The Strength of One Green Leaf

A Father's Plea

Chapter 2: A Father's Plea

"Nana! Ada! Wake up!"

Light feet danced across the red-carpeted floor of the luxurious halls, sending a vibrant echo of footfalls amid the quiet morning sun. The massive double doors leading to the king's chamber burst open as a little elfling pouted his lips and gave a mighty push. Then he tumbled into the room, prancing across the spacious study. The elfling swiftly reached the open bedchamber, and with a mischievous grin, poised himself like a cat ready to pounce on its prey.

"Nana! Ada!"

He launched himself onto the two sleeping figures, drawing a yelp of surprise. Giggling playfully, he began to shake the two sleepy elves and tumble across the lumps of body beneath the blankets. "Wake up!" he cried happily once again. "You promised we'd go to Rivendell today!"

"Ah, our little Greenleaf is up early," murmured his father, rubbing his eyes sleepily. He slowly sat up and stretched. His wife simply blinked drowsily, and reached out to pat the elfling on his golden head.

"Nana, you must get up too!" exclaimed the elfling impatiently. "Ada said it takes a long time to travel to Rivendell!"

"Yes it does, little one," smiled his mother. She moved her warm gaze to her husband, and reached out to touch his cheek lovingly. "Good morning."

While his smiling father bent down to kiss his wife, the elfling hopped off the bed and scampered to the door. "I'll tell them to get the horses ready!"

"Don't fret, Legolas," his father called out after him. "Our guards must first make sure that the path is safe."

But the child was already gone, swept up in his wind of excitement.


The elfling blinked, large blue eyes slowly regaining focus. He quickly turned, looking up to see the gray-clad wizard approach him with a smile.

"May I join you, young one?"

The elfling nodded, and moved to make room. Gandalf chuckled. There was already plenty of space on the bench before he had asked the prince, as the elfling was very small. Still just a babe.

Gandalf made himself comfortable next to the child. Birds were singing merrily, and the wizard could hear bees droning lazily in the warmth of the sun. He sighed in contentment, gaze idly falling on the garden. It was very peaceful. No wonder the lonely child sought solace here.

"You were thinking, my little prince," said the wizard, looking down at the elfling next to him. A pair of large blue pools looked back curiously. "May I ask what you were thinking of?"

The prince tilted his head, as if contemplating. Gandalf waited patiently, amusement tugging at the corners of his lips. What a marvelous little miracle, this elfling. He found himself almost envying Thranduil.

Then Gandalf noticed something that had caught his interest since the first day they had met. His eyes...shouldn't innocent little elflings have happier eyes than that? He frowned inconspicuously, leaning over slightly to inspect the pondering child. The bright blue eyes glimmered with a childlike innocence, but there was a looming shadow that refused to be gone. It had probably hooded the elfling ever since his mother's death. Gandalf's heart clenched with sympathy. Poor, beautiful thing...

"I was thinking nothing, my lord," answered the prince, after his moment of contemplation. Such a quiet, simple answer. Gandalf frowned deeper. The voice was surprisingly steady for a child, and beautifully melodic. It resonated in the sunlight like tranquil droplets of water. But it was wrong. It was all wrong. This was not the speech of a child. The wizard's heart constricted painfully.

"Nothing, I see," he muttered slowly. Then he noticed the elfling watching him, and managed a smile. "You need not call me that, Prince Legolas." He reached out and lightly patted the elfling's soft cheek. "Call me Gandalf. I wish to be your friend."

Again, the elfling tilted his head thoughtfully. At last he nodded and looked up at the wizard. "Then I shall call you Gandalf. You will call me Legolas?"

The wizard chuckled. "'Tis my honor, Legolas."

A shadow of a smile graced the elfling's lips. But in a flash, it was gone.

The wizard and prince sat together in silence, enveloped in the warmth of the afternoon sun.

For weeks, Mirkwood had been receiving rain. Not light rain, like the ones that graced Rivendell with shimmering dewdrops and colorful rainbows. Mirkwood rain was dark, heavy, drenching rain. It made the dark forest even gloomier. Only patrols and hunters went out regularly; though elves were not bothered by sickness or dampness, the rain made it difficult to fight the dark creatures of the forest who used the weather to their advantage. Everyone stayed indoors during the heavy downpour, while the king feared that spiders and orcs would be steadily making their way deeper into the forest if guards diminished in the borders. So patrol duty continued in the relentless rain, while the kingdom remained quiet and glum.

"I'm sorry that you have not been able to enjoy outdoors much," apologized Thranduil during a quiet meal with Gandalf. "Mirkwood isn't known for spectacular sights, but we do have quite a bit of safe and lovely lands – it's just the cursed rain that's trapping us all in here."

