12. An Oath Sworn In The Wind
Chapter Eleven: An Oath Sworn in the Wind
The envoy of elves moved quickly, covering ground faster than mortals could ever hope to ride. Their horses, tall and long limbed with great endurance, gladly pushed themselves to meet the lead rider's pace. The white stallion seemed tireless, moving effortlessly over the uncharted path before them. No trail did they follow, for time was of the essence. A direct route was necessary to reach Gondor in haste.
Astride the great stallion rode one whose very bearing deemed him to be of some importance. Indeed, a great ruler, for his very presence portrayed power and commanded great respect. But no smile or laughing eyes graced his fair face. Instead, a stern, calm expression seemed frozen on his face, the look of one bound and determined to reach his goal unhindered. Outwardly, he presented as a leader on a mission.
Inwardly, Anoriel knew that the King was angry...angry and very upset. Thranduil looked straight ahead, eyes not straying left or right, but fixed ever southwards. Long golden hair fell over the shoulders of his forest green riding tunic. A long sword hung from his hip.
He was every inch a king.
The King of Eryn Lasgalen presented an air of calm, riding tall and proud, but Anoriel knew him well enough to know it was false. One look into those emerald green eyes, and one could see the swirling emotions of an angry king. Anger that covered over the fear he did not want to admit he felt for his son.
Anoriel sighed. Her father had always been proud and stubborn, but this facade, this hiding of his true self, had not always existed. Her father had changed the day her mother had died. It was so long ago, Legolas had only been thirty, still very much a youth, years from reaching his majority. Thranduil had never told them how their mother had departed this life, only that she was gone.
Their mother was not the only parent they lost that day. The King stepped forward; the father retreated. Seldom was it that one of Thranduil's children caught a glimpse of the man they had once called 'Adar'. He was now simply, 'my lord' or 'my king'— to all except Legolas. Legolas had been too young to understand the change and had continued persistent. In public, the youngest prince used the formal titles, along with his siblings and the rest of the court, but Legolas had never stopped calling the king 'Adar' in private. And for some Anoriel and her older brothers did not understand, Thranduil had never corrected his youngest, as he had the rest of his children.
Legolas held a special place in the King's heart, as he did with all his siblings . He was the last child Laerwen had given to her husband, so young and still full of innocence, so like the beautiful lady, with her piercing, bright grey eyes who had borne him. A Greenleaf brought to life by a beloved Summer.
Anoriel frowned and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. She had never resented their father's favoritism. She herself favored Legolas, and as his only sister, had filled much of the void left after their mother's death. She had mothered Legolas as well as she could being as young as she had been at the time, only just past her majority. And so the grave news they received from Gondor had affected her almost as greatly as it did the King.
They had received the news of Legolas's injuries three days ago, and Anoriel had immediately insisted that she be allowed to make the journey with the King to Gondor. They had left at dawn the next day: herself, the King and the King's guards. Her brothers remained behind to oversee the duties, albeit reluctantly, for Legolas was dear to them as well.
The last two days had been difficult with the worries pounding painfully in her head and heart. Legolas was in a bad way with little hope of survival. The time it took to travel might have cost them being able to say goodbye, and the thought nearly broke Anoriel's heart.
It would be at least another eight days before they arrived in Minas Tirith. She looked at her father, the King, once again, noting the tight lines around the corners of his mouth and eyes. His youngest son had been grievously hurt, perhaps to the point of death and he was not taking that news well. His green eyes narrowed as he frowned, and Anoriel inwardly cringed. She feared for what her father might do when they reached Gondor, for he blamed Legolas's friends for his son's fate. She could feel his ire radiating outward.
Eight days… More time for him to rise further into a rage, or maybe, just maybe, truly calm down. Perhaps she should take the risk and speak.
"My lord," Anoriel took a chance. Someone had to reach out to him, and if not her then who? She pushed her own fears aside and forced herself to believe all would be well. "He will be all right. Legolas is strong. I am sure he will be mostly recovered by the time we arrive."
