A Father’s Love
Thranduil read the message from Rivendell with a heavy heart. Sauron had risen again with the finding of the One Ring and the only choice open to the Council of Elrond was to send it back to Mordor, to destroy it by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom. He could not argue with the need for the destruction of the One Ring, but he feared that he would never see his son again for Legolas was to be one of the Nine who were to undertake this dangerous quest. Thranduil would not have sent his son to Rivendell to inform the Council that the creature, Gollum, had escaped had he known of the outcome. Despite the fact that their relationship had always been very volatile, it was also one of great love and respect.
He poured himself a glass of wine and as he raised it in a silent toast to his son's courage, the portrait above the fireplace caught his eye and he allowed himself to travel back to the time it had been painted.
He had been sitting beneath his favourite oak tree, so thoroughly engrossed in his book, that he did not hear her sneak up behind him. He started slightly as delicate fingers covered his eyes and a soft, beloved voice whispered in his ear, "Guess who?" The gentle breath in his ear sent shivers down his spine and he laughed as he caught her hands in his,
"There is only one who could catch me unawares and in such a pleasing way, my love." He pulled his wife to him and kissed her passionately. "Where have you been?" he asked when they finally parted.
"I was arranging to have our portrait painted."
"Our portrait?" he asked wondering at such a strange request. They had not even discussed this. "Do I have a choice?"
"No, and it must be today," she insisted.
"MUST be? Why?" he asked, intrigued by the earnest look on her face.
"Because," she said as she gently traced the outline of his ear with her finger, causing him to groan with pleasure, "I believe this is the day we will be given a child."
Their loving was long and passionate, and as the soft, sweet song of one intertwined with the deeper harmony of the other, a new melody joined them. They had stayed under the oak tree, wrapped in each other's arms, just listening to the tiny thread of the new song they had created until it was time to sit for the portrait.
A year later, to the day, Legolas had entered the world.
Allowing himself a wry smile, Thranduil recalled that the differences of opinion between father and son had begun when Legolas was still very young. There was one instance of which he had particularly fond memories, one of the first times his son had displayed maturity beyond his years. After his temper tantrum had passed, of course!
“It is not fair! Ada you promised we could go hunting today.” Shouted Legolas as he stood before Thranduil’s throne and stomped his foot in anger.
Everyone in the King’s audience chamber suddenly became fascinated by the ancient tapestries, which decorated the walls, or the exquisite pattern in the floor tiling or indeed anything, which drew their attention away from the confrontation that was occurring. Thranduil sighed, this was not the first time he had to cancel his plans with Legolas in favour of important business. This was also not the first temper tantrum everyone had witnessed, and though his son was still a very young elf, it was behaviour not to be tolerated.
“Legolas, try to control your temper and do not speak to me in that tone of voice. I am very sorry that I can not go hunting with you today, but as I have told you before, the duties of King must sometimes come first.” He had no intention of giving a further explanation; the young elf did not need to hear that spiders had taken two elves who had been patrolling the Woods near the Elf Path.
His eyes shone brilliantly with the tears he was desperately trying to stop from falling, but he managed to glare at his Ada.
“You always say that! If I were King, I would do as I pleased. I would go hunting with my son and play games and get someone else to take care of my ‘important’ business!” The angry words came out in a rush and Legolas was proud of the way he had told Ada off.
“Is that so?” He asked, amused by the innocence and naivety in the tirade, but at the same time trying to look serious. He could see that Legolas was very upset, and he really hated to disappoint him. “Well, since you think it is all fun and games to be King, I hereby proclaim that Prince Legolas Greenleaf is to be King for a day.”
Legolas was astounded as Thranduil stepped down from the throne and lifted him into the seat that was several sizes too large for one so small. The Elves who remained in the audience chamber bowed respectfully as he placed a hastily fashioned a crown of the summer flowers which were in bloom on the ‘new’ King’s head.
“The court of King Legolas is now in session.” Thranduil announced. It filled his heart with joy to see the radiant look on his son’s fair face. “What is your command, Your Majesty?” Legolas thought for a moment, trying to remember what Ada usually did.
“I will hear petitions until the noon meal, then I will take Ada hunting.” He decreed.
Thranduil rolled his eyes but said nothing. In the spirit of co-operation and for the love of the young Prince, all the petitions were of a simple nature and everyone was surprised with the sense of responsibility he had suddenly developed. Thranduil still had the important issue regarding the attack by the spiders to deal with, and he also had to try and comfort the parents of the ones they had lost this day. He left the audience chamber unnoticed by all except his Steward, who with a silent nod undertook to keep a subtle watch over King Legolas.
