Thranduil bit the meat off his fork and lowered it, chewing. “I am glad you and Elladan had such a good day.”
“I only wish Legolas had been in the same class as us,” Elrohir answered. “Myrel sent him off with a look of awe.”
Thranduil smiled. He looked at the door to the dining room. “I wonder where he is. I should have thought he would have been the first home to express his excitement.”
“He walked home by the long route,” Elladan said. “Landion and I saw him leave the fields. He was walking slowly. Maybe he needs time to think. I know I do, when I have been through something new.”
“He will be hungry,” Thranduil said. “Lunch is almost over, and breakfast was many hours ago.”
“His stomach will bring him home soon,” Harune said, wiping his lips with his napkin and setting it down as he pushed back his plate.
“I hope so. To look forward to his bright eyes, and have to wait longer then expected is heart-wrenching,” said Thranduil, with a grin.
“I do not think archery is my strong point,” Landion said. “I think I would prefer training with a blade. Hyrondal would make a good teacher and I know he teaches swordsmanship; I have seen him in the sparring fields barking orders like a wolf.”
Harune covered Landion’s hand with his own. “I am not yet ready to let you run off to that quite yet. Besides, every good warrior has some skills with every weapon, longbow included. I think you better keep at archery for a while longer before you decide to make a run for the sparring fields.”
“How much longer?” Landion asked.
“Perhaps a decade or so,” Harune replied.
Landion grinned. “All right, ada. Myrel is a good teacher, but my arms hurt. I am not sure I will be fit to climb trees later today when Legolas comes back . . .”
Harune pushed his chair back. “Legolas will be home soon. Help me clear the table; we will take down as much as we can. Galion will be here to take care of the rest.”
Landion pushed his chair back.
Loud footsteps sounded in the hall outside, and Legolas’s drooping form stumbled through the door. Harune sat down with a shocked expression while Thranduil let out a gasp of horror and jumped to his feet, running for his son.
Legolas collapsed against him with a sob as soon as Thranduil reached his, his mud-covered hands clinging to the front of his robe as he buried his face in his father’s chest and cried. Thranduil held him in a tight embrace, unsure if the bruised and battered face he had seen for a brief second had been his imagination or real. He pulled Legolas back by the shoulders but Legolas clung to him as if his life depended on it.
Thranduil scooped Legolas into his arms, the smudged cheek resting on his shoulder while hot tears slid down his neck, and walked for the living room, where the comfort of the sofa would make a good resting place.
Elladan and Elrohir stared after him before they looked at each other.
“Well,” said Harune, forcing his numb legs to move. “I have not seen him look like that since . . .”
“Since Lord Katar beat him,” Landion finished.
“We will leave the table for Galion to clear,” Harune said. “Landion, run and ask Healer Jailil for a tub of healing salve. Elladan, Elrohir, fill the bathtub in Thranduil’s bathroom with hot water. Legolas is filthy and undoubtedly sore; a bath will make him feel better.”
As Elladan got out of his chair, he asked meekly, “Will Legolas be all right?”
“He is with his father,” Harune answered. “He will be fine.”
The elflings scattered in two different directions while Harune made for the living room.
“I wish I knew who Lord Katar is,” Elladan said, as he wrestled with the pump in the white-tiled bathroom. The water came in a flood, splashing into the porcelain rub, steam curling off it.
Elrohir draped a fluffy white towel over the top of the pump to heat on the hot pipes. “I have not asked him about it. But Landion said Lord Katar . . . beat him.”
Elladan swished his hands in the water filling in the tub. “Maybe he is like Elrond . . .”
“Or maybe he is worst,” Elrohir said.
Both twins shuddered.
Elladan tapped his fingers on the warming towel. He said, “I will go down and see how Legolas is.”
Elrohir nodded, and let the pump handle down. Leaving the tub full of steaming water, and the towel keeping warm, the twins ran down to the living room.
Harune put his fingers on his lips when he saw the twins and motioned for them to stay near the door. Landion leaned forward from his father’s left to look at Elladan and Elrohir, pressing the tin of salve in his hand into Harune’s.
Elladan and Elrohir smiled a quick welcome before turning their gazes to Legolas. The elfling’s quiet sobs were muffled in Thranduil’s chest, his dirty blond hair stringy, pressed down by his father’s arm around him.
“It will be all right, my little leaf,” Thranduil soothed, rocking his son. “I know you have been hurt, but the bruises will heal.”
“It-it-it-it is not that,” Legolas sobbed. “The longbow—they-they-they bro-broke it!”
Thranduil leaned his cheek on the top of Legolas’s head, and said quietly, “Oh, Legolas, I am sorry. I know how much it meant to you.”
“I-I did not have it for more then two days,” Legolas sniffed. “I-I know I can have another one but it will not be the same!”
“It will be special in its own way,” Thranduil said, kissing the grubby blond head. “How badly are you hurt? Is anything broken?”
