elf around.
“Do not damage them!” Legolas snarls, the force of his anger taking him by surprise. Indeed, elves and dwarves alike stare at him in askance but the prince cannot explain his actions without admitting to the blood tie. So he just signals the other elves to follow before spinning on his heel and taking off into the trees.
Running through the forest always makes Legolas feel better and the elf could sorely use some calm right now. His head says that none of this is possible but his heart just keeps screaming, “My children!” anyway.
“In Manwë's name, Legolas, what is going on here?” Thranduil asks his son three days later. The elf king is eyeing the group of dwarves in his throne room as he might a particularly loathsome spider. “I did not give you permission to slum it with their kind.”
“So you feel it too?” the prince asks, his father's insult barely registering beneath a wave of pure relief. He's spent the last few days no closer to an answer and he was starting to wonder if he was simply going mad.
“Yes, I can feel it,” Thranduil snarls. “And I ask again, what is going on here? These dwarves can be no kin of mine."
Those selfsame dwarves are watching the elf king and his son argue with open interest and Legolas really hopes that none of them speak Sindarin. However, if they did, there would probably be more yelling so the prince tries to ignore them as he meets his father's eyes.
“I have no answers for you, father. But if both of us can feel the blood tie then we must treat them as my children until we find out more,” Legolas says. "I admit it makes no sense. Thorin claimed those dwarves as his sister-sons but I swear I have never laid a hand on Lady Dís. Even if I had been drunk enough to bed a dwarf and then forget about it, you know my tastes run more toward males than females anyway."
Hearing that he is now some kin to Thorin Oakenshield only makes Thranduil angrier and if glares could wound, the dwarf lord would be a bloody smear upon the floor. But as much as the elf king hates Thorin - and the depths of his rage are greater than several human lifetimes - some things are sacred. Elves have never been blessed many children and the bonds of kin trump all.
So even though Thranduil would prefer to stab himself in the heart with a rusty dagger, he forces himself to smile down on Thorin's company.
“Welcome to Mirkwood,” the elf king pronounces in a voice as frigid as the cold winter wind. “I offer you shelter in my house for as long as you require and I hoped that you will find everything to your comfort here."
The dwarves are clearly surprised by Thranduil's offer and Thorin looks like he wants to question the elf's sudden change of heart. However, before he can, one of the dwarf lord's companions elbows him in the gut.
“What in the bla - ahem - we thank you for your hospitality,” Thorin says almost graciously beneath the white-haired dwarf's stern glare. “You have my gratitude.”
The dwarf lord bows to Thranduil without further prompting. Although he still looks suspicious, he seems to have realized that his only options are guest rooms or the dungeons and even Thorin isn't crazy enough to choose the dungeons out of spite.
So Legolas steps forward and offers the dwarves a chance to wash up before joining Thranduil's court for supper, the elf king's teeth grinding audibly with every word. But he relaxes slightly once the dwarves accept the prince's offer and then leave the throne room, the sense of kinship dimming once Thorin's sister-sons move out of sight.
“Find out what caused this, as soon as possible,” he orders Legolas. “Once we prove the trick, I can throw these damn dwarves out.”
Thranduil sweeps out of the throne room while his son heads to the kitchen to make preparations; he wants to ensure that all of Thorin's companions get enough to eat. The meal itself starts off somewhat awkwardly, the tension almost tangible even though Legolas asks his father's steward to seat the elf king and the dwarf lord as far apart as possible. Despite the distance, Thranduil and Thorin still manage to glare at each other quite ferociously. However, the other dwarves are content to eat their fill without asking questions and the elf king's table is heaped high enough to satisfy even the hungriest dwarrow's appetite.
Once everyone is settled, Legolas takes a seat near his children and perhaps he should be bothered by how easily he's taken to calling them that inside his mind. But the blood sense overwhelms all other protests and now that he's looking closer, the elf can recognize echoes of his own features in his sons. Their faces may be distorted mirrors but they are mirrors nonetheless.
“What are you looking at?” the blond dwarf asks when Legolas lets his gaze rest on him a bit too long. “You and Thranduil keep staring at us like some kind of secret is written on our skin.”
He's perceptive, isn't he? the elf prince thinks, torn between pride and irritation. Legolas isn't going to admit the truth when he doesn't know how these dwarves might take it - he doubts that they'd believe him when he barely trusts his own feelings and he doesn't want to deal with the fallout of that revelation now.
However, the elf would like to keep the conversation going so he raises one perfectly arched brow and says, “Maybe we've just never seen such young dwarves before. Shouldn't you be at home with your parents instead of running off on hopeless quests? I assume you are here to kill the dragon since nothing else would bring Thorin to these parts again.”
Legolas is fishing for more information and the taller of his children doesn't disappoint. Apparently he's prettier than his brother but not quite as smart since the blond dwarf just stares at the elf prince stonily.
“Three years! Three bloody years shy of my majority and even elves mock me for it!” the taller dwarf exclaims. “Why did you get to be the older one? It's not like we know our real birthdays anyway."
“Kíli!” his brother chides him sharply.
“What?! It's not like it's a secret, Fíli,” the dwarf retorts and it's nice to have names for both his children now. "Everyone knows that mother found us."
Every dwarf, maybe, but Legolas certainly didn't know that and his mind spins even as Fíli barks something in Khuzdûl that makes Kíli sit back sulkily. If the pair was found roughly eighty years ago and Legolas isn't remembering dwarven ages incorrectly, then these dwarrows truly cannot be his children.
