Deep in thought, and extremely concerned, Elrond slowly picked his way along the narrow path. Some things were clear. Whatever ailed Legolas was not nearly so simple as grief over his mother and sister; it was far more complex than that. And whatever it was, Legolas did not want to talk about it, not to anyone - especially not to his father. What could have caused such a deep rift? Thranduil himself had realised that something was wrong, but did not appear to appreciate the gravity of the situation, nor how deeply distressed his son was.
Elrond wondered if there was someone else who could shed light on the problem. But who? Calmacil? As a healer, he should have noticed any worries over Legolas’ behaviour, but Elrond realised that he had not seen Calmacil since his arrival. As he passed through the great hall, he noticed Tionel, deep in conversation with someone: Mireth. Of course. He stopped by them. “Excuse me. I wondered if I might talk with you for a moment?”
Tionel looked up, startled. “Of course, Lord Elrond. How can I help you?”
“Well, it is in fact your companion I wished to speak to.” He sat down alongside the pair. “Mireth, I understand from the king that you help to look after Legolas?”
She looked surprised to have been recognised, and nodded. “Yes, my lord.”
“I wondered if you had noticed anything - different - about him recently?”
Mireth nodded again. “Oh, yes. I was just telling Tionel how worried I am. I want to see Thranduil in the morning and talk to him. You have seen it too?”
Elron sighed as his fears were confirmed. But at least those who loved and cared for Legolas were aware of the problem. “I can see something is wrong. Very wrong. Do you know what it may be? Do you have any idea?”
Mireth did not reply immediately, but thought hard. “I first noticed something a few days ago,” she said slowly. “Until then, he seemed - as well as any of us expected him to be. But then - it was as if he just stopped eating, or sleeping, or talking to anyone. It was very sudden. But I have no idea why.”
“Not eating? But Thranduil said ...” Elrond stopped, recalling his conversation. No, Thranduil had assumed that Mireth was feeding Legolas if he missed a meal. The more he heard, the worse it sounded. “What about at night?”
“Like I said, he’s not sleeping properly, if at all. Oh, if I go in at night, he seems to be asleep - but I feel sure he’s pretending, so he does not have to say anything to me. And I scarcely see him on some days, he just disappears for hours on end!”
Tionel had been listening in concern. “I thought he seemed quiet, but I had not realised quite how bad things were with him,” he admitted.
Elrond sighed. All of this tied in with what Thranduil had said, but it was hardly reassuring. If Legolas was avoiding Mireth as well ... “What about Calmacil?” he asked. “What does he say?”
But both Tionel and Mireth were shaking their heads. “Calmacil was called away; a fever in the villages north of Esgaroth,” Tionel explained. “He left a few days before you arrived.”
“Then I must talk to Thranduil again. Lady Mireth, will you come with me?”
She thought for a moment. “No, Lord Elrond. I will try to find Legolas. He needs someone with him, I think.”
“Yes. If you find him, will you remind him that he promised to say goodnight? I shall be in the study or the library.”
Mireth nodded. “Of course, Lord Elrond. I just hope he listens to me.”
Elrond found Thranduil where he had left him, still in the study, still gazing into the fire.
“Thranduil? I met with Legolas a little while ago. He seems - very disturbed about something. Do you have any idea what is wrong?”
Thranduil, lost in thought, did not respond at first. Then he turned to look at Elrond, his eyes shadowed. “I wish I knew,” he said slowly. “I was thinking about what you said earlier. He does not talk to me, he seems to avoid me. Why? I think he is not eating, or sleeping either. Why did I not notice before?” His voice was full of despair. “Elrond, I am his father! Am I making such a bad job of it?” he pleaded. “I should have realised! I wish I knew what was wrong.”
Elrond was deeply puzzled. Legolas’ problems seemed to centre on his father, but Thranduil was genuinely bewildered as to what those problems were. There was something very wrong here. Between them, maybe, they could get to the truth of the matter.
“I wish he was here now,” Thranduil continued. “I wish I could talk to him, look at him, ask him what was wrong! Surely he would tell me?” He shook his head, and turned back to gaze at the fire again. “Elrond, I have not seen him all day again. You say you saw him? What - what did he say?” He sounded deeply distressed at having to ask the question of anyone else.
Elrond was about to reply, but broke off as there was a soft knock at the door. Legolas came hesitantly into the room. He gave a slight bow to Elrond, and said courteously: “Goodnight, Lord Elrond.” He seemed slightly ashamed of his earlier rudeness, but said nothing more.
Elrond smiled at him. “Goodnight, young elfling.”
