The Elvenking emerged into his chambers completely forgetting that the chambers were occupied. He halted for a mere second but then a smile spread across his flawless face.
“I am happy to see you eating properly.” He noted softly. Idril couldn`t help herself and seeing his charming smile, she smiled back even though his note wasn`t for her but for his son. She was feeding Legolas with one hand and herself with the other.
“My King.” She greeted him.
“Idril.” He tilted his head and this time he sent a little smile just to her. Her heart skipped a beat.
“I would go elsewhere but the guards…” Idril shrugged her shoulders.
Thranduil put away his top robe and called for his servants to bring him lunch as well.
“Legolas is not permitted to leave my chambers yet. I do not mind for you to look after him here.” He explained, seating himself next to Legolas and opposite of her. She blushed.
“As you wish, my King.”
The servants were fast and just when she finished her sentence, they entered the chambers with King`s lunch. Idril was surprised by the small portion on his plate but she said nothing. The wine was poured and the servants were gone again.
Legolas was watching the whole scene, forgetting about the food in front of him. With curious eyes, he looked at his father. Thranduil smiled at him.
“Eat, son. If you want to be as strong as your father one day.”
“I want!” Legolas yelled cheerfully and put a spoon full of vegetables into his little mouth. Thranduil chuckled.
“You will be. I do not doubt it.” He caressed his cheek and then he took the silverware with his delicate long fingers.
Idril`s heart pounded. She wasn`t used to having a lunch with the King every day. And she couldn`t even deny the increasing affection she started feeling towards him. But she was sure it was because she saw him In another light finally. Once she would get used to him, it will be different. Normal again.
“How do you find your new chambers, Idril?”
The way he said her name made her swallow hard.
“Ehm…Very nice and too much luxurious for someone like me, my King.” She chuckled nervously. Thranduil raised his eyes from the plate.
He watched her for a while. Her long, golden hair was braided in a simple braid like she was a peasant, her blue eyes, darker than his ones, were looking everywhere just not at him and her hands with long, slim fingers, so typical for Sindars were slightly shaking when she adjusted the bib on Legolas`s chest.
“You mean for someone like the Royal healer, the Royal nanny and the best friend of the Queen?”
Idril looked at him finally, straight into his icy eyes. One of his thick, dark eyebrows was up and despite the mocking tone in his voice, his face was serious.
“Oh, and I forgot that you have also saved my son. Twice.”
“Idril is a hero, Ada!” Legolas waved with his spoon. A little cucumber fell from his mouth.
“Legolas! Manners!” Idril hissed, “You are acting like I did not teach you anything!”
The blush on her face was evident. Thranduil chuckled.
Legolas frowned and pushed the plate aside.
“I am full. I don`t want to eat more.”
The blush on eleth`s face got redder and she gave an apologetic look to the King.
“If you are full, little leaf, then you put aside the fork and knife like this and wipe clean your lips…like this.” Thranduil demonstrated with a soft smile. Legolas repeated it, watching him.
“I`m done. Can I go outside now?”
Idril watched the two of them with a melting heart. She wished for Legolas to have a father like this and finally Thranduil was available for him. The love in his eyes was unconditional. Finally. But it also felt out of place very strongly. She was not supposed to be a part of the King`s privacy.
“Not now. Wait until we finish.”
Idril was done as well, actually, so she quietly put aside the silverware just like Thranduil showed them and waited. She tried hard to not look at him but it was difficult. He was sitting across and this table was not made for dining with the King at all. It was too small, too narrow. She knew that if she will move her legs, she will definitely brush his knees.
“So. Your chambers.”
His voice resonated even through the babbling of the small elfling.
“Uhm…I am very honored, my King.”
“You do not sound pleased.” He looked at her again. She lowered her eyes quickly.
“I am, I am very pleased, my King. Really, I am. Just…”
“I fear what others will think of it. It is not so long ago I was called a traitor.” She looked at Legolas but he didn`t seem to listen. Instead, he played with the rest of his vegetables and trying to build a house.
“Now I have one of the finest chambers in the Halls. In the Royal wing.”
