That first night came in the middle of summer. From that night on, I called Maglor my lover. Whether he would have used the same word for me, I never knew. I still couldn't bring myself to ask him how he felt. Occasionally a sliver of affection would sneak through his guarded mannerisms, and then he would take my hand or touch my cheek, always as delicately as if I were made of spider silk. Occasionally his eyes would spark with passion. But for the most part, he kept his mind and desires hidden.
At the end of the summer we set out for Mithlond. Maglor gathered together a bundle of furs to sell or trade for items he could not make himself. We took a path heading north and walked for two days, reaching the edge of the city on the morning of the third. Even from a distance it was a wonder to behold. Never before had I seen such towers, shimmering in the sun and crowned with regal banners, standing tall and proud as they looked out over the clear blue sea. This shining stone harbour easily surpassed my father's palace and even Imladris in beauty. Each tall building and curving street had been expertly crafted down to the last details of decorative pearls and shells, more perfect than dreams. I was both awed by the sights and distressed that my father hadn't the sense to live in such a glorious place instead of his cold, dark forest.
I can only imagine how I must've looked to the citizens of Mithlond, staring and gaping as I was while dressed in animal skins. I'm sure I only served to reinforce the western stereotype of the wild, uncultured forest Elf from the east. At the inn where I sat while waiting for Maglor to sell his furs, the tailor I spoke with nodded understandingly when I told him I came from Eryn Galen.
I talked with several Elves at the inn while I waited for Maglor. They spoke just as strangely as Elrond's folk, with only subtle differences in the accent. Only a few of them could say 'Thranduil' properly. The tailor pressed me for news of Eryn Galen, wanting to know if we would be joining the war. I told him the King had not yet made a decision, which was correct for all I knew. He insisted that I petition in favour of war when I returned home, as Gil-galad needed all the reinforcements he could find and the rumour going around was that Oropher commanded an army strong enough to take down Barad-dûr on its own. I couldn't bring myself to tell him that both the size army and the possibility of Oropher helping Gil-galad were wishful thinking. Nor could I tell him that Oropher was my father.
The other three sitting at the tailor's table, a blacksmith, a merchant, and a farmer, drank their wine in bleak silence. "War's ged as den before ait starts," the blacksmith said after a minute, "If Orepher's owt and Amdair cain't maik ep hehs maind."
"Why go to war, then?" I asked.
The tailor looked at me in shock. "Don't yeh know? Sauron's ep in the sowth, ready teh declair war on es! Wai naid teh ect before hai des!"
"King's got en airmy," said farmer, "bet it's not enef. Teh maneh daid in the last war en Eregeon."
The four went quiet again after that. I didn't ask how many had died, or when this war took place. It had clearly affected all of them. I drank my wine, which the tailor had been kind enough to buy me, and stared down at a crack in the table.
Maglor didn't return until evening. By that time the tailor and the others had left, and I was alone with my last few drops of wine when he came in to stand beside me.
"I have a room here for tonight," Maglor said. "Up the stairs, second on the left. You can come now or join me later."
"You don't want to stay here for a drink of wine or some food?" I asked.
He glanced around the room. Some of those who sat around the inn stared openly, while others more discreetly flitted their eyes toward him, only looking for a second. "No," he said softly. "I'll be upstairs." He left as quickly as he had come.
Even after he'd gone I could feel the eyes on me from all directions. It made me uncomfortable, though also far more understanding of why Maglor preferred to be alone. Whether these Elves knew who he was or not, they treated him with suspicion and a measure of hostility. It was no wonder he kept himself so hidden when he knew to always expect the worst. I began to feel the same way, the longer the eyes of the room stayed locked on me. I stayed only a short time after he left.
