“I can’t go back.”
“I know – Legolas - your mother loved you…”
“Why do you tell me this – now? To make me stay?”
“Nay, to ease your suffering.”
There, he had said it, what he had known for so long and never said, for to do so would mean to speak of his own despair, and that he could not allow.
“I am accustomed.”
“I know, and it is enough, I say. ‘Tis late in coming but it is all I have been able to do.”
“Tis not enough.”
Thranduil’s heart weighed a thousand stone of a sudden, but he would not let it show. Wait, that was not right; he would, but he could not allow himself to feel. It was no longer in him, that innate ability to show emotion had fled in terror before the onslaught of pure agony.
“Wait! Let us not part thusly.”
He had to try, convince his son in some other way. He wanted Legolas at his side, needed him to keep him sane for he felt himself slipping …
“Why not? We have always parted ‘thusly’ - In silence. Today is no different.”
“I could have lost you today.”
“You could have lost me any day I went out into the Mirkwood. The only difference is that you were never there to see the hardship of our warriors.”
“That does not mean I was ignorant of it, Legolas.”
Silence, awkward and lasting – it had always been this way, since his queen had left for Angmar, never to return.
“Battles change elves, Legolas. I am no different.”
“Was it not enough then – that I suffered? It was you that had to suffer in order for that change to come about…”
And there it was. His son was right. It had taken that deep anguish, that soul-wrenching thought of losing the only thing that bound him to life, to bring him about.
“Yes – does that make it any less valid?”
He knew that it did, but he had to try.
“Less valid? No. Less heart-felt? Less selfless? Less significant? Aye.”
Perhaps we are too alike…
“You are broken. Incapable of giving of yourself. Unable to love unconditionally, unto your own sacrifice. It was not always thus.”
Thranduil smiled his acceptance, but it was not a joyful smile – it was twisted and bitter.
“In this you are right. I loved once, and with her passing my heart too, passed. I am a cold, hard shell, full of skepticism and veiled hatred. Unfeeling, half-dead.”
Legolas held his father’s gaze, for just one moment showing his surprise at this last statement for but a fraction of a second, before it was ruthlessly wiped away. Thranduil had seen it though.
“You are a good king, my Lord. To you I owe allegiance. Nevertheless, I must travel away for a time, see Tauriel to whatever end she chooses. Only then, will I consider my own future. For now I am Legolas of the Woodland realm, nothing more will I be until such time that things may one day change between us.”
“You are free to whatever end you choose, Legolas, but know this. You will always be Prince of the Woodland realm, you choose it or not. And I will be proud, whichever road you take.”
Surely he will see that I have changed, or that I can change – this is what I know he has always wanted to hear and that I never said. Surely now…
“Would that you had said these things to me many years ago, when I still yearned for your attention, for your approval, for your protection. I have always sought it, wished for nothing more than the love of a father to assuage the loss of a mother; a kind word, a proud smile, something to make me feel.”
“Feel. Anything. You have raised an elf that is as hard as wood, and just as unyielding, cold even, save for the odd moment when perhaps the vague memory of my mother saves me from injustice and wanton cruelty.”
Too late? Is it truly too late? Nay, it cannot be. I saw his hesitation, I saw but a glance of his heart, he feels something, however much it is buried under many layers of armor.
“Your mother loved you, more than her own life… and I – I …”
I cannot say it – damn it!
“Perhaps one day,” interrupted Legolas, for his eyes were suddenly too full, too warm. “One day, when you open your heart and speak of it, of that which has wrenched us apart…will it ever come?” he asked wistfully, his head cocked to one side.
“I do not know.”
I do not know…
“I must leave. I…”
It had sounded vulnerable but he no longer cared, he was losing the battle and his son would leave, in spite of what he had said. The ground beneath his feet was slipping away…
“I will see you again.”
His heart stopped for a moment and he felt giddy. ‘I will see you again.’ Is it enough? Enough to keep me here and rule my people justly? He looked to the floor and then hopefully back at his son who did not smile and did not cry, but simply stared back. Finally, he nodded respectfully, and then turned resolutely upon his heel, and strode away.
Thranduil breathed deeply as he watched his son leave in search of Tauriel. He would not turn his back on his father, for however cold Legolas had become, he still remembered. His heart clenched painfully at the thought of the son he had once cherished openly, and then had lost, for even though Thranduil still drew breath and had stood before his son in kingly magnificence just moments before, everything that had once made him great – had faded – one fateful day upon the barren lands of Angmar.
His own eyes filled with stubborn tears that would not fall but they were not all of grief. ‘I will see you again,’ he had said, and Thranduil knew his son had not spoken in vain.
For now, he would gather his people and return home, forget the jewels of his queen for they would not bring her back to him. And then perhaps, when all was done, he would travel to Angmar and do that which he had postponed for the last millennia; he would say goodbye.
The Barren Lands of Angmar by Alpha Ori