Another few days have passed. The Woodland Realm was mourning. They have mourned their loved ones, the Queen and the King despite the fact he was still alive. But it didn`t seem like that.
The great Greenwood, the biggest occupied forest in their world, was destroyed. The animals nowhere to be seen. The remaining trees lost their leaves and a soft, yet cold white blanket covered them and the ground as well. It was freezing outside.
The stars were shining on the night sky like nothing happened at all. The Elvenking`s Halls were quiet at this hour.
The Elvenking himself was sitting on the edge of a bed, still in his tunic and pants. He was staring at nothing at all. His eyes looked like dark hollows.
She was sitting in the chair on the balcony of their chambers, dressed just in his light tunic. The sun was rising and it reflected on her auburn hair. She was laughing. He probably joked and she laughed, he didn`t remember exactly but the sound of her laughter and her glowing eyes made him happy. She took a strawberry from the bowl in front of her and bit it delicately.
A light breeze played with the ends of her wild hair.
“You are staring.”
“I will never stop staring. You amaze me.”
She blushed and laughed again, slapping his hand playfully.
“Oh, stop it, Thran. You don`t have to flirt with me anymore. I am yours already.”
“Indeed, you are.”
He closed his eyes and for a mere moment he felt her touch, he heard her laughter and smelled her sweet scent. They were happy. He was finally happy. Just to become miserable again.
Thranduil opened his eyes again, tears were running down his cheeks. It was hard to pick those happy memories because of the latest ones. They were too fresh still. Too painful. Too real.
She laid there in her own blood. Her eyes were slowly losing its color. She was still shocked of what just happened but she knew. And he knew as well once he spotted her.
“You saved me…” Her voice was hoarse but she managed to smile. It broke his heart into pieces. He didn`t save her. He came too late. Just like for his father. He is always too late.
He burst into tears, his body was trembling from the hard cry.
“I love you…”
He felt it then. He thought that losing his father, brother and best friend was the hardest experience he`s got. The utter pain from the death of his family…
But he has never experienced a broken bond before. A death of his love. It was way above any other pain he could ever feel. It sucked air from his lungs, hopes from his mind and life from his body. It was like someone tore out his entrails meanwhile he was still alive. It pained him physically and psychically as well.
When Eleniel`s last breath left her body, he felt it. An incredible pain consumed his mind and his body that he almost blacked out.
His brain tried to protect him from such a devastating pain and a feeling of, some kind of, hopeful apathy filled him when he could visit her day after day on her death bed. It felt like she was still there. He never left her side.
Until one day Sorontur pushed him to go sleep. And he obeyed.
The King screamed in a pain and cry and fell on his knees and hands. Lowering his head in a new wave of suffering he crawled on the floor, catching his hair and pulling them painfully.
He lost her that day. She was gone.
Nothing left after her.
Their chambers and their personal things were burnt to ashes because the dwarves set some parts of the Halls on fire.
And his son.
Whom he couldn`t even look at.
At first, he didn`t hear him even. The picture of her smiling face taking turns with the picture of her unnaturally pale face of dead was torturing him. Someone hugged him from behind so strong that he almost couldn`t breathe. The warmth of someone else`s body felt good for a little moment when he thought it was Eleniel.
Graven held him tight, tears rolling from his eyes as well. He knew well the suffering of this kind. He survived it once and only because of his daughter. And now he had to survive the death of his own daughter as well. He felt weak. Broken. Destroyed. They shared the pain equally.
So, he held him there tightly, silently crying with him until his son-in-law didn`t fell asleep from exhaustion.
Daeron sighed and rubbed his temple.
“Thank you Dringol, you may leave.”
The diplomat bowed and left the tent. Daeron sighed again and turned to the rest of the Lords present in his war tent. He looked on the map laying on the table in front of them.
“Selfish brat!” the Dwarf King spat out, “first he ran away from the battlefield and now he is hiding himself cowardly!”
“Shut up, Duin!”
All the Lords stared at Daeron with a great surprise. The Locien`s Lord was the one who was always calm and reasonable. They have never seen him lose his nerves like this before.
“It was your cousin who betrayed us and joined the dark forces! Your cousin burnt the Greenwood to the ashes and destroyed almost the whole realm! You heard it yourself!”
“It is not my fault! I didn`t know! I couldn`t know he was with the Dark Lord!” The Dwarf defended himself. It was more than visible that it pained him as well. The feeling of betrayal was even bigger when it came from your family member.
