1. A beginning
Legolas smiled to himself as his companion, Gimli the dwarf, glowered at a nest of red-birds in a tree that overhung the path. It was deep summer, time for the nestlings to fly. The young birds were resisting their mother’s suggestion. One of them clung desperately to the edge of the branch, squawking in protest as his mother prodded and chirped for him to let go.
“It is good to hear birdsong in these forests again.” The elf commented.
“Singing? You call that singing?” Gimli grumbled good-naturedly. “And the elves are so famous for their taste in music!
Legolas let the comment pass unanswered, choosing instead to silently throw his head back and relish the kiss of the sun. Its warming rays penetrating all the way to the forest floor as they hadn’t done since the elf had been a child.
It was good to hear birds in Mirkwood again, even if they weren’t particularly melodious. After years of languishing in shadow, evil had finally been driven from the realm. Slowly, the beautiful forest Legolas had walked as a boy was regaining its shape. Gone were the spiders and choking vines. Flowers were pushing through the piles of moldy leaves, and purple butterflies drifted lazily on the breeze.
It was too long since he had been back. For a time, Legolas had been able to convince himself that important business had kept him away. There was King Elessar’s coronation to attend, and then his wedding. Afterwards, he had lingered with his friends. Then, he and Gimli, his dwarven friend, had set off for adventures of their own.
As the boughs of his childhood home folded once more around him, Legolas admitted to himself, at last, that he had tarried to long.
He looked forward to seeing his father with both joyful anticipation and dread. Joy because he loved his parents and missed them dearly. Dread because he did not think that his father would like the tidings that his son had come to bring.
The elf sighed heavily as he considered what he had come to say. He loved the trees around him. Even robed in cobwebs a noble, haunted beauty had lingered in the glades and vales. The broken limbs and burned out stumps that littered the forest- monuments to Sauron’s final assault upon the land- twisted in his gut like the turning of a blade. Yet he knew that this land was no longer his home.
The hills of Ithilien had captured his heart. Amidst its brooks and trees- yet unnamed by elvenkind was where he wished to dwell. But how could he make his father understand?
Legolas respected and admired Thranduil. While perhaps not so noble and elegant as Celeborn, or so wise and learned as Elrond, he was a good king. He was a man of action, and of passion, and of boundless hope in the long shadow of Sauron’s night. He was what the Silvan folk had needed in their long struggle at the edge of night. He was practical, quick to judge and quick to forgive, who preferring the earthy pleasures of wine and song and open skies the more rarified arts the eldar pursued. He loved comfort, and certainty. It was this final tendency which Legolas troubled his son. How would he accept the desire to leave the great Green Leaf forest now that it was finally cleansed?
Soon he was going to find out.
“Aren’t we going to dinner?” The dwarf frowned as Legolas led him outside the Palace doors.
“Yes, Gimli.” Legolas suppressed a smile. When they were still traveling with the hobbits, the dwarf’s love of a hearty meal had not been so apparent. Now, his boundless appetite was yet another source of amusement for his friend. “My father prefers to hold his feasts out of doors. But fear not. The table will be as plentiful as any dining hall you have feasted in, and you are likely to find a tankard to suit you as well.”
The dwarf nodded to that, satisfied by the prospect before him. Legolas wished that he could look forward to the meal with as much ease. Immediately upon reaching Thranduil’s halls the pair had been sent to wash and rest. He had not yet waited upon the king.
Suppressing his unease, Legolas continued to lead the way. The elves were singing. They followed the merry sound to a roaring fire at the foot of the hill behind the gates. Through the trees they could see a circle of forest folk, some dancing while others ate. Behind them, on a slight rise, Legolas saw his parents.
Thranduil sat in a high chair placed amidst the roots of an ancient oak. His handsome face was very like his son: golden and pale like with eyes as blue as the sky in early spring. He had the noble carriage of a Sindar elf, and he said proudly in the throne, a crown of summer flowers resting on his brow. To his right, on a lower chair, sat his wife.
The Prince smiled as he regarded his mother. She was not so renowned a beauty as Galadriel or Undómiel the Queen, but for himself, Legolas could not imagine a fairer face. Unlike her husband, the Lady of Eryn Lasgalen was a Silvan elf, darker and smaller than her mate. She was as like to Autumn as Thranduil was to spring: all rust and gold and green. Yálie, her mother had deemed her, and all who saw her auburn hair and mossy eyes agreed she had been well named.
Although he had not yet stepped inside the ring of light, Yálie seemed to sense her son. Her eyes flashed upwards, meeting his own, and her features spread into a wide and welcoming smile.
“Legolas!” she cried, rising from her chair.
