Mid-Winter Gifts

Chapter 4: Father and Son

by Jay of Lasgalen

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When he left the hall, Legolas returned to his room.  He desperately needed some time alone.  Despite his brave words to the elves and men in the hall, that his father would honour the pledge of aid Legolas had given, he knew in his heart that would not happen.  Not now.  He was foolish to hope.

The blanket he still wore trailed on the ground behind him.  Legolas dropped it back onto the bed, and turned to his pack to search for some more suitable clothes.  Although it was late now, he knew he would be unable to sleep, despite the utter exhaustion he still felt.  Finally dressed, he pulled a boot onto one foot, and delved deep into the pack in search of the other.

At the bottom of the pack, carefully wrapped and hidden from casual view, was a long, slender package.  His hand froze, but then he pulled the package out, very slowly, and laid it on the bed.  He peeled the wrappings away, and sat staring blindly at the contents for a long time.  He had bought the knife as a mid winter gift for his father.  The blade was forged from mithril, with a keen edge that would never blunt, and the silver handle was etched and engraved with a pattern of leaves and vines.  After much searching, he had found a scabbard to match, the leather dyed and painted with a similar design.  It would have been a perfect gift – one that now would never be given.

Only two short days ago, they had all been so happy, exploring the marketplace, selecting gifts for one another, savouring the unique atmosphere, laughing at the drunken antics of some of the young men.  Only two days ago.  In that short time, Legolas reflected, his life had been turned upside down, irrevocably changed.  The same was true for several of the fisher families as well.

All at once, the warmth of the room seemed too stifling and claustrophobic.  Pausing only long enough to pick up a thick cloak he left the room, closing the door very quietly behind him.  The great hall lay at one end of the corridor, but at the other end was a door that led out onto the walkway that encircled the town.  At this time of night it was likely to be deserted.

Legolas drew back the bolts and let himself out into the bitter night, crossing to the waist-high railing.  He was looking straight down at the lake – there were no docks or jetties here to disturb the peace of the Master’s house.  The water looked black and cold and deadly.  He stared at the lake for a long time,  seeing not the dark surface, but his father’s face in those last seconds.  The expression of pain, surprise and shock as he fell, and the waters closed over him.  It had all happened so quickly that if Legolas had not turned only moments before, he would have seen nothing.  And that had been his last glimpse of his father, despite diving in after him; searching and calling desperately through the driving rain, mountainous waves and ever-growing darkness.

He hoped fervently that his father had been knocked unconscious by the impact as the snapping rope sprang back like a whiplash; that he had never known what happened.  But he was plagued by images of his father struggling weakly in the water, too dazed by the blow to shout for help or to be able to swim, slowly dragged down by his water-logged clothes and boots. 

At the end, had Thranduil cried out to his son?  Or to Telparian?  Legolas knew he would never know any of the answers.  It was even possible that his father’s body would never be found.  The lake was vast and very deep, and at the southern end a series of mighty waterfalls cascaded down onto jagged rocks.

Finally, with a deep, shuddering breath, Legolas lifted his gaze at last.  His eyes felt dry and sore, for he was unable to weep – the pain he felt was far too deep-seated.  He faced north, and across the long expanse of the lake he could see, dwarfed by distance, the Lonely Mountain.  A bitter wind blew down the lake, and Legolas shivered, pulling the cloak more tightly about him.  He never normally felt the cold, but the chill he now felt came as much from within as without.  Lifting his gaze still higher, he looked at the sky.  It was a clear, cloudless night, and the stars shone down brilliantly.  Whenever he was troubled, the sight of the stars would usually soothe and calm him – but not tonight.  Tonight he would find no peace anywhere.

Behind him, he heard the door to the Master’s house open and close, and footsteps crossed the boards towards him.  Elrond normally walked soundlessly, so he was clearly alerting Legolas to his presence.  Legolas spoke without turning.  “Lord Elrond.”

Elrond stood at his side by the railing.  “Elrohir and I wondered where you were.  Then I remembered that you would seek solace with the trees or stars.”

“There are no trees here,” Legolas replied softly.  “And there is no comfort in the stars either.  There is no hope.  How can any of those missing still be alive?”

“Only the Valar know why things happen as they do.  The only comfort you can take is that your parents are at last reunited.  Lissuin will finally be able to see her father.”  Elrond paused, adding,  “And I know that it is no comfort to you at all at the moment.”

Legolas was silent.  Thranduil had never stopped grieving for Telparian, it was true.  While a small part of him was glad that they were finally together again after thirty-three long years, a much larger, more selfish part, simply wanted his father back.  Turning to face Elrond, he began to voice the other fears he had scarcely acknowledged even to himself.  “I don’t want to be King.  Not yet, not like this!  I am too young – I will not even be of age for another seven years.  I cannot do this.”

Elrond raised both hands, cupping Legolas’ face, then pulled him close in an embrace.  “Ah, elfling,  I am so sorry for you.  But your actions tonight proved that you can do this.  Your father would have been so very proud of you.  Did you know that he voiced exactly the same fears at Dagorlad when Oropher fell?  He was much older than you are, but he experienced the same fears and uncertainties.  But come now, I want you to return indoors with me.  We did not retrieve you from the lake only to have you succumb once more to the cold out here!”

