Summary: Dispairing news often brings fear...but it is how we respond that counts.

Hold To Hope

By Nieriel Raina

Mirkwood

Elven King's Halls

Late December Year 3018 Third Age

A single horn sounded, its notes announcing the arrival of riders. Dropping the papers Thranduil had been perusing, he rose quickly and made his way to the entrance of the halls. The horses were milling just across the bridge, the riders preparing to dismount. Thranduil's eyes scanned them quickly, looking for the one that would set his heart at ease, but he failed to find who he sought. Instead, his eyes came to rest on the one at the head of the group he had sent to Imladris more than two months ago. The warrior met his eyes across the distance with obvious reluctance.

Thranduil strode across the bridge without breaking that eye contact. "Tathar? Where is he?"

The dark haired warrior swallowed hard, dismounted and bowed. Was it Thranduil's imagination, or was Tathar having a hard time meeting his gaze? "He has not returned with us, my lord. He sent you a letter explaining his…mission."

Tathar handed a leather envelope to the king and watched with wary eyes as Thranduil scanned the parchment inside. From Legolas's first words, Thranduil felt great apprehension fill him. He read the words calmly, but his heart screamed in protest. Fear filled him, terror and panic almost driving him to run for his horse and go after his wayward son.

The realization that he was standing before a large group of his people stopped him from doing just that. Then anger descended upon him. He should not have read this letter in front of so many witnesses. They should not see their king in such distress or losing control. Thranduil steeled himself, forcing the anger and fear from his face. He looked up at the warrior standing before him with his head bowed as if waiting for judgment sure to follow such news.

By the stars! Tathar blames himself and fears I do as well…

"Did you try to stop him, Tathar?"

Tathar looked up with regret in his grey eyes. "I did, my lord, but he would not listen!"

A small, humorless smile turned Thranduil's lips. "Then you did all you could have, Tathar. I do not hold you to blame for my son's actions. Did he tell you why he went?"

Tathar snorted softly and shook his head in annoyance. "He insisted it was his destiny. That he had to do this thing…for his people. He is much like you, my lord. Once he has made up his mind about something, there is no stopping him. I would have gone with him, but he forbade it."

Thranduil felt pride well up inside him. Yes, Legolas could be much like himself and that is what scared him the most. Had he not lost enough to the dark forces? A son, his wife… Must he grieve another loss? Thranduil did not know if he could bear it. Legolas would return. He had to believe that.

Focusing back on the warrior before him, he said, "What is done, is done. We must hold to hope that he will return to us safely, and do all we can to help in our own way. I sense…" He turned and looked to the south. "Darkness gathers, the Shadow spreads. It will soon be upon us, even here."

Thranduil dismissed the group and turned his eyes back southward, not looking towards the dark tower but in the direction his son would be going. Unexpected moisture blurred his vision a moment, but he blinked it away. He must hold to hope and not give into fear. Legolas would return…he had to return.

Turning, Thranduil crossed the bridge and entered the great gate, more determined than ever to see the Shadow removed from his lands. His feet took him to Legolas's room and he sat a long time on the bed, looking at the things gracing the dressing table and walls which his son held dear. His eyes came to rest upon Legolas's first bow, hanging above the door in a place of honor. Few were as competent with a bow than his youngest son, of this he was certain.

Standing, he reached for it and took it down from its hooks. He held the small bow reverently in his hands, his fingers caressing the ancient wood lightly as if by holding this piece of wood, he somehow held a piece of his son.

Sometime later, Thranduil left his son's quarters and returned to his own, the small bow still held in his hands. He placed it on one of the tables near his bed where he could see it, and there it would remain until Legolas returned.

"Be safe, my son," he whispered quietly before returning to his duties as king.