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Chapter 5 ~ Rebuild
“Effort is only effort when it begins to hurt.”
~ Jose Ortaga y Gasset
Thranduil tossed his pack onto an uninteresting and unadorned table, one of the only two pieces of furniture to be found in his new quarters. There was a bed in the corner, little more than a cot on legs. The air smelled of fresh dust, and the sounds of construction were still to be heard outside the open window hewn into the wall. Outside there was the broken landscape of the shore, mountains, the harbor beyond, all aglow in the afternoon sun.
So this was Lindon.
His first impression was not particularly favorable, but that could have been due to his depressed frame of mind. Running his hand along the rough-hewn windowsill, he came away with a lingering residue of chalky white dust. It was a far cry from Menegroth, even from Balar, but he would accept what he must. The contents of his pack and the clothes he wore were his only possessions in the world.
What had once been Thargelion on the northern marches of Ossiriand was now the sea coast, all of Beleriand drowned beneath the inrush of the ocean in the terrifying wake of the War of Wrath. Balar was gone; the ruins of Doriath were gone; Sirion, Nargothrond, and Neldoreth were gone, vanished as though they had never been.
Thranduil’s innate reverence for the Belain was no less, or the Valar as they were most often called now in such mixed company, but still he could not help feeling a twinge of resentment at the final ruin of the lands of his birth, trampled once again by an army of the West. He and his family were among the very last of the Iathrim, gathered there like driftwood. He was still numb to the realization; he was aware of it, certainly, but without real emotion. That would come in time, like the rise of the tide, bitter and inevitable, but not yet. It was not often that the entire world one had known was so quickly and so thoroughly effaced from the map.
He unfastened his sword belt, laying that on the table as well since there was yet nowhere to hang it. He tested the support of the bed beneath one hand. It was thin but adequate, like most things here. Falling limp on his back, he lay still for a moment with a hand over his eyes, one foot trailing on the floor, exhausted.
How many times? How many times must they begin again, stripped to the barest minimum? Were the Powers mocking them?
A dog began barking somewhere outside, the sound carrying well in this burgeoning realm of thatch and stone, joined to the incessant tempo of hammer and chisel. They would not even allow him a moment’s peace. There were also the subdued noises of the rest of the family settling in, the ever familiar voice of his father as he candidly critiqued their new quarters, though he too seemed wearier than usual. There was the bustle of the ladies as they observed that the floors were in still in some need of sweeping. Their straggling group was not the first to arrive here in Lindon, nor would it be the last. All would join their efforts to build this new haven together, regardless of what scattered and obliterated realms they had once called their homes. But at this moment, Thranduil was not excited by the idea. He remained where he was for a moment, limp on the bed, unwilling to face the paltry start they were expected to salvage. A part of their hearts went into each home they built and maintained, and he had seen that effort crushed too often.
But in their position they could not afford the luxury of solitude.
There came a rap at his door, which stood open. Glancing up, he saw Illuiniel with broom in hand. Two brooms. She looked sympathetically at him for a moment before drawing near and pulling him by the hand to sit upright.
“Come now,” she admonished him gently. “Will someone like you lose heart over a trifling thing like the end of the world?”
He met her starry blue gaze without a word. What else could they do? Illuiniel nodded reassuringly and turned away, leaving a broom across his knees.
After she had gone, Thranduil reluctantly turned his eyes toward the floor. It was a bit of a mess, the lingering grit of masonry undisturbed but for the trail of his footsteps. The whisk of several brooms being put to good use could be heard throughout the empty house, so he resolved to get the chore over with.
Focused solely on the task at hand, he diligently swept up all the dust and dirt into a neat pile. Under the bed, around the table legs, and then over the whole room again to catch what he had missed before. All was done with strong, even strokes, the monotonous rhythm dulling his mind for the moment to the stark realities at hand, the soft rasp only accentuating the barren emptiness of the room. For that moment, the careful pile of chalk and sawdust was the purpose and center of his life.
Finished at last, he regarded it for a while, the culmination of his efforts. But as the air cleared again, the inescapable truth returned to him, as it was bound to do. Angrily he kicked the little mound aside before someone else could, sending a dusty streak across the white floor. Was that not what became of all their efforts? Completed only to be ruined.
But again the stab of despair faded as readily as it had come, leaving only a dull ache in its place. He resignedly swept up the mess again. What else could they do?
