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> "Tears Like Rain"
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R for violence, child
abuse and death
This story is set very early on in the Third Age
when Legolas is roughly the age equivalent of an 11-13 year old
human. A number of human years pass over the course of the story,
although they don’t affect young elves the same as they would a mortal
because elves age slower. So Legolas starts this story at roughly
11-12 and ends it at roughly 13 if you want to get highly technical
about it, although trying to stick human equivalents on elves is really
so hard to do.
In our story we have it that Mirkwood elves are
considered coming of age at about 13-14, similar to some of the older
The bright sun shone down through the leafy green
canopy overhead, sprinkling diamonds of light onto the dew-covered
grass of the glen. Light, merry laughter filled the air.
“Pin him Raniean! Pin him!”
“Come on Legolas! Throw him off!”
Encircled by a ring of encouraging fellow students
and under the carefully watchful eye of their instructor, two young
elves were grappling on the grass with a considerable amount of skill
for their age.
Physically the two boys were very alike. They were
dressed in the simple green tunics and leggings of their class, with
their golden hair tied back from their faces in knots that were swiftly
sliding free in the course of the struggle. They might have been
brothers, but they were not. The one currently on the bottom with
his back pressed hard against the earth was Legolas, son of Thranduil
and prince of the woodland realm. His companion, straddled on top
and struggling to find a way to pin his opponent so that the match
would be over, was the prince’s friend Raniean, son of Randomir.
Randomir was one of Thranduil’s top chieftains and leader of Mirkwood’s
largest contingent of warriors. At the moment, however, that force
was not at all as impressive as it sounded.
The wood-elves were by heritage a pastoral people
more concerned with singing in the trees, working with their hands and
perfecting the skill of the hunt than with the bearing of arms.
That was changing. Everything in Mirkwood was
changing. What had always been had been suddenly stripped away,
revealing an uncertain future. Nearly half the merry folk of the
wood that had lived here in peace for countless centuries were now
gone, killed with their King in one desperate battle on the plains of
Dagorlad far to the south. The slain of that war were too many to
even bring home, and the survivors too few. Buried where they
fell, the departed were not spoken of, but their memory lingered on
underneath the trees like a raw wound, a painful lesson in marching out
to war with a people unprepared.
It would never happen again. Prince Thranduil,
now King Thranduil, returned from burying his father with the firm
resolve that his people were never, ever going to be caught that
unprepared again. From now on Mirkwood would not ignore the need
for a standing army. From now on all Mirkwood elves would become
trained warriors, from childhood up.
The few truly skilled fighters among them were
placed as teachers over classes with pupils ranging from older elves
whose memories went back nearly as far as the forests themselves, to
these classes, filled with the young wood-elves who were approaching
the end of childhood and transitioning towards what humans would have
called teenage years.
Training the youth took special importance since
they had the best chance to learn new things and learn them well.
Therefore, Maethor, or
Warrior training as it was called, had become a mandatory part of every
young male elfling’s life.
The children took to it readily, accepting the
regimes as part of their fun, as well as their schooling. It was
a matter of honor to achieve the most points on their skills in any given
week and they practiced outside class as well as inside.
Legolas and Raniean knew each other’s moves too well
for this to be a quick match. They often sparred together and
were evenly matched for strength, so theirs was a contest of skill and
ingenuity; the kind they both liked best.
Legolas feinted that he was going to pull right and
attempt a roll, a trick they both knew he often used when in danger of
being pinned. Raniean adjusted quickly, throwing his weight to
that side and grabbing his friend’s shoulders tightly, his fingers
bunching in Legolas’ tunic. Suddenly, Legolas reversed tactics,
grabbing Raniean’s left arm with both hands. Trapping the other
young elf’s leg with his own the prince arched his back and breached
upward, using Raniean’s own weight and momentum against him.
Flipping them both over, the prince reversed positions so that Raniean
was now on the bottom.
