Bard thought he looked nervous in the mirror as he patted down and straightened up his jacket. The clothes he was wearing seemed too rich, too thick, too lavish for a simple bargeman. He shook his head.

He was no longer a simple bargeman.

It had been three years since Smaug had destroyed Laketown, and the people now lived in Dale.

Bard was going to become the first King of Dale in 174 years.

The people had continued to support him until this point and trusted him to lead them out of hunger and homelessness. How was he supposed to live up to that for the rest of his life? He could feel his knees begin to shake.

The feel of large hands on his shoulders calmed him, and when Bard looked over his shoulder to see Thranduil's face, his smile softened into something more content.

Thranduil's lips quirked in a way Bard had learned meant he was happy. "You," he said, squeezing Bard's shoulders, "you are ready. The Men of Dale believe in you. Should you not do the same?"

"What? Believe in myself?" Bard said wryly.

"No," Thranduil replied, "believe in them."

Bard did a double take. He turned his head to look back in the mirror and locked eyes with Thranduil.

Thranduil gave a true, if small, smile when he saw the surprise on Bard's face. "You have helped your people through hard times. You saved them from Smaug and did not abandon them afterwards to fend for themselves. You have led them in the correct direction so far. Have you decided that you cannot be the leader they need, although they have evidence to the contrary?" he said.

Bard stood for a moment, thinking.

He grinned. "Why are you always right?" he said with a small laugh.

"I have been a king for nearly three thousand years. You will find my advice is usually quite sound," Thranduil said. "Are you ready to be crowned?"

"Only if you're with me every step of the way.

Ah, yes, the trash pit that is barduil. This is my first work with them, so please tell me if anything is dangerously OOC.

Also, I may have calculated Thranduil's reign - if he became king the same year his father died (which I'm assuming is how it works for elves), he would have been king of Mirkwood for 2,951 years by the time Bard was crowned.

Good god, that is one old elf.

but that also means Bard can't spend Thranduil's 3,000th anniversary with him in TA 2993 because he dies in TA 2977.