This is my take on the meeting of Legolas and Aragorn and is, of course, AU.
Thanks again to my wonderful, fantastic, patient and understanding beta Sarah. I wouldn't be doing this without her!
List of Characters:
Galvreth – Thranduil's closest advisor and friend
Ivran – Legolas's oldest brother, the Crown Prince of Mirkwood
Ellarian – Legolas's middle brother
Tathar – Mirkwood's greatest archer, set to compete in an archery contest that takes place every 100 years in Imladris
Legolas's face, as he strode from his father's study, was whiter than the paper Galvreth held in his hand. Stark white. The prince ignored his father's seneschal and brushed angrily past the guard who had inadvertently strayed into his path while he made for the main hallway, leading to the outside. Galvreth felt certain he would not be seeing the penneth again before evening. He struggled to suppress his own anger, his imagination filling in what had likely just transpired between father and son – nay - what had transpired had been between King and subject, Galvreth felt certain, when it should have been between father and son.
He clenched his teeth, grinding out his anger, knowing full well that he needed to hold a discussion at once with his sire and it would not due to show Thranduil just how wrong he thought the king was – many millennia working with his sovereign and his friend had taught him that. Legolas had been forthright and emphatic in his pleading, Galvreth was certain. He had also, no doubt, lost his temper when his request had been summarily denied and from that point on, his had been a lost cause.
Galvreth would not make that same mistake. He would show proper deference, he promised himself. He would come at this with such cleverness and brilliance that his old friend would have no idea what had happened to him. He would be agreeing to all of Legolas's requests, by the time Galvreth was done with him. The king's advisor was confident in his diplomatic skills as he entered the king's study.
Seconds later, he was feeling decidedly less optimistic. Two sharp eyes flicked up to greet him, the king giving him but a perfunctory nod of the head as he entered. "I care not what you have to say on the subject, Galvreth," he snapped in lieu of a greeting. "He isn't going and that is my final word." Galvreth stifled a sigh, recognizing that no clever device or confusion would win Legolas what he desired and, most assuredly, deserved. His disappointment soon turned to anger though as the king returned his attention once more to his papers, considering the matter dealt with, wholly oblivious both to the heartache that he had just caused his youngest child and to the potential danger that aching heart might spark, as well. It was enough to make Galvreth less than patient with his sovereign and, unfortunately less than in control of his emotions, or his tongue.
"You are making a mistake, my lord," he exclaimed, forgetting his resolve to remain careful and cautious. "There is no reason why he shouldn't attend the contest." He at once bit his lower lip in dismay. That was a mistake. No, that was a disaster, he knew at once as Thranduil looked up from his work, his face completely shorn of emotion. Galvreth knew from great and grave experience that behind the blank face and narrowed eyes, anger burned. Legolas must have been unusually forceful in his request, which, in the king's eyes would have been viewed as being wilful and insolent.
"I do not require a reason in order for my son to do my bidding," Thranduil answered, sharply.
Galvreth at once dropped his head and murmured, "Forgive me sire. It was not my intention to interfere." A blatant lie, of course and the king was not in the least bit deceived. A soft grunt greeted the seneschal's ears and he raised his head again to find the king settled back in his chair, fingers tented before him, openly observing his advisor and old friend.
"Of course not, my dear Galvreth," he said at last "You never intend to interfere in matters where you do not belong but for some reason, unbeknownst to myself, you have never considered Legolas to be one of them. Though I do not require reasons for any of my sons to do my bidding, I recognize that my youngest has long been your favourite and if I must give you reasons in order for you to leave this subject without my having to resort to angering you and then have to deal with your sulking for the remainder of the day then please, allow me to present you with a few."
The king waved a hand at the chair drawn up close to the desk. Its match lay toppled over on its side and Galvreth could only imagine the force required to send the heavy chair to its present position. He forced his attention away and to his own proffered seat, taking it while he attempted to draw his composure around him once more, reminding himself how important this conversation was and how it would not help for him to lose control as the occupant of that other chair most assuredly had.
"Legolas has never in his life participated in a competition of this sort," the king began, his words measured and seemingly without emotion, though Galvreth knew better, recognizing the tension beneath the seeming calm. "And he would be representing Mirkwood, if he were to participate, even more so than Tathar will be, as he is my son. I will not subject myself, or my kingdom to ridicule because, in order to placate a spoiled and selfish Princeling, I allowed him to compete in a contest that should be attended by only the greatest proven archers in Middle Earth, a contest that I need not mention, Mirkwood has not won once in all of the centuries that we have participated, a situation I intend to have rectified this year. No. I will not even begin to entertain such a ridiculous request."
Galvreth's mouth had dropped open in surprise and confusion as the king spoke. "My lord," he stammered. "I do not understand. I cannot imagine that Legolas would ask for such a thing. He would not dare. In fact, I am quite certain he asked only to be allowed to attend. Why did you hear otherwise?"
