When they finally left Telparian, Thranduil carried Legolas back to his room. While Legolas was getting ready for bed, Thranduil spoke softly to Calmacil and Tionel.
“I have a great favour to ask of you both. Would you - would you keep vigil for me tonight? I know I should be with Telparian and Lissuin. But I think I should be here more.” He glanced over his shoulder at Legolas.
Tionel nodded, his eyes full of tears. “I understand. Yes, I think you are right. I would be - honoured to do so.”
Calmacil was more hesitant. “My Lord - are you sure you want me? I - I failed you. I could not save them, either of them. Perhaps ...”
Thranduil stopped him. “I know how hard you tried. You did everything you could, the blame is not yours. I doubt if Elrond himself could have done more. There is no-one I would rather entrust with this, than you both.”
Calmacil bowed his head. “Thank you, my Lord. You do us a very great honour.”
They left then for their sad duty, and Thranduil closed the door, shutting out the soft sounds of grief that drifted through the corridors and hallways. Legolas by now had changed into a nightshirt, but was standing motionless in the centre of the room, staring at nothing in particular. He started as Thranduil spoke to him.
“Yes, father. I was just - thinking.”
“Then into bed. No more thinking tonight.”
Thranduil sat on the bed as Legolas settled down, his head nestled against his father’s chest. Thranduil wrapped his arms around his son in reassurance. From the tremors that shook Legolas occasionally, Thranduil knew he was crying again, silently - as he was himself. A warm wetness soaked into his chest. He tightened his embrace, murmuring soft words. But it was pointless to say ‘Do not cry’; ‘It will be all right’; Do not worry’ - all the usual reassurances he normally used. It would not be all right, not now, not ever again.
Instead he began to sing a soft lullaby, one he could recall his own mother singing to him, long, long ago, in Doriath.
Gradually the sobs lessened, and Legolas’ tight grip on his father slackened. When he was quite sure that his son was asleep Thranduil gently disentangled himself and moved across to the window. Here, too, the shutters were open. He sat on the narrow window seat, gazing up at the stars, aware of the tears coursing down his face.
During the long, silent night, he sat motionless, remembering. He remembered the first time he had set eyes on Telparian, when she was just one of the entourage who had arrived from the Grey Havens in the days before he, his father, and the host of Greenwood left for battle in Mordor. He had known then that in her, he had found the other half of his soul. He recalled the next time he had seen her, on his return to Lasgalen after seven long, exhausting, heartbreaking years; returning as King, leading a tragically depleted army.
He recalled the joy of their combined wedding and coronation ceremonies, and the unrivalled passion and bliss of their wedding night. He had never imagined that such ecstasy was possible.
Also, there had been the night of love beneath the harvest moon at the time of the autumn equinox, which had resulted in Legolas’ birth. He remembered how very proud he had been, sitting by Telparian with his arm held possessively around her as she cradled their son, both of them looking in wonder at the tiny scrap of life before them.
And then there was the Midsummer feast last year. At the end of the evening, he had led Telparian away from the celebrations, deep into the forest, to their favourite grove. With a few whispered words he had set in place this whole terrible chain of events. “Will you celebrate Midsummer with me, my Lady?”
A soft whimper behind him made Thranduil turn. But Legolas merely turned over and fell into a deeper sleep again. He remained at the window for the remainder of the night, looking out blindly at his forest, while the sky gradually lightened with the approach of dawn.
As Legolas began to stir, Thranduil crossed to the bed and sat on the edge. Legolas blinked sleepily at his father, surprised to see him when waking up.
“Ada? I had such a horrible dr - ” Then the realisation hit him and he took in the deep sorrow in Thranduil’s eyes. “Oh. It wasn’t a dream, was it?”
Thranduil shook his head sadly. “No. It really happened.”
“What are we going to do?”
“I do not really know. First, you need to have some breakfast. Shall I ask Mireth to bring something for us both to eat?”
“I don’t think I’m hungry.”
Thranduil knew he could not eat a thing either. But he had to try, for Legolas’ sake. And he felt he could not possibly face a meal in the main hall, not today. “We shall see. Later, there are some things ... I have to do. Perhaps Mireth will let you help her in the kitchens.” With the exception of archery practice, Legolas’ favourite occupation was helping the bakers in the great palace kitchens.
A tray arrived with a new loaf of fresh, warm bread, a dish of soft butter, and a pot of sweet-smelling clover honey. Legolas obediently spread a slice of the bread with honey, then cut the slice into smaller and smaller pieces. He pushed the plate away, untouched. “I don’t want anything.”
Thranduil had not even made a pretence of eating. He moved the tray to one side with a sigh. When Mireth came in a little later, he spoke to her while Legolas was dressing.
“Will you keep him with you this morning? Let him help in the kitchens? Just ...”
“Of course I can look after him. It will be a pleasure. He’s no trouble.”
That was a little optimistic, but he blessed her for her tact. “Thank you.”
