44. The Journey Home
“Really, Glor,” Erestor was sounding scandalized, “You should not sleep with your tent-mates under the trees! The poor maiden was affronted.”
“’Restor!” Glorfindel mumbled, “I thought that we were alone!”
“A famous Balrog Slayer, so attuned to the earth, how can he not hear the sound of a maiden’s feet?” Erestor huffed.
“Peace!” Gildor, who would accompany the party until the mountains, grumbled, “Erestor, you do begin to get on my nerves! Save this weird banter for a time when you are alone with him.”
“Ah!” Erestor said thoughtfully, “Don’t blame you, Glor. Gildor’s used to open spaces. And you have always loved a thrill.”
“ERESTOR,” Glorfindel roared as the Chief Counsellor maintained his thoughtful mien, “You are hopeless!”
“I was merely finding reasons for the fact that the lady ran to Amroth’s talan in the middle of the night from her bath and screamed of two elves ridiculing her sacred place with the most profane acts,” Erestor continued without batting an eyelid, his voice shaking slightly with the restrained mirth.
Gildor shook his head and headed his horse off to join his warriors. Glorfindel spat angrily, “Look, you told me to take a tumble!”
“Well, I didn’t ask you to take a tumble before a Sylvan maid who was bathing in the river wherein you were dumping certain, ah, fluids,” Erestor replied smiling.
Elrond shook his head at the duo as he brought his horse next to Celebrían’s mare. She was biting her cheeks to prevent the outright laugh.
“Does it get worse?” she asked him with a genuinely wicked smile.
“Mostly, it does,” Elrond confirmed with a smile of his own.
“Bathing!” Glorfindel had narrowed his eyes, “How did you know she was bathing?”
“Because I was bathing at the same time in the same river,” Erestor explained with the patience one would reserve for the permanently dimwitted.
“You saw her and us!” Glorfindel scowled, “You!”
“I thought there was nothing to hide there,” Erestor laughed finally, his eyes sparkling, “Or was there?”
“How would you feel if someone was watching you with dispassionate eyes when you are taking a tumble under the starlight near the stream of Nimrodel when she was bathing in it?” Glorfindel asked sarcastically, his eyes widened as a shadow passed over Erestor’s fair features, “I am sorry, Erestor! I don’t know why I was so stupid! Eru, I need to chop off this tongue of mine!”
Elrond cleared his throat to intervene and dispel the moody expression from Erestor’s features as he brooded on Gil-Galad.
“Don’t,” Erestor sighed, “I am old enough to know that you meant nothing intentionally, Glor,” a small smile graced his lips, “If you chop off your tongue, I might lose a partner in debate. But I can explain. Anoriel had asked me to heal the sundering between her brother and that maiden. I made sure that she would see you, then I made sure that Amroth was waiting to act the protector. Forgiven?”
“Forgiven?” Celebrían laughed, “Not unless we get an answer to Lord Glorfindel’s question?”
Erestor raised his eyebrows at her daring before saying with a smirk, “Gil was too proper to do anything of that sort. He didn’t have Glorfindel’s need to try new things,” Glorfindel blushed before scowling at Elrond, Celebrían and Erestor who were all laughing at his embarrassment, Erestor continued, “No, my lady, the most I had was an experience on the seashore. I can vouchsafe that there were no witnesses though!”
“Gil did not mind?” Glorfindel asked disbelievingly.
“Yes, it is difficult to imagine him on the seashore,” Elrond laughed.
They had talked more of Gil-Galad the past few days. Erestor seemed comfortable and often initiated conversations with Elrond, Glorfindel, Gildor and Celebrían about the high-king fallen in battle. Both Erestor and Elrond had not further spoken of the love Elrond bore the Chief Counsellor. But they had sealed a silent vow of hope by the chaste kiss in Amroth’s land that night. Elrond would wait even if it took till the end of the world. Until then he would settle for Erestor’s presence and friendship in his life.
“We are waiting for an answer, My Lord Erestor,” Celebrían smiled at the sudden spark of red that crossed the pale noble face, “How did you persuade Gil to the seashore? Did he not balk?”
“Who said that it was Gil?” Erestor raised an eyebrow before dissolving into laughter at the stunned faces before him. He whistled softly and prodded on his dark stallion, Amroth’s gift to him for rendering the rift betwixt him and Nimrodel.
Glorfindel hurried away to join him.
Celebrían smiled softly saying, “I would never miss home if not for the fact that Ada is not with me.”
“Indeed,” Elrond took her hand and inspected the palm closely, “However I have a foresight that he will come and reclaim you when he sees the rowdy bunch we make.”