Raniean was surprised by this turn of events for
just the fraction of a second that Legolas needed to get inside his
guard and put the other young elf into a lock. The prince pinned
his friend with his forearm across Raniean’s throat, straddling the
other boy’s chest. It was a match-ending move and they both knew
it; still, Raniean hesitated a moment, testing his opponent’s strength.
From his position Legolas could easily screw down on
his arm and cut off the other boy’s air, but he wouldn’t do that in a
sparring match, and not with his friend either. Instead he just
waited Raniean out. “Anno?”
he questioned, seeking the words that would end this. “Yield?”
Raniean relaxed, accepting his defeat. “Anno,” he sighed, disappointed, but
not seriously upset.
Legolas quickly removed his hold, rising off his
friend and offering Raniean a hand up, which the other boy accepted.
“Good match, Legolas.” Raniean clasped his arm at the
elbow to which Legolas responded in kind. “I shall remember that
trick of yours from now on.”
Legolas smiled and gave his friend’s arm one more
squeeze. “Then I shall have to try to come up with new ones!”
There was a momentary buzz of conversation among the
two young elves’ classmates and friends as they rejoined the
ranks. Tegi, their teacher, patiently hushed the boys with a
glance and summoned the next two partners who moved forward to take the
field. “Garilien, Brenyf, pair off.”
A small elf, who looked quite out of place among his
fellows, clapped Legolas and Raniean on the back. “Good match mellyn,” he complimented them both
in a whisper, his smile bright. “Tegi couldn’t even find anything
to correct you on, did you notice?”
Raniean and Legolas smiled. It was true; their
teacher had not once interrupted the match to correct either boy’s
form. That was rare and it made them both proud, no matter who
An hour later class wound up for the day and the
young elves gathered their things. Legolas changed somewhat
hurriedly, pushing his class tunic into a bag after pulling on his
finer silk shirt and hastily trying to brush the loose hair back from
his face. For most, classes were now over, but as prince, Legolas
had additional studies in law, language, policy and lore with a private
tutor for an hour more. He did not exactly dislike them, but
Maethor training was definitely his preferred pastime.
“Are you going to be at the archery ranges tonight?”
Trelan asked his friend as Legolas cleaned up. Trelan was still
wearing his practice clothes. He would change when he got home.
“Maybe, I hope so,” Legolas nodded. Archery
was part of their normal regimen, but only twice a week, so those who
favored it more, as the prince did, could attend optional sessions in
their free time in the evenings. “But father might have another
meeting and then I’ll have to sit in.”
Trelan nodded. “Raniean can’t go either, so I
probably won’t then.” He did not intend to take on the additional
class if neither of his best friends were going to be there.
“Ran’s got his first meeting with his Saelon
tonight!” the young elf said with obvious excitement.
Legolas halted for a moment before slipping the
strap of his bag over his shoulder. “Raniean has been assigned a
Saelon? He didn’t tell me.”
“I’m sorry Legolas, it happened so fast,” Raniean
had heard the last part of the conversation and came over. He
also was still in his class clothes; faint darker-green grass stains on
the elbows and knees were a reminder of their earlier match. A
slight hesitancy to meet his friend’s eyes told that that statement
wasn’t quite true.
Legolas ignored what he saw and smiled
instead. “Ran, that’s wonderful! Who did your father
choose? Are you allowed to tell?”
Raniean looked a little relieved, excitement taking
him over again. “Yes, it’s all right, I have been given leave to
speak of it. He chose his friend, Cirlith, the hunter.”
“Garilien’s father?” Legolas asked and received an
answering nod to the affirmative. “That’s wonderful news.
Although I regret that we will not have as much free time together
Saelon was simply the wood-elves’ term for mentor;
as part of their Maethor training, each boy’s father, or mother if
the father were no longer living, would eventually choose one for their
son. The Saelon took the boy under their wing like family and saw
to additional instruction as necessary. It was part of the new
plan for the younger elves to gain as much diverse experience in their
training as possible. And it was also because with the way things
now sat, far too many young elflings had been left entirely without a
One elf might be a Saelon to several different
students at a time, but the elflings didn’t usually know it because
that part of training was considered a private affair, something
special and uniquely tailored for each student. As such it was
not discussed much and although Raniean’s mentor had given him
permission to tell, that was not always the case.
