Word count: 2689 (story only)
Summary: Legolas and Thranduil ponder over how the different shadows have affected them.
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything except the idea for this story.
Legolas saw it.
Legolas saw the fall of Greenwood the Great into the shadows.
Legolas saw his home fall and in its place, stood the forest that was now called Mirkwood by the travellers.
It was his home. It had been his home. It should still be his home, yet he barely recognise the forest now.
Where were the flowers that had once sung to him in the middle of spring?
Where were the blades of grass that had once caressed his feet during summer?
Where were the trees that whispered their secrets to him in autumn?
They were once here, but now they are gone. The whole forest was infested with a sickness, an illness which was growing and which his people were desperately trying to fight off. But it was hard to purge off the poison seeping through the forest.
How many elves had lost their lives fighting a lost battle? A few thousands, no doubt. He did not count—he did not dare to count.
They were his people. They counted on him (his family) to protect their homeland. And he knew that to protect the forest, lives must be lost. Lives must be lost for the greater good. Yet that did not make accepting that fact easier.
Legolas stared out of his balcony into the woods around him. Tomorrow he would be proceeding to Rivendell to bear the ill news of Gollum’s escape.
He did not really understand the extent of damage that was done. He knew it would be terrible, yes, but how bad was it? Is it merely the escape of a prisoner (he doubted so, especially since the ‘prisoner’ in question was personally escorted by Aragorn), or would this escape eventually (although he did not know how) result in the Shadow strengthening and gaining almost full control of the woods he loved and had grown up in?
Please no, he prayed silently, I will do anything to preserve Greenwood.
I will willingly die to preserve my homeland.
He gave a sigh and left his chambers. His father had not wished for him to leave the palace on his own, but really, he did not care now. What was leaving the palace compared to leaving his homeland and journeying to Rivendell tomorrow, perhaps with double the danger the path had once been?
He walked alone into a nearby patch of forest that was still safe and within the boundaries of Mirkwood. There, the old forest was preserved, untouched, but not unchanged, by the darkness that lay outside the boundary of Mirkwood.
As he strolled in the forest, he inevitably remembered the times when the forest had been safe, when he had played with his siblings. He could even see himself, dressed in his usual green and brown travelling clothes, sometimes splashing into the streams, sometimes running across the plains and sometimes climbing the trees so high that even his brothers would be worried for him. He could still remember the laughter of the elflings ringing amidst the trees, which leaves rustled in the wind, as if singing in joy as well. In the past, before the Shadows fell, there had been much talk between the trees and elflings’ laughter had been abundant.
Legolas greeted the trees silently, who returned his greetings with much grace, but not with the same enthusiasm as they had shown so many years ago. Yet that was not surprising: after all the battles, it seemed like not only were the elves more wary of the forest, even the trees themselves have grown silent and more reserved.
In time, all things change.
The Shadow had changed not only the forest, but also changed many hearts.
How long ago had he seen his father genuinely smile at him, or at anyone? Nowadays, it seemed as though even his children, much dearer to him than any treasure that could be given, could not bring the happiness he once had. Was it because his father had lost his own father in the war against the Shadow? Legolas had not seen his grandfather before, but had heard about him through his father or his older siblings, and he knew that his father loved his grandfather dearly. Legolas tried to imagine what happened if his father was lost at war but found himself unable to do so. He had no strength to do so; he was not as strong as his Ada, emotionally. His thoughts turned back to his father again, and remembered the time when his mother had sailed after being weary of Middle Earth and the shadow that hung over it—and robbed the twinkle of joy in his father’s eyes and the merriness in his father’s laughter, although his father knew he would see her again. It was not goodbye for eternity, but close enough.
