Title: A perfect day
Disclaimer: Alas, I own nothing. Not the elves, the rangers or even the dwarves. But sometimes I wish I would, ´cause then we would never be parted again.
Feedback: Yes, of course
Summery: King Thranduil gives his son a special present.
A/N: Written for the Teitho contest "Family" and, it was the winner story! I still can't believe it.
The twittering of birds could be heard, their small feathery wings flying through the warm summer air and tiny bees and insects could be seen flittering on the gentle breeze. The green and thick leaves of the high trees swayed softly and with every leaf that swayed the suns rays coloured another patch of flowery forest ground in its golden light.
Summer had come to the realm of Mirkwood and the gardens of the royal palace were a beautiful sight to behold. For although the rest of the forest of the eastern elven kingdom had fallen into shadow and darkness, the immediate area surrounding the palace was still as lovely as it had been when the Queen had still dwelled in Middle Earth.
It was on such a lovely summer day in early Narie (June), when the flowers blossomed and the sun warmed the earth, that a young elfling lay in the soft grass, his body outstretched on the bed of tiny flowers, his arms folded behind his head and his gaze turned towards the azure blue sky, feeling the suns warmth on his skin, that the life of the young elf should take an unexpected turn.
The young elfling, Legolas Thranduilion, son of the elven King of Mirkwood, his hair as blond as his fathers and his eyes the shade of his mothers, was enjoying the day as it was one of those rare days in his childhood that he had no lessons to attend or homework to do. As a prince of Mirkwood, his father the King expected his child to be well educated and trained, in court etiquette as well as in archery or sword fighting.
But not this day, for this day was special. It was Legolas begetting day, which was cherished by the elves. As elves were immortal they did not celebrate the day each year, but only special dates. And this year was such a special year for the young elven prince. It was his 20th begetting day and it was a tradition in the House of Oropher that the 20th begetting day would be celebrated.
Legolas had waited many weeks for this day to come and when had gone to bed the last night he had thought that he would never find sleep, so exited he had been. But as it is with all small elflings, soon the elven dreams had claimed him and his small heart had come to rest for the night.
The morning had dawned beautifully golden and orange, promising a lovely day to come. After a breakfast that had been larger than Legolas had even seen one and after many congratulations and heartfelt words of joy, the small elf had gone outside to bath in the light of the sun and to wait for his father to fetch him.
Because, as it was tradition in his family, his father had promised him a great present, but when Legolas had greeted him in the morning, nothing had been waiting for him on the breakfast table. Only the mysterious smile of his father and a glimmer in the King's eyes had told Legolas that his father had not forgotten. Instead, the King had bade his son to wait for him outside, because his present would await him there.
And so, Legolas waited patiently. He knew that his father was a busy King who stole the time for his child from his rare moments of peace, and often the meal times were the only times of the day in which Legolas had the time to speak with his ada. For when the loving father came in the evening to his elfling´s chamber to say good night and tug him in, his young Greenleaf was most times already asleep, exhausted from the adventures he had had during the day.
Smiling, the young Mirkwood elf closed his eyes, wandering in some distant memory of his father and himself, when they had been playing together one afternoon, when all the work had been done and the sun had slowly painted the sky in the evening colours.
Some time later, at the same moment a rather bold butterfly had chosen Legolas nose as a landing spot, the young elf heard the soft rustling of robes behind him, followed by the gentle tread of his father. Opening his eyes as a shadow fell across his face, blocking out the sun, Legolas looked up into the smiling face of his ada, his father's eyes glimmering lovingly.
His father rose one of his eyebrows and said very softly, like a whisper on the breeze: "It seems you have found a new friend, ion nin." His eyes twinkled as he directed his gaze to his son's nose, where the colourful butterfly still sat, its wings spread wide to drink in the sun.
Looking at his own nose, Legolas had to laugh softly, which made the small animal rise into the air and fly away with the wind. Both father and son looked after the animal for a while, seeing it land gracefully onto a blossoming summer flower.
Looking back down to his son, Thranduil smiled and said: "Well, get up, ion nin. I have something to show you." And with that, the King helped his son to his feet, waited while Legolas brushed the grass and the leaves from his clothing and together they walked to the front of the palace.