Eighty years ago, the elf prince was in the north. He spent two decades hunting orcs and bemoaning his empty bedroll and the most recent lover before that had been an elven male. Although elves are able to bear children solely from love in rare cases, Legolas' trysts with Ellodin had been strictly physical and that wouldn't explain why Fíli and Kíli look like dwarves instead.
So the pair cannot be the prince's sons and yet that doesn't stop their blood from singing to him anyway. Logic says no but everything inside of Legolas says yes and in this moment, the elf decides that he doesn't actually care about what's possible.
Fíli and Kíli are his in every way that truly matters - in blood and bone and gift of starlight - and even though he barely knows them, his spirit would grieve sorely if they died.
Which means that Legolas must speak with his father; Thranduil will not like it but Thorin's company is staying. Indeed, if the elf prince has anything to say about it, his sons will be staying here forever instead of running off to face a dragon but he knows that probably isn't possible.
The elf will settle for as much time as it takes to know his children and if they persist in following their adopted uncle's folly, well, Legolas has often thought that Smaug deserves an arrow in the chest. If someone has to kill the dragon then perhaps it will be him; the elf prince would do much worse than that to save his kin.
For tonight, Legolas simply tries to have a conversation, talking about the weather and the food and his father's nasty temper until even Fíli starts to thaw. The blond dwarf still isn't chatty but he lets his brother ramble on without restriction and he offers his own comments here and there.
Thus, the elf prince learns that Kíli and Fíli are seventy-seven and eighty-two by their reckoning, though how their mother decided on those numbers is anybody's guess. The dwarves were found in the forest almost eighty years ago by Thorin's sister Dís and by all accounts, their adopted mother loves them fiercely. Legolas is glad to hear it; he remembers the dwarrowdam as a force to be reckoned with and it's always good to have someone like that on the side of family. Now he just needs to prove to Fíli and Kíli that he can be family too.
For that Legolas needs more time and when Kíli mentions that he's an archer while his brother throws knives and axes, this gives Legolas the excuse he’s looking for. The elf offers to show the pair to the archery range in the morning and judging by Kíli's reaction, he's made a friend for life.
Fíli looks mildly interested by the invitation but his brother is so excited that he's practically bouncing; although, that could be due to the dozen sugar cakes that Kíli has inhaled. Legolas has to bite his tongue when the dwarf reaches for another - the prince may have accepted Fíli and Kíli as his children but they still don't know him from a stranger and Fíli quickly scolds his brother anyway.
By this time, everyone else has finished eating so Thranduil tells his steward to escort Thorin and his companions to their chambers for the night. Then, once the room had emptied, the elf king makes his way to Legolas.
“Well?” he asks. “I saw you talking to Thorin's sister-sons. Have you discovered the source of our delusion? Can I throw this gaggle of dwarves into the dungeons yet?"
“No, you may not,” the prince replies a little sharper than he means to as Thranduil's words ignite protective instincts that he didn't know he had. “There may not be an explanation - if there is one, I don't know it - but Fíli and Kíli are mine. I count them as my children and we will treat them accordingly."
Thranduil scowls at this response but if Legolas will not repudiate his blood tie, then his father has no other choice. “Fine. But do not expect me to call Thorin Oakenshield my kin. Smaug can eat him whole for all I care."
“As long as you don't kill him or start another war, I'll count that good enough,” the prince tells him with a chuckle, relieved that his father is giving in this easily. “Although, speaking of the dragon, I will not let my children face such a monster without help."
“Of course not,” Thranduil sighs, rubbing at his forehead. “ We will not be able to delay Thorin's quest forever - stubborn bastard that he is - but please refrain from doing anything rash until I see what I can find."
“Thank you, father,” Legolas says. “I know you don't agree with this and I appreciate the help."
“Don't be an idiot,” the elf king replies. “If I don't do anything, you'll just run off to kill Smaug with a bow and arrow and you know I can't have that."
Over the next few weeks, Legolas spends as much time as he can with Fíli and Kíli. He takes them to the archery range as promised and while neither dwarf can match an elf for skill, they still do their father proud. After all, the prince does have several thousand years of practice on his side and both his sons hit where they are aiming nearly every time.
Indeed, Fíli and Kíli both prove quick and clever, though Kíli tends to be impetuous without his brother's guiding hand. Case in point, the dwarf becomes utterly smitten with the captain of Thranduil's guard when he first sees her loose an arrow and Legolas doesn't know whether he should laugh or cry.
He can't fault Kíli's taste; Tauriel is both gorgeous and lethal and Legolas used to have quite a crush on her himself. But his younger son might as well have set his sights on the moon for all the chance he has.
“This is going to end badly,” Fíli mutters when he sees his brother's starry eyes and Legolas is pretty sure the dwarf is right.
However, the elf prince is also grateful for Kíli's crush since he and Fíli proceed to bond over their foreboding and the fact that keeping Kíli out of trouble is a full-time job. Even Thranduil can't help a few snickers of amusement as the young dwarf moons after his captain and once these first cracks appear, the king’s disinterested facade quickly tumbles down.
The elf king still avoids Thorin and the other dwarves like the plague but he starts to take more of an interest in his grandchildren after that. Thranduil starts to lurk nearby when Legolas shows Fíli and Kíli around the palace and when the prince steps away for a moment, he returns to find his father deep in conversation with the pair. Indeed, the king is grilling his grandchildren for information like a huntsman preparing for a test.
