When the Queen and her escort, with Thranduil in command, arrived at the confluence of the rivers Eres and Luwe, the prince ordered to break a camp and assigned the first watch.
“Oh, it is a beautiful place, isn`t it, Thranduil?” The Queen sighed when her son helped her out from the carriage and she looked around. On the left side of the huge meadow was the arm of the river Luwe and on the other side was a deep dark forest.
“Indeed. We will be in Eresiel soon. Take a rest until King’s return.”
“Is he going to arrive this evening?”
“No, I do not think so. In the morning perhaps,” her son smiled a little.
Thranduil truly admired her. The Queen was still loyal and devoted to his father even though he was so…rigid. She loved her husband beyond anything.
“I am sorry that you lost the way to each other…” She whispered like she was able to read in his mind.
“I am sorry too.”
“He really loves you. Please, do not doubt that, son.”
“Well, I do doubt that, mother.”
Thranduil clenched his jaw. He didn`t want to talk about it right now. The Prince hated to be rude to his mother but he could never hold his emotions when they talked about father.
“I don’t. I can see it. Oropher truly loves you. You are his son!…He just…doesn’t know how to show it.”
“I hope he shows it to you, at least.” Thranduil murmured and left her side to help the others. He couldn’t notice how Queens’ face got sadder. She never heard a word of love from her beloved King either.
Midnight passed an hour ago when the dancing flames in a campfire almost died out already. Guards around Thranduil were more vociferous with every bottle of the wine. But the prince didn’t hear them. He was watching small flames in a campfire and his mind was full of desperate thoughts. The whole day was quite calm and everything went as planned. He was actually glad that father was far away from him at least for those two days. It felt like a blessing. But now, with an every coming hour, Thranduil was more and more anxious. He didnt even know from what exactly.
Is it his mighty father or the future of couple days when he shall meet his Lady? The maiden who shall be his partner for the rest of his life?
He has never seen her before. He didn`t know anything about her. Just the name.
Is it enough for loving someone?
And his father and their never-ending fights were exhausting.
When it all went so wrong? Was it in that time when father took Perúnidil out from children playgrounds and games with his younger brother and started teaching him about diplomacy and politics? Or after he found out that Thranduil had bed almost every young elleth in their city?
Thranduil was so tired of this. So tired of trying to satisfy his father and to win his heart. He could never succeed. He already knew that.
Thranduil was one of the best warriors among the young Sindars. He had the best training he could get. The Prince trained every day for several hours with a bow and especially with his two swords. He even invented better hierarchy and the assignment of tasks in the army… But still, the King didn`t say a word. He just acknowledged the results and that was all. As the time went by, Thranduil realized that the further he is from the castle the happier he feels The patrols on borders, which usually took several days out of the castle, were the best. In these cases, he has felt like he was free. Yes, he felt almost a freedom.
A guard who fell in front of Thandruil and broke his thoughts. Thranduil quickly rose from his seat, his gaze could kill. The soldier was drunk as….well, he was completely drunk, he couldn`t stand up on his feet again.
“This is enough!” The prince shout out full of anger raised within him. “No more wine or I will discharge you immediately! You shall protect your Queen and not get drunk like dwarfs!”
Guards, laughing and drinking before, were now quiet and surprised by the Prince`s reaction. Even Aegnor, his best friend was staring at him in a shock. It was for the first time they noticed, that Thranduil is so like his father. And not just in his features. When Thranduil saw the faces of the guards he suddenly realized what they had to think about him. He was the one always drinking with them on border patrols.
Aegnor rose to his feet and wanted to calm the prince but Thranduil just turned on his heels and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
The prince needed to calm down. His steps led to his horse. Thranduil didn`t think twice and mounted his stallion, he didn`t care about anything anymore. He just needed to be alone and far away from his life. The dark forest on the other side of the camp was his destination.
After an hour of the mad fast run, Thranduil calmed down his horse. The Forest was getting darker and darker. The Prince rather started paying attention to his surroundings.