“I am not surprised that Thranduil withdrew his army to help his own people. But I expected he would be…Vengeful… That he would help us…” Daeron said almost in a whisper.
“If he lost so many elves, his help wouldn`t be so noticeable anyway.” A new King of people from Nendir and Rinior said. Daeron pierced him with a cold gaze.
“You`ve never seen the angry, vengeful wooden elves, my friend…. And Thranduil when he is angry.”
“Well, it seems he isn`t that angry.”
Daeron sighed. The new King was driving him mad. But he was a good warrior and well respected.
“He is more reasonable now, I see. There is nothing we can do about that, I guess. We`ve tried many times and he doesn`t listen…We are on our own…” Daeron moved closer to the map.
“So we lost Eresiel.” He took a black figure and placed it on the city on the map, “I wonder where Deteghor is. He has half of Thranduil`s army still. Maybe he could help us before Thranduil will withdraw the rest.”
“Daeron, Rissigur captured all the living elves and killed them. Their heads are pinned on the city walls…Deteghor and Thranduil`s troops might be dead as well…”
“We have to be sure first. I will send my scouts again. We must find them. Dead or alive. We have to know.”
“We should also find out who is leading the Orcs now. Duragar fell. I saw his body with my own eyes.” The King of people said.
“Aye, I heard what Thranduil did with him…” Duin nodded.
“You see?” Daeron turned to them again, “what he, the elf, can do with a Dark Lord? Oh, Valars, we need to convince him or we are doomed, here.”
Idril closed the door and sighed. The guards waiting outside covered the door with their bodies.
“He just fell asleep.” She informed the old elf whom she spotted on the corridor. Graven nodded and joined her on the way to the Healing Halls. There was still much work to do. The Healing Halls were full of the injured soldiers and commoners.
“How is he?”
Idril sighed again, exhausted and worried.
“It was pretty hard to make him sleep. He was crying several hours, calling for his parents. He doesn`t understand what is going on, why is he alone. And the traumatic experience from the attack itself isn`t helping.”
Graven folded his arms behind his back, staring at the floor.
“Tell me Idril, again,” he looked at her, “how did you manage to stay safe?”
A shiver ran down Idril`s spine. It was truly a nightmare. She remembered the feeling of the fear when the Orcs were following her with Legolas in her arms.
“I ran down to the prison and locked myself in a cell. They weren`t able to open it. So soon they gave up and left. But I wasn`t brave enough to go out and so I waited for help. But Legolas was scared to death. We were locked in the dark with the water dripping from the ceiling and rats running over my legs, waiting to eat us.”
“You are brave, Idril.” Graven placed his hand on her shoulder, “You saved your life and the life of the heir to the throne. It may not seem like but Thranduil is grateful.”
“And how is the King, my Lord? Legolas needs his father. I can`t babysit him forever. We have so many patients. And I don`t know what to say to him when he asks where his parents are.”
Graven sighed and nodded.
“I know Idril, I`ll try to speak some sense in him. He is grieving.”
“His son as well.” Idril snapped and left Graven in the corridor alone.
Graven watched her back. She had a point and he knew that. The well-being of his grandchild worried him. And honestly, he was the only reason why Graven wasn`t leaving for Valinor yet. He couldn`t leave the small elfling alone, could he?
So, he turned on his heels and headed to the King`s study which despite the fire and Orc`s attack remained untouched. He knocked on the door, noticing there were no guards in front of them. He prepared himself for a really bad mood of the Elvenking.
The King was standing by the window, watching the burnt forest. Or at least what remained of it.
“Thranduil…” Graven trailed. But the King didn`t say anything.
The black robe in a combination with almost silver hair and white crown felt intimidating even from behind. Graven was glad actually that Thranduil did not turn to him yet. He didn`t want to see the hollow icy blue eyes. The elf standing there was completely different from the elf he held last night when he broke.
Graven pushed the thoughts away and inhaled. But before he could open his mouth to speak, Thranduil interrupted him.
“We have to recover the forest somehow.”
His voice was hoarse and quiet.
“It will take years before nature will reborn completely.”
“We don`t have years…”
Graven rubbed his temple and sat down on the sofa without asking. Thranduil was motionless. In fact, never-ending tears were rolling down his cheeks silently.
