Several months passed and summer faded towards the
early stages of
fall. With the approach of winter, tensions in Mirkwood began
winding ever tighter as it became apparent that the wood-elves were
going to have a very hard time of it this year.
Doriflen had slowly gone from being a benign
nuisance to a full-blown
problem. By now Thranduil was aware that his brother was one of
the chief instigators of unrest in the realm. Unfortunately there
was little he could do about it without fanning those very flames of
The controversy caused by Oropher and Thranduil’s
to go to war for a cause that many felt was not their own had become a
moldering gash in the fabric of the kingdom’s unity, exacerbated by
Doriflen who was quick to point out that he had remained behind,
opposed to the whole affair. If he had been King, the whispers
grew, they would not be where they were now and all the loved ones who
had been lost would still be with them.
Open rumors were starting now that Oropher had not
even truly willed
Thranduil the throne, but that he had taken it from his older brother
by treachery and then convinced his father to take on this mad venture
that had led the king to his death. Empty accusations, but they
hurt. Hurt badly.
Thranduil sat by an open window, looking out across
the trees that were
just beginning to show their first signs of color change. He felt
like he was trying to hold onto a handful of water... it just kept
slipping away from him.
“Maybe what they’re saying is right meleth-nín,
my love,” he
told Elvéwen in a tired, vacant tone. “Maybe I am simply
not made for this.”
Elvéwen didn’t speak for a few moments.
Part of her heart
wished that her husband had never been called upon to be King.
The tensions in their lives since Thranduil returned from Dagorlad had
all but torn their family apart. Even Legolas seemed to be
showing the strain. He had become much more quiet and reserved
over the past few months; withdrawn almost. A troubling weight
seemed to have settled upon him... upon all of them.
“If you are not hervenn-nín,
my husband, then who is?” she said
at length. “Certainly not your brother. His supporters do
not know him as you do. He would lead them to ruin.” She
sighed. “Some choices are not given to us hervenn-nín, we
are merely placed on the road and have to walk it as best we can.”
Heavy silence flowed between them for a few
about your brother...”
Thranduil closed his eyes. “I know about my
Elvéwen. What I do not know is what to do about
him. Restrain him? Try to keep him quiet? Add 'bloody
tyrant’ to the title of usurper he has already pinned on me in the eyes
of our people?! This kingdom balances on the thinnest of
threads. Place but a little weight in the wrong direction and it
will all unravel. And why should the people not doubt? What
kind of King can’t feed his own people through the winter? We can
only hope that the woods will support us, but with so many of our
Elvéwen hesitated, knowing the reaction her
would likely garner. “Then what about seeking aid?”
“From where?” Thranduil spread his hands
helplessly. “The Dale
men are in as dire of straits as we, if for different reasons.”
“Then what about Lórien or Imladris,”
quietly. “You know Lord Elrond offered...”
“Oh yes, take the charity of the Noldor like a
beggar at the gates,
that would *truly endear me to the people,” Thranduil spat somewhat
bitterly. “They got us into this. Perhaps they would help,
but at what price? I will be hanged before I become one of their
serfs! Besides, that is just the show of weakness that Doriflen
is waiting for.”
Elvéwen sighed. She thought her husband
judged the Noldor
elves too harshly, especially since many in Lothlórien were in
fact her own people’s distant kin; but he was right about
Doriflen. Any sign of weakness in Thranduil now and there would
be open revolt. They were in an almost impossible situation.
“Despite what you think meleth-nín, many of
the people are still
entirely loyal to you. Don’t give up on them.” Elvéwen
Thranduil nodded and rose. “Well, wish me
either luck or a speedy
death because I must go wrangle with those hungry lions masquerading as
my council members again. At least it is only a normal policy
meeting... if that can be trusted,” he sighed. “And if you see
Legolas, remind him I told him to be there today. That boy has
been sulking about something and ignoring my wishes and requests all
Elvéwen frowned disapprovingly at the
not sulking, Thranduil, he’s withdrawn. I believe he misses
you. Think how much time you two spent together when he was
little. He had entire days of your time all to himself.
It’s different now.”
