Summary: Thranduil laments the dangerous future his youngest son, Legolas, is likely to face.

Disclaimer: I don't own Legolas or Thranduil. I do own Balardoron. Hey, one elf is better than none!

A/N: Legolas is twelve in human years.


A FATHER'S CONCERN

by White Wolf

"But, Ada. I am big enough to fight the spiders."

Thranduil stood tall and straight, staring down at his youngest son. "No, Legolas, you are not."

"Bu, Ada," the young prince said again. "I have a knife and my bow. I can go out with the warriors and kill the spiders that threaten us."

When his father continued to look at him with a stern expression on his face, Legolas jutted his chin out in defiance. "My brothers fight the evil creatures. I may be younger, but I am still as much a prince as they are. Why can I not go, too?"

"You are a prince, yes, but you are not yet a warrior, as they are. They trained hard for many years to serve the realm. Your training is a long way from being complete. I think you know this. It is far too dangerous for someone, who is not fully trained, to do battle with the spiders of Mirkwood."

This answer did not sit well with the elfling. "I am better with a bow right now than many of the warriors, who fight for our home."

That was perhaps the wrong thing to say to the king, as his face became even more stern. "You are very good with your bow, Legolas, but it is not a warrior's bow. And," he added, "I have told you about letting your talent rule your mouth. I will not tolerate arrogance. A true archer of note does not need to tell anyone of his prowess."

"I know. Ada, and I am sorry. But you will not let me prove myself in battle, so I must remind you of my ability."

It was the logic of a child, and despite the seriousness of the situation, Thranduil had to work hard to keep his mouth from quivering with mirth. Shaking his head, the king said, "Your brothers were not allowed to fight the spiders before they became warriors. And you will not do it either."

Legolas opened his mouth to speak, but the king beat him to it. "That is my final word on the matter, Legolas. You will not fight spiders. In fact, you will stay in the palace for the rest of the afternoon."

The young elf's face fell. Was he being punished for arguing with his father? Normally, Thranduil did not mind any of his children arguing for their causes, so long as they did not raise their voices and showed the proper respect for the elder elf as both their father and their king.

Thranduil saw the look, and his face softened. "You are not being punished, ion nin."

Legolas was amazed that his father had known exactly what he had been thinking. How did he do that? the young prince wondered and not for the first time either.

Thranduil continued. "You have lessons that you must finish before tomorrow, according to you tutor. If you complete your work before evening meal, then afterward we will go riding together. How is that?"

Legolas smiled. He dearly loved to go riding with his father. He also had a new horse he wanted to spend more time with.

The clever elfling knew Thranduil was trying to take his mind off of the spiders, but right then, he didn't care. He would dutifully finish his lessons, which weren't really all that bad. He didn't care for mathematics too much, but he loved both history and geography.

"I will do it, Ada." Grinning broadly, he ran off to his room before Thranduil could comment further.

x x x x x

Crown Prince Balardoron knocked on the big oak door to Thranduil's study, and when he heard the king grant him permission, he entered. "I just saw Legolas rushing down the hall. He seemed very happy, saying he was going to do his lessons. I know he likes learning, but I do not think I have ever seen him quite that excited about doing it."

Thranduil, who had been pouring himself a goblet of wine, poured one for his eldest son, as well, and handed it to him, indicating that they should sit on the long sofa that faced the fireplace, though there was no fire burning. Despite the fact the palace was underground and thus kept relatively cool year around, it was the middle of summer and warm enough not to need one, this day at least.

"I told him I would take him riding after evening meal, if he finishes his day's lessons."

"I see," was the only comment Balardoron made.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows slightly in question. His eldest son was almost seven hundred years old, and Thranduil had been there for every year of it. He knew the Crown Prince so well that he could hear a slight reservation in the prince's acceptance of the explanation.

Balardoron smiled, as he watched his father over the rim of his own goblet. After taking a swallow and then savoring the smooth taste of the dark red wine, he asked, "Why?"

"Can a father not wish simply to ride with his youngest child in the forest?"

"Of course. But, Ada, you rarely do things simply. From what are you trying to distract Legolas?"

Thranduil laughed. It seemed his eldest son also knew him very well. The humor swiftly faded from the king's face, however. With a sigh, he said, "He wants to go out with the warriors and kill spiders."

Balardoron closed his eyes and groaned. "I knew it would not be long before he would want to go and fight with the warriors. He fancies himself one already, though he knows the reality of having to wait many years yet to complete his training."

"He is too ambitious. He wants to push himself into battle, not realizing that unless something changes, he will likely spend the majority of his life fighting, many times for his very life. He does not like to hear me say that he is much too young. Deep down he does recognize that he is a long way from being trained enough to fight even the weakest of our enemies. Still he wants to go and is trying to convince himself he is ready."

"I know, Ada. But he has spent his whole life, few years as that life has been, knowing that his family and the families of his friends do battle with the Shadow. It is only natural that he would want to help. He has a strong sense of responsibility for protecting our people. That has beeninstilled into him from the beginning, remember."