“Idril,” Thranduil sighed and pushed aside his plate as well, “it is not your concern. If there will be some rumors, I will put a quick end to it. Even though, I think they will die quickly by themselves. You have proved yourself and you gained my trust…I trust you with my son. There is no bigger task I can give you and show the trust I have in you….The Queen believed in you…So will I. And I cannot imagine anyone else more suitable for looking after Legolas than you. The court will soon acknowledge your value. There will be other problems than rumors…”
“What other problems do you expect, my King?”
“Some elves will approach you with…pleads and promises” He waved his hand full of rings, “…because you are closer to the King than them…I expect a loyalty from you. I expect that you will not be easily swayed because there is nothing more valuable and more luxurious than a favor of the King…”
Thranduil rose from his chair, looking directly into her eyes with a warning. He trusted her, yes, but this will be the proof he expected from her and she quickly understood the meaning behind this.
Idril rose as well.
“I will not disappoint you, my Lord.”
“Good. I do not fancy disappointments.”
He adjusted the brocade robe with silver linings.
“You are allowed to take Legolas to my gardens, but not anywhere else. I do not have enough guards yet, to protect the outsides.”
“I understand. Thank you, my King.”
He kissed Legolas and swiftly left the chambers.
Idril exhaled deeply, her eyes locked with the single silver hair resting on Legolas`s shoulder.
As soon as the Elvenking left the Royal wing, four guards joined him. Since all the elves of Greenwood were accommodated inside of his Halls, the protection of the King and the crown prince was the priority. The common elves weren`t allowed to enter the higher floors of the Halls as it was for nobles and Royals, but Kaalis didn`t want to risk anything. It pissed Thranduil off to have four guards following him like chickens but Kaalis was dutiful and he had to appreciate it.
An unknown voice called for him and suddenly he heard just the clash of the steel as the four guards circled the King and crossed their swords to protect him from an elf who was standing there with his mouth wide open. Other guards, reacting faster than Thranduil himself were running towards them to seize the elf. It was obvious that he was a peasant because his clothes were simple, as well as his braid.
Thranduil raised his hand and the guards halted.
“I-I am sorry, my King. I-I…”
The elf in front of him was scared, shocked to death. Thranduil scanned him from head to toe. He wore the clothes like the elves from a southern village in Greenwood. They were always loyal and they never caused problems like their neighbors.
He did not remember him but his face was familiar.
The Elvenking waved his hand and the guards around him withdrew. He ignored their faces of disapproval.
“I-I didn`t want to…I-I wouldn`t…”
Thranduil closed the distance between them.
“I know. Relax and tell me what you had in mind.”
The elf was shaking. His brown eyes were darting to the armored guards.
“I-I..My apologies, your Majesty. We…I didn`t mean to…I didn`t know…”
The King shifted his weight. The Council was waiting for him and this man couldn`t even say a proper sentence!
“My King, let me take care of this.” One of the guards suggested and then turn to the elf, “You are not allowed to approach the King. You are not allowed to leave your floors. You-“
“Enough!” Thranduil hissed with anger rising within him, boiling like a hot water. Both elf and the guard stepped backward, “I do not need your services. Leave.”
The guard dropped his shoulders. Shocked eyes scanned the King`s face for a joke but there was none. The King was dismissing him but not only from this place but from his post. However, he rather bowed and left.
Thranduil turned to the common elf in front of him. The elf, like he would feel the urgency of the situation, rushed with the explanation before he will anger the King as well.
“I am Faglir, my Lord, I used to be the leader of the southern village.”
“I remember your village, Faglir.”
Despite the situation, Faglir smiled like he would be praised for a heroic act.
“Not many of us remained…But those who lives are still loyal to you and your crown, my King. We heard about your son and we prayed days and nights for him to wake up again. We hope that prince Legolas will gain his health back quickly and we will continue praying, your Majesty.”
The devotion in his voice and honesty in his eyes took Thranduil aback. He knew that his name wasn`t whispered with a joy and love anymore. He knew that he lost many followers through last years. But this man was standing in front of him, telling the truth and he risked his neck for it.
The King, speechless, squeezed the elf`s shoulder in gratitude.
Faglir smiled again and bowed his head in respect. Tears were nearly in his eyes.
“Thank you, Faglir…Tell your people that I deeply appreciate it.”
And with that, the King left the trembling elf in the middle of the hall.