A sudden flash of thought entered his head. Did Lord Elrond feel the same way? The twins had told Legolas about their mother’s fate, marred by the servants of the shadow, and Legolas had pained for her and her family. He remembered how calm the twins had tried to be when talking about it, yet he could see the tears forming in their eyes, held back only by willpower. Lady Celebrian had sailed later, leaving her family behind. He remembered it was during his first visit to Rivendell after Lady Celebrian had sailed to visit the twins that he saw Lord Elrond and felt his heart tear a little; for he looked as though the mortal blood in his veins had finally taken over—he was aging, and his smiles were not as genuine as it had been. Yes, Legolas was sure Lord Elrond felt the same way then as Thranduil did when Naneth had sailed. It was painful for one to have to part with one’s loved one for so long, even if it meant that someday, they would see each other again. That thought itself does not hold much comfort and sometimes it hurt even more to think about it, for it brought along thoughts of the times when they were all together and strengthened the feeling of loneliness. Legolas knew it, for he had experienced it first hand when his Naneth had sailed.
“Ion nin, is anything the matter?” came a deep voice.
Legolas spun around and saw his Ada looking at him. Thranduil’s eyes held both love and concern for his youngest son, for he knew that Legolas only seek to be in the forest whenever something was troubling him.
“Nothing, Ada,” came the quiet answer, the eyes darting from his father to the ground beneath him.
Legolas could never quite lie to his father, and to Thranduil, his son’s thoughts were as plain to him as if they was written across his face. Thranduil looked silently at his son, observing him: the slender build, the golden hair that flowed in the wind and the quiver of arrows that stuck to him faithfully, the same image Thranduil had seen for many years.
Yet how much he had changed! His youngest son, and the one who used to be the most active, most inquisitive. Much as Legolas had wondered about the change in his father (no, Legolas had not mentioned any of his thoughts to his father, but his father could sense it), Thranduil too had wondered about the changes in his son as the Shadow fell. Once, his darling elfling had been so full of laughter, so full of energy—and so like himself when he was young. Yet, after his mother had sailed, he had quietened down; immensely actually, and at times Thranduil thought he was merely seeing the shadow of his son in the past. Though his heart slowly opened to others as the years passed, he knew Legolas could never revert back to the little green leaf (his little green leaf) he once was.
Then, when his son made friends with the little human child Estel, he saw his son heal progressively and become more like the child he used to be. He talked more about their ‘adventures’ (or ‘misadventures’, more like; he pitied Elrond for what his son and Elrond’s sons might have done to the sanity of those who dwelt in Imladris) which Thranduil was only too glad to listen to, for it marked a change in his son for the better. And later, he saw his son grow wiser and grow to know more about the ways of the outside world. Whilst he cannot say he approve of everything his son had done with Elrond’s sons, he was proud and happy that his son had grown to be the strong, knowledgeable warrior he was today. Yet Thranduil knew that the shadow of Legolas’ mother’s sailing had never really fully left his son: he could see it in Legolas’ eyes. In his heart, he knew that this was inevitable: Legolas had spent so much time with his mother when she was still here that Thranduil doubted that Legolas’ soul, just like his, will heal completely before he sails to meet his Naneth.
His wife. He, too, had loved his wife dearly and was saddened at her sailing, yet time had helped to sooth his heart, albeit only a little. However, he knew too the duties he had to attend to, for none of his sons is ready for kingship; at least, not at this moment. There was still too much instability, what with Sauron’s army just at his doorstep. He wanted to leave the realm to one of his sons only in times of peace, when the Shadow had lifted…
And so under the trees, the father and the son stood gazing at each other, each immersed in their own thoughts and just sharing a quiet moment together. The sun was setting, dousing the part of the forest yet untouched by the Shadow in golden and for a while, the beauty of Mirkwood could rival that of Lothlorien, though this was a different kind of beauty—the kind of dark, mysterious, yet still seducing, beauty.
“Legolas,” spoke Thranduil, breaking the silence between both father and son. His voice seemed to tremble a little. Was it fear? Legolas wondered. Thranduil had not wished him to go to Rivendell bearing the news, and had only reluctantly given his permission when it became evident that no other suitable candidates were available that day. Yet it was not like Thranduil to stop him from going to Rivendell in these dangerous times—indeed, he had allowed Legolas to travel to Rivendell frequently to visit the twins. Or had it always been like this when the shadows fell and the woods changed, only that it had escaped Legolas’ notice as he was thinking mainly about what he would do at Rivendell whenever he set off? At this thought, Legolas felt a pang of guilt.
