1. Living for the Love of You
Living for the Love of You
The woodland realm of Mirkwood thrived, finally free of the dark veil that had hovered menacingly over its lands and people for centuries. The whispering breeze no longer carried the stench of orc and blood but the promise of life and rejuvenation. The shackles of fear and oppression were broken, discarded and the Mirkwood elves were liberated by there own determination to exist.
During the dark times, extremes had to be taken; the young learned to fight as soon as they could walk, distrust and suspicion became the means to survival and everyone learned to live each day as if it were their last. Every battle, each celebration, each hunt was done with uninhibited passion for one was not guaranteed a second opportunity to appreciate that moment again. Life in Mirkwood had been fleeting before the veil was lifted and one learned not to take one’s days for granted. Love (or lust) served as comfort for the weary, downtrodden soul and was found quickly yet distantly with whomever was willing at the time.
A brief light in the dark but nothing more.
One dared not love too long, too closely for a lover may be killed or taken the next day breaking the heart of the one left behind, ending two lives instead of one. Those who had dared to live for love were thought foolish and reckless but now a new age lay before the elves casting old habits and logic aside. However, habits, especially those that have kept one alive, are hard to break.
It was even harder for King Thranduil who sat alone in his study deep in thought. He had seen his people through many hardships, made sacrifices so that they would hopefully see a day when the trees, scarred yet unbroken, would sing once again. He had shared their pain as well as their happiness when the evil fled yet he continued to sit in his study brooding a more personal matter that gave him no peace of mind.
His son. His only child returned to him a changed elf. For good or ill the king did not know but he knew the change in his son the moment he laid eyes on him. He saw in the young elf’s eyes the longing of the sea, pulling relentlessly on his heart causing the king grief that he could not protect his child from such pain. A silly thought, he knew, for he understood clearly that Legolas was more than capable of defending himself, a stout and brave warrior he became at the worried and practical insistence of his father. Despite the elven king’s efforts to prepare Legolas for the cruelty of their world, Thranduil still feared for his son because Legolas was so much like his mother in spirit, loving freely and unconditionally. The young elf never shied away from what little joy could be found within the veil, accepting the pleasure and pain equally. It terrified Thranduil how Legolas left himself so open yet he supposed his son could not help that fact anymore than he could help the beating of his heart. It was a part of him and a sore trial for his father to endure, living with the constant fear that one day his son would feel too much and he would lose his child just as he lost his beloved.
When Legolas returned to the woodland realm a war hero and close ally to the King of Man, Thranduil saw then the depth of the elf’s emotion. He saw the trials he endured, the fears he had faced, and the pain of loss. But nothing was more compelling than the emotion he saw when Legolas looked upon the dwarf who traveled with him, the inflection in his voice that carried more meaning than the king was willing to acknowledge when Legolas said the dwarf’s name.
Thranduil pondered this and all other things that came to his attention during the dwarf’s stay. How Legolas’ gaze would linger a second too long on the dwarf’s face or when recalling tales of adventure would share the smallest hint of a smile with the dwarf as though they were sharing a mutually fond memory. Minor things that went unnoticed by all others but not by the King who knew the ways of his son like he knew the back of his hand. The implication of his suspicion frightened him and for a long time refused to consider its possibility. But it made itself known undeniably when he came unannounced to the garden one day and found his son in the dwarf’s embrace.
They thought they were alone and the beauty of the garden perhaps brought back pleasant memories and they fell into the moment. Thranduil watched, his heart thundering in his chest, as Legolas on bended knee leaned in and kissed the dwarf in a manner reserved only for the bonded and to Thranduil’s astonishment, the dwarf returned the kiss with as much reverence, touching and holding his son as though he were a treasured gift from the gods. So caught up in their love, they failed to realize they were being watched or if they did, in that moment did not care.
Thranduil saw this and conflicted with thoughts and emotions, retired to his study where he had remained for quite some time, unable to confront his son. But face him he must for although the implication was made clear he had to hear it from Legolas himself before he could truly try to understand it.
He found the elf in his usual place since the dwarf left to return to his home, in the bough of a great tree overlooking the elven realm. A breath taking sight from such a vantage point, one could see the forest renewed. The trees with their wide rich green leaves whispered and sang, fanning gently in the caressing wind as large white petal flowers bloomed in the moonlight giving off the calming scent of fresh rain. In the distance one could hear the song of the elves mingling effortlessly with that of the wood, a sound that has not been heard for centuries.
However, looking at his son as he took his seat next to Legolas, Thranduil did not believe the elf saw any of the beauty the forest offered. Legolas faced the direction of the mountains despite not being able to see the magnificent ridges; the elf came to this bough every night as though sensing it would be enough.
Legolas turned and graced his father with a welcoming smile, although his eyes looked weary to Thranduil’s careful observation. They were the eyes of one pining for a love gone.
“How long do you intend to come here?” the king asked casually looking out over the scenery.
Legolas too returned his gaze out to the trees, “It is beautiful here. My heart is glad to see our home restored. It brings me comfort and puts me at ease.”
“You think of him,” Thranduil said more as a statement than a question. They both knew of whom he spoke.
He saw a smile flicker across his son’s beautiful face, his eyes growing distant before replying, “He is a good and honorable friend. I owe him my life on one and more occasion. His loyalty is second to none and very admirable. Our friendship has seen us through many difficult times and …”
“I saw you together,” Thranduil interrupted unable to tolerate pretenses, “in the garden days before the dwarf left. Are you still going to sit there and tell me you and he are just friends?”
