The Little Prince

Author's note: In my stories, Thranduil is a widower. But I'll let Legolas' friends explain:

"King Thranduil has always been very protective," said Fingolfin, "and understandably so—do not forget that he has had to raise his son himself."

"What did happen to Legolas' mother?" asked Eomer.

"She was a fragile elleth, by all accounts," said Fingolfin, "and childbirth was just too much for her."

"She died?"

"In labour. She is waiting in the Halls of Mandos…"

"No wonder Legolas never mentions her," said Gimli. "That is a cruel fate—to die bringing life into the world. And a cruel inheritance—to be the cause of your own mother's death."

"Indeed," said Fingolfin. "And, at first, King Thranduil would have nothing to do with his son. But, in time, he softened—and then, gradually, he became fiercely possessive."

Almost three thousand years earlier...

The guard standing beside the great double doors shifted uncomfortably.

Lord Astaldo, King Thranduil's Chief Counsellor for many centuries, noted the movement and paused, his knuckles a mere inch from the wood. "It is that day," he said, softly.

"Yes, my lord," replied the guard.

The counsellor should, of course, have reprimanded the soldier for his breach of etiquette, but—

CRASH—something heavy had just hit the study wall—

And the guard's expression was one of honest sympathy, not insolence—for Thranduil, so difficult, so prickly in character, had nevertheless a gift for inspiring love in his exasperated people.

"I had better return later," said Astaldo.

The guard nodded in agreement.

The tiny creature tottered along the corridor, cautiously raising each foot high before slowly placing it down, unable to see the floor over the two bows—one of them full-sized—and the quiver he was carrying in his little arms.

"Will you open the door for me, please, Maeglin?"

"I do not think your Adar wishes to be disturbed, just now, your Highness," said the guard, gently.

"He will not mind, if it is me," said Legolas. He smiled. "Please, Maeglin."

The guard shook his head. Give him a century or so and no elleth in the Greenwood will be safe, he thought. "Promise me that if your Adar tells you to leave, you will come straight back to the door, your Highness," he said, cautiously.

"I promise!"

Maeglin resisted the temptation to ruffle the little imp's golden hair. "Perhaps you should leave the bows outside…"

"Oh no! These are for Ada!"

"Bows?"

The elfling nodded vehemently.

Valar help me if I ever have a son of my own, thought Maeglin. Very quietly, he lifted the latch of the great door and pushed it open. Legolas toddled through the gap, miraculously manoeuvring the full-size bow to avoid knocking its arms as he did so.

Maeglin waited for a moment or two.

But there was no immediate outburst, so he closed the door behind the little prince.

Legolas stepped carefully over the candle stand lying just inside the door, and entered his father's study. "Hello Ada."

"Not now, Legolas." The Elvenking was hunched over his desk.

"You are sad, I know," said the elfling, "but—"

"Legolas! I said not now."

"It is because you are sad that I—"

"I shall not tell you again, Legolas!" Thranduil swung round, giving his tiny son one of his fabled glares.

Undeterred, the elfling carefully laid the bows and quiver on a nearby chair and approached his father. "I am here to cheer you up," he said, smiling.

"Cheer…" Thranduil shook his head. "Do you know what day it is today?"

The child nodded. "It is the day that I was born on."

"The day that you…? Yes," admitted the Elvenking, softly, "it is the day that you were born on."

"The day that Nana left us," said Legolas.

Thranduil sighed, creasing his brows in his effort to control his emotions. "Yes."

"That is why you need cheering up," the elfling persisted. He toddled back to the chair, picked up the larger of the two bows and held it out to his father.

"What have you brought that for?"

"So that you can learn to use it. I will teach you, Ada. Master Galdor says that I am already an excellent archer."

Thranduil raised his hand to hide an unexpected smile. "Does he now? And what makes you think thatI need to learn archery?"

"It will make you happy."

"Hap—? What are you talking about, Legolas?"

"It makesme happy, Ada. More than anything."

"Archery."

The child nodded.

"Show me," said Thranduil. "Put that big bow down and let me see how you draw your own bow."

With great respect for both weapons, Legolas laid the longbow back on the chair and took up his own quarter-size bow. He walked into the open space before the fireplace. "Stand tall," he said, drawing himself up to his full three feet nothing, and adopting a voice that sounded suspiciously like a certain bow master's, "with one foot either side of your shooting line." He shifted his little hips from side to side to illustrate the point. "Do not lock your knees." He bounced up and down a few times. "Check that your shoulders are square." He raised the bow to his waist. "Curl your fingers around the bowstring in a deep hook." He exaggerated the movement of his hand. "Raise your bow arm and your drawing arm together." With childish grace, he brought his bow into the shooting position. "Draw to your anchor, picturing your target, then let the arrow loose itself…" The bowstring slipped from his little fingers with a twang.

Thranduil stretched out his arms. "Come here, Lasdithen," he cried, tears running down his normally impassive face, "Come here, my Little Leaf."

"I am sorry Ada, I have only made you sadder," mumbled Legolas, smothered in his father's embrace.

The Elvenking said nothing.

But, without releasing his son, he slid down to his knees and, for the first time since the day of his terrible loss, he let the mask fall, and sobbed like an elfling.

THE END