1. E cared haniant tîn mîl
Little Legolas, now where are you off to in such a hurry?
Irate at his error, he shook his head. Legolas has not been little for nearly two thousand winters. 'T was a hallucination, a trick of the mind. Why wanders it there, Thranduil?
“Because this day is much like that one, though many years have passed and much has changed,” came the quietly spoken answer in his own deep voice. Thranduil shifted his gaze from the door to the window opposite. The first snow was falling on the Woodland Realm, clinging to tree limb and blanketing the ground in pristine white. Standing up, he walked slowly over to the window, his hand still grasping the yellowed parchment. It comes late this year, just as it did then.
For a long time Thranduil stood at the window, entranced by the large globules of wet snow falling lazily to the ground. He glimpsed little elflings delighting in the courtyard, catching the snowflakes on their tongues, playing their games of fox and goose, building snow forts and engaging in snowball fights, plopping down on the ground and waving their limbs back and forth to make “snow-Elbereth’s.” And that lump over there—why, that looks like one of Legolas’ snowdwarves! The edges of his mouth curved into a smile. His youngest son had quite the knack for capturing the stunted stature of the Naugrim using piled snow as his only medium. Legolas’ penchant for making such “sculptures,” as he insisted on calling them, was something to be wondered about, but nothing that caused Thranduil great concern. The prince’s infatuation with dwarves was only a stage. One he will grow out of soon enough, the Woodland King assured himself.
No other sign of Legolas did Thranduil find as he continued to gaze blankly out the window. No sign, that is, until he heard footsteps again rushing past his study. Thranduil turned away from the window and walked over the door, peering around the frame to catch a glimpse of an elfling, his elfling, running down the corridor. What mischief do you bring into my Halls this day, Greenleaf?
Thranduil waited until Legolas turned the corner before beginning to follow, eyes narrowed and lips thinned. Greenleaf was headed toward the private chambers of the king and queen. What this time, Legolas? Surely you learned last time the foolishness of wreaking havoc in my chambers.
Each step Thranduil took was deliberately slow and silent. Better to catch the child in the act. That way his silver tongue cannot deny his misbehavior and he will find no escape from the king’s wrath as he usually does.
Soon enough, he reached the private chambers he shared with his queen, his beloved Edlothiel. The oak door stood wide open, causing the king’s brow to knit in puzzlement. Legolas is smarter than this. Of all of the sons of Thranduil, Legolas was the craftiest, the most cunning. He knew one should never leave a door wide open when one was up to no good.
Thranduil stepped into the antechamber and looked about. Everything was as it should be—every book lined perfectly on the shelves built into one of the walls; all his robes hung neatly in the wardrobe; his circlets lay untouched upon the vanity in the corner; the chest of family heirlooms was still closed, its lock showing no signs of tampering by small elvish hands. And thank the Valar, no spiders hanging from the ceiling, Thranduil observed, a small wave of relief washing over him.
The door to the bedchamber was slightly ajar, and Thranduil feared it was there he would find his youngest engaging in his mischievous ways. Last time Legolas had decided his parent’s private chambers would be the proper arena for his impishness, Thranduil had had to replace the bed that had been his father’s since the Woodland Realm was established, and it was months before Edlothiel and he ceased finding goose feathers on their clothes and in their hair. Thranduil stifled a laugh at the memory of the look on Legolas’ face when the bed finally gave way and broke, its feet splintering out from underneath. The young prince had been very confused by it all, as was Thranduil, though the king did such a fine job displaying his anger more than his perplexity that even Oropher would have been impressed. Apparently, his son had been so caught up in his search to gain more height that the need to be weightless had escaped him at the time. Thranduil had wanted to bring a halt to the elfling’s fun as soon as he heard the giggles and the sound of bouncing from the outer room, but the mirth sparkling in Edlothiel’s eyes as she watched their youngest son, who was quite oblivious to his audience, turning somersaults in the air had stayed his wrath. Her gentle smile and the light touch of her slender fingers on his hand were all that were needed to communicate to him that Legolas would be young only a little while longer and they should enjoy this time while they could.
