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As Legolas read the letter, he could hear his father’s voice in his head. He could see his face and the strain in his eyes for him to have revealed so much of himself. Legolas blinked away tears as he read the words, I can only appeal to your joyful nature in asking your forgiveness for my cowardice. That his father was calling himself a coward cut him to the quick. He continued reading the next passage. His eyes stung as his father wrote of their last words together:
“To have spoken so to a son who has never given me a day's grief, to dismiss you from my sight saying I could never trust you, all because in my pride I refused to allow you see how much losing you would pain me, is once again cowardice beyond measure. I am ashamed to have uttered such words.”
Legolas had grown up with his father’s pain. Everyone had. Every elf in the Greenwood was cautious around the King concerning Legolas’ mother. They avoided the subject out of respect for him, not wishing to cause further him pain. All knew how much he had suffered. Legolas had been so young at the time of his mother’s death. So wrapped up in his own sadness that Sadron had gone through great effort to bring the young elf through his grief and rejoin the world outside. As he read the letter he was taken aback by the rawness of emotion from his reticent and very reserved father. He could feel his pain through the words he chose. The further Legolas read, he could feel his own heart beginning to heal. The pain in his heart from the last words his father had spoken to him now became a pain he felt for his father and now became a pain he felt for his father; now he understood why he had spoken The last paragraph stunned him:
I hold your spirit closest in my heart and know that I have the greatest respect and love for you. I only ask your forgiveness if you can find it in your heart. In regards to Gollum and what needs be done, I trust your judgment. I know you will act in the best interests of our realm. I miss you and may the Valar guide your steps back to our home.
Your loving Adar,
After reading the letter, Legolas sat still for many moments, his father’s words circling in his mind. I only ask your forgiveness if you can find it in your heart. How could he not forgive him? The Elf he respected above all others, his father, was abasing himself and asking his forgiveness. Then there were the words he longed to hear. Words he had spent the better of his life trying to earn. I trust your judgment. I know you will act in the best interests of our realm. Legolas’ heart swelled with love for his father. Thranduil was strong and proud and had always been very guarded when it came to his emotions. He was not given to effusive praise for any of his sons or indeed anyone. The idea, indeed the fact of the letter that he held in his hand as proof that Thranduil poured his heart out to his youngest son, overwhelmed Legolas. He thought back to another time when his father had opened his heart to his young son.
1102 TA, Mirkwood
Sadron walked into the King’s reception hall and he saw Celebren receiving a report from Daenir’s patrol. The patrol had been gone for months, surveying what could be seen to the South. There had been report of activity of a less than savory nature coming from the southern-most reaches and Orc activity was stirring in the Misty Mountains. It had been deemed an important long-term reconnaissance by Thranduil. But the report was not what had caught his attention. It was the fact of who was receiving the necessary information. Sadron hung back until Daenir had finished his report, the last of the day. He nodded to his old training partner as he departed. As he heard the door close, he came forward to the King’s throne, currently occupied by his brother.
“Where is Adar?” Sadron asked, sadly already knowing the answer.
“Resting,” Celebren’s eyes said it all. “Resting”had become their watch word for Thranduil’s slow descent into grief that he seemed unable to pull himself out of. It often included consumption of a large amount of his favoured Dorwinian vintage which was not always helpful to Thranduil or to those tasked to serve him, but for very different reasons. The death of their mother threatened to bring about the loss of their father as well. Elves could be lost to grief either through death or a loss of their spirit. Either way spelled only tragedy for the ruling family of Mirkwood. Neither brother knew quite what to do. The light seemed to be leaving their father’s soul. At first, he seemed to be handling her death as well as could be expected, but something had changed. Neither quite knew what had caused it, but the change was slowly siphoning away their father’s spirit.
“Have you seen Legolas today?” Sadron asked referring the young elfling who was the last child of their parents and had been having his own difficulties accepting their mother’s death.
