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The Shadow Rising

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“My son is in a tree.” Thranduil’s face was buried in his hands, his voice muffled.

“Yes.” Two remorseful advisors (and occasional baby-sitters to the young prince Legolas) stood just below the throne; their eyes searching the room for any means of escape; a staircase, a doorway, a convenient orc with an arrow for each of them, really anything would have done at that point. However, there would be no easy exit for them now.

“My son, my son who is still learning to walk properly, is stuck in a tree, and you two cannot get him down?!” Thranduil had raised his head to face them again, and both advisors had been hoping he wouldn’t do that but the day simply wasn’t going their way.

One advisor, a female Silvan elf with blonde hair and brown, terrified eyes stepped forward. “Sir, I think we’ve all underestimated the prince. He’s rather, well limber and quick and, well once he started walking did any of us really think we had a chance at containing him?” She stopped, and looked to her king’s eyes in the hope that there would be a glimmer of understanding for their plight. There was none.

“My lord, if I could—“The second advisor, a male Silvan elf with red hair, decided to try his hand at salvaging their jobs (and perhaps their lives.) Thranduil stepped down from his throne and quickly pushed past the two, fuming with anger.

Outside near the Great Gates is where the three found the young prince, giggling and happy as could be, armed with his toy bow and arrows at a tree limb nearly six feet away from the hard ground. Thranduil’s head once again had fallen into his hands, and he was sighing with such frustration that his two advisors feared he might collapse a lung.

“Legolas, Ada’s here now. Please climb down carefully, and I promise there won’t be any punishment. Just please get down from the tree.” Thranduil didn’t often show much in the way of gentleness and kindness, but he was the utter opposite with his son. The elfling was all he had for family now, and he seemed to worry constantly about losing the child who was only near three years in Middle-earth.

Legolas swung his small legs happily against the tree branch at his father’s yelling, and instead of replying or climbing down he chose to shoot one of his five arrows at the male advisor on the ground. He hit his mark with terrifying accuracy, and Thranduil had to hide a smile at his son’s talent, mostly for the sake of the advisor, who had lost enough of his pride and dignity that day.

The female advisor stepped forward, ignoring her colleague who was moaning and groaning as he clutched at the arm that Legolas’ arrow had bounced off of. “My Prince, your father is very worried. There will be other days to climb trees; please come down.” Her statement was rewarded with another of Legolas’ arrows bouncing off of her forehead.

Thranduil found himself feeling sorry for them now. “You two may go. I am not pleased with either of you but—“he peered up at Legolas, who was waving happily down at him. “—I am starting to understand the difficulty this situation entails. Go and rest; I’ll be keeping Legolas with me for the rest of the day, and tomorrow as well.” The two rubbed at their Legolas-inflicted bruises, then walked back through the gates, more grateful for the break than they would ever let Thranduil know.

Legolas, in the meantime, had carefully climbed up to a slightly higher branch. “Ada, look!” He crowed, waving his hands excitedly. Thranduil’s heart leapt into his throat as his son tottered on the branch, a panicked look on his face. Thankfully, he recovered his balance, but now Legolas seemed to realize the danger he was in, and curled up against the body of the tree.

It seemed that Legolas wouldn’t be coming down on his own, and Thranduil didn’t feel it fair to call the advisors back and have them attempt to drag his son down. There was really only one solution to the problem.

“Guard! Take this to my quarters, and see that it isn’t damaged, will you?” Thranduil called to the nearest guard, hidden near the gates. He handed over his crown, which the guard took with careful reverence and trotted through the gates. His crown taken care of; Thranduil prepared to climb. He certainly wasn’t unaccustomed to the act, and had done it more than once during battle with a sword in each hand; yet it seemed a difficult task now. Nonetheless, his son was scared and whimpering stuck in a tree, and he had to put his own fears aside.

It was a kindness that there were no other guards patrolling the immediate area to see him grunting and groaning as he hefted himself through the branches; one Thranduil was quite thankful for. Legolas had stopped whimpering though, and seemed to think his father was joining the adventure.

“Up high, Ada! Look!” Legolas pointed to the ground, a grin plastered across his face as Thranduil pulled himself up onto the branch.

“Yes, Legolas. Very high up, for you. Which is why I was asking you to come down; you could have fallen.” Thranduil couldn’t help himself; he scooped the elfling up in his arms and clutched him close. His wife had made Legolas’ toy bow; Thranduil swore he could smell her perfume on it still—though he knew he was tricking himself. She had faded not long after Legolas’ birth. Whether it had been the birthing itself, or simply the added stress of becoming a parent he did not know, but either way she had not been strong enough to stay in Middle-earth. To stay with them. Thranduil’s heart ached at that thought of her, and he put those thoughts aside. He still had a kingdom to run, and a son to look after.

Carefully, with Legolas clinging to his neck and the toy bow and arrows nearly stabbing his ears, Thranduil clambered down from the tree. “It will be dark soon. We need to go inside Legolas. Your nurse will be waiting to get you ready for bed, and you must be tired after such an adventure.” Thranduil pressed his lips to his son’s head, and held him close. Legolas, however, seemed rather upset at his father’s idea.

“Want to stay with you.” Legolas’ little voice trembled, and a bit of Thranduil’s heart broke at that. His son’s small hands were balled up in the silk of his robes, and he clearly didn’t want to let go. It would be cruelty to simply send the elfling off to bed now.

“You can stay with me then. I’ve still got some work to look over in the library, if you’ll help me with it?” Legolas looked up to his father and nodded, then pressed his face back into Thranduil’s shoulder. Thranduil knew Legolas wouldn’t be awake much longer; already he was rubbing at his eyes and yawning. But he would let Legolas fall asleep on his shoulder, and would only put the elfling in his own bed once his shoulder had gone numb and he was tired himself. He could never let himself forget that Legolas only had him now, that his son already thought he had hung the moon and sun and wanted so badly to impress him (which was likely the explanation for the tree-climbing adventure that evening.)

Thranduil hummed an old lullaby softly as they made their way to the library, which was lit softly with a few candles and lanterns. Legolas murmured a few words in his sleep, as tired as could be, his toy bow forgotten and dropped by the inside of the front gates, and Thranduil hugged him close again. The reports spread across the library’s table would prove what he feared, that there were reports of dark creatures milling about in the forest, and that once again he would need to do all he could to keep his people, and now his son, safe.

As he looked through the reports once more, the hours passing surprisingly quickly, Thranduil felt a shiver of fear in his heart. Legolas wriggled in his arms, seeming to sense his father’s discomfort. Thranduil wondered just how he would manage to keep his son from the terror of the shadow, how he would keep the curious child indoors on the days when the woods seemed too dangerous even for the strongest of their warriors. The answers were not easy to come by, and did not seem ready to reveal themselves yet. It mattered not to Thranduil at that moment; his son was safe in his arms, and knew so little of the danger that was out there beyond their kingdom.

“I will not fail you.” Thranduil murmured as he pulled Legolas closer to him, and rose to put the elfling to bed. The morning would be sooner than either of them expected, and Thranduil needed to sleep as well. On the way to Legolas’ room, Thranduil had a change of heart. A quick word to the nurse had Legolas’ bed pulled into Thranduil’s room, and Thranduil was able to quiet the fear in his heart for the rest of the night, knowing that his son was close and as safe as he could be so long as they were near each other.