"How well I remember. I have done it for all of you. It was and unfortunately still is necessary in these dark times, but it burdens my heart that such continues to be the case so that it affects someone as young as Legolas."

"It affects us all." When he failed to receive a comment from Thranduil, Balardoron also fell silent.

After a few moments, the Crown Prince said, "He will not be distracted for long." The words were spoken seemingly more to himself than as a statement directed specifically for Thranduil's ears.

"No he will not," the king agreed. "He is very single-minded when he wants to be."

"Like his father," the younger elf said, again seemingly to himself.

There was no reply.

Thranduil's thoughts had turned inward. Legolas, to the king's thinking, was growing up much too fast. He had four other children, two sons and two daughters. All but his second son had children of their own and most of them were older than Legolas.

His wife had been killed, when Legolas was a small child, barely five in human years, and though he had grown up with a loving family and had two doting sisters, who acted as surrogate mothers, Thranduil couldn't help but wonder how things would be playing out now, if his wife were still here. It saddened him that she would never see her last child grow up. It saddened him even more that Legolas would not develop under the gentle guidance of his mother.

With a deep sigh, Thranduil banished his melancholy thoughts and turned his attention back to the conversation. "It is not easy to raise a child to be responsible to his people and yet to remain a child for as long as he can." He had almost said 'innocent' child, but that would be inaccurate. No elfling in Mirkwood old enough to walk was truly innocent, when it came to the Shadow that was spreading throughout the woodland realm. It touched everyone, no matter how much the adults tried to protect their young.

"I think that you have done a wonderful job with him, Ada," Balardoron was saying.

Draining the last of his wine, Thranduil stared into the dark fireplace. "Thank you, ion nin. I love him dearly, as I do all of my family. I want only what is best for him."

"He is a thoughtful, intelligent and loving child." Balardoron grinned, thinking but not saying, that his little brother was often times a stubborn, precoscious handful, as well.

"Your naneth is responsible for the gentle side of his nature." Thranduil smiled to himself, remembering the uncanny wisdom she had used in dealing with each of her children. She had a knack of guiding them that made them think they had been the ones to come up with the correct thing to do or that they had found the right answers themselves. And she had never failed to praise them for it.

"I think you are selling yourself short, Ada. You have been the most important person in Legolas's life for a long time now. He would not be who he is nor who I believe he will become without the strong influence you have given him."

Thranduil nodded. "I try."

Silence fell between the two elves once again. Balardoron stood up and took the goblet from his father and went over to refill it and his own. When he returned, he handed the goblet to Thranduil, who reached up and took it from his hand. It appeared to the younger elf that it was an automatic move. Thranduil's thoughts appeared to be far away in time and space from this room. Balardoron sat down without a word and studied his father's face.

Thranduil's thoughts were indeed far away. He was trying to imagine what Legolas's life would be like as he grew to adulthood. His youngest son had a good heart. There was no questioning that fact. He also possessed a self-assured courage that had brought more than one fright to the king over the past few years.

Becoming a warrior of the realm was a dangerous job, and Thranduil worried for all of those who had made the pledge to safeguard Mirkwood. Elves died in the battles that resulted. So far he had not lost a family member to the Enemy at Dol Guldur. He wondered if it was only a matter of time before he lost someone he loved, or if his luck would hold. He shuddered to think that Legolas could become the first of his family to enter the Halls of Mandos, since his father, Oropher, was killed many centuries ago during the Last Alliance.

More than any of his other children, Legolas loved to read about the other races and other kingdoms of Middle-earth. Thranduil heartily encouraged the practice. At the same time, he had always been happy that his four older children had been content to live out their existence until time for them to sail West, here in Mirkwood. Only diplomatic or trading missions and the occasional military action took one or more of them outside of the realm.

Legolas, however, was the only one to show signs of wanting to experience the world outside of the realm's borders. It frightened the king. There were so many unknowns out there, so many who might wish to take advantage of a young, inexperienced elven prince. Yet, Thranduil knew, as sure as he sat drinking his wine, that one day, his Greenleaf would leave Mirkwood. Whether it would be temporary or permanent, he did not know. But as bad as the dangers here at home were, there were far more in other parts of Middle-earth. However, once Legolas became an adult, there was nothing Thranduil, father or king, could do to stop his son from leaving. Yet, even that would be preferable to losing his son in battle.

Thranduil knew that all he could do was give Legolas all the tools he thought the young elf would need not only to survive but to prosper in whatever endeavor he chose to devote his life.

Suddenly Thranduil blinked and looked at his oldest son, as if noticing for the first time that he was there. He gave the younger elf a small smile before taking another sip of wine. It was not often that his attention wandered this way. Concern for any or all of his children could bring on these introspections quicker than anything.

Smoothly he changed the subject. "Do you have any reports you need to discuss with me before evening meal? I will be occupied afterward."

"No, Ada. I have nothing to report." Balardoron couldn't hide his grin. "You and Legolas can have a worry-free ride in the forest this evening."

Yes, thought the king. He and his youngest son would have a happy time together. He needed to grab onto as many of those times as he could, as often as he could. No one, not even the powerful King of Mirkwood, knew what lay just beyond the next sunrise.

The End