Legolas quickly became bored with listening to petitions, what did he care if someone wanted to try a new kind of grain in the next planting or that a new source of wine had been found. He looked to Ada’s steward who nodded, indicating which petitions were to be granted. He was glad when the bell finally rang for the noon meal, and happily sat in Thranduil’s usual place at the head of the table, enjoying the attention he was receiving immensely. Quickly finishing his meal, he ran to his room and strapped on his quiver, picked up his bow and went to find Ada; it was time to attend to the important business of hunting!
Thranduil was speaking to the parents of one of the fallen Elves, and did not hear Legolas approach.
“I have no words to comfort you,” he heard Ada say, “We all share your grief. Though your son now resides in the Halls of Mandos, he will always be remembered for his bravery.”
So this was the important business that prevented the hunting trip, Legolas thought to himself. He was shocked for everyone knew that only an Elf who was slain went to the Halls of Mandos.
As a single tear traced the outline of Thranduil’s elegant nose, a sign of the pain and grief he felt for the loss of a precious life, he felt a small hand slip into his. Looking down into the concerned eyes of his son, he heard a small but kingly voice say,
“Do not cry, Ada. Hunting is not important, but if you wish, we can go another day.”
Thranduil sighed heavily and poured himself another glass of wine, only just now realising it was from the very vineyard young ‘King Legolas” had approved so long ago.
There had been an increasing sense of foreboding ever since that attack on his patrols; the evil at Dol Guldur had spread like blight over his realm that even his formidable powers could not fully contain. It was during this time that he had lost his beautiful Queen to the call of the sea. Legolas had been devastated by the loss of his mother, and he never really understood why she had to leave. It was many years before Thranduil himself could speak about her, but one Midsummer’s Eve he found the courage and a very melancholy Legolas sitting alone in his mother’s rooms.
Legolas could hear the echoes of music and laughter coming from the forest, but had ignored the pleas of his friends to come and join them in the fun. Instead he had made his way to his mother’s room and seated himself in her favourite armchair. Although it had been many years since she had passed into the West, he could still feel her presence. He missed her sorely and took consolation in the fact that they would meet again someday, however she was not the present cause of his sadness. It was Aragorn and Arwen who were responsible for his mood. He had never seen a couple so completely in love as those two and he found himself wishing that he had someone with whom he could share his heart and soul.
“Shall I never know the love of a maiden?” he sighed giving voice to his thought.
“Love will find you one day, my son.” Legolas started, he had not heard his father enter “just as it found me.” Thranduil’s face had softened at the thought of his beloved wife and Legolas wondered how he could bear to be apart from her.
“Why did you not travel to the Undying Lands with Mother?” He dared to ask.
“It was she who was being slowly devoured by the sea longing of our people and could no longer remain here, but she did not wish me to abandon my kingdom. I loved her, how could I ignore her wishes? She was possessed of a deep insight and insisted that you had an important role to play in the affairs of Middle Earth. Once that destiny is fulfilled she knew we would both be free to join her. I look forward to that day.”
“How did you meet?” Legolas asked, he had often wondered. Thranduil smiled, this was the first time that he and his son had discussed such a personal topic, and he enjoyed the closeness that they shared at this moment.
“Her father was a general in Oropher’s army and she would sometimes accompany him to the practice field. I usually took little notice of the maidens at that time as we were preparing to go to war. Anyway, one day she was watching her father and I practising the sword and something caught my eye and I glanced in her direction. The sunlight glittered in her golden hair and I was so mesmerised by her beauty that I dropped my guard and was knocked unconscious. When I awoke she was placing a wet towel on my brow and as I looked into her eyes I knew instantly that I had found the one whose soul sang the same song as mine.”
“Is that the way for all of us?”
“The love of an elf runs as soul deep as all our emotions do, and it is forever. Your life songs become an intertwined melody, and should part of the music die, the remaining tune fades into oblivion. That is why grief at the loss of a lover is often fatal. I would die of grief if I could not still hear your mother’s melody in my soul.”
“ There have been a few maidens who have caught my eye, but I have never felt as you describe,” said Legolas with a melancholy smile.
“Do not despair, you will find love one day, probably when you least expect it” Thranduil said returning his son’s smile “but I think you are more likely to find it out there with the merrymakers than in this room.”
Thranduil recalled that Legolas had embraced him warmly before he left to participate in the festivities. He closed his eyes and could even now feel his son’s strong arms about him, just as he hoped he would when the Quest was completed.
The Ring War was fought and won, but it was not until he and Celeborn met on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the final victory over Dol Guldur, that Thranduil learned his son was alive and well. Many months later, the day of Legolas' homecoming arrived.
Thranduil watched with pride from his balcony as the much-loved Prince of the realm approached slowly, stopping to greet his friends or to humbly accept praise for his part in the Fellowship. He had chosen not to meet Legolas art the gates because he was not comfortable with public displays of affection, their reunion would be in private.