Thranduil asks their opinions on several subjects and listens to their answers with interest, pronouncing Kíli, “not a total dullard,” and Fíli, “actually quite clever,” afterward. This is high praise from the elf king; even Legolas was considered mostly stupid for the first couple centuries.
Of course, Thranduil could simply be softening due to the fact that there have been no children born in Mirkwood for a long, long time. Even those elves who do not know anything about Fíli and Kíli's parentage can't help treating the dwarves' antics with something closer to fond amusement than exasperation. The brothers are just so young, so full of energy and life, and it's good to hear laughter in the elf king's hall again.
When you live for centuries, the days start to blend together. But that is no longer a problem with these dwarrows underfoot. Legolas finds himself looking forward to getting up each morning, wondering what sort of trouble and adventure his sons will find this time.
Indeed, Kíli's particular brand of cheerful persistence proves difficult to resist and Legolas can hardly believe it when he discovers that the archer's starry eyed courtship has borne fruit. Tauriel and his younger son are going on a picnic in the forest, complete with a wicker basket and their long bows in case the spiders interrupt.
“Not a word,” the captain orders when she sees Legolas’ expression.
“Okay. But seriously, why?”
“I don't know. Call it a moment of weakness if you must. He's just so earnest and those dimples...” Tauriel sighs, sounding a little dreamy for a moment. “They should really be a crime. And, you know, he is rather tall for a dwarf."
She walks off to join Kíli while Legolas is still gaping at her and the prince rushes off to find his older son; he needs someone with whom to commiserate about this insanity.
However, when Legolas finds Fíli in his room, the blond dwarf simply laughs. “I can believe it. Even mother still breaks beneath Kíli's dimples now and then."
“Then why did you say that this was going to end badly?” the elf asks. Clearly he doesn't understand his children yet. Indeed, Fíli just looks at Legolas like he's an idiot.
“Because it is,” the dwarf says, his expression turning serious. “Kíli always forgets to think about the future, but what exactly is going to happen if those two really fall in love? Our company will be leaving as soon as Durin's Day draws closer and I highly doubt that Thranduil or Thorin would allow Tauriel to come along. Kíli staying here isn’t an option either. Although it may not always seem like it, my brother takes his duties seriously. We're off to kill a dragon and everyone knows that we may not be coming back.”
This is a sobering thought, all the more so because Fíli is quite right. Legolas' sons may have changed the halls of Mirkwood for the better with their presence, but they don't belong here, not as far as they're concerned. Fíli and Kíli think their true home is the Lonely Mountain and if Legolas doesn't do something, they're probably going to die in Thorin's mad quest to get it back.
So the prince bids Fíli farewell and goes to find his father, bursting into Thranduil's throne room without bothering to knock.
Thankfully, the room is empty and there is no one else around to hear Legolas' desperate plea, “Please, ada. Please tell me that you found something. I can't let Smaug claim their lives.”
“Yes and no,” Thranduil replies, motioning for his son to follow him into the smaller council chamber. “As you know, the legends say that every dragon has a weak spot and Smaug should be no exception, but I have found no record of where his weakness lies. I rather doubt the dragon would submit to an inspection, but if you can discover his weak point, then I can offer this."
The prince's father pulls a key from his robes and unlocks a cabinet in the corner, one that Legolas has never paid much notice to. Thranduil takes a small rectangular case from the shelf and unlocks it as well, lifting the lid to reveal a wicked looking claw. The dagger is nestled in black velvet, its blade covered in runes and spell work that Legolas does not recognize.
“What is this?” the prince asks, running his hand over the dagger's hilt reverentially.
“This is your great-grandfather's folly: the Flamekiller. He went slightly mad after losing his beloved and declared a war on dragon-kind, forging spells and magic deep into that blade. Should it taste a dragon's blood, the dagger will steal away its life in seconds. But if your great-grandfather had been more sensible, he would have forged a bow instead. He only used this weapon once because the wounds he took while getting close enough to stab his enemy soon claimed his life as well.”
“That does seem a two-edged sword - or dagger as it happens. But I suppose it's better than nothing and if Smaug is sleeping then I might get close enough,” Legolas says before shaking his head at his own foolishness. “Assuming I can find Smaug's weak spot and get inside the mountain, of course. Seriously, does Thorin have any kind of plan? I don't know what these dwarves are thinking."
“They’re thinking that they've been homeless long enough,” a strange voice answers and the elf prince spins around to see a small blond - mini-dwarf? - standing behind him.
“Who are you? What are you? And how did you get in here without us noticing?”
“My name is Bilbo Baggins. I'm a hobbit and a member of Thorin's company. As for the sneaking, that's sort of what I do,” the intruder says with a shrug. “It took me awhile to catch up after you grabbed the dwarves in Mirkwood and then Thorin asked me to stay hidden in case your true intentions were not honorable. But I think they are so I'm going to tell you something that Thorin never would."
“And what is that?” Legolas asks suspiciously.
“There is no plan. I honestly think the dwarves are hoping that Smaug died years ago,” Bilbo tells him plainly. “However, there is a secret door. It won't open until Durin's Day so you have until then before Thorin and the others run off to get their fool selves killed."
“That still leaves a couple weeks. With half a dozen guardsmen, I could probably have the gate cleared and get inside within a day or two,” the elf prince muses. “But that still doesn't solve the problem of getting close to Smaug."
“I can help with that,” the hobbit offers. “I have a way to pass unseen if you let me come along.”
“And why should I believe you?” Legolas asks. “Why should I trust that you really mean to help?”