Trelan laughed a bit at Legolas’ statement.
“You never have any free time anyway, Legolas, what with all your duties
at home. Did I ever tell you I was glad I wasn’t a prince?”
“Yes, Trelan, regularly,” Legolas rolled his eyes in
amusement. Trelan exaggerated as usual. The prince may not
have had as much spare time as his friends, but he was hardly as
encumbered by duty as they sometimes made him out to be.
Raniean was both happy and excited that he was able
to move on towards the higher stages of instruction, but he was also
still a little hesitant. “Has your father said anything,
Legolas? Have you asked...?”
Legolas forced a smile and shook his head, cutting
his friend off. “Ran, please, don’t feel like you can’t talk
about it, it doesn’t bother me, really. I’m happy for you.
My father... is very busy. I haven’t wanted to trouble him.
If he is going to choose a Saelon for me he will do it when he feels
the time is right.” The prince defended a little too quickly and
it betrayed the emotions well hidden underneath.
“I know,” Raniean looked away. “So many people
depend on your father now, Legolas; it’s different than when King
Oropher was alive. My ada says it’s not easy to lead a broken
people and try to change a whole way of life overnight.”
“No,” Legolas nodded. “It isn’t, but I know
that Adar can make it
happen,” he said with a small glow of pride in his voice. He
loved and respected his father very much. But he worried about
him, and wished he could somehow be of more help in these troubled
times. The young prince saw the lines appearing on his father’s
smooth brow and the graveness that was stealing the spring from his
step. Legolas had lost a grandfather, but Thranduil had lost his
father and his King, leaving on his shoulders the weight of an entire
“I don’t mind that it takes a lot of his time, I
just wish I could help more,” Legolas sighed slightly.
“What about your Uncle?” Trelan tilted his head to
the side questioningly. “Surely Lord Doriflen could help ease his
burden a little; he is his brother.”
Legolas shrugged. His family was confusing
sometimes, how could he try to explain it? “He does, but he
doesn’t always seem happy about what he’s doing. And sometimes
Adar doesn’t seem to want to let him help either... Naneth says they’re both still
trying to deal with losing Grandfather and I should give them time and
not worry about it. So I think picking a Saelon for me is the
least of Ada’s worries.” Legolas shrugged, trying to pretend that
it didn’t matter, that he didn’t care. He felt that was the
grown-up way to handle his disappointment.
The truth was that they suspected most of their
class had been assigned individual Saelons by now. Although the
semi-secrecy surrounding it was intended to keep the boys who had moved
on to that stage of training from picking on the ones who had not, some
of the less considerate were not above voicing random, general comments
meant to let the others know what they thought. There was a
certain personal stigma attached to the idea of not being thought ready
enough by one's own parents, whether the world at large knew about it or
Trelan gave Legolas a small, sad smile of
understanding and squeezed his arm. “I know,” he said
softly. “My Ada doesn’t think I’m ready yet either.” He
sighed. “At least you can move on when your father gets around
to it. I can’t even get enough points to pass muster.”
Legolas let the shadow of disappointment slip away
from him and focused his thoughts on helping his friends.
Raniean was shaking his head. “There’s nothing
wrong with your skills, Trelan. You haven’t passed only because Tegi
won’t give you enough sparring time for you to have a chance to
qualify. He’s afraid some of the others would try to take
advantage of you. You know how vicious a few of them can be when
they want to win.”
Trelan resisted a momentary flare of temper, balling
his fists and looking down. “I know. I’m small but I’m not
“Of course not!” Legolas soothed his friend
quickly. “We’ll just have to keep working amongst the three of us
so that you can convince Tegi to give you a shot at the bigger
boys. They will seriously underestimate you and that will give
you quite an advantage.”