Inside, lamps still burned, and in the main hall several people still worked.  Legolas, Elrond and Elrohir watched as Bregor, Peneldur and Nahald studied a large map that had been set out on a long table at one end of the hall.  It showed the lake, and the surrounding lands and shores.  It was apparently normally used for tracking the best fishing grounds, but in times like this, search patterns and anything found could be plotted as well.

Elrond had a fascination for maps of all kinds, and Elrohir had obviously inherited the interest.  As they looked more closely, they saw it was studded with many coloured pins, each representing a different find.

“This shows areas along the bank which have been searched,” explained Peneldur,  pointing, “and these show where wreckage has been found.”  He indicated yellow pins around the shore and on the lake itself. 

“What about these?” asked Elrohir.  There were two red markers, and two green.

Peneldur placed a finger next to one of the green pins.  “These show where we found the two survivors,” he explained.  “This was where we found you,” he said to Legolas.  “The red ones are where we were too late – where we found the dead.  Now, if you can estimate where it was that your father went in, and where the boat capsized, it will give us a better idea of where to look tomorrow.”

Legolas looked at the map carefully, trying to remember how far they had sailed before disaster struck, what landmarks he had seen on the shore.  “About here,” he said finally.  “We’d just passed that promontory, and were about in the middle of the lake.”

“Right, that’s further north than I thought.  We’ll get someone up there tomorrow.”

Elrohir cocked his head to one side as he listened to something outside.  “I can hear horses!” he exclaimed in surprise.

“Can’t be,” grunted Peneldur.  “Horses aren’t allowed in the town, they’re stabled by the bridge.

Legolas had also heard the unmistakeable sound, and the commotion outside.  He straightened, staring at the outer door, an expression of mingled disbelief and incredulous hope on his face.


The ride back to Esgaroth passed in something of a blur for Thranduil.  He had been hoping desperately that Legolas would be safe and well – if worried – in the town, and Hathol’s confirmation that his son was indeed missing had been a crushing blow.  He had kept a close eye on the lake shores as they walked, and apart from a few small pieces of wreckage had seen nothing.  There were certainly no other victims of the storm, alive or otherwise.  Similarly, Elladan had reported seeing nothing during his own search.

By the time they reached the guard post that stood at the head of the bridge leading across to Esgaroth, it was past .  The guards were sitting by a fire in their hut, and did not notice the sound of the two horses galloping along the shore until they reached the bridge.  The thud of hooves on the wooden planks roused them at last.

“Here!  You can’t take horses across there!  You’ll have to leave ’em here!” protested one of the soldiers.

Thranduil looked back at the men with displeasure.  If any of his own guards had been so lax, they would have faced cleaning duties for a month.  “Do you intend to stop me?” he asked coldly, and rode on.

One of the guards looked as if he was about to do just that, but another pulled at his arm.  “Stop that!” he hissed.  “You know who that is, don’t you?  It’s the Elvenking.  I was here when they arrived a couple of days ago.  And I heard his son is one of the ones who’s dead.  Leave him be!”

Thranduil clearly heard the guard’s comment, and froze.  He turned, ashen-faced, to ask further questions, but Elladan stopped him.  “Lord Thranduil, it could be nothing more than idle gossip.  Rumour has you dead as well.  Any news, for good or ill, is reported immediately to the Master’s house.  We must go there first.”

They crossed the bridge and entered the town, riding through the market-place.  The taverns were still open, despite the hour, but there were none of the drunken antics of two nights before.  The mood was sombre.  Several of the silent drinkers looked up at the unusual sound of horses, and one leapt to his feet.

“Ma?  Ma!  What are you doing here?”  A young man stood before Hirrim, staring at Estella in amazement.  “And who’s that you’re with?”

“Ram?  Oh, Rammas, thank goodness it’s you!  I knew about the storm, and then that some of the boats were lost, and I was so afraid for you!”  Tears streamed down Estella’s face as Thranduil helped her gently to the ground, and she hugged her son fiercely.

“Tis all right, Ma, I’m fine, I weren’t out in it.  We’d finished by then.  But what’re you doing with him?” Rammas asked, glancing at Thranduil.

Thranduil interrupted the reunion.  “Lady Estella, I must continue.  Thank you for your help – and I rejoice for your good news.”  His face, however, was bleak as he spoke.  The guard’s words had extinguished the last embers of hope.

Estella seized her son’s hand.  “Ram, come with me.  I’ll tell you everything, but he’s looking for his son too, and I want to know as well.”

Thranduil rode numbly to the end of the market-place where the Master’s house stood.  Dismounting, he spoke quietly to Hirrim, who then stood obediently by the door.  Thranduil thrust open the door, strode across the entrance hall, and then hesitated for a long moment, his hand on the latch,  before finally opening the next door.

There were several people in the long room, gathered around a table at the far end.  Thranduil, however, saw only one.  He crossed the endless expanse, Legolas meeting him halfway, and crushed his son to him as if he would never let go.  Drawing a deep breath that was more nearly a sob, he murmured, “I thought I had lost you, elfling.  I thought you were dead.”

Legolas returned the embrace, hugging his father more tightly than he had since he was very young.  “No.  I am well,” he said shakily.  “But when you fell – I thought I would never see you again!  Oh, I missed you, Ada,” he added, returning to the childish term he had not used for many years.

At length, Thranduil raised his head, unashamed of the tears that brimmed in his eyes.  He caught sight of Estella, standing to one side with Rammas.  “This is my son,” he told her proudly. “This is Legolas.”

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