Thranduil smiled bitterly as he saw the crippled elf trudge through the courtyard towards the granaries. Half his warriors were in this condition, broken, maimed and devastated by their experiences in Mordor. The other half were hardly enough to guard the borders. And many of the families who had lost a member to Mordor were sailing. He did not blame them. If he had been anyone else but a King, he would have sailed.
"My King," Thalion was hesitant, as he had always been after the war. Thranduil wondered idly if Thalion sensed that his former student had been changed by his experiences.
"Call me not thus," he said more harshly than he intended to. "The title rested easily only on him," he flicked his head towards Oropher's portrait.
"I am sure that you will make every inch as good a ruler as he had been, if not a better one," Thalion murmured sincerely, his eyes holding deep sorrow.
"I am sorry," Thranduil sighed. "I should not have spoken so callously. I know that you feel the same turmoil as I do. Long have you been companions and swordbrothers."
"I do not hold you responsible for grief," Thalion smiled wanly. "Now, come away to supper."
"I will, after I finish reading a few letters of my personal correspondence," Thranduil nodded warmly and leant back in his chair.
After Thalion had left, the king unscrolled a fading parchment.
I fear for my cousin. He grows weaker and frailer with each passing day, doing little else than staring at the sea from his chambers in Círdan's palace. Each dawn is a period of silent mourning and unshed tears. I no longer can pull him away from his dark musings. Though Círdan and I have tried our most, we cannot make force the poor soul to eat or sleep. Ah, to see my proud cousin brought so low. Only love could wreak this on our hearts, Altáriel, only love.
Círdan has his hands full at the moment. Young Thranduil has a pleasant disposition and is an easy charge. His nurses have no trouble with him. But at nights, it is hard. He cannot sleep untroubled. His father has taken to carrying him along the seashores all night, crooning softly so that he might fall asleep. And your cousin Maglor's daughter is recovered enough. There has been a new arrival to these shores, Lord Glorfindel of erstwhile Gondolin. He has taken on the young girl in his charge. But the newborn elfling, whom Círdan named Erestor, I do pity the child. I cannot think who would accept the charge. Círdan might, of course, but he is not the epitome of a good parent. I am going to speak with Gil-Galad regarding the elfling.
At moments like these, I thank Eru for blessing our love. We have fought together for our love and our rewards have been rich. I love you, Altáriel. When I see my cousin like this, I can only think that I was lucky enough to have my love requited and realized. To have you by my side, to wake beside you, to see you smile, to debate endlessly with you…You are my love, my light and my life.
Your Silver Tree."
Thranduil's eyes darkened as he thought of all that had passed since this fervent declaration. Galadriel had nearly died from Celeborn's cruelty and callous infidelity. Celeborn too had lost a sense of purpose when the distance between them had become nigh unbridgeable. Their daughter's sacrificial marriage to Elrond had left their love in shreds. Thranduil feared that Celeborn might never forgive Galadriel for her interference and that Galadriel might never be able to make reparation for her actions.
Sighing, he picked up the next letter.
I am coming to Lindon soon. Pray, have my lands secured and the people ready to make a journey to our new home, the verdant, rich forests of Greenwood. Cousin Celeborn has the highest opinion of the place and says that it will suit the Sylvan followers the most.
Despite what Celeborn and Círdan might say, I am recovered enough. My son needs a better place than a temporary guest room to grow up, it is high time I took him home. For her, I shall raise him into a true scion of Ingwë and Thingol. He is all that I have left of her, other than fleeting memories. And that shall be enough to sustain me in this life and more.
Thranduil reread the last two lines. His father had lived for him. He had been Oropher's tenuous link to life. But it had not been enough to resist Mandos in Mordor, Thranduil reflected bitterly. The last letter of the pile was sealed carefully with Oropher's royal insignia. Thranduil frowned, it had yet not been broken. Curious, he took the letter and broke the seal.
As I write this, I am watching you dance with your bride-to-be under the eaves of Greenwood. I am overjoyed that you have finally found your true-love, your bonded-mate. I wanted you to bind while the lands are not yet torn apart by war and destruction. One war brought to me a shooting star that lit up my life and then left it inexorably cold. But I have never regretted loving that shooting star.
As you embark on a lifetime of love with Anoriel, this is what I want from you; love selflessly. Love your lands, your subjects, your friends and your bonded-mate with a passion that shall never be tainted. Then, my dearest son, you shall never regret any of your choices. For good or for ill, your lot has been thrown in with those of The House of Finwe. You have chosen Galadriel for a foster-parent, you have sworn brotherhood to Erestor and Elrond. Your fate is inextricably linked with theirs. Perhaps people might condemn you for being loyal to them. But my son, you have made me proud. As I have always known you would. You have made just and true choices, now I want you to stand by them till the end.
This war might leave us in grief and sorrow. I want no words unsaid should anything happen.
A heart that is pure shall know to love. A heart that knows to love shall never know darkness and fear.
Remember, son, that I have never regretted living for you,
You are the most precious jewel of my hoard, my sole hold to sanity, my will to live and my strength,
For you, I live. That is what I promised her, and I have never broken that promise.
And If I can die to keep you alive, then I would consider myself blessed the most amongst Eru's creations. Do not grieve for me, son, for I would not have you know despair as I have known it.
Believe that she and I have always loved you, and shall always watch over you. I do not leave behind anything to remember me by.
Indeed, all that you shall have from us, as your inheritance, will be a legacy of love.
Thranduil covered his gaunt face with his long-fingered hands, and leant forwards in a silent, yet eloquent expression that conveyed his turmoil.
"Thranduil?" Anoriel's voice was concerned as she entered the usually locked study in a most hesitant manner.
He had shut himself away from her in his grief. He glanced once again at his father's letter and then rose to his feet. Striding forth to meet her by the fireplace, he tucked the letter into his robes. She glanced at him with curiosity and worry warring for dominance on her grief-marred, yet, beautiful face. He cursed himself. She too had lost a father to Mordor. His was not the only unhealed wound. How could he have not been there for her when she needed support and solace?
"My dear prince," she breathed quietly.
He cupped her cheeks and then leant forwards to capture her lips in a soft, chaste kiss. Her arms entwined themselves about his waist as she rested her weight against his frame.
"I love you," she whispered heatedly.
All that he had left, truly, was a legacy of love.
The Song of Sunset, The 2nd Age.
The Song of Sunset, The 3rd Age.