Thranduil heard no bouncing this day however, nor did he hear the tinkling giggles of his youngest child. Whatever Legolas was up to, he was being sure to be very quiet and very secretive about it, and that never boded well for the sanity of the king. Thranduil took in a deep breath in preparation for the great bellow he would emit as soon as he discovered whatever bedlam Legolas was creating this day.
As he silently closed the distance to the door, Thranduil found his irritation receding and his heart softening. The dulcet alto of his wife’s voice carried to his ears as she sang tenderly within the room. Had Edlothiel caught their son in the act? Was this the child’s punishment—to be sung a soothing elvish melody? Thranduil shook his head, dismissing the idea. Edlothiel could be just as stern as he; she needed to be to have put up with him for seven thousand years.
Thranduil eased the door open just enough to peer inside. There he saw the graceful form of his wife kneeling beside the bed, her back to him. Sitting before her, his shoulders slumped, was their youngest son, Legolas. Thranduil quietly slipped into the room and stood beside the door. Neither took notice of his arrival. Edlothiel’s full attention was given to her son as her comforting song continued to warm the room. Legolas’ head hung low, and a curtain of long blond hair shielded his face from Thranduil.
Sighing as she finished the song, the queen reached up a hand to caress Legolas’ cheek. The elfling made to bring his gaze up to meet his mother’s but something stopped him, and he hesitated. Edlothiel stood and kissed him on the top of the head, whispering something Thranduil could not quite make out. Moving quickly and efficiently around the room, she placed a wooden chair in front of her son, humming the prior melody as she did so. Thranduil silently watched her movements as she went over to the dresser in one of the corners and opened its top drawer. She searched the contents briefly before she found what it was she was looking for—white strips of cloth, a tarnished tin, a pair of fine tweezers. Placing these in a ceramic bowl, she then filled a small basin with water from a silver pitcher.
As Edlothiel walked back to where Legolas still sat on the bed, she finally noticed her husband standing beside the door. Thranduil made to speak, but the queen briefly closed her eyes and shook her head minutely, effectively silencing him. Her sea hued eyes glanced down towards Legolas’ feet. Thranduil’s eyes followed, and there the king discovered the reason for Legolas’ despondence.
On the floor lay a pile of eithaloth, the most beautiful flower to be found in the Woodland Realm. Its delicate petals possessed a strange iridescence about them, the colors shifting from a faded violet to a silvery blue as the sunlight streaming in through the windows played about them. The blossoms were richly scented, like lavender and vanilla, yet had the ability to subtly fill a room with fragrant mist for weeks on end. It bloomed late in the year, and much too briefly for one to fully appreciate its beauty. There was no doubt in Thranduil’s mind that Legolas had tried to save this bundle of eithaloth lying on the stone floor from this overdue first snow of winter, and that he could not resist bringing them to his mother. It was the queen’s favorite flower, and therefore his youngest son’s as well.
Thranduil thought, however, that Legolas knew better than to pick those flowers. Eithaloth possessed a terrible beauty. It had been named not for its more appealing aspect of grace and splendor, but for the unforgiving thorns that laced its stems. One had to be very careful when handling the flowers, and regretfully elflings were seldom careful.
Thranduil understood now why Edlothiel had been singing to Legolas. He looked at his son’s hands as he sat on the bed, his head still cast down. They were red with blood from where the cruel thorns had bitten deep into his skin, and the flesh was starting to swell as some of the barbs still festered within.
Eithaloth indeed possessed a terrible beauty.
Edlothiel sat herself upon the chair, setting the tin and the bowl holding the cloth strips and tweezers upon the bed and the small water basin on the floor at her feet. Carefully, she took hold of Legolas’ hands and placed them gently in her lap. Thranduil made no move, nor any sound. He simply stood and watched mother and son.
“I’ll do my best to be gentle, Greenleaf, but some of the thorns have gone deep and it will hurt,” Edlothiel warned in her soft, soothing voice.
Legolas made no answer but to only look up into his mother’s eyes, the wet pools of sea blue conveying his absolute trust in her.
