Disclaimer: LOTR belongs to the creative genius of JRR Tolkien, not me.

Immortal Friends

Prologue

The joyous greetings whispered by the trees lifted some the despair from the spirits of those who had seen far too many of their number fall in the years of battle it had taken to defeat Sauron. The ache in the heart of the new king was eased by the gentle sounds, giving him renewed strength to face those who waited for loved ones who would not return. It was a bittersweet homecoming for the weary warriors of Greenwood the Great, and tears fell like soft rain as families were reunited or mourned their loss.

Thranduil offered words of comfort to all as he passed through the melancholy crowd, his eyes searching for the two women he so desperately needed to find, finally meeting with the deep sorrow and despair that was a reflection of his own. Seeing arms held out to him, he ran to his naneth as he had often done as a chid, crushing her to him in a grief filled embrace. No words were spoken, for none were sufficient to describe a pain they both felt so deeply. When finally enough tears had been shed, and kisses exchanged to welcome home the living, Thranduil turned to face the one who he sensed stood silently and patiently nearby. Once again he found himself wrapped in loving arms, only this time his spirit soared with elation as he held his beloved close and felt the heart that beat in unison with his against his chest as he had so long desired to do. There was nothing chaste in the way their lips met and their kiss deepened into an expression of their passion and desire with a promise of things to come.

"I do not wish to spoil this moment, my love, but I think that you should speak to Tariel, both she and Imrien will need comforting," whispered Elisiel when Thranduil finally released her lips. Tariel was the most dearly loved and extremely talented cook in Oropher's realm and out of his friendship for her son, and duty to her husband, it had fallen to Thranduil to tell her that both now resided in the Halls of Waiting. A task made even more difficult since he must also tell his friend's wife Imrien, and Tathar, their son of barely ten summers. Thranduil had promised his dying friend that he would watch over them until they were reunited again when the song of Arda was ended.

"Ai, it will be difficult but I must speak with them. Come with me?" he implored, needing the strength of her compassionate spirit and, in all honesty, unwilling to let Elisiel out of his sight. Tariel hugged her grandson close, and Elisiel held the sobbing Imrien in her arms as Thranduil told how his friends had fought bravely, falling as they sought to protect Oropher from the overwhelming enemy. Tears welled unbidden in Thranduil's eyes as the sweet voice of Tathar enquired innocently when they would be going to Mandos to visit his ada and grandada.

As night fell, and the sky draped itself in its cloak of darkness, the stars slowly appeared their usual brilliance seemingly dulled by grief as they listened to the sound of sweet elvish voices singing a melancholy lament for the dead.

"Although they both grieve deeply for father and son, and beloved husbands, at least Imrien and Tariel will find some comfort in caring for Tathar," commented Elisiel as she nestled against Thranduil's chest and listened to the lament. "I suspect the child will look to you as his adar," she added.

"Ai, I expect he will. I think I like the thought of being a father, and we do need to ensure the survival of our realm by increasing the population," teased Thranduil with a small smile, guessing where this conversation might be ending.

"That is so impersonal!" declared Elisiel, with fire in her eyes. "A child should be conceived with love, and wanted for his own sake!"

"And so our son shall be this night, if you will let me love you," whispered Thranduil seductively, his warm breath caressing the tip of Elisiel's ear, turning the fire of anger into flames of desire.

Part One: The Early Years

Legolas was but one of the children to be born that year, and as ecstatic as his parents were at his arrival, Tathar was completely besotted with the babe, declaring to the amusement of all who would listen that he and Legolas were going to be friends forever. Both Elisiel and Imrien sensed it was no idle claim, for the bond of friendship grew quickly between their sons. Thranduil adored his child, but also held a special place in his heart for Tathar and as the years passed by, the two young elves became almost inseparable and at times, impossible!

