Forgiveness by EldarExilePrincess
NOTE/DISCLAIMER: Anything recognizable belongs to Tolkien; the rest is mine except for the lullaby, it is my translated version of an old Arabic lullaby. This story, while stand alone, ties into a series I am working on called A Time of Healing. Written for ALEC’s May theme, third place winner. I hope you enjoy 🙂
I recall well the first time I saw Legolas. He was just an elfling then, having not yet reached his tenth summer. Thranduil was apprehensive, naturally, of introducing me to him. I felt quite awkward myself. How was I to explain to him that I had taken his mother’s place in a fashion? What would his reaction be? I had never really spent time with elflings so intimately before, preferring the vast expanse between myself and said elfling securely in their mother’s arms. I did not hate them, rather their energy and eagerness made me nervous. I tended to treat them as I would an adult, resulting in many sobbing children running to the safety of their mothers’ laps, followed by shakings of heads and twittering whispered behind hands. I had been a warrior for some time, disconnected from the softer side of my femininity for far too long.
“You need to wear a gown.” Thranduil told me that evening before dinner.
“I prefer my tunics and leggings; and you never protested before.” I said. “Besides, I do not possess the correct physique for gowns. I am too rounded.”
Thranduil smiled, repeating firmly, “Gown…”
“Very well, but if it turns out to be disastrous, blame only yourself. I would love to see how you are going to explain to your son that a monster is replacing his mother.”
Thranduil grabbed at me, and I ran inside the bathing room, only to be pounced upon by the maidens there. They held me firmly and stripped me of my clothes, clucking disapprovingly at my attire. I was made to endure harsh scrubbing, my hair rigorously washed, then ironed straight with mithril implements they kept warmed in the hearth of my fireplace. I lamented the loss of my wild curls, yet welcomed the hand-length of new extension. My eyebrows were shaped accordingly by use of a string, which they ran through their teeth. All the while the maidens spoke in their native Silvan tongue, using Sindarin only to bark out orders at me. They giggled, and I felt put-off. What Orcish behavior they were exhibiting, yet I could not slay them, sadly. After this pampering, I had to be dressed. The gown was beautiful, yet the corset was not.
“Must I wear this?” I whined.
“You are a lady of the court, Thranduil’s lady, and so you must.”
I felt the breath would be squeezed out of me. I walked stiffly. My breasts were put on display in
such a manner I felt quite embarrassed. Was all this really necessary to meet an elfling?
“You look divine, almost as his naneth did. He will not be able to refuse you.”
Thranduil stood on the threshold, gazing at me with a glow in his sapphire eyes. I blushed and lowered my gaze at this undue attention. He was King, and I was his prey. He took my hand in his, placing a chaste kiss into my palm, then led me down through the palace hallways.
“He will love you.”
I only nodded in reply, feeling entirely out of my element. Thranduil then fell silent, and I wondered what he thought. Was he thinking of his wife now? Should I feel any guilt? She had been beautiful and loved by all his subjects. I was unknown to them, and I held a secret inside of me that was detrimental. I had to tame my emotions, so that the Light in my eyes did not betray me. He would know then, and everything would be ruined. I would not let that happen if I could.
“Here we are.” Thranduil said, leading me into a small private dining hall.
At the very front sat Legolas, and my heart jumped into my throat. He was beautiful beyond any words. His skin, smooth and shining, was offset by the deep green of his tiny robe set, so alike to what his sire was wearing. The soft golden hair, paler than Thranduil’s, shimmered like a river of sunlight down his back. A miniature silver circlet with one sapphire set in the middle of his brow encircled his head. His eyes, bright and gleaming, matched the color of the gem atop his brow. I was caught by his glance, so alike to his sire, yet full of understanding for someone so young. He had one thumb fully inserted into his mouth, while the other hand clutched a maroon blanket. At the sight of his father entering the hall, he dropped his blanket with a squeal, threw his arms into the air, screaming, “Adar!” before launching himself into his father’s open arms. They twirled in circles for several minutes, and I could not help the infectious smile that crept onto my face. His voice was like tiny bells ringing, and my heart melted. I was falling in love with Thranduil’s son.
After placing Legolas gently on the floor, the little one turned to me, fixing me in his trance-like stare. I found myself rendered both immobile and speechless. His eyes bore into mine, and I felt my body quake slightly. Would I be able to control myself? Any instant now he would hate me. But the moment passed, and the small adoring elfling said, “You are to be my new naneth?”
