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We Were Young Once ~ III  by Conquistadora


Chapter 3 ~ New Happiness

Seasons came, seasons passed, just as they had always done.  There was no further word of the unfortunate King of Gondor, and the domains of Men settled themselves in the wake of his unsettling disappearance as best they could.  Thranduil was not the only one haunted by the thought of the Ring of Power.  Elrond, too, in his enclave of Imladris, took a keen interest in that last vestige of Mordor’s terror, but was equally powerless to recover it.  Elvish riders were sent in a half-hearted and ultimately vain attempt to scour the shores of the Anduin amid the Gladden Fields for that which they regretted to have lost, and yet feared to find.  The temptation was to let the wretched thing lie undisturbed and pray that it went undisturbed indefinitely.

Seasons came, seasons passed, and life went on.

Thranduil governed Eryn Galen to the best of his ability, sparing an idle ear for what moved beyond their wooded borders.  Occasionally more, but never less.  The deep-seated paranoia of his violated youth was not healed by the passage of time, but merely quieted to a murmur in the depths of his mind until it had become a second nature of which he was scarcely conscious, governing his every action.

The windswept pinnacle of sovereignty on which he found himself had grown only more severe.  His mother had left them some years ago, returning with her modest entourage to Lindon, whence she at last took ship to Valinor to await his father.  Lady Lóriel had been content to see Lasgalen settled in Thranduil’s capable hands and Lindóriel as queen.  She keenly regretted to be parted from her son and his family and whatever the future may hold for them in Greenwood, but she had been confident of their eventual reunion on the western shores, though those days were still too distant to contemplate.

Despite the natural loneliness that his position inspired, Thranduil was far from miserable.  He was not even unhappy.  A cloud of nameless doom still lingered over the new age of Men in the aftermath of the war with Sauron, but his own realm was blossoming, and all his fears and misgivings seemed for once disinclined to materialize.

For the moment, Thranduil’s only complaint with life was the trivial but persistent discomfort of the headache which lurked just behind his eyes as he dutifully sat at his desk, addressing the driest and most mundane concerns which plague a king.  He had only just concluded a particularly frustrating round of audiences in the hall below regarding a few petty clan squabbles in which he had made a valiant effort to take an interest.  The native population had their pride, and it was not unremarkable to see it flare up from time to time.

Two litters of promising wolf pups were scampering about the grounds and palace of Lasgalen, of which Thranduil reserved to himself the final judgment regarding their general suitability for breeding.  Unfortunately, like all pups their age, they seemed inclined to employ those perfected teeth in vandalizing the woodwork of the king’s chambers and stairway.  The neighboring Wood-men had expressed an interest in the bloodline, yet Thranduil doubted it would be possible for them to meet the price he set upon his canine masterpieces.  If he was feeling benevolent later, he might make a gift of one to their chieftain.

Monetarily, they as a nation were certainly not starving, yet neither were they in particularly comfortable circumstances.  Daily needs were addressed, yet what remained of the army continued in woeful need of rearmament.  They were woodland soldiers capable of waging a woodland defense, yet they could not hope to meet a hostile force openly without the considerable expense of replacing the backbone of their forces in steel.  The silvan Elves excelled in many arts, yet metallurgy was not one of their primary strengths.  Dorthaer was keenly aware of the need, and now and then brought it to the king’s attention as tactfully as possible.  This morning had been one such occasion.

“And what is this?” Thranduil asked himself, selecting the next sheet covered with several paragraphs of severe elvish scrawl.  He would have directed the question to Linhir, yet his trusty seneschal was absent for the moment, attending some bit of pressing business the nature of which the king had already forgotten.  His face soured for a moment as he glanced over its contents.  “He wants what?  At a time like this.”

His attention was drawn away by footsteps at the door.  He hardly had to look up to recognize the handsome woodland scout with pale hair and eyes of brilliant blue.  The self-assured swagger in his step was unmistakable.

“Good evening, Thranduil,” the young one greeted him, inexcusably but characteristically informal, seeming a bit taken aback.  “You are alone?”

The king glanced sarcastically about the empty room.  “Save for you, yes,” he answered dryly, making no effort to hide the dissatisfaction in his voice.  “Really, Luinar, your etiquette remains as atrocious as ever.  I find it difficult to believe you are your father’s son.”