"Legolas! Tathar! Do not run in the throne room!" demanded Thranduil one day, a moment too late as two swift moving young bodies crashed into him, causing a flutter of papers to fall from his hands as he tried to maintain his balance.

"Sorry, Adar," said Legolas, trying not to giggle as he and Tathar quickly gathered the scattered documents and handed them back to the King who accepted the documents with a frown that could not last in the presence of the endearing smile that lit his son's fair face.

"What were you two running from this time? I see no Orcs or spiders in my Hall?" asked Thranduil with mock seriousness, well accustomed to hearing all sorts of imaginative excuses as to why rules needed to be disobeyed.

"Not Orcs or spiders, this time, your Majesty. We were trying to escape grandnana's wooden spoon," replied Tathar with the respect of a child several years Legolas's senior. Even Thranduil had difficulty stifling a laugh at this admission.

"What did you do to earn Tariel's wrath?" he asked them, clearly remembering being in the same position many years ago. He knew now that she would never have actually used the spoon to enforce discipline, but to a mischievous child such as Thranduil knew he had been, it had seemed a real threat at the time.

"Legolas…"

"Tathar…"

"We BOTH took some blueberry tarts from the cooling shelf," admitted Tathar.

"I see, and since you have none in your possession, I take it you have already eaten them?" asked Thranduil, glancing from one to the other and smiling as they nodded and quickly dropped their eyes in shame at their action.

"Well now, had you saved one for me, I might have been inclined to act in your defence, but…"

"I promise we will, next time Adar," said Legolas enthusiastically.

"Ai, we will," agreed Tathar.

"IF there is a next time, and you do so, then I will be forced to discipline all THREE of you," said a stern voice from the doorway. Tariel entered the room, still wielding her wooden spoon and glared threateningly at Thranduil.

"Of course it is wrong to steal, even from the kitchen, and I expect you both to spend the afternoons until Midsummer assisting Tariel in whatever chores she deems suitable," decreed Thranduil, quickly assuming a more responsible attitude and bowing slightly to the elder woman, who winked in return to show she was really more amused than annoyed.

As it does for all living things, time marched on and finally the day came when Tathar reached his majority and was assigned to a training patrol where he would learn the skills of a warrior. Although he no longer had his friend's full attention, and he understood why, Legolas had never felt so alone and so he often stood hidden among the trees on the edge of the clearing used for weapons and fighting practice, watching with pride as his friend developed his skills, and aching to be able to join him.

Legolas had even considered approaching Thranduil, and asking that the King demand his son be allowed to join the patrol, but thought better of it. Tathar would never condone such a request, likely telling the younger elf that he should not use his status as the son of the King for such a purpose. He had but a few years to wait, and so he should practice patience, which was often a desirable quality for a warrior to possess.

To Legolas's surprise, and delight, Thranduil had somehow discovered the source of his son's misery, and taken it upon himself to teach him the rudiments of sword fighting and archery. Both father and son enjoyed these times immensely, and often the archery and sword masters were to be found among the spectators the lessons attracted.

"Young Legolas is already a better archer than many of the more experienced warriors, and certainly most of your peers," the archery master confided to Tathar one day as they stood amongst the crowd as the lesson was drawing to a close. Several pairs of eyes clouded in anger at the perceived insult unnoticed by Tathar as he nodded his agreement.

"Ai, my friend will be a fine warrior and I hope to be serving in his patrol when the time comes," he said, his words acknowledging that once fully trained, Legolas was likely to be a patrol leader, as was his place as the King's son.

"So you favour the skills of a mere child over that of your comrades?" one of his fellow trainees asked as the end of the lesson was signalled by a round of applause. Tathar had suffered many taunts for his friendship with Legolas that he had declined to renounce once he had reached his majority. Most elves his age no longer bothered with children as friends, but the bonds of friendship between the two could not be severed, even had he so desired; his heart would not allow it. Legolas was as a brother, and would always be so.

"Legolas has but a few years to reach his majority, and he already has great skill, as the master said," replied Tathar defensively.