Raniean laughed. “Just don’t beat them up too
Trelan smiled, his anger forgotten, or at least put
aside for now. “Well I’ll try, but I’m not promising anything.”
Legolas glanced up at the sun, suddenly realizing
how much time they had spent talking. Most of the others had
already left and the glen was empty. “Oh dear, I’m going to be
late! I’ll see you both tomorrow!” he called as he hurried back
towards home, his soft leather boots slapping soundlessly against the
King Thranduil sat with his head bowed studiously
over his desk, scribbling swiftly away on a piece of parchment.
He wrote several lines only to pause, strike out half the letters, and
begin all over again. He did not react when a slender set of
hands dropped down onto his tense shoulders, rubbing small circles into
the stiff muscles. He knew that his wife had entered the room,
even though she had not made a sound. He could sense her presence
and it lent a certain measure of calm to his fraying nerves.
“Trouble?” Elvéwen let her chin rest lightly
on the top of her husband’s head as she stood behind his chair, eyeing
the marked up parchment on the desk. Her dark hair slid over her
shoulders and brushed lightly against the Elvenking’s cheek, mingling
with his own golden locks and carrying with it the soft smell of
“Always,” Thranduil sighed, leaning back in his
chair and pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers, trying
to stem a headache. “Esgaroth is having a bad year: there’s a
famine. They’re sending to us for aid and I have none to give
them. Indeed, we almost need their aid as much as they are now
saying they need ours. I can’t break trust with them, but what am
I supposed to do? Our storehouses, our treasuries, everything is
empty. I don’t even know how we’re going to get our people
through the winter. How do I squeeze any more blood from this
The Elvenking let his head drop down onto his
hands. He wished he knew how his father would have handled
this. Oropher was a good elf, a good father and a good king but,
while publicly outgoing with his subjects, in his personal life he had
always been a very private individual. Thranduil stood by his
father’s side for many years, but the King’s counsels were always his
own and he did not share them with his sons. Oropher had carried
all his wisdom and insight into ruling this land to his grave with him,
and Thranduil felt uncomfortably like he was floundering in a job that
he knew far too little about.
His brother’s caustic opinion of him and his
abilities did not help much. Since Thranduil had returned from
Dagorlad a handful of decades ago, Doriflen had done nothing but
fault-find with the way he handled everything. Thranduil supposed
that his brother’s jealousy came as no great surprise; he had not been
able to look to his older sibling for friendship or support since they
were young and Doriflen had started changing. Thranduil made
Doriflen a vice-regent in an attempt to stem some of the ill will
between them that Oropher’s leaving the throne to the younger of the
two brothers had caused. Unfortunately it seemed to be but a
small bandage on a festering wound.
Sadly, Doriflen was not the only one voicing rising
doubts about Thranduil’s ability to rule. More and more often the
Elvenking was beginning to hear whispers of it from his subjects and he
was hard pressed to understand where the dissatisfaction was coming
from and what exactly he was doing wrong, besides perhaps everything
which at the moment seemed entirely possible.
He swore to himself that he was never going to leave
his son in a position like this. He was going to make sure that
Legolas was prepared to take the throne should he ever be called upon
to do so. Even immortals, it seemed, could not afford to take life
Thinking of Legolas made Thranduil glance towards
the angle of the sunlight filtering in through the window. He
sighed again. “Legolas will be finishing with his tutor
soon. I had wanted to take him to archery tonight, but now it
doesn’t look like I’ll be able to do so.”
Elvéwen nodded slowly, wishing she could ease
all the burdens behind her husband’s tired gaze. “I will take
him, but he is old enough to go alone.”
Thranduil snorted softly. “Of course he is,
but that doesn’t make it any easier for him when all the other boys’
fathers are there to watch them,” he murmured with regret. The
King wondered bleakly if everyone promised themselves they were going
to be different with their children than their parents were with them,
only to end up passing on all the same little heartaches. Yet he
knew his son would understand. Legolas always did.
