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We Were Young Once ~ III  by Conquistadora

Chapter 11 ~ Whispers in the Dark V

The next year passed agonizingly slowly for those who simply watched and waited for the malevolent shadows to advance farther north.  It was difficult to think of anything else.  There were very few, however, who did not have extra duties to occupy them.  The king had begun an ambitious reorganization of almost every level of their society as soon as he had returned from the Dol Guldur.

The army had been reassembled and rearmed, thickly posted in rotating shifts of border guards and patrols.  All those of an eligible age who had not yet served in a military capacity had begun their training, without exception.  Upon request, Lord Elrond of Imladris graciously allowed his kinsman in Eryn Galen to commission the services of his best swordsmiths, and they had begun to share their skills with those of the silvan craftsmen who wished to learn.  The fletchers and bowyers also had constant employment.  The tanners and leatherworkers were hard-pressed to meet the demand for the armor the soldiers required.  Everyone who could otherwise be spared lent their energies to the transformation of the caverns.  Displaced residents from the south continued to arrive and were sent across the mountains.  Those nearest the king had begun to realize the toll the stress was taking, none more so than the queen.

Lindóriel opened her eyes in the darkness.  Beside her, Thranduil had begun to writhe in his sleep.  He was dreaming again, and his dreams were rarely pleasant.

Indulging in several hours of proper sleep each night may be a luxury they would have to forego in the future.  Thranduil had scarcely closed his eyes for several weeks, driven incessantly by an almost manic energy, and it had only been at her insistence that he had come to bed at all.  But even now it seemed he could have no rest.

Gently, Lindóriel put her arms around him.  She was usually able to quiet his nightmares with little more than a touch, but this one was tenacious.  She could feel his body quivering against hers, every muscle tensed, his breathing shallow and ragged.  She caressed his brow, but he flinched away as if in real pain. 

Growing more concerned, Lindóriel sat up and noticed the room was unnaturally cold for a late summer’s night.  Her skin prickled, and the hounds in the corner began to whine.  Recognizing an unfamiliar and malevolent presence among them, she pulled her husband onto his back and tried to shake him awake.  Something was very wrong.  “Thranduil,” she called, trying to be firm but unable to keep the fear out of her voice.  “Thranduil!”

Before she could call anyone else, Legolas, Galadhmir, or even Gwaelas, Thranduil suddenly and violently arched his back.  His ragged breathing became more like the growl of a cornered animal, and he flung himself out of bed, landing with a crash on the floor.

Everything was quiet again.  Lindóriel was immediately crouched beside him, but Thranduil held up a hand to assure her he was all right.  He was awake now, though obviously shaken.  Then he stood and stalked out onto the southern balcony.

The stars were obscured by a brewing storm, and the dark clouds rumbled overhead.  Lindóriel pulled on her robe and joined him there in the open air, still quite concerned.  “What happened?” she asked, gently demanding an answer.

Thranduil cursed under his breath.  “It is him,” he said at last, his hands white-knuckled on the railing.  He looked as though he would be sick.  “I know it is him.”  He drew a deep breath, then another, and another, until she seized his arm to calm him.

Recovering himself for the moment, Thranduil pulled her closer and she wrapped her arms around him.  She could not blame him for being anxious.  The thought that Sauron himself had now trained his eye on them chilled her heart, and doubtless it had whipped Thranduil’s paternal instincts into a frenzy.  Gorthaur the Cruel had terrorized Beleriand with his foul creatures, lain waste to Eregion, ruined Númenor, and bled Eryn Galen of half its strength once already at the turn of the Age.  Despite all her protestations to the contrary, this foe was greater than all of them combined and Thranduil knew it.  He was starting to panic now.

“Should you send word to the others?” she whispered.

“I have no proof for them,” he said miserably.  “I have nothing but my own conviction, and I doubt that would be sufficient for Galadriel or even Elrond.”

“Surely they would recognize him as well.  You told me they were not taken in while he styled himself as Annatar.”

