Disclaimer: I should make a ‘rubber stamp’ that says "Not mine", so I can save time having to repeat myself.
King Thranduil held his wife tightly, as they stood near the pyre bearing their second son, Niralil. The young prince had been the captain of a patrol that had been nearly decimated during a fierce attack by orcs and wargs in the southern reaches of Mirkwood.
Behind the couple stood their oldest son, Siltar, and their two youngest sons, Ramalon and Corandir. They were surrounded by many of the silvan elves of the realm, who had come to offer their respect to the fallen prince and support the king and queen and their family. All in attendance wore the snow white robes of mourning.
The House of Oropher was devastated.
Thranduil’s face was dry and stony, his eyes the only thing that reflected the raw pain he felt in his heart and the sundering hole laid bare deep in his soul.
His sons were equally strong in their determination not to break down. Many tears had already been shed. Many more would follow before time could dull the ache, but they would fall only in private.
In contrast, every line of the queen’s body betrayed her feelings. Tears streamed down her cheeks and her breath hitched with the silent sobs that wracked her thin frame. Not even her beloved husband could comfort her.
There had been five other funerals in the last two days. Five other families, who mourned the loss of a warrior son killed defending them and Mirkwood.
Thranduil had attended them all. He had remained strong, offering as much comfort as he could to those distraught families, while forcing his own grief down to a level that allowed him to function.
There had been many such funerals over the years. Too many. For too many young elves had died in service to the battered and beleaguered realm. The king had never failed to be there. Yet this was the first time since his father had been killed many centuries before that a member of his own family lay ready to receive the flames that would purify his body here in Arda and send his spirit to Mandos for safekeeping until, hopefully, they could all be reunited in Valinor.
The burning was not necessary to finding Mandos’s Halls, but it was a tradition in the forest and a ritual that brought a small measure of closure to those left behind.
As the pyre was lit, a group of elves nearby lifted their voices in a song of sorrow and of hope. Fire and smoke were soon billowing up through the trees, who added their own silent lament to the heart of every elf present.
Once the flames died down and the elves in attendance drifted away, only the royal family was left.
Niralil’s ashes were quickly picked up by a breeze that blew them out across the forest floor and into the trees that he had loved. It was a fitting end to the earthly remains of one who had given his all to protect his home and those he loved.
The three remaining princes hugged both of their parents and then turned to go, leaving the couple alone.
The years passed.
The Shadow that had spread from Dol Guldur encroached farther and farther into the woodland realm, covering all in its path with blight and peril.
Thranduil and his three remaining sons led the fight to keep as much of the northern forest as whole and healthy as they could. It was a never-ending ordeal full of victories, standoffs and all too often defeats. Yet the elves persevered, keeping the enemy from ravaging the northern forest.
Ramalon and Corandir were both patrol captains, constantly in danger, as they engaged the minions of the Dark Lord Sauron on what seemed like a daily basis.
Siltar, the Crown Prince, who spent most of his time aiding his father in the palace regarding troops and trade, was also an experienced captain. As such, he had sometimes been called upon to go out on patrol to temporarily replace one captain or another who had been killed in battle.
The fight continued and more elves had fallen in the intervening years. More funerals had taken place. The king never failed to attend, even though each one reminded him of Niralil, whose loss had torn out a piece of his heart and the hearts of his entire family.
Still, despite the losses and the darkening forest, there was much beauty, joy and good times to be found in northern Mirkwood. Feasts and celebrations both old and new were faithfully held, allowing the elves to turn away from fear and sorrow, for a while, at least.
There was one joy still missing from the lives of the king and queen. None of their sons had as yet married, so there were no grandchildren for them to enjoy. They kept the hope that it was just a matter of time before little elflings would be seen and heard in the palace.
It was the first day of summer when Queen Andriel turned to her husband, as they strolled arm-in-arm in the palace garden, and abruptly said, "I want a child."
Thinking his wife was referring to one or more of their sons giving them grandchildren, he patted his wife‘s arm and said, "Yes,having young elflings around these halls again would bring joy to all of us." He couldn’t help but smile at the prospect.
Andriel stopped short, forcing Thranduil to stop, as well. She could tell by the way he spoke what he was thinking. It was something she had learned to do even before she had married him. It was one of the ways she had known he was the only one for her. "You do not know what I am talking about, do you?"
