Thranduil covered his naked body with a soft blanket and looked up to a naked elf maiden.
“You should get dressed too, My Lord. The King is awaiting you at the dinner,” she smiled and finished buttoning her green tunic. Thranduil just watched her until she was in the door.
“I know, I`ve heard you said something like that just before I got you naked.”
The young elleth smiled again and left his chambers before anyone could see her. Thranduil sighed. Family dinner is not an event he would like to go to. Especially today, when he was about to come so late. His mood immediately changed to worse…
He dressed up into a simple tunic and breeches and checked himself in a huge mirror on the wall. His hair was a mess. He tried to smooth them out but with no success. With another deep sigh, he went to the dining halls.
“You look terrible,” a voice behind him made him smile. He turned to see his best friend grinning at him like always.
“That`s a real compliment from you, Aegnor.”
Aegnor bowed to the young prince with a loud laugh.
“Your father is really pissed. You should hurry.”
“Nothing new. I’ll see you later on the watch,” Thranduil rolled over his eyes and left his friend behind.
When the huge door of the dining hall was opened, the voices from the table ceased. Thranduil kept his gaze down until he sat down next to his brother. He could feel the cold look of his father.
“So, my youngest son arrived, finally. What an honour for us!” He spat out and dramatically took a sip of his wine. Thranduil didn`t stop staring at his own plate, but he also didn’t dare to eat yet. The dining hall was dead-like silent. Father´s anger was palpable.
“I am deeply sorry, Ada,” Thranduil murmured.
“And what duties kept you busy, son? Tell me. Maybe a watch on our borders? Training? Or books perhaps?!”
Thranduil was silent.
“Oropher, please, let it go…” the Queen begged and placed her hand on husband’s arm. He didn`t even look at her. He was still watching his youngest heir.
“Neither, am I right? I am sick of you!”
Everyone flinched when Oropher`s fist hit the table.
“If you were not alike I would believe you are a foundling!”
“Oropher!” Queen`s eyes widened.
Thranduil closed his eyes. His father knew well how to hit his target. He clenched his jaw but said nothing in response. And when he opened his eyes again, he has the same icy knives in them just like the King. Oropher seemed to challenge his son to the gazing battle. Until the queen spoke up:
“Cannot we just share a meal together in peace? Beloved, I think you wanted to say something to our children.”
Oropher glanced at his wife and then he took another sip of wine.
“Indeed. We had a council today and we decided we will stay here…”
Thranduil looked at his brother Perúnidil. His older brother was a successor to the King. The Firstborn. Thranduil has never understood how Perúnidil could possibly look forward to his future position. And if the council would decide that they will leave this life, their hierarchy would be no more important. All of them would live in peace and joy. Thranduil woke up from his thoughts when Perúnidil almost shouted out.
“With Woodland elves?! But why with them, ada? Are we not strong enough?”
“I agree with their leader that we have a lot in common and our cultures are quite similar. They will stay too… Anyway, Lord Meridir and Lord Daeron shall remain in their cities as well. The rest of the elves are leaving. You have to think about future, my son. If anything happens, we shall support each other and we will be strong together. If we would stay alone, we would be vulnerable. And Woodland elves live in a very strategic place. It is a large forest.”
“And who will lead us, ada? Will you still be the King?”
“Yes and one day after I will sail away, you shall take my place instead, Perúnidil.”
“They will just step away?” Thranduil finally spoke. Oropher narrowed his eyes. He seemed almost offended by such a question.
“They need not to surrender. They see a natural leader in me. Greenwood needs us as much as we need them.”
“Do you have any doubts about your King, Thranduil?”
“Of course not, ada,” Prince answered quickly and rather occupied himself with the food in front of him.
Oropher was silent for a while. Queen smiled at him. So, there is something else, Thranduil wondered.
“I also discussed yours future wives with Lord Meridir. You shall wed his daughters. Both of you.”
“What?” Thranduil stood up fiercely and started to choke.
“Is this plan too dangerous for your debauched lifestyle, Thranduil?” Oropher mocked him. His anger raised again, “Did you think I do not know about your affairs with maidens here in this palace? Did you think you can freely put a shame upon our family with no punishment?”
Thranduil stared at his father with disbelief.
“I do not want to be married like this.”
Oropher gave a hysterical laugh.
“I did not ask what you want! I know very well, what do you want. And I will not let you do it, Thranduil!”
“You know nothing!”
Thranduil spoke without thinking. Oropher`s face was pale. He raised from his seat. Stormy eyes pinned at his son.
