3rd Place winner in the March 2007 'Glimpse of the Future' Teitho Contest
Summary: An elven family spends a day in the wood, but something happens that is unexpected and never forgotten.
The Water's Song
By Nieriel Raina
Year 1079, Third Age
"Listen, Ada!" Legolas, all of three summers, squealed in amazement, his face filled with awe.
The child knelt beside the stream, turning his ear to the water as it rushed, babbled and splashed its way along its course lined with majestic beeches. The boughs seemed to stretch toward the sun, breaking up its rays to form dappled patterns on the water and forest floor below.
Behind Legolas, Thranduil sat beside his wife, both wearing amused expressions as they watched their young son explore the creek bank, oblivious to the armed guards hidden in the trees above them. Legolas was truly a comely mixture of both he and Laerwen, Thranduil thought as he watched his son proudly, noting the golden hair the same color of his own reflected the rays of the sun, which slipped through the tree branches. But it was bright grey eyes, so like his mother's, that watched small fish dart among the rocks in the clear water.
Thranduil smiled at his wife when the boy tried to grab the bright-colored fish with his hands; there was such an expression of joy on his son's face and Thranduil felt a great relief, if only for a day, from the responsibilities of being king. Too often he was denied the simple pleasure of just being with his family and he had regretted not spending time such as this with his eldest sons, so with his youngest, he made the effort.
Laerwen reached up and traced his jawline, a smile turning her lips when he leaned into her touch and turned his head to press a kiss to her palm. This was how life was meant to be. Simple and pleasant without the burden of fighting shadows.
Their day of peace was quickly shattered by a small voice.
"Ada! Do you hear it? The water sings! Can you hear its song?" Legolas turned to his father with curious eyes.
But instead of smiling, Thranduil frowned and stood, hastening to his son and kneeling beside him. Looking into his small son's face, he searched the bright grey eyes for what it was his son heard. "What does it say, my son? What does the water say to you?"
Legolas cocked his head and scrunched his brow. "I do not know, Ada. I can hear its song, but I cannot understand the words. Do you understand them, Ada? What does the water sing about?" Legolas asked wide-eyed, and somewhat fearfully.
Thranduil did not answer, turning instead to look at his wife, letting out a gasp and rushing to her side as he realized she gazed tearfully at their son, a look of deep sadness on her face. "What is it, my love? Have you had a vision?" he asked. Laerwen had the gift of foresight, though it did not come upon her often.
She turned her face to look at him, but he could see her eyes were still slightly unfocused from whatever she had seen. Then, she buried her face in his chest and cried mournfully, clinging to him in her distress.
"Nana?" Legolas called, running to his mother's side and taking her hand in both his small ones. His eyes rose to meet Thranduil's gaze, the small face greatly perplexed. "Ada, what is wrong with Nana?"
But before Thranduil could answer, Laerwen turned her tear-stained face to their son and took his chin in her hand. "I am all right, little one. I saw something that troubled me; that is all. Go play now, so that I might discuss it with your father." Leaning forward, she kissed Legolas's brow, smiled and shooed him back to the creek. The boy went obediently, but it was obvious he was still troubled by his mother's display of emotion, yet quickly distracted by a large black beetle.
"What did you see?" Thranduil asked again. He was disturbed by Laerwen's reaction and fearful of what she might tell him. Gently, he stroked his lady's face and pulled her into his arms, where she laid her head against his chest.
"The water calls to him, my lord," she told him in a voice that wavered with tears. "And though he has yet to understand it, one day he shall, and when that happens, we shall lose him, my husband."
"No! Say it is not so!" he replied in anguish, for to lose another son was more than he could bear. "By you, he is Laegrim! Surely the call of the forest and of your people will hold him here, for he is a child of the trees and loves the land, even at his young age."
Laerwen turned knowing eyes upon him, however. "For a time, many Long Years, will the trees whisper to him and keep him safely in our grasp. But, oh, my husband, the day will come when he is called from our home; and he will hear the river's song for what it is — a merry tune bidding those who hear it to follow the streams and rivers. It tells of waves and salt and gulls, for all lead to the sea, my love, and it will lure it him there eventually, no matter what we might wish."
"And is there nothing we can do to prevent it? I will not lose my son!" Thranduil declared, then quickly glanced up to see if he had been overheard by their little one. Yet, the child still played undisturbed alongside the creek, oblivious to all else but the moving water, fish and bugs.