Legolas felt his heart beat in his chest, so loud that he feared his ada would hear it. He was so exited. What was it his ada wanted to show him? It surely had to be his present. But why outside? And why before the palace? Swallowing nervously, the small elf unconsciously straightened his tunic and tugged an strand of his long blond hair behind his pointed ear. Whatever it was that his father wanted to show him, Legolas just knew that he would never forget this moment. And truly, Legolas would never forget it, not in all his immortal years.
When father and son reached the courtyard before the palace, the King stopped and looked expectantly at his son, his eyes shining and a knowing smile on his face. Legolas, seeing what was before him, could not help the fact that his jaw dropped and his eyes turned wide.
A small smile spread over his face and after a moment of silence he turned to his father and said almost breathlessly: "Ada, hannon le." Smiling back in return and lifting his son in his arms and hugging him close, Thranduil answered: "You are welcome, my son. I love you." "I love you too ada."
Because there, in the middle of the courtyard, stood a small contingent of elven warriors, all clad in the dark colours of Mirkwood, armed with bows and swords, each clasping the reign of a horse, smiling. And in the front of them all stood his father's horse, tall and proud, flanked by Legolas´ own horse, a light brown steed, packed with a bedroll and a small bow.
His father had given his son the one present that the young elfling had wished for since the day Legolas had been able to ride. A hunt. Legolas was going to go on his first hunt, with his ada.
The ride through the quiet woods that surrounded his home had been uneventful and father had son had had the time to talk and cherish the time that they could spent together. They had given their horses the freedom to chose their own paths, crossing light covert clearings and whispering streams as they went, the sun shining down at them and warming their hearts.
When the day had flown by and they still had not stopped or turned around, Legolas was beginning to wonder and had timidly asked his father. The King had smiled at his elfling and with a loving sparkle in his eyes he had told his son that they would stay three days in the forest. The first to reach their campsite, the second to hunt and the third to return to their home.
His small heart had pounded excitedly at this news. Three days, three full days! It was as if a dream had come true. Never before had there been a time in which Legolas had been able to spent so much time with his father. Grinning like the little elfling that he was, Legolas rode on, beside his father, as happy as he had never been. And even to the eyes of the warriors riding with them it was plain to see the deep love between father and son.
When the night approached the riders, they had finally reached the chosen camping place and with the last golden rays of the sun they set up camp. The fires burned merrily, throwing flickering shadows over the company and its embers glowed red and orange, sparks flying high into the star sprinkled night sky.
It took the young prince not long to find sleep this night, resting in his father's strong embrace, the smell of his father in his nose and the soft rising and falling of his ada calming his senses and sending him into a peaceful and secure elven dream.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, the air already warm and the sun that had woken them all promising a warm and rainless day. Tiny fleecy white clouds floated in the sky, adding to the perfect blue of it.
After a well tasting breakfast, most of the company set out to go hunting, only two elves remaining behind to guard the camp and care for the horses. Shouldering their bows and their weapons, father and son set out into the green forest side by side. So happy and excided was the young prince that he had not even noticed that one of the warriors accompanying them was no warrior, but one of the palace healers who the King had bade to come with them, just in case. Thranduil knew of the dangers a hunt could present and he wanted to ensure his son's safety.
For hours they walked through the forest, the warriors keeping a respectful distance to the pair, giving them the needed privacy and at the same time protecting their beloved King and his son. The sun that found its way through the trees to the forest flour illuminated the ground and where the warm rays met it, beautiful flowers of all kinds of colours were blossoming.
Thranduil let his son pick his own way through the forest, over boulders and under fallen tress they went, crossing tiny rivers and even up a small hill. While they went he showed his Greenleaf various flowers and trees, pointing out their use and answering all of his son's inquisitive questions. They saw footprints of animals, of squirrels and rabbits, badgers and rascals. It was not Legolas´ first trip into the forest, but never had he been allowed to venture so deep into the green realm and with his father by his side, it was just perfect.
The sun neared its zenith as the pair reached another small river. The water was shining like mithril in the sunlight, flowing steadily over rocks and water plants, gurgling and sparkling. Yellow and rose flowers grew on the banks and bees and dragonflies soared through the air.
The King stopped in his tracks, taking in the peaceful sight that met his eyes. But he saw more than just the river and the flowers; his skilled eyes saw the trampled grass and the flipped stones in the water and he knew that this was a place for animals to drink.
