Graven entered the King`s chambers and his eyes fell on the Elvenking, standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by a group of servants who were helping him get ready for a small feast to welcome the queen of Eresiel.
“Everything is ready.”
Thranduil looked at him. The expression on his face was strange for Graven but it quickly changed into an expression of a hard concentration.
“Thank you, Graven.”
“We start in a short moment.”
Thranduil just nodded and Graven left. He had to be in the Great Hall in a short moment after all.
Lilithiel let the old elf, who claimed to be Thranduil`s advisor, to lead the way. She heard the footsteps of her own guards behind her and Thranduil`s guards behind them. It was all strange. The Woodland Realm was different from her imagination of it. The woods were so dark, so dangerous, so wild. And where she expected a great elven castle like it was customary among the elven races, there was a huge cave. At first, she couldn`t believe it.
Like the great Elvenking is living underground? For real?
And yet it was a truth. The cave, however, was nothing she could even imagine. The Halls were huge, enormous. The ceilings were so high it made her head dizzy. The floor was marbled with luxurious stone or wood. Huge trees were growing inside and were used instead of pillars here and there.
Is this place real? Or is it a magic? Is Thranduil that powerful?
But just like the woods around, the Elvenking`s Halls were dark, the lights were timid and she felt being watched on every step.
When the advisor led them through the long bridges made from immense branches of the immense trees with a wild river running under them she almost halted and refused to continue. But then she remembered she was the Elven queen. She cannot allow herself to show a weakness. She was sure she will be tested.
The Great Hall where the feast was ready to honor her visit, met the expectations. The floor was made from a bright marble and the ceiling was disappearing in the darkness above their heads. The walls were from a stone of the cave with carved windows and balcony. On the right side of the Hall was a big fireplace, set with a fire already and there was a table already accommodated with high-born elves of the Woodland Realm. Most of them blond, all dressed up in their best clothes and murmuring.
Something was odd but she couldn’t say what exactly. An elf with the banner of the King announced her name, this time with a right title. All the high-born elves rose from their chairs. She looked over them with her blue eyes, searching for the King but he wasn`t there yet. She frowned.
The King`s advisor turned to her.
“Queen Lilithiel, please, follow me. The King wished to seat you next to him.” He smiled with a kind smile and she instantly wished him to be her father. The family she had never really had. She followed him as he asked. The eyes of the high-borns were on her. Lilithiel felt it like they were touching her body in instant. It was uncomfortable, yet she knew she had to endure it and so the queen just raised her chin and continued.
To her shock, the advisor pulled out a chair for her not next to the adorned chair of the King at the head of the table, but on his left side on the corner. She gasped but she sat down nonetheless. The two guards stood just a few inches behind her. She noticed two more woodland guards assumed a position behind the King`s chair. The advisor himself sat down opposite her, to the right side of the King`s chair. She frowned again. This wasn`t right, was it?
But before she could think further about the strange situation and before this kind old advisor would mingle her into a conversation, the elf with the banner announced the Elvenking.
“Thranduil Oropherion, the last living royal blood among elves, the King of the Woodland Realm.” And he banged the floor with his stick two times. The high-borns rose again. Lilithiel suddenly didn`t know what to do. It was obvious that he wanted to remind her she had no right to call herself an elven queen. But she was a queen and an elvish blood wasn`t she?! She rose up as well and her gaze followed the Elvenking.
He walked towards his chair with an elegant and regal pace. Lilithiel remembered how handsome he was, how regal he always acted when she met him in Locien`s court. But now she realized he was a gem among her jewelry truly.
The King wore a deep black coat, which was trailing behind him, with deep V neck and collar was reaching to his jaw. The exposed flesh of his neck made her swallow. His almost white hair made a great contrast to the black coat and the wooden, spiky crown on his head was adorned with summer flowers.
Lilithiel has never liked ellons with flowers in their hair during a celebration in Eresiel when they were welcoming spring. Yet, the flowers on Thranduil`s crown didn`t ease the serious, hard expression on his face. The masculinity and power were evident. Lilithiel shivered when his eyes met hers. And it wasn`t a kind look. Gone was his nervousness when she arrived. Gone was his cuteness. He was the real King and she fought the urge to bow to him.
“Queen Lilithiel.” He tilted his head slightly and gestured her to sit down.
“King Thranduil.” She smiled and searched his face. The emotionless mask wasn`t strange to her. She merely saw him smile in Locien.
When all elves were seated, Thranduil raised his golden goblet of a strong wine.
