She was shaking heavily, gasping for an air. But her unnaturally light eyes were determined and hateful. She regretted only one thing – he found out about her intentions too soon. He caught her.
“Did you really think that you can go behind my back?!” He growled with such anger that she flinched a little. His honey like eyes were glowing with fire.
“Did you really think you can save everything?! You are just as foolish as they all are!!”
“At least I am not evil like you! I am not exiled like you!” She yelled and leaned forward. He slapped her so hard, that she fell on the ground, holding her hurt cheek. With wide eyes she watched him come closer. He took a strand of her black hair between his fingers.
“I see…You may not be evil like me, my dear sister. But you are definitely evil in their eyes.” He laughed, “It seems they did not want you to forget your family line.”
“I hate you!!!”
He laughed again. But his laugh quickly disappeared.
“Tell me, my dear sister, did they know that you wandered in the middle of the forests? That you used powers you are not allowed to use?”
She hated the smirk on his face. Her body was shaking without a control but not from a fear from her own evil brother, but from her own anger.
“Did they know that you were supposed to help me in this? Because such idiotic, heroic acts must be only from your own little, foolish brain!”
“Did you really think I would help you in any way?!” She yelled back, hysterical. He slapped her again.
“You know very well that you put yourself at risk. You could be spared. Now you will end up just like them.” He hissed
“Spared? And live in the world you would create? Live like you? Be like you? I would rather vanish!”
He straightened himself and shook his head.
“I would never say that you are so stupid. I know how they treat you. You can lie to yourself but I can clearly see it. Your tasks…Your still black hair…You are marked as a traitor anyway.”
“Because of you!!!!! It was your treason not mine!”
Tears burst out from her eyes. She has never felt such hate towards anybody in her whole existence before until now – towards her own brother.
“Because I can see what they truly are!!! Open your eyes, Alda! Who is the evil here?!”
“You!!!” She screamed and pushed him violently. He did not expect it and stumbled backward. She used the opportunity and clasped her hands around his temples. She mumbled several words and a strong light swallowed his whole existence in once.
Deteghor, Lord Daeron, Dwarf King and others stood on the hill above their camp and watched the horizon with open mouths. It was in the middle of the night but the light coming from the mountains on the horizon illuminated the sky and the surroundings that it felt like a day. The light was spreading from the heart of the mountains towards the sky in a shape of a funnel. The clouds were merging around and the elves could sense a great storm coming from this unnatural phenomenon.
“This is going to be very bad for us or very good.” Deteghor mumbled. His eyes were still wide. Nobody had seen such thing in their lives.
Daeron exhaled deeply.
“We should prepare our armies for the worst. I can sense a great power. I fear we may be dealing with something bigger than Duragar himself used to be…”
All leaders turned to him and the fascination in their faces changed into a troubled frown.
Thranduil woke up abruptly. His head was spinning and the headache was splitting. He cried in pain. The sense of a great power was tickling his skin but he couldn`t find out why. He sat up on the bed and turned his eyes to Legolas. The elfling was still breathing. He exhaled with a relief. His eyes turned towards the window then and he saw the strangely glowing night sky. Stripes of different colors were running through the dark blue sky like a smoke rings. He frowned, not knowing what it was but the great pain in his head made his attention pay elsewhere. He cried again silently and got up. His knees were trembling and he had to catch hold of the furniture to make it to the door where the guards were staying.
“Idril.” He said and his voice broke with pain. One guard immediately left his post and ran through to corridors to the Healing wing and the other caught the Elvenking to prevent his fall. He helped him to lay down back to the bed. Thranduil closed his eyes and before he opened them again he heard Idril`s soft steps. But even though he usually almost didn`t hear her approach now it was like she would stab a knife into his skull. He cried out aloud.
“My King! What is wrong?” She called out in a shock and kneeled beside the bed. But first, her hand darted to Legolas and checked his pulse.
“Silence!” He cried out again. He pressed his palms on temples but it didn`t help anyway.
“My King, please, tell me what happened. Where does it hurt?” She whispered.
“I do not know. I woke up like this. Oh, gods, my head…”
Idril`s hands were soft and quick. She examined him thinking about the options what could be wrong but something was distracting her. Something she cursed herself for. She was touching the Elvenking thus much for the first time. It was very disturbing. Her feelings from it were disturbing.