“In a way, yes; I am here to help your father with the fighting, too.” I said, choosing my words carefully. “I am an old friend of your sire. My name is Amorith.” I bowed.
“Then you are no Silvan like I am.” Legolas said. “Mother was Silvan, she never fought.”
I smiled at this comment. The son of Thranduil, a Sinda, regarded himself Silvan. Not knowing what else to say I remained quiet, and this seemed to suffice for Legolas. The three of us were then seated at the table, which had platters of fowl, venison, and many native root vegetables. There were several baskets of bread, which I later learned was a staple in the diet of the Silvans (Tawarwaith) here. Prior to the meal Thranduil uttered a silent prayer in Sindarin for thanks and continued blessings from the Valar. I stifled a laugh at Legolas, who had his eyes squeezed tightly, yet held a loaf of bread directly to his lips. This elfling was easily making me love him.
The meal was filled with the babbling of Legolas’ chatter as he informed his father of his day.
He had played with Celemirë, ran from his current nanny, and wrestled with Innas. When he was taken outside he instantly took off into the trees above, chasing the squirrels back and forth from one bough to another as the furry little creatures went about looking for nuts and seeds. This son of Thranduil was as full of life, mirth, and mischief as his father was. I caught the King studying my reactions to his son, and felt the pride emanating from him. There was no denying the love he felt. As soon as the meal and dessert were over, Thranduil excused himself on pretense of sudden business. I was left alone with Legolas in the dining hall, and my nervousness was apparent in the way I avoided looking at him. I tried to mask my insecurity by sipping more wine.
“I miss my naneth.”
That sentence whispered so meekly caught me off guard. I had not expected this; I envisioned myself managing to upset him as I always inevitably did with most elflings I encountered. In my state of shock with slight fogginess (due to the wine), I reached out to him as his tears fell onto his small chest, and his body heaved with the sobs he could not suppress. Clumsily and rather awkwardly I pulled him to me, and he welcomed the embrace readily, throwing his soft hands around my neck and burying his face on my shoulder. I patted his back timidly.
“Adar says I must not cry; her memory is not revered this way. But I cannot help it.”
I was silent for a few moments, unsure of how to respond to him.
“I am sure your naneth knows how much you miss her, and that she misses you too.”
He hiccupped between sobs now, his breath either being sucked in or out, depending on what was occurring with him. I felt his tears soak through my dress and cool my flushed skin. He lifted his head then and leaned back in my arms, staring at me with those sapphire eyes of his.
“Do you really think she knows how much I miss her?”
His earnest glance tore my heart apart. I did not wish to lie to him.
“It is my belief the spirits of those we love are very much alive; ’tis only the bodies that perish.”
He mulled over this quietly for a few moments.
“You are strange with your ideas, but I like you just the same.” Legolas said, adding the latter part of his sentence hurriedly, worried he would hurt my feelings. “You remind me of naneth. She is not from Mirkwood, though she was Silvan, and she thought differently like you.”
I only nodded, again unsure of what to say. My words seemed to comfort him, for he no longer sobbed, but the hiccups continued. He was content to sit in my lap, twining a strand of my faux dark straight hair in his hand, while the other hand’s thumb was encased in his mouth. I stood up carefully, taking care not to drop him, and retrieved his maroon blanket from the floor. I tucked it around him securely as I sat back down, rocking him tenderly as I sang him a song from my own elfling-hood. It was my own mother, Nolwi, who had contrived this song for my sister and me to comfort us. I let the memory envelop me, and I felt myself the small elfling again, snuggling into bed as she sang me into reverie. Her sweet voice was like crystal; her love was as warm as the Sun. Soon I felt new tears dampening my dress, this time from the front, and looking down at Legolas I was surprised to see him tearless. His face was full of hurt, however.
“Why are you crying?” he whispered, lips quivering.
“I was remembering my own naneth.” I said, trying to smile in spite of my sadness.
“Oh, did she leave you and promise to return; only she never did?”
The words stuck in my mouth. I read into his mind then, experiencing the horror of this sudden divulgence. How frightened he must have been, he was only five summers then! He hid in his mother’s room, awaiting her return, after his father bade him farewell, promising to return with her. There he sat until night time, oblivious to everything else, as a feeling of apprehension stole over him. It consumed him so that when he was found, they had to slap his face a few times to awaken him enough. With one glance at his grieving father Legolas knew his fear had come true. His mother had left him, and he could not join her. He let his grief wash over him and engulf every aspect of his life. Legolas became afraid of anyone leaving him, even for a short amount of time, worried that they would not return to him as his naneth had done. His father, bound by his own grief as well, tried to explain to him what occurred in Mandos, but the upset elfling simply refused to listen. He took to hiding in his mother’s wardrobe, wrapping himself in her gowns and reverting back to a younger age of infancy. Nightmares haunted him always from then on.