Frowning slightly, Thranduil replied, "Of course, I do. You want our sons to marry and provide us with many grandchildren. I wholeheartedly agree. Ramalon and Corandir both enjoy the company of too many ellith to think of settling down anytime soon, I’m afraid. Only Siltar seems to be serious about anyone right now. Even so, we may have to wait a while longer."
The queen laughed lightly and shook her head. "You really do not understand what I am suggesting."
Those words brought another frown to Thranduil’s face. He was well aware that his wife could figure out his thoughts much easier than he could figure out hers. He didn’t even try, shaking his head in defeat. "Then please enlighten me."
Looking her husband straight in the eye, Andriel said, "I want to have another child."
Thranduil couldn’t have been more shocked if someone had just told him Sauron himself had shown up at the palace for tea. "A child?"
"Yes, my love, a child."
"You and I."
"I believe that is the way it would work." With a hint of humor in her eyes, she added, "I certainly have no one else in mind."
Thranduil stood still and pondered what his wife had just said to him. Andriel wanted another child. That had never even crossed his mind. ‘Another elfling of our own,’ he said to himself.
Two other thoughts came into his mind at once. But before he could express either of them, Andriel said, "I am not asking for someone to take Niralil‘s place. No one can ever take the place of another. If I had asked for another child shortly after his death, I would have questioned my own motives. But it has been many years, Thranduil. My heart will never forget him, as I know yours will not. A new child would be his own person, not his brother’s replacement."
The look in Andriel’s eyes told Thranduil that she was sincere in what she said. "There is one other consideration we need to make."
The queen nodded. "Is it wise to bring another child into this world of encroaching darkness?"
It was uncanny how she had mentioned both of the issues that had come to him. She had obviously considered both herself before mentioning this request to him. "That crossed my mind," he finally said.
"I do not know what will happen with the Shadow. I only know that we would love this child with all our hearts and give him the best that we have to offer."
Thranduil quirked an eyebrow at his wife. "Him?"
The queen smiled and then said, "Or her." A daughter would be just as wonderful, but saying ‘he’ was easier than saying ‘him or her’ every time. Besides, having had four sons, it was just natural for her to refer to a child as ’he’.
Andriel stood quietly and watched her husband’s face closely, trying to gauge whether the idea of becoming parents again was appealing or appalling to him. In this she could not begin to interpret his thoughts.
As anxious as she was to know how he felt about the subject, she didn’t want to press him. This was a life-altering decision and clearly something that had to be digested carefully.
Finally, however, she could wait no longer. "Does the idea of having another child appeal to you at all, or are you opposed to it?"
After another moment of contemplation, Thranduil’s face lit up. "An elfling of our own," he said, expressing his earlier thought. "I think the idea is most appealing." He laughed. "Our sons will certainly be surprised."
"Not to mention the realm," Andriel commented almost to herself.
The royal couple continued their stroll. This time, however, it wasn’t the beauty of the garden or the glorious summer day that was making them both smile.
All during her pregnancy, Andriel had insisted that the child she carried would be another boy, and this time it had nothing to do with simplifying things by just saying ‘he‘. She certainly knew what having a boy felt like, so no one questioned her declaration.
Of course, it turned out that she had been right.
"It is a boy," Siltar and Corandir were told, as they waited outside of the room in which their new baby brother had just entered the world. The sounds of his lusty cries were easy to hear. Both princes smiled and hugged one another. "A brother!" they chorused together.
Ramalon was on patrol along the western border and was not due for a leave for two more weeks. Even though he was the son of the king, the impending royal birth could not release him from his duties, which would have been a hardship on the patrol he led.
Andriel smiled at her husband as she held the new baby in her arms. When she looked down at him, her eyes were filled with love and a joy she could hardly contain. "He is so beautiful," she said softly. "Every bit as beautiful as I imagined he would be."
"Aye, he is," a beaming Thranduil readily agreed in a voice that reflected his belief that they had made the right decision in having another child.
"We have been truly blessed by Ilúvatar," Andriel said, taking her finger and lightly stroking her new son’s soft cheek. With a wistful look on her face, she looked at her husband and added, "For all of our sons."
"We have indeed," Thranduil echoed in total agreement.
"He has your hair, my love." It was true. Her own hair was dark brown, and of the other princes, only Corandir had blond hair, though it was a dark honey hue rather than the light golden color of his father.
Thranduil looked at his new son, a broad grin on his face. Though he knew the feeling was only superficial and had no real bearing on how hie regarded any of his sons, he still couldn’t deny that having a son who looked so much like him gave him a small touch of pride.
