Family Trouble

Chapter 2: Rebellious Prince

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Choking and coughing Aragorn batted at the air in front of his face trying to clear the dust from the immediate area.  The shallow cavern was too confined to escape the polluted air and he had to wait for the silt to clear on its own.  A few of the smaller rocks tumbled down the face of the wall in front of them, scattering across the floor of the cavern.  One smashed down forcefully on Aragorn’s left ankle and he stifled a cry as the boulder settled against his leg. 

The rocks stopped moving with a groan, readjusting to new constraints and shifted weights.  Aragorn surmised with sudden clarity that the townsfolk had probably never intended for he and Legolas to survive the cave-in.  They were hoping that the shallow indentation the two had been thrown into would have collapsed on them and killed them instantly.  He wasn’t sure if surviving the cave-in was a blessing or a curse.  He was pretty sure they wouldn’t last much longer.  Without water and food it would be a matter of days.  If their supply of air was cut of by the shifting rock wall, it could be a matter of hours. 

Pain shot up his leg from where it rested under the boulder.  He noticed that Legolas was curled into a fetal position trying to catch his breath. 

Gently grabbing the elf’s shoulders he pulled the prince back into his lap. 

“Legolas?” The soft question sounded strangely loud in the stillness that had reoccupied the cave.  “Are you all right?  Where you injured?”  He brushed blonde strands of hair away from the elf’s face.  Rock dust coated them both, smudging their faces a sooty grey. 

The elf simply nodded by way of answering.  He had finally gotten his breathing under control and was trying to shunt the pain aside. 

“Legolas?” Aragorn’s voice took on a more worried tone. 

“It is well,” Legolas panted softly.  “I just couldn’t catch my breath for a moment.”  He relaxed back into Aragorn’s arms, his eyes fearfully glancing at the rock wall that hovered over them.  “I do not think they meant for us to survive this long.” 

“I agree.  Let us hope that they will be found wrong on all accounts and we will escape,” Aragorn commented wryly.  He winced as his ankle began to throb. 

“What is it?” Legolas asked. Shifting, he eased himself up so he could see the far wall.  A dark irregular shape rested against Aragorn’s leg, pinning his ankle in place.  The prince scooted stiffly around and placed his booted foot on the rock and kicked at it trying to push it off. 

Seeing his intent, Aragorn placed the heel of his right boot against it.  Together they both pressed the same side of the rock, sliding it slightly to the right and tipping it off its base.  It rolled a pace towards the rockface and stopped giving Aragorn enough room to pull his foot away from it.  His ankle throbbed worse now that it was freed and he hissed as the blood rushed back into his foot. 

“Is it broken?” Legolas asked.  He leaned back against the ranger’s chest and held his breath as his body relaxed once more.  The beating he had endured was beginning to take its toll. 

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  It just hurts right now.  It’s hard to tell,” Aragorn replied.  He leaned forward, around Legolas, as far as he could and felt his ankle.  It was beginning to swell.  “It could just be badly bruised.”  With a sigh he rested back against the rock wall and gazed at the dark ceiling.  His thoughts coalesced in his mind as dark as the rock prison his body was trapped in. 

Silence fell between them for a span.  Legolas knew if they didn’t get help soon, Aragorn would fade before he did.  If the human died and there was no rescue, he would not linger long after.  His hand tightened on the man’s where it rested against his chest. 

Aragorn’s dark train of thoughts was broken and he glanced down at the elf.  His right hand absently brushed the prince’s hair away from his forehead.  There was nothing to say; they both knew the truth of their situation. 

The air in the cavern had noticeably dropped a few degrees; it must be night time without.  The fact that the air had cooled gave Aragorn a bit of hope.  At least somewhere there must have been an opening that allowed fresh air into the cleft. 

“I bet your father would have a few words to say about our predicament right now,” Aragorn joked hesitantly. He desperately needed to refocus his thoughts and he was sure the elf he held was in no better shape. 

A soft short laugh was his answer. “Oh that he would,” Legolas concurred.  “Would you like to know how he responded to my forays into the southern reaches?” 

“Yes very much please,” Aragorn encouraged.  Settling his back more comfortably he closed his eyes and listened to the elf’s voice as Legolas picked the tale back up. 


Young prince Legolas had his arms folded across his chest and his feet planted.  He was not moving on his own.  

Captain Amil-Garil and the other soldier looked at one another and shared a silent sigh.  Easily picking the younger elf up by the elbows, they carried him between them into Thranduil’s audience chamber where the elven king was waiting for them.  