“Ready then?” she asked.
The child nodded his head slowly and steeled his gaze upon his mother’s eyes.
Edlothiel began pulling the thorns out of one of his hands with the tweezers, dropping them into the bowl, and as he watched his wife administer to their son’s hurt, Thranduil found himself wincing. Each time she went to tug and draw out one of the jagged barbs, Legolas’ body would visibly tense and then jerk, causing Thranduil to feel the same stinging tug upon his heart. It hurt terribly to see his son in such pain; he knew this pain. If he could, he would surely endure it all over again to spare his child from it. Legolas, for his part, was doing his best to be brave, just like the elf warriors he looked up to. Indeed, Thranduil was proud of the youngest prince for his courage, but he would find no fault in his son if he did surrender and give voice to his pain.
One hand tended to, Edlothiel took up the other, glancing up at her son. A bead of blood had formed at the corner of Legolas’ mouth where he was biting his lip to hold back his whimpers.
“Ai, my brave Greenleaf, I know it hurts,” his mother comforted, and placed a kiss upon a dry cheek. “Truly ‘tis all right to cry,” she assured him, dabbing with one of the white cloths at the deep crimson stream that had begun to trickle down from the corner of his mouth. “There is no need to be ashamed of the hurt,” she told him. “In fact, I remember once many years ago, your adar tripped upon a tree root and landed in a patch of eithaloth.”
Legolas’ eyes brightened some with his mother’s story. Thranduil bristled. He remembered that day all too well, though he wished he could forget it. The sheer embarrassment of tripping over a tree root was bad enough, but having to experience the awful pain of eithaloth thorns, and then humiliation as the healer worked on removing said thorns from one’s backside....
“It was not the usual barks of ire the kingdom heard from him that day,” Edlothiel informed him, brightening Legolas’ gaze more with the gleam in her eyes. She sighed, almost as if pained. “I must tend to your other hand. Ready again?”
Legolas bit his lip once more and then nodded twice, fixing big blue eyes on his mother’s again. Edlothiel worked quickly in removing the thorns, the soothing song floating from her lips the entire time, but little did it do to ease the young prince’s pain. Tears slipped from the corners of his eyes. Still there were no sounds that gave heed to their falling.
Finally finished with her careful task of extracting the thorns from her son’s tender and raw flesh, Edlothiel took each of his hands and placed them gently in the basin she now held on her lap. Immediately the water tinted red as blood was washed away, but the pain could not be so easily alleviated. Legolas’ eyes were squeezed shut.
“Almost, Greenleaf, almost,” Edlothiel comforted him.
She set the basin aside on the floor again. Though she dried his hands with great care, she still could not keep from causing him more hurt. “I’m sorry, Greenleaf. Almost,” she whispered. “Almost.”
When his hands were dried to her satisfaction, Edlothiel opened the small tin. Thranduil crinkled his nose in remembrance as the thick smell of the medicinal ointment invaded the room. Clearly eager to ease her son’s pain, Edlothiel scooped out a daub of the ointment with the tips of her fingers and began to brush feather-light touches across his hands. Legolas’ eyes were intent on his mother’s ministrations as she smoothed the cool healing balm over the abused skin of his palms and fingertips and then began to bind his hands.
“Stay here, little Greenleaf, while I tidy up,” Edlothiel bade him, securing the last of the white cloths loosely around his hands. She stood and kissed Legolas on the crown of his down-turned head. His eyes remained fixed on his fully bandaged hands.
Thranduil startled out his watchful state as Edlothiel bent down to retrieve the basin of water, nodding to him as she did so. She smiled tenderly at him, the silent communication telling of her queenly assumption that he would remain with their son while she put away all that she had needed to tend to Legolas’ hurt, and perhaps attended to her gown so that the fine fabric would not be stained by the blood that had dropped from his wounds.
Thranduil walked over to where his wife still stood by the bed and, saying no words, took the basin from her. Legolas remained oblivious to his father’s presence as his complete attention was given over to meticulously examining his hands, which he turned over and over to look at from all different angles. Every so often sniffles would cause a slight jump in his shoulders, and Thranduil readily allowed a sad smile to gloss his features in a rare display of the deep sympathy that he felt for his child at that moment.
