Tears Like Rain

Chapter 3: Spinning Out of Control

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    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 discontent.
    The controversy caused by Oropher and Thranduil’s disastrous decision 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  He had become much more quiet and reserved over the past few months; withdrawn almost.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 moments.  “Thranduil, about your brother...”
    Thranduil closed his eyes.  “I know about my brother, 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 hunters gone...”
    Elvéwen hesitated, knowing the reaction her next suggestion 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,” Elvéwen said 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 said quietly.
    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 week.”
    Elvéwen frowned disapprovingly at the assessment.  “He’s 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 King.”
    “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 question.
I thought it would help me see things clearly
but instead of helping me to see,
I look around and it’s like I’m blinded.

I’m spinning out of control, out of control,
spinning out of control...

Where should I go?
What should I do?
I don’t understand what you want from me!
And I don’t know if I can trust you,
I don’t understand what you want from me.


    “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 unprotected rear 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 accusingly.
    “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 belong to!”
    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 grunt.  “Now 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 that meant.
    “Well?” Doriflen’s voice was sharp and made the younger elf jerk.  “I’m waiting.”
    “I-I...” Legolas bit his lip, his eyes glued to the floor.  “I don’t know what I did wrong, please tell me, Vede. I won’t do it again, I swear!”
    “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 up.
    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 would do. 
    “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 about this?
    “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 move onward,” 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 watched the 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 closed doors.
    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 control,
I try to focus but everything’s twisted.
And all along I thought you would be there
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,” Thranduil said coolly.  “Pray take a seat so we may continue without further interruption.”
    “Yes, Father,” Legolas barely whispered, looking down and slipping 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 interrupted.
    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 had today...
    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 the discomfort.
    Thranduil thought that Legolas was being fidgety and inattentive 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 necessarily angry.  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 with warning.  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 boy’s head.
    Legolas’ head popped up quickly and he wiped his eyes, hoping his father wouldn’t notice.
    Thranduil’s brows furrowed.  The sight of his son’s glistening 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 your life 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 son’s 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, understand?”
    “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 forgiveness.
    “Just don’t let it happen again, Legolas, all right?” Thranduil said 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 down.
    “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 see.”
    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 him further.
    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 dangerous situation.
    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.

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