Part of this I knew from what others told me; Thranduil said very little about this matter. How could I respond to Legolas about my own naneth? How could I explain to the son of a survivor of Doriath’s ruin about my own woes, that my mother abandoned my sister and me on the docks of Alqualondë as my father participated in the Kin-slaying, and expect understanding? Thranduil would throw me out of his kingdom if he knew I was the granddaughter of Fëanor. I would not receive any comfort at all. Yet I felt this little being’s own hurts, I understood them far deeper than he realized. It was a terrible feeling he was experiencing, something this heavy at such a tender age. Torn between my own secret past, and the responsibility of comforting Legolas, I had no choice. I felt my own vulnerability, anger, and fear, as I replied slowly and carefully to him:
“My naneth…I lost her just as you did. She was taken away from me when I was much younger, and she never returned to me. I had to look after my own sister because…” I paused here as tears spilled again, uncertain of how to proceed, “…my father…we lost him too…”
Legolas laid one hand on either side of my face, looking directly into my eyes. Then he placed a most tender kiss atop my brow, smoothing the hair back from my forehead, and said:
“My naneth would always kiss me like that when I was sad, and I felt better soon. Do you?”
His sapphire eyes glistened with more than tears; he had found in me a child friend, just as lost and hurt as him. He was treating me as an equal, trying to comfort me as his naneth would. I was not the adult; I was a hurt child. How had he done this? This elfling was wise beyond his years.
“I do feel better now, thank you, sweet one. Shall I sing to you like my naneth did?” I replied.
He smiled shyly at me, burying his head in the crook of my neck. Once more I tucked the blanket around him tightly, rocked him gently, and then began to sing another little song for elflings:
“Oh, little Legolas wants to rest
Oh, we will find a pair of doves
To coo very softly at him best…”
He was asleep sooner than I expected, having been exhausted from crying earlier. His little thumb was in his mouth again, his free arm wrapped around my neck. Thranduil approached then, looking at me warily. He knew my trepidation regarding elflings.
“How was he?” his whispered.
I smiled, tears streaming down my face. His alarmed look melted away as he saw my happiness.
“He is very beautiful in every way. Oh, Thranduil, I want to be with him for the rest of my time on Arda. He has touched me in ways I could not have even guessed. I love little Legolas.”
Thranduil knelt beside me on his haunches, placing a strong calloused hand over mine, the other stroking his son’s soft cheek. His own eyes were misty now as he spoke:
“He is the most precious thing I have; his value is more than all the jewels of the world, even the Silmarilli. He has blessed my life in many ways. After the passing of his naneth to Mandos, he has anchored me, given me a reason to endure. At times I do not know who comforts the other.”
At the mention of the Silmarilli I tensed instinctively, lowering my head so that my falling hair shielded my face. As I listened to Thranduil, I understood what he meant. Few children could be a source of strength, and in Legolas’ case, of wisdom and knowledge. He taught me many things.
“Let me take him to his bed.” Thranduil said, reaching out to take his son.
But Legolas whimpered quietly, clinging to me tightly.
“Leave him.” I whispered. “He can spend this night with me; I do not mind.”
Thranduil nodded. He wanted the night to be with me alone, but said nothing. We reached my chambers shortly afterwards. Anytime I attempted to place Legolas down so I could undress, he would clutch at me wildly. His eyes were closed, yes, but he was aware of everything. Had his mother’s passing affected him so? I looked at him with pity as I lay on my bed, Thranduil having stripped down to his leggings, on the opposite side of me against my back, encircling my waist. Legolas appeared calmer now; he was not sucking his thumb with such ferocity as before. As the night passed slowly, and Thranduil drifted off into easy reverie, I thought about tonight’s events. I was still nervous of Legolas, but it was not my old fears. He broke down some of my weaker walls, accepting me easily. He had transcended boundaries; we connected through our pain. I comforted him in his time of need, and had done the same for me. He had shown me how alike I was to him, how my own inner fragile elfling grieved the loss of my mother and comforter. I was enchanted by this elfling, and I did not wish to leave him now.