Legolas looked up and saw his father, slowly walking towards him. He saw concern and worry in his eyes and looked away. He was afraid that if he looked at his father for too long, he might not even have the heart to leave Mirkwood for Rivendell, though it was only to bring a message.
Thranduil took a step forward and drew his son nearer to him.
“Stay safe,” he whispered.
“Ada…” started Legolas, but he could not continue; he felt himself choking with emotions. He tried to master his own feelings and continued, “I will be back soon, Ada, I am only giving a message.”
“I have a feeling it will be more than that, Legolas. Call it, parental intuition,” came his father’s voice.
“Ada… I will be fine,” Legolas said. It pained Legolas as he realised how vulnerable his father suddenly seemed: though the Shadow had not killed his father, it had changed him and weakened him so much. He was no longer the Ada Legolas had known when he was younger.
“No matter what, Legolas, stay safe.” With that, Thranduil drew his son to a tight embrace, letting his emotions flow freely. Legolas seemed a little shocked at first, but soon relaxed in his father’s embrace.
“Stay safe, my little Greenleaf.”
It was several months later when a messenger dressed in blue and silver arrived at Mirkwood. Upon declaring himself as a messenger from Rivendell, he was shown immediately to the throne room, where Thranduil was sorting out his kingdom’s issues. As he saw the messenger, he felt his heart stop momentarily.
His son had not returned.
“King Thranduil,” bowed the messenger, “I bring word from Lord Elrond and your son Prince Legolas.” With that, he presented two scrolls to Thranduil.
Thranduil tried to steady himself as he took the scrolls from the messenger. The messenger gave a deep bow and took his leave.
Thranduil sat on his throne and opened one scroll. It was written in Elrond’s neat handwriting and ran as follows:
Dear King Thranduil,
It has been agreed by the Free Peoples of Middle Earth that a group of representatives shall be sent to Mordor in an effort to drive the Shadow back once and for all. Your son, Prince Legolas, has been chosen to go with them. Grieve not, for there is still hope. Whilst his quest may be dangerous, I fear danger will too be treading on your doorstep soon. Dol Guldor stirs again.
I am, most sincerely yours,
Lord of Imladris
Legolas! His son! Sent on a mission to Mordor!
Thranduil could barely hold back his tears.
His youngest son… surely not to suffer the same fate as his own father did!
No, no, he cannot imagine it—it was too terrible.
But what if it did? How much must he still lose to the shadows?
With trembling hands, he took the other scroll which he knew to be from his youngest son, for who else would choose that particular shade of green which both of them loved for a ribbon? He untied the ribbon and unrolled the scroll slowly, aware that this could be the last time he could be hearing from his little Greenleaf:
I think you will hear from Lord Elrond soon, but I thought I had best tell you myself. I have joined eight other members (including Estel) on a quest to Mordor.
I fear I cannot tell you much, Ada, although I know you must be worried, for this quest is supposed to be in secret. But you know how I am like: I love this land too much to do nothing, and this is an opportunity for me to drive the Shadow back, away from our woods.
I have once told you that I wanted to be a warrior, like all the great warriors from the tales. This is my chance, Ada: this is an opportunity to not only prove myself, but also to do good for all the Peoples of Middle Earth. I know we might not succeed, but as long as there is a ray of hope to stop the Shadow once and for all and get back our Greenwood, I will do so.
No matter what happens, Ada, I love you.
Your loving son,
Thranduil read the letter over and over again until he could memorise the entire contents of the letter, until he could even have copied out his son’s letter perfectly, with each distinctive curve of the ‘g’ and the slight emphasis on the word “Ada”. Yet with each reading, his son’s graceful handwriting seemed to get less and less focused. He forced himself to take control of himself.
With that, he took a deep breath and kept the letter away. As he looked out of the window, he felt as though he could see his youngest son as he was a child again, happily climbing the trees, hiding amidst the bushes and bringing light to his life.
He would give anything, anything! To have those times back again.
If there was one thing that did not change when the shadows fell, it was Thranduil’s love for his children.
Please, do not let the Shadow claim my little Greenleaf.