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We Were Young Once ~ III  by Conquistadora

Chapter 27 ~ Holding the North V

Thranduil stayed in the south with the army for a few more days, riding a slow patrol and waiting to see if Dol Guldur was spent for the time being.  Radagast rode with them offering some help in cleansing the wood, although he agreed that it was best that Thranduil do most of the work as it would be his to maintain. 

Knowing he would be poor company the day after the battle, Thranduil kept mostly to himself at the head of the column.  Behind him, Celeborn and Galadriel were occupied in conversation with Legolas.  The wood appeared to be perfectly quiet, almost as if what had happened the previous night had also been no more than a nightmare.  Thranduil wished he could indulge in that peaceful illusion, but he could not forget so easily.

When they encamped that night to rest the horses, he immediately sought solitude high in a beech tree.  There he stood upon a flet overlooking the moonlit treetops, struggling to forge the disorder of his emotions into something more useful.

Gorthaur was clearly trying to either kill him or break his will.  Either outcome would be a victory.  Obligated to present himself for battle yesterday, he could either have been mauled to death or live to appreciate the grotesque surprise which had been prepared for him.  Even in hindsight there was nothing he could have done differently.  He felt manipulated, violated yet again, which was difficult enough to endure without that specter leering in the back of his mind.

It angered him intensely to be continually prodded in his deepest wounds.  He could ill afford the pain.  Pain made him weak.  Unfortunately, the only way he knew to resolve pain was to accept it, galling though it was, and laboriously close his wounds again.  To resist would only cause it to fester.  Gorthaur was cruel; he could expect no better from him.  He would endure it and he would not be broken.  Healing himself from the inside out had become a cold act of defiance.

The rustling of countless leaves in the wind helped give him the peace he could not yet find in himself.  It was a great, deep sound, like waves on the sea.

It was a difficult balance, he reflected, to heal many times without becoming callous.  He did not want the pain, but neither did he want to lose the capacity to feel it.  He may yet be wounded, but he was determined that he should not be hardened.

So deliberate was his effort to completely clear his thoughts that he was startled by a soft rapping on the floor of the flet.  Legolas was standing on the ladder below, leaning on his elbow and looking up at him with a quizzical expression.

“You have been very withdrawn,” he said, masking his concern in gentle good humor.  “You have left me quite alone to engage your remarkable guests.”

“I am sorry,” Thranduil apologized.  “Recent events have given me a great deal to think about.”

Legolas nodded, seeming to understand it was not something he wanted to discuss.  “Will you join us for supper?  You are missed.”

“Not yet; I have work to do.  But come up for a moment.”

Legolas obligingly climbed onto the flet and came to stand beside him.  In many ways, his presence did more to ease Thranduil’s mind than the entire wood could.  Young and strong, a gentle prince and an accomplished soldier with a bright mind and a great heart, his son was the incarnation of all the best things in his life.  He was reminded each time he looked at him.  “You and Anárion acquitted yourselves well,” he said.

“I only wish we had not been obliged to send for you at last,” Legolas said.  “Their numbers proved too great for us.”

“No matter,” Thranduil assured him.  “For good or ill, it was my task.”

“We did not realize you were entertaining.”

Thranduil laughed, a smile further lifting his spirits.  “Celeborn and his lady have seen much worse than this.   Indeed, they were quite keen to ride with us.  Your clever diversion may prove the highlight of their journey.  Dare I ask your impression of them?”

Legolas lifted an eyebrow as he considered his answer.  “One seldom sees their like in the world anymore,” he said, “at least not outside of Imladris.”  He glanced at his father and smiled.  “And Lasgalen.  Is Lord Celeborn very like Grandfather?”

“Celeborn is very like Oropher,” Thranduil confirmed.  “More reserved, more subtle, but very like him nonetheless.  I hope you have the chance to know him better before they leave us.”

“I would like that,” Legolas agreed.  He surveyed the horizon Thranduil was fixated upon.  “Is anything moving tonight?”

“If it is, I cannot see it,” Thranduil admitted.  “One moment our foe is gleefully revealing himself, the next he is cloaked in shadow.  Perhaps he hides himself from Radagast.  I can be sure of nothing.”

“If he has hidden himself, then leave him be,” Legolas said.  “He takes enough of your happiness as it is.  We are sure of you, and you may be sure of us.  Now come down and eat before he stirs up some other trouble for you.”

Thranduil allowed himself a bittersweet smile as Legolas unwittingly spoke with his mother’s voice.  It made it difficult to argue with him.  “Very well.”


The royal party at last returned to the north when it seemed there would be no further trouble, leaving a third of the army to strengthen the southern border.  The rest of the summer proved to be very quiet.  Thranduil endeavored to enjoy it, but occasionally he could not help wondering how the Necromancer might be spending his time.  With an effort he put all such grim speculation out of his mind.  He could do nothing but what he had always done, watch and wait.

Celeborn and Galadriel stayed with them until the first blush of autumn color touched the leaves.  Their intention was to continue on to Imladris, and they were obliged to ride before winter closed the mountain passes.  Thranduil and Legolas were there to see them off quietly before dawn.

“I trust our situation was not a disappointment to you,” Thranduil said to Galadriel.

“Indeed not,” she assured him.  “You have done well with the resources you have been given.  Now that I have seen your difficulties, I am better able to appreciate the concerns you brought to the council.  I shall tell Elrond what we have seen.”

“Thank you, my lady.”  Thranduil did not expect anything to come of it, but he could appreciate at least being vindicated in Imladris.

After seeing his wife mounted, Celeborn turned and offered a hand which Thranduil accepted.  “Once again, it seems I must leave without being of any help to you,” he said, a half-smile veiling a bit of frustration and a great deal of sincerity.  “I do regret that our paths have been very different despite our kinship, that I have not been able to assist you in any meaningful way throughout the many adversities in your life.”

“The circumstances were hardly your fault,” Thranduil protested.  He tried to pull back his hand, taken off guard by his sudden earnestness, but Celeborn held fast.

“No,” he agreed, “but I might have done more, and I have wanted to tell you so for a great many years, so do not excuse me just yet.  We are of one blood, you and I.  So many times I should have been with you.  Even now I have nothing I can offer.  I have no army, no power against Dol Guldur.  Yet I want you to remember that I am ever mindful of my valiant cousin in Mirkwood, and I hope that before the end we may face our foes together, united as we might have been before.”

The sentiment touched Thranduil more deeply than he expected it would, as if some deep and unacknowledged resentment was suddenly exposed and satisfied.  It was true that Celeborn had been absent from the worst disasters and the deepest griefs which had come to define their shared Iathrin heritage.  Thranduil had never begrudged his escape, but it had made them more distant than kin so near were wont to be.  Still, even though they rarely saw one another, knowing that he remained in the world with him made it less of a lonely place.

 “Ai, Celeborn,” he sighed, “let us not visit the past.  It is beyond all help.  Our only power lies in how we greet the future.  And to that end,” he said with a jaded smile, “I look forward to meeting you on the battlefield, my lord.”

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