Placing one of his strong hands on Legolas´ shoulder, he smiled down at him and when the young elf lifted his gaze and their eyes met, the King felt as if he would overflow with pride and love. Looking back at the water and the flowers, Legolas whispered, so low that his father almost did not hear him, but he did and he had to blink to hold back the tears that came to his eyes: "Naneth would have loved this place, ada."
For another moment they stood in silence, then the King squeezed his son's shoulder gently.
"Legolas, ion nin, what do you see?"
The young elf thought about this question for a moment before he answered: "I see nature, ada. And I see life."
Smiling, his father nodded: "Aye, my son, nature and life are surrounding us wherever we are. And what else?"
His blue eyes searched the place before him; Legolas saw the flowers, the water, the green grass, the insects and then…the imprints in the grass and the slightly churned ground of the river. His smile widened and it was all his father needed to see to know that his son had found what he had been looking for.
"Come, penneth. We will climb a tree and wait for them to come." They chose one of the huge trees that stood near the river, asked the tree to be allowed to climb it, and when the tree shook its leaves in pleasure that he was chosen to shelter the Woodland elves, father and son climbed up high into the tree, settling down onto a strong branch, the river in their view.
Together they sat and waited, Legolas leaning at his father and the King having his arm around his son's slim shoulders. They were content as they sat in the tree, the river gurgling under them and the leaves tenderly stroking their skin from now and then, when the warm summer breeze floated through the tree.
Time went by and no animal neared the stream and Legolas was just beginning to ask himself if there ever would, as he felt his father straiten beside him. Looking down at the forest floor beneath them, the young elf felt his heartbeat quicken at what he saw.
There, at the other side of the river, two deep brown eyes had appeared in the bushes, accompanied by a black nose and then by two ears. A moment later a beautiful coloured deer walked out of the bushes, its nose sniffing the air and its ears turning from side to side.
When the animal seemed satisfied that it was alone, it started towards the clear water, lowered its head and began to drink the sparkling liquid.
Legolas was awed by the sight and only after a slight nudge from his father did he remember what they had come for. Sliding his bow from his shoulder and notching one of his personal arrows, yellow fletching with two green feathers in it, Legolas aimed at the animal.
He narrowed his eyes and moved his hand slightly to the left, to the deer's heart. The shot would be clean, the animal would not suffer. It was the first time the small elfling would shoot an animal and he knew that if he made the shot perfectly, his father would be so proud with him.
Wrinkling his brow in concentration, his blue eyes fixed on the deer at the river, he waited until his heart had resumed its steady rhythm and then he concentrated on his breathing. In and out, in, out and when he felt ready to shoot, he took a deep breath. As he had been trained in his archery lessons, he would shoot with his next exhalation.
But when the time came that he let out his breath, he felt that he had not released the arrow. His fingers had not followed his command, the arrow was still secured to the string. Frowning slightly at this oddness, Legolas aimed again and repeated the pattern that he had learned. Breathing in and out, in, out, in and when he exhaled the next time, he found his fingers trembling slightly.
Confusion mounted in the young elf and his small heart beat now rapidly against his ribs. He blinked and took a deep breath to compose himself. What was happening with him? Was he afraid? Why did his hands shake?
Swallowing, Legolas tried again. He aimed, he tightened his fingers around the arrow, he breathed in and out again, but when he was ready to shoot he found that his fingers did not obey his command and they shook so heavy that the arrow would never hit its target.
Despair rose in his chest. Why did this happen? And why to him? Why now? He had waited for this day to come; had hoped and prayed that it would come soon and now he was here, with his father. Everything had been better as he had wished for. The last day had been the best day that he could remember.
And now, he had failed, because he knew that he would not be able to shoot the animal. He left his arms fall to his side, releasing the tension from the string and bowing his head. He felt sadness creep into his heart and tears come to his eyes. He had failed. Not only himself, but he had brought shame to his father.
How could his father still look at him with that proud gleam in his eyes? He felt he had he had betrayed his father's trust. His ada had taken him on this hunting trip to shoot his first game and how had he thanked him? He had ruined the day and therewith the present his father had given him.
Hot tears leaked out of his eyes and down his cheek, wetting his face and dropping to his hands. Swallowing, his head still bowed, not daring to face his ada, he whispered: "Amin hiraetha (I am sorry father)."
His father's reply made him lift his head and look at his father's face: "What for, ion nin?"
Sniffing, he choked out: "I am sorry I have not been able to shoot the deer, father."
