The night sky was awash with stars and all was quiet and peaceful, despite the beauty and ambience surrounding him however, the prince felt anything but. The stars reminded him of home and subsequently, of all of the mistakes he had made of late. It all centred on Tauriel and his father, and as much as he wanted to share the blame, he knew he had to accept responsibility for his own foolishness.
He had become so caught up in his feelings for the auburn-haired beauty that he had lost all sense and reason and had gained nought but pain and regret for his folly. Despite seeing how Tauriel looked at and interacted with the dwarf, he had still persuaded himself that she would be his, and when she stayed with him, it only confirmed to the lie that he was more important to her.
The dark-haired dwarf was the only real motivation driving her though, what respect and friendship they shared was why she stayed, but that was only because there was no immediate threat to her beloved dwarf.
Despite everything, or perhaps in spite of it, he had defied and challenged his father, believed the words she spoke of him, even though he knew in his heart they weren’t true, and otherwise ignored his duty and responsibilities, all for her, and for what? He was shamed, she was broken without her precious would-be-lover and his father was left alone to pick up all the pieces and make things right, while he ran away and avoided all the pain and difficulties.
Glancing at the fire, he realised the flames were dying down, so he pulled away from his thoughts long enough to add more wood and stoke it. While he didn’t need the heat from it, even now in the winter, it kept unwanted predators away, so it was best to keep it burning, even if it reminded him of her.
Tauriel had been fiery and passionate, she spoke her mind, whatever that might be, and had always been there when he needed someone, the complete opposite of his father. Thranduil was cold and detached and spoke only of what he chose to. Legolas had always loved and respected him but he had never felt as close as he would have liked, as other families were, Thranduil was his King and he never felt able to speak freely with him.
The differences between his father and his friend, and that Tauriel treated him as a person and not a prince, made it easy to understand why he had fallen for her; she was everything he was missing in his life. Still, he shouldn’t have accepted her words about his father so easily, he should have known better than to believe them, but he had, and now it was too late to take it back.
Despite all that, Thranduil had not been angry with him, though perhaps that would have been easier to deal with. His stoic father, whom he had been so rude to, had shown the fear and pain he felt over the possibility of losing his only child, and had finally offered a few words of Legolas’ mother in offer of apology.
It had left him stunned and he knew he had barely acknowledged the matter because of that, he had just turned and walked away before collecting his weapons and running away from his father, Tauriel and his people. It had all proved a difficult lesson and he realised he still had much more to learn and grow before he was worthy even of being his father’s heir, though at least he knew that now.
The matter had allowed him to finally understand what his peers had known all along, that his father was very loving and did everything in his power to keep his people safe and happy. The grief of losing his wife had meant it necessary to lock his emotions away, otherwise he would probably have joined her, but he showed how much he cared in other ways, Legolas had just never been able to see that before.
Now that he did, it was easy to see everything his father had done for him, and all the signs of just how much he was loved, it was just a shame that it took such circumstances for him to finally see what was right in front of him.
Part of him wanted nothing more than to return home and apologise to his father for how poorly he had handled everything, but he knew it was too soon to do that and it would gain him nothing in the long-run. He had little doubt his father knew how much he loved him and that his feelings for Tauriel had blinded him, there was no rush to talk things through, Thranduil would be there to listen to and accept everything when the time came.
For now, he still needed to work things through and move on and accept everything, otherwise he wouldn’t learn and grow, or become a more suitable heir for his King and his people. His father would not have recommended finding the Dunedain ranger without reason either, so returning without learning who this ‘Strider’ was would only be more reason for disappointment.
When morning came, he would continue tracking down the rangers so he could meet Strider and if they were willing, he would stay with them for a time in the hope of seeing the world in a different way. Eventually, he would return home, stronger and wiser and reconnect with his father. He didn’t know how long that would take but it would be worth it; he wouldn’t fail them again, he would be a worthy heir to his father’s rule, someone he could be proud of.
A rustle in the bushes nearby brought him from his thoughts and he instinctively reached for his bow. This was the furthest he had ever strayed from home, so he was unfamiliar with what dangers lurked there. It should not prove difficult to determine friend from foe quickly enough to react to any threats, his skill allowed that much at least.
A man stepped out of the foliage and into the firelight, removing his hand from the hilt of his sword as soon as he gained sight of the blond elf. Legolas looked over the man, his appearance was rugged, his clothing dirty and worn, but despite that, there was an air of nobility about him. Perhaps this was the one his father had wanted him to meet, certainly there was far more to him than what he showed on the surface.
“Mae govannen” the man stated politely, placing a hand on his breast and bowing his head. “What is it that brings you so far out into the wild without companion, if you do not mind me asking?”
Legolas smiled, surprised to hear the other speak Sindarin so naturally. “Mae govannen. I am looking for someone, though now our paths have crossed, I think I might have found him. You do not happen to be the ranger known as Strider, do you?”
“I am indeed. If I might know who you are and for what reason it is you seek me?”
“I am Legolas of the Woodland Realm and my father suggested I might meet and wander with you, if you would allow. I have much learning to do and he would not suggest this unless he felt it was for the best.”
“I see… I am well-versed with the people of Imladris and Lothlorien but I admit I know little to nothing of King Thranduil and his people. The Elven people, wherever they may be from, have never offered reason for ill-trust and we have always valued their friendship. You are welcome to wander with us while it suits you.”
Legolas smiled and bowed in return. “I am most grateful; and of course, should you care to learn of my people, I would be happy to share some tales.”
Strider returned the smile and motioned for him to gather his belongings before putting the fire out. The man was kind and honourable, with a strength and determination he had not expected. His father was right, as always, this would be an experience worth having, and hopefully, he would gain the ranger’s friendship and trust, for he was certain it would be a gift to cherish.
A new adventure was about to begin and he would make the most of every moment, then when it was time to part, he would return home a better person and finally become a worthy heir. However long that might take, it would be nothing in the span of his life and certainly not too long for his father to wait for him. Then perhaps, he would see Thranduil for who he really was, the opposite of Tauriel’s belief. For now, all there was to do was to follow the man and learn what adventures awaited.