“Thank you for excepting my invitation to welcome queen Lilithiel of Eresiel, Lord Meridir`s niece, to our kingdom. Please, may the feast begin.”
He then sat down and drank almost the whole goblet. Lilithiel watched him and suddenly it struck her.
Everything was black. The clothes of most high-borns were at least dark when not black. The curtains on the windows were black, there was no colorful tapestry of heroic days of elves like it used to be on every elvish court. The flowers on the table were dark as well. Just like his luxurious coat from brocade.
What the hell..?
“I hope you will excuse the small group of my subjects who are here with us now.” Thranduil began with a soft apologetic voice. She looked at him again, “it is not a good time for celebration for us. However, I did not want you to feel unwelcome. I know the customs.”
“It is very kind of you, King Thranduil.”
Just when she wanted to ask why it is not a good time for celebrations as she heard that the wooden elves were so merry nation, he started talking again.
“I also hope that the presence of my right hand was pleasant.”
Lilithiel looked at the old elf and smiled politely. So he is Thranduil`s representative.
“OF course, your advisor was more than nice to me.”
“Graven, his name is Graven.” Thranduil said softly but she couldn`t miss the irony and she blushed. It was a mistake to not remember a name of such important person in the kingdom next to the King himself. She needed to get herself together and start acting. Like she was supposed to do. The business.
“Please, accept my apology, lord Graven. I am terrible with names, ” She smiled sweetly at Graven who smiled back.
“Apology accepted.” Graven chuckled, “How did you find the journey, queen Lilithiel?”
Graven engaged her in the polite conversation about the traveling, forest and the caves they resided in. The served food was delicious, yet she expected richer feast, as she was at the court of the Elvenking. But Lilithiel was so hungry after such long journey that she stopped caring and just ate. Graven was slowly driving her crazy with his polite questions and a small talk she wasn`t interested in. She was more interested in the King who was silent for the whole time of their conversation. She tried to compel him to join them but his answers were always polite but short.
Graven finally shut up when his favorite dessert came on the table as he repeated several times before. Lilithiel sighed and just when she managed to come up with another casual topic for a conversation with Thranduil, another couple of high-borns interrupted her and pushed her to talk with them and answer useless questions about Eresiel. But nobody asked her how she managed to defeat the Dark Lord and take Eresiel for herself. Her made up answer was ready to see the light, but nobody asked, not even the King. And she wondered how is it possible. She also wondered if she should lie or not.
“And how is the life in the Elvenking`s Halls?” She returned the question to the nobles though looking at the King at the same time, “don`t you miss the sunshine during the day and the starlight during the night when you are closed here, in the cave which is so dark?”
The silence fell over the whole Hall. Everyone stopped eating and they were staring at her and the King. Lilithiel swallowed hard but raised her chin to feel and look more confident than she really was.
Thranduil put down his silverware and cleaned his lips delicately with a napkin.
“We do see the sunshine and the starlight..usually.” He answered with a low voice which made her shiver.
“Why not now, then?”
He leaned back to his chair and looked at her finally. His eyes were like daggers.
“There was a great battle. We were betrayed by our ally and my Halls were destroyed as well as my forest.”
“I heard about that battle, King Thranduil-“
“Then I am sure you also heard that I lost more than half of my population and also my wife…”
Lilithiel`s heart skipped a beat. She should guess it, yet it surprised her anyway. All at the table were listening to their conversation. She would prefer if they just started eating again!
“But that was years ago…” She breathed in a weak argument. The queen already sensed that she managed to offend him greatly.
“And we are still mourning. I AM still mourning.” He hissed, “and yet you dared to ask me for marriage and come here and demand an answer!” He tossed the napkin away and rose from his chair, angered.
Lilithiel widened her eyes.
“I did not know! Please, King Thranduil, do not feel offended! It was not my intention to do so!”
“Even though my grief would be a lesser burden…I cannot remarry. It is against the elven law, against my heart, against the will of Valars!”
Lilithiel saw clearly that he was shaking. With grief, the anger, she did not know but it was impossible to save the situation now.
“Please, excuse me, my lady. I lost my appetite. I am sure you will be better entertained without me.”
And with that, he walked away from the feast.
The rain was heavily pouring and the trees surrounding the home of elves were bending almost to the ground. They cried silently like they would mourn the Silvan elven queen just like the King. It was in the middle of the night and the sound of the rain and the cry of the trees were the only sound heard in the Elvenking`s bedchamber. The door leading to the balcony were wide opened and in front of them on the edge of the bed, the King was sitting with his head low.
