Chapter Three: Rituals

by Jay of Lasgalen

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The funeral procession left Lasgalen and slowly crossed the open area in front of the entrance.  As they passed beneath the tall posts  that held the banners, Legolas paused and looked upwards.  The banners, one the oak leaf symbol of Lasgalen, the other with an emblem of a beech tree, were both edged with the white of mourning.  Instead of fluttering high among the tree tops, at the top of the poles, the flags now hung lower, hanging limply as they no longer caught the breeze.

Legolas turned towards his father. “Ada?  Why are the banners like that?  Is it because of Nana?”

Thranduil nodded.  “Yes.  Because she was Queen.  And because Lissuin was a princess.  I can remember when the flags were like that once before, when I came back from the war, because my father the King was dead, and my mother.”  He rested one hand gently on his son’s shoulder in a gesture of reassurance.

The procession continued on into the forest.  Four of Thranduil’s highest ranking staff, Calmacil, Tionel, Orionë and Lanatus carried the litter which bore Telparian and Lissuin.  Mother and daughter were wrapped together in a white cloak, richly embroidered in gold and silver thread.  Thranduil and Legolas walked behind, followed, it seemed, by the entire population of Lasgalen.  They halted in a wide clearing where a shallow grave had already been prepared.

The four litter-bearers -  healer, stewards, and army commander; most of them close friends as well; set the litter down.  They bowed, made the gesture of farewell, then stepped back to stand just behind Thranduil and Legolas.

In the utter stillness and silence that followed, Legolas could hear his heart beating loudly.  He glanced at his father, wondering if he could hear it, but Thranduil seemed oblivious, unaware of his surroundings.  His gaze was fixed blankly on Telparian and Lissuin.

Calmacil cleared his throat.  “My Lord?  Your Majesty?  Shall we begin?”

Thranduil blinked, suddenly becoming aware of the expectant silence, as all waited patiently for him to start the proceedings.  He began with a prayer to Elbereth to guide the souls of the dead safely to the Halls of Mandos, and a plea to Mandos to protect and care for them, to return their spirits to the world while those who loved them remained.  All those present joined in the liturgy, prayer and response, chant and counter-chant.

Finally Thranduil began to sing, a slow, mournful song of grief and loss.  For the first part of the lament he sang alone, his voice soft, then gradually others began to blend their voices to the harmony.  Slowly the tone of the sad air changed, the deep, desolate sorrow giving way to a commemoration, a thanksgiving for the joy Telparian had brought to the lives of those she had touched, those she loved.

As the final, uplifting notes faded away, Thranduil found he was smiling through tears, remembering, at least for now, the love he had felt for his wife, rather than feeling the gaping hole she had left in his life.

Before the next part of the ceremony commenced, Thranduil signalled to Mireth.  He had already arranged for her to take Legolas away, back to Lasgalen for this part of the ritual.  For all Legolas’ determination, he should not witness the slow burial of his mother and sister, as a cairn of stones was built over them. When the burial mound was complete, the final, private, act of remembrance would take place.  The next day, Thranduil and Legolas would plant an oak sapling and an acorn on the grave, which would flourish and grow tall.

First, though, Legolas selected two small, fist-sized stones from the mound at one side of the clearing, and laid them beside his mother and Lissuin.  He paused, trying to select just one memory from the thousands he carried of Telparian.

“Goodbye, naneth.  I remember the wonderful stories you used to tell me.  But I’ll never know now what happened in the last story.  You never finished it.” 

He thought about Lissuin, too.  He had no memories for her, there had been no time.  There were only  dreams.  “Goodbye, Lissuin.  I wish I could have shown you how to use that bow.”

He laid the stones down, and waited while Mireth placed her own tributes.  “Farewell.  It was always a pleasure to serve you.  I always thought of you as a friend, rather than the Queen.  Little Lissuin – I wish I could have cared for you, and loved you like I do Legolas.”   Then he was gone, led by Mireth back to Lasgalen, casting a long backward glance behind him.

During the course of the afternoon and evening, everyone present would lay a stone on the mound, and recall a special moment or memory of Telparian, a kindness done, a lasting image.  One by one they stepped forward, from the youngest children - who would also return after their tribute - to the warriors and novices, the servants, the cooks, the healers and apprentices.  There was a visiting healer from Imladris, studying with Calmacil, who had agreed to represent Elrond.

Each had their own particular memory of Telparian, and shared it by speaking aloud as the stones were placed.  Some had not been able to select just one memory, and laid several stones.

Listening to the tributes, Thranduil was amazed anew at the immense love his people held for the Queen, at the range of memories and recollections voiced.

“I remember dancing with you at the mid-winter festival.”

“You told me of the Grey Havens, about your home there.”

“I remember you talking of the sea.”

“I remember all the elflings sitting at your feet while you told them stories.”

“You once gave me your hair clasp because I admired it.  I wear it today in honour of your memory.”

“I remember the day you arrived here.  I think I loved you from that moment.  But by the time I saw you, you had already met Thranduil, and I knew I had no chance.”  The last speaker was Tionel.  Thranduil looked at him questioningly.  He had had no idea about that.

Tionel gave him a wry smile.  “I always wished you well, both of you, but for a long time I was very envious of you!”

As each one placed their stone and shared their memory and accolade, they left.  Finally only Thranduil and Calmacil were left.

Calmacil placed his own tribute - with a memory of attending Telparian when Legolas was born - but instead of leaving, he waited.  He did not want to leave Thranduil alone, or he would probably remain here all night.

The cairn was almost complete.  Thranduil gazed at it sadly, his head bowed, trying to sift from his many memories the most compelling reminiscences.  Slowly he began his own homage.