Accompanying his wife over to the dresser, he set down the basin of water. Edlothiel smiled her thanks to him and brushed the back of her hand against his cheek in an affectionate caress before placing a light kiss on his other.
“I’ll not be long,” she spoke softly in his ear.
Edlothiel made to draw away, but Thranduil held her fast.
He lingered over her name, his voice but a whisper. Edlothiel hushed him with a finger placed gently against his lips.
“I’ll be not long,” she said quietly again before kissing him chastely.
Thranduil watched her leave, then turned to look at Legolas. His child still sat upon the bed, still engrossed in the careful study of his hands, still uncharacteristically cheerless.
Thranduil picked up the pitcher, yet half-filled with water, and carried it over to the bed, setting it down gently upon the bedside table. Legolas looked up at him then, finally aware of his father's presence.
“Adar?” His voice choked on the word.
Thranduil graced his son with a quick, tender smile as he bent down. “Let’s get these into water, shall we?” he said, gingerly lifting up the bundle of eithaloth, glaring at the thorns that had caused his son this hurt. Bringing his eyes up, he noticed Legolas’ own eyes were wide and almost timid as he watched his father. Thranduil consciously softened his features with another smile.
“Cursed flowers,” Thranduil spoke. “Alas, but they rival the splendor of your naneth! Yet their bite is as terrible as that of a wolf.” He placed the bundle in the silver pitcher, arranging them so that they spread out fully, and in doing so, the room was filled with their halcyon fragrance. “There. Now I shall awake to your naneth’s beauty and be enveloped by the tranquility of this scent. It shall be a most glorious morn.”
Legolas’ only response was a sniffle, another jump of the shoulders.
“Ai, ion nín!”Thranduil lamented, sitting himself down upon the bed beside Legolas. “How the king wishes he could take this from you,” he sighed, his fingers stroking through his son’s spill of hair, as golden as the sun, as golden as his own.
The next thing Thranduil knew, Legolas had crawled himself into his lap and initiated an embrace as sweet and as timeless as none he had known before. Arms wrapped firmly around his neck and squeezed tight, and a golden head buried into his shoulder.
And then his child began to sob.
Thranduil held on to his son furiously, rocking in gentle motion back and forth as he whispered soothing words to him over and over, continuing to stroke down Legolas’ back. He wished desperately that the moment would last forever—that Legolas would always be so young so as to sit so readily upon his lap, so small so as to fit so perfectly against his chest. That his son sought in him comfort and protection from the misfortunes and cruelties of the world made Thranduil’s heart swell with both love and pride, and fiercely would he do all that he could to ensure his son knew no harm, knew not the evils of the world that slunk in the dim and craggy bowels of Ennor. Alas, but this would not be so, for Greenwood was quickly becoming known to those outside the Woodland Realm as Mirkwood, as an unknown menace had planted itself in the southern reaches of his forest and already there were dark and fell creatures skulking further into the Greenwood.
His son would know pain and suffering. His son would know loss. His son would know Shadow.
And there was nothing Thranduil could do about it. Indeed, his son had already come to know hurt by something so beautiful as eithaloth.
Thranduil barely heard the muffled apology. Drawing back from Legolas, he regarded him with a questioning eyebrow.
“Whatever for, ion nín?”
“I should not have picked the flowers. You and Nana have told me so before.” His words were punctuated by sniffles and held-back sobs and the occasional hiccup.
“Nay, ion nín, you shouldn’t have,” Thranduil agreed. “But neither should you be sorry for your deed, for it was one done because you love. Your love for your naneth runs deep, and you wanted only to show her that love. It came with a price, but seldom does love come without.” Thranduil shook his head; traced a tearstain. “Nay, dem mîr nín, one should never apologize because one loves.”
Thranduil shook his head clear from the memory to find he still stood by the window in his private study. Snow still fell on the Woodland Realm, its stark white blanket undisturbed but for the traces of rabbit feet and fox paw. No snow forts made by elflings as they had long since grown up; no “snow-Elbereth’s” nor snowdwarves....