“You are not injured, your senses are responding. I think it is just a headache. I will give you something to ease the pain if you allow me, your Highness.”
He just nodded. He couldn`t even see her through the great amount of pain.
She opened a small bottle of potion and helped the King to drink it. It was disgusting at first and he almost spat it out but after a few minutes, he felt the pain slowly leaving his body. The Elvenking exhaled deeply and opened his eyes.
“Thank you.” He whispered. Idril looked at him, straight into his eyes. It shocked her to see the changing blue and green color in his orbits but she did not comment it. She rather turned her eyes back to Legolas and nodded.
“I am glad I was able to help you, Majesty.”
Thranduil turned on his side and watched her examining his son.
“His breathing is better. His heart is stronger. I think our hope for his recovery can grow.” She smiled a little and caressed the prince`s cheek. But then like she would remember the King was watching her and she quickly pulled her hand away.
“You care for him deeply.”
It wasn`t a question. Idril did not respond to it.
“I am grateful you are by his side since…”
Their eyes met again. Her heart skipped a beat. It was for the first time ever Thranduil had praised her, thanked her in fact. He was kind. His voice was low and soft. His, now blue, eyes held some kind of emotion she couldn`t pinpoint. He was someone else now. And this night seemed like a night of the first times.
“It is my duty, my King.” She answered in a whisper.
Idril broke the eye contact and smiled a little.
“I care for him deeply, my King. He captured my heart from the very first day he was born.”
Thranduil looked at his son and then back at his healer – the very best friend of his dead wife and now a very best friend of his son.
“I would like to keep you.”
She raised her eyebrows in question.
“As a nanny.” He added, “You two are great together. New chambers, right next to my son`s will be prepared for you the first thing in the morning.”
“T-thank you, my King.”
Idril was shaken. She was happy. It meant to give up on healing but it also meant to be closer to Legolas and to the King. The two ellons she cared for the most.
Thranduil wasn`t sure when he fell asleep again but when he woke up, his head was a little dizzy and a slight pain has returned. But it was nothing serious what he wouldn`t stand. He turned his head to Legolas and his heart skipped several beats, then it ran again, racing. The small boy was on his side, breathing soundly.
Does it mean he is no longer unconsciousness but asleep?
He turned to him fully and caressed his hair. Legolas moved his nostrils but did not wake up. Thranduil smiled. His hopes grew wilder and freely. His son is returning to him.
His son will live.
Like he would hear him Legolas opened his eyes slowly. At first, he gave a great yawn but then he realized that he is not in his bedchamber. His big green eyes widened when he spotted his father lying beside him, so close.
“Shhh. It is alright, Legolas. Calm down.” Thranduil whispered and caressed his head again. But the boy flinched under his touch and moved away, almost pushing himself out of the bed.
The prince started shaking and crawling out of the bed.
“Legolas, stop. Where are you going?”
When he realized that his own son was running away from him from fear and that he jumped out of the bed and started crying, it broke his heart again. Legolas was lying on the floor, unable to move because his body was exhausted and his little legs weren`t used to move for so long. The cry was getting louder and louder and when Thranduil got up and kneel next to him, Idril and Graven were in his chambers already, alarmed.
“Legolas!” Idril called out in fear. Legolas`s sobbing led her and she kneeled next to the King. She grabbed him from the floor and hid him in her arms.
“Shhh, baby, it is alright. We are here. Nobody is going to hurt you.” She was calming him down. Thranduil watched it absolutely speechless. Graven squeezed his shoulder.
“What happened?” Graven asked. Thranduil shook his head and shrugged.
“He woke up and…ran away from the bed…I…”
“Are you alright little one. Does anything hurt?”
“No…” Came out a child`s voice. He then raised his head just to see his grandfather and he reached for him with his little hands. Graven took him into his arms and pressed him against his chest lovingly. Idril looked at Thranduil with a sadness in her eyes.
“I am so sorry, my King. He was just confused. I am sure it will be alright.”
Thranduil just nodded, his eyes were never leaving Legolas. Idril was staring at him. Her heart ached for the King. She could clearly see how destroyed he was from his son`s denial but she couldn`t blame Legolas anyway. It will need time to heal the wounds in his soul.