"Nay, nothing we do will stop this," she declared sadly. "All we can do is enjoy our time with him and assure him that we will love him no matter where he goes, for our hearts are bound to each other over great distance and even in death. Love your son, my lord, and let him know that nothing will ever break those ties between you!"
Even as she spoke, he could see there was more she was not telling him, some sadness she wished to spare him. He did not press her, for he loved her too greatly to cause her more pain. Her foresight concerning their son had caused much grief to them both. Nodding to show his understanding and acquiescence, he rose and went to sit beside his son on the creek bank.
Legolas climbed into his lap, his eyes following the water on its course downstream. Hesitantly, the boy asked again, "Do you understand the water, Ada? Do you know what its song says?"
And this time Thranduil nodded. "Yes, my son, for though I do not understand it myself, I know what the water sings of, and one day you will know as well, for you will hear it with your own ears, and the song will dwell in your heart."
Legolas looked up at his father curiously. "Is it something bad, Ada? For the song is pretty and I like it very much, though I do not understand it yet. But I do not wish to make Nana cry again!" He buried his face in Thranduil's tunic.
Chuckling humorlessly, Thranduil sought to reassure his child. "Nay, the song of the waters is not bad, though it causes sadness to many" He paused a moment to raise his son's chin with a finger and to look firmly into trusting eyes. "Listen to me, my son! Hearken to my words! When the time comes that you understand the song, remember this day! Obey it, my son, and know that nothing will break our ties of love. Remember your Ada understands, and he loves you no matter where you go!"
Smiling, Legolas threw his arms around his father's neck. "I will remember, Ada! I love you, too!"
And remember Legolas did as he stood on the shores of the Anduin at Pelargir, the gulls wheeling overhead, crying their song that harmonized with that of the river. As Legolas watched the water flow southward, tears streamed down his cheeks, for now he understood both the Lady Galadriel's warning and his father's words spoken so long ago. It was then he completely grasped his father's love for him, for he had only been a small child when Thranduil had come to know he would lose his son to the sea.
But not only sadness filled his heart at the thought of leaving his kin and father, for on those other shores, his mother now dwelt, possibly released from the halls of Death, if the stories he heard from Lord Elrond were true. Legolas had not seen his mother since he was a youth, having still been fifteen years from his majority when she had been killed. Legolas held hope in his heart that she would be returned to him, and that such a hope might draw his father, brothers and sister West in time as well, where they might once more be a family, whole and complete.
But until that time, he would rest secure in the knowledge that his father loved him no matter where he went, even over Sea.
"Are you all right, lad?"
Legolas turned to the dwarf standing at his side, looking up at him with concern in his dark eyes. His friend was quick to blurt out, "Aragorn is concerned for you. It is time to board the ship, yet he fears… " The gruff voice paused, then Gimli threw up his hands in exasperation. "Well, I'm not sure what exactly he fears, but you are not yourself, so he must have a reason to be worried!"
The dwarf eyed him carefully from beneath bushy brows, and his voice softened, if a dwarf's voice can become soft. "Do you care to speak of it, Legolas? Your friends are here with you, and we would help you if we can."
Legolas wiped his cheeks and smiled at his friend. "I am all right, Friend Gimli. And though I fear my life will never be the same as it was before I stood on this shore, I know I am loved, and that is enough!"
"Well, I don't think I would go that far, Elf," Gimli said, his cheeks turning red under his heavy beard. "I just said I'm here if you wish to speak!"
Legolas laughed brightly and clapped his hand on the dwarf's shoulder. "So you did!" he exclaimed, turning to the black ships waiting for them. "Come, Gimli! Let us board the ship, so the future king need not worry for us. We have battles to fight, and I feel, though we are far outnumbered, we shall be victorious and shall see our scruffy friend crowned King of Gondor and spend many years at his side. I have not come this far to turn back now, nor fought this long, to simply leave once victory is won!"
Determined in his heart despite the water's song, Legolas walked briskly up the plank to the ship, leaving a bewildered dwarf behind.
Shaking his head, Gimli heaved his axe over his shoulder with a "harrumph" and followed, grumbling, "I swear elves are the flightiest creatures I have ever met!"
Quite able to hear the grumbled words, Legolas smiled.