“No, I have not had a chance today. I have either been in council or receiving audiences all day and I have not had a chance to get away.”
Sadron nodded. “I will go.”
Celebren smiled. “Good. I am worried about him. Gannedir says that he did not attend Archery practice today.”
Sadron’s eyebrows shot up, but he just nodded his head in silent and chagrinned affirmation of what Celebren just said. He turned and silently departed, Celebren’s words weighing heavily on his heart.
He arrived at his little brother’s suite of rooms and before he knocked, he thought he heard the sound of someone crying. The door was not quite closed all the way and Sadron saw, through the sliver of space allowed, Legolas sitting on the floor near his bed and wiping tears, trying not to sob.
He opened the door as gently as he could and, predictably, at that sound the snuffling stopped. The elf child, just over twenty years old, looked at his brother and tried desperately yet surreptitiously to wipe away his tears. He shame-facedly turned away.
Sadron’s heart broke seeing the pain and sorrow of his little brother. “Legolas,” he said as gently as he could as he knelt down next to his brother, “it is okay to cry. Never be ashamed of your tears…” He reached out a comforting hand to place it on the thin shoulder of the child. Legolas flinched and moved away, his arms hugging his knees. Sadron’s heart broke a little more at the telling movement. He sighed and tried again. “My love,” he said, this time not making any moves, “can you tell me what pain is in your heart?”
Silence. Then, while looking blindly straight ahead of him, Legolas whispered, “I miss Nana.” He continued in a slightly stronger voice. “I went looking for Ada and as soon as I found him, I couldn’t help myself I just started crying and …” Legolas paused.
Sadron closed his eyes just hoping that Thranduil had been in fit state to properly receive his small son, but his temperament of late had been volatile to say the least. As a result, there had been some effort to shield Legolas from the worst of Thranduil’s excesses. He feared that Legolas somehow found his father in a less desirable state than anybody would have wished.
“What happened, my love?” Sadron asked, gently prompting yet fearing the answer.
“He just looked at me. I’m not even sure he saw me at first and then he just stared at me. Afterwards he had this really sad look on his face and then he barked, ‘Leave me!’ so abruptly. So I left.” Legolas turned big tearful blue eyes toward his older brother. “What did I do wrong, Sadron? Why was he angry at me?”
Sadron looked at his young brother in pained chagrin. His heart ached that he should have encountered his father in such a way, so deep into his cups. He switched from his knees to a sitting position across from his little brother, so close their knees were touching. He reached out a hand and caressed Legolas’ head and making sure the elfling looked him in the eye. “My love, you did not wrong! Adar is not angry with you.”
“He seemed to be!”
Sadron grabbed both of the young elfling’s hands and held them in his own. He spoke firmly but gently holding Legolas’ eyes intently, “Oh my love, he is not angry at you. He is angry at the world, at himself, but,” he squeezed Legolas’ hands, “but never at you. He just misses Nana as much as you do and needs a little extra understanding and love right now.”
Legolas looked at him, his big blue eyes trying hard to understand something that life never should have asked him to comprehend at such a young age. Sadron thought with despair about the unfairness of it all.
Legolas sighed and said, “I think I understand.”
Sadron leaned over and kissed the top of his little brother blond head and then said, “Is that why you didn’t go to Archery practice today?”
Legolas nodded. “I was too upset.”
Sadron’s smile was a sad one. “I see. Well, we can’t have you falling behind in your skills. That would not be proper for a Prince of Mirkwood! What say you to going out and shooting a few rounds right now?!”
“Yes, please!” said the now very excited elfling. The chance to shoot with either of his brothers was a privilege never to be missed.
Sadron laughed. “Let’s go!” They stood up and together they walked to the shooting range.