“I know. I know it is,” Thranduil looked
pained. “But what
am I supposed to do? If this kingdom falls apart it isn’t going
to do him any good either. Don’t you think I would like to be
able to spend more time with him? To make all this turmoil go
away so we could go back to the days when life was good? If only
it were that easy!”
“I’m not faulting you, Thranduil, I’m just saying
what I see,”
Elvéwen said gently. “Legolas knows the load you carry.”
“I used to think so. But lately... I don’t
know what to do with
him! I tell him I want him somewhere, he’s not there. I
give him tasks to carry out, they remain undone. It’s not like
him. If he thinks this is a good way to get my attention, he’s
wrong and that is more than a little childish.”
Elvéwen looked away. It was true,
Legolas had been acting
erratic lately, but she still felt Thranduil was too hard on him
sometimes. “He’s a child my love. He needs a father, not a
“I know...” Thranduil’s voice was soft and
sad. “And I don’t know
anymore if I can be both.” He closed his eyes. When he
opened them again he chuckled mirthlessly, glancing at the angle of the
sun. “Well presently I shall be late for my own meeting.
I have to go. And Legolas had better be there this time.”
I’ve done everything that you said;
I followed your rules without
I thought it would help me see things
but instead of helping me to see,
I look around and it’s like I’m
I’m spinning out of control, out of
spinning out of control...
Where should I go?
What should I do?
I don’t understand what you want from
And I don’t know if I can trust you,
I don’t understand what you want from
“Vede...” Legolas begged softly, squirming against
the silken scarves
Doriflen had used to bind his hands. The silky bonds left no mark
upon his soft flesh that anyone else could see, but they held him quite
securely. Doriflen often had to tie him down now, because the
beatings routinely became more than Legolas could handle without
struggling. “Vede please...”
Another sharp smack of his uncle’s belt across his
made the young elf jerk and draw in a sobbing breath. “Please,
not today, I-I have to be at the council meeting! I’m late, F-Father will be angry...”
Doriflen sneered slightly. “And yet I am not
invited to be
present, as usual. Your father has the gall to call me a Vice
Regent, but keeps me oh so carefully out of the way. They would
rather do things behind my back as if I were a traitor!”
Legolas muffled a helpless sob as the strength of
his uncle’s blows
increased along with his anger. Doriflen often rambled when he
was strapping him, but it didn’t always make much sense.
“And what of you, Legolas? Will you tell me
what they talk about
in there?” the elder elf questioned more softly. The hand that
held his nephew pinned against the tabletop pressed down with crushing
force against Legolas’ lower back, keeping the young elf still and
submissive despite the prince’s struggles to get away from the abuse.
Legolas repressed another shuddering sob. If
he said no, his
uncle was going to keep beating him, but he knew he could not say
yes. It was horribly confusing to him. He wasn’t at all
sure that his uncle wasn’t just testing him, to see if he could be
forced to break his vows of silence, lest an enemy should ever do the
same; that probably made the most sense. The prince’s young,
trusting mind could fathom no other reason.
“Please, Vede, I-I can’t... you know I can’t...”
“Oh you can, you just won’t!” Doriflen started
lashing him so hard
Legolas had to bite his lip to keep from screaming. “Because you
would seek to betray me just like everyone else in there!”
“No, no!” Legolas shook his head, tears of pain
tracing down his
flushed cheeks. “I-It’s not that at all! It’s not just you,
father says what happens behind those doors is secret, I can’t even
tell Naneth...” The young elf was almost sobbing too hard to
speak now. Doriflen’s blows across his exposed backside and legs
where beginning to draw blood. “Please Vede! Please
stop! Stop!!” the young prince pleaded desperately, struggling
against his uncle and his bonds, but in vain. He knew he couldn’t
get away until Doriflen was done with him. He never could.
“Your father,” the elder elf’s voice was cold.
“Your father, your
father, your father, that’s all I ever hear!” Doriflen hit the
child a few more times before suddenly stopping; loosing the prince’s
hands, he shoved him roughly off the table.
Legolas fell in a miserable heap, but rose quickly,
his hands trembling
as he pulled his clothing back into place and tried to deal with the
pain that was flaming through his body.
