The Elvenking sighed, his eyes were scanning the horizon.
“I knew that she did not come without a request.” Graven spat out like he would bite a poisoned apple. Thranduil turned to face him. His hand with rings brushed the silver hair aside.
“I should guess it too.”
“Nevermind, Thranduil. We will not help Tavarille anyway, will we?”
When the King wasn`t saying anything, Graven widened his eyes.
“You cannot be serious!”
“I am not saying that I am going to help her, Graven, I am just thinking about the whole situation.”
“Well let me help you then, Thranduil.” Graven said ironically, “if you will help Tavarille to get the Eresiel back, and I am not even considering how it would be possible, you would anger your former allies whom you refused in the time of their need! You told them that you do not wish to be part of the war and yet you are thinking about marching on Eresiel?”
“I would not march on Eresiel, Graven, calm down.” Thranduil waved his hand like the discussion would be just an annoying fly.
“Even though you cannot do this, or we will be truly alone in this world. And we could just wish for Lord Daeron and others not to turn against us after the war for what have you done to them….”
“I Did not-“
“Exactly, Thranduil. You did not do anything and that is a betrayal to every alliance we may had…!”
The King fell silent. Graven was so angered lately that he did not even notice the change in his behavior. He didn`t get angry like always.
“They have to understand…”
“You cannot help her, for the sake of our kingdom, Thranduil! Think of the future! The relationships we have are fragile if not destroyed, and all by your deeds!”
“We would have an alliance with Eresiel again.”
“Do you really think that you can take Eresiel from the new Dark Lord?! We do not even now the situation there! If there is what to save, even!”
“We can send the scouts…”
Thranduil`s voice was lower and lower. His mind was not itself. It worked slowly, frantically and in an opposite direction even. He did not know what to do. But mostly, he didn`t want to name the increasing feeling inside him. Graven shook his head.
“You were very young, Thranduil, when you took the crown of your people and I feared your rule here in Greenwood but you gained my trust and you surprised me often with your decisions. I saw there is a talent in you, that you have great leaders in your blood. But then? When you got to know my daughter? You became weak and selfish. I was losing the ruler I once united my people with! Your decisions were decisions of heart and not of your mind more and more often…” Graven`s eyes sparkled with tears, “but our nations were happy and my daughter was happy as well. But what are you doing after her death I cannot fathom…You slayed all your advisors, elves that had millennia of knowledge and connections in politics, the advisors who held our nations together! You are refusing all allies we had, you do not want to help a living soul! You let all your friends die in the war not even caring about them anymore. Despite everything they had done for you and our kingdom….! My daughter gave you an heir to the throne, a son! A son every King could wish for! And yet, you are letting him fade because he lost his mother and his father does not love him anymore. He does not understand that! How can you sleep with all that over your head, Thranduil?”
The Elvenking was taken aback. His breath was hitched in his lungs and he couldn`t breathe. It was like someone would hold his throat. A great pain surged through his body. He couldn`t believe what he heard from Graven`s lips. And the heavy feeling he couldn`t name before made him shaking like a woman.
“If I knew what you will do to this forest, to these elves, to the nation I hold dear, I would never, never, allow you to enter the Greenwood, King or not..”
And with that Graven left the King`s study.
Thranduil fell to his knees, gasping for an air and tears were rolling down his cheeks.
He could name the feeling now.
Her light eyes darted to him. She didn`t agree with him but it was not her place to say so. He was the leader of them all.
“We need to ensure the heir for the following dynasty after we are done with the evil which spread in the lands we worked for so hard, my friends.”
His voice was full of power and encouragement, as always. It sounded like a wish, a mere request but all knew it was an order. They had to stand for now and wait.
“Do not interfere until I say so.”
His eyes were as light as hers but much fiercer, much dominant. He looked over their faces and continued in his speech:
“After that, we will set all in move.”
“Why we cannot attack now? It is simple and now is a good time as he is weaker thanks to the war he brought upon himself.” Her brother suggested.
“I have no intention to destroy more than it is until now. This time, we will play with his cards.”
He rose from his throne, the silver robe was flying around him in the breeze.
“You are dismissed.”
The Captain of the Guard was nervous when the King called him into his chambers. He knew why. And he also knew that the King will not be pleased. He feared his wrath and anger.
