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We Were Young Once ~ III  by Conquistadora

Chapter 5 ~ The Golden Years II

The forest had very gradually reclaimed the old paths, stretching only reluctant tendrils across the byways in forlorn hope that the old lords would return.  The arbors which had once been filled with laughter now sounded only with birdsong.  Still, this part of the wood had not been completely abandoned.  Some of its Elvish guardians remained, unseen and unheard. 

It was with a pang of nostalgia that Thranduil rode through the southern marches again.  He had always intended to return to the old city someday, but had not seen it since removing north with his father.  For the first time in a long while, he felt his years. 

Legolas rode beside him, full of raw energy at the cusp of his majority.  He already carried himself like an adult, if one could overlook his innocence.  His eyes still shone with a child's wonder, but the natural gravity about him revealed an emotional maturity that was a credit to any prince. 

“This lane used to be much wider,” Thranduil observed.  “There are not many of the old trees left.”

“Was it very much like our city is now?” Legolas asked.  

“Rather like.  The hill was higher, and we had more visitors.”

Together they turned their horses onto the winding road that climbed the slope toward what remained of Amon Lasgalen.  There were no cheering crowds to greet them, and the slender trees which lined the way had grown wild.  The spirit of the place lingered with an immortality of its own despite it all, a testimony to the care and attention given by the master architect.

“I wish you could have known your grandfather,” Thranduil said at last.  “He would have been quite pleased with you.”

Legolas smiled.  “I may meet him yet,” he said, “somewhere in the other world.”

“You are so full of hope and enthusiasm,” Thranduil said with a weary smile.  “Young people always are.  Even I was young once, believe it or not.”

“You are still young at heart, Father.”

“Having children will have that effect on you.”

The summit of the hill was still shaded by ancient beech trees, but none of the original structures remained in the branches.   

“Mother’s roses are still here,” Legolas observed. 

“They certainly are.”  Indeed, they were everywhere, entwined all around them like a golden crown on the hilltop.  Thranduil dismounted and held out a hand for his son’s reins.  “Go have a look around.  I will wait for you.”

He tied the horses to a low-slung branch and seated himself in the grass.   He watched as Legolas explored the site, touching the trees, tasting the air, gleaning whatever lingering impression of Oropher’s presence remained there.  Thranduil could feel it himself, like an echo or ripples in a pond.  The world was a poorer place without Oropher Thoronion, but rather than look back to a past of regrets, Thranduil could not help appreciating how bright their future seemed. 

The last decades had been the happiest years of his life.  Legolas was all he had ever hoped for in a son, and the new generation growing up in their wood promised to be a credit to the memory of those who had been lost.  He felt completely content, with a deeper sense of personal fulfillment and peace of mind than he could ever remember.  All was as it should be, when one considered the circumstances.

Ever since Legolas’ birth, Thranduil had wanted to bring him here, to help him feel some connection to his family’s past.  He could not bring him to Beleriand, to Doriath, or to the ruins of Menegroth.  Here, on a hill that had been called Amon Lanc in the far south of Eryn Galen, was the first place they had truly claimed as a home since the fall of the Mithrin kingdom in the First Age.  These were the deepest roots that survived.

Legolas was seated some distance away against the bole of one of the most ancient trees left on the hill.  He was diligently listening for whatever whispers of memory the wind would bring, holding in his hands the drawing Thranduil had made for him of the city as it had appeared in the last age.  Even now Thranduil could imagine he heard the horns of the huntsmen, the songs of the children, the baying of the hounds.  He hoped his son could hear it, too.

They spent the night there, camped in the open air beneath the stars.  On his back in the grass, Thranduil was silent for a while, appreciating the view of the cloudless night sky through the thinning treetops.  In the stillness he could satisfy for a moment that yearning for timelessness which burned within every Elvish heart.  For a moment he was young again, deep in the woods of Beleriand with Beleg and Mablung, looking up at the same stars.  Though the world was ever changing around them, at least the stars remained familiar.

“Father,” Legolas said at last, bringing Thranduil suddenly back to the present, “did you really know Elwing and Eärendil?”

“We all did,” Thranduil said, meaning everyone of Oropher’s original company.  Legolas, he knew, must be looking at that brightest of stars, just visible over the trees.  “We left Doriath together and dwelt for many years by the sea.  She is your cousin, though many times removed.”

He knew it must seem fantastic to Legolas’ young mind, attempting to fathom the long centuries and everything they had seen.  Thinking about it now, it seemed rather incredible even to him.  He raised a hand in the darkness, reaching up as if to touch that gleaming point of light.  For a moment it almost seemed near enough.

“I held that star once in the palm of my hand,” he said, remembering the Silmaril of Lúthien.  “Only once, but experience enough for a lifetime.” 

Legolas said nothing.  There had been a brief span of time as he had grown older when he had begun to question all the tales he had loved as a child, suddenly realizing he was meant to accept them as fact.  It had been wryly amusing to watch him make his own inquiries, once even writing to Elrond in Imladris for an independent account.  Thranduil had not been offended by his doubt.  The events of the First Age were so far removed from their daily reality in Eryn Galen that he could hardly blame him for wondering whether his parents had truly lived in a world where Valar walked the earth and whole continents fell into the sea.  The young prince was heir to more than he realized.

“Your home in Doriath was sacked twice, and you survived two of the three Kinslayings,” Legolas said.  It was not a question.  “You saw the War of Wrath, you spoke to Sauron, fought in the Battle of Dagorlad and the Siege of Mordor.”


“Father, how is it that you are still alive?”

Thranduil laughed.  Many times he had wondered the same thing himself.  “There must be some reason,” he agreed.  “If it was only to raise you, it was well worth it.”

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