Elvéwen sat down in the chair beside
Thranduil, seeking his eyes. “If you appointed Legolas a
Thranduil’s gaze clouded. “I don’t need
someone to pay attention to my son because I cannot!” he snapped
slightly before he caught himself and let his frustration slip away
before speaking again. “He’s not ready yet. He’s just a
boy.” After Legolas had a Saelon, the next step forward, when the
Saelon deemed it time, was for the young elf to take part in the border
patrols with the regular warriors. Thranduil couldn’t think of
letting go of Legolas like that just yet... not when other losses were
still far too near his heart.
“He’s not ready, or you’re not?” Elvéwen
questioned softly. Her voice held no accusations, only gentle
“Both,” Thranduil turned his attention back to his
parchment. He had to get this finished. “Besides, who would
I trust? Lately it seems that even those I thought my friends
doubt me; how could I expect them to mentor my son? Who do you
entrust with the future of a kingdom...?”
A soft sigh and shake of his head signaled that
their conversation was drawing to a close. Elvéwen knew
her husband’s body language well.
“No, Véa, I will not assign Legolas a Saelon
yet. It is a good plan, but I fear some of the others rush their
sons forward too fast. Maethor training is important, but I did
not implement it to steal our children’s childhood from them.”
Elvéwen nodded. That she
understood. Even in these difficult times children still needed
to be children. She just wished sometimes that Thranduil would
tell Legolas the reasons for which he did things. She feared that
although their son loved his father, he did not understand him or his
actions. Glancing at Thranduil, whose head was now bent over his
work again, his attention focused, she feared the same was true of his
understanding of his son.
Unheard and unseen outside the closed door, a
shadowed figure slipped away. He had heard enough.
Thranduil was a fool, and was playing right into his hands.
Elvéwen was not able to take Legolas to
archery practice that evening after all. Several of the elven
lords who sat on the council with Thranduil had cornered the Elvenking
into an emergency meeting on the situation in Esgaroth. Most were
opposed to trying to lend any aid when they themselves were in such
dire straits and a few were hinting not so gently that Mirkwood needed
to look to its own concerns. After all, look what had happened last time they put their lot in
with outsiders and humans.
Thranduil however, knew that their survival was
going to still depend on their friendship and old ties with their
neighbors, but trying to make anyone else see that was painfully
Elvéwen could not leave him to face them
alone, but neither did she wish to make Legolas sit in on another
council meeting which she knew her son silently abhorred. So she
suggested he go with Raniean’s family.
Legolas did not tell her that Raniean was not going
tonight because he knew it would only make her feel bad. He could
already see the apology behind her eyes and he didn’t want that.
It was no hardship for him to go alone; he had become used to doing
things by himself. He was simply relieved to not have to sit
indoors all evening and listen to the older elves bicker. He
didn’t understand why they couldn’t see his father was right. In
his young mind, his father was always right.
Strapping on his quiver and slinging his bow over
his shoulder, Legolas made his way towards the archery ranges where the
classes were held. They were a little over a mile away from the
palace and he could cover that quickly.
His brisk trot out through the gates halted slightly
when he saw a familiar figure waiting just outside.
smiled and greeted his father’s brother with the elvish term for
uncle. “You aren’t in the council with Ada?”
Doriflen smiled somewhat ruefully and shook his
head. He wore his darker, chestnut-hued golden hair loose around
his face, unlike the braided hairstyles favored by his brother and
nephew. “No, they don’t want me around. I just get in the
way. But then, perhaps that’s not so bad, more interesting things
to do out here, right? Where are you off to?”
Legolas chuckled. “Well, I think so. I’m
on my way to archery practice,” he gestured to his bow.
“So I see,” the elder elf nodded, looking
around. “All alone?” he acted slightly disturbed. “When was
the last time your father made it with you?”