That evening Legolas had been thinking about what Sadron had been saying about their father. Thranduil did not appear at evening meal. That worried Legolas. He appeared at breakfast, but seemed withdrawn and did not meet any eye, which worried his young son even more. Legolas noticed that his father ate very little and had the wine steward fill his goblet again and again. Sadron was right. Thranduil seemed very sad, even more than usual. He retired from the table and Legolas watched him go. Thranduil left in a quiet and unassuming way, so unlike his usual radiant energy that lit an entire room. Legolas excused himself from the table and quietly followed his father drawn by forces he did not understand, but Sadron had said that he needed love and understanding. Legolas could give him that.
He saw that Thranduil was not going to his rooms, nor was he going to his study or any of the usual places. He was going outside of his halls. Slipping out quietly, to be amid the trees. Legolas followed him as quietly as he knew how. He had been walking for the better part of an hour. He looked behind him to see if he was being followed. He was not, but when he looked forward again, he could not see his father anymore. Legolas scanned the area, but he saw no trace of him. He did not know what to do. He had come this far; he did not want to turn back and something inside him told him to keep going, but he did not know where his father had gone. Legolas stood still and thought. Instinctively he reached out to the trees.
He stilled his mind and tried to feel the energy that flowed through the trees. He felt something. He was not sure what it was, but he reached out with his mind, spirit and heart. "Hello! I am here again. If you are there. Please can you tell me where my Ada is? Please, he needs me." He paused and waited, hoping that he could connect once again. He felt a rumbling in his soul.
"Little one! He is by the Enchanted River. Go to him! Hurry!"
The river? Legolas was alarmed because all elflings were warned about the dangers of the Forest River and its tributaries. If one even so much as touched the river or even took its water, one would fall into a sleep of forgetfulness, possibly never to wake up or even if one did wake up, one would remember nothing of their life. Oblivion would consume you. It was a main defense that the forest provided its inhabitants, but it had its dangers as well, and the fact that his father was by the river made Legolas inexplicably nervous.
The Enchanted river flowed ever onwards. Thranduil sat on the riverbank peering into the black murkiness, seeing his reflection clear for a few seconds in an eddy close to his hand near the water. It would distort and he was left with his thoughts again. His beloved Lasgalen. Would that the river could work its dark magic upon him so that he could forget the pain in his heart, in his soul. Nothing he did could drown out the pain he felt. He had tried. There was clearly not enough wine in all Arda. The pain in his heart would not stop. He tried to recall Lasgalen’s words that she had spoken into his heart, but he could not hear them. He neared the water, its dark powers of oblivion beckoning. Just a little closer and I will not remember. Thranduil reached out and his hand was hovering just over the water when he heard a small voice.
“Ada? What are you doing?!”
Thranduil stopped his hand and closed his eyes. Legolas? What was he doing here! He turned around and saw his little elfling son, blue eyes wide with fear and confusion. He stumbled out the words. “Legolas? What are you doing here? W-why are you here?”
Legolas walked forward. “I came to see you. You are sad and I want to make you happy.” The elfling child’s lower lip started to tremble. He walked forward so that he stood right next his father’s sitting position near to the riverbank, his troubled blue eyes looking into Thranduil’s. He reached his hand to touch his father’s face. Thranduil closed his eyes and he felt his son’s hand on his face through every strand of his tattered soul. He felt a kiss on his cheek and heard the words.
“It’s okay to be sad, Ada. I miss her, too. I love you. Please don’t go away!”
A lightning bolt of emotion flashed through Thranduil. What had Legolas seen? How did he know? He opened his eyes and looked at his son and knew immediately he had been wrong to give into grief. The look of worry and sadness in his little Elfling’s eyes ripped through his heart. He pulled Legolas into a tight hug. “I will never go away. I will never leave you. My darling boy. I love you, too.” In his heart, Thranduil knew he could not give into grief. He could never again allow Legolas to see that despair which had driven him to this river’s edge. He would somehow learn to live with the pain for he could not fail his son again.
