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We Were Young Once ~ III  by Conquistadora


Chapter 1 ~ A New Age

The morning had dawned over Galadhremmen Lasgalen but clouds shrouded the skies, admitting only the occasional glow of sun into the depth of the wood. It was perhaps an accurate reflection of the city’s dampened spirits.

Lindóriel came down from her room when they were alerted to the army’s approach, descending the stairway through the turning autumn leaves.  Her own anxious expectation was tempered by the solemnity weighing upon Lasgalen, bereaved as it was.  Their population had been bled severely, and after so many years they simply wished to take back those who would return and begin to heal their wounds.  They already knew what they had lost.

Glancing aside, Lindóriel could see Thranduil’s quarters above her, elaborately hung with the royal colors bearing his sign.  The thought was still difficult to fathom.  Their prince was no more.  It was King Thranduil, sovereign lord of Eryn Galen, who would return to them now.  She could only imagine what he must be feeling.

A crowd was gathering around the road to the palace, ready to receive their returning warriors.  Lindóriel bravely took her place with the other maids of the king’s house beside Lady Lóriel.

They could hear the approaching column before they saw it.  There was no welcoming feast or fanfare prepared.  They could not find it within their hearts to celebrate, but nor would they mourn overmuch.  They had been mourning for seven years.

At last, the royal vanguard rounded the final bend.  The king rode at its head upon a jaded stallion, fully armed and escorted by Dorthaer and his Guardsmen.  The militant splendor in which they had departed was all but lost, their tunics and standards torn and stained, shields dented and scarred.  Thranduil carried himself with as much dignity as he perhaps had spirit for, though the impression was overwhelmingly one of sorrow and numb fatigue. 

The people bowed at his passing, recognizing their new sovereign.  He received the same formal obeisance as he dismounted and stood before his household, giving the horse to the care of his escort.  Unable to help herself, Lindóriel looked up at him. Thranduil remained silent for a moment, towering over them in the growing dusk of evening, a distant loneliness about him.

He first took his mother by the hand and gently drew her to her feet.  They said nothing to one another, but he took her in his arms and held her close against his shoulder, an embrace she ardently and tearfully returned.

Gwaelin fell into Galadhmir’s arms, both still grieving their fallen son. 

When Thranduil released his mother, Lindóriel was there to offer her own consolation, but as she moved to put her arms about him something made her hesitate.  There were deeper shadows behind his eyes than she had seen before, as well as a lingering aura of war and death about him.  They had all felt it before, but it was so distinct now that it stopped her for a moment.

“Dorthaer,” Thranduil directed, “dismiss the ranks in good order.  The reserve here shall continue in that capacity until I give notice otherwise.”

“At your command, my lord.  Will you retire now?”

“I shall, and I ask that I not be disturbed until the morning.  Until then, address yourself to Lord Brilthor.”

“Yes, my lord.”


A bath and some clean clothes seemed to do a great deal to make Thranduil more comfortable but did little to dispel the gloom.  He carried it with him like a shroud, pacing about his room from window to window in the lamplight, lost in that foul and invisible mire which still clung to him.  Lindóriel knew that no one seriously blamed him or his father for the disaster, but she could see that he bore the burden of fault nonetheless.

“There is nothing more you could have done, Thranduil,” Lady Lóriel was saying again.

“You are by no means the first to tell me so, Mother,” was his terse reply, “but it is still poor consolation.”

Two of the wolves lurked about in the shadows, a third enjoying Lindóriel’s distracted attentions. They were quiet, cowed beneath their master’s unrest.

“What hurts you?” his mother demanded at last.  “I am not blind to the fact that you have been in considerable pain all evening.”

“It is only my back,” Thranduil snarled bitterly, evidently annoyed by his inability to conceal his discomfort.  “It seems I cannot so much as ride a horse anymore without jostling myself to pieces!”  He lashed out and kicked over a stool, sending a wolf scurrying away to a new haunt.  The violence of his frustration soon subsided, and his expression softened.

Lóriel sighed, for she had become rather tense herself.  “Come,” she said, beckoning him to his bed.  “Let me see.”

Lindóriel saw Thranduil hesitate for a moment, narrowing his eyes and glancing aside at her, but at last he seemed to dismiss whatever reservations he had and resignedly removed his shirt.  “We never seemed to heal well in Mordor,” he said, with some regret.

They could not help a sharp intake of breath at the sight of his scars, each one a smooth white shadow of the wound it had once been.  Considering their number, it was a wonder he had returned to them alive.

Thranduil quietly submitted to his mother’s attentions, lying on his bed and allowing her to try kneading some of the pain out of his back.

“How did it happen?” Lóriel asked, gently but firmly, as she probed his lingering injuries.  “Can you tell me?  What did you see?”