It was Thranduil's turn to look surprised and he drew further back into his chair as if to escape Galvreth's questing gaze, his forehead creasing in a frown. "Well, I, don't know…" But it was obvious, as his mind feverishly tried to remember the precise words that his son had used, words that had clearly not been listened to, the moment that the king realised his error. His frown deepened and his gaze hardened. He must have anticipated the meeting that had just occurred and had had his own ideas of what his son would ask for. Ready and waiting with a speech, no doubt a scathing speech about duty and respect and the necessity of holding one's tongue in order to be able to accomplish both, he had not heard a word his child had spoken. No wonder Legolas had reacted as strongly as he had.
"It matters not what he asked!" Thranduil barked, in reply, recovering swiftly. "He still is not going. He will travel to Imladris for the first time at my side, on matters serving the realm, not with his brother to attend a mere archery competition. He has work to do here in Ellarian's absence. I cannot have both of them away. And if that is not reason enough for you, I hardly believe that I should condone or reward his behaviour just now by allowing him to do what he desires. That chair that you are trying so hard to pretend you do not see was knocked over in a fit of childish temper."
"You drive him to it, Thranduil…" Galvreth exclaimed, choking back his words as once more his good sense chased his traitorous tongue in a losing battle for control. He steadied himself and drew a sharp breath ere allowing himself to speak again. "You do not treat him as you treat his brothers," he said, this time managing to keep his voice even. "You do not allow him to train as a warrior. It is what he most desires and you ignore that wish."
"Again with what Legolas desires!" Thranduil shot to the edge of his seat and leaned over the desk laying his hands flat on its surface. "He is spoiled, Galvreth, and I see why, as it appears that my entire household indulges him. He is my son, and as my son, he has responsibilities, duties that he will honour. It is not a choice, it is what it is."
"But Ivran and Ellarian are allowed to take up arms in the defence of their land…"
"Allowed to - !" Thranduil thundered, taking to his feet this time, both hands still resting on the desk as he leaned across to glare at Galvreth. "They are warriors through necessity not because they choose to be. I send them to fight and to suffer and to die - yes die Galvreth – I had four sons, remember – and not because I wish to, or because they desire it, but because I must. I have given three sons to fight the shadow. And I have lost a wife to that same shadow. Is that not enough?"
Galvreth bowed his head and closed his eyes, sighing inwardly. "Yes, my lord. You have lost much." He swallowed heavily, hearing plainly the grief that laced the king's words, fighting the grief within his own heart – Thranduil's suffering had been his, as well. He loved the king's family as his own. He raised his head again and drew a deep breath, marshalling his strength. There was more that needed to be said or grief would not end there.
"Yes, my lord, you have lost much," he repeated, solemnly. "But you will lose even more if you do not listen to me, sire. You know I speak only out of love." He waited for Thranduil to retreat, stiffly, back into his seat, before continuing, knowing that he hadn't much time before the king silenced him permanently on the subject. "I do understand, my lord. But you cannot deny what is in one's heart either. Legolas is no politician. He can hardly bear to be indoors for a day, much less the weeks and months required for studying and learning. He cannot abide being held in Council sessions, or pouring over ledgers and trade agreements, day in and day out. You do not force any of your subjects to go where they do not wish to go, to do what they are uncomfortable with doing, within reason. Why do you treat Legolas differently?"
"Because I know what is best for Legolas," Thranduil snapped, gripping the arms of the chair with such force that Galvreth could hear the groan of the wood beneath the king's fierce grasp. "Not Legolas. He is young. He does not know what he wants or, more importantly, what he needs. He does not know what he is suited for." He relaxed his hold on the chair but the strain was still evident in the harsh rasp of his voice. "Legolas has not the qualities of a leader and no son of mine will serve as a mere soldier."
"Legolas could learn to lead, just as Ellarian has learned. He did not slip easily into that role when he came of age. But you sent him to serve, my lord, and he has done so with honour and distinction."
"No, Legolas is not Ellarian. He has not a soldier's character. I know my son."
It was all Galvreth could do to keep from snorting. Those words would have been true when Legolas was small, surely. But these last years, his sire had drowned his sorrow over the loss of his wife and son in work and wine. He hadn't time for his remaining children, other than moving them around like pawns in a game, giving them duties that kept them equally as ever occupied as the king, allowing them precious little time to think about their losses, or to ask after his. Dinners that had once been wonderful affairs, full of laughter and story-telling, sharing of the day's events and never missed without proven and good cause had become silent, torturous proceedings, attended only when unavoidable, with absences rarely questioned by the head of the table, if he, himself, managed to show. The king had left Legolas's upbringing almost exclusively in Galvreth's hands; a shame, as the two had always been close. The withdrawal of his adar's attention had been almost as crushing to the young prince as the loss of his naneth.