Gandalf laughed heartily. "I don't mind, my friend," he reassured the king. "My time here is not a least bit dull. I have been keeping myself in good company."

Thranduil raised an eyebrow. "Good company?"

Gandalf laughed even louder. The laughter rang along the quiet halls. Gandalf put down his goblet of wine, and shook his head. "It's your son, good Oropherion," he said in between chuckles. "Your quiet elfling of a son is a wonder to behold and befriend."

Thranduil watched Gandalf, with keen interest and concern this time. Gandalf grinned, looking into his goblet of red wine. "I can see that he will grow to be fair of voice and face, like his parents. He will take after his mother on the build though – a bit slender, and a maybe lacking a little in height – but fear not, my friend, for his strength will rival your greatest warriors, and his speed and agility will have no equal."

The king leaned forward, his eyes sparkling with wonder. "You say he will grow to be a warrior?"

Gandalf chuckled, and sipped from the goblet. "Good wine," he commented. "Strong as always. But you really must ease back on it, my friend, unless you intend to rear your child to be a drinker like you."

Thranduil snorted impatiently. "Ai, why should a proud warrior elf not be hardened to wine? One must be seasoned in all ways – especially my son." With those words he reached out and grabbed the goblet Gandalf was again bringing to his mouth. "Now tell me more about my son."

Gandalf sputtered, and roared with laughter. "Why, aren't you impatient! I thought a father would know more about his son than a mere passer-by."

Thranduil shook his head, dropping his gaze. "What the passer-by sees is different from what the father sees. Legolas fancied healing."

Gandalf stopped his laughter abruptly, an uncertain frown crossing his brows. "Healing?"

The king nodded, and leaned back on his chair thoughtfully. Heavy raindrops could be heard splattering against the castle walls. The hall was quiet, peaceful. Not a single creature seemed to stir in the rainy night of Mirkwood. "He would spend all of his days in the House of Healing, asking questions and getting in the way – he would come to us and say, 'Ada, Nana, I want to be a healer and heal lots and lots of elves when they get hurt!'" The king chuckled. His voice rang in the hall with a note of wistful longing.

Gandalf tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Hmmm," was all he could say. Legolas had a gentle soul; that was evident. He would be a kind and skillful healer, if he took up the art. But the wizard could see no trace of a healer in the quiet elfling. At least, not anymore.

"Help him, Gandalf," pleaded a helpless voice by the wizard's ear. Gandalf thought he heard a tremor in the usually strong tone of the elf. He turned his gaze to meet the eyes of a king – a king who was gripped by fear and pain.

Thranduil was facing Gandalf, looking lost and forlorn. "He is so far away from me – I am no longer certain that I can cross the distance between us." The king reached out and touched the wizard's arm, as if clinging to a last ray of hope. His blue eyes were shimmering with a vast sadness Gandalf had never seen in the noble elf. "He rarely speaks. He is no longer the happy child I used to know."

With a sigh, Gandalf clasped the elf's hand with his own. He looked down at the ageless skin. It was pale, tired. He sighed again and gently rubbed the skin with his wrinkled old hands. "Many things scar us...especially elves, in their infinite lifetime," he said slowly. "We are what we are shaped to be from the events that touch us. But that does not change who we are at heart."

Thranduil did not reply. He watched the wizard, bright blue eyes silent and pleading. He loved his son dearly; he could not bear to see a shadow cross his babe's innocent smile. Valar, what he wouldn't give to have his laughing, merry child back...

Gandalf saw the desperation in Thranduil's eyes. He stroked his hand with paternal warmth. "Your child may have become withdrawn," he said gently. "But events are bound to touch and shape him, and you cannot protect him from all woes of the world." It was a sad, regretful whisper. Thranduil gritted his teeth. Gandalf reached out to gently push a stray thread of golden hair out of the elf's eyes. "Do not fear change, Thranduil, if it is to be a part of your son."

"I want him back, Gandalf," Thranduil blurted sharply, eyes moist with unshed tears. His fist was clenched, revealing intensely white knuckles. "Those wretched monsters not only killed my wife, but are now taking my child away from me!"

Having spat the words, the king's gaze became hazy, as if dissolving into invisible air. With a weary sigh, he leaned forward on the table. Closing his eyes with sudden onslaught of fatigue, he hung his head and did not speak. The splatter of rain grew louder upon the castle walls as the silence in the hall hung like a dense fog. The king did not move.

The wizard reached out to the elf, who seemed to have collapsed into a defeated stillness under the invisible weight upon his lonely shoulders. Gandalf stroked the elf's shoulders gently, closing his eyes in sorrow.

"Please." The hoarse whisper was tremulous, broken. "He is all I have left."

To Be Continued

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