Maglor was already in bed when I opened the bedroom door. He had made no fire to warm the room, but I didn't care. I stripped off my clothes and lay down beside him, tucking the blankets around our bodies and wrapping my arm around his chest. After the tension downstairs I had such a need to be close to him, as if to in some way prove my loyalty and love. If I needed him then I was certain that he needed me just as much. I kissed his hair and his ear, and rested my cheek against his neck so I could breathe in the scent of his skin. I ran my hand over his chest and stomach, feeling his smooth body grow hot beneath my touches. I stroked his shaft until he was hard in my grip. And I made love to him, keeping him as close as I could manage, moving as slowly as I could bear. When it was over he turned to face me, whispering word in his language too soft to hear, and pressing his lips to my cheek with his delicate spider silk kisses. I held him tightly all through that night and well into the morning.
I was the first to move when the sun shone brightly through the bedroom curtains. I sat up on the edge of the bed, looking down at him as he still lay on his side. A thought nagged at the back of my mind. The longer I sat, and the longer I tried to reconcile it, the stronger it grew. It became a churn in my stomach, a shake in my hand, and a fear in my heart. I couldn't push it back any better than I could make it disappear entirely. Heavily, I lay back down.
"Maglor," I said.
"I have to go."
He frowned as he looked at me. "Go?"
"Back to Eryn Galen."
This time he sat up, looking down at me. "You want to go back to your father."
"It's not that," I said. "It's-"
"The war." He smiled sadly.
I sat up beside him, resting my hands on his knees and leaning forward. "I have to go back," I said. "Yesterday downstairs, the way they were talking... Gil-galad's army alone can't take on Mordor, even joined with the Men of Gondor and Arnor. The army of Eryn Galen isn't vast, but it's substantial. My father can help, though I know he would never agree to it on his own. I need to make him see the severity of the situation."
Maglor said nothing, but nodded slowly.
"I don't want to leave you," I continued, quieter than before. I moved one of my hands to his wrist. "But if I don't go..."
"Thranduil," he said, "you are a prince of your people. One day you will be their king. You have a duty to those people that you must follow regardless of your personal wishes, and once you are called to that duty you cannot put it aside. My brothers and I made that mistake long ago when we ranked our own revenge above the lives of those we led. I won't see you cursed and ruined as I am when you have the ability to be so great."
"I know," I said, choking on the words as I fell onto him, weeping, already feeling the sharp sorrow of my loss even though he held me still. "I'll come back to find you," I managed somehow to say, "after the war." He kissed my forehead in reply, and held me tighter. I think he knew I never would.
"A good king cares for his people," said Maglor. "But he also cares for those in other realms, considering not only what is good for his own land, but what is good for the world. He knows his duty to all. One day you will be a good king, Thranduil, if you rule by what your heart and mind tell you is right. Polilyë caritas?"
"Caruvanyes alassenen," I answered, leaning up to kiss his mouth.
He smiled. "You will be a great king."
I saw Maglor for the last time that evening. We went to the market square and used the money he made from selling furs to buy me food for the journey home and a new travelling cloak of soft fabric. Then, after we ate a last meal of bread and cheese together, we said our farewells with a purposefully distant stiffness. I squeezed his shoulder, and he clasped my hand, and then he walked away without looking back. My entire body felt heavy as I stared after him until he disappeared around a corner. I squinted my eyes to hold back the tears and clenched my jaw to tame the lump in my throat. I stood in that spot for a long time, not wanting to move.
When I could move, when I forced myself to move, I went to the eastern edge of the city. There was a road that went from Mithlond to Imladris nearly in a direct line, and was often used by Gil-galad's soldiers. I was fortunate to be travelling when I was. Every day more soldiers were sent eastward along that road, and I was allowed to travel with a group of them. They let me sleep at their camps and eat around their fires, and even gave me a cup of wine from time to time. They treated me well when I told them I was an emissary to Eryn Galen, on my way to convince King Oropher to join in the war effort. I was treated even better when we reached Imladris, where the captains gave me rings and jewels and other tokens of esteem. Elrond said nothing, and only smiled in amusement as I pledged to use my best effort in my task. He never told them who I was, or how exactly I had come in a very roundabout way to be there.