Legolas’ anguish made me confront my own feelings about my mother. She abandoned my sister and me on the docks of Alqualondë, left us because she could not go on with my volatile father, Caranthir. Legolas’ unspoken anger about his mother leaving him I understood very well; I was still angry with my mother for her abandonment. Thranduil was enduring the passing of his wife because of Legolas–were my sister and I not enough for my mother’s dying strength? Granted, we were not elflings then, but we were pure children of Valinor, just as innocent and naïve. We knew nothing then of grief, hardship, and turmoil. We were as guiltless as Legolas and just as confused. There was none to guide us through our pain, to help us understand. So I grew to hate our mother almost as much as our father, unable to forgive her, bound by my grief. Yet tonight for the first time since those bygone days of chaos, hatred, and confusion, I felt my heart begin to stir in empathy towards my mother. Legolas, though greatly grieved by his mother’s absence, did not harbor hate. He simply could not understand yet why she would not return. Yes, her situation was different than my mother’s, but the mirroring effects were of equal status for the children involved–Legolas and my sister and me, respectively. The songs I had sung to Legolas I recited in the same fashion as she had done. The comfort I gave him was my inner elfling reaching out to touch this little being, to convey the understanding of his hurt, to let him know that he was not alone. I had battled the endless nights of tears, anger, screams, and inability to understand on my own. I hated my mother because I could not understand her; but now I was slowly beginning to comprehend. She did not wish to inflict her own wounds upon my sister and me; we were not strong enough for her to endure as Legolas was to his father. Wrong as it was to have abandoned us, I was beginning to transcend my own deficiencies to understand her and her situation better.
It is said that until one has their own children, one will not appreciate decisions made by parents. Tonight, as I lay with Legolas nestled against my breast, and his sire resting against my back, I felt for the first time total love and acceptance from an unexpected source. Legolas had entered my life as a surprise, filling my existence with a new source of inspiration. This impeccable little elfling taught me the most important lessons about love and understanding. He still carried his own hurts and fears, but for once I welcomed the responsibility of caring for another. Already I learned so much from this elfling; he helped me begin to reconcile my own anger. I had fallen in love with him irrevocably, and I wanted to be there to guide him through the rest of his life.
A few weeks passed after that fateful evening when I first met Legolas. The men were gathered in the courtyard to ride out for battle. I sat astride my own steed next to Thranduil, shivering for an unknown reason. We would be gone for some time. I scanned the crowd, and there in the front, next to his nanny, stood little Legolas. His tiny face was hidden in the folds of her skirt; small shoulders shook as he wailed. I tried to ignore his sobs. As the trumpets blew loudly, and the gates opened slowly, he suddenly darted forward, stopping at my steed. His nanny screamed in fright, chasing after him. Looking down upon him, I saw the fear etched into his face.
“Must you go?” he cried.
“Your father needs my help.” I replied.
“But I need you.”
“You have your nanny.”
“I need you…to be my naneth…”
He whispered this then flushed. I stared down at the earnest pleading in his sapphire eyes.
“Oh, my sweet one, I could never…”
His face erupted into another sob, and as I glanced down at him, I saw not his face, but my own.
I was the elfling again, begging my mother not to leave me in Alqualondë. The pain and fear of that moment filled me anew. Would I abandon him now? I was no mother; I did not know what to do. I knew only how to fight and be harsh, the softness and patience of motherhood were foreign to me. Just like Nolwi, I was torn between self fulfillment and duty. Pursuing my want to battle with Thranduil meant abandoning Legolas, and as I gazed at him, I felt my mother’s fear as she hesitated between saving herself and sacrificing for her daughters: is it better to leave your children and save them from potential future harm, or fail in attempting good and have them suffer for all eternity? This, I finally realized after three Ages, was the reason I could not bring myself to forgive my mother: I hated her for being cowardly and as if Legolas read my thoughts, he wiped his tears and smiled at me, extending a tiny hand towards me, saying:
“You can try to be my naneth and I will try to be your elfling. I love you Amorith.”
Was this what my mother needed to hear then, that my sister and I needed her to do her best, and that we would do our best in turn? Was this the missing piece that held her back, that she feared failing in the unknown world amidst the chaos of my family’s Curse? Was this my key to offer and receive forgiveness? It had taken a young elfling of Sindarin-Silvan heritage to show me, Fëanor’s granddaughter, my mother’s true worth. Swallowing back my own tears, I dismounted from my horse. I bent down and picked up Legolas, embraced him tightly, and whispered:
“I will try my best to be your naneth…but you must promise to help me. I love you too.”