It was Galvreth's turn to lean forward as he stated, "He is quiet because he has no confidence in his skills. But he should. He is uncomfortable around others because he spends so little time with them. You have him studying or working with me for hours on end. Do you know what he does when he finishes here in the palace? He does not visit with friends or do the things that other Elves his age do. Instead he goes at once to the practice fields where he spends untold hours, far into the night, sometimes all night, doing what he loves and what is truly part of him. I have seen him draw his bow again and again until his fingers have bled. And his practice has paid off. He far surpasses his brothers - nay - all of Mirkwood, I would wager, with his ability. And as if that were not enough, he is on a par with Ellarian when it comes to wielding those long knives of his and fast moving up on Ivran who is many millennia older than he. Do you even know this?"
"Of course I do," the king snapped. "I know everything about him." Which of course, he did not. Not any longer.
"You know nothing of him if you insist upon this course of action," Galvreth warned. In his desperation, the King's advisor placed his hands on the desk, mimicking Thranduil's posture of moments before. His eyes captured his friend's and he did not flinch away from that ice-cold gaze. "I think, perhaps, that you do know these facts about your son. Why else would you have confused Legolas's request? Because you know that he deserves what he does not even ask for. He is your greatest archer, my king. He should be representing Mirkwood in this contest. He could be among your greatest captains, if you would only give him the chance." Thranduil said nothing, appearing to be at least contemplating his seneschal's words.
Galvreth cocked his head, taking advantage of the king's silence. "There are other reasons at play for why you refuse him," he said, gently. "What are they, I wonder? Fear that something will happen to him, perhaps? It is a valid fear. The lives of our soldiers hang by a thread. And you have lost much, I know. To lose your youngest, most precious child would be catastrophic. Legolas has a special light, a special place in all of our hearts, as well. Yet, I fear that light will fade, my king, if you continue to protect him. He is a warrior, Thranduil. He has the skills and temperament of a great one. He is quiet and submissive, to your eyes, doing what you demand of him. But I see him, where you do not. Boiling under the surface is frustration and resentment. His frustration will become anger if you force him to be what he is not. And he is not a scholar or a scribe."
"I am not training him to be a scribe!" Thranduil shot back, suddenly furious, slamming his hand onto the desk with a crash, whatever contemplative mood he had been under, vanquished. "He is to advise his brother. I can think of no greater task to give a subject than to be the right arm of a king, one that the king relies and depends on to support him in all matters. You, as my closest advisor, would be wise to remember that!"
Galvreth knew he was treading dangerous waters and at once bowed his head, deferentially. Thranduil sniffed in acceptance of the action, his anger only slightly assuaged. But Galvreth knew that he yet held the king's interest, if only for a moment and he pressed forward, understanding that he needed to plead Legolas's case for the penneth would not have another chance for centuries to come, if Galvreth failed now, centuries that the prince might not be willing, or able, to give.
"I remember my duty, my lord and I am attempting to perform it. I am indeed your advisor, and an advisor offers advice. It is my job to tell His Majesty when I believe he is making a mistake, even when such advice is unwelcome and certainly when the end result could be tragic."
"You are being melodramatic, Galvreth," the king snorted, choosing to make light of Galvreth's arguments, using a convenient and quite effective tactic for ending a discussion short of commanding it closed. "Come now! Tragic? Legolas may be chafing at his bit, somewhat – I will agree with you there. He is young. Of course he is desirous of adventure. But that will fade with time. Perhaps I will take him with me to Laketown the next time I go," he said, his mood suddenly lightening as he recognized a possible solution to his problem that he could live with. "Not this time, of course, for I will be gone far too long with the trip to Dorwinion to make, as well. But the next trip, surely. That will give him a chance to get out of the palace. Have a little adventure…"
"He does not need a 'little adventure', Thranduil," Galvreth interrupted, before the king went any further down this wholly inadequate and erroneous path. "I am not talking about an energetic Elfling who needs to sow wild oats. I am talking about an Ellon who needs to set a path for himself, one that he can dedicate himself to, something he can work towards and be proud of. If you do not allow him this, his desire for adventure will not be the only thing that fades with time!"
"Again, Galvreth with the histrionics," Thranduil stated, waving his hand dismissively. "It matters not to me what Legolas wants or doesn't want. He is my son and he will damn well do his duty. And his duty is mine to determine, mine to command. We have work to do, today. Real work. Let us get to it."
And at that, the conversation was over. But Galvreth knew, deep in his heart, that it was truly only the beginning. There was a rude awakening for all to come, of that he was certain and it was only a question of how long it would be to the awakening and the degree of rudeness to be experienced.
Penneth – young one
Naneth - mother
Adar - father
Ellith – female Elf, plural
Ellon – male Elf, singular