Promises To Keep
Stories > Jay's quicklist
Thranduil passed through the great carved gates, barely noticing the
salutes of the guards. Behind him the caverns of Lasgalen were
brightly lit by torches and firelight, in stark contrast to the
darkness outside. The halls still echoed with music and laughter;
but he had no further heart for revelry and dancing
tonight. With every song of praise, every lay sung in his
honour, his melancholy and sense of loss had only increased.
Outside, the forest was quiet, and he heard only the soft autumn murmur
of the trees as they gently shed their leaves, drowsing towards the
long sleep of winter. The air was still, and the stars veiled by
high wispy clouds and a patchy mist that rose from the damp
ground. As he walked further into the forest seeking the misty
solitude the silence grew until the only sounds were the distant hoot
of an owl and the gentle patter of rain as the mist thickened into a
He halted before a great oak and fell to his knees on the damp,
leaf-deep ground. He raised his eyes to the tree, feeling the
cool, moist touch of the misty rain on his face, and took a ragged,
shaking breath. This tree had been planted as a mere acorn
when he and his father first came to Lasgalen, and had become a lasting
symbol of the strength and endurance of Oropher’s reign. That it
still remained was a comfort to him, and a reminder of the cycle of
life of the forest; from acorn to oak to acorn once more.
The day had been given to celebration of his kingship with feasting,
music and song; celebration of the long years since the fall of Sauron;
and celebration of the hard-won peace and prosperity that Lasgalen now
enjoyed. But amidst all the joyous celebration, one vital fact
had been overlooked.
Today – today was also the anniversary of his father’s death, but the
significance seemed forgotten by all but a few. Few mentioned
Oropher now, and even fewer marked that this celebration of Thranduil’s
kingship also commemorated the fall of the old king.
Yet Oropher had not just been the king whom Thranduil had
honoured. He had also been the battle leader Thranduil had
followed unhesitatingly – even into the horror and chaos of Dagorlad –
and most importantly of all, he had been the father Thranduil loved and
still grieved for.
In the still silence of the night he drifted into memories of his
father – of the times they had gone hunting in the forests of Doriath,
of tales told by a roaring fire, of the time they had built a raft
together and drifted – and capsized – along the Esgalduin.
The memories brought with them peace as well as pain. He
knew that the celebration of the day had been right, for there was much
to be thankful for – not least the thanks in Thranduil’s own heart for
the wondrous confirmation that life continued. It had been only a
few, brief days since he and Telparian had celebrated the joyous
creation of new life, and the thought still dazed him at times.
But even amidst his private joy, there remained a profound regret that
Oropher would never know his grandson; would never go hunting or
boating, would never teach him the call of every bird in the forest,
and would never show him how to make his first bow.
Slowly, the peace and silence of the forest began to creep into his
soul, soothing him as it always did. It eased his
restlessness and lulled him into a calm acceptance. Oropher
was gone, but life continued.
Around him, the evening darkened, and pockets of mist still hung oddly
beneath the trees. On a night like this, Thranduil could almost
believe the legends and stories; that on a night such as this
spirits and spectres walked upon Arda, that the Houseless Ones roamed,
lost and lonely. He shivered at the thought. The Houseless
Ones - elves who had refused the summons of Mandos, who had tried to
deny death itself. They had become trapped between Arda and the
Halls and wandered for eternity, restless and hungry, always seeking
others to join them and ease their loneliness.
The mist thickened. A pale light grew, and an eerie, flickering
flame rose from the ground. Then, before his very eyes, a shape
began to coalesce out of the mist, gaining form and substance from the
air itself, until a pale, misty figure stepped out from the shadows of
the trees. He seemed clad in a colourless haze, as thin and
insubstantial as a will ’o the wisp.
Thranduil stood, instinctively drawing the dagger that never left his
side, half wondering how the intruder had slipped past the
guards. Then, with a sense of disbelief, he realised that he
could see through the figure to the trees behind it. With an even
greater shock of disbelief he recognised the apparition.
“Father?” he whispered incredulously.
Almost as if naming it gave it greater strength, the spectre became
clearer, though still semi-translucent. Oropher
smiled. “My son,” he murmured. Thranduil heard no sound,
but the words drifted into his mind like a dream. “My
son.” There was a great weight of sorrow, pain and loss
behind Oropher’s silent voice.