When her eyes started wandering on Thranduil`s body dressed just in the light tunic and leggings, she rather got up.
“I will make sure the kitchen will prepare him a good breakfast.”
Graven was smiling, whispering sweet calming words to Legolas`s ear. When his eyes met with Thranduil’s he tried to hand the child to him but he felt how Legolas stirred. So instead he seated him on his lap and make him face the Elvenking.
“Do you fear me, little one?” Thranduil whispered. Legolas was watching him but he did not answer. Graven took Thranduil`s hand and Legolas`s as well. Pressing them together and covering them with his own palms he smiled and kissed the elfling`s head.
“You have nothing to fear, Legolas. Your Ada and grandpa will protect you.”
Graven`s mood was better this day. He thanked the gods that his grandson is alive and that he did not fade like Idril predicted. Who knows why. If the poor child met his mother in Mandos and she convinced him to stay or if Thranduil was able to call him back from the darkness and light. But it didn`t matter actually. What mattered was the fact that Thranduil`s attitude towards his son has changed and now he did not want to leave his side. As it should be from the beginning. But better later than never.
He sipped a wine he poured himself to celebrate the victory of life but then he was suddenly disturbed.
“Lord Graven, I am sorry for disturbing.” A servant bowed in front of him, “but there is a message from Eresiel.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
But Eresiel is no longer an elven city, is it?
Nobody lives here. The Dark Lord conquered it.
From who is the message, then?
He accepted the scroll and the seal made him frown even more. It was truly the seal of the Eresiel`s Lord. He broke the seal and scanned the content of the letter. He widened his eyes and got up abruptly.
The King has to see this.
Thranduil was sitting behind his desk and writing silently. His eyebrows were frown in concentration. The loud knock made him almost jump from his seat. The anger boiled his blood and he looked at the big bed with Legolas sleeping in it. But his son did not even move. After the big breakfast, he fell asleep immediately.
Graven appeared in the bedchamber visibly distracted.
“Keep quiet, please.” Thranduil warned him in a whisper and got up. He opened the door to the terrace and Graven followed him.
“What is wrong, Graven?”
Graven did not say anything and just handed him the scroll. Thranduil had to read it twice to believe what he just saw.
“It cannot be real.”
“It is, Thranduil. The seal is from Eresiel. Maybe you should talk to lady Tavarille.”
Thranduil was taken aback from the news. He read it again and then handed it back to Graven.
“I have something for you as well.”
The King took a scroll from his desk and gave it to him. Graven read the list of names.
“What is it?”
“Those are names of elves I would gladly see as my new Royal Advisors.”
Graven smiled, surprised.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I am. You were right. As always. I want to restore the rule I had once before…before the war. Go through the list, Graven, and invite everyone you agree with to the Council room. About the nomination you do not agree with we can speak later. But now we have to deal with the news. Let`s meet in two hours.”
“As you wish. I have more news to share.” Graven nodded and left the King`s chambers.
When Thranduil returned to the bedroom to pick up his robe, Legolas was fully awake. In the King`s big bed he looked even smaller than he was. And cute. Thranduil halted. For a brief moment, they stared at each other.
“How do you feel, little one?” Thranduil asked quietly.
Legolas blinked and covered himself more with the blanket. The King sat down next to him and caressed his cheek.
“I know I haven`t been kind to you for a very long time and that you miss your mother. I am sorry for that.”
“And where is she?” He asked with an innocent face and wide eyes.
“She will not return, Legolas.” Thranduil answered with a lump in his throat.
“Everyone says that. But where is she?”
Thranduil did not know what to say. How much could he understand of death? What he was supposed to say to such a young one. Legolas was watching him and his frown was changing into a sad face. It reminded Thranduil the depression his son went through just a few days ago.
“She is with gods.”
Thranduil exhaled. Legolas flinched a little, afraid that he angered him. But the King looked at him again with soft eyes. He took his small hand.
“Your mother died protecting us. In a battle. And everything and everyone who die go to live with our gods.”
Thranduil feared his reaction but there was no better answer. He just wanted him to stop asking about her for their own sake. Legolas was still staring at him with those Eleniel`s big green eyes and then he frowned.