“Because these dwarves are my friends. I want them to survive this and for whatever reason, you seem to want the same,” Bilbo tells him. “Why would I lie about this? That would serve no purpose. Facing down the dragon without a plan would just get us killed instead."
Thranduil is still suspicious but his son knows that he probably won't get a better shot to save his children. This Bilbo seems sincere and even if he isn't, the hobbit is hardly going to beat the elf prince in a fight. He would have to resort to trickery and for all his skill at sneaking, he really doesn't seem the type.
So Legolas tells Fíli and Kíli that he's going on a hunting trip and won't see them for a while. Then he collects half a dozen warriors, the hobbit, and the Flamekiller before bidding Thranduil farewell.
The elves travel quickly, one warrior carrying Bilbo so that he doesn't slow them down, and they reach Erebor before two full days have passed. Legolas hasn't visited this place in decades; he came once, not long after Smaug took the mountain and he found the ruins so depressing that he hasn't been back since.
Honestly, not much has changed over the last century. A sense of death still hangs over Erebor, even the birds giving the dwarves' old home wide berth, and Legolas can't help feeling as though the stones are watching him.
“We shall free you soon,” the elf murmurs softly, pressing one hand to the rock. “Your children will be coming home again.”
Legolas isn't sure if the mountain hears him or if it even can. But when the elves start to unblock the gate, the work goes easily. Stones seem to jump into their hands and by the time the sun starts setting, they've cleared an opening large enough for both Legolas and Bilbo to enter Erebor.
However, the prince takes one look at that looming darkness and decides to wait for morning. Better to take on this task well-rested and indeed, the hobbit seems glad for the reprieve.
Bilbo hasn’t said much over the last two days and even now, he just stares into their campfire pensively. He seems like a soft creature and Legolas is curious about what could have brought him so far from his home. But the elf prince doesn't ask; everyone has their reasons and it's not as though he could explain his current mission without sounding mad to anyone who has never felt the song of kinship in their blood.
The next morning is cold but clear, a winter's chill beneath the cloudless sky. Perhaps rain would have been better, rain to slow the dragon's wrath if their venture fails. But Legolas cannot wait for different weather and at least the passage into Erebor doesn't look as menacing in the bright sunshine.
“If we have not returned by sundown or the mountain begins shaking, go tell my father that we failed,” Legolas orders his warriors. “Do not follow us inside.”
Then the elf prince ducks inside the passage, Bilbo Baggins following closely on his heels.
“It’s so big,” the hobbit marvels when they come out in Erebor's grand entrance hall. “How will we ever find the dragon?”
“That much should be easy. We just find the dwarf king's treasure hoard,” Legolas replies. Smaug will be where the gold is and while the elf was never invited to see Thrór's treasury, he knows enough about the mountain’s layout to guess where it should be.
So the prince leads Bilbo deeper into Erebor and less than an hour has passed before gold coins start to clink beneath their feet. This trail of scattered wealth leads the pair to an enormous chamber near the heart of the mountain and even Legolas has to gasp at the sight which meets their eyes.
He's always known that Erebor was wealthy but this is enough gold to cover all of Mirkwood in treasure two feet deep. No wonder the dragon was unable to resist its siren call. Thrór's greed doesn’t justify what happened to his people, but Legolas still makes a mental note to warn his children to be careful how they delve.
“Do you see Smaug?” Bilbo whispers, looking around the chamber nervously.
“No, not yet. Stay close until we find him,” the prince orders. “Then I will distract the dragon while you hide. Wait until you see his weak spot before you try to strike."
“What?! No! I'm not a warrior” the hobbit protests, his expression horrified.
“But you are the sneak,” Legolas replies. “I would never be able to get close enough before Smaug senses me.”
“But I… You… I can't.” Bilbo seems to be struggling with himself, his expression twisting as he takes something from his pocket and shoves it toward the elf. It is a ring, plain and golden, and the hobbit looks almost nauseous as he growls, “Take it. Take it now!”
Legolas barely hears him, the prince's attention caught by the gleam of shining metal, and as soon as he touches the ring, he knows that he cannot give it back. He will not. It is his. His to hold and treasure and he will kill anyone who dares…
“This ring turns you invisible,” Bilbo says, his words cutting through the fog of possession in the prince's mind. It is still there but it no longer threatens to burst right through his skin and Legolas can remember why he's here again.
“Use the ring to hide while I distract Smaug and try to find his weak spot,” the hobbit continues. "I doubt the dragon has ever seen a creature quite like me and hopefully curiosity will keep him from attacking before you find his heart and strike."
Bilbo's voice is shaky but his words are resolute and the prince feels a surge of fondness for this small fellow who is risking so much for those who aren't his kin. Though that won't stop Legolas if the hobbit tries to…No. Not now. Not yet.
The elf slips the ring into his pocket before walking out onto the sea of treasure, gold and gemstones sliding awkwardly beneath his feet. He walks and walks without seeing any sign of Smaug and he's starting to wonder if the wyrm has truly perished when Bilbo slips and falls. The hobbit lands hard and begins an avalanche, gold coins tumbling down the heaps of treasure in a rushing wave. The landslide reveals a ridge of skin; no… scales, crimson and dark like day old blood.
He's underneath us, Legolas realizes, his eyes suddenly finding a pattern in the treasure's hills and peaks.
A pattern that is shifting quickly as Smaug begins to stir. The dragon was sleeping but now he's been awakened by the hobbit's clumsiness. Legolas barely has time to slip his new ring onto his finger, the world around him turning gray and wispy as one enormous eye flicks open to pin Bilbo where he stands.
