Rather than making his way to his home, Legolas chose to escort Eldarion and Thranduil to the large glade where preparations for the evening’s feast to welcome the King to Ithilien were well underway.
“Your visit is timely, but unexpected, Eldarion, and yet since you are here on your first official errand as the King’s son, it would be remiss of me not to provide a welcome feast for you as well. Unfortunately the one this evening for Adar is already fully planned, so we will have to hold another tomorrow night for you.” Legolas’s apology was delivered in jest and with much amusement, for he was well aware that Eldarion often commented that the blossoming of even a single flower was more than enough reason for his Wood Elf friends to celebrate in the manner he also enjoyed immensely.
“That will be acceptable, my lord,” Eldarion replied with a poor attempt at haughtiness as he practiced his ‘regal’ voice on his friend. Both burst out laughing and were surprised when Thranduil, made no comment about inappropriate behaviour, nor joined in the merriment. Part of his mind was elsewhere, reliving the moments of his first arrival in his son’s settlement, and the bittersweet conversation that had followed.
The dwellings the Wood elves had built for themselves were spread throughout the area of the forest selected for the new settlement in Ithilien, in no particular arrangement other than that which suited its occupants. Many had chosen to follow the lead of their Lórien kin and build telain high in the trees, but the one thing they all had in common was that they were expertly crafted so as to almost be invisible amongst the trees, or in them, to any but the ones who dwelt there.
It was a sight he had never imagined he would see again after Oropher moved away from Lórien when Thranduil was but a child. For a time they had remained in the light of the great Greenwood, but once the darkness began invading, his people had been forced into underground caverns for their own safety. Thranduil loved his stone palace for its beauty and the many lives it had protected, but he had always hated living within the confining walls and cold darkness more suited to Dwarves than the children of the stars. Only now that Sauron had truly been defeated, could his people live their carefree lives as Wood Elves once more, revelling in the close harmony with the forest they adored. His heart wept tears of joy for the freedom so dearly won and now openly cherished by Legolas and his friends.
“Can you see the tapestries, Adar? Are you not proud to know that at last all is as you hoped it would be?” were the words he silently offered to the one who resided in the Halls of Waiting. As if in answer, a gentle breeze suddenly kissed his brow, taking away his sorrow and allowing his inner light to shine fully once more from emerald eyes were filled with a new brightness that was felt even by the trees.
“The forest welcomes you, Adar. It feels so much more alive now you are walking among the trees.” Legolas had said, immediately noticing the new spark of life to the forest that accompanied Thranduil’s arrival, and there was no doubt in his mind that his adar’s powerful ties with the natural world, that ran far stronger and deeper than his own ever could, were the cause.
“So the whispering leaves are saying,” Thranduil replied after listening intently for a few moments. “They are filled with joy that elves have returned to make their home here, but there is an underlying sadness when they speak of the one who is not truly at home in this place,” he had replied, his voice choked with tears for his son’s pain.
“I love the trees and all that grows in these woods, but as the Lady predicted, I am no longer content to live beneath them. I often feel restless and a longing to simply take sail and leave all behind even though I know in my heart that it is not yet time.” Legolas was forced to admit, the knowledge that it would be Aragorn’s death that finally released him from Middle-earth filling his heart with grief.
“I am not affected by the sea longing, and I know that in time I will willingly answer the call to return to our true home, but surely the temptation for you to do so, my son is far greater when you can see the water and almost smell the sea in the air?”
The elder elf had expected his son to prefer a talan to a ground dwelling and was thus surprised to learn that the site Legolas had chosen for his home was a small glen that was bordered on one side by the swift flowing stream that served as a source of water for the settlement before meeting the Anduin several leagues on.
“Aye, so it seems to many. Aragorn and Gimli have also wondered the same thing, but all I can tell you is that I find that the sounds of the gentle lapping of the water on the banks, and the soft whispers as it flows swiftly seawards are as soothing music to my soul.” Legolas had responded with a comforting hug for his Adar and a somewhat bitter laugh at his own plight.
“Do you hear me Adar?” Legolas asked eager to hear Thranduil’s comments and, tugging on a tunic sleeve in the childlike fashion he had often once used to gain the King’s attention. “What do you think of our outdoor Hall?” He repeated. Thranduil turned his full attention to his son and then spent several moments wandering around the large glade, smiling affectionately as he acknowledged the bows of respect offered by the many elves who were busily decorating the trees, preparing the bonfire or laying the tables.
“This is a beautiful place, Legolas, and the idea of a hall under the stars appeals to me greatly,” he answered eventually, noticing that the canopy above was sparse enough to allow the starlight to dance unhindered with the merrymakers. “But what are these? Are they tables or benches?” he asked pointing to several low standing slabs of flat stone.
“They are table used by Gimli and his friends when they visit,” Eldarion offered before Legolas had a chance to reply and, fearing Thranduil’s displeasure at the mention of Glóin’s son, he warned his friend to remain silent with a glance.
“I suppose I should have expected that Dwarves would be welcome in your woods, Legolas, and I am willing to admit that he son of Glóin has shown remarkably good character as a Walker and excellent judgment in choosing his friends,” he said rubbing his chin thoughtfully in a gesture that caused Legolas to widen his eyes in amazement. Thranduil approved of Gimli and was teasing him!
“Are you saying you have changed your opinion of Dwarves and that you will accept dear Gimli as one of my closest friends?” Legolas asked, just to be certain he was not mistaken.
“Eryn Lasgalen joined in the song of mourning that spread through the three elven realms after the war. The losses borne in Moria and at Erebor caused Aulë’s children to suffer much grief, as we had done in the past. It is time to forgive and forget.” Thranduil smiled with his eyes and almost lost his balance as his ecstatic son flung himself into his arms.
“Thank you, Adar, your acceptance means so much to me.”
“Aye, I know, just as I know your heart holds no one in it who does not deserve your love,” Thranduil said.
“Indeed it has room for many, but especially for you, Adar,” whispered Legolas as he kissed his father’s cheek.
Eldarion had moved a discrete away from the private moment between father and son and was about to pour them all a cup of wine from the opened bottle on a nearby table when a messenger arrives, informing Legolas and Thranduil that the Steward of Gondor and his party were now entering the forest.
“Am I correct in assuming that Faramir and the others are *your* escort, Eldarion?” Legolas asked of his friend. Eldarion grinned and shrugged his shoulders in resignation.
“I have been assigned my own personal guard to escort me when travelling on official business,” he told Legolas.
“Then rather than come here alone you should have shown a little more respect for your father’s wishes, and arrived with your escort as your status demand. No doubt those chosen to protect their prince consider it an honour to do so,” Thranduil said sternly, pleased to see his words had caused a tinge of embarrassment to colour the young man’s cheeks. Eldarion looked to Legolas thinking he would offer support, only to find his friend in total agreement with his father.
“Do your duty, Eldarion. Ride out to meet them my friend and return to us as to be welcomed as Prince of Gondor.”