Thranduil winced, more pained by the memory than by his wounds.  “No,” he said at last.  “I cannot.  Do not ask me.”

“You must,” his mother insisted, changing her tone.  “If you cannot yet bear the fact of it after seven years, how are you ever to face it?  Tell me.  What did you see?”

Lindóriel remembered the death of her own father.  She had seen it in all its grisly detail, remembered the heart-wrenching, nauseating flood of loss.  Now her heart ached for Thranduil, knowing what this dredge of memory must cost him.

“Nothing,” Thranduil bit out at last, curling his fist around a handful of bedding.  “I do not know what happened.  No one who saw it survived.”  He gasped and writhed as a sudden spasm shot through his back.

“Gently!” his mother admonished, now attempting only to loosen the great clench of muscles.  “Gently!  I am sorry, Thranduil; I will not touch it again.”  She moved now to his shoulders, sitting on the bed beside him.  “Go on.”

But Thranduil did not seem inclined.  “I do not know,” he repeated adamantly, recovering his breath.  "No one knows.  Yet they assume.”

Lóriel’s lovely mouth formed itself into a firm line, seeming to guess what scathing hearsay her son would keep from her.  “It was not through lack of courage that he fell,” she insisted.  “Be certain of that.”

Thranduil had gone limp, straining no more against anything, as though his last effort was spent.  He was so much older, so jaded and dispirited, yet a glow was in those eyes which had grown cold to so much else, refined in the fires of Mordor.  “It takes more than courage,” he said deeply, “to make a king.”

Silence fell for several long moments.  Soon Lóriel rose and bid her son good-night, cloaking her solicitude in the deference now due him.

Finally alone with her betrothed, Lindóriel hardly knew what to do.  Thranduil had sat up again, looking ahead with a vacant stare.  He was so much the same and yet so different.  He would always be Thranduil, her friend, brother, protector, and lover.  Yet in some significant way it was a different person to whom she now addressed herself.  She no longer approached a prince, but indeed the king himself in all his awful majesty.  He was now the crown and pinnacle of all that moved in Eryn Galen; his word was law, the power of his will was absolute, and at the movement of his sovereign hand the whole wood trembled.  She would no longer be a princess, but his queen.  Could she bear to stand on that pinnacle with him?

The chill had begun to melt in Thranduil’s eyes, and the loneliness she saw there pained her heart.  He turned and reached out to her, almost pleading with her to relieve his solitude.  She could never refuse him that.  It was not as king that he bade her come, but as the man she had always known and loved, straining beneath the weight of a crown which he was only just learning to bear.

She rose and approached him, hesitantly sliding her hand into his.  It was truly the first time she had touched him since he had kissed her farewell so many years before, and the potent tingle made her catch her breath.  There was the echo of death in that touch, yet also so much vibrant life.

Thranduil again recognized her hesitance.  He did not let her go, but he would not force her nearer.  “Am I so changed as that?” he asked, as though at last nothing could wound him more deeply than the fact that he had become repulsive to her.

With a shuddering sigh, Lindóriel fell into his arms.  Thranduil held her in a crushing embrace as though he never intended to let her go again.  So much had been torn from him already.  She buried her face against his scarred shoulder, lamenting it all, yet ineffably grateful that he had been spared.  They were both crying, just as they had an age before while Doriath burned behind them.  So much had changed since those bleak and hopeless days, yet some things would always remain.

When they had exhausted their tears, they sat in simple silence for a moment, neither wishing to release the other.  Then Thranduil shifted her in his arms, looking into her eyes so intently that she scarcely noticed as he eased her down onto the bed beside him.  Leaning over her, he kissed her gently, and she did not resist.  She lifted her hand to trace a new white scar running through his brow beside his eye, both a reminder of their sorrows and an everlasting badge of valor.

“Do you still wish to be espoused to me?” he asked with all the authority that was his to command, their hair lying already mingled on the coverlet.

“I do,” she answered with equal resolve.  “Say but when.”

A fire was kindled in his eyes that she had never seen before, and his hand had now crept up to press possessively at the base of her throat. The audacious smile she had missed so much began to show itself once more, and his voice became velvet.

“When can you be ready?”


Within two weeks, Galadhremmen Lasgalen was transformed from a state of resigned grief to one of unspeakable joy, all the dark and brooding colors banished in bright white, green, yellow, and silver, the entire city resplendent again for the coronation of its new king.  Crowned beside him was the queen he took for his own the same day.  Lady Lóriel presided over the giving of the rings, invoking the name of Oropher who was absent, and wishing upon them the blessings of the Belain and of the One who reigns forever beyond the stars.

So began the reign of Thranduil Thalion Oropherion, King of Greenwood the Great in the Third Age of the world.

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