“Who disturbs my slumber?” the dragon growls, the words reverberating down to the prince's bones.
Bilbo falters at the question but to the hobbit's credit, he doesn't try to run. Instead, he squares his shoulders and juts his chin out stubbornly. “My name is Bilbo Baggins and I am a hobbit from the Shire. I came to see if the rumors about your greatness were really true. I didn't think that any creature could be as magnificent as the legends claim.”
“And what do you think now?” Smaug hisses, clearly amused by the hobbit's audacity. The wyrm shifts where he lies, gold coins spilling from his back as he opens his wings wide. Legolas takes advantage of the movement to search Smaug's body for a weak spot but all he sees is armored scales instead.
“Truly, the legends didn't do you justice,” Bilbo tells the dragon. “You are even more impressive than the stories claimed. And yet, how can your skin truly turn away the strongest steel and iron? Are you like a turtle that must hide within its shell?”
“A turtle?!” Smaug roars in fury. Legolas struggles to keep his feet as the dragon suddenly surges upright and rears back on his hind legs. “Do I look like a turtle? Do I look like some petty reptile: weak, slow, and stupid in my shell? I should swallow you now for daring to insult me. You look on death, little hobbit. My claws are spears, my teeth are swords, and you have twenty seconds to convince me to let you leave this place alive. I do not suffer thieves within my hall, Master Baggins, and for all your pretty flattery, a thief is what you are.”
The hobbit stammers, his wit failing him in the face of the wyrm's rage. But he's lasted long enough.
When Smaug rose to his full height, Legolas saw a flash of white upon his breast. Pale skin with no scales to protect the dragon from the elf prince and his great-grandfather's blade. Legolas will kill Smaug and then kill Bilbo; he will take the mountain for his own and ensure that no one ever tries to steal his ring or hurt his kin again.
The elf is moving before the wyrm beings to stoke his fire and when Smaug lunges forward to burn Bilbo to a crisp, Legolas slams his dagger home. The Flamekiller is so small compared to the dragon; the blade should be little more than a nuisance in Smaug's side.
But as soon as the dagger tastes blood, the runes carved into the Flamekiller’s hilt flare brightly and the dragon's fire starts to die. Smaug's flame – his life force – is leeching from his body and pouring into the prince's weapon. Legolas’ great-grandfather had forged his magic well.
“What is this?!” the wyrm shrieks. “What is happening?!"
Smaug tries to bite Bilbo but the hobbit runs behind a pillar and the dragon is too weak to catch him. His scales are fading, scarlet bleeding into black even as the Flamekiller keeps glowing brighter and brighter. Smaug lurches forward, clawing at his chest until, with one last gasp, he crumples to the ground. The dragon doesn't move again and when Legolas dares to touch him, warm flesh has turned to stone.
“Is he dead?” Bilbo asks, peeking around the pillar with wide eyes. But the elf prince doesn't answer. He just reaches down to pull his blade from the dragon's chest. Now seems as good a time as any to start his bloody conquering.
However, when the ring on Legolas' finger touches his grandfather's dagger, a voice shrieks inside his mind. The Flamekiller pulses in his hand but the elf cannot let go; his fingers will not move when he tries. Legolas can only scream as his ring begins to burn, fiery letters crawling across the golden band. The world around him flickers: gray to color, gray to color, until nausea forces the prince to close his eyes.
But Legolas can still see the fire. His dagger and his ring are blazing in the darkness, Smaug's stolen flame twisted to new purpose now. The power builds and builds until it shatters, and the elf throws his free hand in front of his face as both artifacts explode.
When Legolas can see again, he's lying flat on his back and Bilbo is leaning over him worriedly.
“Are you all right? What happened?" the hobbit asks. At least, that's what the prince gets from lip-reading; his ears are still ringing with one last tortured scream.
Legolas has the feeling that something important has just happened - some shift in the fabric of the world around them - but all he manages to whisper is, “I think I broke your ring.”
“You nearly broke your head,” Bilbo retorts. His words sound as though he's speaking through a tunnel but at least Legolas' hearing seems to be coming back. “And I think that's quite all right. I found - borrowed – well, really stole - that ring earlier on this journey and I feel strangely lighter knowing that it's gone.”
This is a sentiment that Legolas can agree with, the elf thinking back on his bloody plans with both horror and shock. That rage has disappeared as quickly as it came, leaving the prince just weary and in pain. His right hand is burned badly and he's more than ready to go home.
So he lets Bilbo help him to his feet, staring at the dragon's body for a long moment before starting toward the door. Legolas and the hobbit just managed the impossible and it's a shame that no one but Thranduil will ever know the truth of how Smaug died.
At least my children will be safe now; everyone will be safe now that the beast is gone.
One week later, Legolas is standing in front of the gates of Erebor with a score of elven warriors and Thorin's company. After much arguing, the dwarf lord finally agreed to accept Thranduil's assistance with his quest. Not with the dragon – all of them have been talking right around the dragon - but with clearing the gates so that the dwarves can reenter their old home.
With thirteen dwarves, twenty-one elves, and a single hobbit working together, the entire gate is clear of stone within a couple hours. Once the passage is open, Legolas signals his elves to stand back, allowing the dwarf lord's company to enter the Lonely Mountain first.
This is their homecoming and the elf doesn’t want to interrupt. Indeed, many of the dwarves walk through the gate as though they're dreaming, reaching out to touch the surrounding stones with quiet reverence. Even Kíli has fallen silent and his eyes glint with tears as he looks upon his adopted family's ancient home. The stories truly do not do Thrór's kingdom justice, not when the very rocks are steeped in history.