Legolas sat back and wiped his nose on the back of his torn sleeve. He shook his head. “N-no. I have bruises and cuts and my h-heart is torn, but I am alive and whole.”
“Of that I am glad,” Thranduil said. He stood up and lifted Legolas into his arms. “Come, we will clean you up.”
Legolas leaned his head on Thranduil’s shoulder as he was carried up to the hot tub of water. Tears leaked from his eyes as he thought of the destroyed longbow. The horrible crack of its demise still haunted his mind.
Thranduil set him down on the tiles of the bathroom floor, and helped him out of his torn clothes. Tasting salt tears on his lips, Legolas climbed into the tub and sat back against the rim, leaning his head on the edge.
Thranduil winced at the sight of the bruises and gashes on Legolas’s body, for the clothes he had worn had not offered much protection against the fists, feet, and sticks of Legolas’s attackers. He sat down on the wide long edge of the tub, and handed Legolas a bar of soap and a sponge.
Legolas’s fingers reached for it, but fell shy into the water with a splash. He leaned his head back and shook it. “No, ada. I want to sit here by myself for a little while.”
Thranduil stood up. “All right. I will leave the soap here for you. Come out when you are done, before the water grows cold.”
“Mmm,” said Legolas.
Gathering up the torn garments on the floor, Thranduil left the bathroom, pausing in the doorframe to glance back at his son with a wistful expression. Legolas looked at him, and a slight smile crossed his face. He shifted in the tub as his father closed the door.
Thranduil sighed and tossed the scraps of the clothing in his hands onto the table to his left before he sat down on his bed with another exhale of air.
“He is not . . . seriously injured physically,” he said, picking at the threads of the yellow bedspread. “It is his heart that knows pain.”
Harune tossed the tin of salve onto the bed near Thranduil and nodded. “The longbow meant more to him then it would to most elflings his age. He will grow past it.”
“Mm,” said Thranduil, absently tossing the tin of salve in his hands. “I hope so . . . monstrous bullies, attacking my son!”
“They do not realize the full consequences of their actions, or how their violence effects others,” Harune said. “You can ask him about the three elves when he comes out of the bathroom.”
Thranduil ran a hand across his forehead. “Yes . . . I am not sure what I will do to make him feel better. He is devastated.”
Harune sat down in a chair at the table. “I remember the time when you were assaulted by a dozen young elves.”
“Yes, but my heart was not torn out,” Thranduil said. “And I had not spent my early years with a monster!”
“What monster?” Elrohir asked. “Like a demon?”
Thranduil looked at him. “In a way, yes.”
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged looks. The door to the bathroom creaked open and Legolas came out in a cloud of steam, a towel wrapped around him, his face pale, and his legs a little shaky.
Thranduil beckoned to him. “Come lie down; I will rub some salve into your bruises to dull the pain a bit.”
“Hannon le,” Legolas said, flopping down on the bed and resting his chin on his hands. Thranduil sat up and uncapped the tin, scooping out a generous quantity of salve. He slathered it onto Legolas’s naked back, put down the tin, and leaned forward to rub it in.
“Will you be all right?” Elladan asked.
Legolas looked up and nodded. “Yes. And when I take my next class, I would like to walk home with you.”
“We would like that,” Elladan said. “We saw you wander off today but we thought you wanted to be alone. If we had followed you . . .”
“This might have still happened,” Legolas said. “It is not your fault.”
Harune gestured toward the door. He rounded up the three elflings and herded them out of the room, closing the door behind the four of them.
Legolas looked up at his father as he moved his wet hair off his back. “Ada, I want to return to the archery fields. I do not want you to take this as an omen of bad luck. And-and I wish to continue my lessons with Aleph. I want to learn all I can and Myrel can only teach me what I know.”
“If you wish it, you may return,” Thranduil said. “I understand your wishes, and I consent. I will speak to Aleph and ask him to be sure no one attacks you again. And I think I will come with you for your next lesson. It would give me great joy to watch you practice.”
“But you have to work,” Legolas began.
“It will not kill the kingdom to have me away from my desk for two hours,” Thranduil replied. “It will give us both some happiness.”
“I will need a new longbow,” Legolas said, a hint of sadness creeping into his voice.
“I know,” Thranduil said. He leaned down to tuck Legolas’s hair back and kiss the salty cheek. “Do not despair; the hole in your heart will mend soon. You will have a new longbow.”
“It will not be the same,” Legolas whimpered.
“I know, but I promise it will be as special as the one I gave you,” Thranduil said.
Legolas shook his head. “It will not be as special, ada. Nothing can replace it.”
Thranduil sighed. He wiped his hands and reached down to pull Legolas into his lap. “Well, if I cannot replace it, let me at least give you a kiss and bring a smile to your sad face.”
“I will feel better if you hold me,” Legolas assured him, curling in his father’s lap. “And I will be grateful for a new longbow.”
Thank you for reading. Sharing this story with the world means a lot to me. As always, I love hearing from you.