“Maybe Maecheneb would know what to do…”
Thranduil finally turned to him. His face was emotionless, just a little bit wet from the tears. Graven decided to ignore it.
“The old elf who wed us?”
“Indeed, it is him.”
“Could you find him and bring him here?”
“I can try. But he might be dead as well, Thranduil. Better not to hope too much.”
“I lost all hopes already…” The King sighed and turned to the window again.
Graven rose from the sofa.
“I wanted to speak with you about Legolas.”
“He needs you Thranduil.”
“I am not ready to face him.”
“I am not ready to see her in him. I just…can`t.”
He said it so quietly that Graven wasn`t even sure he heard it right. But he knew that there is no way for now how to convince Thranduil otherwise. He will have to find another way. Graven sighed and left without a word.
Idril lit the candles and closed the door behind her. She looked around the room with a small cover of a dust everywhere.
Idril inhaled. It felt like breaking some rules when she entered her private study where she used to be locked whole nights when she was up to something. And the King, her husband, used to visit her here.
Idril sat down and took a small notebook from the table. Its pages were written all over. This was the book Idril was looking for. The book of Eleniel`s recipes and researchers. She closed the book and placed it into the pocket in her healers’ dress. Her grey eyes with the hint of a blue on the edges searched the room again. She wanted to get up and leave when her gaze fell over the scrolls.
Her heart quickened. She recognized the seal of the Elvenking. It was personal. It wasn`t her business to look at it, to read it. But she couldn`t help herself. She took the scroll and leaned back into a chair, reading the first rows if the lover`s letter.
Thranduil walked on the corridors, the black robes trailing behind him like a slave. The elves he met at this late hour were bowing, not really looking at him. They feared him. They used to call his name and now they whispered it. Maybe they thought he is crazy. Because he sentenced to death all his advisors but Graven. He had nobody now just him. For a mere moment, the realization hit him but then his brows frowned and he fell into his apathy again, knowing they`ve deserved it.
He found Graven in his room drinking wine. It was unusual. Graven didn`t drink except the festivities. To find him like this surprised him.
“Graven, any news on Maecheneb?”
Graven looked at him. His eyes red and tired. Thranduil didn’t want to see him like that. He didn`t want to think about missing his wife. The task with the forest filled his mind for a while. He could pretend it at least.
“No, the scouts didn`t find him and nobody saw him since your wedding.”
A short pause of silence filled the room. Thranduil stood there, abruptly pushing away the memories of his wedding day.
“Alright.” Thranduil said at last and left. Graven turned watching him leaving. Did he just say only: alright?
Idril rushed through the corridors back to her chambers. Her mind was rushing as well. The relationship of Eleniel and their King was something she had never understood. She thought of Eleniel as very warm-hearted and open-minded elleth, always willing to help those who needed it. She had a big heart for everyone and everyone loved her. Despite the short rule, she was their favorite Queen and the Greenwood cherished her. But the King was from another cup of tea. He thought of him as a cold, very closed and tempered elf, he was wise and always knew how to decide and what to do. When Eleniel was telling her about him and about his love to her she could never join these two different elves together into one. And here it was. In those letters, Thranduil was completely different. He adored his wife and would die for her as well for his son. Their words of love were unconditional.
Idril always dreamt of such great love. But to her misfortune, she never got a chance. Firstly, her father forced everyone away and now she was shamed by her father`s deeds and nobody wanted her.
She felt a sympathy and compassion for the Elvenking. Perhaps he really mourns his wife so much even though it is not visible.
His face was always so flawless, so handsome…
She knew nothing of the magic of the ring on his finger.
The guards looked at each other confusingly when the King passed them, dressed still in his regal robes and handed them the crown. He passed them and headed to the stables.
But before he could slip through the doors, something made him stop. He hesitated. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on that particular feeling. The never-ending pain of his soul and his body was making him weaker and more confused. He closed the door and with long steps he left in the direction of the main gate.
And there he was.
Standing proudly, moving his nostrils and looking directly into his eyes. The elk jerked his head like he was encouraging him to come. And Thranduil did.
“My dear friend…”
Arasson cuddled to him and then he pushed his elven friend to his side. Thranduil hesitated for the second time this evening but then he mounted the elk. It was harder to keep up with the movement of such a big animal without a saddle. Holding his fur, he hoped the elk know where to find the old elf he needed to talk with.