The king knows the whispers around the Woodland Realms all too well, they’ve been making the rounds for hundreds of years. The prince’s hair, the matter of centuries of gossip among the population. Unlike the king, the prince is not aware of it.
It had been an idle thought so many years ago, a flash of an idea that had struck Thranduil when he’d been brushing Legolas’ hair after a night in the king’s quarters. Combing his son’s hair had become a ritual at some point – untangling the knots in the fine, white-blonde strands of hair, returning it back to its silken texture. A form of intimacy that was different, yet no less intense than what they’d shared just thirty minutes ago.
Thranduil had been staring at a bite on Legolas’ chest that was halfway obscured by the hem of the silken robe he’d pulled over his otherwise naked form. The mark would lay well-hidden beneath any clothing, as it should. Bite marks were not appropriate for a future king to flaunt, even if Thranduil sometimes wished for a visible mark to scare away those who pursued Legolas in vain hopes of attracting his attention. But their type of relationship was ill-favoured among the elves: one did not lie with their next of kin. Thranduil might be king, but not even he could challenge his people so openly.
He’d started weaving Legolas’ hair into his usual simple plait when he remembered an old craft of the Sindarin he’d been taught when he was still young. The art had lost its significance over the centuries and was barely practised nowadays. His son was likely even unaware of its existence. It veered into obscure knowledge not many would still know to interpret correctly.
„Legolas, allow me to try something different with your hair."
„Of course,“ his son said and sat up straighter to give him better access.
Even with the knowledge lying dormant in his mind for centuries, Thranduil remembered the intricate patterns that would send a message that was ambivalent, yet unmistakable. He braided and slung the sides into a statement that warned the onlooker to keep their distance. Into the half-ponytail in the middle Thranduil weaved the complicated pattern of Woodland kings, the arrangement modest enough that Legolas could wear them without looking out of character. Connecting the sides with the middle signified the relation between the two, warning lesser elves away from the prince by order of their king. To the more naive, it would look like a sign of protectiveness. Others might suspect possessiveness of a different kind, but would never be able to tell with conviction.
It was the perfect solution.
Centuries later, Thranduil regards his latest handiwork as his son bows before the throne with the rest of his guardsmen. He’s dared to be bolder this time, and has included a pattern that implied a claim upon the body of the bearer. The guardsmen look at Legolas’ hair with curiosity, their eyes darting back and forth between Thranduil and his son.
They wonder if they are putting too much stock into old lore and if the style was chosen for aesthetic purposes and the suggestion of an illicit affair between their king and prince was but by accident.
Never would they dare open their mouths and speak it out loud. It would be a scandalous claim, one that could have you sent to the dungeons. Defamation of the king over outrageous whispers and at best circumstantial evidence. None of them would say a word, much less dare approach his son anymore; he can see it written over all of their faces.
Up high on his throne, Thranduil smirks.