“Brannon nín?” Now a concerned edge to the voice.
Thranduil turned away from the window and sighed. “Yes, Talathion.”
“I trust you received his letter to you?” Legolas’ warder inquired, undemanding.
He looked down at the parchment of paper he still held in his hand, eyes drifting over his youngest son’s noble script. “Yes, it was delivered to me as soon as your party arrived,” Thranduil confirmed. “Thank you. Now go, ui tiriel pen, to your family and rest. You have had a long journey home.”
“Thranduil...." Friendship and worry were gently imparted in the rare use of his name.
“Nay, Talathion, ‘tis alright,” the king evaded. “We shall speak when the snow does not lie so fresh.”
“Of course, brannon nín,” he said, nodding his head in respect and exiting unassumingly.
Grey eyes dropped to the letter and read over the words once more.
Adar.... The use of the word plucked tenderly upon the strings of hisheart. Seldom anymore did Legolas call him Adar.
“You know by now that I do not return to the Woodland Realm with the others, for Lord Elrond has chosen me to represent the Elves in a quest most important to the fate of Ennor. I accompany a perian, a young cousin of one Bilbo Baggins, whom well you know, in his Quest to destroy that which the Dark Lord seeks, and hence to bring an end to Shadow. I join a Fellowship made up of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth—of Edain and Eldar, of Periannath, and even one of the Naugrim. A son of a certain Gloin, with whom also you are acquainted. It shall be most...interesting. Estel goes, and Mithrandir too. I am honored to be chosen to represent our people.
“I imagine this news does not find you well. I imagine you expected your son to deliver your message to Lord Elrond and then return home. I imagine you are not at all pleased.
“I know the journey will be perilous. I know I will face grim darkness. I knowthe danger is grave.
“I’ll not apologize for accepting this honor of accompanying the Ring-bearer upon his Quest. Once, many, many years ago, you told me I should not apologize for deeds born from love. I go, Adar, because I love. I love my people, I love my land. I love the Light.
“I hold faith that you understand these reasons why I go. I trust you know of the depth of my love—for you, for my brothers, for Ennor. I hope you keep me ever in the forefront of your mind, as love seldom comes without price.
“The threat is great, this I know well. Death is but one of the risks I will face, but it is not death that I fear. I fear that Darkness will spread like a plague across Ennor should the Ring-bearer fail in the task entrusted to him. I will not see him fail, however, for that is the task entrusted to my companions and me. In this, I am firmly set. It is my faith in your understanding that compels me ever forward. It is in those words with which you once soothed your child that gives me the courage to face what lies ahead, and imparts the determination to return to you, safe and whole.
Thranduil set the parchment reverently down upon his oak desk, a thumb caressing the darkened spot where a singular tear had fallen. Hope stirred in his breast, and he held onto that hope as furiously as he had once held onto a crying child, so long ago.
E cared haniant tîn mîl - He was showing [making understood, known] his love
Naugrim – Dwarves
eithaloth* – pricking flower [Rough translation]
Adar – Father
Naneth – Mother
ion nín – my son
Ennor – Middle-earth
Ada – Daddy
dem mîr nín – my sad jewel
Brannon nín – my lord
ui tiriel pen – ever watching one
perian – hobbit
Edain – Men
Eldar – Elves
Periannath – Hobbits
*This flower, of my creation, was previously known as "egoloth", but the knowledgable and ever-so-kind Lady Aranel suggested this as a much better word. I thank her immensely, for this and for pointing out some nuances of the Sindarin language that I had missed.
My everlasting gratitude to my betas, alliwantisanelfforchristmas and Life is Stripped (who also helped me out by giving me the framework for the last paragraph of Legolas' letter).
Legolas is a young elfling throughout most of this story. I envision him to be around 16 years old, which would make him about the equivalent of a human six- or seven-year-old if you go by the standard conversation of 2.5 to 1 for the elven maturity rate.
This vignette was inspired by Nickel Creek’s The Hand Song .
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.