Legolas shrugged. He knew exactly how many
months it had been, but didn’t want to talk about it. “A
while. You know how hard it is on Ada right now.”
“True enough, true enough,” Doriflen agreed.
“Well do you mind if I go with you? I hear you’ve got some real
skill with a bow, I should like to see that.”
Legolas flushed, somewhat pleased. “Of
course you can come if you want to, Vede, but I’m not really that good,
“Ah, but I’m sure you are,” Doriflen shook his head,
putting his arm around the boy’s shoulders as they walked off together.
Despite the sham of a title Thranduil had given him,
Doriflen was not usually welcome at important meetings of state.
Thranduil said he tended to say things he ought not, but Doriflen knew
he was just being spiteful, flaunting the fact that his younger brother
had somehow weaseled their father into thinking he would make the
Well, if the state of the kingdom right now was any
indication, that was a pretty poor assumption. Doriflen knew he
should be King, it was his right... and soon enough, it would be a
reality. He was going to break his brother for the wrongs done
him and take back what was his. But for the present, the elder
elf put to good use the extra time he had on his hands right now to
watch and observe.
Tension was high in Mirkwood. Things were ill
and people wanted someone to blame. It was the perfect climate
for him. It was all too easy to stir the flames of
discontent. The common people could be so easily swayed by the
simplest of suggestions... But to truly break Thranduil, Doriflen knew
he had to get much closer to home than just the people.
His brother’s family was a tight little unit, but he
saw where the cracks lay. It wasn’t hard to single out Legolas as
his way inside. The boy was young, naïve and trusting.
He was at an age where he silently craved the adult attention he was
not receiving. When he was at home, Legolas was almost always
alone. It was perfect really.
Legolas knew none of the dark thoughts going through
his uncle’s mind. He could only see the bright smiles he was
given and the appreciative way in which Doriflen watched him at
practice. Neither Raniean nor Trelan were there, of course, but
Legolas loved the sport for itself and did not miss them too much.
After practice on the way home, Doriflen was full of
praise and questions, letting the young elf talk on and on about the
intricacies of his favorite subject in a way that usually made people’s
eyes glaze over pretty quickly. Doriflen never seemed to lose
interest and Legolas ended up talking much more than he usually did
until he caught himself and apologized.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to chatter at you so,
Doriflen smiled amiably. “But I enjoy it,
nephew. I am glad you feel so free with me. It is good
because...” he stopped walking and turned to face Legolas, who
obligingly did the same. “Because I have something important to
Legolas raised his eyebrows lightly in
Doriflen nodded. “Your father has asked me to
be your Saelon, Legolas.”
Legolas smile brightened. His father
hadn’t forgotten! He had
chosen a mentor for him after
all. The young prince really didn’t know his uncle very
well. Until this point the elder elf hadn’t had much to do with
him, but Legolas had no reason to dislike his uncle and after tonight
it seemed rather a pleasant arrangement.
“Then I am very honored, Vede. I will do my best to
make you both proud.” Legolas bowed slightly in the fashion of
“I know you will, Legolas,” Doriflen smiled. A
flicker of something deep and dark skittered just under the surface of
his friendly gaze, but if Legolas even saw it he would not have
understood its meaning.
“Am I permitted to speak of it?” Legolas wanted to
know if he could tell his friends or not. Either way was all
right with him; he was just glad his father really did think he was
“No, Legolas, I would rather not. Let’s keep
this between us for the present. Mirkwood is going through some
difficult times, and your father is not sure whom to trust. He
doesn’t wish there to be any ill feelings stirred up because he chose
his brother for you rather than one of the other elves. We
wouldn’t want to cause him anymore headaches, would we?”
Doriflen’s beguiling smile masked his true motives far too well.
Legolas nodded easily; he understood. He would
never want to cause his father more problems. “Very well then,
Vede, it shall remain between us. But... thank you. For
accepting.” The boy smiled shyly.
Doriflen laughed softly, shaking his head as they
started walking again. “Oh the pleasure is all mine, Legolas,