'Every Wood Elf in Eryn Lasgalen must have come to attend the welcome home banquet that is to be held tonight,' Thranduil thought to himself as Legolas finally passed through the gate and made his way into the Hall. With total disregard for princely decorum, he ran through the passageway to Thranduil’s study where he knew the King was waiting. Without a second thought, Thranduil moved quickly to embrace the son he had been so afraid to lose, tears of joy and relief filling his eyes. Legolas only now realised just how much he had missed the comfort he felt in the safe, strong arms that held him and he returned the embrace, placing a kiss on the tear-stained cheek of his beloved Ada.
“Welcome home, Legolas.” Thranduil said, his voice husky with emotion.
“It is good to be home. I am sorry I was not here during the battles you fought.” Legolas replied. He had not failed to notice that there was still much damage where the city had been ravaged by orcs and parts of the surrounding woods were still blackened from the fires.
“ I was very worried about you, and our people, I feared greatly for your safety.”
“There is no need for apology, your destiny lead you elsewhere.”
Deciding a change of subject was in order, Thranduil suggested that Legolas relate some of his adventures as a member of the Fellowship. “In particular, I would hear more about your friendship with Gloin’s son Gimli. How is it that and Elf and Dwarf have become close?” Legolas laughed at the displeased expression on the King's face and spent a pleasant afternoon telling of the tale of the initial animosity between the two that changed to a treasured friendship over the course of their journey. Thranduil could not help but laugh as Legolas told him of the many insults they had traded, and the famous ‘orc head’ counting contest.
“I have ordered a feast to celebrate your return,” Thranduil said his mood considerably lightened. “It has been far too long since the Elves of this Wood have made merry all night under the stars.”
“Yes, that is so. I have still much to tell you but the sun has almost set and I must go and make myself presentable for such a wonderful occasion,” Legolas said, his face full of delight at the prospect of an evening of fun and laughter.
“You will find your rooms as you left them,” Thranduil said noting that Legolas was not in the least surprised to hear that. He favoured the King with a brilliant smile and another quick hug before he retired.
The evening was perfect for an outdoor feast, there was a light breeze and the stars seemed to shine with extra brilliance in honour of one of the Children of Iluvatar. The Woods were filled with the delightful sound of Elvish laughter, which was like the tinkling of silver bells. The music of many sweet voices drifted across the glade where the merrymaking was in full swing and the Prince was called upon to sing several solos, as his was the sweetest voice of all.
The first rays of the morning sun filtered through the leaves, signalling an end to the festivities and Legolas found a quiet spot in the branches of an old oak tree. The soft rustle of the leaves was as a lullaby and soon he fell into a restful sleep. He awoke several hours later, fully rested and sought out Thranduil, for he wished to tell him of his plans.
Legolas found him inspecting the repairs on the worst of the damaged buildings, and took the opportunity to speak of the restoration of both the gardens and the stonework of Minis Tirith. They discussed which plants would be most suitable for the new gardens and Legolas decided that now would be an excellent time to make his request.
“I have told King Elessar that, with the help of those Wood Elves who are willing to make a new home there, I will endeavour to restore the forest of Ithilien to its former beauty. That is, of course, if you will give me permission to do so?” Thranduil thought a moment before replying.
“Such a task will require the power of many Elves, but it has much merit. I remember how beautiful it once was and I am sure that Celeborn would agree that you have won the right to make of it what you will. I gladly grant your request." A shadow of concern passed over his face as he looked more closely at his son. “I see that you have more to tell me, for I sense an unfulfilled longing in you.”
Legolas sighed sadly and found it difficult to find the right words.
“ The Lady Galadriel warned me to beware of the sea and the cry of the gull but on the path that I chose to follow it could not be avoided. Sadly I am now afflicted with the sea-longing of our people.”
“Do you wish to talk more about it?” Thranduil whispered, trying to keep the tears from his voice.
“There is not much to say.” It broke his heart to see his father so full of sorrow. “Do not despair for it has only just come upon me, and there is much I wish to see and do before I will allow myself to be tempted away from these shores.” Thranduil managed a weak smile.
“It pleases me to see that you have not yet succumbed, but do not underestimate the power of the sea, my son.”
“It is my mortal friends who bind me here,” he explained, realising the truth for the first time. “I have not the heart to leave friend Gimli alone, for he will have many more years ahead of him after the others of the Fellowship have passed on. Nor do I wish to leave before Aragorn’s time is over.”
Thranduil was relieved to hear his son’s words, for they meant that they also would still have much time together. Nonetheless he was filled with an overpowering sense of loss, for he knew that he had lost his son, not in battle nor to Ithilien, but to the haunting call of the sea.