Luinar merely smiled.  “So does he.”  He was fleetingly distracted by a new volume standing at the end of the bookshelf, and leafed idly through it.  Its companion volumes, deprived of its support, fell heavily upon one another in an elegant fan formation of disarray.

Thranduil sighed.  “I expect your father will return shortly.  In the meantime, I trust you can find some other way to amuse yourself besides making a playroom of my study.”

“If he is to return so quickly,” Luinar observed, reshelving the books, “I might as well await him here.  Do you object, my lord?”


There was a thoughtful pause.

“How shortly is ‘shortly?’”

“How am I to know?”  Thranduil demanded at last, exasperated by the interruptions.  “I cannot even remember why he went!”

“Pardon me, sir,” Hatholas interposed from the door.  “Luinar, I saw your father walking with Erelas in the direction of the dovecote a moment ago.”

“Another moment and he will have gone again,” Luinar said wryly, taking his leave as quickly as he had come.  “Thank you, Hatholas.  Good evening, Thranduil!”

Hatholas shook his head when the other had gone, but Thranduil by now could not help smiling himself.  “Let him be,” he said.  “Luinar is still burning the exuberance of youth, and I suspect it has a long wick yet.  He will mellow soon enough.”

Now it was Hatholas who smiled.  “You are a very disciplined king, my lord,” he said, “but I expect you will be a terribly indulgent father.”

Thranduil laughed, a bit more freely than he would have the previous week.  “Perhaps,” he agreed; “perhaps.  But what brings you to me now, Hatholas?  Of course, I am always glad to have you, but do you come with some manner of official business or merely to pass the time in pleasant company?”

“I regret to admit that it is the former,” Hatholas said, presenting to him a modest scroll tied with twine.  “I have just returned from my father’s house.  He bade me leave this in your hands.”

With an expression of resignation, Thranduil accepted and unrolled it.  He found before him a map representing two distinct sets of land divisions, the first as it had existed in the time of Amon Lasgalen, and the second according to the order Oropher had attempted to impose upon it following the relocation of the king’s court in the north.  As the king’s representative to the southern regions, Luinlas had apparently assembled an excellent summary of the difficulties.

“This is what sense he has been able to make of the present boundary contentions,” Hatholas clarified.

“Yes,” Thranduil said, “I was trying to make sense of that only this morning.  I commend your father for his patience.  It seems not a day goes by that Luinlas does not confirm Oropher’s good opinion of him.”

“He will be glad to know you think so, my lord.”  Hatholas confined himself to a cultivated smile, though Thranduil could see he was positively beaming with filial pride.

“Send my regards to your parents,” Thranduil bade as Hatholas, too, took his leave.  “When next I find a moment, I should like to visit them in the south.  Or, if circumstances allow them leave before I, bring them to Lasgalen.”

“Certainly, my lord.  I thank you.”

Alone again, Thranduil took up the map.  Tiring of his chair, he stood and allowed himself to fall in a graceful heap on the divan.  He was tempted to simply allow his mind to drift with the fading autumn birdsong, yet the stack of petitions would not shrink on its own.  The shadow of a whimsical smile on his face betrayed the truth, that his attention was far more agreeably engaged.  How could he possibly concentrate at a time like this?  He had just mustered up his determination when the guards at the door pulled themselves to attention and announced the arrival of the queen.

“No, do not get up,” Lindóriel smiled as he began to rise, pushing him gently back down.  “I came merely to ask your leave to ride this evening in the wood with my maids.”

“Of course, you may, love,” he said, fondly clasping the hand she offered him.  “How far do you intend to venture?”

“No farther than the Forest Road,” she assured him.  “We shall return well in time for supper.”

She lingered a moment, then kissed him slowly, stealing away all the gathered tension of the day in that one effort.  Her eyes were bright with the new happiness they had begun together.  He hoped she would bear that light for the rest of her life.

She left him with a smile and a soft rustle of skirts, carrying unseen within her the child they had conceived three nights before, their own secret for a few days yet.   She was followed by her train of handmaids, six chosen companions in irreproachable equestrian attire.  Doubtless the dogs would also go with her.

“Lancaeron,” Thranduil called to the guard at the door, sitting up.  “Go and tell Dorthaer to double the guard before the queen's party in the region of the Forest Road.  Quietly, of course.”

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