Rather A Heartless King
It was a dark day, the day that the young princeling of Mirkwood led their much depleted army home. The prince was young by elven standards; not nearly old enough to be considered king, but alas, his father had fallen on the field and the wood elves were left without their king and without their leader. The battle, although a success, was not a victory. Along with Oropher, hundreds more had fallen and the count of the dead had long since passed that worthy of grief. Thranduil led a considerably smaller force home than his father had led into battle."Your father died not in vain, my prince. Look forward now, the threat was vanquished! Claim your crown and protect your people from things such as this in the future." Thranduil noticed not who spoke to him, and barely understood the words, although they were spoken in the common elvish he had spoken all of his life. For Thranduil, the death of his father was akin to having the weight of a thousand mountain peaks thrust upon his shoulders and being threatened with sharp swords lest he fail to carry the weight upon his shoulders capably and with dignity. He would be crowned soon, and then there would come festivities in the grand halls and celebrating with the finest wine Galion could acquire and the richest food any elf could ever have wished for. The prospect of celebrating seemed strange and alien to Thranduil; how could his people disregard the death of their king so quickly? He felt a mourning period of at least three weeks would be more fitting. He doubted he would ever erase the sight of his father dying before him on the battle field from his mind, whilst he kneeled next to him, powerless to stop it. On the eve of the battle, Thranduil had felt prepared for anything; he felt he could destroy the armies of Mordor single handedly and still return home before supper. Now however, Thranduil had never felt more like an inexperienced elfling.-
"Your highness, for fear of being inconsiderate I tread delicately around the subject, but the realm needs a king, my prince. We must consider a coronation. Midwinter perhaps?" It had been six days since Thranduil had returned without Oropher. Since then, Thranduil had spent the first three in solitude, the following two making preparations for his fathers funeral, and finally, on the sixth, he had started to replace his father at the head of the heavy oaken table in the hollow hall where the council meetings were held frequently. He felt small and insignificant and like a child that had crept into his fathers meeting and sat at the table, with his father having no knowledge of it. He was king now, he reminded himself. He sat up a taller and accepted. The coronation would happen in four weeks time – to coincide with the midwinter festivities. The elf that had suggested the coronation left the table, whispering about wine and food and invitations. Thranduil could not care for such things.And so, when his coronation day arrived, and the first flakes of snow were beginning to fall, he wanted nothing more than to pass the burden to someone else. When the crown of red leaves and autumn berries was placed upon his head, he felt he would faint or his neck would break from the weight. It was heavier than he had expected, but alas, it was his to bear and so he bore it with all the grace required of him. He could manage no more.
Years passed, and Thranduil changed, from the princeling he was when he was crowned, to a father himself. His wife bore him a son, his Greenleaf, his Legolas.It was a spring morning when Thranduil's council meeting was interrupted by the news that his wife was in labour. He felt the weight of the situation bearing down on his shoulders, and this feeling only intensified to dizzying heights when he entered the room and looked at the small bundle of blankets in the arms of his wife. A pair of blue eyes, the colour that of the deepest oceans, looked back up at him. This elfling's survival rested upon him; he was expected to teach the child right from wrong, to love the child unconditionally, to raise him as best he could and hope for the best. And when the bundle that contained his son was placed within his arms, Thranduil could do no more than stare at the child and wonder how such a small, innocent thing could have the power to change his life entirely."Have you thought of a name, my love?" Said his wife. Thranduil looked at his son and all at once had no difficulty solving the conundrum that had troubled him these last weeks. "Legolas. My son shall bear the name Legolas. My son, my greenleaf."
"Ada, when can I fight in battles?" His son asked him one summer morning. Thranduil smiled gently down at his young son, and recalled asking a similar question himself to his own father many moons past."Not for a very long time, ion-nin. They are not all they would seem to be." He recalled now his own father, his lifeless eyes gazing at the cloudless sky above as he passed into the Halls of Mandos. It was not long after, that Legolas' mother herself passed into the Halls of Mandos. Legolas, being too young to understand death, merely thought that his mother had gone away for a while and would be returning soon. Thranduil's heart broke anew every time he saw his son telling a member of the council that his mother would be back soon enough, she just needed time to rest, but she'd be back, she would come back...Not one had the heart to break it to the young princeling that his mother was truly gone.
But Legolas grew, and as he grew he came to realise. When it finally dawned on him, when he finally noticed that his mother was not going to return, he asked his father why, in such a broken voice that his father could not answer; it was akin to losing his wife all over again. Being unable to provide an answer, Legolas turned to leave his father swiftly. Thranduil closed his eyes, and the last thing he saw when he reopened them was the green of his son's tunic disappearing through the heavy doors that separated him from the rest of his kingdom and the last remaining member of his family.
When the time came that the dwarves from the Lonely Mountain called for aid, Thranduil meant to answer. He gathered the forces he could and rode to the mountain. It took little more than a day. But when they arrived, the dragon had already burrowed its way deep into Erebor, and the chance of success was too low for Thranduil to consider risking the lives of his people. He held up one hand, and the forces behind him ceased moving forward. He remembered Dagorlad, he remembered his fathers urge to rush into battle – the urge that had killed him. If he had waited, if he had gone when Gil-Galad had commanded, instead of running forward too early, maybe Thranduil would still have a father and his son, a grandfather. He was not about to make the same mistake. His army was not enough to defeat the dragon – attempting it would be little more than suicide. Thranduil took a moment to consider. He had allied himself with the dwarves, for they had gems inside the mountain that were of a great significance to Thranduil. He desired them, but he did not desire the death that he would have to endure to get them. And with that, he turned his force around and went back home. The dragon was not his concern, nothing outside of the boarders of Mirkwood was his concern, and why, thought Thranduil, should it be?It was not long later that Thorin Oakenshield himself stood in the Elvenking's halls. He stood as a prisoner, albeit, but was Thranduil so wrong in imprisoning strangers wandering through his lands in times such as these? They had attacked his people three times, no less, on their walk through Mirkwood, and had left some of the elves quite startled. He felt quite within his rights to inquire about the grounds upon which they were crossing his lands. There was, Thranduil knew, a shadow growing within the world and those that were not wary would fall. A king must be vigilant, he reminded himself, and he felt no guilt for his actions towards the dwarves.Nor did Thranduil regret his decision the day the dragon came, and never would he. He had chosen to protect his family and his people rather than run into a fruitless battle that would leave them all dead. Instead, he built his walls higher, he increased his patrols and he secured his boarders. If refusing to risk the lives of what little he had left made Thranduil a heartless king, then so be it, he thought to himself. Rather a heartless king protecting his people than one that would lead them needlessly into battle. Rather a heartless king alive than dead.
Note: Still unsure of how Thranduil's wife died, or indeed if she died at all as Tolkien does not mention her at all. I believe it is most widely thought that she died when Legolas was young, however, and so thats what I've gone with. Also, Dagorlad was the battle in which Thranduil fought and saw his father die. A large number of their army was killed, and I would imagine that would have taken a long time to recover from - when the dragon came Thranduil understandably did not want to risk the lives of any more of his people when it, to him, seemed pointless. Hope you enjoyed this anyway & please review!