Main Characters: Oropher, Thranduil, Legolas
Summary: A one-shot exploring the implied passing of power between Oropher and Thranduil and later Thranduil and Legolas. Shameless love for the House of Oropher. (May not be totally accurate to the book-verse.)
NOTE: This is my first time writing for Lord of the Rings, which has been a favorite fandom of mine for the last ten years. Go easy? :)
Thranduil stared into the fire. The dancing flames of the strong bonfire had long died into large hulks of glowing timber, but there was enough light left to illuminate the rest of the camp in soft, gentle orange.
The prince made a small, quavering sigh, though the gravity of the sound made it seem like he bore the weight of the world on his shoulders. What are we doing here? he silently asked the fire, as if expecting it to respond. This is folly.
His blue eyes lifted from under untied blond hair and he scanned the camp with weary, bloodshot eyes. They had been marching nonstop from Greenwood, leaving behind weeping female relatives and cheerful elfings whom had somehow been convinced that their brothers and fathers would be going on a very large hunting trip. Every male elf capable of bearing arms had joined in on the march to Mordor. They met their kin from Lorien along the way, and now the massive army of Silvan elves -with a few Sindar tossed into the mix- was only a day away from joining Gil-Galad and Elrond's Noldorian forces.
The elves were answering the call of the Last Alliance. It was, as his father put it, the end of all wars.
And yet, even though he smiled and nodded like the good prince that he was, Thranduil inwardly thought that this was all a big, giant mistake. We shouldn't be here, he thought with a heavy heart, his eyes dragging over young elves that were barely half his age and had only recently completed their novice training. Some of them were excited and bustled amongst themselves, while others were silent and stayed to the shadows, overwhelmed by the presence of older warriors. Thranduil saw one young elf, barely in his majority and not yet fully grown, curled up against his father's side like a frightened elfling. The Silvans have never seen war. We are not prepared.
The smattering of Sindarin nobles and warriors that had followed Oropher to Greenwood and Amdir to Lorien were too few in number to improve their forces. They had tried desperately to teach their Silvan subjects the art of war, but while the Silvans were excellent archers and had experience with knives, very few knew how to wield spears and swords. They were used to fighting from the comfort of trees, but Thranduil knew that Mordor had no trees to shelter them.
The prince tried desperately to fight off the wave of dread that had slowly been clawing at his insides. I must look brave, he thought to himself, as he put on a forced smile for one of the young elves that walked by, I am their prince. They expect me to be nothing short of perfect.
A hand landed on his shoulder, warm and powerful, and Thranduil didn't have to look up to realize his father was now sitting behind him. Turning, he inclined his head in a modified bow. "My lord." He noticed, with a start, that Oropher was waving his hand and dismissing the other warriors that sat around the same fire. They nodded at him and wandered off quietly, seeking friends or kin at other camps. The absence of their bodies suddenly made Thranduil realize how cold it was out in the fields, without the shelter of bushes or forests. We will have to fight like this tomorrow, he thought grimly, We will be so... exposed.
Oropher studied him silently, his gray eyes cold and piercing. His blond hair, the exact same shade of gold as Thranduil's, was tied back in a long, thick braid that lay down his back. It made the sharp features of his pale face look even more severe, and his son dimly wondered if he had done anything wrong.
When Thranduil finally began to squirm under such a gaze, his father looked away and up at the stars. "Elbereth's gems shine beautifully today."
"Yes. The night is uncommonly clear," agreed his son, though he didn't join his father's gaze with his own. "We will have easily traveling tomorrow."
Oropher lapsed into silence once more, and Thranduil suddenly realized that the elder elf was beating around the bush. The thought was so absurd it almost made a hysterical, strained laugh bubble up the youth's throat. His father, the strict, cunning, mulish great-something-nephew of Thingol who prided himself on his ability to cut conversations short with painfully straightforward remarks, was suddenly speechless in his son's presence. It was as bizarre as it was frightening.
Thranduil didn't know what to make of it, so he remained silent himself. Oropher was a good father, but he was an even better king. Thranduil had lived his whole life knowing that his father demanded his unquestionable loyalty and every ounce of brains that he had but never called for his affections. This was a hard rule for a young elf to grow up with, but Thranduil knew it was necessary -after all, Oropher had turned them from refugees into royals using nothing but his wit and the sheer force of his personality. It was a talent few elves had, and Thranduil was determined to learn everything his father was willing to teach him. After all, being the perfect, composed prince that Oropher wanted him to be was the only way for the youth to pay his father back for everything he had received.