“Galadhmir, should Father ask, I have gone out for a while,” he said as he brushed shoulders with his friend in the hallway. “No -- I want to be alone.”
The air was freer outside, alive with a brisk sea breeze that drifted through his hair and the grey mantle over his shoulders. He wandered down the new-paved walk from the house, not particularly caring where he went. The sky above was clear and blue with hardly a streak of cloud, gulls circling about the cliffs in the distance, cliffs that were the seaside spurs of the Ered Lindon. Those same mountains had once been the gateway to the far east, the borders of Beleriand. Now they had become the last reaches of the west.
This had certainly not been how he had imagined beginning their appointed journey to find the final home they desired so much. Just behind him lay all that had been unknown, beyond the cares of the Eldar. Were there still other mountains, grander and more daunting than the Ered Lindon? The mountains that had turned Lenu and his people back from the Great March in the starlit years? What lay beyond them? It was an intriguing thought.
Idly he kicked a stone from the path, watching as it skittered off the walk and into the coarse grass at the side. He had descended the rise upon which their home had been built, aimlessly following the road to the haven itself. Golodhrim, Mithrim, and Falathrim still worked together carving out an existence here, the sounds of their work and conversation heralding the growth of yet another Elvish realm. They would build from nothing, make a city of a valley, a harbor of a gulf, a home of a cliff face. He had to grudgingly admire even the Valannorrim, for they availed themselves well. Many had returned humbled into the West in the wake of the final fall of Morgoth and the irreparable loss of the silmarils, but there were those who stayed to live and work in Ennor either out of shame or pride. Regardless of their motive, Thranduil had to admit they did not hesitate to begin again. Doubtless the same heavy-handed hierarchy would again establish itself once their homes were built and the Exiles assumed again their former rank, but for now the burden was distributed evenly.
He left the main road for a more desolate path that led up onto the rise, shards of rock crunching underfoot. From there one could command an unobstructed view of the harbor beyond. The wind whisked by him with the refreshing scent of summer to come, rustling through the tufts of pale green sea grass that grew by the gravelly roadside, the sea birds in the air and about the rocks, giving voice to their manifold calls that somehow all sounded like squeaking doors.
He turned as he heard his name on the wind, a voice he did not immediately recognize. One of the Golodhrim was climbing the path after him, garbed in the everyday blue and grey livery of Gil-galad’s house. As he drew nearer Thranduil noted there was indeed something familiar about him. Not all the lingering traces of youth had yet left his face, and he was still a hand’s breadth shorter, but as he stood softly panting before him it was the gleam in his grey eyes that Thranduil recognized.
“Elrond,” he returned with a courteous nod, though notably without the honors he had accorded him in Sirion as the son of Lady Elwing. The boy’s blood had not changed, but there was something about him now that seemed decidedly more Noldorin despite his equally Sindarin birthright. It was a pity, for Elrond was one of the last heirs of Thingol himself. Even the last scions of that tree had been grafted to foreign roots. “It has been a long road from Sirion. You were little more than a babe in arms.”
“It has been,” the other agreed, seeming rather disheartened by the perceived chill in Thranduil’s manner. “I must confess I am glad to find you here.”
“Are you indeed?” Thranduil turned to continue walking, but beckoned for Elrond to follow. “So you have joined with Gil-galad, have you?”
“Yes,” Elrond answered, hurrying to keep pace with him. “For Elros and I there was no other to whom we could turn after the loss of Maedhros and Maglor.”
A prickle climbed Thranduil’s spine as Elrond spoke of those sons of Fëanor with obvious devotion. It was just as he had feared. Reft from his parents at a tender age, the damage had been done. Belain, it was depressing. He knew Oropher would have a few choice words to say about it.
“That at least I understand, my young friend,” he said, meaning the paucity of guardians in their new broken world. “The wars have left me so many new siblings that our home has become a warren. Much like – ” He would have said it was much like Menegroth, but Elrond had never known that city. “You intend to stay on with him?” he finished instead.
“Yes. Lindon seems as good a place as any other, and the King has already granted me a position in his household. You do not?”
Thranduil said nothing, lost in his own thoughts. What he saw as a surrender, Elrond perhaps saw as inevitable. Or perhaps this was the sort of life the young one thought himself suited for. Thranduil remembered the offer Gil-galad had once extended to him, perhaps the same Elrond had accepted. Among the common classes, such a post would have been an honor, a chance to rise to considerable rank in the king’s favor. But, already born to a certain level of privilege, Thranduil was of like mind with his father in refusing to be snared to stand about and look decorative in a Noldorin court. But still he said nothing, for he could not tell Elrond what to do with his own life, galling though it was.