Lately, he had no mercy…
The Royal Guards introduced him inside. He had never been inside the King`s chambers before. It shocked him how big they were. He spotted the King in his night robe with a golden embroidery with a sign of the Woodland Realm on his back – The Great Oak and the crown above it.
“My King.” He bowed and waited. The King turned his head, leaving the goblet on the table. Something sparkled in his hands. And when he turned to face him, the Captain recognized the jewel he was holding. The famous gems of the starlight. The Queen`s necklace.
The Captain swallowed.
“I hope you brought me some pleasant results of your investigation, Captain.” The King spoke in a low voice.
The Captain inhaled sharply.
“My King, I`ve interrogated all the guards and elves who were nearby that night, but no one knows anything…I-I…Honestly, I have no progress…I do not know who stole the Queen`s body…”
Thranduil shut his eyes for a mere moment. He felt how the edges of the necklace cut into his palm.
“It is impossible…”
“I-I am truly sorry, your Majesty…I do not understand it either…”
“What is your name, Captain?” The King interrupted him.
“Kaalis, my King.”
“A strange name for an elf.”
“My parents used to travel a lot, my King…They…were…They liked exotic things.”
Thranduil just nodded.
“I think we have to look behind our borders then, Kaalis. Assemble spies and deliver me some results, finally.”
“As you wish, my King.”
“I want to know at least something what may lead us to what had happened that night….So I can…bury my wife…”
“I will do my best.” The Captain bowed but Thranduil already left the front chamber and disappeared in the darkness of his bedroom.
Graven watched the starless night from the balcony in his chambers. He couldn`t find the peace to sleep. The current situation in the realm was unsettling him. The grieve he held for his daughter was great and yet he had to grieve also for his lands. He promised them to protect and lead the forest to prosperity, he vouched for Thranduil and the others followed him because they trusted him.
And what is Greenwood now?
Just a shattered forest, which used to be powerful and strong, once.
The soft knock interrupted his thoughts and even though he didn`t call for the visitor to enter, he already heard the soft steps.
“Thranduil…It is quite late…”
“I know, I am sorry, but I saw a light coming from under your door…”
“What are you doing here?”
Thranduil didn`t say anything. He stood there, next to Graven with eyes cast low. Graven noticed his shaking hands and when Thranduil noticed it too, he quickly caught hold on the railings. Graven pitied him. Maybe he was too harsh this afternoon.
“I…I was scared to become a king…” Thranduil whispered, “but after some time I thought…I might be a good ruler. That I could change things…And I was so grateful for older elves I had around me, who advised me in so many matters…. I wasn`t ready…I wasn`t prepared by anyone to be a king. It was destined for my brother. So, I just did what I think was right…”
Graven inhaled and opened his mouth but Thranduil interrupted him:
“Please let me speak…” his voice broke, ” because now I see what mistakes I have done. How I weakened my kingdom…How I betrayed the ones loyal to me…But…I thought… I thought that I am doing the right thing…”
Graven closed his eyes. Thranduil was silently sobbing next to him just like the young elf he was once. And he knew that his words are honest. He wanted to comfort him but he just couldn`t move because there were so many things he was poisoned with and he needed to get it out…
“I can hardly see the executions of your advisors as a right thing to do…” He said silently. Thranduil broke.
“They should have known the risks and the danger. They should have protected her…and our people…They did nothing…”
“You didn`t even listen, Thranduil…You did not even investigate it…You just slayed them like pigs…!”
The King was shaking without a control over his own body. Every word Graven said burnt a hole into his already damaged heart.
“I still can`t understand what happened here…why did she have to die…!”
“I miss her too, Thranduil. It pains me too and greatly!” Graven`s voice was shaking as well, “but as I said you did not even listen! She asked for a help and was betrayed. Sorontur did all that was in his power to stop her but…honestly…What was she about to do? If not the dwarves…the Orcs would siege the Halls eventually or let them starve!”
“I would have come! I would have come and saved her!”
“Perhaps…But it wasn`t a mistake of your royal advisors nor Eleniel`s….it was a no one`s mistake.”
“How could you say that!”
“Because Thranduil!!! That`s a war! That`s politics! One buying and betraying another! We couldn`t foresee it! We couldn`t know that the dwarves would betray us! And not just us, also their own kin! Don`t you understand, Thranduil?!”