Since that time by the Enchanted River Legolas had sworn within his heart to always see to his father’s happiness so that he would never again contemplate falling into the waters of Oblivion. After finishing the letter his first impulse was to do just that, to ride straight back to his father’s halls to see his father and ease his heart, but Legolas paused and realised that he could not because Gollum was still missing and it had been a point that Gandalf had been very clear upon. He wanted Gollum to stay in Mirkwood and keep out of harm’s way; he had to be found. Legolas took a deep breath. He could not forsake his duty. His father’s written words had taken away a heavy burden. Now he could move forward with confidence, able to make decisions that were not comingled with the pain of grief and disappointment that had sat upon Legolas’ heart since he had left his father’s study that day a little over a week ago. Astonishment nestled in with other emotions swirling in his mind. Had it truly only been a little over a week? He scrubbed his face with his hands, ending with his fingers templed and pressing on his lower lip.
His heart wanted to go home, but he was not a child anymore. He could not simply run home into his father’s arms, however much he wanted to do. He knew his duty and that was to find Gollum wherever that path would take him. His father would understand. He looked around Sadron’s desk and found parchment and ink in a drawer. He began to write.
Words cannot express what I am feeling right now. They are inadequate for this moment, but they are all I have to give so they are the vehicle I must use. Your words have brought joy to my soul. I feel your song wrap around my heart and it has begun to heal.
Legolas paused briefly pondering what next to address. His next words were intense.
If I heard anyone name you coward, they would have my blade and bow to contend with for I know they would be speaking falsely. I cannot allow you to call yourself one. It is damaging to my spirit to read these words with which you berate yourself, for I know they are false. I have never known a braver heart or stronger Elf than you.
Thank you for the trust you place in me. I will keep it in my heart and will always strive to bring honour to you and our people with my words and deeds.
You ask forgiveness. How can I not forgive you? I love you. Please know that I hold you in the highest respect. So yes, I forgive you.
He paused briefly to stretch and move his writing hand as he pondered what words to use in the next section. He was unsure how Thranduil was going to accept what he had to say.
I hope that you can forgive me because regardless of any other considerations I accept as my responsibility the fate of Gollum. It was through my actions and decisions that he has escaped, and I will answer to it, if that is what is required.
My beloved Adar, I pray the Valar shall guide our paths to join again as soon as they will. Until then, I will keep your love and your trust wrapped around my heart as I go forth.
Your loving son,
Legolas looked over the letter, sprinkled drying dust on the page and carefully folded it. He did not have his personal seal with him as he did not generally carry it with him on patrol. He opened a box and found a common seal and used that. He left Sadron’s study in search of Daenir to give him the letter and to explain to him that it was to be given only into his father’s hand and no one else.
Sadron sat near his study waiting for Legolas to emerge. His heart hurt for him knowing everything that Legolas had grown up with. The limitations placed upon him. The frustrations that he bore stoically. He knew he was behaving like a mother hen with her favorite chick, but it was something that he could not help. Over the centuries a very strong bond had grown between the two brothers.
He had always been there for his little brother and he always would be. He saw the green silk curtain move and the first thing he noticed was the strained look on his brother’s face. Legolas looked at him and noticed he was alone clearly waiting.
“Sadron, I am fine.”
He looked into his younger brother’s eyes. He saw calm resolve and a maturity that in truth he had not expected to see, and he felt his heart slowly starting to beat again. Legolas seemed different somehow, but he could not quite put his finger on what it was. He cupped Legolas’ head in his two hands and searched his blue eyes for a few moments. He then smiled and placed a kiss on his brother’s forehead.
“What is the plan, brother?” Sadron inquired, yielding leadership of this mission to his brother, though he was the Lord of the Southern Marches and Legolas’ older brother.
It was not lost on Legolas that Sadron had said "brother" instead of "little brother". He held his brother’s gaze and gave a slight nod of acceptance and gratitude. “Daenir returns to Adar’s halls and we continue to search for Gollum and we do not stop until we find him!”
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