The forest was beautiful even in the middle of the night. The sky above was clear from clouds and full of shining stars with their father, the moon. Their light was reflected on the leaves of trees around him.
The Prince had to bend down to the neck of the horse to avoid low branches of trees and bushes. There was no path. The forest seemed untouched. Thranduil`s pointed ears tried to notice every sound of the forest. He felt quite weird. It was obvious that this place was untouched by any civilization but still he has had a feeling that he was watched. Thranduil could hear a soft whisper of the trees and sound of the night animals. But he didn`t notice anybody like him here. Thranduil wasn’t scared. He was curious. And somehow this place made him relaxed and tensed at the same time. He had never been in a forest like this. But he didn’t know how far he is from the camp.
Suddenly the stallion stopped. Thranduil raised his head and his eyes widened with a wonder. In front of them between the trees, a white elk stood still. Thranduil gasped for the air. The animal was beautiful. Its white coat was shining into the darkness of the night forest. The elk stared straight into Thranduil’s eyes. It raised its head higher and caught Thranduil s scent by its nostrils.
Is it really in front of him, or is he just dreaming?
The Prince has never seen anything like this. The white elk jerked his head and slowly turned. With the last look into Thranduil`s eyes, he disappeared into the forest. Thranduil was shocked. He couldn`t think reasonably right now. The only thing he knew was not letting the elk run away. He heeled his horse to run after that sacred animal.
The elk was very fast and knew the forest better than Thranduil. But after a while of chasing, Thranduil realized that the elk is leading him. Time from the time the animal stopped and turned his head to see if Thranduil was still following him. And Thranduil was. His horse was on the edge of his strength and slowed down but Thranduil was heeling him more and more. The elk was leading them and he had to know where.
Low branches of the trees and bushes brushed her skin as she was running. She already struggled for the air but she couldn`t stop. Not now.
Faster, Eleniel, faster!
She tried to keep her mind clear and not slowing down. Her body was sore and it hurt. She could hear the snoring of the orcs behind her back. The elleth was scared to death.
Why she was so stupid and went so far to the forest? Why she was so stupid to let the orcs took her dagger! Damn it!
Snoring was closer and closer. They almost got her. Her heart skipped a beat when she collapsed on the wet ground. Full of fear she turned on her back to face the enemy. The filthy orcs surrounded her. One of them said something, but Eleniel had no clue what he was saying. She just watched them with disgust. For the first time in her life, she saw a real Orc. She didn’t scream for her life nor beg them, but she was terrified as the one, who spoke before a while, got closer to her and smiled – the dagger, the gift from her father, in his filthy hands. Eleniel couldn`t believe she is going to die like this.
And then she felt it. The split of a second earlier than the orcs. The ground beneath her started trembling. More and more by every second. And just when she almost felt it like it was trembling right under her body she recognized the sound. The orc with her dagger raised his head just to meet horse hooves which smashed his face. The rest of the orcs immediately attacked the horse’s rider but he was ready for them. Eleniel gasped at the scenery in front of her. The rider dismounted the horse as the place was too small to move and he covered one attack with two slender swords with such ease that it looked more like he was dancing than fighting. The orcs were falling down to the ground dead, one by one. When the last orc fell, the unknown rider wiped off the blood from his swords against dead orcs body, staring at her. Eleniel wasnt moving. Even though the rider saved her life, she was scared of him now. He looked dangerous with splashes of orcish blood on him and the fight she witnessed was nothing she had ever seen before. The elf slowly walked to her. She couldnt move or make a sound. Her heart was pounding. He stopped several steps in front of her.
“I will not hurt you, my Lady,” he assured her with a deep voice.
Eleniel wanted to laugh because she was no lady at all, but her mouth just opened and closed again with no sound just like a fish. Eleniel realized she was also mesmerized by his look. He was tall and slender and his face was delicately shaped. White long hair, shining in the dark, was messy from the fight. He looked like an angel. An angel with deadly weapons.