“Indeed. They are very powerful creatures who build our world. And us. So we can meet them afterward and live with them. We are their children, my little Greenleaf.”
“Is she happy there?”
“I think so. Yes. I heard that it is a really beautiful place with a very good food.”
“Happier than with us?”
Thranduil had to fight his tears. His heart was bleeding. The pain from the loss overtook his body. But he tried hard to be strong for his son.
“I think she would rather be here, with us. But do not worry, she will wait for us and we will be together again.”
“Do you promise, ada?”
Legolas`s eyes were glowing. The fact that he will see his mother again cheered his soul. Thranduil`s heart shattered into pieces. He thought that after Eleniel`s death every day was hard. But this time was the hardest one. The thought of losing his son as well and then to lie to him…
He better kissed his forehead to hide his tears.
The Council room with 11 elves fell silent when the doors were opened and the King entered. Graven smiled as well as he noticed that he no longer wore the black. His mourning was finished. Even though he knew well that the pain in Thranduil`s heart will be there forever, he saw this moment as the return of the King to his duty and rule.
Thranduil stopped just in front of his chair. The elves around the table were standing as well to greet him.
“Thank you for your presence here. Please take a seat, I will explain why I called for you.” The King gestured and sat down himself. The servants poured a wine mixed with water and left them alone. Thranduil noticed that many of them wore the best attires they had because of this appointment despite the warm spring weather outside. It was very warm indeed.
“I decided to restore the group of my Royal Advisors. I have chosen you because I believe I can rely on you, that you are experts in your areas and that you are loyal to the crown.”
The eyes of several nobles widened. Some of them nodded, pleased that the King came back to his senses.
“Not all of you are aware of the duties of the Royal Advisor. Let me explain the rules first.”
It took a good half an hour to settle the rules and answer the questions. They also needed to settle on the areas on each advisor will work. After that, Thranduil called for the servant to pour him another wine and call for Lady Tavarille.
Tavarille came to the Council room after a short while, still like a queen. She looked beautiful and different. They smiled at each other when she tilted her head to greet him.
“Lady Tavarille, please take a seat.”Thranduil then turned his attention to the others, “First, I would like to be informed of the news, Graven?”
Graven got up and read from his scroll when he kept the notes for this very meeting.
“The reconstruction of the Halls are finished, my King, we will need your approval to call it done…Our stocks are not rich but we should be alright until the summer. A lot of elves are ready to restore their fields and are ready to work again. The fear of leaving the Halls lessened….Our army has a few new joiners – elves who are in age to join.”
Thranduil raised his hand to interrupt him.
“How many we have at all?”
“Currently two thousand, my King.”
Thranduil sighed. It was less than after the first war he was in.
“You will have a full report of the status of our army, stocks and treasure on your desk this afternoon.”
“Great. Please, let Lord Hoerin help you as a new master of coin.”
“As you wish.”
Graven cleared his throat and spoke again:
“The answer from the front line arrived.” Graven looked at Thranduil, unsure suddenly if he should say it aloud in front of so many elves. But the King just gave him a nod, “General Deteghor is staying, as well our units of troops…They have decided freely. Deteghor let them vote.”
Thranduil raised his eyebrow.
“Indeed. They voted to stay and to fight.”
“Fools…”He sighed and rubbed his temples, “Alright…If they want to fight, let them fight…”
“My King, we need every elf who is able to fight for the protection of our realm. They can die there not even under your flag…” Kaalis, the Captain of the Guards, who was promoted to be in command of all the Royal guards and the Border guards within the realm, suggested as he took his new role of the Royal Advisor very seriously.
“You are right, Kaalis. But would they fight for me, would they protect me, if I will call them home against their will? No, they could rise against me. Also if I stop fighting Lord Daeron in this, he may see it as a little form of help he was asking for…” The King explained. A single thought of anger and guilt wanted to spread in his mind but he did not allow it. Now it`s not a time to regret his actions. Now he will have to raise new advisors and hope they will be useful as the old ones were.
“What else do you have from the front line, Graven?”