Lilithiel swallowed. The sight of the strange creature in the dark long coat with a hood always made her uneasy. As it should. He was the servant of the Darkness itself. She straightened herself up in the golden throne her servants made for her just yesterday. The General stopped just a few steps from her. He didn`t even bow to her. She was thinking if she should remind him that she was the Queen now or rather not. It was him who seated her on the throne of Eresiel after all.
“Elvenqueen.” He tilted his hooded head without a visible face. His voice was husky and like a silk, “I see you are restoring the palace quite quickly.”
Lilithiel smiled. She was proud. The palace she had in mind will be greater, much more overwhelming and luxurious than her uncle`s. She didn`t want to live in the place which was constantly reminding her the failure, the very moment when she was abandoned from the court.
“I believe I have to thank you and the Dark Lord for such a support. Your servants are very handy.”
“A new species.” General nodded again and looked around to scrutinize the guards standing alongside the hall. They resembled elves, just their skin was grey – almost black and their hair was short and raven. Strangely narrow eyes had very light color, almost yellow. The General felt proud for a little moment. It was his idea. And his artwork to create something less ugly and less stupid than orcs. With the power of his Master he created this. They were just like elves. Just a little bit more evil. He smiled to that and turned back to Lilithiel.
“You seem troubled, Lilithiel.”
She inhaled deeply and he watched her very low and full neckline to go up and down. He used to have women like this like trophies. But it was back then. Now it was not possible for him anymore for exchange with immortality and a power in the Darkness.
“He might be attracted to me once, but I really doubt he would ever marry me. It has been just three years since his wife passed away.”
General slowly walked to one of the huge windows and looked on the horizon, just where the edge of the Greenwood was visible. The rock on which Eresiel was built was high enough to see far lands when the weather was good. Like today.
“You can be dangerous if he will not cooperate, remember. You have three times bigger army than the Elvenking.”
“How do you know for sure?” Lilithiel rose from her throne. The light summer dress embraced her body like a lover. Every curve was flattered by these dress. And the curves she really had.
“Because we always know everything.” He said with such confidence that a shiver ran down Lilithiel`s spine.
“What is the next move?”
General was silent for a moment and then he turned to her. She was standing too close this time and she had to gather all her strength to not flinch. Under the hood was just darkness. Like he would be headless. Is it even possible? But despite this fact she could feel he smiled. And it had to be one devilish smile to that.
“You will be informed in the right time. Do not worry…Elvenqueen.”
She knew he was mocking her. Even his Master and he didn`t acknowledge her as a ruler. She gritted her teeth but said nothing.
“For now wait for his answer. I am sure he will send scouts to know what he is dealing with. Let them get the information. Feel free to convince them that you may be even stronger than you are in reality. He will have to choose.”
The General tilted his head and bid her farewell and left.
The Council began a few minutes later when the King arrived. His newly appointed advisors were ready. He could clearly see their troubled faces, though. Indeed, it was a rough time for them to start such a new position. But at least, he will see if they are worth it.
The Elvenking sat down and then the rest of the advisors.
“Graven, I have read your reports. And….” Suddenly he stopped. His mind was working. The elves in the room were staring at him. It took a few minutes before Graven spoke silently:
“We will send a help to Lord Daeron and Lord Deteghor to the front line.”
Graven smiled and nodded. The other councilmen were whispering among themselves. Thranduil raised his eyebrows.
“My Council does not agree with me?”
“The Council thinks we should know first where the Eresiel`s politics stands.” One of the young advisor, Lohden, noted seriously. The King eyed him and the Council room fell silent. Thranduil was very curious about Lohden. He used to work in administration and his knowledge in an economical side of the kingdom and mathematics were outstanding. He used to help Sorontur and Graven as well. The King hoped he will be a great advisor one day.
“We do not even know if the letter is not just a trick.” Thranduil leaned backward and rested his arms on the armrests of the throne-like chair.
“It really seems the seal is original.” Graven shrugged his shoulders and opened the scroll again examining it closely.
“I agree we should have more information because Eresiel is our close neighbor. We need to know if there will be a peace between us or not.” Thranduil rubbed his temple, “but I need to know if Lord Daeron knows about this situation as well and …”
Graven looked straight into his eyes. Thranduil knew he was waiting for it. He considered Graven as his family member since his wedding with Eleniel and that he could rely on him. But he also knew that Graven was enjoying himself when Thranduil had to admit his wrongs.
“We need his support in this.”