The weather and the sound of the forest were mimicking his feelings. It seemed like dressing into the blackest robe he found in his closet, the one he wore so often after she….His mourning clothes…It was like starting all over again… Like it was yesterday.
He heard her voice, smelled her hair and saw her smile. All over again.
He let out a loud sob.
Earlier when Graven came to him to tell him that their plan worked, that Lilithiel felt that she offended him greatly and that she was nervous how to fix it. But then he saw Thranduil`s expression. He didn`t have to pretend to mourn at all. He was mourning. All over again.
Thranduil wished to be alone. So they let him. When he thought his heart managed to go on, to beat still, to pretend that it was whole…when he thought that his son glued those shattered pieces together…his heart died again. It tore itself into the million pieces and he felt the hollowness of the broken bond again. It was like reaching, searching for something to hold on to, when there was only a darkness and emptiness around him. And there was nothing he could hold or support himself with. Nothing.
The memories of her smile, her love…her everything, were running in front of his eyes like a stupid movie. He just wanted to call her name until she would come back home.
There was a doubt creeping into his thoughts like a poison lately but he didn`t wish to support it. He didn`t wish to find the truth. He was scared to know it. But now, in this very moment, when he was sitting there, on the bed, in the chamber they had shared before it was destroyed by the dwarves and orcs, the doubt was screaming at him. And in the inner corner of his tortured soul, he knew the truth without even looking into books. Without asking.
“I`ve never needed you like I do right now…” He whispered between the sobs. But there was nobody who would hear it. The sound of his words disappeared into the rain outside. There was nobody to listen, to wait for him.
She was not waiting for him.
She was gone.
He didn`t want to live forever…without her. The eternity seemed like his personal curse right now. Maybe the tales about Valars creating humankind were right. The mortality was a gift. What was life without her, without a complete family for Legolas?
He slid from the bed on the floor and remained sitting there with his back to the bed. His head fell backward, the tears were freely falling down. It was useless to wipe them off.
There was no comfort of meeting her in undying lands.
He and his son are here alone to fight the darkness not only outside in the world, but also in their souls.
Idril sighed and looked at Tavarille. They exchanged the look of relief. Finally, Legolas fell asleep from the constant crying that he missed his Ada. Both elleths let the boy sleep and moved to the other side of the room to their beds.
Poor Faglir could offer them only one room as the commoners had only simple chambers. Now he and his wife were sleeping in her parent`s chamber. But still, it was enough. Right next to them was another room where the guards were sleeping. Nobody recognized them luckily. Some of them guessed that Idril is high-born Sindar since she had blond hair and blue eyes like them, but they didn`t push to know what was going on. All of them were enchanted by the little elfling who was supposed to be her son.
“My daughter used to cry after her father a lot as well when he was gone for a couple of days for a hunt,” Tavarille said in a whisper. Idril looked at her but said nothing.
“I guess you are blaming like the rest of the court…” She added. Idril shook her head slowly, her eyes were still on Legolas.
“I don`t care. At least he got the chance to be happy.”
Tavarille chuckled and narrowed her eyes. She knew immediately that she was addressing the King.
“We both got the chance. But I think you would rather have him happy with you than with your dear friend, am I not right?”
Idril widened her eyes and she just opened and closed her mouth several times.
“How can you say something like this?!” She hissed in a whisper and frowned.
“Because I couldn`t miss the way you look at him. And I definitely did not miss the way you looked at me when we were saying goodbyes just this morning.”
“You are foolish.” Idril turned her face away from her, deeply offended.
“It is easy to fall in love with him when he shows you the softer side…” Tavarille continued, secretly enjoying the torture. Somehow the idea of Idril with the King bothered her and she couldn`t say why. It was not right. Thranduil was Eleniel`s and perhaps a little bit hers, but not Idril`s. No, she won`t allow it.
“I am just grateful that he gave me the chance to prove myself.”
“Of course.” Tavarille smiled, “He is just…And I guess it was an easy choice for him since you and Eleniel were good friends and you took care of Legolas even before her death.”
Idril looked at her again with an angry expression. But there was something else. A little bit of hurt.