A slight turn in Oropher's face dragged Thranduil's thoughts forcefully back into the present. His sire was watching him again, this time with less fierce eyes that twinkled in tune with the stars. "If I asked you to take control of Greenwood today, would you be able to do it?"
Thranduil stared at him. This is a test, he told himself, I can do this. To his absolute horror, the words that came out of his mouth were not the words of reassurance that he wanted to say. "Why would I need to?"
He expected a sharp rebulk for that, but instead, Oropher only pursed his lips and turned his attention back to the stars.
Oh no, don't do that, Adar. Look at me. I like it when you look at me. It was a shameless thought that made him flush with shame, but that didn't make it any less true. Thranduil was always hungry for any attention Oropher could spare him, which wasn't much considering the King's duties kept him away from his son for the majority of every day.
"Do you feel that you are ready?" The King's voice was steady, betraying nothing.
Thranduil sighed and stared back at the fire. It seemed like his father was unwilling to let this subject slide. Was he ready? He sure didn't feel like, but he didn't think that was the answer his father wanted. "I... could be..." he replied evasively, bracing himself for his father's temper. He didn't want to anger his sire, but he knew Oropher could easily see through any lie he told.
Strong hands grabbed his shoulders, and he found himself being spun around by powerful arms. Feeling rather like a rag doll in the arms of a temperamental giant, Thranduil suddenly found himself nose to nose with his father.
"I need you to be ready, îon nîn. You need to able to bear the weight of the crown."
Ice ran down Thranduil's back at those words. He stared into his father's eyes, realizing that they were dilated and filled with raw, wild desperation. He dimly realized that his hands covered Oropher's, clinging to them as if he would fall without their support. "Why are you saying this?" the prince whispered, his voice almost too low to be heard. He had never seen his father like this.
Oropher turned away suddenly, as if ashamed by how much he had betrayed on his face.
Thranduil hesitated, then gathered his courage and laid his hand on his father's arm. It was an affectionate touch that he had only used a handful of times, most of which had been when he was but an elfling. "Ada?" That, too, was a term he hadn't used in decades, but his fear overwhelmed his common sense and he was desperate to know what was bothering his father so.
Oropher closed his eyes and swallowed roughly. "We ride to war tomorrow. I... do not want you to be unprepared." His voice was tired and dead.
Thranduil's hand tightened painfully on his father's arm. "You've seen something," he realized suddenly. His heart felt as if it had suddenly dropped to his toes. "You've had a vision. Tell me what you saw." He shook Oropher's arm for emphasis, no longer caring that he was acting more like a child than a prince. "Adar. You must tell me. I must know!"
Oropher lifted his gaze, and it took his son a few seconds to realize it was tears and not stars that glittered in his eyes.
Thranduil stilled like he had been slapped across the face. He had never seen his father cry.
Oropher raised a large hand, as if to cup his son's cheek, then decided against it and settled it on Thranduil's shoulder instead. "Yes," he said softly, slowly, "I have taught you well. You will be fine."
"Greenwood must not fall." Oropher's voice cracked lightly. He tried again, louder this time, loud enough for surrounding elves to hear. "Greenwood must not fall, îon nîn." Say it, his eyes beckoned. I need you to say it.
Thranduil looked up at the surrounding elves, most of whom had paused to stare, then back at his father. He was suddenly very much aware of the scrutiny around them. It would not do to collapse into hysterics now, he knew. Not when their entire kingdom was depending on the strength and courage of their two royals to carry them through the hard years of war ahead.
This is horribly unfair, Thranduil thought dimly. He was but a confused, frightened youth like the rest of them. Why did he, of all elves, have to bear this burden of putting on a strong face when he wanted to do nothing but to run back to the sheltering trees of Greenwood?
Because, another voice answered in his head, Adar only trusts you.
That was all the answer he needed. For his father's sake, he would bury the protests of his nonexistent elflinghood. For his father's strength, he would take up the mantle of prince and make the king's burden a little easier to bear.
Feeling as if something had just been cut out of his chest with a ragged blade, the prince swallowed something that felt suspiciously like a sob down his throat. "Yes," he replied, using every ounce of willpower he had left to keep his voice steady. "Greenwood will not fall."
It was a hollow promise and one that he had no idea if he could keep, but Oropher seemed satisfied.
He smiled at Thranduil, and the motion felt like a beam of sunlight had suddenly broken through a blanket of clouds. The sheer amount of affection in his normally impassive eyes bore down on his son like a wave of radiant warmth, and Thranduil basked in it with stunned silence.
