Love of the King, Love of the Father
The healer was just withdrawing her hands from the patient when the king appeared in the doorway, a swirl of deep green. His hair remained tied back, loose strands hanging over his chest from the manual labor of earlier that day, and though his hands and feet were now clean, his body still wore nothing more than a deep green mantle thrown over the casual tunic from before.
The healer rose and stepped back as the king approached. The king's gait was never idle, never without the strong, purposeful focus in the strides – except when strolling in the gardens with his elfling. And after crossing the space between the bed and the door in his habitually determined gait, Thranduil seated himself next to the bed, and took one of the warrior's hands between his own.
The elf's face was marred with scars. Scars that would fade in time, of course, but they were deep nonetheless. No elf received such marks simply by running through thorn bushes or tumbling down a hill. Thranduil's grim eyes swept down to the body of the motionless elf. It was covered in bandages. The healer had only just finished the emergency ministrations.
Slowly, as the tingling warmth in his hand spread throughout his body, the warrior began to return to consciousness. His eyes came into focus, slowly but surely. And with a gasp, he breathed out a shuddering sigh.
The king shook his head, and remained unmoving. His hands remained firmly pressed against the weak one of the other elf, releasing his own life energy into the wounded creature. The energy flowed between them without hindrance, directed surely and skillfully by the protector of the people, the king who had inherited the mystic magic of the land of yore. The wounded elf sighed in exhaustion, eyes moving to narrow toward the window. The sun was shining bright.
After letting out some more deep breaths, the warrior began to struggle to sit. Thranduil brought his arm around the elf's back and helped him lean against the headboard. The injured elf panted for a while, eyes watering, and closed his eyelids as his breathing began to calm. The healer's magic surrounded him all the while, sheathing the fragile injuries in continuous healing spells as the king's magic breathed strength into the weak body.
"We had all met again when we sent one of us to the castle," whispered the elf. "Forgive him, my lord... he was too deeply injured to join us for the search."
The king nodded.
"He has arrived safely," he replied. The voice was quiet. "He had reported what had happened, as bidden."
The guard slowly opened his eyes. He shuddered, as if recalling a nightmare. "We were together...then it came so suddenly...out of nowhere...and I was swept away...all of us were."
"Yes." He let out a shaky breath. "It was like a black river..."
"The scholars say it seems to be a polluted branch of the river." The king's voice cleaved the air evenly.
The warrior looked up at his king. His eyes were wide, distant. "It did not feel like water," he whispered. "It was a shadow. A looming shadow...tried to ensnare us all..." he hung his head, shuddering once again.
Thranduil gently stroked the elf's hand. The stream of energy from the king began to wane; the healer's magic took over entirely, mending straining patches of injured skin.
"Was there magic?" asked the king, taking his hand away from the warrior elf. Enough strength seemed to have returned to him, and the king was beginning to tire.
A slight frown. Then a gasp burst from the chapped lips. "By Valar, yes...I felt magic."
The king silently bit his lip.
The whisper brought him out of his thoughts. With a grim smile, Thranduil held the warrior's hand fiercely and stood. "Rest and heal," he said, nodding at the healer as she nodded back. "We will need you soon."
"Yes, yes, like that. Does that make you cold, little one?"
"No...but none of our artists ever asked permission to draw me when I'm doing this..."
"Don't worry, little one...it's true art...you are beautiful...trust me..."
"You look like my son...he has such beautiful eyes...and such smooth, soft skin...he's a jewel..."
"He is going to come and join me soon...when he is a bit older...maybe you'll be able to stay with me until then...it does get terribly lonely around here."
Scribble, scribble. Scratch, scribble.
"I feel like you are my child...I want to protect you, hug you, kiss you, love you...can I do that, little one? Be your father?"
"You don't have to answer that question...just some wistful thinking of a lonely man...you have your own father looking for you..."
"He is taking awfully long to find you..."
"I want to be a father again...and look after a child...a child who will love me back...my heart aches whenever I think about that..."
Scribble, scribble, scribble.
"I will not mind, Roloth."
"You can pretend I'm your child...I will not mind."
"You are such a sweet, dear little child...I love you so..."
Scribble, scribble, scratch.
"Er, Roloth...the water is getting cold."
"Ah, sorry, little one. Almost done..."
Legolas finally relaxed, and stepped out of the water. He snatched up a thin blanket nearby and quickly wrapped it around his small body, droplets of water gliding down his shivering body. Roloth put down his canvas and walked toward where the elfling had been, and hauled the large wooden tub to the door. Legolas dressed himself as the man opened the door and poured out the cooled water onto the porch. The sound of water crashing against the ground roared in his ears.
As the child was wringing out water from his hair, Roloth stepped back in, eyes glimmering in the candlelight. His sooty hands were washed clean. He smiled at Legolas as their eyes met.
"Lucky I was tonight, to find you so," he whispered, nearing the canvas leaning against the table. Legolas tilted his head.
"You should bathe more often," said the man, his voice a satisfied purr. "You are so beautiful, dear child."
Legolas blinked as he shook out his hair. "I don't need to bathe as often as you do."
The man chuckled. "Perhaps you could bathe just for me, then. You are very beautiful."
The child continued to dry his hair, glancing out the darkened window. When the last drop of water was squeezed out of his golden tresses, he sat back against the wall, legs outstretched on the bed. He stared at Roloth.
"Are all elflings beautiful?" he asked, curious.
Roloth chuckled as he flipped the large white parchment back over the canvas, revealing an empty page. "All children are beautiful, but I find that elf-children are especially more beautiful. Perhaps it is just that you are more striking than the rest." He reached for a piece of coal on the table.
"What is so beautiful about children?" asked Legolas, eyes a bit wider.
Roloth was positioning the canvas on his lap as he glanced up at the elfling. "I'll tell you if you pose another one for me," he smiled. Legolas pouted. Roloth made a sad face. "Please, dear one?"
Gingerly, the child raised himself off of the wall, shaking out his hair slightly as he did so. Hands pressed against the thin mattress, he tilted his head expectantly. Roloth chuckled and bowed in appreciation. He languidly lit a candle.
"My answer is this," he whispered, motioning with his hand. "Take off your clothes and wrap yourself lightly with that blanket."