Thranduil shook his head, wiping off his tears. Graven sniffled.
“I lost a baby. I lost the remaining what I had after my wife died…and I am losing my forest! Thanks to you!
“Stop it! Stop it already! I can`t anymore!”
The King fell to his knees, tugging his hair with fists.
“I understood that you do not want to lose any more lives in the war, that you are scared and no one would like to march to the front line again…But there is a greater purpose you are ignoring, Thranduil…Do you remember when Eleniel spoke in Naugladoth? When she stood by your side when the dwarf king was insulting you? She said that it doesn`t matter if we would be beaten till the last soldier…what matter is if we would defeat the evil, the Dark Lord! Your own wife`s words…I don`t want our elves to fight, to die but what then? What if they lose the war meanwhile we are hiding here and the new Dark Lord will win?! What then?! What will remain from this world?! And from our forest? Do you think he will ignore us?!”
“Please, stop it…” Thranduil begged, silently weeping. Graven couldn`t see his face clearly as he was on his knees and elbows and his face was covered with the disheveled hair.
“But what pains me more, what makes me to almost hate you, is the fact that you are cold towards my grandson….Eleniel gave you a son. You have an elfling of your own. The most precious gift you can pray for…And yet, you are not attending him, you are ignoring him. The poor child is fading slowly…crying every night and every day. He even fears you! How can you behave like to your own son, Thranduil?!”
“He is not fading!” Thranduil rose his head. But it was more a wish than a fact.
“He is…and again…thanks to you…”
The silence fell between them, only the silent sobs were interrupting it. Graven exhaled and rubbed his eyes. It felt good to say everything honestly but now he didn`t feel any better. The elf in front of him was broken even more than before.
The sobs stopped and he heard only the hard and quick breathing.
“I will abdicate. My son will be the King and you will be his regent. You will rule until he comes in age…”
Graven laughed ironically.
“No way, Thranduil. You made this mess, you will clean it.” And with that, he left the King in his own chambers.
He looked like a wreck. Even the spell couldn`t help and his eyes held the deep depression and pain within them. The Elvenking sighed and fastened the black robe he was wearing so often lately. Just a black color, sign of his grieve, nothing more. He let his head to be crownless for this day as he had no visitors and meetings where the crown was needed as a sign of his power.
He didn`t feel powerful, anyway.
Then Thranduil reached for a brooch Eleniel gave him as a gift. The brooch with the gem inherited from her mother. He pinned it to the cloth with a gentle love. He exhaled shakily and rather left his chambers to find Graven again.
Thranduil knew that all his words were not meant to hurt him but they were spoken of truth. The guilt seized his guts once more.
He must clean his mess.
The soft padding on the corridor stopped him in his own walk and he turned just to see little Legolas, running through the corridor. He was turning his blond head behind his back and in a further corner, Thranduil could hear Idril calling for him playfully. They were playing seek and hide.
Thranduil froze just like Legolas when he spotted him. It pained him to see the little face with big green eyes of his mother. But something stroke Thranduil even more, than the color. The fear within them. His own son feared him.
He could clearly see how quickly he was breathing, far quicker than from running, Thranduil was sure.
Idril`s voice was closer and closer. Legolas turned his head once again and then quickly back. This time his eyes averted Thranduil`s. His little hands were shaking.
Thranduil`s heart skipped a beat.
They both heard Idril`s steps.
Thranduil raised the edge of his luxurious and rich robe.
“Quickly, or she finds you.”
He said it silently and with as gentle voice as he managed. Legolas flinched and hesitated but after a short moment he ran to him and hid under his robe. It was just in the right moment because Idril appeared on the corridor.
“My King.” She nodded to greet him. Her cheeks were flushed and her braid ruffled. Her smile faded.
“Haven`t you seen Legolas? We are playing…” She chuckled.
The King raised one of his eyebrows.
“That is your task to keep an eye on him. I would recommend you to do better next time.”
Idril widened her eyes when he scolded her so coldly.
“Of course, my King.” She bowed and left him in a haste.
Legolas crawled out of Thranduil`s robes and without a single look he ran away.