Legolas did not resist them, but he did not help them either and when they set him on his feet before his father’s throne his stance did not change, save that his gaze remained firmly riveted to the arm of Thranduil’s large seat. 

Legolas didn’t need to see the look on his father’s face to know what was there.  Disappointment, anger, disgust... he’d seen them all before.  The prince tightened his fists against the side of his chest.  

Raniean and Trelan, far less resistant, let the remaining two guards prod them gently into the room.  The two young elves looked nervously between Legolas, the king and the guards.  Their loyalties lay with their friend, but they were a little frightened about what they had gotten themselves into.  

“We found them in the woods near the... near the last spider sighting,” Amil-Garil reported dutifully.  Thranduil knew exactly where his son and the other two young elves had been found, not by what the captain of his guard said, but rather by what he left unsaid.  Of course, Legolas had been out by Three Corners... in the glade where his little sister had died almost five standard years ago.  Thranduil had forbid the boy to go back again after he had nearly gotten killed hunting there alone the last time.  Legolas had defied him no less than six times now.  This had to stop. 

“They resisted your attempts to take them back no doubt,” Thranduil’s voice was hard as his eyes bored into his son, but Legolas carefully ignored him. 

“Yes sire, they did,” Amil-Garil had no choice but to acknowledge. 

“Well, Legolas?” Thranduil’s eyes were locked on the boy.  “What were you doing out there this time?” 

“Hunting spiders,” Legolas’ tone was defiant; he was still staring at the arm of the chair.  

Raniean and Trelan shifted uneasily and looked at one another.  Legolas didn’t have to make things worse... but they said nothing.  They knew how hard Legolas had taken the death of his sister and when his mother decided that she could no longer remain in Middle-earth and passed over the sea it had been even harder. 

“I see,” Thranduil paced on his dais, his hands clasped behind his back.  “After I specifically forbade you to do so.  Just as you were specifically not supposed to leave your chambers until I gave you leave to do so in the first place.  So what do you do?  Immediately sneak out, round up your friends and go looking for danger!  What am I supposed to do with you, Legolas?  And you two...” the king’s gaze fell upon the prince’s friends. 

“Raniean and Trelan did not know I was acting against your wishes,” Legolas defended quickly. 

Thranduil sighed, his gaze shifting between his son and the other two young elves. 

Trelan and Raniean bowed out of respect for the king when his eyes lighted on them.  For a moment the elder elf’s lips almost twitched when he saw their faces; they were obviously scared out of their wits.  It wasn’t every day a young elf was arrested by the palace guards and dragged before the king after all, even if these particular two young ones did have a penchant for getting into trouble with his son. 

“Then that makes it worse,” Thranduil answered.  He shook his head, his face sobering as he turned back to his son.  “It wasn’t enough that you recklessly threw yourself into danger, you dragged others who trust you into it with you.  What if someone had gotten hurt?  You would have been responsible, Legolas.” 

Legolas’ jaw tightened and his eyes stung in a way he couldn’t control.  “Like Nana and Celesté?” the young elf’s words were softly uttered between clenched teeth, but Thranduil heard them clearly. 

The king’s face tightened as the pain that was ever near the surfaces stabbed him viciously.  Legolas had no business bringing them into this!  Yes, Legolas had lost, but he had lost too and it was no excuse for the boy to be acting up like he was.  They had to be strong, they had to go on, for the people, for Mirkwood... they had to go on.  Oh Valar, it hurt though.  Pain lanced through Thranduil’s heart at the mere mention of the names, bringing a sharp edge to his tone. 

“Don’t change the subject, Legolas.” The king’s eyes were hard with hurt.  That wound was still too raw, too open... for both father and son. 

“Is it changing the subject?” Legolas raised his eyes to meet his father’s for the first time and Thranduil found himself looking into tumultuous blue seas of swirling, raging emotions.  He almost wasn’t sure he knew Legolas anymore.  Had he lost his son as well as his wife and daughter? 

The king let his breath out slowly, frustration welling up in every pore of his being.  

“Out,” he ordered the guards and other elves to leave.  He and Legolas needed to have a talk and they did not need an audience.  “Take Raniean and Trelan back to their families.  If they are in any trouble over this let their parents deal with it.  I have no charges for them since I am quite sure that my son is fully responsible for any contravention of rules or law that occurred.” 

The guards bowed and left, taking the other young elves with them.  Raniean and Trelan looked relieved and worried at the same time, stealing glances back over their shoulder towards their friend before they were ushered firmly out of the room. 