“We must find the dragon. We must ensure the beast is dead.” Thorin's voice shatters the silence and draws his companions from their private reveries.
He is right, of course; the Lonely Mountain cannot be reclaimed if Smaug still sleeps within and only two people here know of the dragon’s fate. Indeed, Legolas and Bilbo trade weighty glances as they follow the dwarf lord toward his grandfather’s treasure chamber, Thorin's path unerring even after all this time.
The dwarf and his companions make their way through the ruins of a great kingdom, every cracked column and dusty corpse a reminder of all that had been lost when Smaug attacked. But the group is careful to be silent, only muted footsteps and the soft jangling of armor to mark their passage through the stone.
However, when Thorin reaches Thrór's treasury, he takes one look through the archway and exclaims, “By Durin's beard!”
“What is it?”
“Are you all right?” Fíli and Kíli ask, crowding up behind their uncle.
“Silence, fools!” one of the older warriors hisses and the pair falls silent sheepishly.
“It's all right, my friend,” Thorin says, laying a hand upon his shoulder. “The Valar have listened to our prayers. Smaug the Terrible is dead. Look upon our ancient enemy."
Indeed, the dragon's corpse is right where Legolas and Bilbo left it, a great black statue on a hill of gold. His fire is gone and a gaping crater in his chest obscures the place where the elf prince's dagger fed. To the untrained eye, it looks as though Smaug's heart exploded, as though the Valar struck down the wyrm for his unbridled greed.
What follows is a joyous celebration, the dwarves' voices filling the treasure chamber as they laugh and shout and hug everyone in reach. Even the elves are drawn into the chaos and Legolas nearly falls over when Fíli and Kíli barrel into him.
“The quest is over!” the prince's younger son exclaims. Looking at his smile, Legolas knows that he made the right decision even if the wound from Flamekiller and Bilbo's ring exploding will never really heal. There is a streak of metal burned into his skin and while it no longer hurts exactly, it will not come free. The elf will wear that mark forever, a reminder of a battle that no one knows he fought.
Once the celebration finally dies down, Thorin turns to business. The dwarf lord sends messenger birds out to all his kindred, telling them that the Lonely Mountain is in dwarven hands again, and then sets his companions to the task of making Erebor livable.
Meanwhile, Legolas orders two elves back to Mirkwood. These warriors are to inform the prince's father that Thorin has accepted his good fortune without question while the rest of the elves stay to help the dwarves in any way they can. Manwë's children may lack the stone sense that Aulë gave to his people but there is plenty of work for willing hands.
Thranduil finds his son by the gates of Erebor roughly three days later. Legolas is working with Dwalin, Fíli, and several of his warriors to turn the shattered entrance into something usable, something that can be opened and closed should the need arise.
Thorin walks out to meet with Thranduil once he's informed of the elf king's arrival and Legolas is glad to see that the dwarf lord is carrying shining gemstones in his hands. That had been quite an argument but the effort proves well worth it when Thorin finally speaks.
“Greetings, King of Mirkwood. I believe I have something of yours to be returned."
Thranduil's whole face softens when the dwarf offers the white gems of Lasgalen back to their rightful owner. He cradles the necklace in his hands and bows low in gratitude.
“You have my thanks, Thorin Oakenshield, and the friendship of my kingdom,” Thranduil tells the dwarf lord and Legolas knows that his father truly means the words. The elf king may not like Thorin but he will not reject the dwarf lord's gift. This is the first step toward true friendship between Mirkwood and Erebor; not just the bonds of trade and kinship but a lasting peace.
Indeed, when the Master of Laketown arrives several hours later, Thorin and Thranduil greet him side by side. The man has come to demand a share of the dwarves' treasure, a demand built on nothing but his greed.
What has this man done but cower in the shadow of the mountain? He is nothing but a vulture, hoping to steal some portion of the prize now that the fight is finished, and Thorin sends the master away with all that he deserves.
“Your people are welcome to resettle Dale if they so desire, but any gifts from Erebor will be bought with trade in kind,” the dwarf lord says with Thranduil's blessing. That is the final word on the matter and so the Master of Laketown slinks off with his tail between his legs. He runs and keeps on running as Legolas learns later, another human messenger arriving with the dawn.
“We are grateful for your offer and will begin the restoration of Dale as soon as possible,” the man tells Thorin with a bow. “We could use your help with the stonework but we will trade what you require in exchange. Bard says the first barrel of fish is free in thanks for running off the Master; none of us were sad to see the back of him.”
Everyone laughs at that and indeed, the mood is hopeful all around. Thranduil and Thorin are already hashing out new trade agreements while the dwarf's companions continue working to restore Erebor. Once the gate is fixed, Legolas helps his children map the tunnels while several of the others count the mountain's stores. The fresh food rotted years ago but there is a fair bit still preserved and Thorin should have no trouble feeding his people until trade starts flowing once again.
Life is perfect – or near to it – and Legolas should have known that it would all come crashing down.
Gandalf arrives one week after Durin's Day, much later than he'd promised and with fell words on his lips. The wizard says that there is an army of orcs and goblins marching on the mountain, an army that will be arriving with the dawn.
This is ill news indeed and while Thranduil immediately rides to Mirkwood with Tauriel to gather up his army, there simply isn't time. Thorin's company is skilled but the Lakemen are not fighters and the numbers do not lie. Thirteen dwarves, one hobbit, and the handful of elves still left within the mountain cannot hold back an army and the last messenger placed Dáin's forces two days out.