The look of surprise Legolas gave him would have humored him had the situation not been so serious. It always amused the king how his son thought he could hide his inner thoughts from him. He may not have the gift of foresight like Elrond or the Lady but he had known his son’s face for years and knew just by a glance when Legolas was sad, in pain or hiding something. It was a skill most parents came to possess concerning their children and the elven king was no exception.
Legolas turned away from him, eyes closed as though allowing his father’s words to sink in. It seemed that neither were ready to discuss this matter yet it stood before them stubbornly demanding to be acknowledged regardless of the difficulty. When Legolas eventually met his gaze there was resolve in his eyes as he drew himself up slightly. “His name is Gimli, father,” he said, answering his father’s unasked question.
Thranduil too drew himself up, not as a king of Mirkwood but as a father concerned for the welfare of his son. He arched an eyebrow at Legolas’ statement not missing the underlying meaning of being reminded of the dwarf’s…Gimli’s name. “Explain yourself,” he said with parental right.
“What would you have me explain,” the young elf said nonchalantly. “You said you saw us in the garden. No words can make it any clearer.”
Thranduil did not appreciate the disrespectful tone or Legolas’ flippant manner and took a deep calming breath before continuing. “Remember to whom you are talking to, son,” he said with unquestionable authority. “You know of what I speak.”
Legolas bowed his head at the rebuke, mumbling an apology although the resolve did not leave his eyes. They sat silently for a moment gathering their thoughts and listening to the familiar night sounds of the forest until Legolas quietly broke the silence.
“I did not intend for it to happen,” he spoke softly, wonderingly, “but I found love on a quest where love should not have been. I fought it initially. I denied it for as long as I could but my soul was grieved by my refusal. I no longer wanted to fight nor did I understand why I fought in the first place.” Legolas once again looked at his father with wide eyes that revealed a depth of emotion that terrified Thranduil. The elven king’s breath was coming shallow and quick as his son laid his heart before him.
“He strengthens me,” the elf continued. “I am better by him. I let him into my heart and I am whole. I live now for his love, father.”
Thranduil closed his eyes shaking his head slowly in disbelief. “You cannot mean this. Do you know what you are saying?”
“You do not approve because he is a dwarf,” Legolas said accusingly, growing defensive.
“I do not approve because he is mortal,” he shot back quickly, his fear beginning to overcome his senses. “You would give your love to a being not long for this world risking your life in the process. You have seen elves die of broken hearts. Why would you deliberately put yourself in that kind of harm’s way?”
“For the chance to be with him,” Legolas answered his eyes brimming with tears. He knew how this pained his father and he wished it were not so. “What is my life if it is not with him?”
“Do not ask me not to love him, father,” the young elf interjected with a warrior’s certainty. “I cannot do it. I will not. I am a part of him as he is a part of me.”
Thranduil froze as the meaning hit him, staring at his son with terror filled eyes. “What?” he breathed shakily.
“We are bonded by way of his people,” Legolas revealed as one who long ago accepted his fate. “I am his and always will be. Nothing, not death or the sea will change that. His love will go wherever I may go.”
The finality of it all pierced the king’s heart as deftly as any Mirkwood arrow and he stood and turned from his son as grief threatened to overwhelm him. He was at a loss. He braced himself against the tree, his hands balled up in fists as if in an effort to dam the flow of sorrow. His son told him he bonded to a mortal, embracing death as surely as he embraced love. Cruel fate, he thought bitterly, cruel, cruel fate.
He could hear Legolas rise from his perch and stand behind him. With a son’s love, the young warrior placed a comforting hand on a heaving shoulder wishing that his father did not suffer so because of him. He wanted his father to understand him.
“I am not afraid, father,” he said softly. “I have made my choice and do not regret it. Do not bemoan me, please.”
The great elven king who had stared evil and despair in the face without so much as a flinch, took several calming breaths looking first up to the stars asking for strength before turning to face his son. He saw the same elf he’d watch grow from a small curious infant into one of the strongest most cunning fighters Mirkwood ever produced. Thranduil could still recall his nightly prayers wanting more for his son. He wanted Legolas to know a life where he didn’t have to fight constantly, living in fear and with the heavy burden of protecting their home. He wanted his son to one day know love and be at peace. Thranduil looked at his son and saw an elf who was stronger, wiser and despite his misgivings, happier.
He then realized that although not what he expected, his prayers for his son were answered. If Legolas was brave enough to find happiness in a mortal’s love then what right had he to deny him when so many before him never found joy or love in their existence? Was it not after all what he and his people fought for, the chance to find true happiness.
“Are you certain this is the path you want to take?” he asked quietly searching his son’s face.
“Legolas nodded solemnly, his eyes filled with devoted passion. “I am sorry this grieves you so, father,” he said sadly. “I know I have disappointed you.”
Hearing the elf’s words, Thranduil realized how untrue they were. He grabbed Legolas’ shoulder making sure he had his son’s attention. “Listen,” he said squeezing the shoulder for emphasis. “You are my son. You can never disappoint me. You may carry his love but can you not carry mine as well?”
The tears finally fell at his father’s words and Legolas could only nod his head in answer, the gift of speech beyond his capabilities at the moment.
Thranduil pulled the elf into a crushing embrace, thinking how his wife would have been proud of their son for choosing love in whatever form. He looked up at the starlit sky, focusing on one star that shone the brightest and seemed to flicker down on him tenderly as though verifying his thoughts.
He thought of his people’s struggles, the pain they’d endured, the many dismal nights when the king thought his realm would finally succumb to the pressing evil. He thought of the sacrifices made, the precious lives lost, questioning at times whether the cost was too high.
Holding his child in his embrace Thranduil smiled softly to himself in confirmation, realizing that he had lived, fought and suffered so that he may see this moment when his son loves and is loved in return.
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.