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An Encounter

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Thranduil had made it a habit to walk among the trees of Greenwood late into the morning, just when the light glinted through the trees and touched his silver hair. Thranduil couldn’t recall when he had started this daily routine but assumed it first happened around the time his wife died. At first he took his young son, Legolas, with him. They would talk and stroll and the elf child was entertained. It had been hundreds of years since the last time Thranduil had strolled with his son. Now Legolas had no need or want to take walks with his father so Thranduil had proceeded on his own.

The people of Laketown had gotten used to seeing a majestic elf wandering through the forests of Greenwood and paid no mind. Besides, Thranduil had been doing it for hundreds of years now; it had almost passed into legend to the humans. Most didn’t know it was the elven king Thranduil but instead thought it was an angel. Stories of an angel in the woods enchanted the children and filled their fantasies.

There was one child in particular that was enthralled with the fact that there was an angel in the woods. And one early morning he decided to see for himself. He grabbed his bow and hopped into his raft and floated down the river one spring morning.

On that particular spring morning, Thranduil decided to take his stroll quite slowly taking his time to notice all the details of the trees he’s known for centuries. Everything seemed to be illuminated with light and nothing but serenity came from the forest. It was no wonder that the people of Laketown thought Thranduil an angel. The sun lit up the elf’s form making him glow as he walked the forest this morning.

As Thranduil came to the far edges of the forest he noticed something he had never seen in all the years he’s wandered Greenwood. A small makeshift raft lay on the banks of the forest.

Thranduil didn’t think much about it and assumed it was a strayed hunter from Laketown but nevertheless his guard was up.

Thranduil continued his stroll continuing his thoughts when he heard a small snap of branches from far off in the distance. The snap made the elven king jump as quickly as he turned around, peering through the trees and ready to glare at anyone who was about to disturb his walk.

Thranduil continued on, his pace a little quicker and a little lighter than before. Thranduil scoffed a little to himself.

I am over thousands of years old, he thought to himself. How could an elf like me be anxious about some twigs snapping? It was probably an animal.

Thranduil felt very out of character and didn’t quite know why he was acting so unpredictable.

He noticed the snapping sounds coming closer and Thranduil stopped in his tracks. His keen elven ears could hear the soft pants of someone behind a tree.

“I can hear you,” Thranduil said in his authoritative tone. The panting was cut off with a knife. “Why do you linger in the shadows?”

Thranduil turned around and no one was there.

“Show yourself.”

Suddenly, from behind a nearby tree, a small boy slid out of hiding. His brown hair was unruly and he fashioned clothes that were typical of men of the Lake. He had a bow around his small body and gripped it for courage.

His face had a mixture of awestruck wonder but also stone dead fear at the sight of the tall elf before him.

Thranduil glanced down upon the child.

“What is your name?”

“Bard.” The child squeaked out a reply. His small voice was meek but also had a definitive firmness to it. Thranduil didn’t usually fancy human children but as he looked upon the small boy before him he was truly captivated.

“Who are you?” Bard asked quickly. “Are you an angel?”

Thranduil didn’t know what had come over him. A wide grin spread across his lips and he almost let out a chuckle. This child had elicited a warming sensation that he hadn’t felt since the last time he had walked in the woods with Legolas.

“No, I’m not an angel, Bard.” He said. “I’m an elf.”

“That’s what I thought,” Bard said looking somewhat disappointed. “What are you doing here in the woods?”

“Simply taking a stroll,” the elven king replied. Thranduil turned to leave from the boy to continue his walk. He looked up to the tree covered sky and could tell his walk has been longer than he had expected. He turned to head back to his realm.

As he turned to walk away he felt a slight tug on his cloak. He looked down at the human boy with a confused look.

“Can I walk with you, Mr.Elf?” Bard asked innocently.

A flashback of the time Legolas had tugged on his cloak long ago flooded his mind now. He looked into the hazel eyes of the child but instead saw his son’s icy blue ones.

Thranduil gave a slight nod and continued back in the direction of his gates. Bard followed behind him closely getting distracted at times along the way but then right back at Thranduil’s side. He babbled to himself and to Thranduil at times, asking him questions and Thranduil politely answered them.

The two of them went on like that until Thranduil had finally come to the gates of the Woodland Realm. Bard looked up at the tall gates astonished by their enormity and immaculate display.

“You wouldn’t see that back in Laketown,” Bard said to himself. He proceeded to follow Thranduil until Thranduil stopped him.

“Don’t you need to return home?” Thranduil asked.