His father's eyes held love. Love in quantities Thranduil had never seen before, in quantities he didn't know his father was capable of feeling. All of it was being poured on to him as if his father had been hiding it back for centuries, only to in this one, tiny second.
Then it was over.
Oropher's mask of calm returned, and he stood in one fluid movement. Thranduil hastily did the same. They clasped arms as warriors, no longer father and son but leaders of Greenwood.
"Tenna' tul're," Oropher said.
Not trusting himself to speak, Thranduil nodded silently, then bowed as he saw his father turn and retire to his tent where the banner of Greenwood flapped in the cold wind. Admir of Lorien joined him, and Thranduil knew that the two Sindar kings would be discussing war plans well into the night.
Slumping back onto his seat upon a rotting log, the prince turned back to look at the dying embers at his feet. The magical moment with his father was gone. He felt nothing now but the cold caress of the wind against his cheeks and a distant ache in his heart.
"Do you think you are ready?"
Legolas's eyebrows shot up to his hairline and he stared in disbelief. Thranduil almost laughed. Save for the fine features of Legolas's visage, which he claimed were all inherited from him, that look of incredulity matched the ones his in-laws gave him when a stammering young king fresh from war had gotten on his knees and asked them for their daughter's hand in marriage. "What?"
Thranduil frowned. "I certainly hope that a child of mine can be more articulate than that."
His son pouted slightly at this, but then clarified with slow emphasis, "My apologies, I know not what you mean."
"If I were to d-" he saw the striken look on Legolas's face and quickly changed his wording, "-sail tomorrow, would you be able to rule Greenwood?" Ah, I have gone soft, he snorted to himself, Legolas should not be sheltered any more than I was at his age.
The answer was firm and absolute.
This time, it was Thranduil who did the staring. Surely his son couldn't be serious. Legolas was an incredibly skilled warrior, and after the stint with the Fellowship -I still haven't had that talk with Elrond yet, the King remembered grimly- and somehow becoming a friend of Dwarves, Ents and Men along the way, he had proved himself more than capable of diplomatic finesse. Thranduil decided to say so. "Legolas," he said slowly, "You are more than-"
"No." Legolas's eyes was intense, and Thranduil distantly remembered when Oropher had given him the same look every time he had done something incredibly stupid or had embarrassed himself in front of their subjects. It was odd that his son would pull out such an expression now, given that the prince was normally such a happy elfling.
"No," Legolas repeated, once he was sure he had Thranduil's attention. "If I say yes, you will leave." It was implied that since he said no, Thranduil had no choice in the matter.
The King blinked slowly, then found himself chuckling. Now why didn't he provide such an answer when his father had asked? Surely his defiance would've stunned Oropher into silence. Legolas, apparently, had more guts than he ever did at that age. "Legolas, it is simply a question. I do not have any plans to-"
"You are not leaving," his son said vehemently, eyes blazing as he stood in front of his father with the stance of someone willing to violently beat his point into someone if need be, "You wouldn't dare. Our people love you too much, and Greenwood needs to recover, and I need you to- " He suddenly found himself engulfed in strong arms and held tightly against a warm, robe-covered chest.
"I have upset you, my child," Thranduil whispered, feeling Legolas tremble against him, "I should not have. Forgive me."
Legolas wrapped his arms around Thranduil's chest and buried his face in his father's neck. He was always going to be shorter and more slender than his father, and for once he didn't mind. "Why did you ask, Ada?" he whispered miserably. "I cannot bear to hear you speak like so."
Thranduil held him quietly and buried his nose in his son's golden hair. "Your begetting day is tomorrow. Your daeradar died when I was exactly your age, and I inherited the crown whether I wanted it or not." His voice was soft, for he did not trust it to remain steady of he spoke any louder. "I wanted to see if I had raised you as well as he had raised me. If you are able to rule without my help, then-"
Legolas pulled away slightly and looked up, again with those fiery, blazing blue eyes of his. "You are the best father, Ada. I could ask for no better," he stated with such firm convention that Thranduil felt humbled by his confidence. "I am not ready to rule. I never will be. I have no desire for the throne, and if you die-" he swallowed, for the thought was clearly painful to him, "-I will fade, or I will sail. I cannot bear life without you, and I am not ashamed to say that I am not as strong as you were when you returned from Mount Doom. So do not ask me to take the throne, I will die before I ever sit upon it."
Thranduil was speechless, then drew Legolas into a hasty, almost painfully tight embrace. "Oh, leafling," he whispered, tears in his eyes, "You have such faith in an old elf. I do not know if you are wise or insane."