He seemed to ponder that for a moment.  “Perhaps,” he admitted.

She continued to hold him, determined to do whatever she could to strengthen the resolve he so desperately needed to maintain.  He had eventually told her everything he could remember about the devastation of Mordor in an effort to stop those memories from festering.  The reality that their beloved wood was becoming a twisted manifestation of that black land was a nightmare they could not wake from.

She led him back to bed as the first drops of rain began to fall, though she doubted he would dare to sleep any more that night.  He nestled close to her beneath the sheets, almost as if in a futile attempt to escape or ignore the brooding gaze of Dol Guldur.

It was not long before he sat up again, too restless to be still.  “It is those damned rings!” he hissed.  “I knew this would happen.  It became inevitable the moment we all decided we were too sunk in our own grief to force Isildur to give up his prize.  How many times do we have to fight the same damned war?”

Lindóriel let him rant, relieved that he was angry now.  It was a far more useful emotion.  “May we assume the One is still lost?” she asked.

“If Gorthaur had his Ring, he would not be hiding in Greenwood,” Thranduil said bitterly.  “That may be the only hope we have.”

He climbed out of bed again, plainly too agitated to stay.  Rummaging in the wardrobe for clothes, he stopped a moment to scrutinize his reflection in the mirror.  The long and happy years had softened him somewhat, and the familiar muscular contours were not so defined as they had once been. 

“We are weak,” he grumbled as he pulled on his tunic.  “He knows we are weak, which is why he does not move against Gondor or Imladris.  We shall have to remedy that.”

“You are already doing all that you can,” Lindóriel protested.

“We never know what we can do until we try, love.”


Thranduil wandered among the treetops in the predawn darkness, attempting to gather his thoughts.  The storm looming overhead seemed reluctant to break, delivering more ominous thunder than rain.  It only added to the unshakable sense of apprehension in the air. 

It would be a long time before he dared to sleep after being so intimately compromised.  He had recognized that cold and disgusting presence attempting to thrust its way into his mind.  When he had realized what was happening he had been able to resist, but he still felt violated.

He paced back and forth like a caged animal, unable to either flee or attack, forced simply to endure the unrelenting stare of his enemy.  From the middle of one of the magnificent causeways which joined their houses, Thranduil could do little more than stare back.

He felt more than heard footsteps.  He turned to see Legolas striding over the bridge toward him, a look of unease on his face which had unfortunately become commonplace.

“You are wandering about very early,” Thranduil said dryly.

“I could not sleep,” Legolas explained, coming to stand beside him.  “Father, what is that?  Can you feel how heavy the air is?”

“Oh, I feel it,” Thranduil assured him.  “I suppose I should not be surprised that you feel it, too.”

“Is it the Necromancer?”

Thranduil nodded grimly.  “I had hoped we had banished all the demons of the ancient world before your time,” he said, “but I fear you will soon feel more than just his breath on your neck.”

“Then it is Sau—”

Thranduil threw up a hand to silence him before he could pronounce the name.  “I have my suspicions, nothing more.  It is not worth frightening everyone until we can be certain.”

Legolas swallowed hard.  “What shall we do?” he asked.

“Whatever we possibly can,” Thranduil said.  “He will have his stronghold on Amon Lanc despite us.  We shall fall back before him now, but once we remove north I intend to make him fight for every foot of ground.  Your mother and I are agreed that he must not yet have regained his full power, or else we would not be here now.  We cannot completely repulse him, but if we play our hand properly, we may be able to outlast him.”

Legolas nodded.  “I suppose there will be no hiding from him now.”

“Indeed, not,” Thranduil agreed.  “He is well acquainted with our family.”

It bothered Thranduil a great deal that Sauron had apparently turned his malevolent eye on his son.  For years he had hoped his child would never be within reach of those talons which had already snared his father.  Too late, he realized the Dark Lord had come upon him unawares and had seen everything.

There was indeed no hiding now.

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