“I will not tell him anything Idril. I was there once too. Oh, how naive I was.” She chuckled silently, “But he was so handsome, so regal and so…strong. You had the immediate feeling that he can protect you from everything. Even then, when we were mere children. How could I know he had already given his heart to another? But still, he cared deeply, he did everything to ease life with him here. I hated Greenwood so much at first but when I was leaving, it broke my heart. It was my home after all. And I was leaving the only friend I have ever had. The real friend.”
Tavarille sighed and embraced her knees. They looked at each other again.
“It is very easy to love him when he cares.”
Idril was still silent, not saying anything. But deep inside she had to agree. When he cared and showed her the soft side….she remembered the letters he used to write to Eleniel, the letters she was keeping secretly in her chamber. They were full of love she dreamt of. And when Thranduil invited her to enter his privacy with his son, it was even harder to not dream of this love more. To imagine that the love in the letters was theirs. It was hard to not give in to his smiles.
“But it also easily hurts.” Tavarille added and closed her eyes.
“I know…” Idril said and closed her eyes as well.
“I would like to say it is worth it. But it isn`t. One side love…It just hurts and nothing more. Happiness is nowhere to be found…”
Idril swallowed and she fought with her own tears to not spill.
“You seem still intimate with each other.”
Tavarille opened her eyes and looked at her with a soft smile.
“I do love him. It is another kind of love though. He is part of my family, he is my dearest friend. You have no idea how glad I am that he feels the same.”
“What if not?” Her voice was shaking and she tried hard to cover it. Tavarille pretended she didn`t hear it.
“Idril…I wish you would find someone, your other half. But it is not Thranduil. He found his half. And it is gone. It cannot be replaced. It cannot be replaced for me. It cannot be replaced for him.”
Idril`s heart was beating fast, her eyes were shut. She looked calm despite the storm inside her. It hurt. Just as Tavarille said. They didn`t say anything more. The topic was done for them.
The white eyes scanned her angrily. She crouched under the feeling of his superior power. He was the leader of them all and she was at his mercy now, kneeling in front of him with her head down. Her black hair, the sign of her shame, was framing her body.
“What have you done, Alda?” The voice of the leader stormed. She was shaking in a fear. This audition will decide whether they will banish her or not. Whether she will live like her brother, out of the community, in the hostile world and without a pride and power. Except her brother had a power…
“I did not allow you to wonder there! I did not allow you to show your power outside!”
“Please, forgive me…I had only good intentions, oh Great one.”
“Now your power is spent and shared! What did you think?! Have you think at all, Alda?!”
“My brother is the face of evil. I wanted to help the chosen one, therefore to us. They have no idea what evil is upon them. It is not just any servant of the darkness, it is my brother behind it all.”
The group around her gasped but the leader in front of her remained motionless. He was staring at her with his white eyes. The power was surging around him in waves. It made her dizzy.
“I said we will not intervene. It is not our business anymore. This war is not ours to fight.”
“But it will be and you know it.” She dared to raise her head and look straight into his eyes.
“You are not trustworthy nor privileged to speak to me like that, Alda.”
“Because I am stained. Yes, I know. I pay for my brother`s deeds even though I have done nothing!”
“But now you did! Now you refused to act as I said!”
He rose from his throne all mighty and regal. The power in the air was stronger with his anger.
“Just listen to me for once. Try it. The information can serve us! We can benefit from it. And you will destroy my brother finally!”
He looked at her and narrowed his eyes. The he bent to her and took the strand of her black her. It got white under his touch.
“Then tell me everything you know.”
Thranduil rose from the bed and put his dressing robe on. He smoothed his hair automatically and nodded to the guard that he can let the visitor in. She entered the chamber and her blue eyes fixed on him. She was just in her night-gown, no dressing robe to cover the delicateness of the soft material. She was not ashamed for her looks. The door closed behind her.
“It is quite late for such visit, Lilithiel.” He addressed her. The exhaustion in his voice was evident. He didn`t sleep the whole night and now she was standing in his chambers just two hours before the sun will go up.
“I could not sleep knowing I offended you that much.” She said softly and closed the distance between them. He didn`t move, “Please, forgive me, King Thranduil.”
“Diplomacy and politics are very delicate matter. You will learn.” He sighed and stepped away from her to pour himself a wine. He did not offer her one, “But it could wait until the morning.”
He said, looking back at her. She was exquisite. He never saw a beauty like this. It was like gift from gods all in one package. Or maybe she was a goddess. His eyes scanned her body in the light night-gown. He couldn`t miss the curves of her body.
She closed the distance again and touched his cheek carefully.
“It makes me sad to see you sad, Thranduil. I have never forgot the night when we met. How you were looking at me.”
