Legolas wondered for the thousandth time if he was possibly the most repressed, boring elf in Middle Earth. He never did anything but what his father wanted, and truth be told he was usually happy to do so. He was his father's only son and understood the responsibilities that came with the title of crown prince. After all, the idea of duty had been pounded into his psyche since birth.
And now he sat in the king's study balancing ledgers for the annual trade reports. As a young ellon, he had been extremely flattered when his tutor had recommended him to his father for such an important responsibility. Only now after years of doing so, the task began to grate on Legolas' nerves. He would much rather be practicing his archery, truth be told, than tabulating endless streams of numbers and balancing figures. He had to take every single one of the local merchants' reports and not only check their reports for inaccuracies, but also calculate taxes due to the king and then add their numbers to the royal ledger. It was a supremely boring job and a thankless one at that. Legolas knew his father appreciated his contributions, but he seldom felt any genuine gratitude for his endeavors. His father just expected him to do it and to do it right.
Legolas had spent his whole life doing what was expected, doing what was right.
He sighed and carefully pushed his long blonde hair over his shoulder before starting on the next report, an income report from one of the outlying vineyards. The first page looked appropriate, written neatly with careful rows and columns, but when he flipped to the following page, Legolas sputtered.
This was no annual report on his desk, but rather some kind of manuscript, written in long flowing elvish script. Intrigued, the prince began to read.
Wanderlust. I feel it keenly in the air I breathe, in the sound of the water rushing by the fields, deep in my bones when I rise in the morning. Oh, to be an ellon to join the forest guard, traveling to the ends of the forest, to lands far and unknown! To ride unfettered, flying, face in the wind, gusted by exhilaration, surfeited by every imagined desire unleashed.
What unknown lands lie beyond the horizon, past the gentle curling vines of my father's estate? I long to see gnarled forests, dark and deep, to gaze on the unbroken line of the sea, and hear the hectic crash of waves against towering cliffs. What must the sea gulls' call sound like? For now, only in wandering dreams may I follow the cool river running beyond these borders to the unknown, and I must bear my waking hours shouldering the burden of expectations…
The script stopped at the bottom of the page. Legolas quickly flipped to the next page of the report, but alas, there were only more columns of numbers. He flipped back to the manuscript and quickly reread the passage. What must it be like to have that sort of passion and longing for adventure? Legolas could only imagine; his life consisted of palace walls, formal dances, and the occasional trip into Dale with his father's entourage. The only adventures he experienced were in his father's library.
He heard his father's voice down the hall. Quickly, he pulled the manuscript page free and stuffed it in his tunic right before Thranduil appeared in the door.
"Still working on those ledgers, Legolas? I would have thought you would have finished by now and be off to the archery fields," Thranduil said, eyeing the pile of incomplete work still on his son's desk.
"Yes, adar," Legolas replied, with an inward groan, "but we have ten more vendors and merchants than last year; this past season has been extremely lucrative for most of our farmers and craftsmen. Good business always meant hefty ledgers.
"Has everything seemed to be in order then?" Thranduil enquired, picking up the last report Legolas had read. For all intents and purposes, any outsider might have mistaken the king and the prince for brothers; Legolas was practically the mirror image of his father. Both had been blessed with the same white golden hair, deep blue eyes, finely chiseled cheeks, and strong jaw. When Legolas looked at his father the king, however, all he saw was strength, and in himself only weakness. His father was the sum of practically everything he admired: grace, boldness, and a warrior spirit at which Legolas' quiet bookish self could only marvel.
He thought of the manuscript stuffed deep in his tunic. Wanderlust. If Legolas never felt it before, he felt the inexplicable need to escape now like a burning river of miruvor coursing through his every vein. He just could not take looking at another dreaded ledger.
He spoke quickly. "Actually, ada," he said and reached for the last report, "there seems to be some numbers that do not add up for this new vineyard, but they are a new addition, so perhaps we should simply excuse them from this years' collection.
"No, no, Legolas," Thranduil interrupted, displeased at the very idea of overt leniency being shown for incompetency. "If they have made a mistake in their ledgers, then it is your responsibility to see it fixed and the correct amount of coin collected."
Legolas inwardly smirked, but carefully replied, "I just might have to travel down to this vineyard to straighten out the confusion…show them how to do their ledgers properly."
"Well, see that you do, son," Thranduil affirmed. "A good ruler has a right to expect consistency from his subjects and be consistent in return," and with that said, the king turned and left the room, much to Legolas' unending relief.
He could scarcely believe his good fortune and what he had just gotten his father to agree to—a chance to leave the palace, ledgers, dinners, and drowningly dull conversations far behind. He slammed the royal collections ledger shut with a vengeance and pulled the crumpled parchment from his tunic. The words seemed born of his own darkest, unspoken wishes:
Wanderlust…To ride unfettered, flying, face in the wind…
Less than a second later, the prince was out the door, bounding down the hall. He would leave tonight. Alone. Free.