He was so cute, so small…
The King stepped closer to the window, hearing Idril call for Legolas in gardens. Soon Legolas appeared in the gardens too. At first, Thranduil did not notice but he found it weird how fiercely Legolas ran to Idril and then ended up in her embrace. Idril was visibly concerned about what happened, he heard her asking him why he was crying.
He made Legolas cry…
Thranduil`s heart skipped a beat again.
But the beating even stopped when he heard Idril screaming Legolas`s name and he noticed the lifeless body of his son in her arms.
Idril`s heart was racing as well as her mind. She was running through the corridors, yelling at everyone to move away. The King was running behind her with Legolas in his arms. It surprised her when he met her in the gates, shocked what happened and took him from her arms. She had to admit that Legolas was becoming too heavy for carrying him, the more for running with his lifeless body around.
Finally, they reached the Healing wings.
“Quickly! Lay him down here!” She ordered, not really caring that it was the King she was ordering to. The King did as he was told. His eyes never left his son`s face.
“I do not know,” Idril answered. She was examining Legolas inch by inch, searching for the cause of his unconsciousness, “He ran to me, crying like someone would bite him and then he just…fainted like that…”
“Did he told you why he was crying?”
Idril rolled up the prince`s tunic.
“Please, my King. I need to work. It would be better if you just wait outside.”
He wanted to protest but other healers took him by arms and gently led him away. The fear captured his heart. He could never imagine losing his son. To endure another loss of his loved one. His hands started shaking again. How could he ignore his son? And now it was too late for any remorse…Now it was maybe too late to clean his mess. Will he survive this?
The King paced back and forth in front of the heavy doors of the infirmary, biting his fists and praying to gods for Legolas`s life.
After a while, the door opened and Idril called for him. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. Her eyes were red from instant crying.
“His heartbeat is too shallow. His breath as well…He is fading, my Lord…There is nothing I can do.”
Thranduil gasped. He caught Idril`s shoulders.
“There must be something!”
Idril shook her head and sniffled.
“It is just up to him, my King…I fear if he sees his mother on the other side…He will not come back to us anymore…He is too broken…”
Thranduil let her go, stricken aback. Shocked that the fate prepared another pain for him. And then Thranduil realized that it was not fate, it was his own doing. He killed his own son.
He collapsed on the bed, next to the prince. Idril sat down on the other side.
“I am-I am so sorry…” He whispered. He could barely speak. The pain of losing his beloved wife didn`t decease yet and he is yet to face another pain from losing his son. But this time he has no other to blame than himself.
Idril covered his hand with hers.
“Talk to him…Please…Maybe-Maybe he will hear you.”
After that, she left, sobbing, and let the King alone with his son.
Thranduil`s shaking hand caressed Legolas`s forehead, his blond hair and then his cute cheek. He bent forward, kissing his head and whispering him in elvish.
It was a few hours later when Idril dared to interrupt the King. As soon as she entered the infirmary, she saw Thranduil still sitting by his son`s side, holding his little hand. His head was lowered.
“Let me examine him again, my King.” She spoke softly. The King just nodded but did not move at all. Idril stepped closer to the bed and did her job. But it didn`t seem that Legolas was getting any better. But fortunately, any worse.
“Why did he cried…?” Thranduil whispered like he would fear to wake the elfling in the bed.
“He told me that you hid him under your cloak. He was scared, shocked and I guess…It gave him a hope…”
“That you are not heartless. That you, maybe, like him, at least a little bit.”
Thranduil sniffled. He quickly tried to hide it and Idril pretended she did not notice.
“He looks like Eleniel so much that…I wasn`t able to even look at him…”
“You`ve tried to warn me, everyone tried to warn me…”
Idril didn`t say anything this time. What could she say? Blame was on him but could she say it aloud? The King knew it anyway.
“I want him moved to my chambers. And I want you to go through all Eleniel`s stuff. Maybe she knew how to deal with…fading.”
“She did not, my King. Fading is not a process a healer can interrupt. There is nothing to heal, actually. The elf must decide on his own if he wants to remain in this world or not. It is possible to heal the depression which comes before it but now…?” She shrugged
“Did you try to heal his depression?”
“Of course, I did! He would fade after a month otherwise but he needed mostly You!”
The King just nodded.
“Then I hope that he will not find his mother in front of the gates of Mandos.”