Doriflen laughed at him, tilting the child’s fair,
tear-stained face up
roughly by the chin. Legolas’ golden hair was disheveled and his
face was flushed. The pain that glazed his large eyes made him
look so much younger than his years. The elder elf half wiped,
half slapped the tears off his nephew’s face, holding his moist hand up
“What? Tears, Legolas? The young prince
of Mirkwood cries
like a baby? Still, after all this time you can never master
that? It’s no wonder your father prefers for me to deal with you;
he probably couldn’t stand the shame of seeing what a sniveling
weakling his son really is. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell
you again, although you never listen: you are a prince! You do
not show pain, you do not show fear, and you never, never cry!”
Doriflen slapped his nephew again. “You shame the family you
Legolas had to resist the urge for those words to
wring more tears out
of him, but he blinked hard and gulped in huge lungfuls of air, trying
to keep his emotions in check and school himself back to the impassive
state that his uncle wanted from him.
Doriflen released Legolas’ chin with a disgusted
kneel and make apology for the errors for which you have been punished.”
Legolas was familiar enough with this part of the
procedure and slowly
dropped submissively to his knees, head bowed, shoulders still
trembling with the hitching breath he could not control. He
searched his mind desperately for the words his uncle wanted, but could
not find them. Doriflen wanted him to show that he understood why
he had been punished and that he would not repeat the errors that had
led to it... but Legolas didn’t know why he had been punished this
time. He must have done something wrong, but he could not for the
life of him figure out what, and that scared him, because he knew what
“Well?” Doriflen’s voice was sharp and made the
younger elf jerk.
“I-I...” Legolas bit his lip, his eyes glued to the
don’t know what I did wrong, please tell me, Vede. I won’t do it again,
“It doesn’t work like that,” Doriflen’s voice was
cold. “If you
can’t see your own errors then you will never be able to correct
them. I want you to think about it, and expect you to have an
answer for me by this time tomorrow. If not, you can expect that
I will punish you for it again.”
A small, choked moan escaped Legolas’ lips without
his leave. He
wished his uncle would just tell him what he had done. He wished
he had never entered this hellish bond. He wished that when his
father was angry with him he would deal with him directly instead of
going through Doriflen... but then maybe this was better, as his uncle
said it was. Legolas loved his father, and he didn’t think he
could take this kind of handling from Thranduil’s normally gentle
hands. His father had only used physical punishment on him once
or twice when he was younger... and it was nothing like what Doriflen
did to him nowadays.
Doriflen said this was part of growing up... Well,
Legolas hated growing
Doriflen looked at his nephew sharply. “I mean
it Legolas, you
had better come to me tomorrow, either with an answer or ready to
accept the consequences of not having one. You don’t want me to
have to tell your father that you’re breaking our agreement would you?”
“N-no!” Legolas shook his head quickly. He
would rather die than
let his parents down or be proved unworthy of their love and
trust. Father always seemed upset with him lately as it was; he
feared what placing one more strain on their unraveling relationship
“I would hope not. He told me you were strong
enough to begin
this part of your preparation for the future, I would hate to have to
tell him that he was wrong and you were too weak to go through with it
all.” Doriflen lied through his teeth, but Legolas did not know
it. What reason did he have to think his Uncle would lie to him
“No, I can go through with it! I-I will figure
out my error, I
promise!” the young elf assured somewhat shakily.
“All right then, show me how you accept rebuke and
Doriflen put his belt away, watching the young prince.
With skill that was growing quickly, Legolas closed
his eyes and took
several deep breaths, calming his body and returning his breathing to
normal. Completely drying his face with his hands he straightened
his clothing and hair until only his flushed face gave away the fact
that anything unusual had happened to him. This was important, he
knew. Doriflen was quick to punish him further if he was not able
to make himself totally calm and impassive at a moment’s notice;
completely able to hide whatever pain he was feeling.
Showing pain was weakness. Letting others know
you were hurt and
making them worry was not only weakness, but cruelty. And one
thing Legolas never wanted to do was be cruel to those he loved.
