I was contemplating the possible history between Tauriel and Thranduil, and this came about as a result. It's based partially on Evangeline Lilly's statements about Tauriel's parents and childhood, and partially on that elusive "For 600 years my father has favored you, protected you" line.
I own nothing, and I apologize in advance for any canonical inconsistencies or inaccuracies.
When first they meet, she mistakes him for a ghost.
This is not to say, of course, that she confuses him with one ghost or another in particular. The only dead people she knows at the moment are Ada and Nana, whose blood is still drying from red to black in her hair and on her hands, and is so mixed up with her own that the child cannot tell where she ends and they begin.
A healer is keeping one hand pressed fast over the child's chest: silly, because that certainly won't push the fractured ribs back in place, and the child would say as much if only her lungs where not punctured. If this is dying, she wants to tell the poor helpless healer, it is not really worth the fuss everyone is making.
They will figure it out on their own soon enough.
(But just in case, she will keep her fists held tight.)
The room is close and warm. Dried herbs hang on twine from the rafters. To her left sits a shallow basin filled with water – stained red – and a length of dressings – stained red – amongst the six broken pieces of arrow they have drawn from her side. Around her they move in ways that seem smooth and dreamlike, leaving trails of color behind them.
(Her clothes and boots lie scattered on the floor, rent into pieces where they have cut them off her body, so she will keep her fists held tight.)
Then the healer turns towards someone in the doorway, and a voice carries itself to her like an echo over still water.
The child turns her head as well. For an instant she must shut her eyes against the brightness of him: river mist backed by the rising sun, spider-webs floating up in the light, the stars of Menelvagor in midwinter, silver in his robes and in his hair and in the birch-white branches of his crown.
The child does not recognize him.
(He must be a ghost, she decides, to shine that way. A fell-spirit. And a very sad-faced one, too, by the look of him, come to carry her off without the slightest leave-taking or permission on her part.)
"It was a pack of orcs, my lord," the healer answers. "We found her on the south bank of the Forest River."
"Are there others?"
"No. She's the only survivor."
"What is she holding?"
"I'm sorry, my lord. We can't seem to make her let them go."
(And the child keeps her fists held tight.)
The ghost scatters light as he walks forward. He wears an opal ring on his left index finger, a silver moonstone on each thumb. The colors inside of them all seem to pulse when he lifts one hand, so it takes a moment longer for the child to realize he is holding tight to something, too.
She blinks once, twice against the blackness threatening to roll her under, and sees it is a rough little plant with white flowers.
His voice lowers, just enough so that it does not scatter into around her. Then the ghost moves to lean in closer, to bow his cold, too-bright presence over her.
"Tell me your name."
And although the child has decided dying might not be so bad after all, she remembers Nana's stories. You must never give your name to strange spirits, Nana says. That is exactly how they catch you and claim you: so, in a slow, dragging motion, the child raises one dagger to rest against the ghost's shining robes.
(He seems solid enough under the blade's edge, but perhaps that is a trick as well. She keeps her fists held tight.)
He stares at her.
She considers this. It is unwise to show impertinence towards a ghost, especially the sort of impertinence Nana says comes naturally with the red hair, but she recalls another lesson just in time.
"Shouldn't talk to st-st-strangers."
She has not allowed the dagger's edge to slide from where it is balanced on his chest.
(And perhaps she can feel something like a heartbeat, coming down through the steel into her fingertips, but at this point she can also hear colors and should not trust the matter to her own powers of perception.)
The ghost, to his credit, has not attempted to move the dagger aside either.
"And is that what you take me to be?"
A healer touches the child's other hand. Its fingernail beds are turning gray-blue, because by now there is not enough blood in her body and no air in the blood that she has, but she keeps her fists tight.
"That is no way to address your king, little one. Tell him your name."
The words snap through her.
The king. The king.
She has never seen the king before, except from afar, although Nana and Ada both seem to know him. They have told her about his dead father, whose grave lies sunken in a marsh ("And what about his mother?" the child has asked, "Where is she buried?"), about his dead wife and a lost necklace of pure starlight ("You mean you really can't remember her name, either?"), about rumors of a dead eye and a half-dead face he keeps hidden beneath a mask of glamour.
(All of this probably makes him the second-closest thing to a ghost there is, so the child supposes her initial estimation was not entirely wrong. Still, she is alive enough to feel some embarrassment.)
The king, she repeats to herself. The king, the king, the king.
"I presume you have a name, young soldier," the king says. His fingers tear at the plant with its silly white flowers, crushing up the leaves in a stone mortar the healer gives him. "And that is a very fine dagger you have, but I must ask you to stand down for the moment."
"Not m-m…muh…mine. Ada's." She draws a breath. It is ragged inside her, like bare branches. "Pl…please don't t-take th-th-th…take them."
"I will give orders to our blade-smith seeing they be cleaned and sharpened before they are returned to you for safekeeping. Does that suit you?"
"A king's word is his honor."
The child must ask her arm twice before it lowers, clutching Ada's dagger.
And she asks three times for her hands to open, but she has only managed to lift a thumb before the king uncurls her fingers for her and lays both daggers aside. His own fingers are stained dark by the plant's crushed leaves, and she watches as he smears a handful of the silly-helpless stuff over the fist-sized wound in her side.
"And now you know my name, I presume," says the king, "but you have yet to tell me yours."
Her name. Yes.
The king has asked for her name, and she has not given it to him.
(Nana is right – was right, the child corrects herself, because of course Ada and Nana are dead – about impertinence and impoliteness.)
She reaches back into the deepest, quietest places within herself to find it, and there is suddenly the memory of Nana spelling its letters out into her palm, of Ada's voice calling it up through a beech tree's branches to holler her home, its final sound curling up against the palate like a new spring fern.
The child opens her mouth to speak: but instead of her name out comes a red, choking flower of blood. It blooms open all over the king's white, ringed hands and his shining, silver clothes.
The healer starts back in surprise. She hears a gasp.
But the king does not flinch, and the child blinks at him. She is pleased by the fact that her next words are steady and sure.
He nods once. "A suitable name."
"Am I going to die?"
He keeps staring, with the same freezing superiority he has held in his eyes this whole time.
(Well, Tauriel tells herself, he should not look at her in quite that way. His parents are dead too, after all.)
"You are very far from dying," he tells her. "You would make for an extremely talkative corpse otherwise."
"I don't want to die."
"Then don't." He removes the rings from his hands. They drop one by one into the basin with its bloodied water, and he spreads his fingers flat against the wound. "That is your king's command. Can you listen to at least that much, Tauriel?"
"Yes." She pauses, then remembers to add, "my lord."
And before she sinks down into senselessness, Tauriel thinks she sees the ghost smile.
(Which is why, later, she will believe it is all a dream: so that when she wakes to find the daggers at her bedside, their edges as sharp and bright as the stars of Menelvagor in midwinter, she will forget how they came to be there.)
Any thoughts, recommendations, or suggestions are always welcome. Again, I've never written for the Tolkien fandom before, so any pointers are welcome.