To his surprise, his father smiled at him lovingly, the elder elf's eyes bright with pride, the smile making his face younger: "It would have surprised me if you had been able, my son. And it makes me proud of you that you have not killed it."
Hope rose in his chest at his father's word, but more so at the sight of his father's eyes. Words could betray and lie, but eyes could not. And his father was speaking the truth. Looking back to the still drinking animal, confusion came to Legolas´ eyes. "But father, I don't understand….."
Moving closer to his son and wiping away the tears on his son's cheek with a tender stroke of his fingers, the King answered: "Do you remember what I asked you when we came to the stream, ion nin?"
Nodding, Legolas answered, but he still did not understand: "Aye, you asked me what I saw."
Wrapping an arm around his son's shoulder, the King nodded: "Aye, Legolas. And what did you answer me?"
"That I see nature, and life." The prince said timidly, fighting against more tears. His feelings and his father's actions did not match each other and the confusion he had felt would not leave him.
Looking out over the river, taking in the flowers, the insects and then the deer, the King smiled at his son and told him gently, his voice full of emotion: "Aye, my son. Nature and life. And they are surrounding us. Sheltering us when we are lost and embracing us when we are alone. We, you and I, are part of the nature and of life itself. Legolas, why do you think you could not shoot the deer?"
The question made the elfling shiver. What should he tell his father? The truth, but what was the truth? Legolas did not know why he had not been able to shoot and therefore he answered what came to his mind: "My aim was not perfect, father."
The King suppressed the chuckle that wanted to escape his lips. Oh, how he loved his son, his little Greenleaf. Squeezing his son's shoulder tenderly, he bent his head down and asked: "Was that the only reason, Legolas?"
No, it was not and Legolas knew it. He bowed his head once more and shook it, whispering: "No father. I was afraid."
"Afraid of what, my son?"
"Afraid to, afraid to kill the deer."
"And because of that I am so proud of you, ion nin."
Legolas did not understand what his father wanted to tell him. How could he be proud? He had done nothing to deserve his father's pride. And he told the King: "But father, how can you be proud of me when I failed you so terribly?"
The desperate tone in his son's voice was more than Thranduil could bear and with a mighty rush he took his small elfling up into his arms and hugged him fiercely against his strong chest, gently whispering into his son's ear: "Oh, Legolas. You did not fail me, you never could. I am so proud of you because you showed be today that you possess more strength and wisdom than many other elves I have know. Ion nin, do you want to know why you have not been able to shoot the deer?"
Legolas nodded, the movement at his chest causing the King to stroke his son's blond hair gently. "Legolas, you have not been able to shoot the deer, because you honour nature and life. What reason has there been to kill the animal? We have enough food, there was no need to kill today. And you have hesitated to shoot because you have a tender heart, a compassionate soul and a loving nature, my son. The one who kills out of pleasure will be the one to fail, Legolas. You could never shame me, my son. Never."
The King resumed stroking his son's hair, waiting for his son's answer. He knew that his small elfling would need some time to contemplate his words and he would give his son all the time he would need. After a while, when the tears had dried, Legolas mumbled softly: "Ada?"
"Yes, my son?"
"What would have happened if I had shot the deer?"
"I knew you would not and I have not been wrong. That is all that matters, my son."
A faint movement at the stream made the King turn is son around his arms. Stroking Legolas´ cheek gently and placing a strand of fine hair behind the elfling´s ear, he softly said, pointing to the water below: "Legolas, look."
Shifting his gaze to the clear river below and the blossoming flowers, Legolas saw how the deer lifted its head, its ears flicking back to the bushed it had come from. A moment later the green plants parted and then, suddenly, another animal followed, a small and young kid. It bounced towards its mother, full of life and energy.
And now, Legolas understood what his father had wanted to tell him and he was relieved and happy that he had not shot the deer. For the deer was a mother and the young elf knew what is felt like to grow up without a mother. It was nothing he whished for the young animal.
Leaning back at his ada´s strong chest, placing his head at his father's shoulder, he whispered softly: "Hannon le, ada. I love you."
"I love you too, my son."
And together they sat, watching the family below and enjoying the presence of the other.
In later years, Legolas would remember this day and every time he did, a smile would play across his lips. The day that he had spent with his father had been the most wonderful day in his life and he would cherish this day for all his eternal life, never forgetting the love he had felt. The memory was his guide to the light when he was wandering in the dark places of the world.