“I shall refuse to go,” Celebrían laughed, “Unless Amroth offers me the lordship of Lórien!”
“Bah!” Elrond shrugged as he let her hand go in seeming disgust, “You fit in Imladris, with this rowdy bunch. For you are no lady, but a mischievous Sindar sprite! What havoc will you wreak on Erestor’s wonderful city, I cannot wait to see!”
“Is it truly as described?” Celebrían asked him curiously.
“Well,” Elrond pondered, “There are no mirrors, there are no daughters of Finarfin, it is the best place to be in! That is if you can put up with that pair of non-stop, ever-fighting, thick-headed elves. On, I forget to mention that you have to put up with a half breed who never fails to mess up every major celebration by drinking too much!”
“You should all kiss my boots for the great sacrifice I do by coming with you to that valley!” Celebrían huffed.
“Lift your boots so that I may kiss them,” Glorfindel, who had rejoined them, offered gallantly. Celebrían knew that she would not find dishonour and grief from these lords. For the first time in her life, she was glad to be away from Lothlórien.
Thranduil led the long procession of warriors into the depths of Greenwood the Great, the trees seemed to bow before him. The land called out to him draining his energy. Hundreds of elves stood on either side of the great fortress waiting to receive their king and queen. On the moat gate stood Thalion, clad in black mourning robes. Thranduil dismounted and bowed to his people.
“Hail, King Thranduil!” Thalion announced. The elves joined in the salutation.
Thranduil turned to the white stallion beside him and helped Anoriel dismount. She was pale, tired and grieving for her kin. But she stood proud and determined beside her husband as she bowed to the people of Greenwood, now her people.
“The Queen Of Greenwood!” Thalion shouted. The people bowed deeply pledging their service to her.
She walked slowly to Thalion and knelt before him. A slender mithril circlet was placed on her forehead as Thalion whispered, “Long and true may your line be, My Queen.”
Anoriel stood gracefully and bowed to him before being led into the castle. Thranduil stayed to meet with his commanders and then joined Thalion.
“My Prince,” Thalion pulled him into a rough embrace as they entered the dark corridors of the castle, “It took me all that I was to not join you then.”
“It took me all that I was to not join Ada,” Thranduil said quietly as he wiped the solitary tear from Thalion’s eyes, “Don’t despair anymore. He would not want us to. We live, we live for the realm. We live for the people whose kin followed my father into death.”
“You are all that any father would wish for in a son,” Thalion said softly as he withdrew from the embrace, “You will be the beacon for hope in years to come, My King,” he bowed with his hand clenched over his heart.
In the days to come, Thranduil was busy with the reconstruction of granaries and forges, planning the patrols, settling the trade agreements and meeting with his counsellors. He knew that the people expected to be led from their grief by example. He could not afford to give into his sorrow in the least when he had to bring back a sense of purpose to his subjects. The matters of state were not hard on him, for he had always seen to them since his majority. Oropher had disliked meeting counsellors and handling meetings. Instead, he had preferred to meet his subjects and handle their affairs. Now, Thranduil smiled wearily as he walked to the audience hall, Thalion and Anoriel had taken it upon themselves to see to the affairs of the palace and the healing halls. It had shifted some responsibilities from him.
“My Lord,” the aide entered just as he had seated himself in the throne where his father had once reigned, “Shall I bring them in?”
“Please,” Thranduil nodded as he adjusted the yet unfamiliar crown on his hair. He had not bathed, slept or ate a full meal since he had returned. He wore dark black robes of mourning, and his hair was braided away into one plait. Tiredly, he picked up the inventory sheets and scanned them.
The first subject he had to meet that day entered, Thranduil smiled and beckoned him forward.
“Menor, son of Haor,” Thranduil said as he recognized the slender elf before him, “Glad am I that you are here, safe and uninjured. I fear that my responsibilities had not left me the time to check on you.”
“My Lord, you are most kind,” Menor replied, “My mother has faded and my sister sails for the west. All that remains with me is her son, who is in the patrol service, and rarely visits me.”
“You don’t need my consent to go to the West,” Thranduil said quietly, lots of his subjects were sailing or fading. He had no idea how to save them.
“I do not,” Menor said softly, “But I need your consent to serve you as long as I can.”
“Why?” Thranduil asked amazed, “I am in your father’s debt forever. Why would you want to serve me? It is a thankless job.”
“You need aides desperately,” Menor said quietly.
“Yes,” Thranduil sighed, “Please, what kind of position would be to your taste? Almost every position is empty!”