“Really? So I know nothing? You will marry that elleth even if I would have to drag you to the altar by force. And if you will not stop harassing elleths in this realm I swear to all gods I will cut off your manhood to stop this madness!”
Thranduil was shaking. He couldn`t mean that! But his father`s look was uncompromising. The riff between the son and his father grew wider. He knew that he was not the favourite and cherished son like Perúnidil, who does what was asked of him. But Thranduil never imagined that his father hates him. Maybe Oropher even wished his second son was never born. Thranduil was terrified of his father for the first time in his life. He was not able to say a word. He just turned away and left the dining halls.
The next morning Thranduil was summoned to the King`s office. He did not like this room. The dark curtains never let any light in and the air here was heavy with a smell of candles, ink and old books. The King`s guards let Thranduil in. The prince stopped several steps in front of the massive wooden table. Oropher was deep in thoughts over the maps on the table.
“Did you call for me, my King?”
Oropher finally raised his head with the majestic silver crown with crystal clear gems and looked at his son. He couldn’t miss the reserved look in his son`s eyes. It was like he was staring into the mirror. He was so like him. More than Perúnidil would ever be. The firstborn inherited his mother`s soft features and beauty.
It was a sudden thought in his head – When he became so distant from his youngest son? Thranduil was sitting upright in a chair with hands on armrests. He watched his father with no emotions in his face. He is so stubborn, thought Oropher, and so cold in his young age. The King rather turned his gaze to the maps again.
“I will ride with Perúnidil to the Greenwood.” He pinned his slender index finger to the map, “I assume we will discuss last terms with their leader Graven. You and your company will escort your mother, the Queen, to the Eresiel to Lord Meridir`s palace. We will meet here,” Oropher moved the finger on the confluence of two rivers, half a day from Eresiel. Thranduil just nodded.
“I will leave command to you. It is your chance to impress me. If anything happens…”
Thranduil nodded again, ignoring the clear threat in father’s voice.
“Assemble a company of 30 soldiers at least. Good soldiers. Protect your mother no matter what. Understood?”
“I also expect you will behave well… as a prince of the royal family. And you will court Lady Tavarille. Understood?”
Thranduil nodded. Oropher watched him for a while. Like he wanted to read something from his face.
“If it is all, my King, may I leave? I have duties on East gate to fulfil.”
“Sure…You may leave.”
Oropher watched his son depart from his office. He felt he finally won this long battle with Thranduil. He finally defeated prince´s stubbornness and pride. But he wasn’t happy at all. The old King felt that he destroyed something inside the young prince. Oropher slowly turned his gaze back on the map of Greenwood. Thranduil was the only thing in his life he does not know what to do about.
Courtyard in front of the main gate to the palace was full with armed soldiers. Servants ran in and out with last preparation for the departure of the royal family to the Eresiel. Thranduil was dressed up in the uniform of Captain of the guards. He watched the whole company with his punctilious eyes. He was satisfied with elves he chose for protection of his mother Queen. They were his closest and the most loyal brothers in arms. He trusted them with his own life. Every each of them returned his gaze straight to his eyes.
The stormy voice of King broke his thoughts. He felt a shiver running down his spine. Is he frightened by his father’s threat? Is the King really capable of this in regard of taming his son? Thranduil gently stroke his horse’s neck and trotted up to the main gate.
“Is everything ready for our departure?”
“Yes, we are ready to go.”
“Keep your pace with us until sundown. Then pitch the camp and next day we will meet at the confluence of rivers. Understood?”
“Yes, my King.”
“I hope I can entrust you with this task.” Oropher mocked his son once again. Thranduil did not answer. Nor he turned his gaze from elven soldiers who were forming in front of them. Oropher saw no signs of defiance. But something else was in prince`s face. Was it hate?
“Brother!” Perúnidil showed up next to Thranduil on a white stallion. He smiled widely. Thranduil had to admit that Perúnidil looked truly highborn on the first sight with his dark green robe with golden embroidery and perfectly golden hair. He was just as majestic as his father. “We meet soon on the feast with the most beautiful ladies in the city!”
Thranduil chuckled: “Lets hope your future wife will be that beautiful too.”
Perúnidil just laughed but King cut theirs jokes off.
“Daughters of Lord Meridir are of course beautiful. And even if they wouldn`t, you will marry them. There is no place for discussion.”
“As you wish, father.” Perúnidil bowed his head.
s eyes met Aegnors. The best friend and the right hand of the youngest prince knew exactly what he was thinking and he truly felt sorry for him.