Thranduil felt nothing but compassion for the young prince whose countenance spoke of dismay and sorrow as the truth of the King’s words struck at his heart. It was obvious that Eldarion did not yet fully understand the implications of his title just as it was apparent that the very thought of Aragorn’s death was more than enough to bring tears to the prince’s eyes.
“I know it is a painful truth, but one you know in your heart must come to pass. Do not weep for what has not yet come to pass, there will be time enough for tears when your grief is upon you,” Thranduil said his voice filled with his own sorrow as he covered the hand that was resting on the table with his own in a silent gesture of comfort.
“Forgive me if my question caused you any pain, Your Maj… I mean… Thranduil. . I am mortal and my days are numbered, just as are my father’s. I know I will be King one day, but you are an Elf and the crown came to you so very unexpectedly I did not think before I spoke,” Eldarion said the candid admission and the sincere concern in his voice earned him a measure of respect and an eyebrow raised in amusement from the King.
“An affliction suffered by the young of any race, in my judgement, but one a future ruler must learn to avoid. It is also wise to learn to keep your feelings from showing too readily on your face, especially when involved in delicate negotiations or in sight of your Steward,” he advised, inclining his head to where Faramir was standing and watching the two with some concern. “Faramir can see that you are upset yet he dares not approach to ask you the cause because my stern glare is rather intimidating, or so I am told,.” Thranduil added with a chuckle pleased to see the smile that the young man now wore.
“Father can make the same claim,” Eldarion said, proudly recalling the many times one stern glance from Aragorn had been enough to stop a fierce debate or to silence any protest against an unfavourable decision, either in the council meetings that Eldarion had begun to attend, or in the privacy of his father’s chambers on the several occasions he and Sarien had been called to answer for some mischief.
“I am not surprised, it seems to be a common trait in your lineage. Elendil was certainly regarded as a formidable and intimidating King,” Thranduil commented smiling inwardly at the sudden gleam of curiosity in Eldarion’s eyes.
“You said before that I remind you of my forefather, did you know him well?”
“Not as well as your grandsire did, but I met with him often enough in the course of the march to Mordor to know that he was an excellent swordsman and a skilled leader who was well loved by his men. He was a great King and deserved the respect that even my proud Adar could not deny him,” Thranduil readily admitted.
“Was he your friend?” Eldarion asked, surprising Thranduil with such a personal question.
“Aye, I counted him as a friend, despite Oropher’s objections,” Thranduil replied.
“Forgive me if this is seems rude, but I assure you mean no offence. Legolas once told me that you did not approve of my father and Gimli as his friends,” Eldarion commented forcing Thranduil to suddenly realise how alike he was to his Adar in regards to this matter. “I would be very unhappy if my father disapproved of my friendship with Sarien.”
“I felt the same about Adar’s objections to my relationship with Elendil, and Elrond for that matter. Adar also disapproved of the friendship between me and your grandsire. Nonetheless our bonds of friendship remained unbreakable until Sauron took Elendil’s life,” Thranduil sorrowfully admitted.
“However you may rest assured that I have belatedly learned from my own experience and have come to accept my son’s friends,” Thranduil replied, offering no further explanation. His reasons for his change of heart were his own and he intended to make them known to Aragorn in person and to make his peace with the new King when he visited his court in Minas Tirith. As for Gimli, his discussion with the Dwarf would take place when he and Legolas travelled to Aglarond, as his son insisted they must.
“And I am very glad you changed your mind, Adar,” Legolas said happily as he bent to kiss Thranduil’s cheek in a display of affection that was heart warming to witness. He and his companions had heard only the last part of the conversation as they returned to join Thranduil and Eldarion.
“Will you tell us something of your days with Elendil, Your Majesty?” Eldarion asked. “Faramir has recounted many of the tales Lord Glorfindel told him, and I am curious to learn more about my forefather from another who actually met him.”
Only Legolas knew how gifted a storyteller his Adar was and had heard the stories several times over the years, so he spent the time watching the faces of his friends as they listened in wonder as the Elvenking’s almost magical voice carried them back to the last days of the Second Age. All could sense the friendship and affection that existed between the mortal king, the Peredhel and the Woodland prince. They laughed merrily when he told of the furore caused when Elendil and Elrond ‘acquired’ a bottle of rare wine from Gil-galad’s tent to help Thranduil celebrate his begetting day. When Thranduil described their sparring matches with the sword and the spear, it was as if the contests were taking place before their very eyes. Finally they were moved to tears when he recounted the battle that took the life of the courageous Elendil and his own beloved Adar.
The spell was broken when Thranduil ceased speaking and everyone was surprised to see the first pale light of the new day was chasing the darkness of night from the sky. Eldarion, thanked the King for sharing such a fascinating tale, and the men, now suddenly overcome with weariness made their way to their welcoming beds.
As they left the glade, Eldarion cast a backward glance at the King and his son, the younger elf resting his head on his elder’s shoulder as they sat together beneath the trees, welcoming the dawn with their sweet voices raised in song.
Never before had he seen Legolas so at peace as when he was with Thranduil, and Eldarion’s heart was filled with joy for his friend’s happiness and a need to show Aragorn just how much he was loved and respected by his son. Making a silent vow to no longer avoid his responsibilities, nor give his father cause to reprimand his behaviour, Prince Eldarion of Gondor said a final farewell to his youthful naiveté and willingly stepped onto the path that would one day lead him to the throne.