“You improve, Legolas,” Doriflen nodded slowly as he
transformation. Indeed, Legolas was such apt pupil at this that
he had been able to abuse the young elf on a regular basis for the past
several months and no one in the palace knew what was happening...
least of all the boy’s father. That thought pleased Doriflen
greatly. Any way he could hurt his brother pleased him.
“As a prince you will often have to put feeling
aside and act only on
duty, no matter how painful it may seem to you, or to someone
else. Now go, I think your father specifically told you not to be
late, and now your own errant misbehavior has already made you
tardy. I may have to see you about that later as well. Go
on, they’re waiting, go!” Doriflen dismissed his nephew.
Legolas nodded quickly and hurried out of his
uncle’s chambers, running
down the hall as fast as his legs would carry him. Even watching
him move one could barely tell that anything was wrong. It was no
wonder not even those close to the prince knew what was going on behind
Doriflen smiled as he watched the boy go.
Legolas still refused
him today, but eventually he would work his way around the boy’s
defenses, wearing him down until the child no longer knew right from
wrong. He would break the prince using Legolas’ own sense of duty
and love of his parents against him, until one day Doriflen could use
him to destroy those very things. He would fill his nephew’s head
full of whatever ideas he wanted to plant there and if he kept Legolas
in enough pain and threat of pain that the boy jumped whenever he said
jump, then the day would come when he eventually had complete control
over the younger elf. What better way to hurt his brother and
possibly destroy him as well?
“You are a fool, Thranduil...” Doriflen muttered
under his breath.
“And I will turn even your own son against you in the end.”
I feel like I’m spinning out of
I try to focus but everything’s
And all along I thought you would be
to let me know I’m not alone...
But in fact, that’s exactly what I am.
“Prince Legolas, where were you? Your father
started the session
almost a half an hour ago!” The servant standing outside the
doors to Thranduil’s council chambers shook his head reprovingly when
the young prince pelted around the corner and pulled up sharply in
front of the large, closed wooden doors.
“I-I lost track of the time, Elrynd.” Legolas hated
lying, but his uncle
told him it wasn’t really lying, it was ‘not showing weakness’, and was
part of his training.
Elrynd shook his head with a small smile, pressing
the back of his hand
against the prince’s flushed cheek. Legolas was still very young
and occasional lapses in memory were to be expected. Yet he was
afraid the boy’s father wouldn’t see it that way. Thranduil had
very high expectations for his son and everyone knew that. “Catch
your breath, your highness. You must have run quite a distance.”
Legolas nodded distractedly, only wanting to get
away from questions
and inside before he got into even more trouble. He pulled his
face away. “Please, Elrynd, let me in, I’m already late.”
The elder elf opened the door and Legolas slid
quietly inside. He
had hoped to go unnoticed, but the moment he entered everyone fell
silent and all eyes in the chamber turned on him. The young elf
felt a hot, painful blush darken his already flushed face. His
father’s eyes locked on him with decided disapproval and Legolas wished
he could sink into the ground.
“I see you finally decided to join us, Legolas,”
coolly. “Pray take a seat so we may continue without further
“Yes, Father,” Legolas barely whispered, looking down
quickly into the chair on his father’s right which had sat empty
waiting for him. The young elf tensed slightly and held his
breath when his injuries touched the chair, but he gave no other
outward sign, and none of the grown up elves were looking at him
anymore, all of them having returned to the deep discussion that he had
The meeting seemed to crawl by. It was all
about treaties and
policies and things that even under the best of circumstances did not
remotely interest the young prince. In his current state, Legolas
could keep his mind focused on very little. He was acutely aware
of the displeasure radiating from his father beside him and his mind
was still spinning, trying to come up with an answer for Doriflen... by
the stars he did not want to have to go through again tomorrow what he
Legolas knew he was not supposed to let on that he
was hurting, but the
pain was intense that he shifted slightly in his chair, trying to ease
Thranduil thought that Legolas was being fidgety and
shot him a sharp look of warning.
Legolas immediately stopped moving, shrinking back
in his chair and
trying to hold perfectly still.
If Thranduil saw fear in his son’s eyes he thought
it was because the
boy rightly perceived that he was in trouble for being late, and could
not in his wildest dreams have begun to guess at the true cause.
If he had, someone’s head would have rolled pretty quickly.