Then Legolas turned to his father. He did not look at him directly, but keeping his head down, muttered “Goodnight, Sir.”
Thranduil looked at him, astounded. Where had this awful formality come from? And since when had his son called him ‘sir’? As he looked more closely, he saw the signs he should have noticed before. Legolas, always slender looking, was painfully thin. “Legolas? Look at me.”
Instinctively, Legolas began to raise his head, then stopped, but not before his father had noticed bright tears shining. The grey eyes were dull, lifeless. He was unnaturally pale, and looked dreadfully ill.
He was wasting away. His light was fading. Dear Valar, what was the matter with the child?
“Is something wrong?” It was a foolish question, Thranduil reflected; of course there was something wrong.
“No. Nothing.” Legolas said defiantly. “I’m going to bed.” But there was a distinct quaver in his voice. He was trying very hard not to cry. Across the room, Elrond was watching in concern, and went over to the door, which Legolas had left open. He closed it and stood in front of the doorway. Legolas began to looked panicked when he realised he was trapped, and could no longer run and hide.
Bewildered, Thranduil tried to recall when he had first noticed the change. Until a week or so ago, Legolas had seemed fine. Although subdued at times, which was to be expected, he had seemed to be coming to terms with Telparian’s death. But this strange stillness and remoteness had seemed to start around the same time as Elrond’s arrival. What else could have happened then to cause this change?
“I think there is. Will you tell me about it?” Thranduil spoke very gently.
“There’s nothing wrong. I’m all right,” Legolas insisted.
“I think not. Talk to me, please. You know you can tell me anything.”
“No! I don’t want to!” Legolas sounded agitated, and his voice was full of tears. The fragile wall of indifference he had built around himself was crumbling, eroded by the obvious concern of his father and Elrond.
By now very alarmed, Thranduil rose from his seat and dropped to his knees next to Legolas. “Look at me,” he said again. He tilted his son’s chin up so he could look into his face.
The tears were still there, and Legolas blinked, still determined not to cry, though he was losing the battle. “Please, Ada.” he whispered.
Thranduil brushed away a single stray tear from his son’s face. “Ai, Legolas, why are you so unhappy, little elfling?”
Legolas bit his lip. The enormity of his burden was getting too great to bear alone. “It’s because - because ...”
“Yes?” Thranduil urged. Maybe, finally, they would find out now.
“Because you don’t want me any more!” Legolas finished in a rush.
Thunderstruck, Thranduil sat back on his heels. “What? What do you mean? Why ever do you think that?”
“Because I heard you! You were talking to Elrond; I didn’t mean to listen, but I couldn’t help hearing! You said it!”
“Legolas, no! I would never say such a thing!” Thranduil protested.
“You did! I heard you!”
Bewildered, Thranduil exchanged a glance with Elrond. What on earth could Legolas mean? What had he heard that could cause this heartbreak? Across the room, a silent watcher by the door, Elrond shrugged, equally perplexed.
“And what was it I said?” he spoke very softly, anxious not to further upset the distraught child.
Legolas sniffed and took a deep breath, trying very hard to control himself. “It was the day Elrond arrived. You were both in your study. He asked if you would follow mother. And you said ...you said you would , if you could, and I - I was, was all that prevented you.” He faltered to a stop, having lost the fight against tears.
Thranduil gathered his son into his arms, murmuring incoherent reassurances. Legolas continued:
“So it’s all my fault, and I’m in the way, else you c-could go with mother and Lissuin, and be with them, but I’m stopping you, so you don’t w-w-want me any more.” His voice was muffled, blurred by tears and because he was crying hard now, sobs shaking his body, his face buried against his father’s chest.
His own heart aching, Thranduil picked up his son and carried him to a deep chair beside the window. He settled down, still holding Legolas close.
“Oh, no. No, no, no. That is just not true, will never be true. You know that, you know you do.” There was an imperceptible headshake.
Elrond turned to go, not wanting to intrude. The father in him hated to see any child so utterly miserable, but there was a relief in the knowledge that it seemed to have been caused by a simple misunderstanding, however devastating the consequences. He moved towards the two settled by the window to make his farewells. “I will leave you now. Send someone for me if you need me.” He dropped a hand to the top of Legolas’ head gently, but he made no response, still crying. Then, with a brief, reassuring touch to Thranduil’s shoulder, he left the room, closing the door silently behind him.
Thranduil returned his attention to his son. He spoke very softly and carefully, fearful of saying the wrong thing, of exacerbating the situation.