Thorin brings everyone inside the mountain – dwarves, elves, and men alike – and do their best to prepare for what's to come. The dwarves brace Erebor's gate with stone and wood while Legolas and his warriors lay traps across the valley floor.
Anyone who approaches will pay the price in blood but if Gandalf is right then this will barely slow the Lonely Mountain's enemies. Erebor must be ready to hold out against a siege, surviving long enough for Thranduil and Dáin to bring armies to the rescue, and even then the battle may not go their way.
Indeed, Legolas feels a chill when he looks across the ramparts the next morning and sees the enemy. A black mass of orcs and goblins is pouring into the valley, rank after rank of warriors marching on the mountain, and the elf prince knows there is no mercy in their hearts. These orcs are here for gold and vengeance; they will not stop until the east is burning and its rivers choke on blood.
So we'll just have to stop them, Legolas tells himself firmly before running to sound off the alarm.
The elves' traps work as intended, delaying the approaching army and giving Erebor's defenders time to mount their next defense. Indeed, when the first rank marches on the gate, the orcs take less than twenty paces before falling with knives and arrows in their throats.
Everyone who can shoot a bow or throw a rock is standing on the ramparts and they make their enemies pay dearly for every foot of ground. But the orcs just keep on coming, their leader standing just outside of arrow range.
Eventually Erebor's defenders start to run out of ammunition. The arrows slow then stop and after a moment of silence, the attacking army charges with a roar. The orcs and goblins sprint toward the gate only to stumble over hidden trenches filled with pitch. Legolas and Kíli ignite the tar with flaming arrows and the elf prince watches without pity as his foes are burned alive. If he and his kin are to survive this, they can show no mercy either and there are still orcs aplenty when the fire dies.
The army is more cautious now, advancing at a walk instead of rushing forward. But the orcs and their allies are still clumped together and this is to Erebor's advantage when Thorin brings out the ballistae. Only two of the weapons are still in working order but their missiles cut swathes of destruction through the Lonely Mountain's enemies.
Orcs are thrown screaming from the points of impact, their bodies crushed and bloody on the ground. In the chaos, the army's leader – that great pale monster of a goblin – gets too close to the gate and he falls seconds later with two arrows in his throat. One belongs to Legolas and the elf can't help a grin when he reads the fletching on the other; Kíli is quite an archer when he puts his mind to it.
“Good job. We've bought some breathing space,” Thorin says, clapping his sister-son on the shoulder as the orcs start to retreat in mass confusion. There's no one left to keep the cowardly in line. “But stay on your guard. This battle is not over.”
The dwarf lord is right. The besieging army attacks again two hours later – a new orc driving his brethren forward with biting whips and growls. Erebor's defenders manage to repel this onslaught with some effort but their store of tricks is quickly running dry.
By nightfall the Lonely Mountain's enemies are pounding on the gates and those on the ramparts are forced to retreat when the wood begins to crack. Legolas and his companions fall back to the next level of defenses, watching the gate carefully as they try to catch their breath.
“That barrier won't hold forever,” Kíli mutters nearby the elf prince and when Legolas glances over, he sees both his children standing there. His sons are dirt-streaked and weary but they are beautiful and if all of them are going to die within this mountain, the elf doesn't want to stay silent anymore. Fíli and Kíli should know that they were not abandoned, not willingly, and their father is so very proud of them.
“May we speak for a moment?” Legolas asks and while the dwarves are clearly confused by his request, they nod their heads in agreement anyway.
“I do not know if we will all survive the coming battle,” the elf prince tells them plainly. “And if we do not, then there is something you should know. I believe that I'm your father, your true father, though I do not know your mother's name.”
“What?” Kíli asks, his voice cracking in surprise.
“I did not know about you,” Legolas explains. “Truthfully, I still do not know how such a thing is possible when I have never lain with any dwarrowdam. But all elves know their own kin and from the moment that I met you, all my instincts have told me that you are my flesh and blood.”
“But we're dwarves.”
“You can be both,” the elf says a little wryly. “And I do not wish to take the place of the family you have known. However, if we do live through this, I would like to remain in your lives if you allow it. You have grown up well and I wish to know you better than I do.”
Fíli and Kíli trade glances that Legolas can't interpret before starting a muttered conversation. “But we can't... surely lying.”
“...what's the point... explain.”
“...lack of beard.”
The elf only catches a few words despite straining his ears to their limit and he doesn't know what to expect when his sons turn back to him.
“All right. We trust you. At least, there's no reason you should lie.” Fíli tells him and the elf prince slumps down in relief.
“We believe you. Provisionally,” Kíli adds.
“We both felt... something on meeting you and Thranduil and if nothing else, I think we need to talk. We can decide what to do about the future after that.”
“Thank you. You won't regret this,” Legolas promises. The elf would like to say more but there is no time for a long heart-to-heart when the wolf is at the door. Indeed, the orcs break through Erebor's main gate less than an hour later and the mountain's defenders are forced to fight for their lives again.
The battle is more even now, Thranduil's army having used the cover of darkness to gain the high ground without their enemies noticing. Elven archers rain arrows down upon the orcs in the valley, every shot leaving at least one monster dead. But the slaughter outside only makes the goblins more desperate to gain the protection of the mountain and despite their best efforts, Erebor's defenders are pushed back.
The dwarf lord's companions do not go easily, the battle raging on and on until even Legolas grows weary and both sides of the conflict are streaked with dirt and blood. For every orc that falls, two more rush into the gap, their numbers overwhelming even vaunted elven skill.