“If Lilithiel gains his support and also the support of other houses…we could be easily destroyed.” Graven added. Thranduil squeezed his jaw until his teeth hurt. At least Graven didn`t bath him that it was just his fault and fault of his late politics in front of the whole Council. He knew it well without it.
“I doubt Daeron would support her. He has to question the circumstances how she took over the throne.”
“Indeed, Thranduil, but Lord Daeron is not the only one strong house here.” Graven continued.
The Elvenking sighed and rubbed his eyes this time.
“We can send scouts.” Kaalis spoke aloud the first time during this meeting, “at least we would know the situation in Eresiel.”
“It could be a suicide mission, my King!”
“Indeed, it could…”The King rose from his seat and walked to the window like many times when he was calculating his options.
“Lord Barthin trained very good scouts, my King.” Kaalis continued in convincing Thranduil.
“We cannot lose our best ones for such a small task…” Thranduil shook his head.
“Is it really a small task, Thranduil?” Graven tilted his head to one side, watching closely the King. He had to be honest that this decision was tough. It could be useless and it could be very dangerous.
“It could be useless and it could be very dangerous.” He answered like he was reading Graven`s mind, “let me think about it until tomorrow. Until then, please make a list of what supplies we can send to Lord Daeron.”
“As you wish.”
Thranduil sat back down and crossed his long legs.
“Let`s imagine the letter is no trick and Lilithiel is sitting on Eresiel`s throne…With an army probably, because…well, she couldn`t do it alone.” Graven was thinking aloud.
“Where she could find an army, not already fighting in the war?” Lohden asked bewildered.
Thranduil rose again and pulled out a world map from the nearby stand and unrolled it on the table.
“Who is not fighting in the war?”
Everyone stood up and bent over the map, looking for a possible source of the mysterious army.
Finally, he reached his chambers. It has been a long day. His mind rushed with thoughts of the all-day meeting with his advisors. They didn`t find anybody who could afford to borrow a significant number of army for support of one crazy elleth. He even wondered what was in her head when she did it. Yes, it wasn`t confirmed that Lilithiel really took over Eresiel but he had no doubt that something was going on there.
Who would risk to take Eresiel from Dark Lord?
If he was able to take it before he would be able to take it again. Even though his army was exhausted from a long war as well. He wasn`t moving ahead which meant either he lost too many troops and his army was exhausted or he was preparing for another attack and not on the same spot probably. If Thranduil wanted to take Eresiel he wouldn`t do it now.
Finally, he closed the doors behind him and his posture dropped. He took off the simple crown and let it fall on the sofa carelessly. As he walked he undressed the long robe and shoes.
It was evening. It was his private time.
He wanted to open a bottle of wine when he heard a childish chuckle. He almost forgot that Legolas was living in his chambers now. He put the bottle down and walked to the bedroom.
Legolas jumped in surprise and he crouched down, guilty. Thranduil raised his eyebrow and chuckled. The sight of the little elfling in his dark green robe with golden embroidery and his spiky wooden crown on his head was amusing. Legolas was standing in front of the huge mirror, long sleeves were hanging down from his little arms and the back of the robe was widely spread around him. The crown was slowly sliding down from his head as it was quite big for him.
“I was just playing.” Legolas said with an innocent voice, “I didn`t break anything.”
“And what are you playing?” Thranduil chuckled again and squatted down next to him looking at him through the mirror in front of them.
“I was playing the Elvenking!”
“Oh, really? Would you like to be a king one day?”
Legolas looked into his eyes directly and then lowered his eyes.
“I don`t know. But I like the crown!”
Thranduil laughed and helped him out from the heavy robe and to untangle his blond hair from the crown.
“Where is Idril? Why are you alone?” He frowned then.
“She went to the kitchen. I`m hungry, Ada.” Legolas put a hand on his rounded belly to demonstrate it. Thranduil smiled again. And just then he heard the door open and Idril`s voice coming from the first chamber playfully:
“I found a delicious cake, oh my mighty king!”
Thranduil stood up and turned to the door. Idril halted once she spotted him and a horror spread on her face.
“You greet him even better than me.” He raised one of his thick eyebrows, mocking her.
“I-I…I..It was meant for you, of course.” She tilted her head and handed him the cake.
“And my cake?” Legolas said sadly.
Thranduil looked at him and then back at Idril and they started laughing.