“I am not certain what we shall do in the end,” he admitted at last, stopping to stand on the bluff and feel the wind on his face. “I am not certain of anything anymore.”
“No one should fancy themselves assured of anything in this fickle world,” Elrond agreed. “Not after what we have seen.” He paused a moment, as though preparing to lift a weight from his mind. “Did they – I mean – how are things in your father’s house?” he asked. “What became of them at Sirion?”
“Most of us lived to see the end, even if we were indeed rather mangled,” Thranduil answered stiffly, watching the gliding specks that were seagulls against the blue of the sky lest Elrond be made to bear the brunt of his lingering indignation. “Many of our friends were not so fortunate.”
Elrond lowered his eyes, as though he had taken to heart the bitter undertone Thranduil had reserved for the Fëanorionnath, abductors who had become his father-figures. “I am sorry,” he said, shifting where he stood.
“And why are you sorry?” Thranduil asked bluntly, his inquiry almost a demand. “Have you so taken these people as your own that you would claim their faults as well?”
This time it was Elrond who did not answer. Thranduil did not press him, for he had not meant to snap at him. But the rise of Noldorin traits in the boy was disquieting, plucking at his every nerve. Fairest Lúthien, is this where your legacy has gone? Everything that had once been the pride of the Mithrim had been taken by one conquest or another, bent to the purposes of others.
He could not wait to leave this place.
“Thranduil,” Elrond ventured at last, over the soft whistling of the wind. “Once in Sirion you told me that there comes a time to cease brooding upon the wrongs one has borne if he is to make anything of himself. I was young, but I looked up to you then. Do you still look down upon me?”
Thranduil considered that before he gave definite answer. “No,” he admitted, for Elrond had grown since he had last seen him, even if it had only widened the rift between them. “But neither do I owe myself to you. The line of Elu is broken, especially now that you grant your allegiance to the Golodhrim. It may be that the years to come will take us in very different directions.”
Elrond nodded, for there was nothing more to be said, whatever bonds of kinship existed between them strained by the opposing vocations they had chosen. Even so, Thranduil turned and lay a hand fondly on Elrond’s shoulder, seeing an echo of Lúthien even if tainted by the memory of Maglor. “Merely promise me that you will remember your mother's people,” he said. “Go where life will lead you, but remember whence you came.”
Elrond offered him a flicker of a smile. “That I can do,” he assured him. “But do you not find me a disappointment still?”
“Yes, I do,” Thranduil admitted, granting him the honest truth, though a sympathetic smile tugged at his mouth as well. “I suppose you can hardly be blamed for that. Still, it would perhaps be advisable that you do not frequent our household with your newfound loyalties.”
“You need not worry yourself on that account,” Elrond agreed. “I thought your father frightening even before he had complaint with me.”
“Elrond! Á tulé sinomenna!”
“You are summoned,” Thranduil observed, catching the general gist of the call. “Go on, before you earn the king’s ire for my sake. I doubt if he has ever quite forgiven me for refusing his colors.”
“I would not doubt that he has,” Elrond countered amiably as he turned to go. “Namárië, Thranduil. I should like to see more of you, so long as you remain with us in Lindon.”
“Navaer, Elrond,” Thranduil returned, with particular emphasis upon the Sindarin equivalent of his valediction. “Go on. Ereinion is waiting.”
He watched him go from his vantage point on the bluff, Elrond sending up a thin drift of white dust in his wake as he dutifully rushed back to his post. Such was a fate Thranduil had refused for himself, running at the beck and call of every Golodh within earshot. It would have driven him mad. But Elrond was made of different stuff, and oddly enough he seemed well-placed in those circumstances. Perhaps it was Eärendil’s blood. He shook his head for he would never understand it, but he had learned to leave well enough alone.
He wished longingly for a horse. He could have found much of the solitude he looked for on horseback. For now, that also must wait.
Now that it came to it, Thranduil found he had not the patience to seek solitude. Just the thought of lingering here in Lindon for the next century or two made his hands itch for something to work on, for there was entirely too much to be done to conscience sitting idle outside.
He turned smartly on his heel and headed back toward home, such as it was. The idea was perhaps laughable, but he had to unpack.
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