Disclaimer: All characters except one that is mentioned in passing belong to Tolkien, I am making no money off this and it is for enjoyment purposes only.
Timeline: Set in the middle of the Third Age, Legolas is around seven years old.
Warnings: None whatsoever.
Small hands that shook with uncontrollable grief pulled a rosewood box from a chest of drawers, and carried it across the room. It was elaborately decorated with fine carvings of the forest – carvings of plants and trees, deer and squirrels and mice, a river; and dancing around the edge was a never ending line of leaves. It was not a large box but it didn't need to be, for it held the priceless treasures of a young child.
In normal circumstances the hands would have lifted the wooden lid with something close to reverence, but today they jerked it open in rarely seen violence. Today was not normal. Today was different, today had brought new and previously unfelt emotions into the life of the child. Today, his innocent world had come crashing to the ground in a tremendous tumble of tears.
Trembling fingers searched frantically through the box, pushing aside small storybooks, infantile scribblings and the boy's first lost tooth until they found what they sought: flowers, stones and a feather, small and inconsequential items of no monetary value to the rest of Arda. But to the child, each one was bursting with memories – happy memories – and with them close at hand to offer comfort, the Elfling hoped to ease his sobs and find a sleep which was not hindered by grief.
Earlier That Night:
The sound of a quill scratching its way back and forth across a piece of parchment had been audible for the best part of thirty minutes, so when all fell silent its absence was just as noticeable. A few seconds of absolute quiescence passed, then came the gentle tap of the pen being laid upon the writing desk, a click as the ink bottle was capped and a soft shuffling of paper, followed by chair legs scraping across the floor.
The Elven ruler of Mirkwood looked up from the southern patrol report he had been studying from the comfort of a soft settee – a fine contrast to the hard chairs in his office – and watched as his young son sat down in the middle of the floor. "Legolas," he began. "What are you doing?"
"Playing with my soldiers."
"What should you be doing?"
"Playing with my soldiers."
Small armies of wooden Elves tumbled out of the Elfling's pockets, and Thranduil gave a gentle smile. "No, I think that is the wrong answer. You cannot have finished your work already."
"I have," Legolas replied, without looking up.
Though the child released a small exhale of frustration, he dutifully obeyed the request, taking his parchment from the writing desk and handing it to his father. "There. My tutor asked me to write about my friends, and that is what I have done."
"Yes, but you were also asked to…Legolas, don't sit down." Thranduil's eyes narrowed as his son did sit once more to continue lining up his soldiers. "Legolas, I told you not to do that. I am still talking about your work."
"I know, and I am listening."
"I think otherwise."
Legolas paused, and raised his eyes to meet the elder Elf's. He did not stop in his arrangements of the wooden people. "Ada, I know what you are going to say. My tutor asked me to read for half an hour. I know."
"Yet you have not done it," Thranduil said, rising irritation colouring his voice.
"I will, but not now."
The Elven ruler slammed his report down onto the chair with more force than was perhaps necessary. It was imperative that he finish his own work before meetings with his army commanders the next day, and he did not have time for this. "You will do as you are told or you will face the consequences of your disobedience. The choice is yours. Make it quickly."
"Disobedience?" Legolas repeated. He had stopped playing with the soldiers, and his focus was now fixed upon his father. He looked genuinely surprised. "Ada, I am not disobeying anyone. I am not breaking any rules."
"And I am not asking much," Thranduil sighed, "just that you go to the writing desk, open your book and read whatever it is that your tutor has requested. I do not want to argue about this, but you are making it very difficult. And whether you think so or not, you are being disobedient."
"I am not."
"Nana lets me do this," the Elfling protested, frustration evident in his own soft voice. "I do half an hour of my tutor's work, then I am allowed to play for fifteen minutes, and then I read. Nana says-
"Nana is visiting her cousins in Lórien," Thranduil snapped. "If what you say is true, why did she not tell me before her departure?"
Legolas cast his gaze towards the floor, and started to advance one of his wooden armies towards the other. Though his voice had softened, it was tinged with resentment as he replied: "Maybe she assumed that you would already know. But how could you? After all, you spend more time in your office or in meetings than with your family. The only reason you are here now is because Nana has gone, and someone has to watch over me."
"I come second to your work," Legolas said quietly. "I always have, and because of that you know nothing about me."