Thranduil had his share of faults, but callousness towards his son and
his son’s wellbeing was not one of them. He loved the boy,
fiercely, even if sometimes that led him to be rather hard on
Legolas. From those he loved most, the King expected the most.
When the meeting was finally over, Legolas remained
quietly in his seat
while the other officials left. He knew his father was going to
want to talk to him about today. He dreaded it.
After everyone had left, Thranduil sat back down,
his gaze fixed on his
son. “All right. Do you want to tell me what was so
important that you missed half the meeting when I specifically told you
I wanted you present?”
The King’s voice was disappointed, but not
Legolas flinched all the same. “I’m sorry, Father. Truly I
am. I did not mean to be late, I swear... I-I lost track of the
time...” He couldn’t even tell his father why he was truly
late... that was against the rules. The training was supposed to
be invisible to everyone but Legolas, and it would make his father very
angry and disappointed indeed if he spoke of it or tried to use it as
an excuse; Doriflen had made that very painfully clear.
Thranduil sighed. Legolas looked so abjectly
sorry it was hard to
be stern with the boy. “If it were the first time, Legolas, I
would believe you, or even the second... but Legolas, this is the sixth
time you have neglected your responsibilities and disregarded my
wishes... the sixth time this week. What can I think but that
you are deliberately disobeying me? That you-”
Legolas paled, his heart twisting. “I-I’m not, Father, truly I’m
not!” he protested, accidentally interrupting the older elf.
“Don’t interrupt me,” Thranduil said quietly, but
For all that he could see Legolas had become increasingly rebellious
over the past few weeks. He supposed it was some kind of stage,
sometimes children did become difficult when they were making the
transition from childhood towards maturity, but he expected Legolas to
show more sense than he had been exhibiting. He would not
tolerate disobedience from his subjects, so he most certainly was not
going to tolerate it from his own son.
Legolas dropped his head in shame, fighting the
tears that wanted to
come. He couldn’t cry in front of his father, oh Valar he
couldn’t! But his body wanted to betray him.
“Look at me, Legolas.” Thranduil would not
speak to the top of the
Legolas’ head popped up quickly and he wiped his
eyes, hoping his
father wouldn’t notice.
Thranduil’s brows furrowed. The sight of his
eyes tugged painfully at his heart, yet in his mind Legolas was too old
to be crying over a simple rebuke and he did not want the boy to get in
the habit simply because he knew it pulled at his father’s sympathies.
“Legolas, you’re too old for tears. I expect to
be able to talk to
you like an adult, not a child.” He had no way of knowing how
deep those words struck into the boy’s hurting heart.
Legolas quickly pulled his walls of impassiveness up
around him once
more, willing his composure back into place. Never show pain,
never show fear, never, never cry... He couldn’t believe he was such a
baby and constantly managed to do everything wrong. It was no
wonder Doriflen had to treat him the way he did... he simply couldn’t
do anything right lately. He wondered if he were going to be
punished for that later as well. Probably. Doriflen usually
had an exhaustingly detailed list of things to punish him for by the
end of any given day.
“Legolas, I don’t drag you to these meetings to make
miserable, nor do I make rules simply to hurt you. I love you,
Legolas, and I want you to grow up to be a prince worthy of your title,
which I think you are. It may be boring when you are young, but
these things you learn now are essential for your future. I want
to be able to share my responsibilities with you, Legolas, I want to
know that it is capable hands I am placing this kingdom in should the
day ever come that you are called upon to rule it. Do you
understand, my son?” Thranduil asked earnestly. He didn’t
want Legolas to think he didn’t care, he did, more than he could ever
say! But the boy needed to start showing some responsibility.
“Yes, Father, I do,” Legolas said quietly. “And
I am sorry. I will
not make you disappointed in me.”
Thranduil smiled slightly and laid his hand on his
shoulder. “I know you won’t, Legolas.” He sighed. “But
I expect you to report to either Ravir in the Gardens, or Galion in the
cellars every evening after supper for the next week. You’ll help
them with whatever needs doing until bedtime, starting right now,
“Yes, Father,” Legolas nodded without
reluctance. He knew that
left him no time for archery or being with his friends, but he did not
complain. It was far easier punishment than what Doriflen would
do to him later.
