"And on the day of the New Year
of the Elves, Celeborn and Thranduil
met in the midst of the forest;
and they renamed Mirkwood Eryn
Lasgalen, The Wood of Greenleaves."
– J.R.R Tolkien, The Return of the King
Eryn Lasgalen, Third Age 3019
Conflicting emotions raged through Thranduil as he watched his son cross the smooth floor and stand below the raised throne. How he had worried! After conveniently forgetting to send word of his plans before it was too late, Legolas had been away for a whole year on an exceptionally dangerous quest to Mordor, risking both his life and the succession to the throne. How could he have been so unthinking!
Furious and relieved at the same time, Thranduil wanted to shake his son and yell at him for being so stupid – and then cry and beg him never to leave again. But of course he did neither.
Legolas looked up at him, his gaze defiant, but also slightly nervous. With his open face and big, expressive eyes he had never been able to hide his emotions, and that appeared unchanged. Maybe experiencing war and evil had not ruined him then; he had not yet become hard like his father.
It was difficult to picture Legolas, with his love of all that was living, in the midst of battle – or even worse, to imagine him holding a bloodied knife in his hand, spilling another's life. But perhaps he had only fought monsters like orcs, not men? Killing a human was not much different from killing an elf, and afterwards an ellon would never be the same. Thranduil should know, having done both.
Memories of blood, smoke, screams and death threatened to break his calm mask. He gripped the armrests of the throne so hard his knuckles whitened, and struggled to keep his features impassive despite the storm within. Assuming his "glass face", as his wife had called it.
When he had recovered his self-control, he bent forward, piercing Legolas with his sternest gaze. He was well aware of how it felt to be subject to that frosty glare; his own father had used it often and Thranduil felt guilty for using the same questionable method. But at least he would never raise his hand against his son. He was not like Oropher.
Very soon the defiance left Legolas' eyes and he lowered them, but Thranduil saw the hurt and disappointment that succeeded it.
Quickly pushing down his guilt, he held his prepared lecture, revolving around topics such as disobedience, disregard of duty, recklessness and irresponsibility. If he could, he always carefully thought out beforehand what he would say; spontaneous speeches had never been his strength.
When he had finished, Legolas remained silent for a long time, his gaze turned down.
Why would he not speak?
Perhaps Thranduil should not have scolded him like that; it was not as if his son could undo his actions. Instead, this might make him distance himself even further from his father.
"I did consider what was best for our realm," he said at last. "The quest was necessary, and in the end the destruction of Sauron will benefit us all."
Thranduil's second thoughts about the lecture immediately disappeared. Who was Legolas to decide such things over the Elvenking's head?
"The Ring had to be destroyed, aye, but you did not have to go! You deliberately disobeyed me. Your king, if you forgot."
"I did not want to cowardly hide behind our walls forever. There is a world outside our realm." He said it without any trace of accusation, yet his words stung like an arrow. Legolas' mother had said the same thing many times over the years. Called him a coward.
"Wanting to protect one's people is not cowardice," he spat icily, fighting hard to remain impassive.
"I know, and I do not blame you," said Legolas earnestly. "I heard you achieved a lot here at home when I was gone. Finally clearing out Dol Guldur and everything! It made me really proud to hear."
The affection in his gaze dispelled Thranduil's irritation, replacing it with remorse. He wanted to say he was proud of Legolas too but could not get the words out.
"Hm. It went tolerable, I suppose," he managed.
"I am glad to hear that. And… I am sorry if I caused you trouble. I never meant to."
His chest contracted painfully and his eyes burned. Don't cry… don't cry… "Well, you did. Why did you not return sooner? The war ended months ago."
"My apologies, sire." His gaze dropped again. "I stayed for Aragorn's coronation, and then I travelled with my new friend."
Seeing his son's downcast face and hearing him speak so formally filled Thranduil with more guilt. Why was he so bad at being a parent? Legolas was such a kind, loyal son who deserved a better father, one who could show other emotions than anger. One who would greet him with affection instead of a scolding.
He wanted to wrap his arms around Legolas, hold him close and tell him how much he had missed him. Tell him how much he loved him. But his feet would not move.
When was the last time they hugged? He could not remember. He did remember a much earlier occasion, however, when he had held that wrinkled, ugly little baby in his arms for the first time, his chest painfully contracted as he promised he would be a better father than Oropher.
Had he failed? Was he no different than him?
Trying to sound less stern, he asked: "Did you not invite your friend here?"
"I did, actually. But… I will introduce him to you another day, I think."
Thranduil could not quite interpret his son's features this time. If he did not know better he would say he looked mischievous, but why would he? Making new friends was nothing controversial.
When Legolas had left a while later and Thranduil was alone in his grand throne room, he finally relaxed his features. The action made him think of his wife again. She had hated his glass face; nothing annoyed her more than when he hid his emotions from her. And now he was doing the same thing to their son.
With a pang of grief, he wished, not for the first time, that she could have helped him raise Legolas. How much simpler everything would have been! His wife had always been the wiser of them.
Well, actually, not always, to be honest… He recalled a time when it was she who was rash and unthinking, acting on an impulse. Legolas had inherited a lot from her.
A tear trickled down his cheek. Damn. He should not think about his wife or he would cry his eyes out. It was pointless and would not bring her back. Besides, now he would soon join her in Aman; perhaps in only a couple of decades he could sail to her.
He was patient. He could wait.
Grinning rather naughtily through the tears, he thought about what might happen when they finally met after some hundred years of pent-up longing. It should be… interesting. The physical part of their marriage had never been lacking, which was just about the only advantage at first. Yet, it had been worth it in the end; those last, sweet years of true happiness made all the preceding heartache irrelevant.
Thranduil had never told his son what a disastrous marriage it had started out. Like most others in the kingdom, Legolas believed his parents met late in life and had only been married for a short time when he was born.
What would he think if he knew the truth? That they had been wedded already in the First Age, over sixty centuries – six millennia – ago, and that it took most of those for them to heal and find love?
No, he must never find out; that would be way too humiliating.
Then the memories flooded over him, and for once, he allowed himself to wallow in them, beginning from the first time he met his wife.
She had been so cute. And annoying! Quite the little shadow…
Translations: Adar=father, ellon=male elf
This story follows Thranduil from a young, shy ellon until he becomes the cold and majestic Elvenking known from The Hobbit. Revolving around his complicated marriage, it will also explore many of the important events in Tolkien's Silmarillion through his eyes, beginning in the First Age and continuing through the history of Middle-earth. It will be a rather angsty tale at first, but there will be redemption eventually.
In the next chapter the real story begins, some 6500 years earlier, with a young and slightly awkward Thranduil... :)
I appreciate feedback a lot, it's a huge help to stay motivated with a story, so don't hesitate to leave a comment if you enjoy it. :)
Warnings: Light sex scenes (can be skipped), suicide (implied), canon typical violence, minor canon character death.