Shocked into action by the words, Thranduil was on his feet immediately and striding towards the Elfling. The fire in his silver eyes as he pulled his son into a standing position could have scorched even Sauron. "How dare you?" he hissed. "You have disobeyed me tonight, you have lied and now you are speaking disrespectfully."
"You will read your tutor's book until I tell you to stop, and then you will go to bed. And these?" Thranduil spat, as he kicked the toy soldiers out of the way, "will be confiscated until your mother returns."
"That isn't fair," Legolas whispered. "I have told nothing but the truth tonight."
With tears stinging his eyes, the little boy dug both heels into the ground and pulled his wrist from the monarch's grasp. Free, he instinctively went to take a step backwards, but two things stopped him before he had even moved. Firstly the fury on his father's face, so intense that he realised such anger had never existed – at least not to his eyes – and secondly, the sudden stinging sensation on his right cheek.
Thranduil stared at his only child in stunned silence, his gaze fixed on the red handprint which was slowly starting to show. Confused thoughts raced through his mind like wildfire, falling over each other as he struggled to make sense of the situation. Did I do that? I would never hurt Legolas, so surely not. I was angry but not that angry. I couldn't have…I wouldn't.
As the tiny voice broke into his conscience, Thranduil's vision seemed to clear and he saw himself lowering his raised hand. His heart skipped a thousand beats at that, and the pounding of his wonderings intensified. No, no, no. I did not hurt him. It's not true, I… Valar, I did. I hit my Elfling, the most precious treasure in my life. I struck him.
Unable to look at the tears streaming from his son's hurt eyes, the tears for which he himself was guilty, Thranduil turned away. "Get out of here, Legolas. Go to your room, go anywhere. Just get out."
"Don't send me away," the Prince whispered. "I'm sorry, please-
There was a quick scrabbling noise as Legolas gathered up his fallen warriors; and then he was gone, running from the room with a stifled sob and leaving his father alone. The fair Elven-king stood still for what felt an hour but must have been only a minute, too full of shock and self loathing to do anything except simply stand there and wait for it to wear off. He couldn't believe it, couldn't accept that he had really…
With a soft moan of despair he sank into a chair at the writing desk, and buried his face in his hands. Queen Herenya had been gone from Mirkwood for only three days, and already the family she had left behind were at war with each other. At least when she returned and discovered the results of her absence she would surely vow never to leave her young son again.
'When did I become so incensed that violence was my only option?' Thranduil silently wondered. 'Was it when Legolas told me what I knew along, that I spend too much time away from him? I did not know that hearing the truth from my son would be so painful.'
With a deep exhale of breath coloured in shades of sadness, he turned his attention onto the books that were left on the desk before him, and started to methodically stack them in a pile. Not because he wanted to, but rather because he needed to give his mind to something other than the awful crime he had committed. Why? Why had he allowed himself to be pushed so far by innocent –and truthful – comments?
As furious at himself as he had been with Legolas, Thranduil slammed his son's spelling book onto the top of the pile, and the pages fluttered for a few seconds as though blown by an imaginary wind, briefly revealing a folded piece of parchment in their midst. The Elf's sharp eyes easily recognised that the writing was long and elegant, a sharp contrast to his child's sometimes hard to read scribbles. There was no doubting it – Herenya had written the note.
Resigning himself to the fact that he was inevitably going to read something less than pleasant, Thranduil snatched the folded parchment from the book and smoothed it out on the desk. As he scanned it with one hand tangled in the gold strands of his hair, he found himself – almost, but not quite – wanting to laugh. Of course. His wife's words corroborated everything that Legolas had said.
If you sit with Legolas whilst he is studying, ensure that he has a space of fifteen minutes between his writing period and his reading period. Let him play with his toys or go to the kitchens for some fruit – it keeps him alert. Maybe you should apply this practice to yourself when working?
All my love,
With a violent curse the sort of which was more often heard in an Orc encampment rather than from the mouth of an illustrious Elven lord, Thranduil closed his fist around the parchment, feeling a savage pleasure as it tore into tiny pieces. Again, thoughts and questions whirled through his mind, this time viciously accusing. Why did you not listen to Legolas? Why did you not entertain the notion that perhaps he was speaking the truth? Why did you try and push him such a great distance?
Not even attempting to try and answer his own demands, the Mirkwood ruler rose sharply from the desk and turned on his heel to leave the room and find his son. He immediately caught himself, though. One of Legolas' wooden soldiers lay forlornly on the floor, its black eyes staring unseeingly at the ceiling and a small sword hanging limply from one hand, as though it were injured and waiting hopelessly for its comrades to come and rescue it.