“The messenger also said that there was a very strange phenomenon one night. From the Rissigurian mountains spread a very strong light toward the sky. It illuminated the night that it looked like a day. Since then the Alliance of elves, dwarfs and men were not attacked. The Orcs are just keeping and protecting the last borders they won but they do not push forward anymore.”
“I saw a strange light on the sky. It was like a floating smoke.” Tavarille said and everyone nodded in an agreement.
“We do not have any messages what it could be. But it was powerful.” Graven added. Thranduil looked from the window but didn`t see the view from it. In his mind, he was back in the night when he woke up with a splitting headache. He remembered some strange light on the night sky but he also remembered the strange tickling of power in the air. He couldn`t help himself but also to return to his very strange and horrific dream with the floating woman.
He snapped his head back. Everyone was staring at him.
“Lord Daeron urges you to help them. We do not have to send the food if we do not have much but he needs healers, herbals, and potions at least.” Graven repeated for him.
“I will decide if we can spare something after I read your reports, Graven.”
“Reports from borders?” Thranduil turned to Kaalis who immediately straightened his back in the chair.
“Nothing serious, my Lord. We have a couple of intruders, mostly common people from the south who are running away from the war. But as you said we do not let them behind our borders. No Orcs or any other danger in months…”
“Good. Are we done? Can we move to the most important news?”
Graven nodded and sat down again.
Thranduil looked at Tavarille.
“Lady Tavarille asked me for help to get Eresiel back. As you know she is a daughter of the last Lord Meridir, the ruler, and protector of the Eresiel`s area. She has a claim to rule after him. However, Eresiel was taken by the Dark Lord during this war and we did know nothing of what remained of the city or its citizens.”
A shiver ran down Tavarille`s spine. She did not expect to talk about this in front of so many nobles and so openly. She should expect it, but she wasn`t. And now the stares were very uncomfortable. Of course, she knew what they thought right now. That she was a traitor and she is back not just as a guest of the Elvenking but also to ask him for help. And not just a little help. Not just his help but for a help of the whole kingdom.
“I know that…” Thranduil cleared his throat, “my history with Lady Tavarille is not very comfortable. She was banished, yes. And I should be honest and say that I knew about her lover from the beginning….”
The gasps and buzz after his confession were crazy. But he let them. Tavarille was staring at him. Not sure if she should be angry or not. But he gave her a reassuring look and silenced the advisors with his hand.
“But rules and laws are also for Kings and Queens. I am telling you this because the situation we have now is more serious than this escapade. The information I`ve just told you will stay between us, am I clear?”
The expression in his face changed. It was him again. The cold and unpredictable King. The advisors rather nodded than to lose their head the very next day.
“Good. Anyway, as I said, we knew nothing of the situation in Eresiel and I was going to refuse.” He looked at her and Tavarille frowned.
“However…The situation has changed. Eresiel has a new leader – Lady Lilithiel, the niece of Meridir. She calls herself an Elven queen, she changed the political system of the city into a kingdom.”
“What?!” Tavarille stood up abruptly, “How..?!!”
“Lady Tavarille, please, sit down.” Thranduil suggested and turned back to the advisors.
“How is it even possible? Where did she find the army? How could she took Eresiel from the claws of the Dark Lord?” Tavarille was not able to stop. She was shocked.
“I have no idea. And I am asking the same questions…”
“You have to help me, Thranduil!”
“I am not sure if I can help you. But I am sure we have to do something. It puts us in danger. Eresiel was taken but abandoned as I heard. We did not have any problems coming from that direction. The Dark Lord was too busy on the front line than to care about a city so far away from his lands. However, now, when Lilithiel took the city and wants to rule there…We do not know of her intentions. And somehow I doubt she will be our ally…”
“Maybe the alliance could be restored, my King. She cannot be that stupid, take the city and be alone to protect it.” Kaalis suggested.
But Thranduil just shook his head. And it was Tavarille who spoke instead.
“She is no ruler. And she is no peace-maker. She wants power and wealth. Nothing else interests her. She was disinherited by her father for her…behavior with men. The fact she calls herself Elvenqueen is saying everything, I guess.
“There is no Elven queen. The last living royal blood is sitting here in this room.” Graven agreed.
“Maybe she is not…but she obviously believes she is…and she is asking me to marry her…” Thranduil sighed and the room fell silent like a grave.