Satisfied that the situation had been dealt with,
Thranduil turned to
leave. Legolas’ small voice stopped him in the doorway.
“Yes, Legolas?” He turned.
“I really am sorry,” Legolas’ eyes begged
“Just don’t let it happen again, Legolas, all right?”
softly. “I expect better from you, my son.”
Thranduil left. Legolas folded his arms on the
table in front of
him and let his face sink down onto them. If he had ever had a
worse day he couldn’t remember it right now.
A soft hand on his shoulder made him jump and jerk
upright again a few
moments later. The soft sent of rosemary and wildflowers told him
who it was even before he looked up to see his mother’s face.
The Queen smiled gently at her only son, smoothing
his long blond
tresses gently back from his face and caressing his hair in a way that
only she could. With anyone else it would have made him feel
childish, but not with her.
“You look unhappy, Tyndolhen,”
Elvéwen said gently, looking down
at him with her huge, beautiful blue eyes, so like his own. Truth
be told, she had been outside and heard everything that passed between
her husband and son a few moments ago, but she wanted to give Legolas a
chance to talk about it, if he desired to do so.
Legolas smiled briefly at the fond use of her
special nickname for
him. It was an odd mix of Sindarin and Elvéwen’s native
Silvan tongue. The word itself was somewhat untranslatable, but
loosely meant ‘golden-haired dreamer child’. The prince’s face
clouded again as the troubles surrounding him pulled his aching heart
“I let father down, again,” the young elf said
miserably, hanging his
head and pecking at one sleeve of his tunic with the fingers of his
other hand. “I was late. He told me not to be.”
“I see.” Gently, Elvéwen pulled Legolas
closer to her,
letting his head rest against the silky white folds of her dress as she
stood next to where he sat. Soft, dark, chocolate tresses framed
her smooth, pale face as she looked down at her son.
Legolas turned and buried his face in the welcoming
embrace of the
warm, glossy fabric. It didn’t matter that he felt too old to be
coddled... right now he desperately needed a soft touch, and somehow it
never felt like babying when his mother held him.
Elvéwen let her hand rest on the back of her
son’s head gently,
still stroking and petting his hair. It was such a rich, soft
gold... like his father's. Yet in so many other ways he was like
her, especially his heart. “Your father is hard on you because he
loves you, Legolas... it’s his way. With all those he loves,” her
eyes were full of understanding. “It will be all right, you’ll
Legolas nodded mutely into her dress.
The Queen felt the heat coming from her son’s face
and pressed her hand
to his forehead with concern. “Legolas, do you feel all right?”
Legolas nodded quickly, withdrawing from his
mother’s touch no matter
how much he wanted to stay within her warm embrace. “I’m fine...
I ran to get here.” Of everyone, he hated lying to her the
most. “I’d better go; Father wants me to help Ravir and Galion.”
The Queen looked somewhat concerned and unconvinced
as she regarded the
younger elf’s flushed, downcast face. “All right then, but don’t
push yourself too hard, Legolas... and Legolas? You would tell me
if anything else were wrong, wouldn’t you?”
Legolas swallowed the huge lump in his throat and
forced a quick nod
and a fake smile before turning and making his escape lest she press
Elvéwen watched her son go. He was more
upset than he was
letting on, but she didn’t know why. Perhaps there was more that
had passed between Legolas and his father than she had heard... the
Queen shook her head.
She knew her husband had a lot on his mind
lately. Doriflen was
becoming more and more of a problem and a threat. They tried to
shield Legolas from the truth about his uncle... children were apt to
say things that they should not if they knew too much, and the King and
Queen felt the prince was too young to understand how a family member
could be such a danger. But things were beginning to go too
far. Her mind drifted back to their earlier conversation.
Doriflen was tying his brother’s hands and it was a difficult and
Elvéwen knew that that looming threat made
Thranduil more short
with everyone, especially Legolas; and now was such a delicate time for
their son, poised as he was uncertainly on the brink between the end
of childhood and the beginning of growing into an adult.
Elvéwen sighed. Sometimes being royalty was a hard road to
walk, for everyone involved.