"He is still very young, and extremely fair, even for an Elf, but perhaps that is his appeal? Does he have other skills besides archery?" the other leered causing Tathar's cheeks to redden as he grasped the implied meaning.

"How dare you speak of Legolas in such a manner? Apologise at once or your words will reach the King's ears!" threatened Tathar angrily.

"There must be some truth in what you say, see how quickly he angers!" said the first to the other. The words had barely left his lips before Tathar closed them with a well placed fist. His antagonist was much heavier in build, and a far better fighter, as soon became apparent as the brawl continued. Tathar received a heavy blow to the side of his head and fell to the ground only to have his opponent straddle his legs and raise his fist to add a few more punches. Tathar closed his eyes, waiting for the blow that did not fall, opening them when he heard a familiar voice call a halt.

"What is the meaning of this!" demanded Thranduil as he held the wrist of Tathar's attacker in a vice-like grip and glared at them both. Neither chose to answer, so Thranduil handed the elder elf into the custody of the archery master, and firmly helped Tathar to his feet, placing an arm around his waist to prevent him from falling. Legolas made to take his Adar's place, but an agonised "NO" in Tathar's eyes stopped him from doing so.

"I believe I asked a question?" repeated Thranduil, his voice now as cold and hard as steel.

"It was nothing, your Majesty, merely a difference of opinion," Tathar finally managed to say.

"Judging by the cuts and bruises, it was a rather heated disagreement," commented the archery master, who had some idea as to the reason, for it was not the first time Tathar and this one had become involved in a fight. He suspected it had something to do with Legolas, but kept his silence.

"Which I trust has been resolved?" asked Thranduil, his words delivered more as a command than a question, apparently satisfied when he two antagonists did not look at each other, but nodded agreement. "Excellent, then I suggest you both take a bath then visit the healer to see if you have any injuries that need to be attended to. I also suggest that such a display of anger and fighting prowess is best used on the enemy, not your kindred," he added making his thoughts plain to all who had gathered to watch the fight.

Later that evening Legolas joined Tathar in his chambers. The elder elf was already abed, with a bandage across his forehead and several dark purple bruises on his face.

"Are you well?" asked Legolas with concern as he sat on the end of the bed.

"It is just a slight cut which will no doubt be healed in the morning. There is nothing to be concerned about," replied Tathar with an affectionate smile.

"There most certainly is, I know what caused the argument!" declared Legolas, the fire of anger in his eyes reflected in the redness of his cheeks. "How dare they suggest such a thing?"

"Indeed, especially since I doubt any of them have experienced that of which they were accusing me," replied Tathar light heartedly.

"How can you jest about this? Are saying they envied you?" asked Legolas with a wicked grin. Tathar raised an eyebrow in surprise.

"Your thoughts indicate that you are still very naïve, but be wary mellon nin and be careful of what you say," he warned. "Have you told the King this?"

"Told me what, Legolas?" asked Thranduil who had heard the last part of the conversation as he entered the room. Legolas quickly recounted what he had heard, watching as anger flashed in his adar's eyes. Such taunts were common even back when he was in training, and whilst he felt angered by the insult to his son and his friend, he knew the best way to deal with such nonsense was to ignore it. His ire passed quickly to be replaced by genuine affection for the one he addressed.

"So, you were defending my son's honour?" Thranduil asked with obvious approval.

"As I will always do," promised Tathar, the fierce look of protectiveness in his eyes painfully reminding Thranduil of the young elf's father, as he wielded his sword for the last time so many years ago.

"You should cherish such friendship, Legolas and let nothing mar it, especially baseless taunts," said Thranduil as he kissed first his son's friend, and then his son, lightly on the brow.

"We are friends forever, and I will defend not only Tathar's honour, but also his life should the need arise," declared Legolas as he reached over to grasp his friend's arm in a warrior's clasp.

tbc