The King sighed, his shoulders slumping ever so slightly. He turned his head and for a brief moment Anoriel saw her Adar, and her breath caught in her chest as she blinked unexpected tears back. They would be of no help in dealing with the King.
The King's mask slipped back into place and anger spilled from his lips. "If he had not been with those mortals — if he had been where he belonged — this would never have—"
"Ada! You promised Legolas you would not do this anymore!" The childish name for him slipped out of her mouth before she could stop it, just as the unwanted tears filled her eyes. She turned her head to face forward once again. This time, she could not stop the drops of moisture from leaving wet trails down her cheeks.
She waited for the stern reprimand certain to follow such an outburst, but inwardly she wished to have her Ada back again, just for a short time. What she would give for that — to see compassion and love in his face, instead of the stern, angry and often cold King. Her heart ached for all the grief that had plagued her family. They could not lose Legolas, too. It would destroy them and make all they had fought for obsolete.
Thranduil looked at his daughter, truly looked. It had been a long time since one of his children had dared speak to him in such a manner. In fact, it was usually Legolas.
The King frowned as he watched the tears slide down his daughter's cheeks and fall into her horse's chestnut mane. The sight moved him, caused a tightening in his chest that he could not fight down. His eyes slipped closed as he inwardly berated himself. The sight of his daughter's tears brought much remorse. How many times had he regretted being the King, rather than the father? How many nights had he cursed himself for his manner with them his children?
Opening his eyes and looking down, Thranduil took in his appearance.
He was every inch a King, as was required of him. But he was also a father. Something he had pushed aside during the dark days, when the wood had become Mirkwood. He had to become the King so often, many believed he had forgotten how to be a father. He was not unaware of the rumors and had heard the whispers. He wondered if they were right. He hated the Shadow and what it had done to his family, and he missed Laerwen. The grief he had felt at her loss had almost killed him. He had not even been able to speak to his children of finding their mother's broken body, of seeing the damage the Wargs had caused…
The evil creatures had begun to infest the forest shortly after the Shadow fell on the southern part of the wood. After his wife's death, only the safety of his children and his people had kept him going, and he had become the feared and powerful Elvenking, unleashing his anger on all that opposed him, using his grief as a weapon.
Now once again, they faced the possibility of losing one they loved deeply. It was not something he felt he could endure. He had already lost his wife to the Shadow as he had a son in the Last Alliance. He could not bear to lose another member of his family to death. Not now when the wood finally was free of the Shadow's taint.
Looking again at his daughter, the truth struck him harder than a sword blow. He had already lost his family. He had pushed them aside to become the King. Perhaps it was already too late for Legolas, the last Greenleaf of a beautiful Summer.
But next to him rode another reminder of Summer. His Anoriel, his sunshine.
And so it was that on the road to Gondor to see a grievously injured prince, a King retreated; a father stepped forward. And another oath was sworn into the wind.
A warm hand covered her own, and Anoriel looked up, startled, into sorrowful eyes. Eyes filled with the same grief that filled her own. Eyes filled with tears?
"Forgive me, my daughter" his broken voice spoke softly.
Anoriel could hardly believe her eyes and ears. Tears continued to stream down her cheeks as she looked at the man who rode beside her.
Laerwen – Sindarin. 'summer maiden'.The deceased wife of Thranduil and the mother of Legolas, Anoriel and their brothers, Faervel (deceased), Belthul and Orthoron.
Anoriel – Sindarin. 'sun daughter'. Daughter of Thranduil and Laerwen. Older sister to Legolas.
A/N – An elf reaches their majority at the age of fifty. At thirty, Legolas was about the equivalent of a 12 year old. Laerwen was killed in 1106 3rd Age. Anoriel is forty-two years older than Legolas and was about twenty years past her majority when their mother was killed.
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