Several of the Imladren captains offered to accompany me back to Eryn Galen, but I turned them away. My father would be difficult to convince as it was, and having any of Elrond's folk around to add pressure would only worsen the situation. So after a brief few days' rest in Elrond's house, I set off back into the east. The mountains this time didn't seem so high, nor so cold, perhaps because I was more experienced but more likely because it was only early autumn and the snow hadn't yet come for the year. In either case, I crossed easily and came soon to the eaves of the forest, and eventually to my father's realm within.
It was morning when I passed the gates, and my father was still eating breakfast. I let no-one announce me or even warn him of my presence. I walked straight into his bedroom and stood there a moment while he stared at me as if I were a ghost. I was still wearing the leather clothes that Maglor had made me, and my hair was wild and unwashed.
"Good morning, father," I said.
He choked on the bread he was eating and many seconds passed before he managed to say, "Thranduil."
"Yes," I said, "I am Thranduil. I've come back."
"Oh," he said, still coughing.
I waited for him to take a sip of water before continuing. "I have news, and I need to speak with you. Will you meet me in your office?"
He silently nodded yes.
"Good," I said. Then I exited as unexpectedly as I had entered, shutting the door firmly behind me with a satisfying bang. As soon as I stood in the corridor I saw that my hands were shaking. Never before had I dared to speak to my father like that, standing tall before him, staring him in the eye and treating him as an equal instead of some fearsome overlord. I felt a surge of pride and grinned at myself for having the courage. I knew that if I could keep that courage through the next meeting, I would have a chance to convince him of the necessity of joining forces with the Golodhrim. I went to his office to wait.
When he arrived several minutes later, he had managed to compose himself after the initial shock of seeing me as I was. He looked just as I remembered him, complete with stern eyes staring out coolly from beneath his wreath-crown of golden leaves. He sat at his desk opposite me and spoke before I had the chance to address him. "I suppose you are here to apologise for your foolishness and tell my why in the name of the Stars you ran away from home?"
"No," I said.
"Where did you go?" he asked.
"Because I wanted to."
"What did you learn?"
I licked my lips carefully before answering. "That the world is a far greater place than just your little realm in this forest," I said.
He leaned back slowly in his chair, keeping his eyes tight on mine. He was beginning to look more surprised than stern. A hint of a smile played at the corners of his mouth. "Why did you come back?" he asked.
"I have news." I cleared my throat and sat up straighter, not wanting to miss this opportunity to tell him every detail of what I knew about Gil-galad's war. "When I was in Mithlond-" I started, but he held up his hand to stop me.
"No," He said, "I don't think that's the real reason for your return. Think carefully on this, Thranduil. Why did you come back?"
That was a question I didn't expect, and it cracked my concentration. Suddenly I felt very small again, trying to think of the right answer to please him. I stumbled and stuttered over the next words I spoke. "I... No, that's... No, that is why I came back. I... I saw at Mithlond... and the soldiers. There's going to be a war. Gil-galad can't by himself and he needs-"
"Think harder," my father interrupted.
I fell silent. I could think of no other way to answer him. I had no idea what he expected me to say, whether he though I had some other purpose or if he simply wanted me to break down in tears and tell him I had come back for his forgiveness. I closed my mouth and stared at him stupidly.
"I can tell you why," he finally said. "I know about the war. Some time ago Gil-galad sent me a letter, outlining his position and asking for my aid. Now it seems he is finally going through with his plan. You have come back to report what you have seen in the west and tell me I should agree to his request. That you carry no letter tells me that you come of your own will."
"Yes, exactly," I said, even though I was uncertain of how his take on the events differed from mine.
He leaned forward and asked, "Did you go to Amdír in Lórien and ask him to lend his forces to Lindon?"
"Of course not," said my father. "Did that thought even cross your mind?"