Legolas smiled faintly against his father's neck. "I learned from the best, Ada. Now enough talk of death. We have guests here for my begetting day, and I am sure that by this time tomorrow, you will be telling them all embarrassing stories of my elflinghood and ruining my reputation forever. Gimli will be thrilled," he added dryly.
Thranduil smiled and wrapped an arm around his son's slender shoulders, leading him out of his study and into the Hall where preparations for a grand feast were already in order. "Sometimes, I am selfishly glad that Oropher is not here to tell you embarrassing stories about my elflinghood," he mused to no one in particular.
"Nay, Ada, I can always get such stories out of Lord Celeborn," Legolas laughed. He spotted Aragorn down the hall and slid gracefully out of his father's arms. "I promised Estel that I'd show him the river, Ada, we won't be long. I shall be back for dinner!" he called, blond hair streaming behind him as his crystal laughter echoed down the hall.
Thranduil watched him go with silence.
He saw, for an instant, not Legolas but the features of those whose blood he carried -Oropher, with his head of gold hair and high cheekbones, his own mother, with her soft voice and gentle, dimpled smile, and his wife, with her radiant eyes and her slender, lithe build.
Legolas was, quite simply, the last and best the House of Oropher had to offer.
If only you could have met him, Adar, Thranduil thought wistfully, You would have loved him so.
The king turned his head to the open window, where he saw a flash of Legolas's blond hair disappear beyond the great gate of the palace and into the arms of Greenwood's trees beyond. Above them, the sun glowed brightly, bathing the once-tortured forest with shades of gold and white. The world was abuzz with beauty and life, and somewhere in the distance, a chorus of birds began to sing.
Thranduil sighed, the sound both joyful and bittersweet at the same time.
Tomorrow, his son would be a year older than he had been when Oropher had died.
Tomorrow, he would still be the king, Legolas would still be the prince, and Greenwood would still be thriving. He had kept his promise to his father, and then some.
Thranduil closed his eyes, allowing his mind to wander as he bathed in the peace of a beautiful morning. Not for the first time, his mind conjured up the image of a white, foamy shore where a tall, blond elf stood knee-deep in the ocean waves. He had no real connection to Valinor, but something deep in his bones told him that his father was already waiting for him.
Patience, Adar, he murmured, although he knew Oropher could not hear him, We will see each other again someday. I have many surprises for you.
He opened his eyes and found himself cringing. For one, Legolas's best friend is a dwarf.
The mental image of Oropher's face when he learned that news tore an unexpected, full-throated laugh from Thranduil's throat. Somewhere in the depth of Greenwood, Legolas paused and pivoted lightly on the balls of his feet, balanced precariously on a branch that looked much too small to support him.
Down below, Aragorn looked up at him and frowned, placing his hands on his hips. "What is it?"
Legolas listened attentively for another moment or so, then looked down with a twinkle in his eyes. "I haven't heard him laugh like that in a long time."
Sindarin Translations (rough):
Adar = "Father"
Ada = shortened, affectionate form of Adar, "Daddy/Papa"
îon nîn = "My son"
daeradar = "Grandfather"
Tenna' tul're = "Until tomorrow."
NOTES: For anyone not familiar with the Silmarillion, Oropher was probably born during the First Age in Doriath, the Sindar forest kingdom ruled by King Thingol and his Maia queen, Melian. Both Oropher and Celeborn were distantly related to the King, so they were of high-born Sinda blood. However, Doriath and the other elven realms of the First Age fell into the sea after the Valar battled with the Dark Lord Melkor. The Sindar and Noldor survivors settled in Lindon, a refugee forest kingdom against the west coast of Middle Earth that was ruled by Gil-Galad, the High King of the Noldor. It was here that Thranduil was (presumably) born. Tolkien stated that in the year 1100 of the Second Age, a group of Sindar, lead by Oropher and his son Thranduil, marched eastward and became the rulers of the Silvan elves of Greenwood the Great. However, their Silvans subjects were lightly armored and were mainly slaughtered during the Last Alliance. Oropher was killed in an early charge, and Prince (now King) Thranduil lead only a third of their troops home. Sometime afterward, Legolas was born.
You have to admire Thranduil for surviving all that. He also kept the Shadow at bay in Greenwood/Mirkwood without using a Ring of Power, which is very impressive. On top of being king, he also raised his son alone (since his spouse is never mentioned in canon, I guess that means she passed or sailed a long time ago) and miraculously, Legolas turned out to be a sane and happy lil' prince. THAT is even more impressive, if you ask me!