“And I refused you anyway.”
“Yes, you did. You didn`t used me.”
Her hand ended up on his chest. He thought if he should step aside or not. The touch was warm. He sighed.
“Why did you come, Lilithiel?”
“To help you relax.” She breathed just inches from his neck.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because I feel we have a connection. Because I think we would be great allies. And because I think we would make a great pair in the world-wide politics.”
“I already told you I will not remarry.”
Their voices were hushed, and just above the whisper. She was caressing his skin on his neck with one hand and his chest with the other.
She raised her head to look into his orbs.
“You were right. It was wrong of me to think of marriage after your wife passed away. You had to love her dearly. But think about it. Think about the alliance and power within it. We do not have to marry. We could be just…together..I know you secretly want me, Thranduil…”
The Elvenking did not break the eye contact, he just raised his hand to her cheek and she leaned into the touch. His voice was low and soft, almost kind.
“You are very beautiful, Lilithiel and I desired you once perhaps…But not anymore. I lost my heart, my soul is hollow and my body lack the desires…And yes, I did love my wife dearly. I still do. And it will never change. The world can fall apart around me and my love will be still hers.”
Lilithiel withdraw from him a little.
“She is dead, Thranduil.”
“So am I…” He inhaled deeply and finished the wine.
“Do not make myself an enemy for you.”
Thranduil narrowed his eyes.
“The world is getting dangerous. I am your only ally you have left.”
“Tell me one thing, Lilithiel…What the Dark Lord offered you that you became willingly his whore?”
“What?!” She gasped and she wanted to slap him but he caught her arm.
“There is an evil in you…But many people were in you, you know I am right.”
“How dare you!” She hissed, fighting with him to release her arm from his steel grip.
“It`s like fingertips I see all over you. Be honest, Lilithiel! You sold your soul to the darkness. And for what. For a fucking throne?”
“Is that how you treat your highborn guests?!!” She yelled.
“Only the one who deserves it! Who drag a fucking army into my Halls. Army of a strange creatures full of evil! You dared to be guarded in my private Halls during the feast! You know nothing of diplomacy and politics and yet you dare to call yourself and Elven queen! You have no royal blood! You have no right to demand a marriage from me!”
He let her go with a push and she stumbled, hardly keeping herself from falling on the floor.
“You have no idea! You have no idea!!!!” She yelled one last time before she started sobbing heavily. He halted, surprised. Because the tears weren`t from anger but desperation.
“You have no idea what was it like to grow up in Eresiel. You have no idea what my life was!”
“I`ve got a pretty good idea what your life was.” He answered disgusted.
“You know nothing, Elvenking. Nobody knows.” She sniffled and wiped her face with the sleeve of her nightgown.
“My mother was a whore and my father a sick fuck.” She chuckled ironically, “Do you know who my father is?”
“Some low-born lord I heard.” Thranduil said, absolutely confused where the conservation was leading. He was staring at her as she sat down on the sofa, shaking and tears were rolling down from her eyes like the rain from the clouds outside.
“Meridir was my father.”
“But your mother was his sister!”
“Indeed she was. And when she got pregnant, he sent her away because he was already married and his wife was pregnant with Amaniel. He wed her to a low-born lord to get rid of her, that`s why we lived outside the court. She let him go but she hated my step-father so much that she slept with every possible man, elf or even dwarf who was willing to bed her.” She spat out the words like it was a poison, “When I returned to the court I was lost but happy that I am away from that place. I fell in love with my teacher but he was married. And when Meridir found out he called for me and…” She squeezed her eyes and started crying even more. Thranduil opened his mouth in a shock.
“He…” She shook her head, “He used me..like..like..I`ve just tried to run away from his power, to find someone who would help me against him but it was impossible. And when I heard he died it was such a relief.”
“Lilithiel…” He breathed and kneeled next to her. She fell into his embrace, shaking and crying heavily.
“Please, help me Thranduil. I can`t anymore. Help me, please.”
He held her, her tears were soaking into his robe and he still couldn`t comprehend what she just told him.
“Who is your supporter, Lilithiel..You have to tell me…” He whispered and brushed the black hair back from her face. She looked at him and then she pressed her face into his neck.
“The Darkness itself…” She sobbed, “I am scared. I am so scared of him, Thranduil. He has the absolute power over me, please help me…”
I have to admit that this one wasn`t easy at all for me. The emotions are real people!
This song helped me to write it. Thank you for reading!