I shook my head.
"You came here, Thranduil," he said, "because no matter how much you think you want to leave this place or how much you wish you could hate me for being so hard on you, this is still your home. You love this forest and the people within. When you thought it was in danger, you put aside your personal fears and came back to protect it. Did you think I would be angry with you for running away?"
"I thought you would tie me to a tree in the middle of the forest and leave me to be eaten by bears," I answered truthfully.
He laughed at that. I don't remember him ever laughing before. "You see your first thought was for Eryn Galen," he said. "The possible consequence of being eaten by bears was secondary. That's why you came back. For your people and your land."
Of course he was right. He was right about my reason for returning, and about my fear of his anger, bears or not. When I first left and all through the two summers I spent away, I had convinced myself I could never go back. His anger would be so great that, if he didn't kill me, he would at least make sure I never saw the outside my bedroom again. I often wondered if, in that case, he would allow me to marry, and whether I would have to raise my children entirely inside one small room. But once I made my decision to return, the fear of him didn't cross my mind again.
It was at about this time that I noticed he looked neither ready to tie me to a tree nor determined to keep me locked in my room until the end of time. "Are you angry at me for running away?" I asked cautiously.
"I was," he said. "When you first left, I was certain you would return within a day. When you didn't, I sent out messengers to find you and drag you back. I wanted to strangle you then for being so stupid. But after that I was terrified. I thought you must be dead. Then the messengers returned to say you had been at Imladris but had escaped before they could catch you. When they told me that, I was relieved, but also impressed. That you had managed to stay away for so long showed not only skill but determination. That is a quality I've always admired."
He stood up and walked to a small table, where he poured a glass of wine before continuing. "I knew it was my fault entirely that you left. I blamed only me. I told myself that if I had been less critical and demanding, that if I had not held such fantastic expectations, you would not have left. I began to realise that despite all the things I wished for you, all the qualities I wished you to possess and all the knowledge I wished you to have, I had never taken the time to teach you what you needed to know. I had only ever scolded you when you, not knowing any different, failed to meet my mark. You must have thought me a terrible father."
I didn't want to answer him, but he stared at me expectantly until I could stand it no more. I lowered my eyes and muttered, "Yes."
"I only ever wanted you to show some sign that one day you would be a good king," he said. "Wisdom, passion, courage... any of those. While you were away I had time to think on the things you have done so far in your life to prove your strength, and after a year I began to think that running away and not looking back was the most courageous thing you've ever done. I began to admire you for it. I wished you would return so I could see how you had changed, if you had found all the gifts I wanted for you. I think you have."
Dumbfounded, I stared up at him. I might have been dreaming for all the sense this conversation made. My father had never before so much as given a quick nod in approval of anything I did. Now he stood before me with a smile, gazing down at me with proud eyes that seemed to regard me as the great hope for our people. I wasn't sure what to think or do. After forty-nine years of disappointed sighs and scowls, praise is met with suspicion. I couldn't help but wonder when he would turn back into himself and go find a good tree-tying rope. But he held out his hand, which I took, and he pulled me to my feet.
"But I think you should go change into some decent clothes now," he said. "And have a bath. You smell like a deer."
I looked down at my leather outfit and dirty hands and nodded in agreement. I also felt a small sense of relief in that least he still knew how to criticise me in one way. Home wouldn't be home without the occasional reprimand.
"And afterward," he added, "go see your mother. She's been terribly worried about you."
After bathing and dressing in new clothes, I spent that afternoon and evening with my mother, telling her as much about my journey as I could while still omitting everything to do with Maglor. We talked until we both grew tired, and then I went to my old bedroom. Nothing had changed since I left. My clothes still hung in the closet, and all my thing still stood around on tables and shelves. Only the sheets and blankets on my bed had been freshly laid in honour of my return. I slept happily, and probably longer than necessary, glad as I was to be in a real bed again after the journey from Imladris.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.