Thranduil gazed at the toy in silence for a moment, before throwing the torn parchment back onto the desk and leaning down to instead pick up the inanimate warrior. It and its fellows had belonged to the King himself in childhood, and he remembered with some nostalgia how the loss of one soldier meant an extreme cataclysm in the world of an Elfling. No doubt Legolas too would mourn the depletion of his wooden army.
"I will take you back to him," the monarch said quietly. "Perhaps that will help to make some amends."
No answer came.
Not bothering to grace the soldier with further speech, Thranduil left the room and followed the short path to Legolas' sleeping chamber, just down the corridor from the private family area they had been using. Upon reaching the door he stopped and stared at it in silence, searching within him for the courage to push it open and step across the threshold. But he found himself paralysed with fear. Strange, that he had fought at the Last Alliance and battled all of Sauron's minions, yet the prospect of facing his young son was suddenly much worse.
'Guilt does that,' a voice inside his head said nastily.
The Elf's silver eyes travelled downwards until they alighted on the wooden soldier, and it seemed for a fleeting moment that the toy's expression had metamorphosed from a blank canvas to suddenly angry and accusing, as though it was questioning the delay. Why are you putting off what has to be done? You are the one at fault, and you owe it to Legolas that he knows you are sorry for your unjust actions. Do you want to cause him further pain purely because of your guilt and pride?
That thought stirred Thranduil into immediate movement. Leaning against the door he gently pushed it open a fraction, aware that his son may not want to see him so soon after the altercation. But the room was dark; all lamps and candles had been extinguished by the Elfling. The only light came from the bed, where a faint silver flame emanated: it was Legolas himself, his Elven glow incandescent and intensified by the grief which undoubtedly streamed through his body and confused mind. The sight was beautiful, yet simultaneously dispiriting.
"Ion-nin," the King said under his breath, "I am so sorry."
He stepped further into the unlit room, and as he came closer to his child his gaze fell upon a small table at the bedside, pushed close to the pillows so that it was easily within Legolas' reach. On its surface was carefully arranged a small bunch of red flowers, three shining green stones and a single golden feather to comfort the Prince's sad heart. The simple items immediately conceived tears in Thranduil's eyes, and he let them fall without shame as the realisation of just what he had done to his precious son further imprinted itself upon his conscience.
With a silent exhale of breath he sat on the edge of the bed, the mattress barely recognising his Elven weight; and gently pulled back the sheets so that he might look upon the Elfling. Perhaps surprisingly, Legolas was already asleep, having cried himself into a deep slumber not long after being dismissed from his father's presence. Unaccustomed as he was to knowing such sadness in his short life his eyes were closed, an uncommon thing for even the immortal children. Staining his cheeks were the white tracks left by animate emotion, and his dark lashes were still wet with recently shed droplets of grief.
Thranduil placed the wooden soldier onto the table with the flowers, stones and the feather before leaning down to tenderly caress his son's damp face. He kissed the tears away, but in doing so only left others of his own. He rarely showed emotion when hurt or sorrowful – indeed the last time he could remember crying was at the death of his father in the Second Age. But this sense of knowing that his only child was in pain and that he was the cause, was unlike anything he had ever before felt.
"Legolas, I am sorry," he breathed against the boy's golden hair. "I should have listened to you, I should have realised that you would not lie. I was blind, penneth, so blind; and all I can say is that I am sorry. Valar, I am so sorry."
As his son stirred, Thranduil instinctively pulled away from the close contact and straightened up once more. "You are awake," he murmured. "I did not mean to disturb you, penneth. Sleep again."
"You were talking to me," Legolas whispered.
"What did you say?"
Thranduil gave no reply for a moment. He trailed his hand down the child's right cheek as though the mere touch of his fingers could somehow erase the red handprint still clearly visible. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible. "I hurt you, my sweet one. I knew what I was doing and I knew that I would cause you pain, but I was not strong enough to stop myself. Why? I cannot say. All I know now is that if you can find it within yourself to forgive me, I will be undeserving."
"Why would I forgive you?" Legolas asked quietly. "It was my fault. I had angered you, and you were just…you were within your rights to punish me. If anyone should be asking forgiveness-
"No. No, you did nothing wrong. I see that now," Thranduil broke in. "Though I found it too late, I read the note from your mother. It explains that you should have time to play with your toys, and that is exactly what you tried to tell me. This is not your fault, Legolas. You spoke only truth tonight."