Thranduil swallowed. There was so much he wished he could
tell his father – but this strange encounter was merely a dream,
nothing more. It could not be real. A breath of wind
stirred the leaves on the trees, and the misty figure wavered slightly
before solidifying again.
“Are – are you one of the Houseless Ones?” he asked with
dread. There was no fear for himself, but the thought of his
father doomed to such an awful fate filled him with horror.
“Nay. I dwell with Mandos now. But on a night such as this,
the veils between the worlds grow thin. I wanted to see
you. I prevailed upon him to walk once more in Lasgalen –
to see you one final time. To talk with you one final time.
And I felt you wanted to see me.”
Thranduil simply nodded. “Yes,” he breathed at last.
Oropher bowed his head. “Forgive me. I am
sorry. Sorry that I left you, and sorry for my folly in refusing
to ally ourselves with Gil-Galad’s forces. My foolish, stubborn
pride led us all into danger, and led our warriors to their
deaths. I see that now. Yet when I see you now; see what
you have achieved – I am so proud of you. Despite my mistakes,
you survived, and led our people home. You have made the
Greenwood strong again. And …”
“Why? Why did you do it?” Thranduil interrupted. The
bitter words he had kept hidden in his heart for so long suddenly burst
forth, surprising him with their force.
“Why?” Oropher paused. “Because … because I saw the troops
of darkness closing in on your own forces. I should
have called for reinforcements – even from Gil-Galad or Elendil.
I should have warned you. I should have thought. But
because you were threatened, I simply struck first – and then
there was no opportunity to think later.” The shadows shifted, as
if he was smiling. “One day you will understand. The son
you will have …”
Thranduil stared at the wraith in amazement. “You know?” he
whispered. “You know? Yet we have told no-one – his
conceiving was only days ago!”
At Oropher’s gentle smile, Thranduil felt like a foolish child
again. “I dwell with Mandos now,” Oropher repeated
simply. “The son you will have – you will love him, and protect
him, but he is destined for greatness, and all will praise his deeds.
Thranduil was scarcely comforted. Throughout history, elves who
were the subject of praise and song had tended to have their lives cut
brutally short. “Those whom the Valar love die young,” he quoted
rather bitterly. “I know the shadow is not conquered for
ever. I know it will rise again. Yet I had hoped that
my son would be spared that horror – the Greenwood has already given
Oropher hesitated, as if listening to a distant voice. “It will
not claim his life. This newest son of the forest, this little green
leaf – he will be greater than us both. And one day – one day we
will all be reunited again beyond the sundering seas.”
A breath of air moved, and Oropher’s form wavered. He gazed
at Thranduil. “Goodbye,” he murmured silently. “I
love you, my son.” The breeze stirred again, and this time the
mist drifted away like smoke, and the figure faded away into
“Wait!” Thranduil cried desperately – but there was no reply,
silent or spoken. There was only the damp, misty night, and the
soft drip of water from the leaves. The owl had fallen silent,
and Thranduil realised that his cloak and hair were heavily beaded with
moisture – though the wetness on his face was not wholly due to the
He moved at last, and walked slowly back to Lasgalen, deep in
thought. The song and revelry were over, and the halls silent;
lit now only by the ever-present torches.
Telparian, long abed, stirred sleepily as he entered their rooms, then
sat up. “You are soaked!” she exclaimed. She drew him
to the fire and rekindled it to life. “Have you been in the
forest all this time?”
He had not realised that he had been gone for so long. “I was …
thinking,” he said at last, unsure how to explain his strange
meeting. The encounter – dream – whatever it had been – had
shaken him from his melancholy and self-pity, and left him with a
renewed sense of peace and acceptance. He was king,
and had a duty to his people. He had promises to keep – to the
Greenwood, and to his father. To Telparian, and to his
son. And suddenly he understood Oropher’s sacrifice.
If the time came, he would freely and gladly give his own life for the
realm, for his family.
He held her close, breathing in her unique scent, and drawing strength
from her love and support. Placing one hand against her stomach,
he sent a silent welcome to the new life there. ‘Greetings,
She smiled. “You always think best when you are beneath the
trees!” She covered his hand with her own, and smiled
again. “I was sleeping – and I had a rather odd dream. I
dreamed of your father, and that he came to welcome this little
one. Our little green leaf, he called him.”
Thranduil felt an immense stillness and peace wash through
him. “I know,” he whispered. “Our little green
leaf. A good name for a child of the forest.”
Telparian leaned against him and nodded. “A good name,” she agreed. “A perfect name.”