When Legolas had gone with Mireth, Thranduil sent a messenger to find Lanatus, who could help to make the arrangements for that afternoon. When he arrived, the steward was as dour as ever. There was no mistaking his genuine sorrow over the death of the Queen, but somehow, without words, he seemed to convey the sentiment that this would never have happened in Oropher’s time.
Thranduil suppressed a sigh. He wished he could do without Lanatus, but just now he needed his calmness, his unflappable manner, and his long experience of protocol and tradition. Thranduil explained briefly what he wanted . He knew he could rely on Lanatus to see to everything efficiently. Very efficiently.
When Lanatus departed, Thranduil returned to the rooms he had shared with Telparian. Calmacil and Tionel still stood in silent vigil over a room that now seemed terribly empty.
He dismissed them both, then took up Tionel’s position, standing motionless at the foot of the bed, staring down at his wife and daughter. It still did not seem real. He recalled Legolas’ words about a ‘horrible dream’. It was all of that, it was a nightmare; and one from which he would never wake.
He had looked forward to this day for so long, since that Midsummer’s Eve when they knew they had been given another child. Telparian had known within days that they would have a daughter this time. When she told him, his joy had been complete. And now - this.
It would be easy, so easy, to succumb to his grief and loss, to give in to the despair that felt like an agonizing, physical pain cutting deep into his soul. His own mother had done so. When she learnt of Oropher’s death she had visibly wilted and faded, according to the messenger.
That night she had dressed in her finest robes, and gone deep into the forest. Sitting beneath one of the golden beeches that reminded her of Doriath, she had simply given up her life.
Thranduil had been unable to understand how she could abandon her love of life, her gaiety and laughter like that. How could she abandon the kingdom, which, while the army was away, she and Lanatus had been charged to care for? He had not understood, not then.
But now he understood only too well. How simple it would be to use the dagger sheathed in his boot, how easy to lay down beside Telparian and Lissuin and join them in the sweet oblivion of death. How simple it would be to return to the grove where both Legolas and Lissuin had started life, and to end his own.
How simple it would be to leave Lasgalen, leave the Greenwood, leave his people, and go far away, away from the memory and heartbreak, away over the sea to the undying lands where he might find some measure of tranquillity. And if one day they were to be released from the Halls of Mandos, he would be there, waiting for them. It would be so easy ...
He realised he had removed the knife from his boot and was fingering it absently. With an abrupt movement he flung it away, across the room, hearing it skittering over the floor.
No! What was he thinking of? It was not just Lasgalen he would betray, it was Legolas as well. He could never, never, abandon his son. Legolas was all he had left now. Together - somehow - they could deal with this.
The door opened quietly, and Thranduil looked up, expecting to see Tionel, or maybe Lanatus. It was Legolas. He came into the room hesitantly, looking at his father with a strange mixture of resolve and pleading.
“Mireth told me where you were. I want to join you.”
Thranduil opened his mouth to protest, that Legolas was too young, that he should not do this. But then he stopped. Legolas had inherited all of Thranduil’s - and Oropher’s - stubbornness; as well as Telparian’s sweet nature. He could cope with this. And it was his right.
“Come, then,” Thranduil said softly. “We can do this together.” He moved slightly to one side, from the foot of the bed to one of the corners. Legolas took up the other position, and copied his father’s stance - feet slightly apart, hands clasped before him. First, though, he made the gesture of farewell, touching brow and lips with his fingertips, and his heart with the back of his hand. They stood in silence, motionless, both lost deep in thought and memory.
After a while, there was a soft tap at the door. Tionel opened it. “My Lord - your majesty? It is time. Are you ready?”
Thranduil nodded. He led Legolas out, to a side room where new clothes in the white of mourning had been prepared for them. “Father? What happens now?”
Thranduil took a deep breath. “I have selected a place where - where your mother and sister will be buried this afternoon. I need you to be strong. Are you ready?”
Legolas nodded, but his resolve suddenly wavered as he finally voiced a fear that had been lurking all day. It was something he had never before contemplated in his whole life. Something that now terrified him more than anything.
“Ada? I remember something you said once about your mother, when grandfather Oropher died. You said she was very sad; so sad that she died.”
Thranduil sighed, remembering again. “Yes, she did.”
Legolas hesitated again. He didn’t want to say this, in case speaking the words made them true. But he had to know.
“Ada? You’re sad, because of Nana. Are you going to die too?”
Thranduil brushed at the tears that threatened to fall again, and shook his head wordlessly. When he could speak again, he hugged Legolas tightly and said fiercely: “No. Never. I will always look after you. Always.”
“Even when I’m grown up?”
“Yes. Even then. Though you will probably not want me to then. I expect you will tell me I worry too much. Now, are you ready?”
Legolas nodded, very serious. “Yes. Yes, I am.” He slipped his hand into his father’s. “Let’s go.”Stories > Previous > Next