“Blast,” Legolas curses when a blade slips through his guard, a new slice across his shoulder adding to the many wounds he bears.
Even with the aid of Thranduil's army, the prince doesn't hold out much hope for their survival. But then Legolas hears a horn outside the mountain, the deep note faint but clearly audible above the clash of steel.
“It's Dáin!” Kíli exclaims beside him. “The dwarves of the Iron Hills have come!”
Thorin's kindred must have marched nonstop in order to reach Erebor so quickly and their arrival gives those within the mountain a sorely needed second wind.
“To the gate!” Thorin shouts and his companions roar in answer, charging forward to crash into their enemies. Elves and Lakemen follow, taking heart from their allies' courage, and the line of orcs cracks and splinters in surprise. Legolas loses sight of his children in the chaos but the blood sense pulls him onward and he can tell they're making progress. The enemy is trapped between three different forces – Thranduil, Dáin, and the warriors in the mountain – and no army can fight a battle on all sides.
Legolas cuts down one more goblin and finds himself back at the gate, only a few score of the enemy still fighting as the earth runs red with blood. Somehow they've done it; they've turned a rout to victory, though who knows how much it cost.
“Thorin! Look out!”
The prince turns at the shout and sees Fíli shove his uncle out of the way as an orc tries to stab him in the back. The dwarf blocks the first strike and the second but he's off balance and he goes down hard just before his brother joins the fray. Fíli, Kíli and Thorin are surrounded in seconds, the surviving orcs determined to avenge their failure on the line of Durin now.
“Oh hell no,” Legolas growls. He's not losing his sons on the cusp of victory. So he shifts his grip on his twin swords and runs toward the roiling mass of orcs that blocks his children from his sight.
A shrill whistle summons his remaining warriors, the elves falling in behind their prince's charge. The wedge of steel strikes the orcs and strikes them hard, Legolas barely pausing as his foes fall beneath his feet. But when the elf finally reaches his goal, he finds Fíli and Kíli lying motionless on the ground with Thorin bleeding heavily nearby.
“Kill them all,” Legolas orders his warriors as he drops down to his knees. Both his sons are breathing but they're sorely wounded and the prince has never been more grateful that he studied healing in the past. He may not have any herbs but he has a touch of magic and he gathers his power while shredding his tunic into bandages. Legolas wraps and patches and demands his children heed him and both the dwarves are stable by the time the last orc falls.
“Thank you,” the elf hears distantly as a hand lands on his shoulder. The words are faint through the fog of his exhaustion and when he turns his head, Legolas sees Thorin standing there.
“I didn't do it for you,” he says plainly, too tired to be diplomatic as he prepares to stand. But before he can gather the energy, light suddenly starts to spill out from underneath his hands. Legolas watches in shock as Fíli and Kíli begin to glow, his children shining almost as brightly as the Flame killer had before the dragon died.
The light builds and builds until the elf is forced to look away or risk being blinded. Indeed, Legolas sees the flash even through closed eyelids and when he looks back, both his sons are gone. Fíli and Kíli are not dead, they've simply vanished, an empty void where the prince's sense of them had been.
“What did you do?” Thorin growls, his fingers tightening on the elf's shoulder. The dwarf lord sounds murderous and Legolas can't blame him. But he doesn't have an answer; he can only stammer in reply.
“It wasn't me. I don't know what happened.”
Thorin must believe him because he runs off shouting for Gandalf while Legolas sits there in the dirt, staring at the place where his sons had lain. Fíli and Kíli had been his no matter the strangeness of their conception and now he'll never have the chance to know them as he should.
Indeed, Legolas sincerely wants to throttle Gandalf when the wizard walks over, looks at the ground, and mutters, “Now this is interesting.”
“Explain!” Thorin growls before the elf can make the same demand himself.
“If I am reading this correctly, Fíli and Kíli have been summoned by the Valar,” the wizard says. “No, not summoned, returned to their proper place. The Valar must have needed them for something great to have pulled them from the future all those years ago. Perhaps for Erebor. Perhaps for something else. But this means that you shouldn't grieve too deeply; your sister-sons are not dead and someday in the future, you may see them reappear.”
“And how exactly am I supposed to explain such nonsense to their mother? I promised I would protect them from all danger; do they look protected now?” Thorin snarls before throwing his hands up in the air and stalking off.
The dwarf's departure prompts Legolas to finally stand as well, though he finds himself at a loss after that. His sons have gone back where they came from but knowing this does not ease the prince's grief completely even as it explains a great many mysteries.
Legolas will have children someday - with a dwarf apparently - and then he is going to lose them instantly. Fíli and Kíli were babies when Thorin's sister found them, which means they must be babies when the Valar steal them from his arms. How is the elf prince supposed to bear that? How can he have children knowing that they will be stolen and returned as dwarrows grown if they are returned at all?
The only thing that Legolas is sure of is that he cannot stay here waiting for that day to come. The elf needs to leave. He needs to leave right now and so he seeks out his father on the battlefield.
Thranduil looks the same as always, only a few loose hairs to show that he's been fighting orcs for hours, and he smiles with relief when he sees Legolas. For all his faults, the elf king truly loves his only child and when the prince explains what happened, Thranduil is more understanding than his enemies would have believed that he could be. He gives Legolas his white elk and his blessing, asking only that he remember to write letters now and then.
The prince isn't leaving forever but he needs time and distance before he'll be able to look on Erebor without thinking of the cost.