“Well,” Bard pondered for a moment, looking at the ground and kicking a stone. As the child worked up an excuse an elf guard who was standing post at the gate came up to Thranduil. The two exchanged words in elvish before the Gates opened.

Thranduil started to walk into the vast hall before looking over his shoulder at Bard who was trying to peek behind Thranduil into the halls of the Woodland Realm.

“Come on,” Thranduil said to the child with his back turned. He motioned with his hand behind his back and Bard scrambled to be next to his side.

Thranduil got a couple looks from the elves who were not accustomed to seeing human children. They didn’t really know how to react to little Bard since their own children looked little for only a short while in the lifespan of an elf.

Thranduil didn’t bother with the other elves and he brushed off their questions. He simply went to work, continuing the duties that he hadn’t completed the previous day.

Bard was enthralled by the whole spectacle. The Woodland Realm was truly a site to see. Long pillars stretched on for what seemed like forever to Bard. Light streamed down from in between the carved pillars. Everything was enchanting and was worth exploring. But Bard stayed by Thranduil’s side and watched him work.

Since the day and the life of the elven king was quite boring Thranduil was glad he had Bard to keep him company. He quickly became bored with the paperwork he was probably supposed to do and resorted to pouring himself a glass of wine. Bard was always close behind.

“Can I have a drink?” Bard asked innocently.

Thranduil pondered the thought for a moment and forgot that young children weren’t supposed to have alcohol.

“I don’t think so,” Thranduil replied. “Are you thirsty?”

Bard nodded his head and Thranduil could hear a small growl from the child’s stomach.

Thranduil moved into the next room and motioned for Bard to sit at the table. Thranduil then proceeded to make Bard a warm cup of tea and a small plate of lembas.

Bard said his thanks and he drank all the tea in one gulp then continued on to chomp away at the biscuit. Thranduil sat in the chair next to the child, watching him eat.

“Do you have any kids?” Bard asked Thranduil after he had finished his snack.

“Yes,” Thranduil said. “A son.”

“Ah!” Bard looked surprised. “Can I meet him? Is he my age?”

Thranduil knew Legolas was hardly Bard’s age at all but in appearance and maturity he was probably too old for Bard to play with.

“I don’t believe so.”

“That’s too bad.” Bard said a little disappointed. “Do you have a wife?”

Bard’s questions didn’t offend or anger Thranduil in any way but they seemed to strike a saddened nerve within him. Thranduil looked away at something over in the distance and shook his head.

“No. She has been gone for a while now.”

Bard looked genuinely melancholy for a moment. He knew exactly what 'gone' had meant. He looked down at the crumbs on his plate and sniffled a little. Thranduil quickly looked at the boy when he heard the sniffle.

“I’m sorry,” Bard said after a moment of trying to contain his tears. “My mama died not too long ago.”

A sad silence fell between the two and Thranduil, who had dried up his tears and emotions long ago, tried to compose the pain he felt in his chest.

Thranduil had to lighten the mood somehow and so he rose from his chair and went to his bookshelf. He grabbed one of the storybooks that he used to read to Legolas. He opened the well-worn binding and flipped through the brightly illustrated pages until he found what used to be Legolas’ favorite story.

Bard looked up from his sniffles to notice the beautiful pages before him.

“I’m going to tell you a story.” Thanduil replied.

For the next few hours Thranduil told the story of Eärendil who carried a star across the sea and slew the mightiest of Morgoth’s dragons. Bard was simply fascinated and an emotion was awakened in Thranduil that hadn’t been felt in a long time.

Soon the afternoon sun was approaching and it was well time for little Bard to be heading home.

“Thank you for the story, Mr. Elf.” Bard replied as Thranduil walked him back to his raft.

Thranduil merely smiled and watched the child scramble on to his raft.

As Bard started to float down back toward Laketown he called out to Thranduil.

“Do you think I can come back for another story sometime?” He called out.

Thanduil smiled and nodded his head. Bard let out a laugh and Thranduil watched him sail further down the river.

Bard never returned to the Woodland Realm any time soon, though Thranduil had waited for him, setting out a plate of lembas and tea. He spread out the pages of his storybook everyday for a few weeks before it went back to remain on the shelf.

When Thranduil took his walks he never forgot about Bard. The small child had struck a chord in him that he hadn’t felt in lifetimes. He wondered what became of the child and how he must have grown up to be a strong man. Though Bard never returned to Thranduil in those next few weeks, let alone years, Thranduil always had a small inclination that he would see Bard again