6. Family Connections
"Nay, grandfather. I know what you would ask of me, and I will not acquiesce to any here."
"I see personality is hereditary. You have inherited your grandmother's penchant for getting right to the point. In that case, I will concede, and avoid dawdling. We are kin, Legolas. Surely you cannot see us as a threat, nor suspect that we would use this information against you?" Oropher followed his grandon's gaze to the approaching Thranduil. "Ah, yes. Well, surely you would not see me in such terms?"
Legolas looked at his sire and then shook his head.
"We are merely curious, and concerned that your reputation might be endangered by keeping this a secret."
"I thank you for your concern, grandfather, but I would still keep this matter to myself."
"Perhaps you might agree to an exchange of tales?" questioned Oropher as Thranduil settled beside him.
Legolas contrived to make his face reflect surprise and interest, though he well knew that Oropher was known for attempting compromise in trade. After all, the stores of Dorwinion wine that were laid down in his time in the palace of Mirkwood would, under normal circumstances, have cost the kingdom its very sovereignty. It had, however, been bought for a far more acceptable (though still considerable) price.
"What form of exchange would you suggest, grandfather?"
"Oh, perhaps, between the two of us we could come to some arrangement" said Oropher, as he delicately draped one arm on Legolas' shoulders and steered him away from Thranduil. This maneuver was not lost on Thranduil, who followed closely behind, keeping within earshot. This is my son, we are talking about, and it is a matter that closely concerns me. After all, my reputation, or that of my people or my family, may be at stake. Such justifications seemed adequately legitimate to mask his amused curiosity.
Oropher, though fully aware of his son's following, proceeded to haggle with Legolas as they walked through the crowd. "Your tale is of great interest to me, Legolas. I would be willing to offer you many ... shall we say compromising... tales of your father's youth. There is a most delicious tale of your father, a mud pool and a gentile and beautiful young..."
"YOU MOST CERTAINLY SHALL NOT!" bellowed out Thranduil! "Father, you will not incriminate me thus, nor will I have you filling my son's head with such nonsense."
"Then again," whispered Oropher conspiratorially, "there is always a juicy tale of your father, a shrubbery and his mother's favourite flowerbed."
"FATHER! I insist you stop this foolishness!" Thranduil's voice, however, was at this point more imploring than insisting. This was a most unusual display, particularly for those who had not witnessed Oropher and Thranduil interact before. Even Tanglinna, the Master Archer who had served under both kings, was surprised that Thranduil would react so.
Tanglinna was not the only one to see Thranduil's discomfort as odd. Thranduil's mother, who remembered the incident with her flowers all too well, had the suspicison that there was more to the tale than she had been told. Suddenly, memories of quiet threats whispered from Oropher to a young Thranduil sprang into her mind, and she understood Thranduil's fears. Oropher had been using something about that incident against Thranduil for centuries." Well, she thought, that is going to end tonight!
"Your offer has great merit, grandfather, and I would not turn down such an opportunity lightly. However, this matter is far too personal and costly for me to give it away so easily. Perhaps we might discuss your offers after the celebration. I am sure there are other tales worthy of such a price?"
"You would have done most excellently well in the markets of Dorwinion, grandson." Yet I can see this matter will not be pried so easily. At least not without great cost." This last remark set Legolas on his guard. Could his grandfather see his designs so easily Yet he did not seem about to interfere. Oropher gave Legolas a knowing smile, and tapped the bridge of his nose. No, he would not interfere. Oropher was going to enjoy this.
"Oropher, my dear," said Legolas' grandmother, voice dripping with impending doom, "I believe there is a matter that we must discuss."
Or, perhaps not. His wife using this tone was a sure sign he was not going to be enjoying anything for quite some time.
"Perhaps later then, grandson." He said, with no small measure of regret in his voice. "I'm sure we can come to an arrangement that would be mutually beneficial."
Legolas took his leave graciously and most gratefully of his grandparents, and was just about to pass through the crowds when a hand gripped his shoulder. Turning, he found himself before an elf brimming with authority, confidence and power. Unfortunately for the elven lord, Legolas knew this figure far too well.
"Son, I demand as both your father and your lord that you reveal to me this tale. Keeping such a matter secret from me could have devastating consequences. If anyone else were to gain such knowledge to use against us or our people, I would have no way of countering or defending us."
"Father, we are no longer in Greenwood the Great. Gaining knowledge of this incident would give no-one sway over "our" people. Besides, you are no longer the regent of a realm. We are all equals, here. It is a personal matter that I wish to keep to myself. Now, if you will excuse me, I would speak with my friends."
"Don't you turn your back on me!" Thranduil was attempting to use his renowned temper on Legolas. Not that the tactic had been entirely fruitless in the past. But it would not work to his benefit this time. No, not this time, father. This is my turn! Legolas thought, still with his back to Thranduil.
"Don't you turn away! We are far from finished. You would deny me the right to defend my people, my family? That is not your decision to make. You will tell me of this incident so that I may decide what is best for our family!"
A calculated step away from his father was all that was needed to send Thranduil into a barely controlled fury.
Voice rising above the murmurs of polite conversation in the Hall, Thranduil boomed out "Stand where you are! I did not change your swaddlings to have you treat me thus!" A few muffled coughs and a few less-discrete guffaws rang out, but Thranduil paid them no heed." Oropher, who had been standing by, raised his eyebrows at his son's declaration, but said nothing for the moment. He was rather busy trying to save himself from prolonged unpleasantness at the hands of his wife.
Ah, thought Legolas, now he tries the guilt trip. Three...two...one...
"I brought you into this world, gave you all the opportunities and comforts that could be desired and this is how you treat me?!"
Thranduil had not seen his wife marching over as he chastised their son. Nor had he noticed how close she was when he bellowed out this last declaration.
"YOU brought him into this world?!? As I recall, oh high and mighty King, you were as far from the room as could be made possible! You couldn't even stand one minute in our room that morning once my water broke! No, I seem to recall you turning rather quickly, with as pale a countenance as is possible in a living elf, and bolt for the wash basin. After that you had to be all but carried out of the room!" Now WHO brought Legolas into this world And as for changing his swaddling, I seem to recall various matters of state invariably getting in the way of fatherly responsibilities on this front. Oh, yes. You were very eager to play with the boy. You would have spoiled him rotten if I hadn't been around. But as soon as the cloths needed replacing, you handed him off to the nearest elf proclaiming matters of state and great urgency!"
Legolas beat a hasty retreat as Thranduil began turning various shades of red, and his mother continued her tirade. To all others within earshot (which encompassed a considerable distance) it would have been assumed that those in the Halls of Mandos did not need breath as they did upon the shores of Middle Earth. Oropher, having escaped the wrath of his wife, stood off to one side, thoroughly enjoying his son's discomfiture. After all he thought, with a dark and wry sense of humour, a father's revenge on his son is inevitably visited upon said son by his own designs.
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