Immediately, the music ceased. The fire was snuffed, just as if a lid had been thrown upon the flames, and the glade was filled with silence. If not for the moonlight which filtered through the trees, it would have seemed deserted.
Beside him, Gimli tensed, but Legolas could only sigh and smile. It was his father’s oldest trick, less subtle than the glamour that Galadriel and Celeborn cast, but calculated for the same effect. The prince had seen it too many times to be overly impressed. He stepped fearlessly into the clearing. “Hail, Thranduil, king,” He offered formally. “I am returned to you.”
Faintly, the fire rekindled, emitting just enough light to see Thranduil rise from his throne and move toward his son.
“Legolas.” He clasped his offspring heartily on the shoulder. “My son. You are most warmly welcomed home.”
“Thank you, father. It has been too long.” Legolas bowed his head in reverence, then turned his attention to Yálie. The queen was far less formal than her spouse. She threw her arms around her son’s neck, standing tiptoed to reach a kiss to both cheeks.
“I have missed you,
Legolas answered the embrace, then turned to introduce his friend
“Come, eat! Drink!” Thranduil hustled his son toward their seats. To his right, a chair had been prepared for the prince, less exalted than the throne, but still beautiful, made of polished wood inlaid with precious stones. Over his shoulder, Legolas was relieved to see that Yálie had taken charge of Gimli, leading him toward a seat of his own directly to her left.
As he had promised his friend, the tables were heaped with enough food to satisfy an army of dwarves. Legolas relished the tastes of home, and ate rather more than he was accustomed.
Several times he opened his mouth to speak with his father, but he was never able to say more than “During my travels” before a well-wisher would come forward, wishing to express his happiness for the Prince’s return.
When they had eaten their fill, the minstrels began to sing again. There was a new song about the journey of the ring, and Legolas was both flattered and embarrassed to hear his name scattered throughout the verses.
As the melody wound its way to an end, The king directed his servant that the glasses should be filled, then he raised his own goblet in a toast.
“Friends.” He said joyfully. “My son has returned to us.” Thranduil paused for dramatic effect. “He has finally delivered my message…” Polite laughter twittered through the circle.
The king continued. “Truly, Legolas, you have proven yourself. The day will come when I am gone, to Mandos or to the West, and you will rule these people. I know that you will rule them well.” He lifted his glass higher. “To Prince Legolas, your future king.” Thranduil bellowed proudly.
”The future king.” The others echoed.
No one noticed that the monarch-elect’s expression had gone suddenly dim.
No one except his mother.
Legolas let memories guide his feet to the banks of the Forest River. Behind him, the sound of singing had begun to fade. Now his ears were filled with the noisy gurgling of water.
He tread slowly along the water’s edge, pausing at last when he reached a tall birch whose branches overhung the river. Its leaves were green and dark, but the bark and limbs were scored. He laid his palm against a deep gash in the trunk.
“It is your begetting tree….”
Legolas did not turn at the sound of his mother’s voice. Somehow he had sensed that she would follow him here, to the tree that had been planted to mark his conception. He inclined his chin in acknowledgement of her words. “I did not know the dark army had come so close.”
“They battled to the gates.” Yálie stepped beside him, laying her hand atop her son’s.
“I should have been here.”
She shook her head. “No. I am glad that you did not see the forest burn.” The queen closed her eyes to blot the memory. “Of that, at least, you have been spared.”
“I have seen worse.”
“Perhaps, but I am glad that you did not see it all the same.”
“Father thinks that I should have been here.”
Yálie did not answer immediately. “He understands that you had another role to play.”
“But he disapproved of me taking on the quest.” Legolas picked up a rock from the bank and tossed it into the swirling foam.
“You are mistaken.” His mother answered quietly. “He would rather that you had returned to us straight away, it is true, but that was for my sake.”
Legolas’s brow furrowed. “Your sake?”
Yálie smiled tightly. “Did you not know, young one, that losing you would have broken my heart. You are still a child…”
At that, the prince bridled, pulling away from his outstretched hand. “I am fully a man.”
Yálie sighed, and then rephrased. “You are still my child.”
The vehemence in her voice made him look again, and he was chastened to see the beginnings of tears brimming in her eyes. He had thought of his mother often on his long journey South- what she was doing, and if she were safe- but he had never given much thought to how she must be worrying about him.
“The others returned without you.” She whispered hoarsely, as if merely the memory of her grief were heavy to bear. “And then there were no tidings at all.”
“You thought that I was lost?” Legolas prodded gently.
“No.” Yálie shook her head. “I knew that if you fell, at last, that I would feel it. Somehow, I would know…but I still feared that you might be suffering, or frightened- needing me somewhere- and I did not know where to go.”