“I remember what I said to Elrond. I told him that I could never follow your mother because I could not bear to leave you. That does not mean you are stopping me. It means I want to stay. I want to stay with you.” Even more softly, scarcely audible, he added: “You are all I have left to live for now.”
Gradually, the sobs subsided, though an occasional tremor ran through Legolas’ body.
Thranduil continued talking, murmuring reassuringly, soft words of love and comfort. Finally, to Thranduil’s elation, Legolas finally slipped his arms around his neck and began to relax. His face was still buried against his father’s shoulder.
“Foolish, foolish child,” he chided. “Did you really think I no longer cared about you?”
There was a sniff. “I didn’t want to. But you said.”
“It was what you thought I said. What you thought I meant. Ah, Legolas. I have been so worried about you. I knew something was wrong. I wondered why you were so unhappy. I love you, you know that.”
There was a shaky nod. “Yes.”
“Never forget that. Never. I love you. I love you more than anything in the world.”
“Yes, really,” Thranduil reassured him with a smile.
Legolas finally raised his head, and looked at his father. “I love you too, Ada.”
They sat in silence for a time. Finally Thranduil added: “If you are ever worried, or think something like that again, talk to me first, yes? Promise me, little one”
There was another nod, and a sniff. “All right. I promise. But there was something else, too.”
“And what might that be?”
“Well - since Nana died, you never smile any more, or laugh. I don’t like it. Why not?”
Thranduil sighed. It was true, he realised. He could not remember the last time he had laughed, or even smiled. Not since - he stopped that line of thought. “I am sorry. It made me very sad. But you are right, I cannot be sad all the time. Tomorrow, we can go for a ride. Just the two of us. Would you like that? Or would you like to do something else?”
Legolas stirred again, and looked up. His eyes were red from crying, and his face was flushed and tearstained, but already he looked brighter. “Do you mean it? You won’t be too busy?”
“I promise. Now, you have to go to bed. Come on.”
He carried Legolas down the hallway to his rooms, and waited while he got ready for bed. Then Thranduil sat on the edge of the bed, relating a story about an elfling who had befriended a wolf cub, and took it home to his parents. Legolas pressed close against him, as if to make up for his earlier distance.
Legolas had several questions about the story. “Were his parents cross?”
Thranduil smiled. “What do you think? They were, just a bit.”
“What happened next?”
“Wait until tomorrow to find out. I can see you are nearly asleep.”
There was a huge yawn. “I’m not sleepy.”
“No, of course not.”
There was silence for a while, and Thranduil thought Legolas had fallen asleep. But he had been thinking. “Father? Do you think Mother will be lonely in Mandos’s halls?”
“No. She has grandfather Oropher and my mother for company, and she has little Lissuin to look after. How can she be lonely?”
“I miss her,” Legolas whispered.
“Yes, I know. So do I. And I expect that she misses us, too.”
There was silence again, for even longer this time. But Legolas, always insatiably curious, had more questions. “Ada, the bow I gave Lissuin. Do you think she will ever be able to use it? Will she grow up in Mandos’ halls, or stay a baby for ever?”
Thranduil had thought he was used to his son’s unending thirst for knowledge. But this was a question he had never anticipated, and had no answer for. “I ... really have no idea,” he said honestly, after a long pause. “But I think yes, she will be able to use your bow one day. And it would be better for Naneth if Lissuin grows up.” He smiled slightly. “Babies can be very hard work, you know.”
Thranduil waited until Legolas was finally asleep, his eyes half-lidded and vacant. He sat with both arms around his son, his heart torn with anguish at what the child had been thinking. He had been so wrapped up in his own grief, he had not noticed how Legolas was feeling. He had known something was wrong, but had never guessed at the depth of his anguish, or dreamt that he was inadvertently the cause.
It was late now, and he should go to see Elrond, to reassure him that matters had been resolved, but he feared to move in case it disturbed the sleeping child. He would stay here, just for a little longer ...
By the next morning, Elrond was growing a little concerned. Thranduil had not returned the night before, and his study had been empty, as was the library. Tionel had said he was not in his chamber, either.
He decided to go to Legolas’ room, to see for himself how the child was. Opening the door quietly, he went in. Legolas was still asleep, but he was not alone. Stretched out behind him on the bed, arms still wrapped around the sleeping elfling, was Thranduil. He, too, was asleep, his eyes glazed and unfocused.
By the look of things, Thranduil had convinced Legolas how utterly wrong he was.
Elrond looked at the sight for a moment, giving a slight smile as he remembered soothing one of the twins, or Arwen, after a bad dream. Then he turned and left, closing the door very quietly behind him.Stories> First > Previous > Next