"I didn't," the Prince muttered. "I said that I come second to your work, that you have no time for Nana and I. That was wrong of me. I should not have said it."
As his son looked away Thranduil touched the boy's cheek, turning his face back so that their eyes met. "I am glad you did, for it made me realise that devoting myself to everything except my family is not something I can allow to continue. It stops, Legolas. It stops right now. When you need me, I will be there. There will be time for you." He paused, and glanced towards the table at the bedside. "There was one thing you were wrong about."
"You said that I know nothing about you. That is not true." Thranduil nodded towards the items on the table top, and gave a small smile as he said quietly: "I know why you took these from your memories box. They make you happy, and your heart needed to be gladdened this night. I also know what the keepsakes stand for. The flowers you picked three years ago in the palace gardens. Upon being told that they would eventually die you were devastated, but a healer knew of a mixture made of special herbs which would give the plants long life. Even now you still put it on their petals once every two months.
"You found the stones when your mother took you to visit Laketown. The flow of the river had sent them upstream from no-one knows where, and eventually they washed up on the shore of the lake. Your eyes were the first to find them, and although everyone agreed that you should be allowed to keep them for yourself, you refused. You asked every single person in that town if they had lost special stones. Only when you were sure that they had come from outside of Laketown did you take them for yourself.
"And the feather…This came into your possession two years ago when I was away in Imladris. You found an owl on the training fields. It had been attacked by a larger bird and was very weak and fatally wounded, but you insisted that its time to leave Arda had not arrived. After wrapping your own tunic around the owl, you took it to the healers and asked them to teach you how to look after it. It lived in your room for a month until it was well enough to fly away. As thanks for restoring its health, it left you a feather."
His eyes blurred with tears of a different nature to the ones he had shed earlier that night, Legolas whispered: "There is something else on the table, Ada. The soldier."
"Of course. He is a captain in your army, but you think that he will receive a promotion in a few weeks," Thranduil said quietly. "This will come as good news to him, because he has a large family and struggles to support them. His name is Megildur."
The Prince looked shocked for a moment that his father could have such trivial information in his keeping, but then the realisation dawned, and he smiled. "You only know that because the warriors were once yours."
"They were. But your Megildur was never promoted in my army. He was a very clumsy soldier, always dropping his sword and misfiring his arrows in the middle of battle." The Elven-king gave a small smile of his own, swallowing down emotion as happy tears leaked from his son's eyes. "And in my army, he was not Megildur. He was Beinian."
Silence fell in the darkened room, and it hung in the air for only a few seconds before Legolas launched himself forwards with a soft cry of joy. He clung to Thranduil as though his continued existence depended upon this embrace being the greatest there ever was between father and son; and although he wept against the Elven ruler's strong chest, laughter and smiles too made themselves known through the tears. All memories of the argument that night were no more, replaced instead by just one thought: Ada knows me.
"Sometimes I find myself caught up in councils and meetings which last whole days, and I often become entangled in papers that I cannot avoid tending to," Thranduil whispered, "but not a minute goes by when you are not in my mind or my heart or both. You are my son, Legolas; and whilst I can never know every small detail about you, I can always know that I love you, that I will never stop loving you."
"I love you too, Ada."
There was nothing else left to say between father and son that night. Seconds turned into minutes, and as the minutes passed slowly by, Thranduil realised that the Elfling had fallen asleep in his arms. He did not even consider that he should release his hold on Legolas and go back to reading the reports that were still waiting just a few doors up the corridor. They could wait until tomorrow. For now, he was content to tenderly stroke the golden hair of his child, watch over the boy's peaceful slumber and frame this as one of his own special recollections until the sun rose hours later.
When morning did arrive, Legolas placed the flowers, stones and feather back into his box. With them went Megildur, the newest addition to a collection of memories.
Hello everyone! So, when I finished 'Black and White' I think I said that my next story would be up at the end of April. Its now May, and my next story isn't finished yet due to college assignments, work commitments and driving theory tests. I always feel guilty about going a long time without posting anything, so after reading a Coventry Patmore poem this morning called 'The Toys', I was inspired to write this small piece. Its not connected to any of my previous stories, nor will it be (so far as I can see) connected to future stories. Its just a little thing to let you all know that I'm still here, I'm still writing and I will be back as soon as possible with my next story.
See you soon,