Legolas smiled faintly, imagining his mother- a single elf- battling through the orcs that assaulted the Hornburg, or on the Morannon, trying to reach her son. He did not doubt that she would have attempted it, if Thranduil had not kept her close at hand. Viewed from his mother’s point of view, the dangers that he faced seemed very grave indeed- more so than when he had been caught up in their thrall, and for the first time Legolas was frightened by what he had done, and felt very small.
Yálie held out her arms, and her son fell instinctively into the embrace, his fair head rested against her bosom as her fingers raked his golden hair. It was extraordinary how safe that he felt there, Legolas mused. Though Yálie had no skills to defend him, he had always felt safe and invulnerable in her arms. He did not doubt that, even in the very shadow of the black gate, it would have felt the same, and though he fancied himself grow well beyond the need for comfort, he did not pull away.
“Why did you leave the feasting?” the queen asked after they had passed some moments in silence. “You were displeased by your father’s toast?”
“Not….displeased.” Legolas finally sat upright, sliding away from his mother on the log as he remembered why he had slipped away.
“And yet?” Yálie encouraged him to continue. When he did not, she went on. “There is something more that is on your mind? Something troubles you.”
”I do not wish to be King of Greenleaf.” Legolas blurted quickly, then wished that he had not.
Yálie’s eyes widened. “I see.”
”No, you do not.” Feeling restless, the Prince rose once again to his feet. “I have seen many dark things, it is true- but I have looked on things of great beauty as well. Ithilien…” he spoke the name with reverence.
“The moon lands?” Yálie questioned.
Legolas nodded his head. “Have you seen them? The great woods on the east banks of the Anduin?”
“Long ago.” His mother answered. “Many years before you were born.”
“There are trees there unnamed by the elves. Some are broken and burned…” at this he cast his gaze to the begetting tree again. “And many have never been tamed. But there is beauty there: noble and forlorn, such as I cannot sing.”
”And you would return?” Yálie’s voice was carefully neutral as she coaxed her son’s confession.
“Yes. I would bring others: Elves who could rekindle the forests to life, and bring beauty such as once must have been.” Legolas said brightly, and then his shoulders slumped, as if all of his enthusiasm had left him in a single breath. “But it is an idle hope.”
”Idle? How so?”
”My father would never consent to let me go.”
“And do you now require his consent for your endeavors after all?” Yálie’s voice was teasing. Seeing that her son did not acknowledge her humor, she softened her tone. “You are so certain that Thranduil would oppose your wish?”
”Has he not said before his subjects that he wishes to train me as king?”
“He wishes it for you, not for himself! Legolas- your father has ruled Eryn Lasgalen- Taur e-Ndaedelos- through darker days than those that are yet to come. I dare to deem that he can rule it yet.”
“He is growing old.” Legolas muttered, and at this Yálie’s eyes glittered with merriment again.
“Old?” she asked with laughter. “You may find, young one, that there is life in King Thranduil yet.” She stood and squeezed her son’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. “He is giving you a chance to prove yourself—to show that you can take on responsibility of your own.”
“Responsibility of my own?” At this, Legolas chafed again. He gestured angrily in the direction of the feast. “Do they sing now of the deeds of a child?”
“I do not denigrate your achievements, my son.” Yálie appeased him. “You have honored your parents greatly, and we are proud…and yet you were sent- sent to Imladris by your father, and Elrond sent you South. It is time to choose a path of your own.”
“That is what I would do!” Legolas gestured.
“Then do so!”
”I cannot.” Legolas chewed his lip. “My father—“
“Your father loves you well, Legolas.” The queen replied. “He has given you no cause to doubt that. Nor, I pray, have I.”
Her son shook his head in reluctant acknowledgement.
“I think it is not Thranduil who holds you back, Legolas, it is you yourself.” She raised her hand, preventing interjection. “I know that you are brave, and skilled. I think that you have much wisdom for your age, but it as I have said: You have been a follower. It is time now to choose your own path, or resign to accept the choices that other make.”
“But what can I do?” Legolas said woefully. “Thranduil has already made his wishes known.”
“You must make your wishes known as well.”
“Very simple.” Yálie interrupted before he could disagree. “You must tell your father how you feel. I cannot promise what he may say- it may be that he still insists that you do as he has asked. If that is so, then another difficult decision awaits- but you cannot know for certain before you try. You must take a risk.” Yálie cupped her son’s chin in her hands, then stood tiptoe to kissed his cheek. “I know a little of Thranduil’s ways myself.” She teased again. “He may surprise you yet, I think.”
With those words, the queen moved as if to return to the feast, but she paused again beside the birch. “I remember well the day this tree was planted.” Her eyes were misty with remembrance. “The day we gave you life. It was our gift to you, Legolas, your father and I.” She touched his cheek a final time. “I think he would not begrudge you to spend it as you wish.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.