“Where do you need the most help? I will serve there,” Menor smiled as he knelt on a knee before the King.
“In my council. Half my counsellors are dead, many are leaving for the West,” Thranduil said sadly, “I would appreciate help there. Meet with Lord Thalion.”
“I live to serve you, My King,” Menor bowed before exiting the room.
It was night before Thranduil had finished his meetings with the subjects. Now he had to grab a piece of meat and hurry to inspect the barracks.
“You have one more subject,” a voice he knew so well spoke softly as he turned to pick up his scrolls.
“And what may your reason to seek an audience with your King be?” Thranduil smirked as he turned to face her.
He gasped in shock, she held a full plate of food and carafe of wine that she set down. Her hair was damp from a bath and she had only a silken sheet wrapped around her body.
“Are you mad?” Thranduil hissed even as his eyes hungrily roved over the body.
“It has been nearly a decade,” Anoriel shrugged and the sheet dropped to her bare feet leaving her naked body glowing in the torchlight, “We are staying here for one day. I can assure you that Green Wood will survive.”
“You are the queen for Valar’s sake!” Thranduil whispered even as he reached out to caress her hair.
She gave him a stare that made him modify his statement, “And I am not even bathed!”
“Don’t care,” she shrugged, as her fingers pulled down his robes, “I am too impatient. Let us see if you have lost your skills.”
“Oh!” Thranduil scowled, “So this is a test?” He pried away her fingers before they ripped his robes apart, “I’ll remove it, you are a born destroyer of fine clothing. Thinking of that, it is better you stick to wrapping sheets around your golden body.”
“Though I am the queen?” she laughed as he carried her to the plush sofa where counsellors usually waited for the King to pass judgement.
“Walk naked if you want; after all you are the queen,” Thranduil laughed as he placed her on the sofa and began kissing her ardently.
“You plan to ravish me on a sofa where your nobles will sit tomorrow?” she asked him breathlessly as he broke their kiss to stare at her wonderingly.
“You give me such excellent ideas,” Thranduil said solemnly before claiming those lips again.
Thalion had been about to retire when he had heard noises from the audience hall. Anoriel had left the healing halls early. Intent on making Thranduil retire, Thalion had opened the chamber door. Blushing furiously, he closed it again. He knew very well that he would never sit on that sofa again.
“You should lock the door the next time,” he shouted.
“Go away, we are busy making an heir here,” Thranduil yelled, “And lock the door yourself. We will not come out tomorrow. We are stocked up.”
“I want a girl child,” Thalion shouted laughing, “You have run me ragged, Oropherion. I will not survive raising yet another sprite.”
He shook his head before locking the door and moving away to seek his own bed. Those two would never do things proper.
“My Lord Healer,” Menor came to him with a scroll, “The border guard asked me to give you this. He said it is important.”
Thalion nodded and sent him away, reading the scroll, his face blanched and he set off running in the direction of the audience chamber.
“THALION!” Thranduil roared as he opened the door, not even bothering to wrap a sheet around himself, “What do you want, you crazy old fool? Just because you are an ascetic, do you have to spoil our pleasure?”
“Read this,” Thalion said softly.
Thranduil’s eyes widened as he scanned the parchment and he said in a quieter tone, “I know you would never have come if it had not been important, but I was just getting started. Well, ready my escort. I will ride out to meet him. He is becoming the bane of my life!”
Thalion nodded and left. Thranduil leant back against the closed door and stared at the decadent figure before him.
“Who is it?” she asked hoarsely.
“Isildur, that cursed spawn of Elendil! He wants to discuss something with me, it seems. And he has a large band of warriors. Elbereth knows if he wants another war,” Thranduil crept back onto the sofa with her, “He is nearing the Vales of the Anduin.”
“Go, I will wait. Please lock the door though,” she smiled teasingly, “Your nobles might be shocked.”
“My captive Queen,” Thranduil pressed a kiss on her stomach before rising and arraying himself in his black clothes.
Cursing Isildur yet again, he made his way to the stables. His escort was already there. As he stepped across the courtyard, a tiny flutter of premonition washed through his senses. Something bad was going to happen. The rays of a red sun washed the skies. He shook his head, Isildur heralded the worst always.
“Arm yourselves,” Thranduil commanded as he mounted his mare, “I expect a skirmish.”
“Gondorians are our allies,” his captain of the guard pointed out.
“I will not lose anyone because we neglected to arm ourselves,” Thranduil said sombrely, “We have lost enough! Ride, I wish to be back ere long. Keep to the Forest Road.”
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.