After the door shut behind them, Thranduil slowly descended the dais until he was standing eye-level with his son.  “Legolas, I want to know what is going on with you, and I want to know now.  This behavior you have been exhibiting is totally unacceptable and I hope you realize that.” 

Thranduil didn’t understand what was going on in the boy’s head and he couldn’t deal with it.  Legolas had never been this much trouble his entire life, never.  He was such a good child, always wanting to please, always respectful, but now... 

Legolas didn’t answer.  He didn’t know what to say.  He didn’t actually want to make his father angry, but lately there just seemed no way to avoid it.  Thranduil never talked to him anymore unless it was to yell at him over something.  They had hardly said three decent words to one another since Elvéwen left for the havens.  Legolas didn’t know what he was doing wrong to garner such perpetual disfavor, but frustration had caused him to give up trying to figure it out.  If his father were going to be constantly angry with him, he might as well give him something to be angry about. 

Father and son loved each other very much, but they had not always been the best at showing it. On more than one occasion Elvéwen had been the mediator between husband and son, smoothing over all those little bumps and helping them to see each other’s true motives.  It was as if she were the lifeblood that kept her family thriving. 

But now Elvéwen was gone... leaving a huge, bleeding gap in the small, broken family. 

“Legolas, I know you have been through a lot these past few years,” Thranduil continued, his voice softening ever so slightly.  The Elvenking was trying to see things from his son’s point of view, but his own heartache kept welling up and getting in the way, turning everything he tried to say into a reprimand.  “But that is no justification for the way you’re acting and don’t think I will accept it as such.  You are almost an adult, Legolas; you have to put the past behind you and go forward.  Killing every spider you can find will not bring them back, Legolas...” Thranduil’s eyes were sad.  “We’ve been through this before, my son, you have to let it go.  It is no different then when you came back from-” the king stopped himself.  “When we have gone through other hurts or trials.  I expect you to be stronger than this.  I expect you to move on.” Thranduil looked away, remembering the bloodied, hurting young man who had been dragged home from Dorolyn almost thirty years ago now.  Legolas had shown remarkable courage and strength in the way he had handled his recovery from that situation.  As painful as it had been, it had caused none of the problems they were facing now. 

Thranduil needed Legolas’ help to keep going, to keep the kingdom going and not let it fall prey to his personal heartbreak.  He needed the boy to help him, not make more problems.  This blatant rebellion the young elf had been exhibiting of late was driving the king up the wall and making an already difficult situation almost unlivable.  Thranduil expected more of Legolas than this... he expected more of himself than this. 

Legolas knew what his father was thinking; he saw it in his eyes when he looked away.  The young elf balled his fists tightly and dropped his gaze.  His father had spent so much time after his return from Dorolyn trying to convince Legolas that what had been done to him had not changed him or the way he was loved and respected by his family, but when Thranduil looked at him that way, at moments like this, Legolas couldn’t help but wonder if he really meant any of it.  Deep down Legolas feared that it really did matter.  Yet he knew that wasn’t what stood between he and his father right now.  No.  This was worse and it was slowly eating Legolas’ heart out.  He knew exactly what his father blamed him for... what he blamed himself for... 

“Move on?” Legolas echoed disbelievingly.  Didn’t his father care at all about what had happened?  “You mean forget, like you have?”  

It was a mistake to say.  A large mistake. 

Thranduil rounded on the younger elf with pain-fueled fire in his eyes.  “Elvéwen and Celesté are gone Legolas!  I will NEVER forget them but neither can I afford the luxury of wallowing in the past!  I don’t know what you hope to accomplish by insisting on going out there to chase the spiders like this, except perhaps getting yourself killed as well.  But I want it to stop.  And I want it to stop right now!” Thranduil ordered firmly.  He would never show it, but deep down he was terrified, terrified that he was going to lose Legolas as well.  That would be a blow he could not take.  That would kill him.  

Legolas’ features were unmoved.  Thranduil’s jaw tensed, knowing what that look meant.  “I mean it Legolas!  This has got to stop!  I forbid you to hunt spiders and you disobey.  I forbid you to leave the palace and you take no heed.  I tell you not to leave your room and where do the guards find you?  Out in the forest again!  You are not leaving this room until you promise me that you will not go out again until I give you leave to do so.” 

Legolas’ hard gaze was focused on the wall across the room.  He never broke his word once it was given; therefore he did not intend to make promises he had no intention of keeping.  He did not wish to trade angry words with his father, no matter how riled up he was inside.  Despite what the king thought, the young elf did respect him, greatly.  The prince kept his voice low and quiet, but very decided nonetheless. 