“Goodbye, my love.  I remember your laughter.  Your kindness.  Your grace.  Your beauty.  I remember the first time I saw you.  I remember returning from the war, when you were waiting for me.  I remember our marriage and coronation.  Thank you for your love.  Thank you for our life together.  And thank you for our son .  He is all I have left of you now.  Namárië.”

He placed a stone on the cairn with each memory and finally stepped back.  Turf would be laid over the stones in the morning, and the final part of the ceremony, the planting, would be conducted in private, just Thranduil and Legolas.

After a long silence, Calmacil touched his arm gently.  “Come.  We should return.  It will be dark soon.”

The long, mid-summer afternoon and evening had slowly faded into dusk.  The sky was not dark enough for stars yet, but Thranduil knew that from the centre of the clearing the stars would eventually be visible in all their glory.  He had lain there with Telparian often enough to know all their  patterns as they slowly wheeled overhead.

Slowly and sadly, he returned to Lasgalen.  Many had gathered in the great hall for the evening meal, but the atmosphere was muted and subdued.  Here and there, though, laughter could be heard, and voices asking “do you remember ... ?”  No one, it seemed, could think of Telparian for long without recalling her laughter and love of life.

Thranduil felt he could still not face the sympathetic looks and condolences, not yet.  Instead, he made his way to his study.  Legolas was already there with Mireth, curled up in a chair while she read to him from one of the heavy volumes of history.  He was perfectly capable of reading the book - an account of the war of the Silmarils, his current fascination - for himself, but Legolas was half asleep, lulled by Mireth’s soothing voice.  He looked up, smiled and yawned.

“Mireth told me to go to bed, but I wanted to wait until you came back.  Do you mind?”

“No, of course not.  But it is time for bed now.  Come along.”

Thranduil returned a little later, having left Legolas reading “just for a few minutes, Ada, please!”  Mireth had stayed with him, but Tionel and Calmacil were there, with a light meal for the three of them.  Calmacil had even found a flask of Dorwinion from the cellars.

When Thranduil started to protest that he was not hungry, Calmacil gave him a stern look.  “When did you last eat, or sleep?”

Thranduil tried to remember.  “I ... yesterday?”

“Try the day before.  Thranduil, Legolas needs you well and rested, not exhausted and foul tempered. He needs his father.   Mireth can stay with him tonight, if he wants it.  You are going to eat, then sleep.”

Thranduil glared at Calmacil.  “Are you ordering me?” he asked softly.

“Yes,” Calmacil replied flatly.  “As the palace healer.  Are you arguing?”

There was a flash of anger in Thranduil’s eyes, but then he capitulated, recognising the sound sense behind Calmacil’s words.  As he began to eat, he realised he was hungry, after all.  By the time they finished their meal, he felt somewhat better, but the strain of exhaustion and grief of the endless day and night were catching up with him.  Thranduil yawned, his eyes heavy.  As he sat in deep chair by the window, he looked at Calmacil accusingly.  “What did you do?”

The healer shrugged unrepentantly.  “I put peles in your wine.  I thought you would need some help to sleep tonight.”

The last thing Thranduil was aware of as he slipped into the mercy of sleep, escaping the pain of loss for a while, was Calmacil placing a thin blanket over him.

“Is he asleep?” Tionel asked.

“Yes, at last.  This probably is not very ethical, but I thought he needed it.  He can shout at me in the morning.”  Calmacil did not seem too worried by the prospect, but he too was pale with weariness and sorrow.

Although most of the previous night’s vigil had passed in silence, Calmacil had spoken briefly of what he still felt to be his failure in being unable to save Telparian or Lissuin.  He clearly still felt responsible.  Tionel looked at Calmacil consideringly, then made up his mind.  He lifted the flask of Dorwinion.  “There is still some of this left.  Shall we finish it?”

Calmacil nodded.  “Yes, why not?  It seems a shame to waste it.”

Thranduil’s cup of drugged wine was still half full.  With some deft sleight of hand, Tionel topped it up to the brim, and handed it to Calmacil without him realising which cup he had taken.  He raised his own goblet.  “To Telparian,” he suggested.

“To Telparian.”  They drank, and began to talk of their own memories, and what the days to come might hold, for Thranduil, for Legolas, for all of them.  After a while, Calmacil blinked, stretching wearily.  He yawned, and rubbed at his eyes.  “I feel so tired, suddenly.”

Tionel affected a look of concern.  “Is it the peles?  Did you drink from Thranduil’s cup in error?”

Calmacil scowled at him, suddenly realising.  “Curse you, Tionel,” he said, without heat.  “Help me get to bed, will you?  I think that the least you can do.  It would scarcely do for us both to be found here in the morning.”

With a chuckle, Tionel helped his friend to his own rooms, guiding his faltering steps.  He deposited Calmacil on the bed, removed his boots, draped a light cover over the healer, and finally blew out the candle.

Before he sought his own bed, there was one more task.  He quietly opened the door to Legolas’ room and peered in.  Mireth sat beside the bed, engrossed in the book she had been reading to Legolas earlier.  She glanced up.  “He fell asleep at last.  He said he did not want anyone with him tonight, but I thought I would stay here for now.  Just in case.”

Tionel nodded.  “If you need anything, come and find me.  Leave the King and Calmacil to sleep.  They need it.”

“Why?  What did you do?”

Tionel grinned tiredly.  “I put peles in their wine.  But it was Calmacil’s idea, not mine!  Get some sleep.  Tomorrow will be a long day.”

Tomorrow would be a long day, and all the days that followed.  But together, they could face it.

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