“Let me look at this,” he spoke once again and pointed to her bleeding leg. She just nodded.
The rider knelt down next to her and gently examined her wound.
“It`s just a scratch,” she finally found her voice.
“We should clean it to prevent an infection.”
The elf stared directly into her eyes. She was completely lost again. It took a while until she was able to answer.
“Yes, I know. I have…I have something that could help right here.”
Eleniel opened her sack full of herbs and chose one.
“What is it?”
“These are leaves of plantain. It`s good for wounds, burns and also for the stomach.”
“Are you a healer?”
“Kind of,” she blushed and he smiled at that.
With shaking hands, not sure if from the adrenaline or from the mysterious elf in front of her, Eleniel cleaned the wound.
The elf ripped a piece of his tunic under the uniform he was wearing and handed it to her.
“Here, use this as a bandage.”
With his help, she bandaged her leg and tried to stand up. Now, when the adrenaline from the attack was slowly disappearing, the pain and tiredness took its toll.
“Where do you live? I escort you home.”
“I live in the village on the other side of the forest.”
The elf raised one of his thick eyebrows. Eleniel wasn`t able to say the color of his eyes due to the darkness around them but she could guess they were light and now they hold an ironic look. She was sure of that.
“That sounds pretty far. How did you end up here?” He asked curiously and helped her mount his horse.
“I`m not sure. I guess I wandered too far. Those plants grow only close to swamps. And then the Orcs…and…I don`t even know those parts of the forest.”
Eleniel looked up at the stars and gave him a direction. The elf took the reins and led the horse through the forest.
It could be an hour or two and the forest still didn`t seem familiar to her. Eleniel started panicking silently. She had no idea where they are. She had no idea who this strange elf is and she was alone with him. But he saved her life, right?
She looked up at the stars again. The direction they were heading was still the right one. She really wandered too far.
Eleniel`s eyes moved from the stars to the elf. He was still leading the horse. He walked in silence. She has never seen so white hair like his, the style of the braids on the side of his head or the uniform with strange emblem.
“Who are you?” She blurted out.
The elf looked at her.
“I know that. And I am grateful to you. I would be dead if you haven’t come. But who are you?”
“Nobody, actually. Just a soldier, my Lady.”
“I am no lady, soldier. Just Eleniel.”
The elf looked at her once again.
“Eleniel,” he repeated like he would like to remember it forever. But then he fell silent again.
“Where are you from?” Eleniel pushed once more after a while of annoying silence.
The elf chuckled.
“You are truly curious, I can tell.”
“I would like to know more about someone who just saved my life. And to not share such simple information is suspicious, ” she said with a strong and defiant voice. He chuckled again.
“I am Sindar. Guessing by your hair you are Silvan, right?”
Eleniel took one of her curly strands of dark red hair, ashamed that she probably isn`t at her best state.
“Yes, I am Silvan. I heard about your nation but I`ve never seen one of you.”
“We are from far away, living in the mountains.”
“How did YOU ended up here?”
“My army is passing by.”
Just when Eleniel wanted to ask next question, he stopped her. She sighed again.
After a while, she finally recognized the forest around her. The elf escorted her to the borders of the village not wanting to enter. Eleniel didn`t press him, her father would question him even more than she.
He helped her down from the horse. To feel his strong arms was a nice feeling for her and she blushed.
“Next time be careful, Eleniel. Have a weapon with you to protect yourself, please.”
“I had a weapon! I had a dagger but they took it from me!”
The elf smiled.
“Then train more with it. Stay safe so I can meet you again.”
Eleniel`s cheeks went red that even in the darkness he must have seen it.
“I would like to meet you again, too.” She whispered.
The soldier caressed her red cheek.
“You will. Soon.”
They smiled at each other. Then he kissed the top of her hand, mounted his stallion and disappeared in the darkness of the forest.