“I cannot make any such promise until all the brood that attacked Mother and Celesté are dead.” 

Thranduil threw up his hands.  “Legolas, our guards scoured the forests for months; they are all dead.  Any new spiders are just that, new spiders.  And you, young elf, will not speak to me like that.” 

Legolas pressed his lips together.  It didn’t matter how he spoke to his father; Thranduil never seemed to want to hear.  Legolas knew it was because the king blamed him - because what had happened to his sister and his mother was his fault.  That was why Thranduil couldn’t stand to look at him anymore, he knew it.  He knew it and it was killing him slowly inside. 

“How would you prefer that I spoke to you, your Highness?  Would you rather I scrape and grovel like the rest of your slaves?” Pain made the young prince’s words carry much more bite than he would have wished.  

Thranduil turned sharply and Legolas flinched, half-expecting to be struck for his insubordinate words, half-thinking he deserved it. 

Thranduil did not slap Legolas although for a moment he had had half a mind to do so.  The king just pierced the young prince with his glare.  Yes, he knew Legolas was hurting, he would never punish the boy for hurting, but if Legolas let that hurt continue to lead him down this reckless path of destruction... It could not be allowed.  Something had to wake the boy up.  

“I am serious, Legolas, I want you to promise me that you will not leave the palace again until I say you may,” Thranduil’s voice was very quiet. 

Legolas just looked away, refusing to answer.  He was not a child, he was an adult.  If he chose to hunt in the woods then that was his business.  Thranduil could not order him around forever. 

Thranduil’s look darkened.  “Fine.  If that is the way you want it.”  Clapping his hands loudly the king summoned the guards standing outside the doors.  “Take the prince down to the dungeon,” the king instructed the guards tersely.  “Lock him up.  He is to be treated no differently than anyone else.” 

Legolas’ eyes had fixed on his father in semi-shock, but his gaze was quickly darkening to match the flashing look on the older elf’s face. 

Thranduil shook his head when he saw his son’s look.  “Legolas, if I cannot trust you to obey me of your own free will, then you leave me no choice.  Take this time to think about the path you have been choosing with your reckless behavior and where it leads.” 

The smoldering ire behind Legolas’ icy blue eyes told Thranduil that the prince was not appreciating the lesson he was trying to teach him.  Well, that’s just the way it was then.  Thranduil would rather have Legolas alive and hating him then dead from his own foolishness. 

The guards glanced at one another uneasily but saluted and turned their prisoner towards the door.  Legolas allowed them to lead him but the set look on his face was a dare, seeming to ask just how long they thought they could keep him against his will. 

“And Amil-Garil,” the king stopped the guards in the doorway with a sigh, having read Legolas’ thoughts on his face.  “If he tries to escape, give him twice the normal punishment.” 

Legolas’ shoulders stiffened but he did not turn.  His father hated him.  If he had had any doubts about it before, he knew it for certain now.  The young elf was angry yes... but just below the anger that he held up to protect his vulnerable emotions, his heart was slowly breaking.  His mother and sister were gone and his father hated him.  And he had no one to blame but himself. 

Thranduil had no intention of ever letting the guards lay a harmful finger on his son, but he felt sure the mere threat of that kind of humiliation would keep Legolas from trying anything idiotic.  

The guards had never looked quite so unhappy or uneasy about fulfilling their orders, but they dutifully put the prince into one of the dungeon cells and closed the door behind him. 

The instant he was alone in that small, dark room Legolas’ strong facade crumbled and he felt the familiar chill of terror sweep up his spine.  Loathing himself for his own inner weakness, the young elf sat down in the corner and drew his knees up to his chest.  He couldn’t look at the bars; he couldn’t think about the dark... he mustn’t... The prince shivered slightly.  He hated being imprisoned.  He hated it.  Burying his face against his knees, he rocked slowly back and forth in the darkness. 

If Thranduil had only known the kind of emotional terror being locked up still evoked in his son, he would never have done this.  He would never have willingly done anything that he thought would actually cause the boy pain.  But Legolas was good at hiding his own fears and feelings, so the king was unaware of how his son felt about small, dark, underground places.  He had never gotten in-depth details from Legolas or anyone else that would have let him know how much Legolas had come to fear prisons and anything that resembled a cave.  In his mind Thranduil saw this as nothing but a reprimand, a chance for Legolas to cool off before he did something truly stupid. 

Besides, Legolas wouldn’t be there long. Thranduil only intended for him to spend the night down there, then in the morning he would release him.
But sometimes the best laid plans go horribly awry.