Andriel laughed at the look on her husband‘s face. Not commenting on that, she changed the subject. "Shall we invite his brothers in to see him?"
Five minutes later, Siltar and Corandir were both competing to see who would be the first one to hold the newest member of the family.
"I am the Crown Prince," Siltar said in a mock haughty tone. "I will hold him first." Not giving his younger brother a chance to usurp his place, he reached out and gently took the baby in his arms. There was the same look of wonder that he had experienced with each of his brothers’ births plainly showing on his face.
Corandir, after much complaining, finally took his turn. He was as overjoyed as anyone. He rocked the baby in his arms.
Meantime, Siltar remarked, "You never did tell anyone what name you chose for him." He laughed. "We need to know what to call him, or he will end up being called so many things, he will never know if anyone is talking to him or not."
"In this family, he probably will be confused anyway," said Corandir, who had stopped cooing at the baby long enough to make the humorous comment.
Smiling, Andriel said simply, "Legolas."
The eldest son nodded. "Greenleaf. That is very appropriate for a wood elf."
"I like it," said Corandir. He softly repeated the name several times to the baby, as if making sure the youngest Thranduilion understood that that was the name he would answer to.
The newest member of the House of Oropher, it seemed, was going to be the center of attention for a long time to come. And his second oldest brother hadn’t even seen him yet.
Several years passed, and the youngest Mirkwood prince was growing from a baby into a young child with a distinct personality. He was a cheerful elfling, who laughed easily and often. He was also precociously curious and tended to lean toward the mischievous side. And oh how he loved to sing. He sang to everyone at any time, and if he was alone, he sang to himself.
Weather permitting, Thranduil would take his youngest son riding in the forest near the palace. At first he had held the baby in his arms, but as he grew, the elfling began sitting directly on the horse in front of his father.
Whenever Thranduil was too busy, one of the other princes, if they were home, took their little brother on his afternoon ride. Legolas looked forward to these rides as much as the king did. It soon became apparent that Legolas had an affinity for horses.
It was his mother, who took Legolas to the garden and showed him the joys of all the beautiful plants and flowers, as well as the many creatures to be found there. It was also apparent that the young elfling loved animals of all kinds.
Legolas asked about everything. His family members each told him stories, abbreviated, of course, to fit his level of understanding, though he was quite bright for his young age. They told him stories of the forest and of the history of elves, which were his favorites. They explained about the sun, the moon and the stars. Legolas’s curiosity was insatiable, and what was not told to him, he asked about. Even the palace’s workers were questioned on various subjects
The child’s happy nature spread a joy throughout the palace that had not been experienced there since Corandir had been an elfling, and that had been many years ago.
On the darker side, the fight for Mirkwood continued without letup. Elves lost their lives, as they always had, but no matter how many times a warrior’s body was committed to the flames, no one in the realm ever got used to it.
The youngest prince was not yet permitted to attend the funerals that were held, though death had also been explained to him in simple terms.
One autumn day, Thranduil came home from another funeral in the forest. He sat down in his study and stared at the far wall, lost in thought. This time it had been the son of one of the elves who had followed Oropher to the Greenwood. Both father and son had been close to Thranduil. As the king sat, he was not only thinking of his friends but of his own lost son.
While still in deep thought, the door to the study opened and Legolas ran in. "Ada! You are home." The young elfling ran to his father and launched himself up into Thranduil’s lap, hugging the elder elf‘s neck.
The young prince was smiling happily but then abruptly stopped and frowned. He reached out and touched his father’s cheek, pulling away a small wet finger. A sad look spread across the little face. "Ada, do no cry. I will make it better." He had never seen tears in Thranduil’s eyes before and had no idea why it was happening now, but he was sure he could make his father smile again.
Thranduil looked down at the earnest face of the elfling he held in his arms. It was not for the first time that the king silently gave thanks for this most precious gift.
Legolas had been told that he had had another brother that had died long ago, but all of his questions had always been met with the words, "When you are older."
"It is time, Legolas."
The confused elfling stared up at his father. It was too early for their afternoon ride, and he had already had his mid-day meal, so with a slight frown, Legolas asked, "Time for what, Ada?"
"It is time that I told you about your brother, Niralil."
Author's Chapter Notes:
This story was written for the Teitho Contest theme: Things to be Thankful For.